Just Jump In

When you were a young adult, do you remember those first few major decisions you had to make? You know, the ones that helped determine your path in life? Where to go to college? What to major in? What kind of job you’d take after college to begin your career? The kind of decision that once you made it you were excited about it, yet it sent chills down your spine at the same time because you couldn’t believe you’ve come this far and made a decision like this. Then reality really hits and you get to live out what was once a dream. Day after day after day.

I had those feelings too. For me, the reality that I was in nursing school didn’t really slap me in the face until I stepped off the elevator on my first clinical day in the hospital. I took a deep cleansing breath, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. During the process, I smelled three things; body odor, hospital soap and those disgusting powdered hospital eggs. I gagged, because I’m a gagger when it comes to disgusting smells and then I asked myself what in the world did I get myself into. Not every college student is about to go learn how to clean someone’s ass properly and get graded on it. Eventually though, I got used to those types of things and I knew I was in the right place.

Last summer my son was trying to decide if he wanted to march in his university’s Independence Day Parade with the marching band he was about to join as a freshman when he entered college in the fall. He went back and forth, yes, no, yes, no.  Finally, one of his mentors told him, “Jack, just jump in”. He thought about it and he listened to his mentor. He jumped in. He marched the parade and met some people that would end up becoming some of his close friends. He was happy he did it.

Today my son took another plunge. He declared a major. Biology. He has more questions for his advisor so he’ll be returning to see her in the next few days and will soon choose courses for the fall of his sophomore year. It’s hard to believe I was in that place over twenty-six years ago and now I’m watching my first born experience it. Talk about something that sends chills down your spine as you hope and pray this child gains as much success and happiness in his career as you’ve had in yours. At this moment though, I know how he feels; excited and nervous as he tries to imagine what he’s going to do in the field of Biology. The possibilities are endless Jack, just jump in.

My Grandmother’s House

My grandparents bought their house when my dad was a kid. My grandfather lifted the house off the ground with a crane to dig the basement and gutted the house with his bare hands, to make it their own. My grandmother’s house hasn’t been her house for over 20 years. The house is still in the family and has been remodeled with as much hard work and love as my grandfather put in to it all those years ago. I’ve brought my husband and children to the house, after it was no longer my grandmother’s house. It looks good. Different. Many years later I still remember how it looked though, when I was a little girl.

The house had an L shaped porch with a nice size front window. I remember running up the steps to get to the door. The screen door had a nice metal design. Woven in the metal was the first letter of my maiden name. The door had several dead bolt locks. My father used to call it Fort Knox. The front hallway had a hollow sounding floor and I often wondered if I stomped hard enough if I’d fall through the floor. The front hallway let out into the dining room. There were two bedrooms off the dining room. The living room was in the front of the house. Straight through the dining room from the front hallway was the kitchen. Behind the kitchen was a bathroom, another bedroom, the basement steps and the back door. The top floor had a little apartment where my grandmother’s sister and brother lived. The house smelled as every other Italian household does, like sauce, like home. I adored my grandparents and I loved being there with them.

My grandmother was the fourth child born to Sicilian Immigrants. There were five boys and three girls. My grandmother as the oldest girl was the matriarch of her family. Her house was always open to family so naturally her siblings congregated at my grandmother’s house. Even though I called them Aunt or Uncle, they were like having more grandparents and that was really cool. Several of my grandmother’s siblings were serious card players. They’d gather on Friday nights and some Sundays after dinner at my grandmother’s house to play cards. My grandmother never played in the big complicated, competitive card games. She only played the smaller card games with her sisters, my cousins, my brother and I. My grandmother would whisper in our ears not to laugh when one of them had a bad hand or announce what cards everyone had in their hands. We had to quietly observe. Sometimes we’d snicker though. My grandmother’s brother’s wife liked to instigate and egg the card sharks on and they’d get annoyed at her and all of them would start bickering. I begged them for years to deal me into that game. Finally I was allowed to play at age 15.

As the years passed, the card game began to shrink as my grandfather died and my grandmother’s siblings began to die. My grandmother died in 2005 and was the sixth of her siblings to die. Her youngest brother died four years later. Yesterday, the final sibling, my grandmother’s sister passed away at age 97 peacefully of natural causes. I have no doubt that when my aunt got to heaven yesterday, her siblings were there to deal her into their favorite card game once again.

My grandparent’s generation of our family represents the first generation of American born Sicilians and they played a significant role in helping shape my generation, the third generation grow into who we are as American born Sicilians. They are now all gone and the simplicity of life as we knew it back then, no longer exists.  Even though I’m an adult and married with children, part of me is still that little girl who couldn’t wait to get to her grandparents house to watch those card games and be with that generation and part of their world.

If you picture it like a scene on a stage where the lights are shining on one particular setting, that setting would be of my grandmother and her siblings in her dining room playing cards. It is one of my favorite memories,  frozen in time, in my heart forever. Those card games not only represented a favorite past time, but a gathering of family, the love they had for each other and how they enjoyed spending time together. As for the passing of my aunt. Sure I miss her but I’m happy she’s reunited with her family and able to rejoin the card game.

The Girl in the Mirror

Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is a gradual process that requires nurturing and vigilance. Change within ourselves is an exciting journey of evolution. Along the journey of our own evolution there are signs pointing us to synchronicities that fall into place and enable us to change. Even as I write this I am receiving signs. I am in the process of change.

It drives me bat shit crazy that I can not sit down at my computer and write a story. I can blog about myself, I can write business letters and thank you notes. If you threw research at me and told me to write a 20 page paper for a college course I could do it and I would enjoy it. But I can’t write a story. I am a life time reader. I wrap my head around a book that I am reading and think to myself, “wow, this author really researched their topic well”. Somewhere in the fibers of my brain it is inscribed that I can’t write a story unless I research first. I am my own worst enemy and I am guilty without question of kicking my own ass too many times.

In December, a friend told me about a book, “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. Naturally I was curious if there was a version for writers , which there is. I read the book from front to back and devised my own miracle morning routine which I began on January 3, 3017. As part of that routine I integrated the teachings of another book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way is a twelve week program designed to recover the blocked artist. Each week has a set of tasks. The ongoing task of the program is “Morning Pages”. Get up every morning and write.

Through morning pages I learned very important things about myself: First there are things about myself and my life that I want to change but I can’t because I complain too much about what I don’t have instead of being grateful of what I do have. My mind is never in the now. It’s always looking at something else and wishing it were mine. That’s not gratitude. Second, I’ve learned that I live in fear. I have more fears than I care to admit to myself or anyone else.

 Among my dreams is that I want to be a successful, published writer. I realized that in order for me to reach for this dream or any dreams in this life that I must let go and reach deep into my soul to change my beliefs and break through the barriers that have been present in my subconscious mind for too longe.

So what am I doing about this? Ironically I have been able to use the Nursing Process to help me. In the Nursing Process there are Five Steps.

1. Assess: I am not grateful and I live in fear

2. Diagnose: In ability to reach for her dreams related to ungratefulness and fear

3. Plan: What steps am I taking to change my beliefs about myself?

Step 1: Gratitude. Last year I purchased Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Magic”. Of course I didn’t finish it. This book is an exercise of 28 Days of Gratitude. Each day has a lesson  and the student is to first thing in the morning write ten things they are grateful for and why and follow the instructions for lesson of the day for 28 days.

Step 2: Breaking negative barriers. There’s tons of information on the internet on topics such as this. I decided to focus on the one teacher who’s words resonate with me. Deepak Chopra. I have an Ananda Meditation app on my phone and I meditate a few days a week. Prior to each meditation, Deepak speaks about whatever the meditation is about. I take notes. I knew that buying a Deepak Chopra book was the way to go. I chose, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra because with my Ananda meditation app, I’ve already meditated using those laws and I knew it would be easy to adapt to the written teachings into making the changes I want to. In an Amazon review of the book, someone who’s a certified Deepak Chopra teacher had written in with how he uses the teachings of the book with his students.

4. Implementation:

The first thing I do each morning is to get up and practice gratitude. On work days I get up 35 minutes early, shower and get to my computer. On my off days when I wake up, I go downstairs, grab some coffee, look at the sunrise through the window and sit down at my desk to enjoy the silence. I’m midway through The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. 

5. Evaluation: How am I doing? What adjustments can I make?

It seems like every day at work is busy for me. A few days ago on Wednesday at work, due to circumstances that existed during that shift, I found myself becoming annoyed during a preop interview with a patient. Something weird yet awesome happened. My mind all of a sudden started playing the movie ET theme song, “Heartlight” by Neil Diamond and I imagined my heart lighting up like ET’s. “Turn on your heartlight. Let it shine where ever you go. Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see”. I turned on my heartlight that day, kept those lyrics in my head and continued went on with my day. It made me feel so good and grateful and even though I’ve known this for a long time, it finally clicked. Love is the greatest power in the universe. If I can feel love and gratitude even through hard times, I can break my barriers.

I am midway through The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and I know that I’ve made the right choice. I read when I have the time and my mind has the ability to focus on and absorb what the laws are teaching. This book suits me and I look forward to finishing the book soon so I can begin the practices.

I am on day 27 of gratitude using the Magic Book. Through the practice of gratitude I’m learning to to observe what is right in front of me and be grateful for it. I’m finding that things in my daily life are falling into place easier for me and I’m not feeling as negative or afraid. I simply feel that the solutions I am seeking are on their way. I look forward to getting up each morning to express my gratitude on paper. It makes me feel centered for the day and puts me on course to practice gratitude for the rest of the day. The practices in the magic book do indeed work when I put it into the universe. 

Today’s practice was entitled “Magic Mirror”. It instructed me to say thank you to myself each time I look in the mirror today and come up with three things about myself that I am thankful for. It referenced Michael Jackson’s song “The Man in the Mirror” and today’s message was clear to me: Change the person in the mirror and your world will change. So I listened to the song a few times, printed the lyrics to the song and high lighted the verses that speak to me so I can refer back to them.

I know that I have not yet mastered the art of gratitude but so far, I am pleased with my progress. Getting up earlier than 0430 on work days sucked in the beginning but once I got used to it, I learned to like it, and need it. So I’ll try harder not to hit snooze as many times so I don’t have to rush on work days.

Tomorrow is day 28 of the Magic. I will go through each of the 28 days of lessons and jot some notes down so I can begin the magic practice again on Monday with day 1 to apply what I’ve already learned, refine my practice and integrate the seven spiritual laws.

So there it is. I’m starting with the girl in the mirror. I’m asking her to make that change. No message could have been any clearer. She’ll make her world a better place. She’ll make that change.

 

 

 

 

Random Ideas are the Best

Today was awesome. Like totally. I took a chance on something random and what I got in return was priceless.

The trail has been calling me for weeks. It calls me when I drive by woods. It calls me when I watch You Tube videos of other people’s long distance hikes. It calls me when I research gear for my own long distance hike. It calls me when I dream of doing my first long distance hike. It calls me in the sun. It calls me in the rain. It calls me when the sun rises. It calls me when it snows. It’s always there. It asks me to check out and come into the woods. I’ve heard the calls but I couldn’t answer them. I couldn’t go to the trail. Instead I’d look out the window at the trees in the valley behind our house and just sigh. I had plenty of excuses. All valid yet torturous. Too many activities in one weekend. Bad weather. Run down. Take your pick.

As of last night, the plan for today was to get up before sunrise and hike my favorite trail with my husband at the state park near our house. We’d come home and I, the Sicilian mother would make a pot of “sauce” per my son’s request. Scratch the plan. The Universe had better things in store for us. Late last evening, my daughter received a call from her best friend who’d moved away in December. Her friend was in town for only one night and had a random change of plans. She wanted to spend the night with us. That random change of plans set things in motion to change my plans.

Plan B: get up, make the family breakfast, hike, come home and cook sauce. My daughter’s friend was going to be picked up at 0745. I wanted to make the kid a nice breakfast because my daughter misses her so much. Before I got out of bed, I scanned my email and found an invitation for a “meet up” hike.

A few months ago, I’d signed up on this “meet up” website. I’d hope to get into a hiking group to explore other trails in my area. Unfortunately I’ve had schedule conflicts and haven’t been able to attend any of them. On a whim, I took a random chance, and decided to try a meet up hike, thus changing my plans again.

Plan C: I cooked my sauce while I was making my family Belgian Waffles and then my husband and I met this hiking group at 12 noon at a different state park than we usually hike. This meet up was called, “Meditation Coffee Hike”. Well now those buzz word certainly sparked my interest! What more could I ask for in a hike?

There were seven of us, including the organizer. The organizer was a wellness coach of some sort. We all made our introductions and we were on our way. He was in shape but I quickly learned that he was not the hard core hiker that I want to be when I grow up. The purpose of this hike was walking meditation. The hike itself was exactly what the doctor ordered for me. Physical and spiritual. Plenty of uphills, downhills, streams to cross and logs to jump over. The scenery was gorgeous and the conversation stimulating. At the halfway mark we stopped at a waterfall, sat and meditated for ten minutes. It was the perfect place to “be”. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience today.

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. “-Ram Dass

 

 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 2

Okay cool, the blogger I follow who’s doing a 30 Day Writing Challenge has posted Day 2’s question: Write something that someone told you about yourself that you have never forgotten.

Here we go. Circa 1997 I was a few years out of nursing school and working on a coronary progressive care unit. I was taking care of a little lady who I’d taken care of frequently. I enjoyed taking care of her. Her condition caused her to tire easily and she always needed help with her ADL’s-Activities of Daily Living. Helping patients with their ADL’s was always a perfect time to talk to them, get to know them and tidy up their rooms. So I helped her bathe and afterwards I helped her walk to a chair so she could sit while I made her bed. As I helped her back into bed she looked me in the eyes and said, “I was talking to Jesus about you the other day. We agreed that you have a gift, you don’t know you have. You need to figure it out”.  My little newly wed 27 year old self told her that my husband and I were hoping to soon start a family, maybe the gift was me being a good mother. She said, “you’ll be a mother soon but that’s not it. Think about it”. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about it more but I got busy the rest of the day and I didn’t see her after that. I later learned that she’d passed away at home.

Those moments with that patient and that conversation will live in my memory forever. I remember what the hospital room looked like and I remember what room and bed she was in during that admission. I remember her face. The image of me bathing her, making her bed and talking to her is still there. The image of her looking into my eyes to tell me about my gift still there. For awhile I racked my brains trying to figure out what the gift is. I know in due time it will present itself. If the gift is being a writer, I’ll dedicate my first book to her.

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 1

Tonight while scrolling through the blogs I follow, I came across someone who was doing a 30 day writing challenge. I’ve never done one of these before. I have no idea where he got this from but hey what the heck let’s try it out. Hopefully he’ll do one everyday because I don’t know where to find this.

Make a list of 10 things that make you really happy.

These are not in any specific order.

  1. Morning Coffee
  2. My dog
  3. Reading a good book
  4. Laughing so hard I can’t breath
  5. Hiking
  6. Family and Friends
  7. Driving a stick shift
  8. Comfort food
  9. Listening to the rain when I have no where to go
  10. Music. Music on the radio, music my children play.
  11. Blog followers

41 Books and More

A few years ago I downloaded the Goodreads application onto my iPhone. Goodreads allows readers to track and rate books with other readers. I used it for a few months but found it tedious to to try to remember all the books I’ve read in my lifetime of reading, search for them and put them on my list of read books. Eventually I got bored with it and stopped using it. I had considered deleting the application from my phone but I never did.

On New Years Day I noticed on Facebook that a Goodreads friend and coworker of mine had joined the 2017 Reading Challenge. “Hmm, why not”, I thought so I joined the challenge and committed to reading 41 books this year. Two days ago I finished my first book of the 2017 reading challenge.

The book, “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton was selected for my book club’s January meeting. If you like books with secrets from the past, this is a book for you. Like every good book I read, I found myself thinking about the book during my work day and looking forward to evening reading time. I savored every chapter and the way the author kept me guessing until the very end. As I always do at the end of a good book, I felt a sense emptiness because I had completed the book. Ironically, I’d been thinking about reading this book for a few years but never really committed myself to it because the summary kind of interested me but didn’t dazzle me until someone in my book club suggested it. That’s the benefit being part of a book club. My book club has nine personalities. Eventually you’ll read books you may not have thought about reading but are really happy you did.

The second book of my 2017 Reading Challenge is “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shutterly. I went to see the movie last weekend at a historic movie theater in my city which was the perfect place for this movie. Ordinarily I’d prefer to read the book before seeing the movie but when my husband found out the movie would be at this really cool old theater, we jumped at the chance to go. Once the movie began I knew immediately that I wanted to read this book. One of my book club friends joined us at the movie that night. A few days later we were both owners of the book.

I’ve owned a Barnes and Noble Nook for over four years now. I’ve enjoyed the convenience of carrying multiple books on one device when I go on vacation and instantly, sometimes impulsively downloading a book the minute I decided I want to read it. Some people fly by the seats of their pants. I read by the seat of my pants. When I want to read a book, I want to read it right now, not when the library or bookstore has it available and not when I can find time to get there to go pick it up. Sometimes I miss holding a book though. Holding a book, studyng the cover and touching the pages feels more personal to me. So lately I’ve been going to the library or buying the actual book instead of downloading it.

Hidden Figures is sitting to the left of me on my desk as I write this. It is in paperback and I enjoy moving my fingertips over the smooth surface of the cover. The colors appeal to me. I hate to judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes it’s the cover of the book that draws me to the book when I am in a bookstore. I look at the faces of the women on the cover of the book. These actresses did such a wonderful job portraying the women this movie is about. I look forward to opening the book, reading the words, putting myself into the time period of this book and losing myself.

For all you lifetime readers out there, which book will you read next?