On Being Mortal

meds

One of the scariest things about having a chronic, degenerative disease is knowing that said disease or some complication of said disease is going to be what kills you. The medications I take and the way I take care of my body are only slowing down an inevitable process. That process could take decades, that process could take years: there is really no way of knowing. Yes, you could say that everyone is fighting against that same battle. We are all going to die of something at some point, duh! But to actually have a name to it and be face to face with it every day is a strange feeling.

I’ve been on chemotherapy shots for over a year now to treat my psoriatic arthritis. Aside from the nausea, fatigue, and bruising it seemed to be working! My joint’s didn’t swell as often, my pain was not constant, and my skin psoriasis cleared up. Hello, wonder drug! Don’t worry about the fact that I have a cytotoxic agent stored in my bathroom, a bucket full of used needles, and I have to be 110% cautious to not accidentally get pregnant as the effects to the fetus would be catastrophic. But, hey, minor details right?? Well, it’s not working anymore. My pain is back, my joints are swelling, and that stinkin’ little patch of psoriasis by my right eye has reared it’s ugly head again.

Luckily, there are other meds we can move on to and try. And I am so thankful to modern medicine that this is even an option. I have several more medications I can move through before it gets to the point where we have ‘tried everything’. Some people say this next drug I’m going on is a ‘wonder drug’: they felt great, they had good results, etc. That’s all fine and dandy but each person is different. I could try it and have terrible side effects. I could try it and it could not work for me. I could try it and it could only work for a few months before we have to move down the not very long list of meds to treat my disease.

It’s that unknown, that darn unknown, that always gets me. I’m a planner. It would be nice if I could be like: “Ok, methotrexate worked for a year. Now we are going to do Humira for 15 years before we move onto Otzela for a while then Remicade infusions and then I’ll happily die in my sleep at age 92.” But there is no way of knowing how my body will react to each med or how long it will work for me. I try not to dwell on it, but this is big stuff. Kind of hard to ignore that crippling, debilitating elephant in the room.

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Capturing the Real Deal

I’ll admit it. I was that mom who bought all the Old Navy flag shirts for the kids, dutifully lined them up to snap a pic, and kept snapping until I got the one where they all looked angelic. Of course, it’s much easier to stuff a bunch of toddlers and preschoolers into a mold than it is a gangly teen and a couple of moody middle schoolers. I’m not sure who I was trying to impress with these highly posed pics (you? are you impressed?) or what message I was trying to send (see? see how I have it all together?) but in all honesty it stressed me the heck out!

I don’t know what changed or when exactly it changed, but I am 100% over all of that. Maybe it is having six kids, maybe it is the fact that their age range (14-5) doesn’t really lend well to that kind of thing, maybe it is because I’m an older more mature mom (ha!), or maybe I just got tired of putting on a show. It takes enough of my time and energy to make sure I’m being a good mom to them without working on the highly posed pics to post on social media.

Now when I post pics of my kids you will see mismatched clothes, dirty knees, unkempt hair, death stares, and grumpy faces. But you will also see genuine smiles, siblings bonding, and you see true memories being made.  I feel like I am capturing the real memories of their childhood. They will look back at these pics and share a laugh or a smile. “Oh, man! Remember how mad you were that day?” “Look how dirty our feet were. Wasn’t that an awesome day?” “That summer where we bummed around the yard for 2 months was amazing!” I’ll take real over staged any day!

But I do still make them allllllll dress alike for Easter because it’s just my thing now. I mean, you can’t have six kids without some good old fashioned matching outfits now and then! But I don’t stress about how it will all come across. Their personalities still shine through in their faces when I snap the pic and I don’t snap 100 to try and get a ‘perfect’ one. They are all perfect because they perfectly capture the moment.

When God Puts Us ‘In the Whale’ (Part 2 on Jonah)

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Ever felt like this?

So there’s Jonah, trying to flee from God. How desperate and out of his mind is he to think He could flee God’s presence? He was a man of God, he knew this was really not an option. So God needed to do something major, something drastic to get Jonah’s attention and snap him out of his selfishness. Enter ‘the whale’.

Now depending on your theology and your interpretation of the Bible, you may or may not believe that there was an actual, physical whale that swallowed Jonah. And honestly, I don’t really think it maters if you see it as real or symbolic when it comes to the purpose and meaning of the story.  (Side bar: my personal belief is that he was lost at sea for 3 days under a whale shaped constellation but anywho…) The point is that God needed to get Jonah’s attention in a major way. He needed him to be in a place where he was face to face with himself and with God to work it all out. Sound familiar? I think we have all had those situation.

I know in my life there has been times when God needed to do something drastic to pull me back in or help me to refocus on His plan for my life. One certain time that comes to mind is when I finally answered His call to become a nurse. He had placed it on my heart for several years and I kept making excuses and doubting myself. Still, that pull was always there. I made every excuse in the book not to pursue it. Then one November my husband lost his job. Ok God, got it!! And off to nursing school I went. It was hard, so hard, but it has been one of the biggest blessing in my life to be a nurse. And that job my husband lost? Nothing compared to what he is doing now. Dang it, God, you do always know what is best!! It’s our dang stubbornness that gets in the way. I feel like that was my ‘in the whale’ moment. God needed to do something big to get my attention and get me back on track just like He did with Jonah.

I’m sure we can all recall times when God has done something drastic like this. When He has put us in situations that make us stop, come to Him, and get back on track. At the time, it may seem like the worst thing in the world but when you trust in Him and go with it, you’ll look back you realize it all went the way it was supposed to.

I bet this meant Jonah was good to go and never screwed up or got it wrong again, right? Ha! Wrong. Just like us, this feeling of closeness to God and sense of purpose did not last. Seems like we drift back away and God has to reel us back in time after time.

We Are All Jonah (Part 1 on Jonah)

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“Seriously?? Nineveh???”

I’ve started this study on the book of Jonah. I’ve been a Christian my whole life and I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first time I’ve read the book in it’s entirety. When I came across this study I was like, “Blah, blah blah, 3 days in a fish (sure…), blah, blah, blah.” To me it was a kid book, a kid story. But something told me to watch the trailer for the study and he started talking about things like being a person of God yet not being loving (oh…), or only loving people that it is comfortable to love (eek…), and not having a true understanding of God’s love for us if we can judge who to love (oops…). Yeah, maybe this book was more than just a big fish story for kids.

Jonah was a prophet, he was a man of God. He probably quoted scripture and attended church regularly. But when God called him to go to Nineveh he was like, ‘Nah’. Nineveh was filled with people who loved war and who were sworn enemies of Jonah’s people. How many times have we done the same? ‘God, send me where you want me! Do with me what you need!” Then God calls us to do something even slightly uncomfortable and we are not so much into doing that whole ‘what God God called us to do’ thing anymore. Couldn’t I do your work in a place that I want with people that I am comfortable with? Seeing it written out like that is ugly!

One of the things Eric Mason (pastor and author of the study) says that I just can’t get out of my head is what if God loved us that way? What if He used our human system of judging and deeming who is and isn’t worthy of love. Ouch. I don’t want to live that way and I don’t want God to be that way. (Praise be that He is not!).  God loves us. Period. You, too. Right now. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, where ever you have been. When Jesus died on the cross it was for everyone, everywhere. Even if you curse His name until the day you die, He loves you.

It’s comforting for me to know that I am loved for who I am, right where I am. Imagine how we could make the whole world feel if we treated everyone that way? Anyone you meet, you can make them feel loved and valued. Not just the people who make it easy or comfortable: everyone. Try it. As you go about your day and interact with all different types of people, try to look at them like Go, does. Treat everyone as if they matter and are loved and have value because they do.

More to come about Jonah…..I could write a dang book!

 

On FOMO and Pushing Your Kids

My daughter decided not to do theatre camp this summer. No weeks of day long rehearsals, costume fittings, dress rehearsals, or final bows. All I can think is what if this was the play she needed to do to land a main stage show? What if this was the play that was going to ignite a real love of theatre? What if? What if? Girl is 8 years old and she could honestly not care less about any of these things. She has a busy summer with dance and she didn’t want to commit. Easy peasy. Decision made. It’s ME who is dwelling on the ‘what ifs’, not her.  I know in my own logical mind that her not playing an Oompa Loompa this summer in a kid’s musical is not really going to effect her future in any way, but my nonsense mom brain always kicks into over drive and I get a wicked case of FOMO: fear of missing out.

Parenting is hard. Yeah, I could just leave it at that. Or I could write 100 posts about 1,000 different ways it’s hard but this time  I want to talk about pushing your kids. It’s such a fine line.  On one hand, if you know your kids loves something and/or does well at it, you definitely want to encourage them to do that activity, On the other hand, pushing too hard and making them do too much could have the opposite effect and they could pull away from it. But then that begs to question, would that be such a bad thing? Is it really going to matter in the long run if they don’t take that 6th hour of dance during the week or get on that travel basketball team? Are you molding your kid into what you want them to be or are you  helping them to enjoy life and find things they love to do? Is your kid in piano lessons because you want them to go to Juilliard and be a world famous pianist? Or is it because you want them to do well at something they enjoy? It’s a tough call. Everyone thinks their own kid is amazing and in their own ways they are.  I think, as with all things in life, you need to look at your ‘why’. Why are you pushing?

So our summer will be just a touch more relaxed. I can mark one place off of all the running we do. My daughter will thrive in dance and not give a second thought to the summer theatre camp. I’m going to do my best to do the same. As parents, we should be trying to help our kids become the best people they can be and not trying to force them into a mold that we have created.

It’s Supposed to Be Hard

I can count on one….uh….finger the times I have literally, audibly heard God’s voice. I’ve been moved by Him, felt His presence,  and have had Him place ideas or thoughts on my heart but his actual voice? Once. And it was enough to shake me to my core. Honestly, it happened not that long ago during a time in my life where I was feeling quite pitiful about myself and my situation.  It was like God knew he needed to do something drastic to pull me out of it.

It was a perfect storm of life’s difficulties. My job as a Title 1 public school nurse was wearing on me. It’s hard to day in and day out see and hear some of the things that I do. You go from thinking you can save the world to thinking this world is a terrible place where bad things happen to good kids. Usually I am able to stay positive and know that I’m making at least a small difference but I was super down about all of it at this time. I was questioning how long I could subject myself to this.

Add to that my health. That elephant in the room that is just always there, looming, waiting to ruin everything. I was feeling annoyed about being sick. The medications I was taking for my psoriatic arthritis seemed to make me feel just as bad as not taking any at all. I hurt all the time, I was tired all the time, and I was quite frankly sick of being sick. I was questioning how I was going to spend the rest of my life feeling this way.

I was also feeling like a failure at home. My job was to pour myself into children all day so when I got home to my own I was short with them. I found myself getting annoyed at the smallest things they would do. My health made it nearly impossible for me to keep up with laundry and cleaning. I was annoyed that the house was a cluster and even more annoyed that I was physically unable to do anything about it.  Sure, the kids and the hubs helped but then I felt even worse for just lying around while they did everything.

As you can see, I was feeling pretty dang sorry for myself! I was at work one afternoon and decided to put on a clip of the new Bible study on Jonah I was going to be starting in a month or so. As I was listening to it and tidying up around my clinic I heard it. It was a voice as plain as day, as if it was from someone standing right in the room with me: “It’s supposed to be hard” is what He said. I felt every single hair on my body stand up and it felt like electricity was running through me. I knew it was God and I knew He was right. No where in the Bible does it ever say life is going to be peachy keen and easy. No where does it say that since I follow Jesus everything in my life is going to be amazing. What it does say though it that we have this hope that anchors our soul in Jesus. So I can cling to Him knowing that there is hope I am making a difference to these students of mine, there is hope that I will feel better one day, there is hope that I can get the laundry 8 people totally and completely caught up. He gave me these things in my life because He knew I could handle it. And when I lean on Him, I know I can.

 

A Picture Perfect Summer Break

It that’s what you are hear to read about or get ideas about, I suggest you move right along!

As a school nurse, having summers off with my kids is pretty dang awesome. No alarms to set, no sitters to find, no clothes to change out of pajamas into. Not going to lie, it rocks! The kids are confused as to why dad has to work all summer. To which he responds, “I’m an adult with a normal job.” Whatevs, dude! So am I!

I always have visions of bubble stations, library visits, fort building and the like. But what I usually get it yelling at dogs, fighting children, and all food in the house being eaten in one day. Where are the Pinterest posts about that?

I finally figured out that the reason I get frustrated is because I’m trying to force us into a mold that we are just never going to fit into. My home is a constant state of controlled chaos, there is no time for sidewalk chalk stencils! And you know what? That’s ok! We laugh, we play in the yard, we go to the gas station for drinks, the kids help me with my jewelry business, we sleep in, and we stay up late. It’s low key, it’s unorganized, and it’s fun. I honestly cherish these times I have with my kids where we are just lounging around the house being us.

To the moms and dads rocking the homemade popsicles and summer crafts: more power to you! If that is where you thrive and what you enjoy then keep on keepin’ on. But if you are like me and this post rings true for you, don’t feel bad. Your kids are going to remember having fun no matter what!

Rodzina

Every month or so, sometimes more often, the doorbell rings and suddenly my house is flooded with life. 15+ people straggle in bearing drinks, snack, and board games. We laugh, we sing epic renditions of various 60s/70s/80s/90s songs (my aunts sing a haunting version of ‘One Tin Soldier’), we eat, occasionally we make it clear through whatever game we set up, and we just enjoy each other’s company. These are some of my very favorite people on Earth and they also just happen to be my family.

Growing up I never realized that having such a close tight knit family was an oddity. It’s just what we did. Holidays, birthdays, or anytime were an excuse to all get together and hang out. It wasn’t until I started dating my now husband that it was brought to my attention. “Um, you guys really spend a LOT of time together.”  I thought he was strange for NOT spending a ton of time with his. You mean you guys DON’T get together to watch the Jerry Lewis telethon as a family?

The older I get the more I realize what a true gift my family is to me. I know not everyone is so lucky to have that. They have strained or toxic relationships with the people they call family. Others simply don’t have time or just don’t make the time to spend with their own families. Over the years, various members have moved away. We are in Chicago, Atlanta, and Texas now but when the stars align and we all get together it is just like old times. I pray that we are instilling in the generation coming up behind us this special family bond. I see it already in the way my oldest son enjoys his cousins. I see it when my kids pass up going out with friends to stay in and hang with the fam. Several of the guys in my family got family tattoos. My uncle’s says ‘rodzina’, it means ‘family’ in Polish. I’m so thankful for my rodzina.

Marry the Geek, Ladies & Gents

When I was a freshman in high school, there was this guy in my first hour English class who would always, always get nose bleeds. Seriously, always, Like, are you ok, guy? I can see him standing there in his giant JNCO jeans and some ridiculous band shirt. I also started to notice how he was always making the people around him laugh; not at him but with him. We started just making some friendly small talk that year. We ended up having English together the next couple years as well. We joked about how it was our thing to have English together. Oh, one more thing about this guy, we are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this June.

I love that we built a true friendship with each other over those years before we started dating our senior year. We talked on the phone one night the September of our Senior year for hours. We hit on everything from family, to religion, to our dreams for the future. I make no exaggeration when I say that after that conversation, we both knew we would be getting married to each other one day. It was as sure and definite a thing as I have ever felt. I felt it then and I felt it now: a comfort and a safety with him.  Plus, he is super cute so that doesn’t hurt. 

We have gone through some tough stuff over the years: job loss, bankruptcy, other dumb assery of our own doing. But through it all, we have always had each other. He truly is my best friend, as cheesy as it sounds. When I have a bad day (or a good day), I cannot wait to tell him all about it. When he is gone, I look forward to him coming home. I flat out enjoy spending time with him. He makes me laugh every day, even when I don’t want to. He tells me I’m beautiful and I believe him. I can be my true self around him, and him with me. He calls me on my bull crap yet goes along with my pie in the sky plans and ideas. Plus, he is super cute so that doesn’t hurt.

I am truly thankful to have him in my life and I love him even more now than I did 20 years ago when we met. I look forward to what God has in store for us for the next part of our life. I hope we are showing our kids what a good marriage looks like: laughter, friendship, kissing in front of the kids to make them gag, and just enjoying our time together. He is amazing to me. Plus, he is super cute so that doesn’t hurt.

 

 

The Things Nurses Carry

One time I had to take care of a white supremacist with a huge swastika tattoo on his arm because I was the only white person working on the floor that night and he wouldn’t let anyone else in his room.

Another time I caught a medication error committed by another nurse on a heparin drip, but it still did not save the woman. The patient had told me the previous shift that I made her feel safe.

Another time a women in the throes of stage 4 cancer talked to me about wanting to kill herself but she didn’t want her kids to fight over her life insurance money as they had disappeared when she got the diagnosis.

Once a huge, burly confused mental health patient pushed me as hard as he could up against a wall to get me out of the way so he could leave the room.

I got sucker punched right in the jaw by a little old lady who was not a fan of me needing to re-start her blown IV.

I was in the room when a woman received her last rites, surrounded by her entire family.

I’ve called families at 2am telling them it might be a good idea to come out to the hospital, like, soon if they want to see them while they are still living.

I got a call from employee health one time after a shift saying, “Oh by the way, that patient you took care of has bacterial meningitis and they weren’t in isolation. Here is what to watch for…”

That’s some heavy stuff to carry with you. I could go on and on. These are just some of the stories of my nursing career that stick out to me. Not to even mention all the new little pieces of my heart that I carry since becoming a school nurse. You could talk to any nurse of any age in any field and they could give you a run down just like this. We see, hear, and do things that others cannot even imagine. We are invited into the sacred places in these people’s live where they are most vulnerable.  We place our own mental and emotional and even physical heath on the line to step in and do for others what no one else will do. We see people at their worst, but we also see them at their best.

I’m one of those people who considers being a nurse a true calling and gift from God. It’s not just something I decided to do, it was something I was born and molded to do. I was pulled into it by a deep seeded need to help other people. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Next time you talk to a nurse, remember that they carry lots of heavy things in those hearts and minds of theirs.