Pause.

I have a bump out room off my kitchen. We call it the sun room. It’s about 10 feet by 12 feet. It has a sliding glass door on the front wall and a deck attached. On the left wall is windows. My desk and writing space sits up against this wall. I can open up the blinds and gaze out the window when I write during the day.  My husband’s Ikea Poang chair sits in the corner between the sliding glass door and the left wall. The right wall has a futon and a television. We have a throw rug on the floor and the walls are painted with a warm oatmeal color. The roof is slanted with sky light windows. In the sixteen years and six months I’ve lived in this house I’ve watched plenty of bad weather through those sky light windows.

Tonight while watching an old season of Top Chef, I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed that the sky was gold. I asked my husband to pause the television and we rushed outside the front door to look at the sky. On the left, the sky was dark and grey. On the right it was yellow. In the middle of the yellow sky was a patch of clear sky as if the other side of our neighborhood was experiencing a sunny evening. It soon began to rain hard and we went back into the house.

I returned to my futon and continued to watch television. I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed sky was now completely grey and it was pouring down rain. I listened to the rain hitting the glass. One of my favorite sounds, especially when I am home. At that moment it occurred to me that there was no place on this earth that I’d rather be than cuddled up with my dog watching a storm through those windows. An intense feeling of gratitude embraced me.

I’ve learned to pause what I’m doing and observe in silence moments like this. For me, they help me experience gratitude at a deeper level. Sunrise, sunsets, nature, weather. These moments come to us for a reason. Stop. Be silent. Enjoy.

 

 

The Overthinking Perfectionist

Today I did a paint night with my mom. I had purchased these tickets as a Mother’s Day gift for last year but the event was cancelled and we finally got an opportunity to use the vouchers we were given. I looked forward to this for two reasons: time with my mom and a chance to nature my inner artist as a writer by doing other forms of creative activity.

My mom and I had a nice lunch with poor service at the restaurant the paint night was being held at. The poor service at the restaurant had me a little worried. Sometimes when I get bad vibes about something that annoys me before a writing session, my writing session ends up being crap because it throws my ju ju off. I was having fun with my mom though and that was the positive thread that held this together for me.

There were only six of us, all women and we sat in tables of two. Almost immediately, one of the women stated she would not be painting the painting that we would be doing, instead she’d be painting a picture for her girlfriend of twelve years sitting next to her. It wasn’t the relationship that annoyed me, it was the fact that she had to draw attention to herself. People who have to be the center of attention in a group annoy the shit out of me. Every relationship is meaningful in some way. I don’t indulge information about my personal relationships in public to a room of strangers. She frequently interrupted the flow of the painting lesson to ask which colors to mix up to get the color she wanted. At one point the hostess artist came around and asked her to tell her about the painting and it’s meaning to her. Everything in the painting represented an aspect of their relationship. The painting was symbolic to her, ok. I can accept that, but I still didn’t want to hear about it.

The selected painting is wine glasses . We began by making a basketball sized circle with white paint in the center of the canvas. Next we mixed blue and white together to make a blue circles around the white circle in the center and mixed a little blue in the middle. After that we began to draw the wine glasses. We started by drawing the oval shaped opening of the glass, followed by the body of the glass and the stem. I quickly became frustrated with how my strokes were looking how my wine glasses were shaped. The painting wasn’t coming together for me and I couldn’t envision what the end product would look like. I was on the verge of a temper tantrum and this painting was headed for disaster.

The hostess artist came around and made some suggestions and also said something that resonated with me. She said, “you are over thinking your strokes”. That was it. That was my problem. I’m a perfectionist who was over thinking her paint brush strokes and trying too hard because I’ve never considered myself artistic and I wanted to make a pretty painting. I had lost the essence of the activity. I looked over at my Mom. Her painting was awesome and she was having fun. That made me happy. Here I was about to act like an ass and throw a fit because my wine glasses didn’t look right. So I quickly regrouped. I used a few tips that the hostess artist had showed me and I fixed my wine glasses by outlining them with black paint using the smallest brush. The strokes I outlined the glasses with in black paint came more naturally and I added some of my own color to the top. The painting came together nicely and in the end I was pleased.

The other added bonus was that we had a short intermission where we went outside to take one shot at Corn Hole. Whoever got their bean bag in the corn hole won a free ticket to another Paint Night. When it was my turn I took my time, aimed for the hole and swung my arm in alignment with the hole the same as I do when I play Skee Ball. I won myself a free ticket to Paint Night. Even better than that though, this hostess is at this restaurant every Sunday. After football season ends my Mom and I agreed to come back again. I look forward to taking the time to nurture my relationship with my mother and my inner artist. If you haven’t tried a paint night, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself and artsy artist, you’ll surprise yourself.

It made me happy to look at this painting as I was writing this blog post. I am also proud to announce that I am on a writing streak. I have written sixty five days in a row. I journal and practice gratitude. I am nurturing my inner artist and getting to know myself again through my writng. Today was perfect.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow I have to be nurse.

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.

 

 

 

 

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

Holiday Series Part 3: Music

The stage was decorated with poinsettia plants. The auditorium was dark. The band wore Santa hats. People who know this band and have kids who’ve played in this band look forward to this song each year. The audience sat quietly as the band prepared to play it’s final selection: Sleigh Ride. I’m listening to the video I filmed during the concert as I write this. I can’t help but to smile. My son was a member of this band during his junior and senior years of high school. My daughter is a freshman member of this band, this gifted and talented band.  I smile because I’m so proud of the preparation my daughter put into preparing for this concert and playing this song. She was delighted to have been given second trumpet music. One day, several weeks before the concert, she admitted to me that she lost her place in class while rehearsing this song and that when she made contact with the band director he knew she’d lost her place too. She didn’t like that feeling so she took the problem to her private music teacher. Together, they tackled it and she learned to play the piece with confidence, without difficulty and without getting lost. The following evening we attended the Guitar Concert at the high school and a few days after that I attended the Christmas concert at our church, where my daughter performs in the Youth Band.

Music by far puts me in the holiday spirit, especially music that my children are playing on their instruments.  I don’t need to hear it 24/7 but when it’s on the radio I do enjoy it. I prefer songs related to the birth of Jesus but I do have a few other favorites.

Here’s my list, in the order that I remember.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Sleigh Ride

Silver Bells- Motown Version

Ave Maria-don’t all Italians like this song?

Christmas Night

What Child is This

Away in a Manger

Silent Night-the Stevie Nicks version.

Little Drummer Boy-Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band version

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Happy Christmas- John Lennon

Joy to the World

Christmas Is the Time to Say I love You-Billy Squire

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Chipmunks Christmas

White Christmas- I’m from Buffalo, NY and I like snow on Christmas!

Christmas All Over Again-Tom Petty

O Come All Ye Faithful- ok I’ll admit it was the Brady Bunch season 1 Episode 12: The Voice of Christmas that got me into this song at a young age. Carol Brady had just miraculously recovered from Laryngitis to sing this song for her church on Christmas morning. Listen to the words though: O Come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. O come ye. O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. I have no musical ability what so ever and I have to get really drunk to even consider singing Karaoke. This song however makes me just want to stand up and belt out a song during Christmas Eve Mass. So I sing and try not to kill the people in the pew in front of me with my off tune voice.

Here’s my least favorite song of all time: Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. This song agitates me so much it makes me want to throw myself out of a moving car.

That’s all that nurse has to say for now. Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Nurses Do What They Do

Several years ago, the week before Christmas, I entered the nurses station at 0700 in the Emergency Department I worked in for morning report. As I did every morning, I scanned  the patient tracking screen to look at how many patients we had and if I recognized any familiar names. I spotted a patient who I’d taken care of multiple times and who I enjoyed taking care of. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to take care of him again. I asked the night shift nurse for report and looked forward to entering his room.

I quickly learned that my patient was not doing well. The doctors suspected that he was now in the terminal phase of his illness. Through the course of the eight hours I took care of him, even after I’d infused over three liters of IV fluid and transfused two units of packed red blood cells, I could not control his pain or keep his blood pressure stable enough to give pain medication and he was beginning to display signs of organ system failure. I spent hours in that room that day not only caring for him, but helping his wife accept what was happening.  After I transported him to intensive care and helped him get comfortable in his bed, I put my hand on his, got close to his face, looked him in the eyes and told him to take care. Our eyes were locked for several seconds. He said thank you and wished me well. He died twelve hours after I transported him to intensive care and I still relive looking into his eyes for the last time.

The holiday season isn’t an easy one for nurses. Not because we work long hours, sacrifice and miss our own holiday gatherings to care for others. Because we see how illness impacts people’s lives. To be present to watch patients and their families experience these things on the holidays leaves a long lasting effect on healthcare workers. Why?  Because we see the look of desperation in our patient’s eyes where we know they are wondering if this illness is going to pass, be chronic or even life threatening. We observe families trying to be brave for their sick loved ones when we know they are afraid. We hear the screams from the room where the cardiac arrest was just pronounced dead. We see the look of fear as our surgical patients are being wheeled to the operating room with all evidence of the human being they are having been stripped away from them and replaced by a hospital gown, colorful footies and a warm blanket. We walk through the surgical waiting area and see the blank stares of families as they wait for a surgeon to come out and tell them if their loved one has cancer. We try to do everything we can to cheer up our inpatients when they are stuck eating hospital turkey on Christmas day or can’t eat at all because they are too sick. We observe our Dementia patients roaming the halls of the long term care facilities and wonder what they were like before Dementia robbed them of their memory. We thank God profusely that our own loved ones are healthy and waiting for us to come home. Our shifts end and we go home, shower and try to shake it off. Deep down inside, over the years memories similar to the one I shared resurface for all of us.

The brightness and warmth of the summer sun replaces the darkness of December and the months fly by. Six months after my patient passed away, I’m at work one summer afternoon and I hear my name being called from across the ER. I turn around an realize it’s my patient’s wife. She quickly walks up the me, hugs me and tells me she’s doing fine. She’d just been the see a chaplain whom she was seeing monthly. She said she’d come down to the ER to specifically find me and tell me how she was doing and to say thank you. I was so moved by that I rushed right up to one of my good buddy coworkers to tell her. Her response was simple, powerful and true, “This is why we do what we do”.

 

Holiday Series Part 2: The Gators bring it in

Despite the cold winds and low temperatures, the streets were lined with a large crowd. Families and friends bundled up in coats, hats, scarves, mittens and blankets. People standing, sitting in chairs or even sitting on the ground, holding coffee or cocoa to keep warm. People of our community watching each group march by. Finally, Santa’s sleigh arrives and the crowd began to cheer. I didn’t come to see Santa though. The highlight of the parade for me was the last group to march down the street.

I spotted her immediately. The Santa hat was secured to her head, allowing her hair to flow down. Her clear blue eyes were focused forward. She looks so sharp in that navy blue uniform. Her lips were pressed to the mouthpiece of her trumpet. The trumpet, decorated with red and white tinsel was aimed high, demonstrating discipline and confidence. Last year my daughter refused to even go to this parade. She said she needed a break before it was her turn. I think she just didn’t want to walk in my son’s shadow.

Walk in my son’s shadow in this marching band, she has not done. This was his marching band for four years. Yes’s she’s marched with some of his remaining friends but this is her marching band now. This year, this marching band marched in five field show competitions and scored higher than they ever have. As the underdogs, they competed against twelve other bands for the state championship and came in second place putting the band, the band parents, and the band directors on a huge emotional high. The following week they went to Mid Atlantic Regional Championship and became the first band in our county to qualify for the final round. I’d say my daughter has blazed her own trail in this marching band. My son, the awesome big brother that he is, simply showed her the way to the field and stood on the sidelines to cheer her on and enjoy her triumph.

Each year, this parade is the final event of the marching band season. By this time, the band’s competition season has been finished for a few weeks. The kids enjoy decorating their instruments with cheer, playing holiday songs and letting their hair down for one final march of the year. This is the fifth consecutive year my husband and I have had a child march in this parade. For us, it hasn’t gotten old. Standing in a shopping center in the cold with my husband and our band parent friends waiting for our kids to round that corner to complete the parade after Santa passes by always makes me smile.