Living in-between

I am an October girl – born and raised.  With a birthday two days before Halloween it’s no wonder the color orange makes me oh-so-happy.  I love all things autumn!  Raindrops.  The rustle of fallen leaves underfoot.  Crisp, cool weather.  Butternut squash soup.  Football games and hot chocolate.  The smell of wood burning in the fireplace (forgive me global warming).  Pumpkins.  Cozy sweaters and riding boots.

I’m waiting for these summer temperatures to take their leave.  #ohsoimpatiently

I’m lost somewhere between the fun times of summer and the cozy wonder of fall. I must admit this “in between” time makes me a little cranky.  I’m even envious of those of you who live in spaces that have crossed over into fall.  I’m sorry summer girls – I love my cool temps more than a dip in the pool.  I’ve done been ready to trade in my flip flops for my riding boots now for weeks.  I’m a bit pitiful – checking my weather app every morning. I was ecstatic to see 81 degrees for a high this coming Saturday.  What will I do with myself until I see 65 degree goodness?

One of my kindred spirits inquired yesterday, “How are you, Cindy? For real?”  My honest answer – autopilot.  Autopilot seems to be steering this ship.  Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing extraordinary.  I realized my soul is in a holding pattern.

I am waiting to find out if I get accepted to graduate school.  Will they let me know via email since it’s an online program?  Or do they send the tried and true letter in the mail?  Every afternoon – there is a rise in my level of anticipation.  #pleasemrpostman  We are eagerly waiting to schedule the date for IVF.  We thought that would happen in August.  We keep running into obstacles.  We are now looking at dates in late November or early December.  Will there be more hoops to jump through?  More obstacles to tear down?  It all seems so out of our control.  Some days I’m okay with that.  Others not so much.  I am putting finishing touches on my book to be published.  Yay, I think.  How long can finishing touches take?  It seems like years at this point.  Each week I make progress.  And finally, I’m trying to decide whether or not to change jobs while all of these other major life events are about to happen.  I’ve been offered a new full-time job but my heart would rather stay where the certainty of what is known feels safer right now.  Unfortunately, my current job is per diem – which means full-time is not guaranteed.  I’m working full time at the moment but in August I was put on-call more than I worked.  What to do, what to do?   So, that’s how I’m doing.  Caught in the in-betweens.  Feeling hopeful but not wanting to get my hopes to high – in case of disappointment.

What is a girl to do with all this in-between time?  In the last two days, I’ve had some candid conversations with trusted girlfriends.  They happen to living in-between, too.  One dear friend acknowledged that she feels all swirly and disoriented.  Another confessed that she’s relying heavily upon distractions.  They both asked what would be the Less Drama way???

Here’s what we have deciphered so far.  I’m sure there is more learning for us in these times but I thought I’d let you in on what we know so far:

Be gentle and kind with our self.  Take extra good care.  Eat right.  Get enough sleep.  Be active.  Be real.  We will feel swirly and disoriented at times – don’t allow these feelings to capture us.  Don’t candy coat our emotions.  Don’t dwell in the negative spaces – worrying about what might go wrong or what might not happen doesn’t get us where we want to be. Rest.  Deep breaths are our friend.  Lean on others for hope when ours wavers (Brad is my hope bearer).  Trust God.  Believe in future goodness.  Know that we have experience to weather storms.  We can call one foot forward and two steps back – the Cha Cha.  Know that we are not in control – be okay with that.  Distractions are okay as long as they don’t get out of hand.  Downtime helps.  Girlfriend time is essential.  Remember that the “in-between” has lessons for us, too.  Look forward but don’t wish away these moments – there is joy to be had here, too.  In-between is not forever.

We have choices!

That’s what we know.  That’s how we are going to proceed.  We look forward with hopeful anticipation.  We trust in our futures.  We believe in goodness.  Living life in the in-between.

Trusting this space,
Cindy

Travel light

Originally written January 26, 2012

”Travel light in life.  Take only what you need:  a loving family, good friends, simple pleasures, someone to love, and someone to love you: something to eat, enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink for thirst is a dangerous thing.”
~ Author Unknown

What weighs you down? How’s that for a start?  Oh my.

I’ve decided that being in over my head tops the list for me. It became crystal clear a couple of weeks ago at work. I had the kind of Monday where everything just kept piling on.  What sent me over the edge was that feeling that I might be in over my head.

I started the morning off with a good dose of “everything that can go wrong, did.”  I went to give an IV medication to one of my patients and his IV was missing.  There was no sign of it ~ lost without a trace. The nurse that gave me report said it was in his left hand.  Nope, not in his left hand!  One of the doctors wrote an order in the chart for one of my patients to have a procedure and the patient was to supposed to have nothing to eat or drink until the procedure.  Well, the doctor left the chart in the physician’s office and the order didn’t get entered into the system.  I walked into the patient’s room and she had just ate a hearty breakfast. Argh!  I ventured to the med room to get a certain medication and found out that it was unavailable on our unit, so I had the pleasure of visiting other units ~ a scavenger hunt of sorts with a race to beat the clock for added fun.  Who decided Murphy should have a law, anyway?

I kept trying my best to rise above and not let the circumstances weigh me down. At one point, I was talking on the phone to lab, and the unit secretary and dietary aide were asking me questions simultaneously, and a case manager walked up to me and told me that patient # 3 was being discharged to her skilled nursing facility in five minutes.  That would have been helpful information thirty minutes ago.  “You want me to make that happen right now?”  I kept stating my mantra, “I am only one person” but no one seemed to be listening.  I must have missed the memo to wear my Wonder Woman scrubs and pack my special powers for work that day.  The “pile” got heavier with two more patients admitted…THEN I received a patient that was an ICU downgrade that had a heart rate in the 180’s (normal is 60-100).   That sunk my battleship.  “Oh dear…God, please help.” I couldn’t find my lead nurse because she was busy with other urgent needs.  I felt like I was drowning and the tears started flowing freely.  I wasn’t thinking as clearly as the moment called for because I had been running a non-stop marathon for 9 hours without proper nourishment or breaks.  At least, I had the sense to ask for help and my tears seemed to indicate urgency.  Thank goodness Ester came to my rescue (she is one of our most experienced nurses).  She helped me critically think through my patient’s current circumstance.  Then, she helped review my patient’s orders. That took her another two hours of her time.  Then, Ellie (angel #2 on the scene) took care of a complicated discharge for one of my patients that also took two hours.  I finally said “NO” to one more admission because I didn’t have the bandwidth to safely care for yet another new patient.  7:30pm came and went and I ended my day an hour late.  I was worn down. Spent.  My shoulders and neck carried all that weight of the day.  I was in serious need of the Calgon fairy.  At least, I walked away with some satisfaction.  My workload was such that I had “employed” the help of two other nurses to get the job done. It was too much for me to carry.  A day from the chronicles of “h.e.double toothpicks.”

When the weight of the world comes crashing down – Are you a go-it-alone girl or an ask-for-help kind of gal?  I get that we all want to be responsible and carry our own load.  But often, I think we need help with portion control.  As women and talented multi-taskers, we tend to keep heaping loads onto our proverbial plates.  Of course, at work I don’t always have a say, but in my personal life I certainly have the choice to say yes or no.  I believe we tend to say yes more often than we should and we don’t exercise a healthy “no” often enough.   We take on too much by ourselves.  We think we can do it all or we will keel over trying. We all have competing responsibilities, desires and agendas coming from different directions.  We carry it all – not always in stride.  What’s a girl to do?

Tips for traveling light:
#1 Traveling light is a state of mind.
#2 Choose to leave some stuff behind.
#3 Intentionally create a packing list – take only what we truly need.
#4 “Easy-care” instructions are a must.

Let’s make a pact to travel lighter.  I hope you will join me by intentionally creating our packing list.  I expect the things I carry in my backpack will come in handy the next time I’m weighted down at work.   I’ve decided to step out in grace and confidence and share my lists with you. Will you share yours?

Learning to travel light,
Cindy

Powerful Questions to Ponder:
What weighs you down?  How much does it weigh?
Could you give it a weight in pounds?
What do you need to leave behind?
What are you tired of carrying?
When do you need to ask for some help?
What lightens your load?
What benefits would a life of traveling light hold for you?
What’s in your backpack?
What are your essentials?
What are your special care instructions?

What weighs Cindy down?
rushing, being in over my head and not having help available, discord, feeling disconnected, not having enough time to get it ALL done, being late, making mistakes when I know better, an “unexplained silence” from a friend, ineffective people, and clutter.

What lightens Cindy’s load?
a listening ear, a good book, fresh flowers, a glass of ice cold water, a walk outside, a day at the ocean, snowflakes falling, rainy days, nature “singing”, prayer, hope, faith, girlfriends, a hug, a smile, a helping hand, words of encouragement, laughter with my happily-ever-after, spending time with family (especially my nieces and nephews).

What’s in Cindy’s “back pack”?
the communities I’ve been apart of, my Oak Street House family, Miss Cindy’s kids across the USA, bible verses, the love of Bradford Lee Steele, memories of games played with my family, memories of brad’s 50th birthday party, the ocean, memories with my grandparents, my iPad, my girlfriends, a cozy blanket, my Less Drama Queens, daisies, my orange chucks, my memories of New Hampshire, St. Simon’s Island and the Florida Keys.

Cindy’s Special Care Instructions:
Let her grow.  Let her make mistakes ~ she learns well.  She likes to give and doesn’t mind being on the receiving end. She needs hugs daily.  Fresh flowers make her smile.  Have lots of warm, cozy blankets to comfort her.  Her thread bare Old Navy blue hoodie holds lots of warm memories – don’t ever throw it away.  Give her words to play with.  Variety is her friend.  She loves to be snuggled.  Laughter is a must.  She loves pjs, dogs and rainy days.  Girlfriend time is oh-so important.  Talks with Brad fill her up.  She needs downtime.  She doesn’t like rushing, especially in the morning.  Take her to the ocean often.  Orange is her signature color.  A glass of Pinot Grigio or Passion Iced Tea provides refreshment.  She thinks painted toes are fun year round.  Chocolate chip cookies for breakfast are her favorite and will brighten any day that gets off to a rough start.

Hello confidence

From the Archives: August 26, 2010

“…And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
~ Lee Ann Womack

She’s six years old and she’s got game.  I’m watching with bated breath from across the pool.  She’s climbing higher and higher – up she goes calculating each foot placement as if she’s rock-climbing Mt. Rainier. The lifeguard watches in amazement – she’s a tiny little thing – weighing all of 42 pounds soaking wet. He asks with a bit of trepidation, “Is she afraid of anything?”  I’m shaking my head, “I don’t think so.”  She reaches the top, smiles a proud smile and whoosh she lands in the pool.  She’s out of the pool lickety split and back in line.  She’s doing a happy dance with an invisible hula-hoop and singing “Aunt Cindy, did you see me?  I did it. I did it!  Look at me – I climbed to the top.  Woohoo.  I’m so great.  I did it!”

My heart sang for my niece, Cady.  I was all smiles.  I thought, “Wow! Now that is confidence in its purest form.”  How could I capture that confidence? There must be a way to protect that in her.  Cady’s happy dance was an inspiration.  She’s full of life.  She knows what she wants and goes for it undaunted.  She’s not afraid of looking silly or patting herself on the back in public.  She did a good job and she was happy about it.  She didn’t wait around to see what the rest of her world thought about her accomplishment.  She just celebrated out in the open for all to see.   How beautiful is that?

I think we all know when we’ve done a great job.  I’d be willing to guess we all know the happy dance…unfortunately somewhere along the road we learned we shouldn’t celebrate out loud in front of everyone.  What will people think?  We might look conceited or full of our selves.  Someone might not agree a celebration is in order.  I’m guessing the happy dance we do is not on the dance floor of life – it’s done in the privacy of our heart or within the confines of our walk-in closet…or just maybe we misplaced our confidence or worse yet had it stolen through life experiences and the happy dance is no longer in our repertoire.  This saddens me – all “grown up” and afraid to do the happy dance.  I dare us to be six again.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see our “fellow” girlfriends celebrating life and accomplishments out loud with a happy dance for all the world to see?   I can envision it now.  The happy dance becomes happenstance in the market, at the gym, and down the hallway at work.  The next time we have an accomplishment, big or small, I dare us to change our “grown up” perspective and have the freedom and the confidence of a six year old to exuberantly do the happy dance and sing out loud, “Did you see me?  I did it. I did it!  Look at me – I climbed to the top.  Woohoo.  I’m so great.  I did it!”  Let’s get the word out – if Cady can do it unabashedly, why can’t we? 

I hope you dance,
Cindy

P.S.  I missed you all!  It was good to be with family and make some fun memories – like the one I just shared.  I’m now in the throes of the last semester of my RN program, trying real hard to keep Cady’s perspective.  

At the water’s edge

From the Archives: March 26, 2012

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~ Maya Angelou, Poet


The waves crash. The sea churns. There’s no imitation sea foam here. The storm has rolled in. The rain patters against our windows. We sit and wait with bated breath for bigger breakers to send spray up into the air as they dash themselves against the rocks.  The bigger the better. The show is spectacular!

I love a good storm – literally speaking. I’m not a big fan of the figurative kind. I grew up in South Florida where thunder boomers were a daily occurrence every summer – you could count on one to rise up each afternoon at 3pm. I lived in the lightning capital of the world for 10 years – Tampa Bay. Talk about light shows – Wow!  San Francisco would throw quite the winter thunderstorm.  It’s howling winds would wake me up from a sound sleep. I admit storms like this bring pure joy instead of trepidation. Give me a storm that rages on the outside and I feel all warm and cozy on the inside. The same can’t be said for my step mom, Diane. Storms terrify her. I still remember the thunder and lightning storms in New Hampshire that would send her over the edge. My dad and I would open up all the curtains and doors in the house for a front row seat and poor Diane would tremble in fear – hoping and praying that we would close everything up tight as a turtle in her shell.  She’s probably shaking her head as she reads this and is thinking “Did she really need to share that with the world?”  Don’t worry, Diane – my audience isn’t world wide – yet!

Isn’t it funny (in the uncanny sense not the haha sense) how one thing can bring fear and trembling to one and security and safety to another? You should see the different things that invoke fear in Blitz and Giggles. Blitz and Giggles are our chocolate retrievers. Blitz gets anxious when we set out on a drive while Giggles snuggles in for the ride ahead. Giggles is afraid of heights or anything that makes her think she is way up high. Blitz is always trying to climb up on top of things to see the world. We first noticed Giggles’ fear in Yosemite one day as we were crossing a wooden slatted bridge – you could see the river below sloshing onward. She crouched down low under Brad’s wheelchair shaking in terror.  Giggles’ safe place has always been under Brad’s wheelchair.  Any time she’s afraid – she runs for the protection of her daddy and plants herself safely under his chair. You should have seen her this morning. I took her out for a walk and there was a storm drain in the middle of the parking lot – you could see way down through the grates. She put her brakes on. She was not going anywhere near that drain. Of course, it took me a little while to figure out what was spooking her. When we left the hotel room later in the morning with Brad – guess where she “weathered” her fear of the storm drain? Yep, she crouched under Brad’s chair until she was a safe distance from the drain. I love that even dogs have their safe place.

Do you have a safe place from the “storms” of life?  I do. It’s at the water’s edge.

It’s where I run for cover – my refuge. I find tranquility from the storms that rage within. It is my safe place. Whenever I get stressed out just thinking about the water’s edge brings peace. I imagine the water washing over me, taking my worry out to sea.  If I can get to the water’s edge – be it the ocean, a lake, river or stream – a sense of calm always comes rushing in. Clarity comes quicker. The vast ocean gives me perspective. It brings me back to my core, back to my center. It’s where I meet with God. My true sense of self is restored. The water’s edge seems to set my world back in order.   I think that’s why I haven’t totally settled into Springville in the four+ years we lived there. It just might be too far away from my safe place.

Many of my treasured memories of security and comfort are all found at the water’s
edge. The sound of halyards wooing me to sleep on the sailboat in the Bahamas; a 9-year old Cindy soaring from the bow of my granddad’s boat named the Helyon in the Florida Keys; endless tubing trips down the Pemigewasset river in college; praying at the water’s edge and seeing dolphins come out to play along the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater, Florida; Kerstin and I driving down to East Beach when we lived on St. Simon’s Island at night to hear the waves lapping the coast – a lullaby to our soul; “surprise” vistas of the San Francisco Bay as I traversed my beloved city; and getting married at the water’s edge in Carmel-by-the-Sea to my Ferd Lee.

Oh to be in my safe place (I’m in Monterey this week – yay!). Oh to envision my safe place. Contentment replaces worry. Peace silences fear. Comfort rushes in and takes over my unsettled heart. I’m at home and safe at the water’s edge. Lisa, my coach, and I have discussed this at length over the last year especially while I’ve encountered new struggles while trying to become a competent registered nurse. There have been days when I urgently needed my safe place. The coast may be 200 miles away from Adventist Medical Center but I can bring it close by taking a moment to imagine myself there. Oh, the power of our imagination.

Here’s one of the simple exercises Lisa and I came up with to help me reach my safe place in the midst of the storms of stress that come my way at work. When the storm comes upon me, I am supposed to take a moment and go get a cool cup of ice water. Then I’m supposed to drink it slowly taking deep breaths between each sip. It’s amazing how instantly the transformation begins to take place as the cool water “pours over me”.  Centering takes place. The challenge for me is recognizing that a storm is upon me and then trusting the process and taking that moment to get the cup o’ aqua. When I do, comfort finds me.

Thank you for letting me share my safe place with you. Take a moment or two this week and contemplate your safe place. Where is it? How does it make you feel? Practice “transporting” yourself there the next time a figurative storm shows up on your horizon.

Resting at the Water’s Edge,
Cindy

 

Cup o’ tea

From the Archives: February 16, 2010

“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” ~ Catherine Douzel

Phew.  Last week came to a welcomed end.  At 3pm on Friday, I laid down for a nap.  7.5 hours later, clinching the title of world champion napper, I woke up.  Oh my!  My mind knew I had had a stressful week, I guess my body did, too.

On my way to a 3-hour seminar and a full day of nursing clinicals at the hospital on Wednesday, I had a little “moment” talking to my sister.  In that moment, I realized just how much worry I had borrowed:

Tuesday morning.  Truck stuck in mud on way to clinicals.  Call AAA.
Two hours late.  Borrow a little worry – check.

Tuesday evening.  Husband.  News of another torn rotator cuff, argh – the same shoulder that had surgery 16 months ago.  Another surgery?  Job uncertainty?  Borrow lots of worry and some sadness for Brad – check.

94 year-old Granddad, 90% heart blockage, headed to Europe for his 3rd cruise in 2 years.  Go Granddad, go heart.  Granddaddy, please be safe.  Borrow adequate amount of worry with a little hope – check.

Sister.  Her husband deployed to Iraq for a year.
Borrow decent amount of worry – check.

Nursing Care Plan due this week.  Must write and implement – 20-hour project.  Must get enough data with minimal time allotted while caring for my patients.  Borrow just the right amount of worry – check.

First test of the semester.  Those who have gone before us encourage us to set our expectations at failure.  Studied beaucoup hours, 40 pages of handwritten notes.  Borrow way too much worry (more than my fair share) – check.  

Weight of all the worry.  Not enough downtime.  Rush, rush, rush all week.  Still rushing.  Can’t afford tears at the moment. Must hold it together.  I’ll take a minor meltdown for $400, Alex.  Cry a little, pray a little, love a little upon my sissy, who’s going through enough stress of her own.  Check.

I get to the seminar about 45 minutes early.  I really should study.  Too tired.  Too drained.  Must muster up my networking savvy.   I ask myself, “What would be the best use of my time?  In the hotel lobby, as I see those little packets of calm, I know instantly.  A cup of tea, a moment of silence and, “Voila!” – peace came.

The cup of tea was this lovely blend of mint and tarragon leaves.  Its name was rejuvenation.  It was made just for me and my borrowed worry.  I sat down in a big comfy chair.  The cup warming my hands.  The steam invading my soul.  Ahhh….

It only takes 5 minutes and the benefits are numerous.  Sipping tea slows you down.  The tea itself can have calming effects.  There are even health benefits – the research proves it.

So, I dare you.  The next time you are borrowing more than your share of worry, grab your favorite mug and sit down to a cup of tea.

Sipping my tea,
Cindy