Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gaining Perspective

As I ran the streets of my neighborhood whistling and calling my dog's name, the worst possible scenario kept playing over and over.  It was 8:30pm on a Sunday night, and somehow our front door was open and Koa was no where to be found.  I enlisted the help of anyone I saw outside, and once he was found I sat back and reflected on what just happened.  With wet hair, shorts and a t-shirt (which are strictly for sleeping in) I was approaching strangers that were walking their dogs, watering their plants, or just walking to their car.  These people didn't run from me, even though I probably looked mentally disturbed, but instead grabbed their flashlights and got in their cars to start canvassing the neighborhood...for someone they didn't know.

We have only lived in this neighborhood for a couple months, and I've spent the last 2 months being a hermit while I recover from neck surgery.  In all honesty, I have spent the last 2 years being pretty miserable.  Living with chronic pain is not just physically taxing, but emotionally as well.  I kept pushing myself to maintain the same level of function, even though my condition continued to worsen.  My handful of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, Tylenol, and growing number of acid reflux medications became the norm and I didn't see any other way of dealing with it because I couldn't afford to slow down.

Our move to AZ last year was a much needed gut check.  I wasn't working as a nurse, since we would only be there for 5-6 months, and I took some time to re-evaluate my health.  When I had a Nurse Practitioner tell me I had to stop exercising, I was forced to put things into perspective.  I had to slow down.  My last 2 digits on my Left hand had been numb or tingling for over 2 years, and I was now using Lidocaine patches to deal with the worsening muscle spasms.  I hadn't been able to pick up my children in over 2 years, I was dropping things, and the pain was becoming unbearable.  For the last 4 years I've had my own cervical traction machine at home to help alleviate the pressure from the bulging, turned herniated, discs in my neck.  Narcotics have never been an option for me because I had already decided if it got to that point, then medication was no longer helping.

Once we got to TX, I immediately went in to see my NP and ask for a referral for a neck surgeon.  He listened and easily agreed that I had exhausted all other resources.  My surgeon ordered a new MRI which revealed that my herniated discs had now ruptured.  I was completely out of options.  February 1st I had 2 discs removed from my neck, cadaver bone put in place, and C5-C7 fused with a plate and 6 screws.  This required wearing a very sexy neck brace for 8 weeks, and fully embracing "we are  Super Woman until we can't fly." (Sharon W.)

My amazing MIL came to take care of me and the boys since my Sexy Beast would be gone for my first 4 weeks post-op, and I had to embrace my limits.  I kept trying to wean myself off the muscle relaxers and pain killers too early, and my Surgeon scolded me and told me that there is a reason it is a FOUR month recovery.  Every time I went too far, my body was quick to tell me, and eventually I
learned to listen.

After almost 10 weeks, I am finally without my neck brace, and starting to smile again.  The pain is intermittent and I understand that recovery takes time, and I can't rush it!

I took the boys to Dallas to visit family for the weekend, and when I got home I was offended that my Sexy Beast didn't shower me with love and hugs and tell me how much he missed me.  I now realize how I've been treating him.  I haven't been affectionate or doting or even fun to be around, so WHY on Earth was I expecting him to treat me any differently than I had been treating him.

So, I am making a renewed effort to put forth the attitude and love that I want back.  I want to be the neighbor that will help you look for your dog!  I want to be the mom at the park that looks like she is fun to talk to!  I want to be the person in the grocery store that SMILES at you and brightens your day.

I am hanging up my Mean Mug face and am determined to be the change I want to see!  I want to apologize to my family and friends that have had to endure my poor attitude.  I am eternally grateful you've stood by me because I wouldn't have gotten through it without you!

Monday, January 11, 2016

For a Season or a Lifetime?

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting with one of the amazing Army Wives I've met in my travels.  We first became friends 5 years ago while our husbands attended the same school, and there was an instant connection.  I was stationed 4 hours away, and she was stationed at the same post as this school.  The boys were 6 months old and seeing her smiling face made the journey worth it.  We've stayed in contact throughout this time apart and now I feel truly blessed that we are finally at the same duty station!

We made plans to have her family over for dinner, and Cooper started referring to it as "The Feast."  This then evolved into a costume party for the kids, and even involving the boys in picking the menu.  After a few hours of great conversation, and watching the kids run and play together, I walked them through the door and reveled in the amount of joy I felt.  I was truly blessed to have such an amazing person in my life, and especially so close.

Moving to Texas also brought us within 3 hours of my mom and 2 sisters, as well as another friend just 3 hours in the opposite direction.  Can I really be this lucky?

The military offers the unique opportunity to interact with more people than most families that live in the same town/state their entire lives.  It is then that you form friendships and bonds that may be simply for a season or, if you're lucky, for a lifetime.

My friend and I had discussed how we've lost contact with some of the friends before being an Army Wife due to a lack of relatable issues.  I agreed and remembered people I couldn't seem to life without during Nursing School, but then once we graduated the interaction seemed less vital to my survival.  This isn't saying those relationships aren't as important (because I would not have survived without their help), but as we grow and change, so do our needs.
I am so thankful for the friends I have made in my life because they:
  • kept me sane in High School
  • helped me navigate Army Life
  • built my confidence and gave me support in the absence of my Sexy Beast
  • would sing along to my internal jukebox and bring a smile to my face
  • consume copious amounts of caffeine while studying into the wee hours of the morning
  • would watch me grow and support my decisions
  • wouldn't hesitate to drop a truth bomb when necessary
  • would assist me in conquering things I didn't know I was capable of
  • often lended a supportive ear
  • set a great example and gave me a desire to emulate their passion.
Whether you believe everything happens for a reason or not, I am grateful.  It would've been hard to survive my crazy life if it without the innumerable people that I've been blessed to meet.  Each and every person has made an impact, assisting me in the journey to become the best Mary I can be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Quality time with Friends

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to San Diego to visit not only my Nursing mentor, but an amazing friend.  It took a lot of coordination, and cooperation with visiting family, but I made the trek to California and had an amazing time.  It was on this trip that I finally had a comprehension of my mom's importance of spending quality time with her friends that I didn't understand as a child.  The people I'm lucky enough to call friends, are such an integral part of who I am, and I am thankful for the roles each one has played in my life.

We had great adventures at:

Cabrillo National Monument

Afternoon tea at The Aubrey Rose Tea Room

Air & Space Museum at Balboa Park

The Museum of Man at Balboa Park

Exploring Balboa Park

Meeting up with one of my friends from High School for a great dinner downtown.  

 Breakfast at Sunset Cliffs

Hotel Del Coronodo 

and Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial, which ended up being our favorite place.  We had planned on staying 30 minutes, but ended up being there for 90.  We slowly walked through each section, gazing at the pictures, and reading the names and stories of our brave men and women in uniform.  There were many famous people who were mixed in with everyone else, and the Nurses and couples made my heart smile.  There were many tributes to our soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan, which again renewed my appreciation for the 0.5%.

We had such a good time being goofy, talking, and feeling like old times.  I truly love my Peds ED family at Cape Fear, and miss them all horribly.  Spending this time with LoLo brought back such good memories and I'm thankful we were able to make it happen!

As we prepare for our next adventure in Texas, I am overjoyed at the number of friends that are already there, and the ones that will be joining us soon.  Although the Army is often on my Dead to Me list, it has afforded us many opportunities that we wouldn't have had with any other career.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mommy Fears

This week the boys started Kindergarten, and they were so excited.  We are fortunate to live less than a mile away from the school, so this is a great excuse to walk and get some exercise in.  As the school came into view, Cooper said, "I'm about to get a little nervous."  We reassured him that everything was going to be okay and as he saw the playground, all was well.

The morning routine for the school is to drop off the kids at the main playground, which has teachers/aids present.  The Kindergarten classes all line up their back packs in their respective teachers lines, then when the bell rings their teacher meets them and walks them in lines to the classroom.

Most parents wait until the kids are out of sight and then leave, since the parents aren't supposed to walk them to their class.  This has worked out fine until today.

I stood at the back of all the lines, and tried to keep my eye on both boys, in each of their lines (they are in separate classrooms).  Once they started walking away from the playground, I put in my earbuds and started to find an exit (they lock all the chain link fences at different times so my exit is never same).  I saw Carter's teacher and looked down the line and didn't see him.

I thought, "don't panic, I must have overlooked him."  So, I continued to walk next to the line and also stopping to survey the line in search of him...but he wasn't there.  I quickly walked to the front of the line and made eye contact with his teacher and said, "Carter isn't in line!"  She said, "thanks for letting me know.  The aid took some kids to the nurse's office, or he might just be in another classroom.  I put out an all call."  I tried to stay calm and walked to the nurse's office and found the aid and asked if Carter was with her.  Her eyes got huge and she said no and immediately started making calls to try to find him.

It was the longest 30 seconds of my life.  She came back and said they had found him and all was well.

I wanted to cry!  There is so much chaos in the morning, and we all know how well 5 year olds follow directions.

I can't help but wonder how my parents were never worried.  Is it that there is more danger now than almost 30 years ago, or are heinous acts more televised and accessible?

Needless to say, I did a very short run this morning because my nerves were shot.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why not?

I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an amazing friend from High School today, and we both agreed that eventually we figured out that being "weird" was just fine.  I accepted this more as an adult but some struggle with not fitting the mold for their entire lives.

The amazing profession of Nursing opened my eyes and helped me throw away a bias that I never knew existed, until I started caring for people outside of my normal circle.  People come from all walks of life, having individual experiences that shape their views and their future.  This has helped me show love and compassion to people, without bias, and I am grateful.

Tonight as my Sexy Beast and I were watching a military documentary, Cooper walks into the room and whispers, "can I tell you a secret?"  Of course I have taught them that they ALWAYS tell mommy secrets, and he whispers, "can you put color on my feet right here (pointing to his toes)?"

I was a little shocked, but immediately tried to keep a straight face and asked, "you want me to paint your toenails?"  He smiled and said yes.  Quickly I started running through phrases in my head and searching for the write wording to encourage, educate, and validate him in his request.  After all, he had been playing Lego Marvel Heroes on the Xbox with his brother for the last hour and I didn't know where the request was coming from.

I told him that if he wanted me to paint his toenails I was happy to do that.  I also said, "just so you know, most girls like to paint their toenails, and most boys do not.  Some people might tease you, but if you want them painted, I'm delighted to do that for you."  He then said that he wouldn't show them to anyone, and immediately started asking me what colors I had, and decided on red for his Right foot and blue for his left.  I looked at my Sexy Beast and asked if I handled that well, and he nodded in agreement.

After locating my polish I went to the living room to begin.  As I started tearing paper towels to place between his toes, Carter said, "what are you doing?" I told him and he said, "only girls paint their toenails!" Cooper said, "we don't have to show anyone, and can keep socks on around other kids."  Carter smiled and said, "I want black!"

Here is the final result, and they are both thrilled.

While I'm not campaigning for boys to wear skirts or girls to play in the mud, I want to let my boys know that their home is a place that they will always be loved and accepted.  I want to instill a trust in us, as parents, and always feel comfortable telling us the truth and any secret they need to share.

I love being a "boymom" and look forward to watching them grow and mature!

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Change Gone Come

There are a few things that I truly take pride in outside of being a mom & wife, and precepting is my pride and joy in the Nursing profession.  I was able to log over 750 hrs in the last year precepting new graduates and new employees.  My love to teaching others stems from a specifically awful experience when I was in Nursing School, and again as a new graduate.

I was in the middle of my 3rd semester and after almost a year and a half on the same unit, we had learned which Nurses would teach us and which to avoid like the plague.  I had gathered my information about my patients the night before, and the next morning when I saw which floor nurse  was assigned to my patients my heart sank.  Not HER! Anyone but her!  I was worried but quickly decided that I would be the BEST Nursing Student she had ever seen and things would be different.  While at the Nurses Station another RN had noticed who I was assigned to and wanted me to relay a message.  I jumped at the opportunity and went on a search for her.

Seeing her about 20' down the hall, I smiled and said, "Oh, did you" but was quickly cut off as she declared, "I just got here and I haven't even gotten report yet so I don't have time for our questions."

I stood flabbergasted with my mouth still open as she walked past me towards the Nurses Station.

I wanted to cry.

Quickly, I found my fellow students and told them what happened.  I was given words of encouragement and we all went back to our assigned patients.  Later that morning, one of my friends came to tell me the nurse who I was assigned to had apologized to her.  This Nurse couldn't even recognize who she had yelled at!

We heard many times that "Nurses eat their young," and this incident fueled my fire.  I never wanted someone else to feel the way I did.

I continued to hold fast to my optimism and was excited to start my career in Pediatrics!  My orientation on the floor consisted of an insane amount of reading and learning the flow of the department.  Eventually I would be on night shift but initially was trained on day shift. Every time I encountered the Nurse I would be working with, I was either ignored or glared at.  After two weeks it finally took a toll and I ended up sitting in my car, crying and wondering what I had done wrong.  I always smiled, had a welcoming posture, and a positive attitude.  I had been warned that many new RNs had been "run off" in Peds, and finally I decided I wasn't going anywhere.  This is where I wanted to be and I had earned a right to try.

As my first shift on nights drew closer, I started giving myself little pep talks by restating that I was going to excel and was NOT going to be run off!

My first official night shift had me so worried that I was trying not to puke.  We received report and as soon as the day shift RN left the unit, this Nurse lit into me.

She said, "New grads have no place being in pediatrics because you have NO experience and you are putting the whole unit at risk by being here!"

I smiled and said, "I understand that I have no experience, which is why I'm so excited to be here, and I hope to learn everything I can to become the best Nurse I can."

She had no retort but continued to have a less than favorable attitude towards me for quite awhile. Later, she even gave me the nickname "hateful heifer," which I'm still not sure if it was a joke or her true perception of me.

After almost 2 years we were moving, and I had the pleasure of orienting a nurse (who had worked there previously) to new changes and procedures.  At the end, she told me how great I was at orienting and thanked me for welcoming her.  That was the best compliment I had ever received and it gave me the confidence I needed while venturing into my next job in a Pediatric Emergency Department.

After 18 months at my new job, I was able to start precepting and it brought me so much joy.  There is no better feeling then seeing others take the knowledge you have given them and watch them grow. I had the privilege of precepting many of the new staff in our unit, and especially the "baby nurses" (new graduates).  I cherish all the hugs and thank yous, and credit it all to the staff that trained and welcomed me!

I truly hope "a change gone come" in the Nursing profession.  Instead of "eating" our young, we will watch proudly as our baby birds soar and excel in a career that we hold so dear.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What a year!

With Carter & Cooper's birthday just under two weeks away, I can't help but reflect on the transformation we've all taken in the last year.

Removing wheat, eggs, and diary from our diet continues to be challenging, but not impossible.  The boys love rice milk, I'm back to my quick shopping trips (although I have to go to 3 different stores), and I've found great products that allow for the boys to feel less excluded when it comes to treats at daycare & birthday parties!  My first few trips to the commissary, I literally spent 2 hours reading every ingredient list.  Now, I shop along the outside and rarely go down the center aisles except for a few items.

I've also been on my own major transformation with a 60lb weight loss over the last 15 months.  This was very apparent while searching for Ball gowns only to find that last year I was a size 18, and this year I'm a size 12!  I still have a 20lbs left, but I promised my MIL that she would have a family picture by my birthday (June)...and I will keep that promise!  I'm very thankful for the first time I lost weight (95lbs back in 2006) using the Biggest Loser Club online, because it was easy to fall right back into the habit of counting my calories.  I also did the Dirty Girl Mud Run in Raleigh with two friends, the Diva Dash in DC with my homie V, and a 5K in October with some awesome people from work.  I just have to keep reminding myself that I can't feed my feelings!

Although I didn't return to school last year, we've updated our goals for the next several years and have a game plan in place.  I was VERY impressed with my skills as a nurse when it came to my re-certifications this time, and have spent the last 8 months being a preceptor for different new hires on our unit.  Although there have been days where I've wanted to pull my hair out in frustration, it gives me an opportunity to re-evaluate each person's needs and find the best way to address them so they can succeed...which in turn makes us a better team.  It has also solidified that I eventually want to teach Nursing School or be a clinical educator.

On a recent trip to Raleigh we took the boys to the Lego store and although they didn't care much about making their own Lego person, I thought it was awesome!  Here she is, radio in hand anxiously chanting, "over 18, over 18..."

I'm trying to stay positive (at work & home) and take it one day at a time.