Daughter of Thunder

Dramatic title eh?  I want to strike a pose when I say it.  Or have the ability to cue a thunderclap on demand

So let me start off by saying 2017 hasn’t been my most well-behaved year so far.  This blog post is going to be another round of me spilling my marbles to you with the theme of volcanic anger and aggression management.  Welcome to the meeting!  cookies and wine in the kitchen 😉

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Definitely had better moments in the way back when, but here we are! Trump is the president and consequentially our country reaping the consequences of electing a rather unqualified man into the highest office.  Apparently our country is no longer accepting refugees and therefore turning it’s back on people in very great need of the ideals our country was founded on (also, can I bring up Matthew 25:40 yet?).  Apparently, and despite having a uterus myself and education/work experience specializing in women’s heath, I’m not qualified to be an advocate for women’s rights and equality because I am a Christian and believe feticide is harmful to women and a product of hopelessness in our lives (not to mention I’m of the opinion it’s desecrating God’s image, just like when we murder anyone else).  And therefore my “religious” belief makes me irrelevant and ignorant to the pain of others.  There is national strife and even more heartbreaking, strife withing the church (both my actual church and the Christian church world-wide) with members shunning each other over political stances and facebook posts and even leaving churches because they’ve placed the politics of this world above the supremacy of Christ.  I feel frustrated, aggressive, isolated, and defensive  (All combined with a nice glue of grief over the world and at my own failure to be a better ambassador of the Gospel rather than a fireball of selfish emotion).

I’m punching my apartment floor in rage and cursing strangers out at the top of my lungs till my throat hurts and I almost stop parkway-entry traffic.  Classy.  Nice move Chickie Pey..

A “work-out” for me right now is basically punching and kicking the air and thinking “if anyone is fool enough to pick a fight with me, I want them to be surprised!!” FRUITCAKE ALERT.  Cripes.  Rebecca….your Domico is showing.  hehe 😉

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……For real though..I almost parked my car on a parkway entrance ramp and walked out to yell at this jag, but in the end I just turned my body around and felt the fires of hell fly out of my mouth and face at him. I am not yet sorry I did it.  I actually feel more guilty that I don’t feel guilty about it and sort of want to push that crap at God’s feet and say “so what do you want me to do with it?” in a sassy 7th grade girl voice.  If you haven’t clicked off this post yet you are probably my mom.

I am pretty disgruntled to be writing anything like this on my dumb blog right now, but it’s getting to emotional constipation Threat Level Midnight so here goes the freakshow…

And it’s going to rewind here for a  minute while I ramble a story to you that I will explain the relevancy later:

–>About 2 years ago (basically just moved to Pgh) I was confronted by a really angry 50+year old man in swanky biking gear complete with an expensive bicycle while trying to park my subaru in a really awkward way involving a u-turn in Schenley Park.  I was on my way to hear Jonathan play music for a function in Schenley park and there was no parking except for parallel on the opposite side of the road I was driving on, and being the urban driving/parking newbie that I was, I probably did this all wrong.  I looked down the road in front of me and behind me to check out the situation and there was the man on his bike far down the way.  Judging by the distance and the type of vehicle he was operating I figured that he had more than plenty of time and space to clue in to the thing I was doing and that by the time he got to me I’d probably be parked.  Now, I do think back on this whole plan and wish I’d just driven down the road some more and figured out another way to turn around but that’s what now-me would have done figuring that I wasn’t in danger of getting insanely lost anywhere around the park.  But..that wasn’t me ‘then’.  I was basically terrified of moving my car beyond the directions of my phone GPS.  So, I start this turn and see this biker guy making his way toward me and then as I struggled to squeeze my car into its parallel cubby-hole between two other cars he buzzed around me and I heard him yelling at me from outside.  I looked up in surprise after turning my car off and was totally witnessing this guy lose his shit.

Entirely lose it.

At a stranger girl who clearly doesn’t know how to park her car.

So, I rolled down my window in disbelief to hear him shout at me a multitude of angry accusations and broad personal insults.  The one I remember word-for-word?

“You don’t care about anyone! You don’t care about anyone but yourself!”

I was so angry and shocked at what was going on between me and this guy I couldn’t say anything just stare at him open-mouthed and eyes filling with molten rage.  He finished yelling, without giving me a word edgewise, and sharply turned and sped away on his environmentally friendly paperclip-on-wheels.  Can we all tell that to this day I’m still kinda lettin’ it go….at least I’m honest?  But really.  If he ever bikes around the Great White Subaru again I will probably face great temptation not to plow him over….  No sir, you were mistaken.  It’s not that I don’t care about anyone, I just don’t care about you. 

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–>ASLO can we realize that as evidence by the above vindictive rant I clearly care a ton about what this random stranger man thought of me otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this way nor would I have cried while telling a therapist about this experience…umm yeah I think I probably care a bit.  I’m a freaking emotional garbage disposal.  It’s totally embarrassing.  And to be fair I actually do care about this man as a fellow human that was made in God’s image and whom Jesus died for soooo yeah I know I shouldn’t say that I don’t care about him, but let’s just say that I’m glad Jesus does (and I am working on it).

As he pedaled away my mind felt white hot.  How dare you.  You utter —-(I’m not going to type the rest of that but you can figure it out).  You do not know ANYTHING about me, who I care about, what I do for a living, or that I was very aware of where you were and used my best judgement for distance while trusting that you were also paying at least slight attention to the horizon of road beyond you.  You old entitled jag.  You would have never spoken to me that way if my husband or father were in the car with me.  Heck, you’d have NEVER spoken to either of them that way if they were driving!  You looked into this car and saw a naive college-aged girl without any real-life responsibilities whom you felt entitled to reprimand . You did not see a young wife still getting used to her new city, who probably took care of your daughter and new grandchild last night during a long shift at the hospital.  You don’t see anything about me other than what you want to see in order to justify you taking this opportunity to assert your superiority over me. 

So now we’re back in 2017 sitting in Heins Kitchen lamenting over the 4 cookies you just ate and how in that picture from 4 months ago you looked way skinnier.  And you’re writing a blog post about some dumb interaction you had with another angry human years ago and telling the whole blogosphere that it made you cry multiple times and your therapist even heard about it.  Pa-the-tic.  So I think we’ve all got it that I care a crazy ton about what people think about me and it comes out as perceived “just anger” EVEN THOUGH I “know better”!  I do know the “right answer” to this dilemma, I know it is fruitless and unsustainable to draw your life water from people.  But even though I “know” that I still do it on impulse.  That impulse being–I wrap every possible interaction I have with people into a statement about me (talk about self-absorbed much?  or better yet how about Queen Self-Pity?).  Anyways, bringing it back.  The only point I’ve been trying to make in this post so far is that I’m super vocal and want to yell at everyone when I feel injustice to myself and others.  And that too often my anger isn’t purely righteous because I’m sinful and spend my time allowing myself to prostitute my identity to everyone/everything outside of Christ.

A few days ago during a phone conversation with one of my Life Yodas (every time I talk with her I feel like a padawan that needs re-directed in the way of The Force!) I was spilling my guts (like I just did to you) about how aggressive I’ve been feeling and ready to take everyone and their brother out and she told me how the apostles James and John were called “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus (Mark 3:16-17).  I guess they were a little animated and Jesus had to rebuke them when they lost their cool too.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and the went to another village.  Luke 9:51-56 NIV

In my Bible’s footnotes it says that some manuscripts  write that Jesus also tells them “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”

Oough.  Jesus!  I want to call down the fire!! I’m so angry sometimes!  I want to yell, kick, and verbally strike people down!  Sometimes I lay in bed and just pull at my sheets and think “Lord.. I’m ANGRY!  Aren’t I just in it?!  I want people to feel it and know they’ve hurt me!!” *Remember my posts are not sharing the nicest sides of me with you so I’m just being real 10-4? I wish I weren’t like this but I’ve got the fire of rage and the floods of grief+self-absorption in me nevertheless.*  

Learning how to tame my heart’s rage is turning out to be just as much about taming my tongue.   Which is a bummer for me because one of my favorite activities is talking and verbally processing everything!  And I love an audience 😉

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,  but no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?  Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  James 3:3-12 NIV

Oh man.  Of course James (fellow Thunder-Kid) wrote this!  I feel ya man.  You probably had to write this because you knew it too well.  He goes on in the following passages into what real wisdom looks like.  I’m learning that I can’t get rid of my passion, which too often used as fuel for my angry tongue, but that I can ask God to make me passionate for righteousness and for the humility to ask for wisdom that is truly righteousness-seeking through peace-sowing.  2/28/2017 UPDATE: Turns out Thunderkid James and the James who wrote the book of James are actually different people…..ooops!  I didn’t mean to lead you Biblically astray so please forgive me and use this as yet another reason to get your Bible-learnin’ from someone who when to pastor school to do this!  Not the weirdo internet sorta nurse 😉

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  James 3:13-18 NIV

Just think that one over for a minute.

BTW, This is how I look reading James 3:

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and then…

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I love you peaches. 

If you made it to the end of this post I’ve got some carb therapy for you in my kitchen. 

Thankful that God doesn’t give up on me or you (and that Jesus didn’t give up on John or James!)  And that nothing we can say or do changes who He is and His purposes.  Thankful to be created with passion and that God doesn’t say to get rid of it, but to have a spirit of humility that seeks to use our passions to glorify Him through loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves ( see Luke 10:27).

…And what does the Lord require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 

Micah 6:8

Please Lord, help me to be this.  I need all the help I can get.  Let me have deep roots in truth and a spirit of compassion for others you have created.

And finally, it’s not a blog post till it has a pretty picture.

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Skitzy Little Flusterball

I want to write you a softy meaningful post about life, love, and your own little corner of the struggle bus but when I start typing I just end up screwing around and finding an internet video that describes a strange work event.  The problem is that most of these little animations depict my shallowest thoughts about any given nursey situation.  So after you scan through all the GIFs below you are probably going to think I am one big butt face, and you will be correct.

It’s pretty much as follows in the Magical Land of Nuggets and Nighshifts:

Enthusiasm at the start of the shift:

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When a team buddy calms your frazzled-butt down after you’ve lost a little more of your cool than you thought you would that night:

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When you take a patient to postpartum and you are a big (*insert choice term) about a bleeding disagreement with the nurse, which turns into a mountain-out-of-a-molehill situation that you end up behaving poorly about because you are a tired,  over-sensitive adult child who needs to calm the heck down.  And all during your post night-shift nap you keep mentally reliving you’re awful self and tone of voice towards your friends and want to crawl in a hole and accept a punishment.

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Getting to work, realizing you have an awesome team and are almost excited to be there.  But then your shift brings you back to reality and you don’t care about anything but getting in your car and driving away..

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When you look up at the fetal heart rate monitor at your team station and realize your patient’s naughty baby has been in a nasty little decel for about a few seconds too long…  Get your bubble butt in there chickie-pey and fix her!

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When my patient asks me  how old I am and looks kinda scared when they find out that a person who was an infant when they went through puberty holds their baby’s intrauterine survival in their hands:

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When you walk into your patient’s room to get report and instead of report you call a Condition O..realizing that the nutshell desk report is all you’re gonna get and now you’re the one who has to take the baton now and run with what ya got.

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When I get assigned preterm twins who won’t stay on the monitor.

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When the patients FOB is a total jag

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When the patient keeps using random medical terminology irrelevantly (or incorrectly) just to point out that they work in some area of the medical field.  

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Talking with patients at 3am…

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After handling a baby straight from the shoot without remembering to have gloves on…

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When Jonathan asks how my day was:

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After a glorious uncomplicated, mom-smiling birth:

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Each shift handing off report to the next shift on the super high-risk patient who everybody wants to have delivered but not really on their shift……

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Still trying to fit in with the group conversation at your team station:

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When my patient is a bonafide functional adult member of society with manners, reasoning ability, stable home life and amazingly realistic expectations and good pain tolerance.

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How I feel every time I walk in their room

The last shift before you go on vacation:

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When you watch the baby canal tear and try to not freak out:

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Coming into work at 3am for on-call (after you’ve worked the past 3 days).

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Listening to the patient’s mom talk endlessly about her own deliveries 20+ years ago and use every opportunity to re-direct the conversation to something about her.  (or ask when we do a c-section, tell the patient that she did this labor thing X No. of times, ask the patient how much she “appreciates” her now as her mother etc…..)

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We just love hearing that you had 2 deliveries in the 1980s that were somehow worse than whatever your daughter is experiencing now.  Please simmer down.

When an MD pressures another nurse to turn up your patient’s pitocin drip up when they are already tachysystole and not 10 minutes after turning it back down and charting about it the MD calls you to ask why the Pit was turned down…….

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That phone conversation pretty much summarized above.

Having a dream about being assigned a T-Rex water birth.  And you have to put on scuba gear and swim to adjust the FHR monitor…(dodging claws).  Oh, and then you have to tell the mom that her baby dino had to go to the NICU.

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So if you didn’t just skim through those and think I was a crusty mean nurse you probably work with me.  If you work with me you (hopefully!) don’t think I’m too mean but you do probably get the sense I’m a bit skitzy and generally a little fluster ball…but with good intentions!
 

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Breaking Blue

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This sweet wine mug was a gift from a dear postpartum nurse friend and ally!  It’s great, she’s great I miss the people in black&white ❤

Remember when I spent my last semester of nursing school binge-watching Breaking Bad?  Then there was Downton Abby (and then Matthew died and I couldn’t move on).  A few weeks ago I stumbled on this number ‘Jane The Virgin’ thinking it would be a re-make of ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ (yes…I watched that too..) and it basically is.  Except for it knows that it’s a crazy show and totally plays it up so it works!  Anyways, a few weeks ago I found out that the newest episodes aren’t on Netflix.  Shoot.  So while waiting for J.T.V to get updated on the streaming service I’m willing to pay for, I resorted to test-tasting ‘Orange Is The New Black’.  Ever heard of it?  Probably.  I’d heard of it but really wasn’t planning on watching it because watching a story about a gal in a ladies prison just didn’t appeal to me (…and a high school science teacher becoming a methamphetamine drug lord did….?).  After 2 episodes before working a nightshift  I couldn’t keep going.  Not because I wasn’t getting into the storyline a bit, but because all the emotions it was swimming through (and some of the character/environmental set-up) was totally giving me deja-vu to working in a womens hospital.  Not the way to walk into night shift eh? Oh yeah, and I’m not saying that my workplace is a prison.  Just that is shares a lot of the same emotional waves and colleague relations that are portrayed in this particular drama that takes place in a womens prison!  (but without the lesbian sex), and we have a ton of sharp things everywhere that we aren’t strip-searched for.  Thank goodness because I’d be incarcerated for the rest of my life for the number of times I find packages of needles in my washing machine…oops.

I can’t figure out if I like this show or not.  It depends how close I am to my next shift.  But for real this so reminds me of learning the ropes of bedside nursing (especially womens health!!) Not so much about patient-nurse relations but more of nurse-nurse relations.  It’s a total jungle out there. If you work in a hospital you know what I mean.  As a new nurse you are the Piper Chapman of your environment and you will probably meet a Miss Claudette, a Red, a Nicky, and maybe a Yoga Jones.  You will most definitely have a Crazy Eyes on your unit.  A lot of people won’t be able to recall her name but they definitely know who she is by some notable feature .  Nothing labels you as the unit ‘Crazy Eyes’ quite like running into a resident in a public restroom outside of work and staring at them for about 30 seconds before saying:

Me: “you work at Magee right?  So do I.”

Resident: “oh! yeah. I know you…” *looks confused*

Me: “it’s the hair.”

Resident: “It really is.”

So here’s the scuttle at work and life:

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When your preceptor surveys your face after saying you’re going to do something solo…

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When the physician points out the stupid thing you did, and another nurse looks at you with the “What The Heck Is She Even Doing?..Look” (the answer is: I DO NOT KNOW! I’ll let you  know when that changes, but if you’ve got a minute to spare I could really use another set of hands to help me slap a band-aid over whatever this nutzo situation is! K. Thanks.)

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But you still manage to behave accordingly:

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Angrily shoving your scrubs into the scrub machine’s mouth after a bad day:

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…but when you get into your shower:

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Nothing like a hot shower with the essential oils of “Failure” “Shame” and “Insecurity”

When you catch a nosy family member looking at the computer chart in the patient’s room and deciding they can interpret the fetal heart rate tracing/contraction pattern to the patient instead of you.

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Patient’s Mom: “so when do we go for a c-section?”                        Me: “labor is long.”

Postpartum Throwback: When it’s 30 min before shift change and you have a mag patient who just lost BOTH IV access sites, and a patient being ruled out for a PE all the sudden:

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How the heck am I going to explain this to the oncoming nurse??!

How I actually spend my off days:

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When your admission is kinda bossy/defensive and says she’s going to have a natural birth…

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Listen, I’m all for you achieving your dream of feeling your vagina rip in half but how about you tone it down and just see how this goes eh?  Nobody is going to force an epidural up your spine, we  won’t need to because I’m 80% sure you’ll try to put it in yourself at some point. **Really guys, I’m a full on supporter of natural-goers, when they get it done it’s so cool and you feel so happy for them because they are proud of themselves–as anyone should be after having a baby no matter how they do it!

What the Mother-Baby unit looks like between 10am and 1pm and everyone is trying to leave. (Doctors, nurses, patients, discharges, students, and visitors all trying to move at the same time in the same place.  Oh, plus babies.)

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When a (rather bossy-self-important-slightly-too-well-read) patient says that her pain isn’t under control because we’re giving her Motrin and her doctor said to take ibuprofen. 

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Let’s fix that med order STAT!….

LDR vs. Postpartum on a Bad Day:

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**This is for funny sake, we all have bad days and sometimes the nature of our positions sort of pits us up for frustration towards other departments even when it really isn’t anything the other did.  You’re just a tired grump who doesn’t want a 6:50pm admission.

Being asked to do skin-to-skin in the OR when you have 5 scheduled and 2 surprise c-sections back to back:

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Trying to use the new online scheduling system:

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When you’re about to go into a room to NAN a baby and a provider (whom you’ve never seen before in your life) pulls you aside and says “I know she’s planning on bottlefeeding but can you just get her to breastfeed?  Tell her the baby looks like he wants to breastfeed.” You:

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*I will never guilt-convert a mom to breastfeeding.  I will offer/explain and if she seems curious I’ll help her, encourage her etc… BUT if she flat out says she’s bottlefeeding, has 1+ other kids I’m not even going there. 

Charge nurses making assignments for the next shift:

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 When parents watch you do anything in the nursery:

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 When your patient tells you she’ll never send her baby to the nursery because “they hit the babies down there!”…ok so I’ll make a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ crib card for your kid…

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When you see the next shift come on and you’re team is exploding with deliveries, security has been called several times for crazy family members and a then there’s a Code Blue:

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So I tried to find more nice-not-irritated GIFs and funnies to share with you about how many super cool patient and nurse interactions I’ve had recently too and then I got tired of making my computer over-heat with all the animations on it’s desktop. In case I never told you (because I never talk to you anymore..) I had a little work-shift recently.  I transferred from the Mother-Baby Unit to Labor & Delivery.  You know what is funny?  (and kind of sad) for the time I was feeling the itch to do something else the only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to do L&D.  I was 100% positive that it was the last place on nursey earth I would willingly sell myself too and so now I’m there…makes total sense.  No really, for me it kinda does!   Lately my life trend has been “Everything happening out of the blue and all at once or not at all”.  So I guess this fits.

Leaving my first nurse job was really hard because it’s hard to leave somewhere you finally feel somewhat comfortable/capable, and where you’re plugged into the social scuttle with friends and people who look out for you and help you survive the day.  Entering a different unit in the same hospital doesn’t have all the difficulties of changing work environments entirely but it still has it’s share of transitional oddities.  People can be familiar with you but not have the same connection and support that you built with your previous unit.  That takes time and unfortunately you sort of have to prove yourself all over again 😦 And by that I mean you have to demonstrate that you are able to carry out safe patient care on that unit and contribute to your team effectively.  I remember this from starting on postpartum too, it felt like everyone had to be my teacher and not my friend and I was drowning.  This is not bad really, it is how it has to be while you are new until you can swim without arm floaties.  Plus, it’s better to have more eyes on you than too few.  But being the new kid on the playground is lonely, you know how that is.

So for now I’m helping birth the bebbies and living like anyone would live when they see a lot of concentrated glory and sin.  Which is basically living to go home and sleep off your emotions.  I am actually terrified of each shift I have yet to complete of my labor/delivery nurse life and my main coping mechanisms are melatonin, yoga and car crying.  At this rate I’ll live till I’m 30.   *JOKES GUYS,jokes.*  I’m probably going to make it a few more years after that but the whole living in terror of not knowing how to handle a situation or doing something that might hurt a patient or kill their baby (not to mention the possibility of being torn in half by the law if they take you to court) is a little overwhelming when you think about it for more than 5 seconds…

The other day Jonathan was encouraging me after work by saying how if there was a situation in which I didn’t know what to do or was scared all I needed to do was call for help.  My response was not my proudest moment but it was the eruption of a cold fact–help isn’t always a certainty.  There are times when there is nobody available to come help.  The charge nurse is in a delivery, your team is all having issues at once.  The whole unit is trying to bail out the water but we feel the boat struggle to stay above water.  And it’s true for all of medicine but so so much in birth—Minutes Matter.  Each minute waiting for a baby’s heart rate to return to baseline is another minute of potential wasted time if it ends in going to the operating room.  What if I wait too long?  What if my slowness to act or know what to do causes permanent damage to a newborn or worse–permanent sorrow to a family?  What if I act incorrectly and loose the respect of my coworkers and the confidence of my patient?  What if I try to do the right thing and then I get an email in my inbox to have a conference with the manager over a bad situation?  What if I get deposed and find out in that case I forgot to chart my interventions? So yes, in most cases I always have help at hand.  But I have to think and prepare like I will have none.  Maybe this isn’t the best way to think but for now it’s how I’m learning to cope with great responsibility and great fear of what can happen.

Aside from the gloom and doom of my catastrophic “chicken little” style thoughts up there I can’t not give great admiration and credit to the nurses I work with, both in my postpartum experience and now in labor &  delivery.  They are super and I love watching each individual nurses strengths.  Someone is a toco wizard while another is awesome at IV’s and another can bring calm to any crazy meltdown, not to mention the charge nurses who make you feel like things are just gonna have to be O.K. no matter what.  There’s nothing quite like needing help and the nurse who walks in the door saves your nursey butt! (or at least makes you look less dumb in front of the patient) Believe me, I know this feeling well 😉   When staffing is horrible and the expectations placed by management are insane, nurses protect their own.  The nurses I watch in the labor suite survive on teamwork and maybe that’s part of why I fear the breakdown/lack of the team.  In reality over the short time I’ve been learning how to do labor&delivery I have always had helpful teams and preceptors.  I know that 99% of the time that is the case and it’ll be fine.  But that doesn’t really make me feel less crazy.

I think the thing that keeps me level (at least while on the clock) is meditating on the belief that God goes before me in that next shift.  He already knows the patients I will care for and he has predetermined that our paths will cross as part of his plan.  Even when I am angry, fearful and don’t see a good reason for things to occur in the way they occur or when I feel extremely incompetent to deal with a patient or situation.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

The other day I was discussing the question of what make it ‘easier’ to believe in Heaven.  My thoughts about Heaven and Hell have changed over my life and now Heaven to me is when God makes everything right, redeemed, and relationships whole again.  Hell is a space without God and therefore void of relationship–which to a creature built for relationship is death.  Seeing sin and sorrow doesn’t weaken my belief that there is a God or Heaven, it just heightens my need to see them.  Listening to a man curse at the mother of his child, seeing fear in a man’s face as his wife is emergently whisked away to the operating room, looking at a mother’s face fall when the last bit of hope for a miracle is dashed and her stillborn is really dead.  To zip a tiny body bag shut over small blue feet decorated with a yellow tag.  Those are the moments when our souls simultaneously cry out “God, why!?” and “God…when?”.  And after that surge, there can be a small peace.  A small place of great calm and rest in the hope of Heaven.  Not in a self-righteous place of reward for earthly living, but in the real dwelling place of a relational God who pursues us most fervently in the midst of our sin and our broken world.   The Heaven he will build on earth in His own time, which is far beyond our comprehension.  So I guess my real coping mechanism is just I have to believe that it won’t be this way someday, and that for now there is wonderful glory in even the darkest moments through the kind souls I work with and the souls we are privileged to care for.

As always, if all that I just said there isn’t your cup of tea that is all good and I just say those things because it’s my blog and I’ll theologically cry if I want too but am so happy you stuck around even if it was just for kicks.  So much love to you!

Thanks for listening!  Hope you’re day is rad.

Also, if the title of this post is confusing and irrelevant, you’re right.  It was my weak attempt to referencing one of my favorite TV shows and the change from me wearing black&white scrubs to blue scrubs.  Haha, thanks for indulging me..

 

 

 

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Pretzel Day

Do you remember how Stanley feels about Pretzel Day?

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I’m all in with him. There are few things that get my German half as giddy as a fresh soft pretzel+mustard+beer (about 1/2 of a bottle because then I’m done and want to move on to whiskey). And you know what kind of pretzel/mustard I’m talking about.  the salty/shiny thick crunch dark blanket of crust over a soft chewy hunk of hot dough…..yeah.  I need to take off my sweater now.

And as for mustard, it has to be that super grainy/mustard seed stuff.  None of that yellow glue. Last night my sleeping wish was that it wouldn’t snow and that I’d get called off work.  Of course I really didn’t expect either to happen and wasn’t really leaning on those but low and behold BOTH arrived at 5am this morning!!!

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So I got up with the Sweet Jon-Athan and we had some early morning coffee and after he left I got myself all snugged in my bowl-chair and bathrobe, and continued to caffeinate while doing a little Bible study time.

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A picture of me between 6am and 10am today.  Sent to the sweet man who worked.

(don’t get me wrong here, this is day 2 of an earnest attempt to do so actual Bible readin’ (I’m doing this study and trying this devotional /I really it feels like school but it does get me to spill my crazy beans out to God more than I normally would so all in all, probably something that I could do a little more often.  We will see how long this 2 day steak lasts.  My guess is till tomorrow because then I actually have to work and it will be too easy to take 0% of what I read and prayed for into real challenging life and I will then need to start back on square one on Friday.)

So yeah the sky didn’t open and dump winter diarrhea all over Pittsburgh!! PLUS I totally didn’t have to go into work and it was glorious and I felt like the kid who found out school was canceled and they thought it was a dream but it was real!
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So after snuggling with coffee and light snow outside I decided I had to bake something.  Now, I’m trying to cut back on sugar baking because I just end up eating way too much of it and Jonathan is giving up sweets for Lent, and he is one of my very favorite people to make sweet stuff for so if he won’t eat it…well it’s just not as much fun (and I actually just eat all of it then).  So I got over my yeast-fear and bumped out some homemade soft pretzels.  Not gonna brag but…guys Auntie Anne has nothin’ on me. I got this pretzel thing down like…well like I flushed it down the toilet.  But I want to draw any connotation between my pretzels and the toilet apart now so lets move on!

Here is the recipe I used. It was so much easier than I’d anticipated and way fun!  Like I never really wish I had kids around me (I usually just want a baby to cuddle and love and squeeze, but I’ve never found myself craving a toddler or young elementary school-er.  However I know people who have these and they say they are pretty great so I’ll say they must know something.  The point is, this activity made me want kiddos to roll dough with.  I’ve told Jonathan before that I wish I could rent babies like books from the library and just love and squeeze them for a bit but then give them back (and he always gives me a look of concern mixed with “umm well that is currently a crime” sort of blurb) but this activity found within me a desire to rent an 8 year old.  That sounds kind of horrible to type, sorry but you know what I mean!  I’d like to borrow my own 8 year old for a few hours today but not forever quite yet.  Ok? ok.
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Make these soon and smother them with delicious condiments.
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Continue reading “Pretzel Day”

Normal Soup

I told you we’d get to some food here–soup to be exact.  So, nothing celebratory or exciting but it is January and I don’t know about you, but the adjectives ‘celebratory’ or ‘exciting’ aren’t the immediate afterthoughts to the word ‘January’.  This soup is a good freezable, heart-defrosting, winter hug.  It’s even vegetarian, and could be gluten-free if you substituted the pasta for quinoa or some gluten-free pasta.  It’s the ultimate ‘normal-people’ soup.  No weird ingredients, no need to go to Whole Foods!  Actually on second thought, I really can’t call this all that normal because it’s borderline hippie.  Like soup made by hippie peasants of Pittsburgh?..(anything with kale can’t really grow that far from the the rainbow)  Regardless—It’s still one of those things you can freeze half of and magically have dinner on the table when you need food and don’t feel like risking you life using your car to sled to the nearest Giant Eagle or Trader Joe’s….

Chickpea Kale Soup
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1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3oz of tomato paste (I used 1/2 a 6oz can) I think that’s about 3 Tablespoons? eh. just use enough to make it red without infecting it with chunks of tomatoes.

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

3 Tablespoons of fresh chopped rosemary (I use this because I had a bunch of fresh rosemary to use, you could totally use dried (1 Tablespoon) but you can’t really skip this ingredient because it’s a big deal in here.

2 (15oz) cans drained/rinsed chickpeas

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch of curly kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup small pasta (I used whole wheat orzo)

Saute the onion and red pepper flakes and about 1/4 teaspoon pepper and a pinch of salt on medium-high  in your dutch oven/soup pot, whatever you’ve got there that you make soup in. Do this for about 5 min, till the onions are golden then add the garlic and saute another minute or 2.  Then stir in the tomato paste and chickpeas.  Add 4 cups broth (I use those broth cartons, they are 1 quart each so just throw in 1 of those now) the oregano, basil, rosemary and smoked paprika.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 30min.  Then take it off the heat, and use an immersion blender to blend/smash up those chickpeas.  Or just put some of the soup (about half, we aren’t making hummus soup just smashing enough chickpeas to give this soup some texture).  Transfer the blended mixture to the soup again (if you used an outside-of-pot blender) add the rest of the broth (or just a second quart carton) the kale and bring to a boil.  Then simmer forever.  Really as long as you can, at least 1 hour.  The more you cook this thing the better it gets!  If you are in a big rush you don’t have to simmer it for an hour even but it will be quite tasty if you do.  At the end of whatever your simmer-time is add the tiny pasta and cook for another 10 min.

You’re done!

**Here is what I did because I had all day to do it but I don’t expect you to have all the live-long-day**:  I boiled the kale down for about 20 min then transferred the soup to my slow-cooker and cooked it in there for 4 hours on high.  At the 3.5 hour mark I added the tiny pasta to cook in.

Is anyone else looking forward to some spring/summer happenings?  I’m not usually a summer chickie but lately I’ve been really itching to a little get-away or to go to a concert or play music or SOMETHING out of the ordinary.  Any of yinz know of some fun musical things coming through in the next couple of months?  So far I am aware of the following that might be a blast:

Kurt Vile (@ Mr. Small’s on Feb. 22)

Dr. Dog (@ Stage AE on March 16)

The Avett Brothers (@ Stage AE on May 12)

Oh well, we’ve got time to figure this out.

We’re still eating normal soup because it’s January.

And can I just show you some visual updates from Christmas-through last night when I taped a bunch of pictures to our fridge in a hurricane of emotions, then garnished it with a plush heart??
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One more pic of the tasty hippie peasant soup.

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Nothing like a little Domico Family Christmas Hazing for the new guy!  I love him.  He was a wonderful toilet paper snowman ❤

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Loving this picture of my mom holding her new cornbag of warmth and good feels!  I didn’t know how dark and cold my life (and feet) were before owning a cornbag.  Thank goodness for nurse buddies who know what you need! 🙂

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The tree! the tree! And a screen of glow

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Happiest Perfect Fluff of Love.

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Coffee on the perch!!  Probably my favorite things about going to the homeland.  Early rainy coffee on the porch with my parental unit and sweet man 🙂

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Alright sweetcakes.  Time to nap for the bebbies tonight.  Goodnight/Happy TGIF to those celebrating.  To those I’ll see tonight: Get ready.

There will be we-work-weekends-pity-brownies!

Weekday Funday

Last night Jonathan asked me what I was planning on doing today.  Despite trying to make my “schedule” sound different than every other weekday when I’m not waking up at 4:50am he still caught on that my only plan was to get out of bed before 10am and move enough to prevent a DVT.

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Honestly, what I do on my off-days can get pretty varied.  A few examples include:

  1. Picking fights with mommy groups at the local coffee shop
  2. Contemplating homicide in the target makeup section towards a fellow customer whose condescending tone of voice I didn’t appreciate while asking me to move when I was already squashed against the side of the aisle.
  3. Having kahlua and ice cream for lunch
  4. Calling to schedule routine maintenance on my car and when the mechanic asks me what exactly I want done I say “Umm, like whatever you would do for a regular car check-up” As if I was scheduling an appt. with the pediatrician.  Basically I’m taking the Subaru to get it’s booster shots right?
  5. Trying new pintrest and youtube remedies for my disgusting ingrown toenails.  TMI maybe, BUT– look at this deepening of our friendship getting to know each other!  Now you know I have really painful ingrown toenails. Your turn to share.  Spill the beans!  For now I will just assume you have regular yeast infections.
  6. Cooking a TON of food.  I am so serious, like 2 main course things with a loaf of bread and probably brownies.
  7. Online shop because I’m still afraid to drive to the waterfront shops.  I actually buy stuff only about 10% of the time.  It’s all about filling the cart and then letting it go because you can’t justify buying more harem pants or peasant tops.

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I am laying pengiun-belly down on my upstairs floor after attempting a yoga video by my online favorite yoga lady which really turned into a huge flop (literally and figuratively).  This was after mechanically schleping through one of those T25 workouts that felt…well just like that-mechanical and sort of useless.  Today is Sunday and for about a good 6 hours Jonathan has been carting my butt around town, watching my face pout and whimper during all the hymns at church then grouch about how I have no talents, no motivation, no desires or goals, no friends, skills….etc….whine whine whine…… all aboard the train of self-pity and insecurity.

Needless to say I’ve been a real pill lately.  I was on a medium-high for a few weeks and since Friday I’ve been treading water in the pool of anger, frustration that settled into re-visiting cranky insecurities, and some seasonal sadness.

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Anyways, thank goodness for friend time (especially some QT with your fellow ENFPs!), patient husbands and sparkly work friends. I was talking with a friend the other day about some struggles with learning how to work with purpose.  It’s all very grey and I’ve been trying to focus on the reason I provide care to my patients, and how the goal of care I have is not for their appeasement.  It is to support them in their own goals for their health and the health of their child while providing education and resources.  It is to help them to reach wellness and be equipped to go forward into a very exciting and challenging chapter in their life.  This is a total can of worms to open so I’m not going to go all the way there.  But I will say that it is good to have a personal drive to do whatever you’re doing, even if it’s not about your actual job (maybe your drive is to support your family or something you love outside of your work).  During challenges it’s helpful to remember my own personal “drive”.  Which right now is to trust God’s ordinance for each day and “…To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (last half of Micah 6:8).  Also to trust in Him that He is at work in my heart, that He is ‘hemming me in’ (Psalm 139). Sometimes that means to be greatly humbled, to admit to being wrong and hurtful, to stand up for myself and others, to change my perception of something/someone, to practice gratitude, to remembering God’s own mercy towards me when I become frustrated and unloving towards others—and bringing it full circle we’re back to being humbled!   Ta da!

I saw a decorative quote on pinterest (of course) that I’ve thought of often at work when I have to re-center on why I am doing anything.

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But that’s all the serious for now!   Whew, thank goodness this isn’t the past 2 novella posts right?? To be perfectly honest this was about to be a soup recipe post but then I started tumblr-ing.  You’ll totally get soup with the next one!

It’s been a while since we’ve done a Postpartum Nurse Comic Strip eh?

 Getting to work and finding a seat at the nurses station to look at the Baby Forecast and then going out to lasso a COW (Computer On Wheels).

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Welcoming my new admission to postpartum:

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When you haven’t even clocked in or received report yet and one of your rooms calls the desk and ends up being a 7:00am condition C.

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When the glucometer reads a baby’s blood sugar at 44…

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Delivering the 3rd pack of similac formula to a room when you discover they’ve been calling for it from different nurses all day.

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Using the blue phone during a sort-of-emergent thing, and realizing that not only does the patient not speak English, neither does the phone interpreter.

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You walk into discharge a patient and they want a breast pump before they go (and haven’t told anyone till now)

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Patient is refusing to go to discharge class:

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Looking for anything in the re-organized supply room:

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All New Mommas: (Bless your hearts, birthin’ babies is stressful!  But yes, sometimes you just need to get all those hormones out of your eyeballs.)

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The Difference Between Breastfed Babies and Bottlefed Babies:

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When you present your severely swollen/pain-filled patient with a hand-crafted ice-glove and/or an oxycodone:

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(the above GIF is almost too real if you’ve ever seen me at work.  The hair and the eyes match.  Probably the explanation method too.)

When you ask a more experienced nurse to come assess bleeding with you (or when a newer nurse asks you to come double-check a patient)

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How I feel about my sweet coworkers:

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When I’m a big whiner and everyone puts up with me:

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Thinking about past coworkers

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Cheers babycakes! This one’s for you!

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***Also it is pretty clear that every single image here minus the one of Yours Truly, and a kahlua sundae are not owned or created by me.  They are found and credited on tumblr and pinterest***Thanks!

Bottom of Your Glass

Welcome to the Blueberry Days Bible Study!  We have tea and crumpets here in the living room or you could split this bottle of wine with me.  Just wanted to give you a fair heads-up that this post is bloated and long and probably redundant about my feels and God and love and guilt and fear and the salvation of mankind…you know, light stuff!  There is a lot of good meaty Bible talk here.  So if that is not your jam I get it but hope you do stay for some beverages with me 🙂

Last month Jonathan and I went up to Vermont to visit with his family and on the way back he dropped me off at my parents house in State College where I got to camp out and pretend it was 2014 again.   It was a great sip of home and conversations with long-time friends and wise friend-family.  To complete the experience I rode the Megabus from SC to Pittsburgh Wednesday night and re-lived the magic of gazing at each fellow passenger within eyesight and making up their deal in my head (this might be what some call judgmental but I prefer to call it “guessing with imagination”).  I’m pretty sure people could easily have guessed with not so much imagination towards me because not 15 min into the trip I had tears pouring down my face and became the bus fountain of emotion.

*Cue the sad/sappy iPod–>aka gasoline over the flame of my tears….as a courtesy to my fellow passengers I should’ve passed around a bag of marshmallows at this point so they could get some use out of the Emotional Bonfire Girl.

So Much Wine, Merry Christmas–Andrew Bird (at least listen to this one!  This is the title inspiration)

Million Dollar Bill–Middle Brother

I Will Sing You Songs–My Morning Jacket

Tear Down the House–The Avett Brothers

Ruby–Dave Rawlings Machine

Miss Ohio–Gillian Welch (I’m sorry but this song is definitely on almost every other music list post on this blog.)

Clean–Ryan Adams (eating this album up like poptarts in the closet, I don’t know if I really like it but I’m going on my 6th pack…so the jury’s out till I decide or just get sick, barf, and never listen to it again)

Fake Plastic Trees–Radiohead

No Surprises–Radiohead

REBECCA!  Why were you an emotional car wreck?!

Well sugar, if you’ve ever met me I’m either at the bottom of the ocean or at the top of the mountain with very little time on the mainland of stability.  Ever since hearing the term Hot Mess Express I can’t think of a better title for my autobiography.  I also recently came to terms with the fact that I am an ENFP–>not the INFP of yesteryear.  I am not cool, introverted and mysterious.  This is not actually what introverted means (as I have been reminded several times by my sweet introverted man) but it’s what I wanted to be and what pop culture paints the introvert as.  In contrast, the extrovert is painted as this logic-less party beast who imposes on the introvert.  So yeah, who wants to be that??  Buttons.  Anyways, that following Friday afternoon Jonathan came home from work to find me typing on this computer and sniffling next to an empty Jameson glass.  Good thing he missed me sobbing face down on my yoga mat just about an hour prior….whaaat is my problem…….?!?  So. Many. Feels.

Rebecca you are a Feeling Beast.

So the deal is that I went home (state college home) and for the first time in many months I was just hanging out on my lonesome, very deja vue to the 2012-2014 era when I was a wannabe hipster who worked at the coolest coffee shop ever, borderline decent fiddle-player, and frustrated nursing student/graduate.  Now I don’t live there anymore, I’m this frustrated baby wrangler nurse in Pittsburgh, fresh wifelette, and playing the violin makes me cry…. At least one thing is constant!  These past 16 months have been as close as you can get to God throwing your life in a washing machine and then giving you double-time in the dryer only to hang you up on the clothesline for some extra air and you don’t even know if you are O.K. anymore let alone if your perception of reality is actually real or not.

So. Much. Change.

–>What I mean, is that while I climbed the stairs to the roof of the Fraser Street parking garage late that Tuesday night, I could truly believe that I had just awoken from a dream where I moved to Pittsburgh, was a nurse, met a guy and married him all in under a year.  As I stood on the rooftop it felt almost exactly like every other time I’d stood there and gazed down into the Happiest Valley.  It felt so surreal to be standing in that place and tell myself that I wasn’t there anymore–that my life was somewhere else, and it wasn’t just my life anymore.

If I could just take a dramatic moment I’d say I felt very ghost-like.

Reference: I used to visit the top of the Fraser Street Parking garage and peer down into the buildings below and listen to the music drifting up from bars and street performers.  One of the first songs I heard from there was ‘Ruby’.

Tonight I am at home.  My home with my now-family.  There is pumpkin bread in the oven, dirty clothes tumbling in the washing machine, too much garbage from 2 people on the sidewalk waiting to be gone, wedding pictures, belated thank-yous strewn about the living room; more dried tears on my face.  It’s been a season of easy tears from what I’m assuming is the emotional settling after the year of constant major life-altering changes.  Much of the feeling turmoil has been brought on by feelings of loss and unexpected change—which I too often interpret as God not caring or being apathetic about my life.  Not that I don’t believe that God cares and loves for humanity as a whole and that he sent Himself to earth to restore relationship between Himself and His people, I just never really think that He puts much weight into my individual everyday life and simple struggles as an American woman who has a stable job, loving spouse and family,  roof over my head, food and numerous other blessings of which many others are praying for.  Why would my everyday unreasonable sadness matter to God?  And if He does care about it, wouldn’t He just be frustrated at my failure to appreciate that He hasn’t asked me to walk through different trials?  Does He wish He’d given the blessings to someone else who would use them better and give greater thanks without finding another reason to not trust Him and live in sadness??  I’ve had several people (including a therapist and my husband) tell me that I do not believe that God wants to give me good things and that is why I am easily anxious.  The observation surprised me at first but I knew that this was the thorn pushing living fear into my heart.  I live in the belief that God may let good things happen but actively creates the suffering in order to glorify Himself.  In writing this I imagine God might be very sad to see the child so distrusting that she cannot accept gifts He lays at her feet.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Matthew 7:9-11 NIV

Changes can be sometimes be your choice but also many are totally out of your control.  Sometimes change you decide on comes with unexpected events too.  When I experience change I often look for a reason to expect something difficult to happen because God surely wants to use whatever change is happening to refine me and make me lean on Him–so in my fearful heart I ask: why would He give me good things when it seems like the bad things are what He uses for our growth and to bring us to Himself?  When change is at my doorstep I cringe and anticipate being stripped bare to unknown shame and difficulty when God looks at me from afar and tells me to walk towards Him in my weak naked body, and if I fail to do so I am stuck where I am, with cold wind on bare skin. So when He brings about a happy event into my life I poke at it in disbelief and suspicion that it signals some awful thing is going to happen after I accept it–This is really sad and twisted and I truly tear up at the vision of a father trying to give his daughter a gift that she won’t even touch.

You see, the difficult thing about this is that God does indeed ask us to trust Him in trials and he does destroy that which comes between Himself and His beloved, you and I.  As in the creatures he made into His own image, creatures with souls capable of great evil and magnificent windows to the Holy.  So when I say I fear God’s refinement it is true that He does take away, he does bring us to “nakedness”.

…”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” excerpt of Job 1:21 NIV

God does allow us to walk through times of great suffering and blindness in the midst of life changes even when we beg Him to take it away, or give us clarity.  He does ask us to trust Him and ask Him for wisdom in those trials, not only to endure and trust but to have joy in such times and to praise His name!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…when tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.  James 1:2-4, 13-18 NIV (bold and italic text added)

Tonight I read another chapter in the book I’ve been spottily reading for about 2 years, Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’.  Most of the book chronicles her learning joy through gratitude and how to learn joy when you can’t see anything beyond bitterness, fear and depression.  It’s something I should actually just read on repeat.

Sometimes I don’t want joy.  In my blindness I cling to depression and doubt as substitutes because I think that they hold less disappointment; less opportunity to feel embarrassment and shame. I can recall times when I’d thought I’d placed my hope in God but was left in disappointment.  However, this was because the hope wasn’t in Christ alone, it was in the things I wanted him to do for me rather than who He is.  I have used times when I’ve been given something I strongly desired and had it taken away as proof of God’s apathy or conditional approval towards me.  When I was allowed to get so close to whatever thing I wanted and suddenly it was torn away, I recoiled from God and glared at Him from my cave.  So, if I live expecting God’s way of refining me is to immerse me into suffering through tearing hopes/desires out of my hands while pouring shame and abandonment over my nakedness, then I could only “safely” live in fear of what is to befall me next.  To constantly be waiting for God to frown on my heart, to await the humiliation of exposure and subsequent withdraw of blessings.  But as the verse above mentions, it is not God who changes.  He is constant and His love for us is unchanging based on our doing, and it is not He who brings temptation to rely on fear as protection from the unknown.

In her book, Voskamp covers this way of thinking and brings to light that it is subconsciously deciding that the powers of Hell are greater and offer more life than those of Heaven.  The choice to shut out joy becomes a habit to protect myself from dashed hope.  Hope can only be as strong as that which it rests on, and if that is on a person, event, government, one’s own ability and self esteem… then it can’t be strong enough to withstand the weight of God’s glory being bled through your life.  If you are familiar with the story of God revealing himself to Moses you may recall the nature of that taste of glory being so powerful that God had to shield Moses from His passing by (Exodus 33:12-23).  Moses stood in a tight dark place, yet was as physically close to God as could be withstood by a human.  Voskamp speculates that it may be in those dark places when we are given the opportunity to experience God’s closeness and protection unlike any other time.  That perhaps the darkness is his hand covering us, protecting us from what we cannot yet understand.

I’ve always had a hard time understanding God calling us to joy in trial–it’s so hard!  I can’t wrap my brain around how to feel joyful in the midst of depression and fear.  It can feel impossible, or like one more thing on the spiritual ‘to-do’ list.  “Trust God, endure struggle, pray for wisdom…oh yeah and have joy in all of this!”  I want to throw up my hands and say this is HARD!  Does God ask the impossible? Does He intend our entire earthly existence to be a constant trial and refinement through struggle but for us to be happy all time time that He is doing it? In the midst of fear and trying to trust the Lord, what is does it mean to have joy? My first strike is that I said the word ‘happy’.  Let’s get this oldie-but-goodie on the table and remember that happiness is not joy.  Joy is not a fleeting feeling (!) as I am learning.  It is the marriage of Peace and Hope.  This is why it is not only possible to have joy in struggle, but necessary.  Hope in the solid ground of God’s sovereignty over all things, that He does have the power to change all things and that what He does choose to do or not do is good because He is good and all good things come from Him.  This is hard to accept because “good” must then mean it is ‘God-glorifying’.  “Good” doesn’t necessarily mean it works out to make us more comfortable.

“Safe?” Said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.” (‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis)

God is glorified in how we trust him in all circumstances to bring us to himself, to make us holy as he is holy….sanctification.  (There is much more to this subject that I am not entirely educated enough to explain, but one tidbit I want to remind us of is that our salvation and sanctification is not something dependent on how much we do/the strength of our trust to make ourselves holy and Christ-like–that is impossible in our human sin-weakened bodies.  Christ is the bridge to our being made holy because we have gained his holiness through the cross where he took our sin and deserved abandonment from God.  Therefore we cannot sanctify ourselves, God made the way for us to be with him again and in response to this great act of mercy and grace (receiving an undeserved gift) we are called to love God and trust Him…lean not on our own understanding in all things…(Proverbs 3:5-6).

Peace is our soul recognizing the presence of God in all times.  Peace is the rest and wonder laid on our souls through glimpses of the Holy everyday.  Peace feeds our hope through assurance of God’s caring and providing for us throughout all things, which enables us to hope in Christ without fear of what God will do.  The ways of God do not make sense to the minds of man, the idea that a holy God would reach into the grime of the world to rescue his adulterous love and die to make her clean and bring her to Himself is foreign to our hard hearts.  God actually gives us a “Day In My Life” story in the book of Hosea where he tells Hosea to go and marry a prostitute and not only that but to go and buy her back when she gets into even more trouble.  Constant pursuit!  That is God’s way with us.  It is strange and amazing.

He is good and cares for us even in small things as well as big ( Matthew 6:25-34). So to have joy we must have glimpses of God’s presence in our day-to-day.  How does this happen?  When we practice looking for Him, we will find Him when we focus on who we are looking for.  In other words, thanks rather than despair.

…..Whatever my God Ordains Is Right…. (‘Sweet Comfort’ by Sandra McCracken)

In Chapter 7 of One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp describes that the presence of God is sensed through your focus on what is there rather than what isn’t there, to open our eyes to the graces and gifts He gives in the moment rather than frustration and resentment about our circumstances.  And that is the daily practice of choosing life over death–or I love how she puts it, the “joy-wrestle”.

“Hard.  Yes.  So hard.”…I am trying , really trying: Practice.  The discipline of thanks only comes with practice.”…I want to give up too.  But give up the joy-wrestle…and I die.  “The practice of giving thanks…eucharisteo…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes.  We don’t have to change what we see.  Only the way we see.” (p. 135)

One of the other pieces of work she references in her book is this quote from Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough’s piece ‘The Psychology of Gratitude’):

“People generally do not make efforts to actively infuse their daily experiences with greater emotional quality,” posits scientific researcher and professor Rollin McCraty.  “Although most people definitively claim that they love, care, appreciate it might shock many to realize the large degree to which these feelings are merely assumed or acknowledged cognitively in their feeling world.  In the absence of conscious efforts to engage, build, and sustain positive perceptions and emotions, we all to automatically fall prey to feelings such as irritation, anxiety, worry, frustration, self-doubt and blame” (Rollin McCraty, “The Grateful Heart,” The Psychology of Gratitude, ed. Robert A. Emmons (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 241.)

If we understand that peace is only found in our personal communion with God and our hope is in His goodness then our joy is not a feeling.  Our joy is the daily intentional seeking God in that moment (not to get too ahead of our seasons but we are coming up on the Thanksgiving season appropriately followed by Christmas….aka the time we remember and give thanks for Immanuel… “God with us”!! Matthew 1:23) through thanks for his care for us in ways we don’t see at first glance.  Joy is to go to God and ask for blessing, the blessing our soul craves.  The presence of God with us, which only He can give.  To go to God and knowing that only He can bless us and fill us.  We will, like Jacob, ask God to bless us–in the way He delights to do, with His presence in our hearts.  It is this joy that cannot be taken by the world because it is not of the world.

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?  I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time as come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.  In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever yo ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete….I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:19-24, 33

So it is true that God does indeed bring us good things, and He wants to!  This is still shocking to me and I am learning to accept that each day without fear.  Here’s a story: In my mopey pre-saturday-nightshift sulking last weekend I laid in bed unable to sleep and jokingly asked Jonathan to pray I got called off work (honestly thinking there is no way in any world that I would get called off on a weekend).  I laid there and thought about writing this post and how I was trying to see the blessing of the moment rather than the frustration of what I don’t have, which led to more sulking then feeling shameful and guilty but then I started thinking about exactly what I just wrote and how God was going to take care of me that night no matter what I was going to walk into.  And that my going into work that coming night meant that God ordained me to be there then and care for the patients I would meet and to spend time with my wonderful co-workers.  This train of thought actually did bring me to a more peaceful place and though I didn’t sleep, I did know that God was at work and therefore I could have joy in this despite my childish whining.

Wouldn’t you know I got a golden call-off phone call at 5pm.  I actually did feel a little amazed and tremble-y.  It felt like God was saying “I told you I could do anything and I do care about you in every way no matter how you are behaving or what you feel. I love you and delight in giving you good things, right now I’m giving you a night of rest to enjoy with Jonathan.”  It was humbling actually, just like the small child feeling ashamed for sulking and then being given an undeserved treat.  Anyways, the point here is that if you pray and ask God to get you called-off for the night He might do it!  (that is absolutely not the point…there is nothing you do that gets you called off work.  It is purely a gift from God that you can enjoy and not feel guilty about!  Jonathan had to tell me this when my guilt sunk in around 10pm that I wasn’t using my night off properly.  I’m crazy.  Please help.)—that God does delight to give us blessings and he does this even when we feel that our life is upside-down and/or dark.

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.  I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.  You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at you right hand.” Psalms 16:5-11 (italics added)

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