Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We are Together

I have a friend Sammy at church. He is from Nigeria. I don't know all the details of his life, but I know his family is back in Nigeria and he misses them terribly. We are helping him get on his feet after coming to this country. He helps out a lot at church. When we made supper for the missionaries who came out to help with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, Sammy was there in the kitchen helping us. He's often around the church, helping out. Whenever you give Sammy a compliment or a condolence-Sammy thanks for helping me do the dishes, or, Sammy you sing beautifully, or, Sammy I'm sorry your family is so far away-he grasps your hand and says, in his beautiful, deep, African accent, "We ah togethah."

Isn't that a lovely way to respond to someone? We are together. We ARE together. The lonely people, the lovely people, the people who hate people, the people who want to be away from people. We are all together. Like it or not. We are together. I might have to try that.

Did I mention he has a beautiful voice? *

*Our church put together a CD of beautiful songs to raise money for immigration reform. Sammy's is one of them. Let me know if you're interested in buying it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kindness Matters

I'm not a kind person. I judge people. I often have snarky and sarcastic remarks running through my head and at times I even say them out loud, especially if I know it will get me a laugh. And I am selfish. I am not a giving and generous person by nature or, if it was in my nature at one point, it was replaced early on by something, if not self-serving, than at least self-protecting. 

For example: I used to live with someone who would be irked if I went into the kitchen for a glass of water, cup of tea, snack, etc and didn't ask him if he wanted one too. Forget about just bringing him one, regardless. He told me I was rude. I told him he was a grown adult and that if he wanted a cup of tea, the kitchen was thataway. I wasn't hypocritical about it, I didn't expect anyone to fetch my tea, either. I just didn't have that generosity of spirit. If I went to Starbucks to get coffee, I didn't just pick one up for you, what if you didn't want coffee. I might have wasted, I don't know, 2 bucks? I mean, come on. 

I guess this is how I was raised. I mean, I don't remember that we did favors for each other or that I was ever held accountable to be more giving with my friends and family. I wasn't mean or spoiled. I like to buy presents for people. I just was very protective of my time, energy and money and didn't really want to share any of that with anyone else. 

Some of it was fear. What if I did something and you didn't like it? What if you sneered at my attempts at generosity or worse, ignored them. For a long time, I didn't ask people things about themselves a. because I am terribly shy and b. because I didn't want to offend them. Is it any of my business? Maybe I shouldn't ask, which leads to maybe I shouldn't help, maybe I should just mind my own business. 

Such is introversion. For most of my life, interacting with others has been a confusing maze of misunderstanding and  missed social cues. As a kid, I never understood-and hated-when adults laughed at what I said. I was a pretty serious kid. Nor do I understand, still, why some people give me "that look" after speaking with them for more than a few minutes. As I've aged.  I've learned to hide it better. I make small talk, I laugh or look concerned in the right places. Always, there's me looking on the interaction from off to one side, critiquing the interaction. It does not come naturally. 

A lot of this has been hammered out of me by my husband, who is generous with his time, possessions and, to my irritation, his advice. But he wants to be involved, he wants to interact with other people in ways that seem totally alien and uncomfortable to me. But, little by little, over the years, I have tried, very specifically, to act against my selfish instincts: to bring something without being asked, to steer the conversation away from myself. I don't want to. What I want is to be home, alone and reading and drinking hot cocoa without having to interact with anyone. That is the state that feels, not good, but familiar. 

I think the thing that really helped me understand myself and change was learning more about introversion. I read that introverts do like to be around people, but that being around people saps them of energy, as opposed to extroverts who get energy from being with others. Now, when I'm tired and irritable after being at a thoroughly enjoyable party I understand that I have used up my people energy for the day. And that's ok. If someone is a very high energy person, I no longer feel guilty for trying to avoid them, I just know I may have to limit my time with them because they drain me. I think this has led me to actually come out of my shell more often, because I understand what I need and when I need it. 

The other thing that helped immensely was becoming a nurse. Not only did it force me to interact with patients, but I found that if it had a focus, it came easier. Plus I got to be the one in control of the interaction: you were in my hospital, needing help, not knowing what to do and I'm here to help. Weird, possibly pathological, but if you're in uncertain territory, it levels the playing field for me. I'm not proud, but There it is. 

Anyhoo, as these things increased my confidence and comfortability around other humans a weird thing happened: I became more kind. As I became more outwardly focused I saw just how many of us feel weird and disconnected. So of course I can connect on that level. First I had to get my head out my ass and stop focusing on me me me. Then I had to look past the external crap that other people put on. It's not always a quick process. I've known people for years who get on my last nerve and then they say or do something endearing...well, you just never know about people. 

This has led me to a kindness-reward circuit: I act nice, people are nicer. Not in a strict, one-to-one ratio but overall it seems to even out. I had a psych patient ask me if being nice meant I got taken advantage of a lot. I told him no, I'm not a pushover. But that's his reality and it used to be mine: that being nice meant you put your guard down. But that doesn't just keep the bad out of your heart, it keeps out the good, too. And the bad can find a way in if it wants no matter how much you think your heart's protected. The amazing thing is, all that kindness and good feelings has made my spirit more resilient, not less. How wonderful is that?

Nice article on angels and caregivers from CNN's belief blog.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


If you've ever read, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom, you know that when you die, you get to stay, at least for a while, in a place that made you happy. When Eddie dies, he reunites with his wife, Marguerite, in a dressing room. She's in a bridesmaid's dress, waiting for a wedding to begin. She said the hope, that promise of beginning a new life, always captivated her. Given the disappointments she faced in marriage, you could see why she stayed in the day, just before the wedding, with the possibility that anything could happen and everyone was so happy.

Sally thinks that heaven is a place where everyone is a child again. You get to pick the age you want to be, but it must be a child. That sounds lovely to me. I wish I could meet my daughter as a child-I know we'd be best friends. My husband too. Although Sally and I would surely bully him, or at least torment him a little.

I think that if I go to heaven, it's going to be like a Saturday afternoon in September. The temperature so nice you don't even notice it. The afternoon sun slanting in through the dining room windows. And everyone just relaxing, curled up in a chair or taking a nap. There's something about a Saturday afternoon that just seems like time stands still. Saturday chores are done and you don't yet have to think about getting ready for Monday. You can do anything on Saturday night, but right now it's just time to curl up and not think about anything. Eventually, I'll get up and have to start dinner, but for right now it's enough. And feeling enough always feels like heaven to me.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Sally says that if she had "just the right amount of money," she would be happy. I confess I think this too, sometimes, and I'm not 7. My wish is a little more specific, as in "If I had my own home," or "If I had money to travel more," or even, "If I had a retirement plan," I too would be satisfied. This often leads me to envy, bitter envy sometimes if the truth be told. I judge people on how they care or don't care for their possessions, as in, "If I had a house, I'd never do X, Y, or Z." So far this doesn't seem to effect Sally, who is a pretty happy kid overall and doesn't seem to be jealous of anyone or anything. 

Truth be told, I like our life very, very much. I like our apartment. I also like not having to shell out money when the water heater breaks. I like that we're not on the very common treadmill of two full-time working parents who rush out the door with a cranky kid every morning, make sure she's got the lunch packed, the homework done, the permission slips signed. We don't come home exhausted at 6pm and worry about dinner, yell about homework, put the kid to bed and go to sleep to start all over again the next day. I'm very, very blessed to have a husband who stays home and makes our house run. I'm very, very blessed to have a job where I can support us working 3 days a week. 12 hour days to be sure, sometimes 36 hours in 3 days, which is its own, special kind of exhausting, as in, "please don't talk to me, I am done with human beings for at least the next 10 hours." We have a nice, working car, food in the fridge and the money to take a small trip every year, a bigger trip every 2 or 3. But once in a while I'd like to go out and spend $500 without thinking about it. I can't spend $50 without thinking long and hard about it. 

And that's ok. I don't mind shopping at thrift stores and getting furniture off the curb. The thrill of finding some amazing treasure in my mother's attic or my grandpa's garage hasn't left me, it's just been transferred to the stuff from other people's attics and garages and basements and closets. This summer I found a Calvin Klein, beautiful off the shoulder, swingy brown dress for $17. Gary found a still in the box and wrapped in its plastic, signed, designer modern red lamp ON. THE. CURB. People didn't want to pack up after a garage sale. Quick Google search says it goes for about $160. I love that. It's like bagging a 4 point buck to some people, I guess. Maybe one day we'll find the Holy Grail of bargain shoppers and find some rare painting or piece of furniture that worth $100,000 for five bucks and we'll be the ones on Antiques Roadshow going, "Oh my Gosh! I had no idea! We'd been using to store paint!" 

One of the things about my husband I cherish is that he doesn't have a lot of things and the things he has, he uses. It drives me crazy, sometimes, because he'll toss out or give away something and six months later we'll go, "Didn't we used to have a thingy-whatsis." But I used to find cool things and save them for "The right time, for when I had a house, for when I lost 10 pounds." And those things would sit in my closet, or on a shelf or in my basement until they were no longer anything I was interested in. Occasionally I'd unearth one of these things and and remember why I wanted it in the first place and start using it, but more often than not I'd wind up just re-gifting it, or donating it or throwing it away. "Don't store up your treasures here on earth." 

Another blessing I've received is that really, the less things I have, the more I make do, the less I really want. My envy, my desire to always have more, to always think, like a 7 year old, that happiness awaits if only I had....this has definitely decreased. Not gone completely, for sure. But lessened. I've learned to make do and be satisfied with what I have. And this isn't just in regards to My Stuff. Right now, my job is enough. My marriage is enough  More than enough, actually, but I know longer dwell on, "If only he'd...". How my kids are is enough-I'm not fretting over whether they're eating right, acting right, learning enough, whatever. And I'm trying, really trying to get over the house envy. God, if I'm supposed to buy a house, give me the ability and diligence to work for it, the knowledge to know what I'm doing. But if we stay where we are, that'd be ok too. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Princess Shift

I was on call last night, 3p-7:30p. Our ER is so totally busy and important that we have to take call. Are there other ER's that do this? I've never met one, but like fairies, that doesn't mean they don't exist. So of course I got called in while shopping at Costco. I love Costco and all those free yummies they hand out. Yesterday there was smoked salmon on crackers with with a sweet sauce, but I digress...

I got there to a not totally crazy ER, but what patients they had were pretty sick. I picked up 3 from a nurse going home. They all had cancer: 1 lung, 1 colon and 1 brain but the brain cancer was probably secondary, so he was going to CT to see if there was some old cancer hiding somewhere else. Gotta make your day, to find out you have a brain tumor. Last week I had a guy who had just been told he had a brain tumor and then a few hours later was told the good news that it wasn't a tumor, but an arterial-venous malformation that needed surgery so it wouldn't explode in his brain. Good news is really relative in the ER.

I walk into the room where my patients are, not really sure who's who yet and I see a woman my age crying. I ask her if she's ok and she says, "They're putting him in hospice."

Hi, I'm Susan your nurse. So, I hear you're going to die.

I don't really know what to say. Usually people's prognoses are not so definitive when I see them. So I don't say anything and just try and be helpful instead. I'm ever so helpful. So, while I'm trying to pass out everybody's meds, teach my other lady how to inject herself with lovenox so she can go home instead of spending the weekend in the hospital and minister to my dying dude, I get told I'm taking one of two codes that are coming in. I try and get caught up with my charting. First code comes in, I jump in help a little, then my code comes in. My patient was in respiratory distress and not breathing so good, so they intubated her. Otherwise, she was pretty awake. Like, very awake. So we sedated her. And then sedated her some more. Everytime I left the room for a minute to see to the THREE OTHER SICK PATIENTS I HAD, I got a call that my intubated patient was waking up and grabbing for her tube. Erg. I got her settled back down, got my lady discharged, took my dying guy off bipap for a few minutes so he could eat before needing the bipap again, I told him I couldn't make it better but I could I'd try to make it easier. I then tried to call report to MICU on my intubated chick. Who's waking up again!

I would like to take a moment to tell all the ER doctors out there that they are NOT anesthesiologists and that propofol sucks. I mean, it's quick to sedate you, but it's quick to wear off and quick to drop your pressure. Please, please, please use versed and fentanyl instead. That is all.

Put my guy back on bipap, suddenly remembered that the guy with the brain tumor hadn't been to CT yet, tried 3 times to get an ABG on my MICU lady who woke up AGAIN, more sedation (is she a drinker? is the line ok? why isn't she knocked out?) Called the respiratory therapist to see if he could get the ABG, he couldn't and left before I could stop him to do the transpot with me. Lady wakes up again, more sedation. Finally, I grabbed my relief who offered to bring her up to MICU while I finished up my charting and that he'd tell them I couldn't get the ABG. Searched 10 minutes for lost chart. Finished charting. Brought promised water pitcher to my hospice patient. Gave his wife a hug and held his hand and said goodbye. Went to get changed. Texted Gary to tell him to come pick me up, he said, "you've got the car." Oh, yeah. Well, it's been quite a four hours, what can I say.

Picked up cheesesteak and ice cream from Thomas Sweets for family. Was in bed by 10:30. Slept til S's alarm went off at 2am, cause she played with the phone. Really? But that's another post.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What time it is?

Oh dear God and/or Goddess.

I have volunteered to start a Brownie troop. Which everyone thinks is a great idea and wants their daughters to join and Oh-Gee-It's-Great-Someone-Wants-To-Start-A-Troop! Except no one really wants to LEAD a troop. And S- reeeeeaaaaallllllyyyyyy wants to be a Brownie. Cause, you know-Uniforms! Brownie Badges! A cool Brownie skort! So, here I am, about to be a Brownie leader, cause I have all the time in the world.

Actually, Pastor Patty told me last week that I was the busiest woman she knows and I was like, "Huh?" I'm not busy, I just work full time, take 2 college classes, homeschool S-, try to sing in the choir once in a while, maybe participate in a play (that was before college, though, to be fair) and walk the dog and put drops in the cat's ears....and maybe clean my house. Once in a while. Like when company is coming-and when do I ever have company? Next week, that's when-when I have a parent meeting for BROWNIES! Oh, God. Now I've got to bake and cook.

Thank Gods, Goddesses, Buddha and all the Bodhisattvas that I have Mr. H who does all the cooking, helps tremendously with cleaning and basically runs the homeschool AND generally makes sure the bills are paid and the house doesn't explode.

One consequence of all this is am now officially a Pintster. How very Pinteresting, how Pinsterific. I tried explaining to Mr. what Pinterest is. "It's like social media for girls. And a few gay guys." Those who like to share twee things, like wedding dresses and cutesy crafts while keeping away from WTF/NSFL gifs and evil, evil internet Trolls. I really, really, really was not Pinterested in joining. But my google search to find amazing and interesting things to do with a gaggle of Brownies led me directly there and....I did find some great Girl Scout things to do. Apparently, that is where all the GS leaders hang out: on Pinterest. I'm not even sure how to tell you to find me there. I thinks it's this: 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have homework to do.