Thoughts on Mother’s Day

What is a mother? What does it mean to be a mother? These are simple questions that for many, have very simple, straightforward answers. But for me, being an adopted child, this term “mother” means so much more.

I’ll be honest, when people asked me growing up if a knew my “real mom”, I’d get very offended. When people ask me this today, I still get miffed. How could I not?

My “real mom” is the woman I’ve known since birth, the incredible woman who raised me, who taught me to walk, talk, cook, how to love, how to be patient; the woman who took me to gymnastics and swimming lessons, the woman who brought me to the pond in the summertime, and who planned get-together’s with friends; the woman who held me when I cried and dried my tears; the woman who laughs with me, and cheers me on from the audience of a play; the woman with whom I go for walks, and call on the phone and talk about what we’re cooking for supper.

I am so lucky, because my mom has become my best friend.

So when someone asks me who my real mom is, there is no doubt in my answer. It’s my mom, Lucille! But then you’re reminded you aren’t your mother’s biology, and it gets weird. My mom is my mom, yes. But she’s not my birth mom. In reality, who cares, right?

Well, like I said, it’s complicated. And when you’re adopted, it is something you have to consider. Some adopted people don’t care one way or another, but I was always curious about my biology and where I came from. And isn’t that a birthright of everyone? Being adopted isn’t something I really thought much about–until I’m suddenly reminded of it. Things people take for granted, like being in a doctor’s office and they’re asking for a health history and you have to say, “sorry, I’m adopted, I don’t know”.

It feels empty. Like a piece of you is somehow missing. You’re suddenly reminded you aren’t your mom’s biology. And it’s weird for a moment. But then you leave, and forget all about it.

A lot of people, I’ve found, believe your birth mother is your “real mother”. I can maybe see their reasoning behind it (because I’m an empathetic bitch), but I beg to differ. And as someone who IS adopted, and who knows her birth mother, I think I’m more qualified to give my opinion on this than those who aren’t adopted, adoptive parents, or birth parents.

I believe your “mother” is the person who raised you. Be it biological, or not.

They could be a foster parent who raised you, a grandma, an aunt who got custody of you, a friend’s mother who has taken on that role for you–anyone who has been put into a role of caregiver–is a mother. You might disagree, but hear me out.

Mother’s have the world’s most difficult and important job, and it’s not to be taken lightly. They are charged with raising another human being to be good, empathetic, strong and contributing members of society. They teach you to be self sufficient, and kind. Tolerant but tough. It’s no easy feat, I’m sure. I know I’m not ready to take on such a challenge.

I cannot, and never will, discount the monumental importance of my birth mother. The pain and grief of making such a difficult decision is not lost on me. Without her, I wouldn’t be here. Without her selflessness and strength, I wouldn’t have been given to the parents I was meant to be with–to live the life I was meant to live. I truly believe that.

As a child, I always wished to meet her, not because I wanted to find “my real mom”, but because I curious, I wanted to know where I came from. But you have to prepare for such things. So many circumstances could go awry, causing heartache for the adopted child, and/or the birth parent, and/or the adoptive parent. Much is involved, and when I was mature enough, I was lucky to have the best case scenario. Jenn wanted to meet me, and we’ve developed a lifelong relationship that I now can’t imagine my life without. I even got a sister! (and grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins! I have a whole third family now!)

So, today, I say I’m lucky enough to celebrate two mothers–my mom and my birth mom. The one who raised me from birth into the woman I am today, and the one who gave me a life to live. Both are important, strong, resilient women, both are loving, caring, and devoted. I can talk to each of them on the phone for hours, and I’d have it no other way. I would not be the person I am without either of them, and I am so very grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day, Jenn! I love you both so very much!


Thoughts on humanity III

I don’t want to be political, and I wish this wasn’t political, but I fear it is. In any event, it seems this disaster of a year, 2020, and this nightmare pandemic, COVID-19, have it out for us all–regardless of politics.

When we thought we could work together as a society and flatten the curve, we saw humanity band together like I’ve never witnessed in my thirty-three years on this planet. I’m still taken aback by how many people complied with, and still continue to try to self-isolate. And I am so very grateful.

But now we’re seeing a shift in humanity. We’ve gone from “healthcare and front-line workers are heroes!” to “this is a hoax!” and “I need to get my hair cut!”.

Wait, what?

Yes. For real. People are protesting across the country because they need to get back to work. I, for one, have been lucky enough to have a full time job where I’ve even worked overtime during this crap. Despite my own fortune, I understand people need to work. And I do empathize. But our government must do better (we’re grateful for the stimulus money, but that can only get people so far). It’s a scary thought, but going back to work means breaking social isolation, and a resurgence of the virus into society. You see how that can be bad, right? No, not can. WILL be bad.

It’s a tough situation, with no clear answers. People need money, but the virus is out there, waiting to overtake society the minute we lift the bans.

We must stay the course.

I recognize and understand the need to stimulate our fractured economy. I too, have lost money. But none of that will matter if I’m dead from COVID-19.

I realize people need to pay the bills, they need to put food on the table. But none of that will matter if they’re dead from COVID-19. *Let’s help these people! Those with wealth, donate money to your local restaurants–maybe those restaurants can then pay it forward and give meals to those in need.* (See? I’m trying to offer solutions whilst I bitch!).

People aren’t making money, and we’re in a society where that takes precedence over the health and well-being of our society. But I stress again, NONE OF THAT MATTERS IF YOU ARE DEAD FROM COVID-19.

Am I being a bit dramatic? Yes. A little. However, this pandemic has killed as many people as the flu. Not a big deal say you? Wrong. This pandemic has killed as many people as the flu does in 6 months…in half the time. If we stop isolating, more people will catch this virus. And die.

It’s that simple.

So I’m sorry. We must continue to isolate. I know it’s frustrating, and it’s downright inconvenient. But we must look to other countries who have lifted bans on quarantine–and are now experiencing surges–and NOT REPEAT HISTORY. Look at the flu pandemic of 1917. Let’s not repeat history, I say. And I’m a history nerd. Let’s learn from it. That is why we learn history, after all!

This shouldn’t be made into a political battle, and I fear that it has. If you are left, you are pro quarantine because you apparently don’t care about the economy (not true). If you’re right, you are apparently pro economy and think COVID-19 is a hoax (also not true). Let’s band together again. Find our humanity again. Work together in getting through this. I don’t care that you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Just shut your potato trap and give your tongue a holiday (as they said in colonial America), and do what’s best for SOCIETY. News flash, this isn’t about YOU. And it never was.

We need to look to science, and trust in science. And believe the people who have no other motive other than to save humanity. When they say we must continue to quarantine, we must believe them.

I promise you–you won’t give two shits about your stocks or your paycheck if your mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle dies–and you’re the one who gave them the virus.

And you especially won’t give two shits about any of it if you’re in that ICU bed with a hard plastic tube shoved down your throat, on a machine helping you breathe, and with other plastic tubes shoved into other orifices of your body. If you’re lucky enough to come out of that situation alive, you’ll probably be too confused to understand what’s happening anyway, and will end up at rehab. By then, do you think you’ll be worrying about your money? Or the fact that someone else is feeding you and wiping your ass for you?

Harsh but a true reality.

Health is wealth, my friends. And until we realize this as a society, the economy will always be placed above it.

Let’s be better than that. Together.

Humanity. You’ve been so kind, so generous thus far. Please return, and be kind to others. I know these times are maddening. It’s damaging for the psyche, and for the spirit (literally just said this to a friend), but we will triumph. We will only be victorious if we work together as one.

And for that, I look to you, humanity.

Thoughts on Humanity II

I posted last time about how wonderful humanity has been, and I’d like to continue with the good vibes and keep the positivity rolling! I think it’s something we all could use a little more of at this time.

People have continued to be so kind during this pandemic (pan-dammit as it was referred to at work the other day).

A neighbor was kind enough to drop off P-100 masks. It was such a thoughtful gesture! I can only imagine how difficult it is for him and his wife–and everyone else–homeschooling, working full-time, and just trying to stay sane and get outside as much as possible while maintaining social distance.

My best friend’s parents sent delicious chocolate-covered strawberries that were devoured in like two days. Food is always welcome and appreciated!

My aunt and uncle sent a gift certificate to a lovely Italian wine bar and restaurant.

This thoughtfulness has certainly overwhelmed me.

For the majority of us in this field, we’re just doing out jobs. Albeit the PPE situation isn’t what it’s supposed to be for many healthcare workers out there, we’re doing our jobs. Many times, it’s a thankless job, and we’re used to being underappreciated. Maybe it’s the martyrdom we’re used to, but being in the spotlight like this is a new and uncomfortable place. I think we’d be lying if we said we didn’t already know our importance to society, but to now have society realize it, too, is overwhelming.

It’s the day we never thought would come. And that’s not to say people never appreciated nurses or healthcare professionals before now. I just think we were taken for granted. But who doesn’t take people or certain professions for granted? I, for one, am SO thankful for all of the grocery store workers, the mailmen, the people working at Rite Aide, the teachers! Before now, did I take them for granted? Maybe. I know for certain parents will never take teachers for granted after this!

And that’s probably how people feel about healthcare workers. Before now, I think the world took us for granted. And that’s okay. But now’s our time to shine, to show our worth to the world. Maybe something good will come of it. Maybe we’ll be a little more valued within society, and not just those selfless people who flock to care for the sick and dying, blah blah blah. Society never really thought about what that meant until now.

Until this pandemic.

Society has now witnessed how broken our system is. A broken system, we in healthcare, have been bitching about for decades.

Now people actually see what we do; what it means to care for the sick and the dying, regardless of COVID-19. We say these things, we know these things, but life gets in the way of realization. Now, society sees and realizes what it all means, what we actually do when we go to work. What we are faced with on a day-to-day basis. What it’s like for patients and the catastrophic hospital bills they accrue from being hospitalized.

Perhaps from that realization will come an appreciation, and change. Perhaps people will understand us when we say we are tired. We are emotional. We are burnt out. We are physically in pain. We are broke.

The humanity behind it all is harrowing, to say the least. We’ve been thrust into the pandemic spotlight whether we like it or not. And what followed was undeniable kindness and humility from the rest of the world. Unless you’ve seen first-hand what it’s like to be in a hospital–you or a family member having been admitted–you probably never gave it a second thought what we do, or how the system works (or doesn’t work). Now, the world knows. Now the world sees.

And we see your thanks, we hear your thanks. We appreciate your thanks.

It’s wonderful to feel appreciated. It’s wonderful to be needed. But we’re going to need the world even more when this is over.

We’re going to need society’s humanity; to understand, to support, and rally behind us when we are broken–emotionally, physically, mentally. This pandemic is a battle in a war for the health and well-being of all healthcare professionals. When this is over, the American healthcare system still needs a major overhaul. Healthcare professionals still need support, better pay and benefits, safer staffing ratios; patients need cheaper medications and better access to the healthcare system that doesn’t put them in debt.

We’ve got a long way to go, but I think this battle propelled us one step closer. And if we can still count on humanity, I think we’ve got a shot at seeing real change for the better.

I thank you. For your kind words. Your generosity. Your ability to see what’s really going on. And for your appreciation of all we do.

Thoughts on humanity

2020 has been a doozey of a year for most people. It came in like a raging succubus and has continued to suck our souls into the 7th level of Hell (cue Dante’s Inferno). Dante'S Inferno, C1520. /Nwoodcut From A Venetian Edition Of The ...

But I want to take this chance to comment on humanity, and how the global pandemic for COVID-19 has in fact, brought us together.

As a nurse working in the ICU, I’ve witnessed first-hand what this disease is doing not only to patients, but also the toll it’s taken on families, and hospital staff. Anxiety has never been higher, fear has never been more real, but the camaraderie and teamwork I’ve experienced has been unprecedented.

I’m lucky, at baseline on a normal shift without COVID-19 plaguing our hospital, to work with amazing nurses, docs, LNAs, UCs, housekeeping–you name it–but this disease has brought us all together. I’ve seen us working together on problem solving; making suggestions; jumping to help one another; it’s inspiring to go to work each day knowing your team will have your back, and you’ll have theirs.

I mean it when I say I trust my coworkers with my life.

Since the hospital is not allowing visitors (except in extreme circumstances), we’ve been communicating more with families over the phone. Some families have adapted to calling twice a day, once in the morning to get updates from the previous night, and again in the afternoon to see how the day went. I’ve developed a great rapport with these families; it’s an honor they’ve bestowed on me that they trust me to care for their loved one, relay messages to their loved one, when they cannot.

To thank us, one family sent in beautifully decorated healthcare-themed cupcakes (they were delicious!!), coffee K-cups, tea, packages of cocoa almonds and many other snacks and individually wrapped chocolate candies. It was a nurse’s dream package!

We’ve worked with these families beyond what is considered “policy”. One patient I’ve been caring for now for a couple of weeks, his family sent us vocal tracks that we burned onto a CD for the patient to listen to. I’d never done anything like this before, but I know it made the family feel better knowing the patient could hear their voices.

Whatever we can do to help the family feel at peace during this time, I’m all for it!

I’m distressed to say I’ve been emotionally invested in these patients and their families. I am rooting for these patients to fully recover like I’ve never done before. I am their cheerleader, yelling at them through my windy, plastic shield, hoping they can hear me through the sedation haze, “You can do this! You’ve got to keep fighting! You’re going to get better! Your family loves you and they miss you! Now squeeze my hand!”

Some have gotten better, some are slow in recovering, and others are quite stagnant. I’ve been cheering them on, trying to be as present as I can, while protecting myself from potential infection. It’s hard not being able to enter a room as often, or as quickly as you’d like, but there are no emergencies in a pandemic.

When you do see a clinical change for the better, it’s like some kind of magic happened; some semblance of good shimmied through the shit facade we’re all facing and showed us there is still a silver lining, there is still hope be found, and humanity.

That happened to me yesterday, when the patient I’ve been caring for so diligently over the past two weeks finally breathed on their own on the ventilator for a few moments, then squeezed my hand on command each time I asked. I knew the patient was in there, despite the propofol cloud we’d lifted. A propofol-free colonoscopy? Some doctors say yes - Los Angeles TimesIt’ll be slow for them to re-emerge from the other side, but they showed me yesterday they’re there; they can hear me. My heart all but burst with hope and happiness.

I was so excited I immediately called the family, and they were so very grateful. “My heart is full,” the patient’s family said. It brought tears to my eyes.

So, in all this shit we’ve been dealing with, I hope these stories of humanity have lifted your spirit. Hopefully in this, you, too, have seen the wonderful humanity that’s emerging from the filth. Let’s try and focus on the good, and surely we will see the light.

Thoughts from a nurse during a global pandemic

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past several weeks, you’re no stranger to the words “coronavirus”, “COVD-19”, and the terms accompanying them: “social distancing” and “flatten the curve”.

As I sit here writing this entry, part of me is still in shock. I’m terrified, wondering when I’m going to wake up from this nightmare that has been the year 2020. But as each day passes, I know we’re in it for the long haul.

I remember being in the cafeteria in early January and someone asking me if I’d heard about this new virus, coronavirus, and us having a chuckle about the name. I don’t think anyone ever could have realized how monstrous it would become–that only months later, we’d be in quarantine, reusing N95 masks, and watching the news like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie.

It’s unreal, to say the least.

But we’re living it, so we must make due. Right? And living through it as a nurse is all the more daunting. Hospital policies and procedures change by the hour. Literally. Tempers are running high. Patients are coming into the hospital with symptoms and are being tested, only to have to wait nearly a week for results. All of the uncertainty is maddening, but we’re only trying to do our very best with what we have.

And to add salt to injury, the economy is collapsing. I won’t say much about the political climate in all of this–it’s really not something I wish to write about–but there have been some terrible missteps from our laissez-faire president and his administration, as well as some good, monumental changes imparted at both the state and federal levels that reflect the sense of emergency this situation warrants. For those, I am grateful.

I only hope the early delays don’t cost us too much in the end.

There is a sense of dread permeating everything and everyone–that perhaps we aren’t being told the whole truth. How transparent is the CDC? Our government? China, or Italy? We like to think our hospitals are being truthful in disclosing how many cases there are, and how many have died; the state of the PPE situation, and how many staff may or may not be infected.

But what if the whole truth caused more mass hysteria? And we thought toilet paper hoarding was bad!

I’m not trying to get all “conspiracy theory” on you, but these are the thoughts running through my whirling mind.

I suppose in the end, we can only be responsible for ourselves and those around us–or those NOT around us. I’ve seen much on the internet and social media about younger people going to the beach for spring break, their blatant disregard for others glaring like the sun off the ocean they’re splashing into. While it’s enviable they’re trying to enjoy their youth, I want to scream at them to stop being so damn selfish. More people 20-44 are requiring critical care if infected, and many are ending up on ventilators.

That’s huge. And not at all good. It seems this virus doesn’t really care how old you are. People just need to stay home.

I’ll say it again: STAY HOME. And this isn’t a freaking vacation, either. It’s a quarantine.

We’re in this together, and the more we can cooperate with social distancing, and quarantine if we are infected, the better the long term outcomes from this. Because the fact remains–there aren’t enough ICU beds, ventilators, and PPE to accommodate a massive surge of coronavirus patients. What does this even mean?

You probably haven’t considered it, thinking only of the beds required for COVID-19. “What do you mean there aren’t enough beds?”

Newsflash: other patients who need hospitalization aren’t going to suddenly disappear or go away to make room for COVID-19. People are forgetting that strokes, heart attacks and emergent surgeries are STILL HAPPENING despite all of this. We need hospital beds for these patients, too.

There must be room for those needing emergent open heart surgery, or cardiac cath lab intervention; acute stroke patients, gangrenous gallbladder patients, acutely ill cancer patients, gun violence victims requiring emergent trauma surgery–these patients aren’t going to go away because of coronavirus.

And our healthcare system will be too overwhelmed to help any of them if people don’t stay home and end up contracting COVID-19. Then we will be in a situation where we are forced to decide who we care for, and who let die. That’s the sad reality of it.

So please, stay home. This much is in your control.

And as for everyone working in healthcare, please stay safe. Practice good hand hygiene. Follow CDC guidelines for PPE. And support one another. Here we are. We’re making due, and we’re going to get through this. There’s no other group of people I’d rather dive into the trenches with than my ICU/PCU family. We’ve got this. And we’ve got each other.

So, general public, be kind to healthcare professionals. Please be patient with us as we instruct you on what NOT to do. Don’t punch us at the grocery store, and angrily tell us “we signed up for this”, because we didn’t. I didn’t go to nursing school hoping for a global pandemic. We’re here to save YOU. We’re putting YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES before our own.

Everyone: Be kind. Be respectful. But more than anything, STAY HOME. The future of our healthcare system is depending on it. And so am I.

Thoughts on 33

Today, I’m Larry Bird. I’m 33 trips around the sun, and all I can think is, how is that possible? I know the older I get, the more I’m going to consider this statement. But it’s unreal to me how quickly time flies.

It honestly feels like last year I was celebrating my 30th at the Wayside Inn, or my 21st birthday in Cambridge (back when I could drink without consequence), or my sweet sixteen where my guy friends were jumping off chairs to “It’s Raining Men” (I’m looking at you Ian and “Chris”).

But those were 3, 12, and 17 years ago. Woof!

In any event, I feel no different today than I did back then. I might be 33 trips around the sun, but I feel like that 23 year old girl who had graduated college and was sucked into a second bachelor’s program in nursing. It seems I’ve felt 23 ever since. Was 23 that good of a year? Or am I meant to feel early 20s for the remainder of my existence? Not such a bad head-space to be in, I suppose.

But when I look at where “you’re supposed to be” at 33, I think that’s where I pause. Maybe it’s because I’m not one to follow the traditional path.

Maybe I’m looking for things in life that have meaning. For me, it’s publishing my book. I’m 33, and I started this book when I was 16. Yes, that’s right, 17 years ago. Woof. Maybe my goal to have it published is selfish, but goddamn, I’ve worked hard enough, I deserve it.

I’m beginning to sound like a Millennial with that kind of talk, but it’s true. If you’ve read my other posts on this, I’ve poured hours of my life into writing and editing this book. It’s my child. Literally.

As I sit here on this 33rd birthday, I contemplate the things I’ve accomplished, the things I’ve yet to accomplish, how I’ve succeeded or not, and what that means to me.

Why do we feel it’s necessary to measure our self-worth and age via what we’ve accomplished, or how we’ve succeeded? Why don’t we measure ourselves by how we treat others? Isn’t it enough to just be?

Let’s treat others kindly, and use that as a measure of success. Let’s be present in each moment, because life truly is fleeting. We especially miss so much with our noses buried in phones and computers. Is it too much to ask of ourselves to take in every moment? To say “thank you”, to hold the door for someone else, to give a stranger a compliment?

At the end of my life, I want to feel proud of the person I am, not because of how much (or how little) money I made, or the position I held at my job, or how many kids I had (or didn’t have), or the house I bought. I want to feel proud of the woman who treated others with dignity and respect regardless of their background or disposition in life; the way I made others feel.

This 33rd birthday is a reminder to myself to be a better person. That is what I want to be remembered for.

Life passes us by with each breath we take, so let’s make the most of it while we can.

Oh, and eat cake. Lots of it.

Thoughts on aging

Have you ever wondered how old someone else is?

Can you tell by the old lingo they use when they talk? Do they “look” a certain age? Do they act a particular way that makes you assume they’re older or younger than they really are? Are you calling someone a “boomer” when they’re clearly a Gen X-er?

Get it together!!

I hate guessing people’s age. And I think I’ve gotten worse at it the older I’ve become. Like, how many times have you seen someone and in your head you’re like, “oh, they’re probably like 50 or so” and you find out they’re 38? And why do college kids look like they should be in high school?! I feel like when I was college, we didn’t look that young.

Working in the hospital, it’s even crazier. You’ll get report on a patient who is supposedly 58, and they look 85. Or vice versa. I’ve cared for 90-year-old women who look 70! It makes me wonder how much is gene-pool and how much is lifestyle. I mean, obviously, I’ve seen some people who’ve lived hard lives who look way older than their stated age. But I’ve also seen elderly who’ve smoked all their days and don’t look too shabby!

I find aging particularly challenging, myself. Yes, I know at 32 (soon to be 33) I’m young, but I’ve been plagued by white hairs beginning to grow in. And I find it a lot harder to keep weight off. Clothes shopping has been annoying as well.

Not just the fit, but the mentality of it.

I want to shop in the junior’s section at Macy’s, because let’s be real, I’m the height of your average 12- year- old. But all that glitter ain’t appropriate for someone born the year Madonna was crawling on a stage in a wedding dress. Thankfully, Loft’s petite department has saved me from utter embarrassment.

The first time I realized I was aging was when I saw “Full House” on Nick at Nite. FULL HOUSE! Remember TGIF? I lived for TGIF.

Then it hit me. The 80’s and 90’s are now what the 60’s and 70’s were when I was a kid. The Oldies station now plays classic rock, not Elvis and Buddy Holly. And here I am, inside my head screaming “Why isn’t it 1996 anymore?!” For some reason, the 80’s still only feels like it was 10-12 years ago. Not 30-something. Ugh.

If I feel this weird now, I can’t even imagine what people feel like who aren’t even in their 30s anymore. People 40+ must think I sound like a spaz. Or maybe they can empathize, and let me into the “I’m outdated club”.

I realized how irrelevant I am when my little sister came to visit last summer. I have two words for you. Snap Chat. Like what the actual hell?! This young generation of Tide Pod eaters navigates technology like it was a bionic piece of themselves. And I want to be like–dude, we are the generation that pioneered that stuff!

I will adamantly deny being a Millennial until the day I die, and this is a hill I’m willing to die on. I remember corded phones, using cassette tapes and winding them with a pencil, renting VHS tapes at the video store–I remember when going online was something you did, not something you were. It would tie up the phone line, so you had like 30 minutes to check your e-mail and see if anyone worthwhile was signed on, too. Now, forget it. Your online self might as well be your real self, and the person you are, just the hack behind the screen. But that’s another rant for another day.

In any case, NOT a Millennial! (See Xennial–a small generation between Gen-X and Millennials).

My point is, I’ve reached the age in my life where slang has passed me by (I have NO idea what being cancelled means, except that they cancelled TV shows I enjoyed back in the day), technology has passed me by (what in the actual HELL is Tik Tok?!), music has passed me by (unless it’s Lady Gaga, everyone else can stop writing music), pop culture has passed me by (I couldn’t point out Ed Sheeran in a group of three people if he was standing next to me on a sidewalk).

I’ll just keep being a small town girl, living in a lonely 20th century world (while wearing Abercrombie and Fitch–another hill I’m willing to die on), reminiscing about the days when no one knew what was going to happen in Y2K.

And I’m strangely OK with it.

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 at my graduation from nursing school. 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. 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.


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 a lot. “I have a hole in my heart” was my internal mantra. 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 when I was a kid? 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, 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 about when they complain 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 home 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. But even after I 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!