Monday, September 28, 2009

Every Face Has a Story

When you’re a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours. ~ Author Unknown

I had never really thought about hospitals before nursing school. Hell, I guess it's even safe to say I avoided them! To me, it was like a short stay motel where you paid a lot of money for mediocre food and amenities in exchange for having babies, getting stitches, surgery, or, worse case scenario, you never checked out, and, you still owed them lots of money!
My first day of clinical training was the day I realized it was so much more than anything I had ever perceived it to be. I donned my nursing cap, grabbed my stethoscope out of the passenger seat of my car and took a deep breath. I walked into the hospital with a pit in my stomach and an unsure look on my face. I never felt comfortable in my uniform and it was hard to look confident when I felt like I was stuck in a costume I couldn't get out of. So, from the moment I got there, I couldn't wait for my shift to end.
I entered Mr. King's room to take his vital signs. He was not conscious but I talked to him anyway and told him who I was and what I was there to do. He had requested to not be resuscitated when his time came and he passed away peacefully minutes later. I was the last person to see him alive and he had just spent his last moment here on Earth with a girl who should have been in art school, was uncomfortable in her uniform and waiting for this first day to be over. His death immediately humbled me and I tried to show him as much respect as possible. I do not know anything about him as the person he used to be, but,I have never forgotten his name.
So, maybe this place could teach me a thing or two and the lessons just kept coming, one after the other, on every floor I was sent to:
On the pediatric floor, I touched the first person I knew to be HIV positive. A group of us saw it on her chart and several students hesitated during patient assignment. I did not. I wanted her. She was 2 years old, had contracted it from her mother at birth and was admitted for a high fever. She did not fit the stereotypes at that time of it mainly being a drug addicts' and homosexuals' disease and this was exactly the way that I needed to see it, through her little eyes. Frankly, I was shocked that my fellow students had decided to become nurses and were backing away from an innocent child in an awful situation. Did they forget how we were taught that a big part of nursing is not passing judgement and showing compassion? I remembered and I didn't even choose this career like the rest of them!
In labor and delivery, I was there when one young mother died from complications after childbirth and I couldn't hide my tears when I saw her bewildered family grieve in the hallway. It was meant to be a joyous time for them, not tragic. How unfair it seemed!
In surgery, I was standing in a little corner of an operating room when surgeons amputated an old man's leg off and was absolutely amazed when they held it up and carried it away. Holy crap! He had a leg and now he doesn't! It was a lot for an 18 year old to take in!
There were plenty of nice and even humorous moments too. I once had two patients who had both given birth on the same day and both their children were fathered by the same man! "Wow!," I thought, "This could totally be on the Jerry Springer Show!"
Another day, I spent practically an entire shift rocking a newborn being put up for adoption. I was drawn to him and his story even though he had no clue of his past or his future. He was so beautiful and I give his biological mother credit for bringing him into this world despite whatever reason she chose not to keep him. I hope he was given a wonderful life by his new family.
I once gave a rather large woman a bed bath and found a few scrambled eggs and some crumbs of toast from breakfast that had landed in the folds of her stomach. She laughed and commented, "So, that's where it ended up! A little snack for later?" Sometimes humor is the best medicine!
I had never thought of the world like this before. You pass by so many people every day not knowing who they are or what is going on in their lives. This is not the case in a hospital. Their name, age, and medical history is all jotted down and what you can't read is usually written all over their faces.
By the end of my training, I learned to accept my uniform as an uncomfortable but honorable reminder of what it gave me the opportunity to experience, and, to this day, I can't drive by a hospital without thinking about what people are going through inside. What a complex world we all live in and we never know under what situation or circumstance we may end up meeting....So, remember, every face has a story and take the time to listen to one of them today.

Image Credit: Vintage World War I Poster - The Comforter, by Gordon Grant:
To recruit young women to become nurses, many of America’s most talented artists were hired to illustrate beautiful posters romanticizing nurses as young heroines. This is one of my favorites.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The "Missed Opportunity"

There are some words I have just never liked. For instance, I avoid using the closing remark,"Good bye." It sounds so final and reminds me of a few times when I have used it and have never seen some people I cared about again. So, I prefer, "see you later." It kind of throws it out there that our paths will, hopefully, cross another time. My best friend does not like the sound of the word, "blog." So, we have amusingly agreed to ban that word too, and, we refer to mine as the "online journal." It sounds a little more regal,doesn't it? Once you get in this train of thought and apply this wonderful technique, you can really change the meaning and the feeling of just about anything! So, I am preferring to call this next entry my "missed opportunity" rather than the common and not so likable word, "regret." It sounds softer but still has enough oomph in it to leave it's mark.
Upon my return home from my trip over the rainbow, I was faced with my first "missed opportunity" and it altered my life forever. As previously mentioned, I was awarded an art scholarship and it was my golden ticket to feed my soul and create a name for myself. However, like most teenagers, I hit a few distractions and did not realize the impact until I came full circle.
My scholarship was intended for admission to an art college that fall, and, I did not return from my adventure until late October. I was encouraged (told) by my parents to immediately contact the organization that had awarded me with the scholarship and see where I stood with them. I was hoping that a brief lack in judgement would be an acceptable excuse but I was harshly informed that I had not followed the terms I had agreed to and the offer was now withdrawn. OUCH! One big and painful slap of reality! So, now you have it! My first introduction to my preferred term, "missed opportunity!" what? Well, remember those adult decisions I thought my parents were finally letting me make? It was no surprise to me they had changed their mind based on the failure of my first leap without their input. So, it was highly suggested (not open for discussion!) that I would enroll in nursing school since affording art school was now not an option.
I reluctantly handed over my paint brush, so to speak, and I was given a stethoscope as the only alternative?? It was not exactly what I had in mind, but, it was a successful and secure path my older sister had followed and I had no other prospects to throw at them. So, nursing school it was! (Sure, I'll play along for now!)
Nursing school turned out to be the equivalent of boot camp to me, but, most of the time, I felt more like Private Benjamin than Florence Nightingale! It was tough, it wasn't always pretty, and I found myself in a more difficult situation than I had ever expected . So, like a true soldier, I quickly learned to suck up the delirium I was feeling and gear up for battle. I passed everything thrown at me in the classroom but the real learning began when we started our clinical training in the hospital. No amount of written material prepared me for the lessons I learned there....
So, with that in mind, I will say, "see you later" and stay tuned for my next "online journal" about the joyous, crazy, sorrowful, unfair, hopeful and surreal world I entered at the hospital.

Do you have a word you dislike and what would you change it to??
What is your biggest "missed opportunity"??

Image credit:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Yellow Brick Road

The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and is one of my close friend's all time favorites. So, I thought I would have a little fun with it today and use it as a theme for my little life lesson:
So, Dorothy had her trip over the rainbow and I was about to have mine except my version had no scarecrow, tin man or lion to help me find my way back. I really truly thought that little dirt path I previously mentioned was my version of the yellow brick road. So, I decided to slip on those sparkly ruby red slippers and skip down it towards my future.
If Florida was Kansas for me, then my tornado would have to be a hurricane, and, when it hit and swooped me away, my poor family didn't see it coming. I saw it as the perfect storm and they saw it as a whirlwind of confusion but it was the first adult decision they allowed me to make.
So, there I was! I was dropped into a magical land and I had felt like my black and white world had been dipped into a rainbow of amazing colors. Life was vibrant and exciting for me now. The problem with beautiful sunny days, though, is that there is always another storm brewing somewhere and you can only avoid it for so long.
Not much time had gone by before I realized that I did not have much of a life of my own in my new surroundings. My boyfriend's work schedule did not allow alot of time together, I did not have a visa to go to school or work there and the things I had left behind were starting to way heavily on my conscious. I laid there many nights pondering my decisions and desperately wishing I had a toto to keep me company, but, I didn't.
Once a week I would talk to my dad on the phone and my heart sank. His words were positive but there was always a sadness hidden in his voice. It was like hearing Auntie Em calling me. I could always hear his unspoken love and concern and I knew he wanted me just to come back.
So, the further I got down that bright, but, not so cheery yellow brick road, the more I started admitting that my ruby red slippers were just too big for me to fill and that wicked witch, well, she was starting to circle me and Oz was nowhere in sight! I needed a routine, self worth and a purpose like that other story needed a brain, a heart and courage.
So, what is a girl to do when she has bitten off more than she can chew? You guessed it! I started tapping those big, clunky, and not so sparkly heels harder and faster and told my boyfriend that I wanted to go back.
There is nothing wrong with chasing dreams over the rainbow, but, there is no guarantee that the grass will be greener on the other side. So, just remember, if you decide to take that little trip, you might land in a place where there is no easy way back like I did.
Dorothy was right....There is no place like home!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Burst of Freedom & the Ultimate Detour

Life has a way of becoming so predictable and confining that I have always found a change liberating! Quitting a job you despise, getting out of a relationship that is suffocating you, well, admit it, it's just a huge sigh of relief! Ah, nothing beats that burst of freedom! My first taste of it came when I graduated after twelve long years of Catholic School.
Now don't get me wrong. I always was and will be forever grateful for the huge financial burden my parents swallowed every year to provide me with an excellent education, but, I always saw my life as a catholic school girl to be somewhat pampered and unrealistic. We weren't beaten with rulers and God wasn't forced down our throats, but, it was a consistently strict environment with a lot of expectations. Were were always under very watchful and judgemental eyes and it was their daily mission to make us studious, driven, cooperative, respectful, and pure. Now, I realize metal detectors, school resource officers and gangs is not a happy alternative, but, it was still a tall order for teenagers.
It also wouldn't be high school if you didn't have cliques. Every school has them and mine was no exception. However, when you are surrounded by 'privileged' teens and you don't live a 'privileged' life, it is not always easy to figure out where you fit in.
I didn't drive a BMW but I had a cool car. I wasn't well known but I was friends with everybody. I wasn't a size two but I always had a boyfriend. I wasn't athletic but I still had 'team spirit'. I wasn't extremely smart but I had a decent GPA. So, what was I? Rich, popular, prom queen, valedictorian, cheer leader?? Absolutely none of the above, but, I did find my niche within a place where they all existed but the stereotypes were left at the door. The open minded and non judgemental world of Art.
You see, I was creative and that is probably the way that I will be remembered. My high school art classes encouraged me to be myself and I let my guard down and was amazed at what came out. It was also a place where I rubbed elbows with the misfits, jocks, snobs, and free spirits, but, it was our Breakfast Club, so, to say, where you could be yourself and pour your soul out and was praised for it. Most of them slipped back into their other personas when they walked out of that room but I saw a different side of them and I have learned to this day to never judge a book by it's cover as a result of those classes.
So, back to me. Peak in that window over there and look off to the left by the door. That was me in the Art room every spare moment I had. That corner of the room is where I was captured and drawn in (no pun intended!) I had discovered a warm and fuzzy place where I could breathe and shine, get lost deep in thought and also clear my mind. Paint, pastels, pencils, watercolor, I did it all and well enough to get noticed. Local and state competitions, I won them both; Best in show, that was my reward; "Most Artistic," that was my senior notable. So, it seemed that I had found my chosen path and when I was awarded a scholarship and accepted into a nationally recognized art college, the pressure was off me. (for now)
This is where I hit my ultimate fork in the road. If you are not familiar with the very poignant poem, "The Road Not Taken," By Robert Frost, this is a perfect moment to pause and read it. I have traced my way back to that poem many times throughout my life and applied many interpretations of it to this moment I am going to explain.
I have failed to mention the one other road I was supposed to be taking. I was in love with a boy but not just any boy. He was from another country and had spent the last couple of years travelling back and forth so we could be together until I finished school. I had made a promise to join him after high school but that agenda was something I had failed to admit to my parents, college, my friends or even myself sometimes.
So, where does the burst of freedom come in? I'll tell you. The very second I released my graduation cap and watched it fly up in the air. It took exactly twelve years to earn that moment and one second to set me free from it all. I was thrust into this exciting new world and I wanted to keep that feeling forever. Art had taught me to create, believe, and express which are similar emotions your heart flourishes in. Right? So, wouldn't college wait for me for one more year if I took a just as wonderful detour?
I knew the answer and abruptly decided that I would not take one step further down my chosen path with its perfectly straight and smooth, illustrious, and, yet, predictable surface. The crooked dirt path with it's uncertain destination was charming, deserving and unpredictable.
As Robert Frost so deeply pointed out, I will leave you for now at my crossroads with his words which is how I would have described it if he hadn't beat me to it:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Which road did you travel and has it made all the difference??

Note: a link to Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken" for your reading pleasure -

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tick Tock...Tick Tock...

I miss having no concept of time. You know, that short period of oblivion at the very beginning of your life when you have no clue what you are doing or where you are supposed to be and everyone around you is accepting of it.
As I entered my teens, I learned quickly that there were more schedules to follow, less room for error and not as much tolerance as before. This less flexible and much more rigid transition period was not always easy for a chronic daydreamer and very indecisive person in general.
It was during this period that I began to notice this internal 'clock' ticking inside of me. It was like always having a constant reminder of how quickly each day goes by and how there is so little time to capture all of those moments that have now become distant memories. So, I learned to really hear and feel that clock (tick tock) It went something like this...
Get to school on time (tick tock), turn in that essay for English class, don't miss Art Club, finish all of that homework (tick tock), find a ride to the football game, find a date for the homecoming dance (tick tock), fall in love and get your heart broken, make and lose friends (tick tock), find a weekend job, pass your driver's test, get a car (tick tock), SATS, deadlines for colleges, sign my yearbook, it never stopped....(tick tock) Don't get me wrong. I knew it was going to be more complicated than picking out the right lip gloss but I don't think I totally realized that when that internal clock started ticking, well, it was NEVER going to stop!
So, what about the rest of the world? Well, those clocks were ticking too and I heard them clearly! It didn't seem to matter what day of the week it was either because they were always there and always loud! Even louder than my own and I had just as many thoughts about them too! (TICK TOCK...TICK TOCK!!!)
AIDS was an epidemic that had been called the 'gay man's disease' by plenty I knew but it was spreading so fast and not just among the gay community.
"So many people are dying, but, they are going to find a cure before it ever affects anyone I know, right?," I thought.(TICK TOCK...TICK TOCK...)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated as a national holiday.
"Yes! Another reason to get a day off, right? Well, he took a stand for civil rights and racial equality. Was our world there yet or was that race still going on too?" I thought. (TICK TOCK...TICK TOCK...)
Who am I kidding! There were so many clocks ticking... The largest stock-market crash in Wall Street history; Those poor farmers were suffering because of serious droughts; The worst nuclear and human-caused environmental disaster ever...."Black Monday", Farm Aid, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez oil spill..."I have no idea how to fix a nuclear disaster but we can stabilize the economy, help the farmers and clean up the oil? Right? How long was that going to take?," I thought. (TICK TOCK...TICK TOCK...)
So, I was still definitely learning, or should I say, "listening," to all of those clocks which represented all of the issues that were still going on inside of and all around me.
As I look back on it now, I realize that the shape and size of those clocks might have changed but they are still timing the races we all face day to day alone and together. (and that damn 'Tick Tock' still sounds the same!)
Did you hear one today??

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thank You Mrs. McAuliffe

Where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?
I was standing on the grass with the rest of my class staring at a streak in the sky and, not aware just yet, of the impact that image would have on me. That 'streak' was the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding before my eyes. This disaster claimed the lives of: Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, a teacher participating in the Teacher In Space Project. I admit I had to look up some of their names, but, it was important to have each and everyone of them here with me as I try to explain how that moment was my first sobering lesson in life.
Minutes earlier, my little catholic school in that sleepy little circus town off the Gulf of Mexico was alive. A perk of living in Florida is being able to, sometimes,view glimpses of the space shuttles launching from the Kennedy Space Center. We also followed this particular one closely since it involved a teacher whose purpose on this voyage was to literally teach us all about "The ultimate field trip" and to relay to us "Where we've been, Where we are going."
I was one of a bunch of giddy students lined up and ready to rush out the door when we got the signal from the principal over the intercom. We were finally allowed to pile out onto the front lawn and watch the space mission make it's mark in history. Our teachers fluttered around us to make sure we were paying attention and looking in the right direction so we didn't miss the moment. Then, it happened...The very visible streak shot up in the clear sky. We were elated that we were able to see it from that little patch of grass so many miles away. Our heads rattled around and the chatter started as the explosion occurred and the trail of smoke split off in different directions across the sky. Our principal,who had been monitoring the launch and the explosion from a TV in her office, awkwardly stepped out and approached the other faculty. Their moods changed and their expressions gave way to our imaginations. We were herded back into our classroom without an immediate explanation while the flaming debris was crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The silence broke and the news was released to us and we all sat slumped back in our chairs and I wondered.... Oh, how I wondered! How and why do things like that happen? Can you even imagine what it felt like to be from Christa McAuliffe's class and watching this happen on live T.V.? Did the crew know something was wrong before it exploded? Unanswered questions just kept pouring into my brain as my thoughts ran deeper than they had ever done before.
Christa McAuliffe perished in the explosion along with everyone else on board. However, she, somehow, in spirit, still managed to teach me this final lesson:
I learned to dream big; I learned there were ordinary people who believed so much in our world that they often put themselves in extraordinary positions for the rest of us; I learned that there weren't always happy endings; I learned that sacrifice was a part of life; I learned recovery was necessary and we must fix things to still keep moving forward; I learned to never forget those moments and that they are to be used as stepping stones to mark who you are and help build the path to where you are going in life. Thank you Mrs. McAuliffe. You taught me more than you will ever know!
So, where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?

Note: Challenger image copied from the following website:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Big Hair and Even Bigger Dreams

Okay, so, where did we leave off? Oh yeah, we are exiting the 1970's! It's time to stand at the end of that driveway and wave goodbye to that sweet little girl with an orange popsicle and her dingy white roller skates. I'm sure we will visit her again someday, but, aren't you just dying to know what happened to her next? Well, if your answer is "no, not really," I will still tell you anyway.....
It is time for me to introduce you to the wonderful and wacky years of the 1980's! A whole ten years dedicated to developing my creativity and individualism. Now, don't get me wrong. There were some things I remember that were catchy about the 70's like, hhhmmm, let's see? Pop Rocks! That glorious and colorful carbonated candy that
literally exploded in your mouth! Now, that was down right exciting! However, I think I was just too young to appreciate the whole allure of pet rocks and polyester and everything else. So, first and foremost, let me just get this out of the way. I liked, wait, no, that's not right. Let's try this again... I adored the 80's! SERIOUSLY! Not one ounce of sarcasm in my voice! It was my decade of big hair and even bigger dreams.
Yes, the 8o's totally got my attention! Technology and entertainment really came alive for kids my age. Pac Man, Ghost Busters, E.T.! Oh, my head is spinning right now with all of the possibilities I can mention! Then, if that wasn't enough, along came the birth of MTV. There was not one single kid I knew that wasn't trying to dance like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video! I wanted my MTV, the cabbage patch doll, the fluorescent bracelets and fingerless lace gloves! Please buy me the acid washed jeans and those really cool shirts with the huge shoulder pads!! Permed hair drenched in Aqua Net? Bring it on! Now, I am in my element!! This blog could go on forever but this is supposed to ultimately be about my transformation to the soulful survivor I am now, right?
Okay, I will reel myself back in from the strong temptation to just talk about TV and fashion and focus in on something more relevant. I was finally beginning to pay attention to this strange thing I never noticed before. It was called, wait for it....NEWS! I started to take my first real glance at this paper that always landed in our yard every morning and I also realized that there were certain times of the day when there were shows dedicated soley to this thing called, "news."
For me, it wasn't immediately as interesting as being finally allowed to make phone calls, but, I admit it, discovering there was a bigger world than just what I saw every day was worth a second glance......

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Aah, the 70's

I have often found that sometimes you have to be aware of where you have been to figure out where you are going in life. So, this is my beginning.....
I was born in the 1970’s and raised in Southwest Florida in a sleepy old circus town off the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of my childhood was spent in a little white house we rented in the middle of town on a busy four lane road. The weather was always hot and muggy and my neighborhood didn't have a lot of kids, but, it was clean and safe and home for now.
Aah, the 70’s. Gas guzzling station wagons (ours was lime green with crank style windows and vinyl seats that literally burned your ass off in the hot Florida sun), the word, Green, was just a color to most people and not a way of life, and kids actually played outside and drank out of garden hoses and still lived to tell about it.

My life pretty much revolved around two things:
My bicycle - It was quite a beauty! It was a Schwinn with a long sparkly blue seat and crinkled blue and white streamers on the handles. I would race it up and down on the uneven sidewalk never paying much attention to stop signs or people passing by.
My roller skates - They were dingy white with long laces and dark blue wheels. They never pivoted well and always hurt my ankles but that never stopped me from spending endless hours in our driveway practicing tricks for the skating rink. If the kitchen door opened and my mom brought me out a popsicle, well, that made the whole experience even better!
If there was an economic crisis going on in our house, my parents never let us know about it. There was always dinner on the table, Christmas presents under the tree and new Easter dresses every year. They managed to send my sister and I to catholic schools and the trade off was not going on too many vacations or really having anything extravagant that I can remember. That suited me just fine. I either did not know any better or was truly content with what we had.
Did the world have issues then? Sure, but, the little girl with the long golden blond hair racing down that busy sidewalk NEVER thought about it. Nixon,the energy crisis, or the inflation rate...Never, not even once! It didn’t matter to me that our faith in the government was at an all time low as a result of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. No, the 70’s were all about hot & sunny days, orange popsicles dripping down my arm and those dingy white roller skates with long laces and dark blue wheels!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To blog or not to blog? That is the question.....

I have been contemplating this notion for months but I kept telling myself, "You are not exactly a web master. Your computer is ten years old, you can't even keep track of your cell phone and you have NEVER even tweeted! So, can you seriously and diligently maintain a blog?" Obviously, the answer is "yes." I have made it here today.
So, my next question is, " Why does this blog idea keep popping into my head and appeal to me so much?" Well, I guess it is the possibility of feeling like I am somehow staying in touch with the world or a personal journal of self expression or a much needed and desired creative outlet. All of those sound like good reasons, right? So, why did it just not seem like enough to motivate me?
Well, because there was still one big lingering and annoying question remaining in my head? My last hurdle tripping and somewhat teasing me from the blogosphere was probably the same hesitation of what most bloggers face: What in the heck was I going to blog about?
Then, after months and months of pondering and stretching my thoughts for clever or unique ideas, I suddenly realized the most obvious answer was boldly staring me in the face! ME!
Surely, I had an interesting and relevant story to tell! Oh boy, oh boy, did I ever! My last year as a laid off worker has been a roller coaster ride full of emotions, discoveries, and revelations! Okay, it is not an earth shattering or uncommon story in this day and age. Nope, not enough! This blog must run deeper!
So, at this point, I must vow to not give it all away but I will tell you this! I am using this as my opportunity to stand out as a familiar face and one of the many many many voices of this economic crisis we now know as life. However, I have not only survived this, but, I have actually learned to embrace it. Yes, you heard me right! I said, "embrace it!"
I will tell you how and why I have used this period of my scary and confusing existence as an opportunity for self exploration and enhancement which I strongly believe I wouldn't have had time to do if I had not been thrown off course......