Home Sweet Home

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Sometimes I think it would be nice to drag my family and all my friends around with me as I travel for work. 

I imagine a huge tour bus with enough beds and room for the menagerie of pets. The cats and the dogs would be dramatically unimpressed. I’m not sure how the family would like it either. I imagine they would revolt and go running for the Texas border. 

Other days I fantasize about finding some little hideaway island where I can listen to the waves and read all day. Floor to ceiling bookshelves crammed with adventures and magical tales, music and movies filling my days. 

I know this is not reality. 

Wouldn’t it be nice though? 

Selfies are about memories

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I know. It’s funny to make fun of all the silly people who take selfies all the time. I completely disagree with those folks though. There was a time I went out of my way to avoid being in pictures. I hated seeing myself. It was entirely too easy to avoid being in the photos.

This all started to change when I was taking my son to New York City. I found a walking tour with a photographer. I realized how few pictures there were of the two of us together, and I desperately wanted them. This was the beginning of my commitment to my son to give him photographic evidence of our life together. I have never heard someone lament they had too many photos of their loved ones.

 

These photos and the selfies I have been taking with my friends and family are a way to demonstrate I care enough to want a reminder of our relationship.

There are so many people from my past I can barely remember. I have almost no photos of us together (that is if I am lucky to have any at all.) I will not live life that way anymore. I understand before we had instant access to a camera and seemingly unlimited electronic storage it was more difficult. There is no excuse now.

Trust me, most of the time I think I look horrible in these pictures. I got the wrong angle, my chin is super fat, or my nose is all wrinkled up. The people who know me know what I look like. They love me no matter what face the camera managed to catch. If they don’t, I don’t give a shit anyway. I am not totally made up and looking fabulous in all of these photos. I am just my most authentic self.

When I was choosing these photos I was deliberate about choosing memories I loved and not focusing on my perception of my flaws. This is hard for a girl like me. I tend to focus on all the reasons I should not be in the pictures.

Then I get a grip. Of course I should be in the photos of my life! I should get as many photos of me with the people I love as possible. We should really stop worrying about what we think people are thinking about us, and realize most people don’t care. We are hurting ourselves and our friends and family when we refuse to take a picture with them.

  

  
  

These are just a few of my favorite memories from this year. I have been so lucky to be able to go out and meet new people. I have had so many awesome adventures. These people are so special to me and I am excited to have photos I can reminisce over. I would not trade any of these photos for one airbrushed inaccurate representation of my life.

I have no intention of stopping the selfie craze. I refuse to hide from the camera anymore. I hope more of us continue this zany trend.

I am Lucky and Working Holidays

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Hospitals do not close for the holidays. This means healthcare providers have to spend time away from their families and go to work. I have never minded working holidays. To be completely honest, I consider it a privilege.

When patients are in the hospital on a holiday, it is the last place in the world they want to be. We do not typically schedule elective procedures during those times. The people who have to be admitted usually have no other option.

I do not see any point in refusing to work on a holiday when we celebrate locally. I can go spend a couple of hours with my family or even celebrate another day, it is not a big deal to me. My family will fix me a plate, or even send a huge spread of food for me to share with my coworkers.

Christmas Eve of 2013 I was at work in the MICU. The unit was full and we were slammed when I get a phone call from my mother saying my brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews were in a bad car accident outside a small town about two and half hours away. They had been traveling to visit her family. We were not able to get much information about their condition over the phone and my sister-in-law had already been transferred to a larger hospital.

I dropped everything and went to go take care of my family. That drive was so long and I have never been more desperate to get more miles between me and Lubbock, Texas. I had to get to my brother and my nephews. When I finally arrived to the hospital, my nephews were in a hospital room filled with toys. They had been doted on and loved by so many people. Someone had gone and bought them some clothes to change into because theirs were dirty. DPS had brought them teddy bears. I believe it was a nurse’s aide who went and bought them cars and trucks from somewhere. I have never been more grateful. My boys were okay.

Christmas that year was terrible. My brother could barely move and could not see due to his injuries. His wife was in the hospital preparing to have the first of many surgeries. The boys were very stressed out, although physically they were okay. I would have much rather have been able to work that holiday.

My family is okay if I am working. There are no big personal tragedies or crises. I can focus on my work because my family is safe and healthy. If I have to leave work because someone is hurt or sick I am a mess. Work is so much easier. Once the day is over I get to go home and escape whatever nightmares transpired at the hospital.

I can devote a few hours to another person who is having a bad holiday due to their medical condition. I can spend time with a family who is saying goodbye to their loved one on that day. It is the least I can do. I did not lose my family when they had an accident on Christmas Eve. We were lucky.

My role as a healthcare provider is important to me. It is humbling and I am proud of the career I chose. I have worked hard to be able to help people. I sacrifice a lot of time with my family and friends. I work long days and some days it is so hard.

However, I will keep working holidays. I will do my best to provide care to my patients and their families when they really just want to be at home celebrating. It is my way of showing my gratitude for my good fortune.

If you find yourself or your family in the hospital on a holiday, I imagine there are more people who do not resent caring for you. If their family is like mine they will be gracious and understanding of the service we provide in our professional lives. We adapt and adjust our plans so we can be of use. Don’t worry, we are not being left out of the festivities. If we are lucky, we are good friends with our coworkers and they have become extended family anyway. It is the least we can do.

It is rare for me to have no words.

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Looking more than a little tired.

I have so many things I want to say, and yet I have no words.

We are not guaranteed anything in life. We have a responsibility to let the people we love know how we feel about them. We have an obligation to be kind and to try to leave the world a better place. Don’t waste your life waiting for it to begin.

So, in the spirit of that sentiment, here are a few of the people and memories I love the most.

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I love this picture so much. This costume was logistically more difficult than I thought it would be. He was the perfect little mummy.

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May as well continue with the Halloween pics. Look, it’s my baby brother- wearing eye shadow! Looking tough Bubba.

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I would not go to school with crazy witch hair and makeup. I did not want to be seen ugly. (One of my family’s favorite stories.)

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I can’t believe it has been so long. We did it! One of my favorite pics of my BFF and I.

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Good times with my dear friends. Love these women so much.

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Me and my little buddy. My nephew, Kyle. I love this kid so much!

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Tough Mudder Adventures. I can’t wait for the next one!

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Me and my other nephew, My Squishy.

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Kurt and I before the Tough Mudder. He basically held my hand, and let me flirt shamelessly with him all day. Love all my superhero friends. It certainly helps how easy on the eyes he is.

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My “little bro”- Trevor and my brother, also named Trevor- are two of the nicest guys I know. I am a lucky girl to have all these great dudes in my life.

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I vote for: it’s always a good idea to get a selfie with the guy in chains.

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This is one handsome dude. I love his heart. I do not know how I got to be so lucky with a kid like him.

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Fun times with fun friends.

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Hanging out in Memphis.

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Just because we don’t have shot glasses, does not mean we don’t do shots. However, the lack of a corkscrew- did lead to wine bottle breakage… Live and learn.

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Love these peeps. You guys look so cool.

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Me and my beautiful mom. She’s pretty much awesome. I am lucky to have her.

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My first time! With Sushi, get your head out of the gutter…

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Ty and Granny… He played my favorite song for his talent show. The Entertainer from one of my favorite movies: The Sting.

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Just a girl and her dog. This was Cinnamon. She was the bomb-diggity.

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Ty’s first time! …. With Sushi!!! NYC was so awesome. I am so glad I got to share the experience with my favorite person in the whole world.

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Just us grandkids with Mamaw. Always a good time. I love it when she is game for selfies.

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Just one of the random things I miss most from my other job…. getting to take random selfies with this hottie. (He is Shannon’s husband- I always send them to her….) It makes me smile.

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Oh, my Gracie Belle. She is the coolest cat. Moody, temperamental, and my sweet girl. She nurses on my blanket, and she is always glad to see me when I get home. Her sister Bonnie Blue on the other hand…. not so much.

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My girl Brooke, who refuses to bleach my hair ever again… because the bleach makes me cry and whine… and then I demand to go dark again after the wounds on my scalp heal. Love that she humors my many whims when it comes to my hair.

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My dear brother and sister-in-law. Trevor and Robin, you guys are a good example of what a decent marriage should be. You love and respect each other every day. I love that you two found happiness with each other.

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My four guys. I always wanted a “red-headed step brother,” JT, thanks for making that wish come true.

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I love having all these strong, beautiful, brilliant women as my friends. I think I may have the best group of people in the world. I am indeed a lucky girl.

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Selfies are always better when you are wearing shades.

Yeah…. now, we are all professionals and responsible for real human lives. Scary thought.

So, what’s the point? Well, my life is meaningful because of all these people. There are a lot of other people who mean the world to me too. I am lucky. We have to remember to love our people. Don’t take them for granted. My heart is with my family in California tonight. I will be sending you all the loving vibes I can. I love you guys!

The Danger of Caring

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Medical Professionals are an interesting breed of folk. We are not immune from tragedy striking in our personal lives, and some of us are subjected to a constant bombardment of reminders when we go to work.

I love what I do. I get to hang out with the most eclectic crazy group of people almost every day, which allows me to cope with the sadness that comes along with my job. We develop coping skills over time, and eventually we learn how to watch other people suffering with an objective eye. We would not be able to return day after day if we could not keep everything in perspective.

For many of us, laughter is indeed the best medicine. We are full of inappropriate humor, and while it may seem insensitive to some, it is actually just our way of processing the horrors of ICU, and remaining sane. We develop little rituals and we have a plethora of superstitions. (You never say the Q word, observe how slow the unit is, or mention that frequent flyers name.) We trade war stories, and we collect memories that we can use for a quick laugh.

When our loved ones are patients in our hospital, or worse in our unit, the nice little boundaries get blurred. The personal and professional worlds collide, putting us at risk in every area of our lives. It is imperative to remember that we are only human, and it is okay to feel powerless, and to acknowledge our fears. We do not have to be the professional when we are indeed- the family.

I have had this experience a few times throughout my career, and I will remain forever grateful for my coworkers who allowed me the space to be a family member instead of a nurse or nurse practitioner. It helps.

The Marvelously Mundane

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I have a pretty fantastic life. I live in a country where I can say and do whatever I want. (Obviously, within reason, and I still have to remember that there are consequences for everything.)

I have done some pretty outrageous things. I sat on Gary Allen’s tour bus when I was 16. I took a forbidden road trip at the age of 17. I had a baby at 18. I graduated from college at 27. I conquered NYC at 31 (okay, maybe conquered is a strong word. I went on vacation to NYC.) Grad school and my dream job came at 32. I completed a Tough Mudder as an old lady of 34.

Last night, I was I complaining to my mother about The Blogger’s choice of picture when he chose my blog to be his guest post. He chose one where I had my nose wrinkled up. IMG_8212

I typically reserve that expression for people in my family. I think I look ridiculous when I make that face, and I try to avoid it when possible. Except for with my son. I love it when he makes that face, and when he was a baby somehow we got this picture. bran pics for gradbook0110

This is one of my favorite pictures in the world. I love that we were making the same face. That’s my boy. There is no denying that he is my child. But, that is so not the point. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. I was complaining to my mom about the wrinkly nose picture. You see, that is a picture you only get if I am not concerned with how I look in the shot. To get this picture, I have to be completely in the moment. This is me- totally open and just being myself.

Of course, my mother likes the wrinkly nose picture and she used this as an opportunity to bring up one of the stories my family keeps in their back pocket for maximum embarrassment effects. Let me just say, the story involves a 3 year old me, face paint, a cat costume, and my intrigue regarding the rationale of painting my boogers.

Now, there are only a few people in the world who know that story. It happened over 30 years ago. I do not actually recall the event, it was just another day for me. My family remembers, and they apparently love random opportunities to reenact the conversation.

I know. I know. Who cares? What is your point?

Our lives are a series of ordinary days with a few extraordinary days sprinkled in. The best stories, the ones that only a few know about are the best part. The regular old days that did not necessarily involve anything all that exciting. The Marvelously Mundane. The tales of family lore. All it takes is one sentence and the entire family has a private laugh, a joke that outsiders just do not get.

If I were at work and asked someone why they were painting my boogers- I would be greeted with stares and awkward silence. Attempts to explain the significance would fall flat. No one would get it. For one thing, they totally missed my cat ears and tail. Without the costume, it is hard to imagine. They would probably be imagining their 34 year old nurse practitioner asking such a ridiculous question. They would have a little less confidence in my professional prowess. (note to self- one should probably not discuss boogers and face paint at work.) *additional note to self- one should probably not refer to oneself as one. It sounds ridiculous.

So, where was I? Is there a point? Oh. yeah.

It is easy to try to define your life by the big events. This is a mistake that I make far too often.

How do you go about living a life worth living if you do not achieve greatness? (What is greatness? What would I have to do to be actually great? Fantastic? WONDERFUL?) For most of life, I have been waiting to arrive. While I am not entirely certain of the destination, I was waiting. It is almost like percolating coffee. I wanted to be full-bodied and robust. (Wait. That sounds weird. I am full-bodied. Quite robust. hmmm. Okay- just know, I did not mean physically. Unless you mean strong. Why would you mean anything? I am the one that said it. Nevermind.)

Did you know that 10 people in Australia have read my blog today? 3 people in Germany. Am I the only person who finds that incredible? Do you think they liked it? Will they read it again?

I am one of those people who possess no artistic talents. I cannot draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, or even act. I desperately wanted to do all of those things. I wanted to have an interesting way to express myself. I completely underestimated my capabilities. I was so busy tallying up the talents I did not possess that I totally forgot to give myself credit for the ones I have. I would never dream of judging another person as harshly as I judge myself.

There is something special about the ordinary days. Driving in the car with your mom listening to Reba McEntire, singing along without fear of judgement, not caring how you sound. Going to see a bad movie with your son. Harry Potter marathons that you fall asleep during. Curling up with a good book.

We have far more regular days than remarkable ones. I think it is time to celebrate the normal stuff. The big, special days are great! Everyone should get to experience them. However, we miss so much when we are constantly waiting for the next great adventure.

I am planning to do 2 more Tough Mudders this year. In about 6 months. If I wait until then to find inspiration, I will have missed half a year. We don’t get that many days in our lives, and we should not waste them. Open your eyes, look around. Find the beauty in the ordinary. Act like a tourist in your town. See things from a new perspective. Write your story in your every day life. Fall in love with The Marvelously Mundane.

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I know. You are tired of hearing about the Tough Mudder

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I know, I know. Do you talk about anything else these days?

Yes.

I do.

I promise. I am just having so much fun going through pictures and planning my next adventure with my son and my new friends.

I had not actually planned on attempting many of the obstacles. I had not been working out, and I was woefully unprepared for the TM. I went anyway. I wanted to meet these people. I am so glad that I did.

Participating with this group of people was life-changing. I feel like I was probably the one in the worst shape, I feel like I was the biggest person out there. The old me would never in a million years wear compression pants and a form fitting shirt out in public like that. I would have felt out of place and like I did not belong.

I have worked hard to overcome the negative self-talk that permeates my life. It is not easy. I think this is one of the hardest parts about getting healthy. You have to feel like you are worth the effort. Tough Mudder is so much more than an obstacle course. It is a chance to overcome your fears. It is an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do anything.

There are videos. There are videos of me on the ground in a mud pit.

I have an interesting nose. (I hate my nose.) It is turned up, a la a pig nose. Oh, and I have always been heavier than most of the people I know. I remember when I was a kid, and the mean kids called me Ms. Piggy. Now, Fast forward more than 20 years. I am still fat, and I still have a turned-up nose. I was actually essentially rolling around in a pit of mud. I assure you, no one called me a pig.

This sounds silly but, this is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I stopped letting the bullies and mean people dictate my life. I can be healthy and active. It’s okay that I am not in fantastic (or even acceptable) physical condition. I went out and worked hard. I played. I had fun. No one told me I did not belong with them.

It is time to stop letting the voices from our past prevent us from living up to our full potential. Yeah, there were mean kids and people who pointed out our flaws. Wanna hear a secret? My son has my nose. In fact, he looks pretty much like a male version of me. I think he is the most handsome person on the planet. I do not see those features as flaws on him.

I now understand why it hurt my family so much all those years I thought I was ugly. I get it. I understand why it hurt them to see me hurting myself. I was hurting the person they loved.

Today, I am still fat. I am still slow and out of shape. I can do a burpee. I can go and have fun in the mud with a group of fitty friends. I am not ugly. Turns out, I have a lot to offer. Who I am to stand in my way?

 

The Gift of Family… and thoughts on Parenthood.

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If you are my FB friend, then you surely know how much I love the show Parenthood. There is something about it that speaks to my soul. The intangible gifts that come from having a real family are difficult to explain or illustrate, and I feel that this show manages to paint a picture of real people (Yes, I know they are not real.) whose devotion to family trumps everything else.

I have a wonderfully complicated family, full of love and laughter. We have overcome hardships, and continue to make it through this world together. This is not going to be a description of my family though. This is not the forum for that. Besides, this would end up being very long, and I lack adequate talent to represent my quirky, fantastic, fabulous, and awesome family. (See? I even have to resort to the word awesome.)

I want to talk about the gifts that one derives from a supportive family.

Unconditional love is one of the most valuable commodities for human growth and personal satisfaction. Seriously. People need the assurances that no matter what, they are going to be loved. This security is what allows us to branch out and take risks. Toddlers experience this with coming to find their caretaker every little bit while they are exploring. They are seeking the foundation. The rock that they can count on. As the child grows, they push limits to test the stability of that relationship. They need to see that despite their worst behavior, they are still going to be loved.

I firmly believe that we often use our family as a safe place to let our internal little monsters out to play. We rebel, argue, talk back, and in general leave a trail of worry with every step we take in adolescence and young adulthood. (I realize that there may be lots of “good kids” out there, but this is my blog, therefore my experience.) Now, if our family has done their job, we have a security blanket. No mistake is too large for our family to turn their backs on us. The best part? Knowing that we can come home after all the chips have been cashed in.

So, eventually we grow up. (Or at least we manage to get some grown up responsibilities.) For me, it was having a baby. I was 18 and pregnant. I am so lucky that my family came together, and supported me through that process. The children who are born to mother’s like me, women who are woefully unprepared for motherhood, end up with something even better; a whole village of family who pitches in and helps raise them. One of the biggest surprises that came with having a baby, is that I no longer knew everything. Quite the contrary. I knew nothing. (Becoming a mother is a humbling endeavor. Scary and wonderful all at the same time.)

Life continues to throw curve balls, and I continue to dodge and weave my way through them. Sometimes, they hit me squarely in the chest, and knock the wind out of me. My accomplishments have only been possible with the support of my family. This is the one truth that I know without a doubt. I am confident that no matter what path I choose in life, as long as I am happy, my family will stand behind me and cheer me on. (Remember, I like to be cheered for.)

Watching the series finale of Parenthood last night, I was struck by how much Zeke’s encouragement meant to his children. They all have a different relationship with their parents, and the writers managed to stay consistent with these roles. Crosby is the wayward son that needed to be told that he could run a business without his big brother, while Adam (the big brother and savior) needed to be told that he was not responsible for his brother. Sarah wanted her dad to give her away to the man who would be the most important man in her life. Julia’s relationship with her dad was not addressed as much, but her devotion to her family is very much her father’s legacy.

What struck me, left me in a sobbing heap of kleenex, was the realization that all of our families want happiness for their kids. Self-actualization. Be who you were born to be.

We all knew Zeke was going to die. It was only the theme of the four last episodes. I was dreading it. I was afraid that it would be devastating. The creators of this show gave us a gift though. The montage at the end managed to show how the family moved on, and found happiness, even without their patriarch. After all, it is all he really wanted.

The song says it all. Mr. Bob Dylan managed to wrap it all up with a neat bow and catchy chorus.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

This song articulates my wishes for my son far better than I ever could. I want him to keep a sense of wonder, and to still enjoy a surprise. I want him to know that whatever path he chooses, I will be his foundation, and be waiting for his return home to check in. I can’t wait to read the story he writes for his life. I bet it is going to be quite the adventure.