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Welcome to JOIN, or DIE. Here, I will share my thoughts. Take it for what you will, agree, disagree or indifferent. Start a discussion or a revolution. I welcome it all, but don’t tread on me.

 

Thoughts for the new owners of 21 Averill Street

To the new owners of 21 Averill Street:

Welcome to the only place I’ve truly considered “home” for the last 32 (almost 33) years of my life. I want you to know how special this place is, how many beautiful memories have been made here, and just how lucky you are to call this little piece of heaven “home”.

This is the only house I’ve ever lived in, from the time I learned to walk, to the day I walked down the aisle at my wedding. To say this is hard for me to write is an understatement, but time passes and things change, and I know you must be as excited to live here as I am looking back on fond memories.

As you look into the yard from the living room, I want to point out some special trees. Three we planted, one for each of my grandparents after they passed (one was accidentally run over by the lawn mower!).

The magnolia, tallest and closest to the driveway, blooms first, and is for my Papa. Moving to the right, is the weeping cherry tree, for my Grandma Tootie. This tree is beautiful and blooms white-pink in springtime. Beside that, is the Japanese maple, for my Poppie. As the seasons turn, this tree boasts three different colors, from bright green in spring, to dark burgundy in summer, to bright red in autumn.

There is a peach tree in the back right corner, by the fence. In spring, its pink flowers are a delight, and will offer you little peaches by the end of August and into September. We never ate these raw, but my mom would make delicious peach cake-like tarts. There are no store-bought peaches I’ve found that taste the same in this dessert.

The wooden fence (it’s about as wide as a balancing beam) used to follow the perimeter of the property. When I was a kid, I used to walk on top of the fence, trying to get around the entire yard. There used to be rose bushes along some of the posts, which made it difficult hopping over them without falling off.

In April and May, sleep with the windows open. You will hear the gentle chip of peeper frogs from the bog across the street. Hopefully, they will lull you to sleep, as they did for me. And if you like to take walks when the weather is nice, walk to the end of Averill Street, take a left onto Perkins Row, and keep walking. You will reach a beautiful stone bridge. My dad and I used to ride our bikes there, and this is where my husband proposed to me. It is my favorite place in the entire world.

As summer approaches, you can hear motorcycles driving down Route 1. I really loved it on breezy summer nights–the sound of summer. Worry not–it’s a peaceful location, and mostly quiet, but not eerily silent as some small, country towns are.

If you’re at all interested in history, Topsfield was founded in 1650. The house next door (The Averill House) was built in the 1700s, and this house, on its farm land. A woman by the name of Sarah Wildes (née Averill), was accused of Witchcraft and hanged during the hysteria in Salem Village (Danvers). She was an Averill–related to the Averills who built the house next door. Who knows, maybe this house was built on the site of an old barn or something? Don’t worry, I’ve never seen a ghost or anything!

I think at one point this was an apple orchard. There were two big apple trees in the front yard we had to cut down–one of them caught fire when we lit fireworks on the Fourth of July.

You won’t need to worry about fair traffic living on this road, but steer clear of Route 1 when the fair is in town! You will get free tickets to Topsfield Night–a small consolation for the grief and inconvenience. But it’s still one of the best times of the year.

My mom and I used to walk into town. It’s not far, but can be treacherous crossing Route 1. It is worth it, though, once you get downtown. Plenty of sidewalks!

The Strawberry Festival is held on the common the first Saturday in June, and there is a tree lighting the first weekend in December–I sang with Masco’s chorale at the tree lighting every year I was in high school.

Downtown has come a long way. When I was growing up, Topsfield House of Pizza (T-Hop as my friends and I still call it) was the only place you could get food in town. Now, there’s a few more places to eat and get take-out. Gil’s also sells beer and wine–Topsfield used to be a dry town until like, 10 years ago.

This location is perfect. You’re 10 minutes away from everything, 25 miles north of Boston–30 minute drive if you catch Route 1 without traffic (ha!)–you’re close to the beach, and New Hampshire.

I’m not going to lie–this driveway is scary for people who don’t live here. You feel like you’re going to drive off a cliff, but I promise, you won’t! It was the best driveway growing up. I learned to ski on it, and I used to sled down it every winter. I rode my bike down it, and crashed into the back of my mom’s car.

I’m not sure why, but one of my favorite memories in this house is eating fish sticks, creamed corn, and french fries while watching Super Market Sweep with my mom when my dad was away on business trips. We did this in the “TV room”–the vacant bedroom on the right side of the hall. My room is at the end of the hall. Was.

In this kitchen, my dad taught me how to bake pies, and my mom taught me how to make meatballs and Sunday “gravy”. We sat down in the dining room for family dinners every night. You see, I’m the only child, and it was only ever just the three of us.

On Christmas morning, after opening presents, my dad would make us eggs benedict. It’s been several years since I woke up in this house on Christmas morning, but this year, my work schedule allowed it of me; I was lucky enough to have one final Christmas morning in this house; one last eggs benedict at the dining room table.

We won’t celebrate my birthday here this year, and it feels bittersweet, being so close to the date. But if you want to have a drink for me in the living room on March 11th, I’ll toast to you, and your new journey, from my house in New Hampshire.

I hope these memories make you laugh, smile, and give you hope for creating new memories here, adding to the energy of this space. For 36 years, my parents painstakingly cared for this house and yard. I hope that 36 years from now, it will still be the immaculately maintained home it is today, but with your flourishes.

Be well, and enjoy your new home.

Sincerely,

The daughter of 21 Averill Street.

 

 

Thoughts on the anniversary of my ASD closure

It’s been 6 years, and I remember the exact moment when I became an anxious hypochondriac. It was 2013 and I’d found out I had an atrial septal defect (ASD)–a hole between atrial chambers–of my heart.

I’d been having palpitations, but I was in the dregs of my final semester of nursing school–a horribly stressful time in any nurse’s life! I was told to follow up with cardiology, but that it was probably nothing. When school ended and I passed my boards, the palpitations seemed to ease up. Perhaps it was just anxiety.

I moved from Mass to NH for my first job on a cardiac step down unit working day/night rotation. The palpitations came back with a vengeance, and I thought maybe the stresses of screwing with my circadian rhythm was the culprit. Nonetheless, I decided to make an appointment with cardiology.

They were wonderful. They didn’t brush off my symptoms because of my age or gender. They took me seriously and ordered a stress echo, plain echo, and a Zio patch–which records your EKG continuously for a maximum of 14 days. They wanted to cover their bases, and I really appreciated that.

I’ll never forget my first echocardiogram–an ultrasound of my heart (and something I will now continue to have for the rest of my life). I was lying on the stretcher in the dimly lit room.

“Wow, you have a textbook heart,” she sonographer said. “I rarely get such beautiful pictures.”

Then she fell silent.

I’m thinking, “okay, maybe she just needs to shut up to do her job and take measurements.” But the other, irrational part of me was screaming: she found an abnormality!

I followed up with my cardiologist and unfortunately, the irrational me was correct.

“You have and ASD. That would explain the murmur we heard.”

Now I’m having palpitations. Again. “So what does that mean?”

“Well, it explains the murmur, but it wouldn’t explain the palpitations. Usually these are found and fixed in childhood. When we find them in adults, it’s because they’ve suffered a stroke.”

I’m speechless, but my brain is yelling, “FIX THIS NOW! BEFORE I HAVE A STROKE!”

Cue the anxiety.

When I got home, I remember crying to my husband, (boyfriend at the time). “I have a hole in my heart.” An overwhelming vulnerability settled in upon realizing my mortality. I was no longer that fearless teen and early twenty-something I had once been–the girl who traveled to Australia twice within a twelvemonth. I never would be again.

“I have a hole in my heart. I have congenital heart disease. I could have a stroke.” Grief turned to anger. “How was this missed? Why wasn’t this found? Now I have to deal with all this shit that should have been dealt with years ago!”

Nearly every shift I worked, I researched ASDs and ASD repairs. I was inundated by information, over-saturated by scholarly articles and percentages. Worse yet, I learned about the future I might have if I did not get it fixed–a strong likelihood of developing Pulmonary Hypertension–the worse disease they don’t teach you in nursing school. I cared for patients with pulmonary hypertension, and it is a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. My anxiety hit an all-time high.

How could I, a cardiac nurse, become a cardiac patient diagnosed with congenital heart disease at the age of 25? The irony has not left me to this day.

I was lucky enough to have a secondary type ASD. This is the only type of ASD that can be closed in the cardiac cath lab (CCL), and not by open heart surgery. Yikes. And thank the gods!

So on January 20, 2014, my husband (boyfriend at the time), took me to the hospital we worked at, and I underwent a 3.5 hour-long cath procedure where they access your heart through an incision in your groin, accessing your right femoral artery. They insert a sheath and thread a wire up the inferior vena cava (IVC), and into the heart, and close the hole (written here simpler than it actually was).Image result for ASD repair

I was under conscious sedation, and remember waking up several times during the procedure. It wasn’t painful, but each time I inhaled, I remember feeling the guide wire in my IVC.

A warm flushing feeling overcame my entire body. “Did I pee myself?” I asked.

“No–we just injected contrast,” the cath lab nurse replied. It was such a strange sensation. I’d have to remember to tell my patients going to the cath lab–because no one told me.

Afterward, I spent 6 hours on bed-rest recovering in same-day surgery–something I can empathize with my patients when they complained their asses hurt. You have no idea! I thought my ass was going to fall off from lying flat for so long. You cannot move your leg for the duration of bed-rest, which meant I also had the honor of using a bedpan to pee. It was real classy, I assure you.

By the time I got back to our apartment that evening, I was exhausted; relieved it had gone well, but nervous for the future. I needed close follow-up that first year, antibiotics every time I went to the dentist, and I had to take blood thinners for up to three months.

I also needed to watch my groin site . I had developed an almond-sized hematoma from the large–and very painful once the local anesthetic wore off–sheaths used during the procedure. I had to make sure it didn’t grow–with me being on blood thinners and all.

When all of the physical stuff checked out–my groin had healed after two weeks, my bubble studies showed complete closure at 1 year, Image result for echocardiogram asd bubble studyand I was no longer taking aspirin and plavix–I was left with a different kind of hole. Anxiety.

I was plagued with nightmares, where I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking I was in V-tach, a lethal arrhythmia; I didn’t want to drive further than 30 minutes, afraid I might need to get to Dartmouth for something emergent. Any kind of chest pain I’d experienced gave me immense pause, thinking the ASD closure device had caused an erosion in my heart–an uncommon complication I’d read about.

But as time passed, things improved some. I started exercising again. I was comfortable driving home to Mass, 2 hours away, and flying to Mexico for our honeymoon. But even after we moved from Dartmouth down to the seacoast, I carried with me some of my anxieties.

To this day, I still need to know where the nearest hospital is. Excessive, I know. I now take metoprolol–a super baby dose–that controls my palpitations (they never did go away, after all that!). I had a scary bout of atrial tachycardia a couple of years ago, which prompted another Zio Patch to monitor my rhythm, which found nothing suspect. Apparently the ASD closure device can cause atrial tachyarrhythmias, so at some point, I could possibly need an ablation. We’ll cross that bridge if we must, but so far so good.

All in all, I have good days and bad days. Days where I worry about my heart, and days where I don’t think about it at all. As a nurse, I’m certain I know too much, and not enough, to be dangerous.

I’m getting to the point where more often than not, I tell myself not to worry–that if something bad were to happen, it is what it is, and there is nothing I can do to stop or change it. That mentality has given me great freedom.

I think the hardest part of this entire experience was trying to relate to other people–people who haven’t realized their mortality by some incidental finding, when they previously thought they were healthy. How do you even being to convey your fear of death? It’s something we must learn to overcome on our own, I suppose.

Life is full of such beauty, and to cloud it with health anxiety is a travesty that’s in the end, far from worth it–and probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. I hope with each passing day and year, my anxieties grow fainter, weaker, and eventually disappear into nothingness.

Image result for om namo narayaniI’ve come to adopt the saying “om namo narayani”, which roughly translates to “I surrender to the universe.” As people, we can only control so much. And my health can only be controlled by me, so much. And so I surrender, to an extent. I’m also a fighter when I need to be!

Until then, I’ll keep working on it. And following up with my cardiologist, of course.

“Om namo narayani.”

 

Thoughts on Goals

Well, we’ve made it to another year, in a brand new decade! It’s officially the 20’s again, and we’ve somehow managed to procure front-row seats this time. Last time, most of us weren’t even alive.

And as all new years arrive, they come with the promise of goals, resolutions, hopes and ambitions. I know I’ve been captivated by the promise of something new, the opportunity of a “blank slate”, as it were.

But are resolutions and goals just reminders of the things we failed at last year? Well, no, not failed–just didn’t yet accomplish, because let’s be real, sometimes the hopes and dreams we set for ourselves in January, to complete by December 31st, just can’t be feasibly done in one year. That doesn’t mean they won’t be accomplished ever.

Last year, I wanted to write consistently in this blog. Barring the summer months, when I was editing my book manuscript like a banshee on steroids, I think I held up to my goal–for the most part. Writing a blog is hard, believe it or not. You have to always have something to talk about/write about. Something worthy of putting down on the page for all to read–and this has to be done somewhat consistently.

Is it worth it?

I think so. It’s a bit of gratification, knowing I can share my thoughts and ideas, for better or worse, with the world–or whoever chooses to read them. It’s like they say in nursing, if you touch even just one persons’s life, you’ve made a difference. I suppose writing is the same.

I also look at this blog as writing practice. As a writer, you must be constantly honing your craft, same as a nurse must consistently keep up with new trends in medicine by means of the dreaded CEU. *shudder* (it’s a license renewal year for me). We never will grow at our profession or hobby if we never work at it. And I think that’s where goals come in.

As a nurse, I personally feel I’ve met many of my goals. I’ve become certified in cardiac medicine and progressive care nursing. I need my critical care certification, which I’ve set for myself this year. But on the whole, I am satisfied with my job. Last year, I took care of my first CRRT patients, my first balloon pump patients. I loved every minute of it. Of course there’s always something new to learn in nursing, some other medication, procedure, diagnosis, or family situation you’ve never before encountered. And I welcome it all. It’s fresh, and I love to learn. No two days are ever the same.

But in my professional life, I feel competent. Can I really say that, knowing all I haven’t seen, and still must learn?

Yes. After 7+ years on this job, I finally feel competent. Not an expert, but competent. I feel that I can take on most situations confidently (and humbly), knowing my limitations, and where to get help if I need it. To me, that is competence in nursing. Knowing your limitations. And it helps that I work with an amazingly supportive group of nurses and docs. If I feel like I’ve flourished in this job, it’s only because they all make me look good.

So this year, my goals aren’t focused on nursing.

This year, as I found myself doing last year, I want to focus on writing.

I often wonder if I had taken time off after high school, worked, traveled, maybe took classes at community college, if I would have been brave enough to pursue writing.

I’ve always been the artistic type–those of you from childhood who are reading know this to be true. And writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed. It was something I was always proficient at in high school–Hell, I won an English award at graduation. If that wasn’t a sign to write, I don’t know what is! Writing stories was how I passed the time as a kid and teenager. And now it’s time to make all that crap come to fruition.

It’s no secret I’ve been hard at work dedicating most, if not all, of my time off on my manuscript. It’s my hope to one day get published. I doubt that goal will occur in 2020–I’m learning by industry standards, it takes a long time to get published. There is copious editing, querying agents, REJECTION, more editing, REJECTION, submitting to publishers, REJECTION, more editing . . . but I know it will all be worth it to have my book in hand. A solid copy of all my efforts, a physical representation of all that I am, and all that I love.

So, for 2020, even though it’s somewhat out of my control, I’d love contract with an agent. I don’t know that I’ll ever leave nursing entirely, but what would I do if I could write part time? I could create worlds, characters, situations–dream of obstacles and goals for my characters, set them up to fail but then through trials and tribulations, write them to succeed. The possibilities are endless, and the creative side of my brain is pumping, itching to break free after a long decade of studying science and medicine.

It’s time to put the nurse on the back burner–because she’s got this–and unleash the author just patiently waiting for her time under the sun.

Huzzah to 2020! Let’s all make this decade shine!

Thoughts on Social Media

Yup. The dreaded social media post. It’s cliche, for sure, but one that must be discussed.

I feel like I’ve grown up at an interesting time, with the emergence of the internet. When I was a kid, “going online” was something you did, not something you were. Nowadays, we identify more with our online selves than we do in person. It’s kind of scary, actually.

I remember asking to go on AOL, but that it couldn’t be for very long, because it would tie-up the phone line. I remember that dial-up sound, eagerly awaiting the moment when I was finally “on-line”, and anticipating the long-awaiting greeting, “You’ve got mail!” It was a part of the 90s, and my childhood, that only a handful of “Millennials” understand. I don’t even consider myself a Millennial for that very reason. I remember my life without, and before, the internet (I had a corded kitchen phone growing up, and I listened to George Michael on cassette. I am NOT a Millennial! Or at least not a full Millennial. See Xennial).

Today, having an online presence has become an integral part of our lives. Having multiple accounts on various mediums–Facebook, Instagram, Twitter–are all a part of what it means now to be a participating member of society. Or so it seems.

Here I go, dating myself again, but when I joined Facebook way back when, it was only for college students, as a means of connecting with others on campus (another thing a Millennial is too young to have done). It was a great way to meet people and network. You could even put in your class schedule and connect with those who shared classes with you. And you could only look at other college profiles if you were friends with the person. So it felt safe. I actually really enjoyed it.

But now, unless you make your profile private, anyone can search you on Google and look at your profile. It’s free and open for the world to see–including employers! And anyone can post anything they want on their profiles. It’s reached a point where you feel more connected to people you don’t even talk to anymore. It’s scary.

Personally, I don’t really like Social Media. I think it’s created a world where we’ve lost the art of communicating. We’ve forgotten how to talk to people in person. On the internet, we’ve created a world where we can say whatever we want without consequence, and that’s not okay. And for our younger generations who’ve grown up with this as the norm, they, too, suffer from socialization in real life.

Social anxiety is rampant. People no longer feel comfortable in crowds or in groups at get-together’s. People cancel plans left and right. They’d rather engage with you via text or Snap Chat.

In a world where we’re more connected than ever, we’ve never been more isolated.

Social etiquette and how to interact with people is not something we are inherently born with. It is a learned skill. But if that skill isn’t taught and nourished, it never blooms. And with Social Media’s hindrances, it’s no wonder so many people don’t feel comfortable in social settings.

I want to live in a world where I know my neighbors–and they know me. I want to live in a world where I see my friends regularly–as much as I can, given where we all live. I miss the days of talking on the phone. Hell, I miss the days of getting letters in the mail! Who else is sick of only getting bills from their mailman?

Now, I’m not saying Social Media is pure evil, because it isn’t. When used properly, it allows me to keep up with my friend in England, or to see what my families who live out of state are up to. Now that I’ve joined Twitter, there’s a way for me to market my book, whereas before, I never would have had the opportunity of building an author platform without a publisher.

I think there has to be a way we can incorporate living with the internet and Social Media, while still maintaining meaningful real-life interactions. We have to come up with a way to join these two worlds, because let’s be real here, when there’s no internet, we’re all still going to be here, wondering how to communicate with one another. A scary, but all-to-real prospect.

As my grandfather always said, everything in moderation. If we can use Social Media in moderation, and not as our sole way of communicating, I think our society will be for the better. We can re-learn how to interact, have meaningful debates with one another, and begin to mend the brokenness that is our American society.

Thoughts on Being a New Englander

Image result for map of new england"

To those of you who know me shouldn’t be at all surprised by today’s blog post. I’m a proud New Englander–or more specifically, a proud Masshole. But what some of you may not know, is that I wasn’t always so; that it took me time away home to realize New England’s not only the best place to live, it’s the ONLY place to live. For me, anyway!

When I first went away to college, I decided I wanted nothing to do with Boston or New England. Crazy, right? We have the best colleges and universities (I’m looking at you, Harvard, BC, BU, Berklee, UMass, Tufts, Northeastern, Amherst…to name a few) and I wanted to go elsewhere. Go figure.

Well, I found myself down in North Carolina. I wanted BBQ, sun, early springs and warmer winters, and to see what life was like beyond the head of Benjamin Franklin’s snake (see the Join, or Die photo for reference 🙂 ). I wanted to see what life was like south of the Mason-Dixon.Image result for join or die"

Needless to say, one plane-ride home, and the throat-closing, chest-squeezing despair of homesickness set in. I realized the South wasn’t the place for me. I’ll never forget sitting alone in my window seat, listening to Enya and watching Boston’s city lights glimmer and sparkle as my airplane landed at Logan Airport. I cried with elation. Literally, I had tears streaming down my face as I hauled ass off that plane. I yearned for my city, my town, my New England.

Even when I finally traveled around the globe to Australia (twice), the place I had wanted to visit more than any in the world, I found myself missing Boston. While Sydney captured my heart, Boston was my soul.

It sounds ridiculous that this little, over-priced spit of landfill has me so bewitched. It’s not like Boston can rival famous cities like Paris, London or Rome for history, food, or fashion. It’s not like people travel to New England for beautiful sunsets like Hawaii, or large amusement parks like Disney World in Florida, wine country in California, or skiing in Colorado.

But I can’t help it. I’m besotted by New England’s rich history (my hometown celebrated its tricentennial in 1950 for chrissake!), food, and culture. We are a hardy people, sometimes believed by the rest of the country to be aloof, arrogant and rude.

Image result for puritans"Maybe that’s true, but I believe we are as hardy as our ancestors! Breaking into our social circles is challenging, I know. But once you’re in, we will have you back for life. And we mean it. I know more New Englanders willing to give you the shirt off their back than anyone else. You can always depend on a New Englander.We might be brash, but we’re honest.

We’ve also got the best sports teams. #Sorrynotsorry. It’s not our fault! I mean, look at the NY Yankees in the 1990s. They had a dynasty akin to the Patriots. It’s simply our turn. Am I right?! But I suppose other states love to hate us. Well, they only hate us ’cause they ain’t us!Image result for tom brady goat"

In all seriousness though, New Englanders love it here. Why else haven’t our three-hundred-year old families left? We might bitch and moan about the weather 3/4 of the year–any season that isn’t autumn–but we all do really love it, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

I for one, adore the seasons. I think the unpredictability of winter, and having survived it each year, is what makes us appreciate spring, summer and fall that much more. I mean, how many other places can boast autumns this beautiful? People come from all over the world to leaf-peep in New England. Image result for new england autumn"

We’ve got the majestic North Atlantic ocean and beaches–albeit quite cold to most, but people travel to the Cape and Maine all summer long– mountains, history, food, culture; you name it, we’ve got it.

And yet, within our own New England states, there are rivals I never knew existed.

Like how Connecticut is questionably a New England state. I mean, come on, half of your people root for the Yankees and the Giants! You might as well be a part of New York.

Forget about Outlander. If you’re from Massachusetts, people from Vermont and New Hampshire call you a Flatlander. I found this out the hard way.

“A what?” I’d said.

I’d never heard this term before moving to New Hampshire. Apparently we’ve got flat land down in Mass…despite the Berkshires mountains of Western Mass.

Don’t even get me started on Maine and Rhode Island.

In Massachusetts alone, there are differences and idiosyncrasies; accents, slang, and food. Speaking as a Masshole from the North Shore, I can say life is different up there than South Shore. We have Bagel World and roast beef–as in a roast beef sandwich on a grilled bun. You’re from another planet if you’ve never been to or heard of Kelly’s Roast Beef at Revere Beach. South Shore has Mary Lou’s coffee. Western Mass? To me, it’s anything west of 128. But don’t tell that to someone from Worcester! Post image

It’s funny though, despite our differences as New Englanders, put us anywhere outside of New England, and we are the same. We flock together and commiserate about being somewhere other than home. Go figure.

I guess you can take the girl out of New England, but you can never get the Massachusetts out of the girl. Once a Masshole, always a Masshole. And I’m proud of it.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Snow Days

It’s that time of year again where we need to offer gentle reminders to the public about snow.

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

It’s beautiful when it’s falling, and creates such a magical atmosphere; a calm, tranquility that can put even the most anxious at ease.

And as a kid, there’s nothing better than hearing school’s cancelled for snow. You get to go outside and play! Build a snow man, go sledding, have a snowball fight, build a fort or igloo–the possibilities are endless! Then you get to go inside, with rosy nose and cheeks, for a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate. Maybe you have whipped cream on top, maybe you have marshmallows.

Yes, the good old days!

Now, I might be aging myself with this post but . . . when I was in school, we RARELY had snow days. I think I can count on two hands the number of times school was cancelled when I was growing up; especially high school. We were one of three high schools in all of Massachusetts that held school one day.

Not sure if it was just my school district that never canceled, or the times (90s and early 2000s), but I feel like they now cancel school with even a threat of snow. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve a sneaky feeling I’m right.

I have a vivid memory of driving myself to school one morning in my Papa’s old 97 Honda accord (the same car I had for 10 years), and passing a school bus that had skidded off the road. It was wild! I don’t even think we had a delay that day. I’m telling you–they expected us to show up.

This weather is not new, and it’s certainly not unexpected. We live in New England. We need to anticipate it and act accordingly. The world isn’t going to stop because of snow, be it 2 inches or 1 foot.

That being said, since living in NH, I’ve found they do a way worse job of keeping the roads clean. In Mass, the roads were nearly always properly salted and sanded, and plowed. But not in NH. I didn’t realize the value of Massachusetts state taxes until I moved to NH. Being that, I wish we had them. At least the roads would be done properly (this issue is controversial, and is a whole other blog post!).

Needless to say, this mindset of never having snow days has guided my adulthood.

As a nurse, I am considered essential personnel. I don’t get snow days, so it’s a good thing I grew up not getting them. Being essential personnel means if I’m scheduled to work, no matter the weather or disaster, I must be at work. And of course, it always happens to snow when I’m scheduled to work. Fancy that!

That also means no calling out.

And I’m not talking about cancelled flights at the airport, or other things that are cancelled or delayed for peoples’ safety. Of course, that comes first.

But

If you call out of work when there’s snow as a nurse–or any other allied health professional–it’s a crappy thing to do to your coworkers (and again, I’m not talking about the people who might have to call out because school was cancelled for their kids and have no one to watch them. That’s a crappy situation for everyone, and no one’s fault). I’m talking about people who call out for no reason other than, it’s snowing.

Not only is it dangerous for your patients–who NEED you there–it’s rude to your coworkers who have been there all night or day who are depending on you to show up and relieve them. Have some accountability, for the love of the gods! I feel like I shouldn’t have to post this, but it’s true. And I’ve seen it.

At the very worst, it’s acceptable to call work and tell them you will be late–maybe because you are waiting for the plow, or a ride. It’s acceptable to call the police for an escort. They will drive you in–hell, they’ve done it for Boston nurses when the T is down during a storm, and they will do it for you here, or anywhere! There is literally no excuse.

Unless, of course, you’ve been in a harrowing accident. But accidents aside, you don’t get to call out just because you don’t feel like driving in the snow.

When I have to work, I don’t feel like driving in the snow. But I do it. I do it because I have integrity. I do it because I have respect for my job and my coworkers and my patients. I do it because I have a responsibility. I do it because I live in New England and this weather is expected.

And that should be enough. If you don’t like driving in the snow, then go work in California. Or Florida. Just watch out for those hurricanes, forest fires, and mudslides.

That being said, if you AREN’T essential personnel, and work and/or school is cancelled, GET OFF THE ROADS! Stay at home and be safe so the essential personnel CAN get to work safely. We know how to drive in the snow because we have to do it. But you don’t have to, so don’t.

In the end, if you live in New England, you need to be committed to driving in the snow. And if the roads truly hazardous, and you don’t have anywhere to be, stay home. There are too many needless accidents this time of year, and we need ambulances available for medical emergencies, IE heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory distress–all of which we see a lot of this time of year.

So be a responsible human and don’t call out if you’re essential personnel, and if you aren’t, be safe and warm at home. And maybe go build that snow fort with your kid, or make them some hot chocolate. They’ll remember you fondly for it, I promise.

The end. And thank you for reading this public service announcement! Your local nurse, LNA, doctor, EMT/first responder will thank you. And be safe out there!

 

 

Thoughts on Giving Life

Okay, so I hope this blog doesn’t get me into trouble, but I need a way to process the emotional strife I’ve endured over the past week at work.

I’m certain there are a million opinions on donating organs, people that are for it, against it, indifferent to it, don’t give it two thoughts–you name it. But I am writing this from the perspective of an allied health professional and registered organ donor.

And I need to say this: there is no greater gift.

I’m not trying to persuade anyone who isn’t a donor, but I want you to consider the possibility of giving someone else a second chance at life. I get goosebumps thinking of it.

Of course, in this situation, tragedy had to occur for this to happen. No one wants tragedy. But if something beautiful can come of it, a silver lining, then why not donate if you’re able?

As I watched my patient, unconscious, tubes and lines coming from all which ways, I was grateful the family was so willing to honor the patient’s wishes, of helping as many people as possible. Because something good has to come out of this senselessness, right?

But some people may wonder: if they’re going to use your body for organs once you’ve died, then do you just become this inanimate host for prized flesh? Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it? The answer is: NO!

We treat the patient–and family–as kindly and compassionately as always, because hello! They are a person. They have a story and memories. They have family. Friends. They just so happen to have elected to give the gift of life.

I can’t get the image out of my head of some unsuspecting person, perhaps 100 miles away, waiting for a heart, because theirs failed them. I see the contention, the fear, the uncertainty each day they survive, maybe with an LVAD–an external device essentially beating their heart for them–and all the years prior to this of living with a failing heart. I see that person losing hope, fearing the worst: they will never get a heart. Perhaps months, a year passes, of being on the donor list, shroud in daily struggles and fear of the unknown.

But then one day, that phone rings. There is a heart for them. Suddenly, it all becomes too real, and the guilt sets in. The donor and their family had to endure tragedy in order for this to happen. How can a miracle like this feel so melancholy? Yet, in that devastation this recipient, who has perhaps equally suffered, will be granted a second chance. A second life. And in this, they should rejoice.

I’m crying as I write this (I’m a sap, I know). It doesn’t have to be a heart that is given. It can be kidneys, a liver, lungs, tissue, corneas, bone–you name it. Because who knows what the future may bring? I could end up needing a heart some day, a kidney, or a bone graft. Someone I love may need it. You just don’t know.

In the end, we need heroic patients and their generous families to be willing to give the gift of life.

And to this patient and their family, I am so sorry. I am so indescribably heartbroken and sorry for this tragedy. But your decision to honor the patient’s wishes, your decision to be so selfless in your time of need, inspires. It inspires me that there are other people out there like you, people who want to make sense of the senseless. And I commend you for that. I know the patient is smiling at you, because like you say, they are a hero, and so are you.

Thoughts on Failure

I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post since May. MAY! It’s now October. Summer has come and gone–and what a wonderful summer it was!–and autumn is in full swing. Soon, they’ll be playing Christmas music. Too soon.

But this morning I awoke in darkness to thunder, and like some Gothic author, was inspired to write. So here I sit by the fire in my living room, laptop in lap, and with pumpkin spice coffee at attention. Today I want to write about something deeply personal to us all.

Failure.

There are so many reasons why we feel like we’ve failed. Maybe because I promised myself I would update my blog regularly this year, and I clearly haven’t. Or that I’ve been increasingly disgruntled caring for a particular patient at work this past month (I should be able to let it all roll off my back and not get burnt out. Ha-ha!) If I feel overwhelmed at work, I failed, right?

No!

Failure is a harsh word. It means we didn’t succeed.

No!

Failure can mean we have not succeeded yet. That success–whatever success means to you–is on the horizon, yet to come. These two ideals go hand-in-hand. Without failure, we might never realize our own potential, how to sing better, write better, practice better medicine.

This topic came to me for a few reasons, but most recently, in the light of my several rejections with literary agents (as to be anticipated, of course). Now don’t get me wrong, I am beyond proud I FINALLY finished my manuscript, edited it to the point of cutting over 54,000 words, and having won third place in two competitions, and semi-finaling in a third (all of the reasons I was too busy to update this blog over the summer).

BUT. Rejection.

The first few came as expected. The next few bruised the ego. Then the next several at which I had to laugh. My skin has grown thicker, but no one likes to hear their precious, hard work is unworthy. I’m talking blood, sweat, and tears went into this book. BLOOD! Kidding. No blood, but many, and I mean MANY years, not tears. Like over a decade. (Might as well have been blood, though. MY blood. Okay, I’m done).

No one said publishing would be easy, and I expect an uphill battle. In fact, I have devoted so much time, research, and effort into writing and editing this novel, I would be offended if the publishing part came easily.

Or maybe that is my sensitive Piscean ego stroking itself amidst all these rejections.

No. (I’m starting to sound like the red button on our intensivist’s computer cart. Those of you from work reading this know what I mean!)

Failure is not without benefit. It is merely a setback which drives ambition to the limit, and then farther yet. If you choose to learn from your misgivings, your setbacks, you will find the drive to push yourself forward. Keep on keeping on, as they say.

And so I continue to query agents and publishers.

Am I hoping for, praying for, eagerly waiting for that golden ticket email where someone is as excited about my project as I am? That they can’t wait to take me on as a client? Of course! That’s the goal (if you see me obsessively checking my email at work, it’s for emails from agents and publishers). It’s also what’s fueling me through rejection. Countless, unmitigated, unfeeling rejection.

But not failure.

Because I will publish my book. It’s only a matter of time, and I’m willing to wait, weeding out rejections until the right agent, the right publisher comes along. And they will. I truly believe that. I’m putting it out there, Universe! You hear me, LOUD AND CLEAR!

I think what matters most is how we define success. For each person, that depiction varies, just as everyone has a different portraiture of hope (a challenging lesson I’ve had at work recently, caring for a particular patient).

It’s never easy defining success. But what I think it comes down to is living in the moment, and surrounding yourself with loving family, friends, and coworkers who lift you up, make you feel worthy, and bring a smile to your face. To me, that is rich success.

As for failure?

There’s no such thing. Only growth.

 

Thoughts on Nurses Week

This was a big week in my professional life–nurses week. It’s always nice to feel appreciated, and the hospital and my peers do a good job of recognizing us. But it seems that human kindness is everywhere, regardless of the week. And it should be.

I can say this until I’m purple. Nursing isn’t for the light of heart.

We are the only face in healthcare that is present at the bedside 24/7. I even had a doctor tell me last week that she’s had nightmares where all the nurses are gone and she has to set up medication drips and administer medications–and she has no idea how to do any of it. She was grateful for us. It was nice to hear. But I couldn’t do my job without her. It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work, right?

Nursing is a raw, brutal look into someone else’s life when they are at their most vulnerable. We care not only for these patients who have been struck by tragedy, but also their families.

And that is the topic of my post today.

I had the privilege of caring for a very unfortunate patient this week, who had the most incredible family. They made me feel so appreciated, and it was their kindness that makes all the difference in these sad situations.

This family’s love and devotion for this patient was unprecedented, and it brought tears to my eyes each shift I cared for them. I’m talking, the children were doing passive range of motion with the patient, kind of devotion.

I’m not even sure they knew it was nurses appreciation week–they’d never overtly said it. But it doesn’t matter, it was never about that. They showed me in more ways than I can count that they appreciated everything I did for the patient.

One of the children continuously helped me empty catheters, held drinks for the patient to drink when I was administering medications, and helped me turn the patient on their side–and ALWAYS greeted me with a big smile. Sometimes that smile is all you need to get through your shift.

As my shift was nearing its end, the family was ordering dinner for themselves–there must have been about 10 of them in the patient’s room–and a family member insisted they order me a burger with theirs. I kindly refused, thanked them, and insisted I could not accept this.

“He’s going to order it anyway so you might as well tell him what you want,” said another.

Why fight kindness? With a laugh, I gave in. “Okay. Just a cheeseburger is wonderful, thank you.”

But then he proceeded to probe me for what I had to have on it. I told him, jalapenos.

And then this family member proceeded to help me take out the trash–to my protestations. Everyone was all laughs by this point–I think the others felt that he was embarrassing them for trying to be so helpful, but in reality, this kindness made my day. And I think it made the patient laugh, too–which is what mattered most.

These things sound small, but to me, they were huge. They showed me that these people not only care about their loved one lying so helplessly in that hospital bed, but they also appreciate the person caring for that loved one.

“It’s our pleasure to feed you!” The patient’s spouse had said.

I smiled and thanked them for the millionth time that shift. Truth be told, I couldn’t be more grateful for them. I’ve encountered several lovely families in my 6+ years of nursing, but never anything like this.

And as this nurses week draws to a close for 2019, I say, these are the people we need more of in our profession. Not because they helped me take out the trash–that is something I can do by me onesies–but because the level of compassion they showed matched my own.

To this patient and their family–thank you for a memorable nursing week. I’ll never forget you. You made me feel worthy to care for each and every one of you.

Thoughts on gratitude

As I sit here on this lovely May evening, the sun is setting and it’s finally not cloudy. About two months ago, I wrote about my eager anticipation of spring–the longer days, the blossoming flowers, the chirp of peepers–never thinking I’d get a solid month of 40-degree days full of rain and clouds.

I rest assured I’m not the only New Englander frustrated by this weather, that, if it were February, we’d all be grateful for. But when you’re expecting 60 degree days and sunshine, it dampens the mood, much like it does the landscape.

But why should I let such days lead to unhappiness? I shouldn’t! So, I try and focus my energy on gratitude. Sounds kind of corny, but as someone who is very seasonally motivated and driven, it has helped a lot. So, I’m going to take the time in this entry to write about all the things for which I’m grateful. Maybe some of these will resonate with you, lovely reader!

I’m always eternally grateful, first and foremost, for my health. I think as a nurse who sees the opposite of health as often as I do, this cannot resonate with me more. I am grateful for my cardiologist at Dartmouth who found and closed the hole in my heart five years ago. I’m grateful for each doctor I’ve had since, and I’m grateful that I am able to wake up each day and breathe with ease, exercise, eat and drink without a second thought for choking, that I am able to walk up and down stairs, (sometimes two a time), that I can hear, see, taste, touch and smell without compromise (well almost. I do wear contacts. But I’m grateful for those, too!)

I’m grateful for all the things I hated about myself growing up–my big nose, my height, and my inability to get a tan. Now, I love that I can just slather myself with self tanner, fix my makeup, and wear high heels to my heart’s content. I’ll never be tall, and I’m finally okay with that!

I’m grateful for my family. I don’t know where I’d be without them. They are my heart, and are the biggest blessing in my life. And of course my biological family, who have welcomed me with open arms over ten years ago. I am so grateful; not every adopted child has that outcome.

I’ve married a wonderful man. I am grateful that we met when and where we did. Our wedding was seriously one of the best days of my life. Marriage is hard, but we support each other in so many ways, and I couldn’t be more grateful for him and our love.

My friends are some of the most wonderful, hardworking, honest people in the world. I love them. They say friends are the family you choose, and that couldn’t be truer. My friends are my family, and I’d do anything for them.

In a profession where you need tons of support, I am so grateful for my coworkers. I work with the most amazing nurses and doctors who make my job that much better. Hats off to you ICU/PCU peeps! I don’t know what I’d do without you. My coworkers at Dartmouth–you made me the nurse I am today, and for that, I’ll always be in your debt. Thank you for those three wonderful years where I  discovered my love of cardiology.

I live in a very safe neighborhood in a very nice house. These are things that are beyond what others have, or could even hope for, and I am grateful to have a roof over my head, where I can go to sleep at night and feel safe.

I was raised in a similar home, and I am grateful for my upbringing in Topsfield. I’ll be a Masshole for life, no matter that I live in NH. #sorrynotsorry.

I am grateful for my ability to sing and for the time I did theatre. I met some amazing people who are still my friends today. When I am stressed, it’s a relief to be able to belt out a song, or play the piano. It’s who I am. (And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the attention I get at karaoke. I guess it’s my Leo rising star sign getting the best of me. Hey, we all gotta be good at something!

My whole life I’ve been writing–little short stories, poems, fan fiction (haha, I wish this was untrue). But now I’m to the point where the novel I’m writing may be ready to submit to agents and publishers by the end of this year, and I am so grateful that I’ve stumbled across such a dedicated group of critiquers. My writing and my book would be nowhere near it is today without them.

Now that I’ve finished writing this, I look out on the setting sun that has disappeared below the horizon, and I don’t even feel bad that it’s going to be cloudy again tomorrow. I have so much to be thankful for.

I hope this cheesy post has given you some insight into what you’re grateful for, even if it’s just the ability to take in a deep, rendering breath to say, “tomorrow’s a new day. What will be will be.”

Om namo narayani.