For My Co-workers…with love

I think about you when I get home at night. I see the ways you impact our patients’ lives and because of that you also greatly impact my own.  Your teamwork and clinical expertise inspire me, your kindness humbles me, and your great compassion often moves me to tears.  There are no words adequate enough to express the gratitude I have in my heart for each of you.

This is what I hear your patients say to you and about you:

  1. “You really care,”
  2. “I wasn’t always easy to be around. You showed me love anyway.”
  3. “I’ll never forget you.”
  4. “This isn’t just a job to you.”
  5. “You make a difference.”
  6. “I know I’m not your only patient, but you make me feel like I am.”
  7. “You explain everything to me in a way I can understand.”
  8. “You really listened to me. I knew something was wrong and you got me what I needed.”
  9. “You made my pain go away.”
  10. “I was scared. More scared than I’ve ever been before. You stayed with me. That made it better.”
  11. “You treat me like a real person, not just a patient. You make me laugh and that helps a lot.”
  12. “You’ll always be family to me.”
  13. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
  14. “I love you.”

The Reason-for Austin

For the past 18 years, my son has found a Hot Wheels car in his stocking every Christmas morning. I don’t think I ever told him why…until now.

As it does for many of us, decorating the Christmas tree and looking at all the ornaments collected through the years brings forth so much nostalgia; there are my favorite handmade ones from my son Austin, old ones from my grade school classmates, ones Austin and I bought on vacations we took together (Mom and I started that tradition many years ago when we’d go on trips), some from my childhood, and many given as gifts by cherished family. There’s one from the wife of a patient who died –she gave it to me as thanks for caring for her husband- and another from the first new nurse I mentored. One of the ornaments I treasure is a hand-blown glass angel from Copenhagen. Mom took me there when I was a teenager and we bought matching angels. Some years later, when I moved out on my own, my mother packed up all the ornaments she’d collected for me through the years so that I could have them for my own tree. Despite her careful and gentle packaging, I somehow managed to break off the tip of one wing. For years, I’d position her on the tree so that no one could see the flaw. As I got older, that changed. The beautiful angel now takes her place front and center on the tree and is a reminder that sometimes we are stronger because our wings are a little broken.

But back to the point- I’m always painfully slow getting to one… thinking about Christmas brought me back to the one when Austin had just turned four. We went to the mall to have his picture taken with Santa. It seemed as if we were in line forever, his warm little hand in mine, and I wondered if he’d be ok sitting on Santa’s knee by himself-historically, that had not been the case! He did it, photos were successfully snapped, and he ran back to me afterwards with a big proud grin.

As he gave me a huge hug, I asked him what he told Santa he wanted for Christmas. He said in the earnest way only small children do, “A hot wheels car, a blue cereal bowl…and earrings for you, Mommy.” The look of pure joy on his face when there were earrings for his Mom Christmas morning was unforgettable. The blue cereal bowl, too cracked by now for use, is carefully tucked away, there has been a Hot Wheels car in his stocking every year since, and he still has the same unselfish spirit he had when he was a young boy.broken-wings

Please don’t ask me to cut my hair


Beauty is something we women obsess over, cry about, and feel that we can never achieve. Because of our own insecurities, we find ourselves inadvertently bringing other women down with us, thereby fulfilling the old saying, “Misery loves company.” This is not an intentional act, but rather something that has been handed down to us from generation to generation. It is way past time to stop. We have been programmed since early childhood to “know” what a beautiful woman looks like. Madison Avenue tells us she should be tall, very thin, have long legs, porcelain skin, etc. The message is that women who look like this will be desired by all and will achieve ultimate happiness and women who don’t are out of luck.

Here’s the deal…We all want to be happy and we all want to be desired. How many of us as very little girls twirled in our dresses wanting to be seen as beautiful? How many of us pretended we were a princess waiting for our Prince Charming? How many of us fantasized that we were the heroine of a story… beautiful, strong, and irreplaceable? I think the answer is that a lot of us did. So despite having grown into rational, clear-thinking adults, we are still influenced by past perceptions and hurts. Perhaps our fathers called us plain, or our brothers criticized our choice of dress. Maybe we were teased in school for being the ‘ugly duckling’. Our mothers may have been critical of our bodies, pushing us to lose weight for our “own good” so that we could “be happy.” Every woman has at least one story to tell, and most of us have several that have stuck with us for many years, and can still bring tears to our eyes.

We work toward achieving the image of beauty that has been burned into our minds and our very psyche, constantly striving and continually disappointed. Some of us live in despair knowing we will never obtain the perfection we are looking for, while others are just as frustrated seeing how close they are and thinking, “If I could just do a little more, then I would be happy.” Have you ever been witness to a conversation between two women who are good friends? Often it turns to the dissatisfaction over their bodies. You will hear one saying, “I only ate 500 calories all day yesterday, and I worked out for three straight hours.” The other will nod in commiseration, saying, “If I could just lose five more pounds, life would be good.”On and on this goes, as they discuss their self-hatred. It is such a sad thing to witness, and I certainly have been guilty of this same behavior. These are women who truly care about each other, yet instead of lifting each other up, they bring each other down in their battle for perfection. Certainly this is not what our Creator wants for us. He has decorated the world with His beauty:

Psa 93:1 The Lord hath reigned, he is clothed with beauty:

Surely He has made us beautiful as well.

Psa 45:2 (45:3) Thou art beautiful above the sons of men: grace is poured abroad in thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee forever.

We spend countless hours and not an insignificant amount of money viewing information to make us feel bad about the way that we look. We watch TV shows and read magazines that tell us how we should dress, i.e. make your hips look smaller if you are pear-shaped or fuller if you are an apple shape (why is it ok with us to be compared to fruit?), dress to minimize your derriere or maximize it if it is too small, hide your full bust or enhance your small breasts, etc. In short, the message is that we should all strive for the same “perfect” body. Why should all women try to look the same? It seems we should rejoice in our diversity, each of us recognizing our own beauty that is a gift from God.

Women with pure intentions give their friends the same advice that they themselves have received from other women. They desire the best for their friends and want them to be happy, so they advise their friends on how to dress, on how to wear their hair (hence the reason for the title), and on how to do their make-up. Often, this advice, though it is given with love, has the opposite effect from what was intended. Instead of making us feel better about how we look, we feel worse knowing we have failed miserably in the area of “beauty.”

I have long hair; I like it that way and intend to keep it long. End of story. I have received numerous negative and unsolicited comments about my hair from other women, some who love me and some who don’t. Here are a few:

“Your hair is long.” My reply is usually, “Yes, it’s long.”

“Your hair is too long.” “What is the right length?”

“You should cut your hair.” “Why?” “Because it is too long.” See above.

“You would look better with short hair.” “Really?”

“Your hair is long. Are you gonna donate it to Locks of Love?” “No, I think I’ll keep it.”

And my all-time favorite (usually said with a self-righteous smirk), “You know, after a certain age, women should not wear their hair long.” “Who says?”

There has never once been a man who has advised me to cut my hair.

Why do we women do this to each other? It is a spirit of unrest, which does not come from our Father. There are always two forces at work, and Satan tries to destroy us by creating our fears and then preying upon them as he did with Eve. Life is brought forth from God through us when we give birth; Satan can bring only death. Isn’t it clear why he hates us? He is the one who brings us fear. In the Bible, whenever angels appeared to men, the first words they uttered were, “Fear not.” Instructions regarding fear are present in the Gospels as well, these being just two examples:

Luk 1:74 That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve Him without fear;

Luk 12:32 Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.

Mankind is drawn to beauty and through it we get glimpses of God’s glory. Who has not had his or her breath taken away by an awesome sunset where the sky is painted with deep shades of purple, pink, red, and orange? I believe that God created woman to be beautiful for men to be drawn to Him through her beauty. So, of course Satan will try to make us feel that we don’t have beauty. He certainly wants to keep man from moving towards God.

We have received instruction regarding concerns that we are ‘not enough,’ whether it be not smart enough, beautiful enough, or so on.

Mat 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. Mat 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Mat 10:31 Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows.

I think of women I have been around, some of whom are from cultures different from my own, who are able to see the beauty (outward and inward) that they and their friends possess; they are a joy to be with because they are relaxed and at peace. Instead of striving in discontent, they have happiness which shines from their souls reaching their countenances. They enjoy each other simply for who they are rather than sharing unhappiness and personal dissatisfaction. How refreshing! Have you ever met someone who, at first glance, is not physically attractive, but once you got to know that person, you viewed them as gorgeous? And conversely, someone with great physical beauty that became completely unattractive once their spirit was revealed? Let us all stop the striving for the cookie-cutter beauty that Hollywood dictates we must achieve, and recognize the gifts that God has given us. Oh…and please don’t ask me to cut my hair.





The Eyes Have It-for Hank

Yesterday was my brother Hank’s birthday; driving to his home and looking forward to the celebration, I thought of some of the many things I love, admire, and respect about him…his love for his family, his integrity, his talent for great story-telling, his strong work ethic, his protectiveness (sometimes having to go so far as to privately tell us hard truths we don’t want to hear to protect us from ourselves- that takes a lot of courage). I want to be a better person because of him.

If someone were to ask me what my one very favorite thing is about Hank though, I’d have to say that it’s his eye rolls, and as his wife Claudia says, the degrees of those eye rolls!

The first is the story-telling eye roll. We love how it adds emphasis to an already funny tale! The second is the’ I’m-mildly-exasperated’ eye roll done with great exaggeration; the more irritated he is, the more pronounced it becomes. The third is the least common and rarely seen. It’s the ‘that’s-without-a-doubt-the-most-ridiculous-thing-I’ve-ever-heard’ eye roll and it’s to be taken seriously.

Hank is a kind man with a gentle spirit who has been married for years to the love of his life; they have two wonderful children. He grew up with three sisters and inherited another when his dad married my mom. He is quite patient with us all and we know he loves us. That being said, I think there’s not a one among us who hasn’t been the cause of an eye roll from time to time.

I love all the types of eye rolling, and this is why: his stories are so animated and his facial expressions make me laugh that much harder. The exasperated eye roll makes me turn my head away to smile (don’t tell him, but it’s really funny!) I always have to bite my lip hard to keep from giggling. The serious eye roll is the one I appreciate the most. As someone who tends to make things bigger and more dramatic in my mind than they really are, having a brother who loves me enough to let me know when I’m off track is just what I need most- I hope he knows that and keeps those eye rolls coming!

The Power of Hope- On Racism

Among those I admire most are people who are unafraid to have their voices heard; I’ve always longed for the courage to be one.

Recently a friend and I were talking about racism. Her parents were an interracial couple who married in the 70’s and lived in the Deep South, her mother Caucasian and her father African-American. It is difficult to imagine the prejudices they faced daily as they raised their four children. My friend’s parents shielded them from much of the hatred but they couldn’t escape it entirely as their mother was shunned by some of her family members. Their father’s family was completely accepting of them.

My friend and I each have a child, hers a teen-aged daughter and mine a son who will very soon turn 21 (yikes!) Our children have friends of different ethnicities and do not see “color” in the same way that we were shown through either direct teaching or observed behavior. They give us hope that one day racism may not exist. When my son was in high school and talked about new friends he’d made, I never knew what color their skin was until I met them, and I loved that.

As she and I talked that day, I said the words I’d never spoken out loud before: “My dad was a racist.”

Is it guilt, shame, or a sense of betraying my own father that makes those words so hard to say? He’s no longer here and cannot defend himself. I never asked him why he held the views he did and suspect that he just couldn’t move past what was taught to him. Hatred is a heavy anchor to be chained to and it drowns any happiness that comes along. I think Dad found peace near the end of his life and I’m so thankful.

Some of the negative reviews for Go Set A Watchman: A Novel are reflective of how we feel when someone we once looked up to lets us down: ‘I hated it!’ ‘Don’t read it! Read the other one instead!’ ‘How could Atticus act that way?’ ‘What an awful story!’ It’s not an awful book or even an awful story. Lee’s writing is descriptive and easy to read; the reader gets to know the characters and is able to visualize the settings, just like in To Kill A Mockingbird. All these years, Atticus Finch has been our hero- we loved him and loved Scout for being a part of him. In Watchman, we see the grown-up Jean Louise’s disappointment when she finds Atticus upholding laws that were in place even though they were wrong. Her hero is a human who has faults…that means she is too.

When I was a very young girl, Dad was overseas a lot working as a consultant for an oil company and was gone for weeks at a time. Mom and I often travelled to wherever he was working, but when I started school those trips were limited. When Dad would come home, there was no greater joy! I wanted to spend all my time with him…we went on walks and drives together, had our “cocktail hour” every night (his was bourbon and mine was coke), and he told me stories about when he was young while showing me the places he’d been on our lighted spinning world globe.

I was nine when I first became conscious of Dad’s saying the n-word and he said it often. Though I didn’t fully understand the implications of that word, I felt sad every time I heard it because it was uttered with such hatred. How could my dad hate anyone? Why did he hate people because their skin color was different than ours? I don’t know what else was going on in my dad’s life around that time, but I was definitely aware that my parents’ marriage was dissolving quickly. I wanted Dad to be happy and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t make that happen.

It was three years later when my parents divorced and my father quickly remarried. Two years after that, he had another daughter. By that time, my mom had remarried as well and was happier. Throughout my teen years, Dad and I stayed in touch and continued to spend time together, albeit rather sporadically and sometimes at my mother’s urging. I’d become someone he didn’t like very much who no longer sought his approval. He liked young women who were thin, pretty, and agreeable- I was none of those and he voiced his disappointment.

We still took trips together, mostly to my grandparents’ farm. It was during one of those trips that we had a heated argument about the Civil Rights movement; Dad always placed high value on education, and every time we were together he wanted to know what we were studying in school. He asked what I thought about it. I told him that the Ku Klux Klan was a group of cowardly monsters so afraid of showing their faces that they had to cover themselves with sheets, and that they were wrong to persecute and kill others. Dad had a completely different view and was furious over mine. He never asked for my opinion after that, nor did I ever ask for his. As years went by, he tried the best he could to maintain our relationship. My own effort wasn’t as strong as his- that’s something I have to live with.

There were some good times though. Dad had a dry sense of humor and could come up with the funniest one-liners. He loved to sketch cartoon characters with hilarious captions on paper napkins. He was an innovative thinker with a brilliant mind who was an avid reader; we shared the love of reading- many of the books I have in my home today were gifts from him.

Even as I was not the daughter he’d hoped I’d be, we attained a sort of reconciliation with each other during the last several years of his life. Secrets he had kept for most of his life were exposed, he got to know the son he had fathered years before, and he was relieved of the burden of living a lie. Joy, love, and acceptance began to seep into his heart leaving less room for bitterness and fear.

I was with Dad when he took his last breath and was blessed with the gift of time to be able to tell him that he was loved, to thank him for all he had done for me, and to let him know it was okay to go.

Throughout history, each generation has complained about the one that follows- “Kids today don’t know how good they have it. They don’t have any respect. They don’t know the value of hard work. They listen to devil music. They don’t know how to dress. In my day…”-blah, blah blah. Our parents complained about us, and their parents complained about them. Everyone has their faults. What I see with my son’s generation is hope. I see young people speaking out against bigotry. I see college athletes, knowing they are role models for young children, publicly giving glory to God. I see love. Will they make mistakes? Yes, plenty- haven’t we?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.




When I finished paying bills today, I cried. Undoubtedly, this was not the first time in history paying bills has made someone cry, but these were different tears. They were tears of joy and thanksgiving.

Years ago when my son was little, his father and I separated then divorced. Expenses that I had not incurred became ones that were my responsibility; I was fearful of not being able to provide for my son and too prideful and ashamed to tell anyone of my struggles. At the same time, though, I was so grateful holding that sweet baby in my arms, knowing how blessed I was to have that special love!

At first, things were a juggling act…making partial payments to utility companies, paying with one card to make a payment on another… all things many of us have faced at times. Gradually things became better, and I remember clearly the day I’d paid ALL the bills and saw I still had money in my account. It was five dollars, and I was so excited! That was THE day I knew we would be okay. Five dollars between paychecks became a little more every time, and about a year later, I bought a blue portable stereo/cassette player from K-mart. It was the first non-essential purchase I’d made in a long time, and I felt really guilty until I saw how much my toddler loved “dancing” to the music and hearing me sing to him… that was back when he enjoyed my singing, and those days were short-lived! Understandably. I really can’t sing… or rather shouldn’t

Though I’ll never be rich in the material sense and there probably will be times again that may not be easy, today my son and I have everything we need, I was able to pay bills and have a little money left over, I have a job I like, a car to drive, and a house to live in. Most importantly, I have a few close friends, family I love who love me back, and great coworkers- riches I certainly don’t deserve but do appreciate. I thank God for that every day.

The Point

(There really is one; I’m just always painfully slow getting to it whether the communication is written or verbal. My friends, family, and boss can attest to that. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by very patient people!)

For those who are struggling, and there are so many, please hang in there and persevere. We develop our strengths the most when we are at our weakest; tough times really don’t last forever.

What You Know

Fear grabbed her heart as tightly and quickly as the paws of a bear when it has finally caught its prey. Her chest hurt while her pulse raced and she struggled to catch her breath, knowing each one might be the last she took in this world. A cold sweat claimed her skin as its own and she struggled against the urge to scream. Thoughts of regret raced through her mind as she wished she had more time to make things right.
Sounds like the middle of a B-rated horror movie, but no. This was the trip to the grocery store yesterday. Instead of occurring in some dark wooded area with the audible heavy footsteps of a rapidly approaching, crazed, one-eyed killer with a chainsaw, this little pathetic scene took place in the produce section on an ordinary Tuesday. Like mushrooms in a garden after heavy rains, my ugly anxiety appears suddenly, without warning, and in the oddest and most mundane places.
As I forced myself to continue the shopping (mainly since I’d run out of cat food and my cat, who is temperamental under the best circumstances, gets really aggressive when he even thinks he is hungry), the anxiety continued. I kept trying to talk myself down- not aloud, just in my head, since I already felt crazy enough at the time- saying “Don’t be stupid, get a grip, you’re ridiculous,” and whatever other ‘soothing’ bits of wisdom I could drum up. Yes, simultaneously I could hear Dr. Phil in my head too, asking, “How’s that working for ya?” Obviously, not too freakin’ well, Dr. Phil, but in the midst of a full-blown panic attack, it’s a bit difficult to change strategies! It didn’t help that there were only two checkout lanes open after I’d somehow managed to get everything on my list (thank goodness for lists!)… or that the two lanes open were both for 20 items or less… or that there was an obnoxious woman with a cell phone glued to her ear, loudly arguing over each item the cashier scanned and demanding to see the manager once every minute when the item didn’t ring up ‘on sale’ despite the fact she had last week’s circular in her hand. I made it home, finally, without the world ending, where the panic attack at last stopped, the chest pain subsided, and my breathing returned to normal.
Tips for writers often including writing about what you know. Anxiety is what I know. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a real phenomenon that affects some of us. There are well-intentioned people who try to help by saying, “Calm down. Don’t be anxious.” We would if we were able. It’s more helpful just to be with the person. Sometimes these crazy attacks just need to run their course.

Murder of a Too-some

Too old, too fat, too slow, too stupid, too weak, too ugly, too boring- these are the words I say constantly when thinking of ways to stop myself from achieving what I want. Just typing this now, I see in black and white what an ugly word ‘too’ is, and realize it’s time to eliminate that word from the sometimes scary place I call my mind.
Two (haha, not too!) days ago, I started back with training rides on my bike. Having used my bike for commuting to and from work for the past six months, I’d gotten away from cycling on my days off and the lack of training shows. This time last year, going for a 25 mile ride was a fairly easy way to get the blood pumping and the muscles warmed up; now going for an hour ride is a HUGE workout.
A side note- the triple digit heat index may have a little to do with it. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway!
I’ve also allowed myself to get away from writing, but that’s stopping right now and within the year, I will be writing about my first century ride.
So Miss Too, you’ve taken up TOO much space in my heart and head for way TOO long. Off you go and you won’t be missed. I’m replacing you with One. One mile, one goal, one step, one smile, one word at a time…

The Cat’s in the Cradle

That darn song gets to me every time I hear it…

I’ve worked at my job for 23 years now; it would take less than two weeks to replace me. That’s pretty humbling.

As a lot of us do, I started out in my 20’s ready to become the best nurse ever and with haughty dreams of changing the world. My career was very important and I was ready to learn as much as I could as quickly as possible. In my early 30’s, I felt like I was the best nurse I could be, had ‘seen it all’, was valued and valuable, and was changing the world… or at least my little corner of it. Work was the highest priority.

In my mid- and late 30’s, time spent at the ball park with my son was way more important than work. Throwing a baseball, sweating profusely, the taste of stale hotdogs, and the smell of red dirt ranked much higher than starting IVs and performing endless physical assessments. Playing board games was priceless. Even as a teenager, my son still enjoys having a ‘family game night’ now and then. We have a close relationship, and I thank God for that every day.

As much as I invested in my son, I neglected spending time with extended family. Nieces, nephews, siblings, and parents were ignored by means of physical distance, emotional separation, and perceived lack of time. There were some visits but not often enough. Birthdays were missed, as were graduations, weddings, and many holidays. I grew apart from my family, always declining invitations then feeling sad when they were no longer offered and it seemed I was forgotten. It took a crisis several months ago to make me realize finally the importance of family.

Now in my 40’s, my job is something I do for three 12 hour shifts a week and the occasional meeting or conference. Though I work hard for my patients when I’m there, I don’t look to change the world of nursing and being a nurse no longer defines me. I’d rather define myself as a mom, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. It’s challenging to make a re-entry into the family I put in last place for so long, and I wonder sometimes if it’s even possible or if it’s too late. I pray that God guides me so that I can continue to give love without coming on too strong (I have a history of doing that!) His way is so much better than ours.

Writing and Roles

I decided to write a short story. My head is filled with ideas, but I’m struggling to get it written. Writing gives us the opportunity to become the hero/heroine we’ve always longed to be in real life… will my character be seen as brave or will she be deemed a coward? Will she be likeable or will she be boring and lifeless? Will the reader pull for her to succeed? Will they care? And then there’s the writing itself…what if it’s awful? What if the whole thing is a dud? What happens then?

Thinking about family today, I wonder how our roles define us and when those roles become assigned. Are we assigned the roles when our individual personalities emerge or do our personalities develop into a predetermined role? (Is anyone else tiring of all the questions in this post?)

In a lot of families, there are the following roles played out: the smart one, the hard worker, the trouble maker, the funny one, the logical one, the brave one, the generous one, the sweet one, the good one… Not being top of my class or particularly driven toward success, I have at some points in my life fallen into the role of the “sweet” one- it could have been worse, though it seems to be terribly mistaken. Ask my coworkers! There may be a hint of sweetness there, but it’s mixed with a hefty dose of passive-aggressiveness, bluntness, and an awful stubborn streak.

Perhaps the character I’m developing in the story reflects the roles defined by my family or the roles I define for myself. Maybe the anxiety I feel about writing the story reflects my fears of people seeing the “real” me.

Typing all these questions has led me to the decision to just go for it (as my son would do) and see what happens. It’s time to be the “brave” one.