Friday, January 30, 2009

Life In Chicago

I have the greatest admiration for people who have the innate talent to write. Not just mindless drivel, but actual writers who can string words together into sentences and draw you into their world. There is one particular writer whose words I have been reading religiously for the past three years. She is brave, open, honest, witty, charming and her life is anything but boring. Claire Bidwell Smith is the writer's name and it is one you should remember. One day people will line up to buy her books, one of which (not yet published) she has bits and pieces of on her blog. For now, check out the blog, bookmark it, keep reading, and tell all your friends. Here is Life in Chicago

ER, no not the series

This week has been a blur of events, rehearsals, dinners out, lunch on the run, you get the picture. Besides being my first full week back to work, I also spent Thursday evening working a shift at a local hospital in the ER. Now, let me preface this by saying I have absolutely no intention of ever becoming an ER or trauma nurse. It sets my nerves on edge, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, my head starts to pound the moment I hear the alarm go off that an ambulance is coming. My first night the ER was swamped with firefighters bringing in patients, nurses and doctors running in and out of rooms, codes being called over the loudspeaker, people waiting in the hallways. It was overwhelming, scary even, and I seriously considered not going back. This week was much calmer though. I could see how the ER works, talk to some of the nurses, really get a good picture of my duties there. I actually enjoyed talking to patients, changing beds, cleaning, delivering trays. I'm getting a real taste of how a hospital functions, the teamwork of the techs, nurses, and doctors. Let's face it I am a glorified candy striper in an unflattering outfit and I love it. So, once a week from here on out you will find my facing my fears head on and tackling the challenges of the ER.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Full Heart

Last night, our family had the privilege of making dinner for families staying at a local Ronald McDonald house. Our motive was to give back to families that have children in the hospital and the organization that once hosted our family. Dinner went off quite well, with us arriving an hour ahead of time to unload and finish prepping dinner. Setting up a taco bar for the families, we laughed and joked, enjoying each step of the process. Many times during the course of the evening, I was reminded of what a wonderful group of people I have the honor of working with at the theater. I also realized, yet again, how incredibly blessed I am to be surrounded and loved by a supportive and amazing family (thanks to my Mom, hubby, and Chris).

As we began to serve dinner, one of the mothers entered the kitchen. As she filled her plate she asked many questions about our group and thanked us for providing dinner. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that my husband and I stayed at a Ronald McDonald house while our son was undergoing heart surgery. The woman stated her child had recently undergone heart surgery and was still recovering. As I sat to enjoy my plate of food with our group, I noticed the woman sitting by herself. I left my group and asked if I could join her. After a lengthy discussion, we discovered that not only do our children share the same heart defect, but we live within 5 minutes of each other. This mother was grieving for her child's broken heart, unsure of the her baby's future, and relieved to talk to another parent who had been in her shoes. I remember so vividly and painfully what it felt like to be at the beginning of that process, unsure, uncertain, scared. There was visible relief on her face when I shared our family's story with her and explained that our son is a happy, healthy 7 yr old with no limitations, he just happened to have been born with a heart defect.

By the end of the evening, we had exchanged phone numbers and she had a new found perspective and hope. My heart felt full knowing that I had given her hope, just as someone had done the same for me years ago. I went into the evening expecting to feed families and left feeling full myself. It was quite the experience and restored my faith that the path my life has taken is the one I am meant to be on. I know that I can help families who are struggling, not only by taking care of their children as a nurse, but also by reaching out and sharing my story

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Eventful Week

This week has already gotten away from me. After a weekend of cleaning up after two sick little girls and returning to work after 6 weeks of leave, I am exhausted. My husband was lovely enough to stay home with the girls Monday and Tuesday so I could get back to business as usual at my job. Which I would have if they had system access for me. Instead, I plowed through 300+ emails and spent part of the day doing side by sides with a coworker.
Yesterday, after returning home from work I settled down on the sofa with some tea and watched the inauguration festivities. I had caught bits and pieces of the swearing in at work and on NPR on the drive in and home. My girls were napping, the husband had gone off to the gym and Costco, the boys were still at school. So with the house quiet, I gave my full focus and attention to the monumental event that was taking place in our country as Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America. It was exciting, overwhelming, exhilirating I was at times overcome with emotion. I can't describe fully in words what I was feeling.
I registered to vote a little over a year ago in order to vote for Obama in the primary. I had never voted or even considered registering to vote prior to this election cycle. Something about Obama gave me hope, hope that things could really change for the better, hope that we could have a leader that actually cared about not only the state of this country, but each and every individual that calls the US home. My husband and I spent months discussing and debating, glued to CNN each evening. Together we watched on election night the thousands gathered in Chicago to welcome the long awaited change Obama symbolized. Realistically, I understand it is not within the power of one man to fix everything that is wrong with this country, but he inspires people and that can make all of the difference.
This weekend, I received text messages from Obama's campaign encouraging people to give back in a day of service. Coincidentally enough, this week I begin my volunteer stint with a local hospital. My family, like many families today dealing with a struggling economy, doesn't have much money to spare. However, we still give back by donating our time. We try to encourage our kids to give back and each time they receive allowance a certain portion is set aside to be donated to a charity of their choice. Our 7 yr old's charity of choice is the Ronald McDonald house.
We had the privilege of staying at one of their houses in LA several years ago when he underwent one of his three heart surgeries. It was a welcome respite for us during a period of stress and struggle. Thankfully, he came through the surgery with no issues and we were able to return home 2 weeks later with our beautiful boy. Our hearts were touched and we have never forgotten their organization's help and assistance during a difficult time in our lives. This evening, my family and a few leaders from our theater are providing a meal to families at a local Ronald McDonald house.
It is my hope that everyone will be inspired, not only by the new President, but also the people that surround them. Each of us have to make a concerted effort to do our part for change to occur. We can't just rely on one person to bear all of our burdens, we each have to give back. Off my soapbox I go to load up my car and head out, there are hungry families waiting
to eat.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just Another Friday

This afternoon, just I have many other Friday afternoons I called my grandmother. Every Friday my grandmother and grandfather had a date night where they would go to dinner and a movie. I knew that when I called my grandma early the next week she would share the details of their weekly date, where they ate, what movie they had seen.
Three years ago this April, my grandfather passed away after a long battle with cancer. I vividly recall our conversation the week before he died. Her tearful words about loving my grandfather her entire adult life, not knowing what she was going to do without him, and how she couldn't stand to watch him suffer anymore.
Three years later, my grandmother is still heartbroken and lonely. She is also an incredible, feisty, strong, fun lady who has lived a full and rich life. Often she regales me with tales of their life together.
The stories of their first meeting in Brooklyn where they grew up just blocks apart. Their courtship and how over all the young women that vied for his attention she was the one that finally captured it. For a few years they were separated when he was fighting overseas during the Korean War. As did many couples during that era they corresponded through letters and married as soon as he returned home. During their early married years they lived in Brooklyn, after my father and aunt were born they moved to Seaford on Long Island to raise their growing brood. They had an active social circle of friends and often took turns hosting cocktail and dinner parties.
After the kids were all grown they moved to Florida, where they enjoyed their retirement. They traveled, golfed, spent warm sunny days at the beach together. They hardly ever spent a day or night apart. Many summers I boarded a plane by myself, flew 2000+ miles, and visited my grandparents. For a girl who was growing up landlocked in AZ, the ocean and beaches of Florida were a welcome respite. Over the years, I grew to adore my paternal grandparents despite the thousands of miles that seperated us.
They had this grand love story that lasted for over 50 years and then it was all over. Fridays are the hardest for her, so knowing full well that is when she is missing him most I call my grandmother and listen to her stories. They make me smile, laugh, and sometimes when I hang up the phone I weep. You see my husband and I are still young, still raising our kids, still writing our own love story. Every time I talk to her I know just how fortunate I am to have found my husband, to have him in my life everyday. I wonder what the future holds, where our life will take us, and which one of us will lose each other first. My fondest hope is that one day someone will call me and listen to me regale them with my tales. That they will be as enraptured as I am when I listen to her stories. That they will realize just how lucky they are to share their life with someone they love.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Question and Answer

Today, I went to an information session for Banner Fellows. Essentially, they pay for your education and in cooperation with the college facilitate your nursing degree through a 16month accelerated program. In exchange you agree work to for them for 3 years after graduation, basically a guaranteed job and training as a new grad. It is uber competitive, there were well over 200 people there for the information session, which they hold once a month, for only 120 slots to be filled over the course of one year.
On my way out I picked up an application, which you can only get at one of their information sessions. The form includes some basic info and 4 essay questions. I did a lot of thinking on the way home about those questions. Mainly, I thought about what drew me to pursue nursing as a career in the first place. When I was growing up my mother worked for a pediatric hematologist oncologist, a doctor who treated kids with cancer and leukemia. I vividly remember her tears over patients they had lost, their funerals a confusing blur of death and grief for me. I recall going to Make A Wish events, not understanding that these children were receiving what in many cases was their last wish before they died. I swore I would never work in the medical field, never be around sick children, never deal with the suffering and sorrow.
Fast forward 15 years to the birth of my first child, the most joyful and tragic experience of my life thus far. He was beautiful, tiny and perfect with ten fingers, ten toes, and a sprinkling of fine blond hair. Three days after his birth our world turned upside down when he was diagnosed with a complex congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. The first year of his life included a helicopter ride to Childrens Hospital along with emergency surgery, we almost lost him that night - he was 7 months old. Eight months later, he had his second open heart surgery, the summer before this last one he had his third.
I will never forget the day he was diagnosed, one of the nurses that had been caring for him asked to come and talk to us. We were a wreck at this point, not knowing what the future held. The nurse sat down and told us her brother had been born 40 years earlier with the same defect as our son and that he was still alive, healthy, and a father of 5 children. In that moment of desperation we had hope, that nurse held our hand, watched us cry, and gave us hope.
As I am typing these words right now, tears are running down my face. It's still difficult to relive any portion of that time period of my life without getting emotional. That nurse never knew how much she touched our lives. She was the first of many nurses that cared for our son over the past 7 years that made a difference, not only in his health, but also in my perspective on the field of medicine and specifically nursing. It takes a special person to be a nurse, to not only fulfill the clinical part of their job, but to look at each patient as a person and treat them with care, dignity, and respect.
I know medicine is about struggles and challenges and yes, sometimes patients die, it's an inevitable part of life. So many people though live, they live, and their lives are touched by the care they receive. I want to take care of people, to watch them get better and go home, to understand that not everyone can be saved, but to give the most I can each and every day to do my part to help them. I can think of no more satisfying career than one that allows me to help people, to work daily at the task of preserving our most precious gift - that of life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Same old, same old

A good part of this past weekend was spent trying to avoid the football games that seemed to be on a constant loop in my house. On Saturday, I locked myself in the office under the guise of paying bills and balancing the checkbook. Which I did, but mostly I escaped the noise, cheering, fist pumping, and endless consumption of wings and pizza that took over my house. The tunes of Architecture in Helsinki, Robbers on High Street, Okkervil River and others sufficiently drowned out the chaos.
There were a few bright spots, one being my daughters first foray into the world of dance lessons. They have been begging and cajoling for months. Our promise was they could begin after their 5th birthday. Early last week found us enrolling at a local dance studio, buying leotards, tap and ballet shoes, tights - all the accoutrements needed to get started. My wallet was much lighter by the time their first lesson rolled around on Saturday morning. Seeing their faces filled with the unfettered joy that is often found beaming forth from happy children made it all worth it. Smiles, laughter, a few falls and missteps there were my girls in their own beautiful, coltish way dancing! Spending some quite, quality time with my husband and kids filled the gaps in between dance and football.
Last night found me curled up on the sofa, watching my guilty pleasure - the Golden Globes. It's a yearly ritual, I sink into the sofa and allow myself to be entertained by the glamour, glitz, and fashions. I often make notes of all the films I have yet to see that capture my attention. Added to this year's list of must sees: Slumdog Millionaire, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, and Happy-Go-Lucky.
Today finds me catching up on some emails, surfing the internet looking for a job, and updating my blog. After spending the past six weeks out of work on short term disability due to a car accident, my body is finally almost healed. My mind however is tumultuous, filled with dread at returning to a job I quite honestly can no longer stand. Months ago I turned bored of the same repetitive nature of the work I do, sick of talking to disgruntled customers, searching for something new. I thought the break would give me some perspective, the final conclusion I have reached is that it is time to move on. So, my resume is updated, cover letters prepared, references in hand, I am ready to go. Reality stares me in the face, the economy stinks and it make take a while to find something else. So, back to my job I go with a heavy heart and misplaced optimism for the future.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Get up and dance

Music is an obsession of mine. (You may question that statement, but I have to quantify music as an obsession due to the fact that I constantly walk around with songs stuck in my head, lose sleep surfing iTunes for new music, and would willingly would sacrifice my last dollar to keep my iPod fully stocked. Just don't mention that last part to my husband). I have spent countless hours trying to educate my children in the subject of music. This morning my daughter asked me to play that bum pu dum de dum song she loves so much. So we danced around the office listening to song she wanted to hear, Heart it Races by Architecture in Helsinki. As the morning wore on Editors, Grand Archives, and Robbers on High Street joined our party. There wasn't a prouder mama to be found in our little corner of suburbia!

The Endless Wait

Yesterday, I spent my morning at volunteer orientation at a nearby hospital. For the past year I have been on the waiting list to get into nursing school. Here in Maricopa County the wait is currently 4-5 semesters long. Patience may be a virtue, but unfortunately it is not one I seem to possess. So, I have been exploring some other options including one offered through Banner, the Banner Fellows program. Seeing as the Banner Fellows program is extremely competitive I am trying to remain open minded and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
First off, I am attempting to be more proactive by taking classes that will enable me to receive my bachelors degree after I obtain my RN, this semester those classes are World Religions and Statistics. Also, I am actively searching for a job in a hospital or health care setting. Now as for the volunteer route, it was one I had considered in the past, but more along the lines of helping out at a local food bank or providing meals at a local Ronald McDonald house. I adjusted my thinking in early December. I was in a car accident and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital. The volunteers there entertained and cared for my girls until my husband was able to join us. About a week later I had an interview with the volunteer coordinator at the same hospital, hence my present volunteer gig. Several assignment options were offered to me at the hospital including couplet care, pharmacy, and ER. Though I was leaning towards the pharmacy, in the end I chose ER as it allowed more flexibility with my schedule.
Today, I head back for a 2nd TB test. Next week training begins and I can't wait to get started. In the meantime, I will try to rein in my impatience and keep focused on enjoying what lies ahead.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Quiet Moments

It's late and I'm curled up in my office chair with a blanket, cup of tea in hand. Strains of Eluvium trickle soothingly from my speakers. Except for the occasional whirr of the washing machine the house is unnaturally calm. I get so used to the riotous cacophony of sound that pours forth from my children, surrounding my every waking moment,that the quiet seems almost uncomfortable. The truth is that though I feel bone numbingly exhausted, my brain is still going a million miles a minute. I want nothing more than to fall into bed sinking into a dreamless, satisfying sleep.
Today was one of those days when I hardly had time to catch my breath. I spent a good part of the day arranging and rearranging the rehearsal schedule for the children's play. Cast and crew lists were printed, folders with information and scripts assembled, and thoughts organized for the read through and parents meeting. In between all of that I refereed several battles between my girls, ran kids to and from two different schools, and took one of our vehicles in for emissions testing. After a quick bite, I dashed out, kids in tow to rehearsal. Then it was back home for baths, books, and bedtime. Tomorrow will be even more chaotic than today. I need to take advantage of these fleeting moments of quiet to catch up. Instead I will let the music lull me into a relaxed state and drift off to bed.


To borrow from the words of a song "Even the end has a start". So here it is the start of my blog, the first post. It seemed fitting to start the blog I have been longing for at the beginning of the new year. Bittersweet symphony is the title of my blog for a few reasons. First, life is in my experience the very essence of bittersweet "pleasure mixed with pain". Second, it is the name of my favorite song. Considering my lifelong passion for and obsession with music that is saying a lot. As far as longing for a blog, that is simple. With 4 kids, college, work, a theater to manage, and a magnificent, but really busy husband my life can be at times frustrating, stifling, and chaotic. This blog will be an outlet for all the thoughts that swirl and clog my consciousness.