• Current Reading List

    Peaceful Action, Open Heart - Thich Nhat Hanh*** Eat, Pray, Love*** Peaceful Living - Mary Mackenzie(daily reader)*** The Vein of Gold - Julia Cameron (this is a read a chapter a week type book)*** Dubliners - James Joyce*** Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring - Jean Watson*** The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Volume I***
  • Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.
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On leaving

I sat down to blog about a day volunteering with students…but then, being the multi-tasker that I am, I checked my work email and discovered this from a student:

   I wanted to wait until my psych grade was finalized and everything so this wouldn’t sound like brown nosing! I want to tell you how grateful I am to have had you as an instructor. Although I am not specializing in psych nursing, the content you taught reaches into every aspect of nursing. Even working as a CNA, I hear your voice when I am with a patient telling me to give them a little of my time and telling me to use my ‘therapeutic communication’ :). I am now less judgemental and more patient with not only patients but just people in general. You have also inspired me to find something I love and specialize in it, like you have done with psych. So, I just wanted to thank you for all your hardwork in teaching and also with Project Homeless and Project Motlow. You have reminded us that nursing isn’t just skills and patho, but it is also caring and empathizing.

Thanks again:)

This is so poignant right now. I don’t think I have the words to express the emotions that I am experiencing at this moment. I feel a lot of joy to know that I have touched someone’s professional practice and personal life in this way. This is exactly why I am a teacher. My own psych instructors laughed at the patients as if they were some kind of freaks. There was this separation of “us” and “them”. My own practice and personal journey, luckily, has taught me how very very wrong this approach is, and how it doesn’t help the patient to get better and it also harms me because it is not living up to my potential as a caring human person and it separates me from wonderful people who walk this journey of life alongside me, not underneath me. My aim as a teacher is to impact the student perception of the people they encounter; to get them to be aware of judgments and not allow those judgments to affect our beautiful potential for meaningful human interaction. Very much of my philosophy comes from various nursing theories, predominantly Jean Watson’s Caring Science, and the rest comes from my personal experience with phenomenal human beings that society and even themselves have labeled as “bad”, “no good”, “worthless”.

I am also feeling a good bit of sadness…and maybe  not quite regret or doubt, but definitely some inner conflict. Yesterday I accepted a new job. As of April 27th I will no longer be a teacher. I am moving into a managerial/supervisiory type position – officially “Administrative Coordinator”. I have made this move almost 100% for financial reasons. The finances are a HUGE factor and the difference in salaries is remarkable. I have been focusing on my excitement about NOT having more days left at the end of the month than money in the bank and trying to ignore the fact that I am leaving something that I love doing. And apparently I am leaving something that I am good at.

I may have more words on that later. I definitely need to drudge up some words for this volunteer experience because I have to do a write up for, well publicity. And of course when I HAVE to write something, I start to feel stuck.

More words soon.

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Catching UP: the running and weight loss journey

There really is no way to do that. Not fully. So much has been going on. I decided a few days after my last post that I wanted to write a book. I even came up with a title. Since then, I have been unable to write a single word. Writer’s block I suppose. Whatever, I am scared to death about the venture, but I keep formulating paragraphs in my head. Here’s to the hopes that I will at some point, get those paragraphs to paper.

For now, catching up on my life. I just emerged out of hell. Seriously, hell. This hell occurred over a period of 60 hours and involved 4 airplanes, much money I didn’t need to part with, 3 trips to the ED and a reduction in weight of 10lbs in three days. Oh, and two of those ED visits were in a rinky dink (well not really it was actually very nice for a community hospital) jip-joint hospital in NM.Damn them to hell. Oh wait, that was hell. So this sick puppy had to fly back to TN and cut short my visit to my mom and grandparents (well, since I was sick, the visit never started, so I technically just called the whole thing off).  And one more visit to the  ED (damn DFW and their delays which made me get home too late to go to my regular doctor) upon return to TN. Anyhoo, I am fine and better and all is well. I am pleased about the new number on the scale of course, but I will be damned if I ever want to go through something like that again to have those results again.  Notice I am purposefully being vague about details. It is enough to know that it was hell, and that I still feel as weak as a kitten.

 I am worried about what this convalescence will do to my running. Today I started to feel like I might just be an eentsy bit better (no extreme dizziness upon standing), so I decided to go for a run. Now, you must understand that when I am sick I always doubt the reality of my symptoms. I don’t think I have a proclivity for somatization, but like a good psych nurse I do worry about the possibility, because the doubt is always there. “Do I really feel this bad or am I just imagining?”, “Wouldn’t I feel better if I just got moving?”, “Am I just pretending so I can stay in bed?” “Am I just being lazy?”….these are some of the questions I ask myself, and plus I am worried about “getting behind” on my training schedule. So I ignored the fact that my legs felt like quivering jelly and out the door I stepped. I did run one mile and walk 2/3 of another mile before I decided that I truly don’t feel very well and back to semi-convalescense I head.

So anyhoo, even though I am worried at the moment about the possibility of lost muscle mass and lost training time, I overall think I am doing pretty good in my running. The going has been bumpy and I have had to overcome a lot of self-doubting, but I am everyday learning that I am indeed, officially a runner. Sunday before last, I ran 10 miles outside. I had been running on the treadmill, so this is quite an accomplishment. Also, last Sat (before full onset of above hell scenario) I ran a 5k with a friend. This was my 3rd race, and it felt amazing. I ran the entire way AND I was no where near the last of the runners. Okay, so I was also no where near the beginning runners either, but I am very content to be happily in the middle. My time was 37 minutes (by the race clock which is including the initial walking time as everyone gets moving). Oh, and this made 18 miles total for the week. The 1/2 marathon is just a little over 1 month away. i am going to be ready.

I am changing and I am learning more and more about who I am. Sometimes the changes are happening so fast that when I walk by a mirror I have to do a double take. “Who was that?….Oh yeah, its me…I like that girl.”

on discovery

I am learning to stand  in the confidence of the experience of who I am; in assurity of the truth of who I am; in joy at the abundance of who I am; and triumphant in the fullness of woman that I am.

this came to me as I stood before the mirror contemplating the increasing shortness of my hair and wondering what others thought of my “new look” (body and hair). Then it came to me that it doesn’t really matter.

On Being Amazed

I often am amazed by various women in my life – this one going back to school, this one’s big accomplishment, this one’s physical abilities, etc etc. Amazed and inspired. I realized just a few moments ago, that for the first time I am really allowing myself to be amazed….by me. And why not? Why not amaze myself? It feels as if I am shedding an old leathery worn out skin that for some reason stayed attached for way too long. Perhaps it was not a skin at all, but rather a parasitic veil of thinking that I had picked up somewhere along the way. It fed on discouragement, self-effacement, and self-doubt. Perhaps it was cause for the short-lived nature of previous accomplishments – particularly in the realm of my body, my self-image and my physical fitness.

Shedding, shedding. My back stretches as it completely rolls away. There is tenderness in the reveal new skin and I hestitate to expose it completely to the light. Excuses creep in: ‘don’t you have like a million and two things that you need to be doing right now?’. I refuse to listen and into the light I burst.

I am amazed by myself. Reflecting back on the last year, really last 7 or 8 months, I am surprised and awed and proud. Last May I started preparing to start running. It took me 1 hour to walk 3 miles. Then slowly I started adding in some running. Initially just seconds at a time. Those first days, really first months, it was torture. I hated it. I felt ridiculous running at my weight and even more riduculous that I could only run for seconds. But I kept at it. Two days ago I ran 7 miles. SEVEN FREAKING MILES!!! It took me 91 minutes. I did walk a little, but only for about 7 minutes. That means I ran for EIGHTY-FOUR minutes. Amazing that I – who have been afraid of sports, afraid of activity, afraid of looking ridiculous – can do this, and I continue to do more. Oh, and I love it. Its not torture anymore.

I am amazed.

This morning I worked out at the little gym up the road. I was doing some circuit training on various machines – both strength and aerobic, trying to mix up my workout. Suddenly it dawned on my that I didn’t feel intimidated by or less than anyone else in that gym. That is how I used to feel. Especially when I was in the “men’s area” where all the weights are. Today I felt confident. I felt like I belonged there. I was working as hard or harder than every other person in that gym – and my size, my level of fitness didn’t matter. I was just there working out, enjoying my progress and sweating up a flood. I have muscles in places I didn’t know my body had a potential for muscles. Its quite fun really.  Amazing.

Lastly (for now), last night I squeezed….well actually I didn’t squeeze at all, I slid very nicely and comfortably into a pair of size 12 slacks. (I hate that word slacks, but dress pants sounds equally gross particularly when talking about these lovely pants). I haven’t worn them in too many years to think about and they fit better than they ever did.  Just last May when I started this running business I wore a size 20 and sometimes a 22. I have two more pairs of pants in the closet that don’t fit yet. Just two. Then its on to new territory. Amazing.

This year I want to continue to amaze myself. In various areas of my life. I want to continued to be amazed and proud of me and to not have the least little bit of shame about saying so. So there old skin!

Much to say

I have much to say, which means one of two things…I will either say not much of anything at all because too many random things are bouncing off the walls of my cranium…OR…I will say much, and it may or may not make any sense whatsoever.

To begin: I am reading a lot of very exciting books right now. I think too much. I may need to cut back a bit. This reading can be a little on the addictive side. I finally finished Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking glass…and I was underimpressed. Alice’s Adventures was pretty good. Some interesting parts that weren’t in the movie I remember. I really loved most of the nonsensical poetry – especially the Walrus and The Carpenter (always has been a fave), and some of the made-up words were fun – but some of it just went on and on and on… Through the looking glass made it ever so clear that the stories about Carroll’s drug use are absolutely true. Absolutely and without a doubt. Honestly I finished reading most of the book over a month ago…and then just let the book just sit forlornly on my nightstand with the last few pages unread….because it was getting quite torturous and I was not fond of either the Red or the White Queen and by the end I mostly just wanted them and Alice to shut their faces. The most enjoyable part of the stories for me, were the lovely illustrations…Alice and the Dodo, the Jabberwocky, The Lobster Quadrille, the Mad Hatter. All quite lovely and familiarly comforting.

Here is a snippet of my favoritist – the Walrus and the Carpenter as told by Tweedledee:

“the sun was shining on the sea, shining with all his might: he did his very best to make the billows smooth and bright – And this was odd, because it was The middle of the night…”

Now, I am also re-reading A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I am absolutely in love with Virginia Woolf. Enraptured. Reading it now for bookclub and I can’t wait to talk about it with my favorite ladies. As I have said before, I literally devoured the book at lightening speed before, so I am looking forward to savoring it now.

Reading Nursing by Jean Watson. She is my nursing hero. I find it interesting that a great deal of what I teach is in this text. I have studied her theory and ideas at various times, but not to the depth I would like…but it is oh so obvious how much she has influenced my practice. I am about half-way through this one – which is pretty good considering that I have mostly been reading this one at the gym while on the elliptical machine. It is quite stimulating really. I want to talk about this one more in depth, to better serve my nursing readers…but I will have to cogitate that a bit further.  For now, I will just share a quote that says much:

“A humanistic-altruistic value system is a qualitative philosophy that guides one’s mature life. It is the commitment to and satisfaction of receiving through giving. It involves the capacity to view humanity with love and to appreciate diversity and individuality. Such a value system helps one to tolerate differences and to view others through their own perceptual systems rather than through one’s own”.

I am also reading…rather working through The Artist’s Way. I don’t know how artistic I am becoming but it is so very therapeutic right now during a time when I really need it. This is a recovery workbook, whether you are recovering from being a blocked artist or from grief and loss or Whatever. Cameron’s gentleness and fierceness are beautifully inspiring.

Last but not least, 1984 by George Orwell. It is fascinating, depressing, scary,…well that is all I have to say for now. That and that it is giving me freaky dreams. But I guess that is what I get for reading it before sleep.

Last student is finishing up…so I am too.

2nd Annual Contemplation of Feet

This past Wednesday I had the honor and privilege to once again serve Nashville’s homeless by washing their feet. The event was Project Homeless Connect and I was there with 23 (yes twenty three) of my amazing nursing students volunteering with Room in the Inn (shout out to those at Room at the Inn – you all ROCK!!) at their foot clinic and at registration. Some students were “down in the trenches” with myself and other volunteers (including one of my most favoritist persons in the world – you know who you are). Other students helped to register people for the event – which included taking a brief history and hearing a lot of their stories.

This year, as last year, I was profoundly impacted. My role was a little different this year – I was the only medical-type person there for much of the day, in addition to coordinating students.

We think we have problems. We get upset over trifling things we call “problems”- bad traffic, long lines in stores for Christmas shopping, difficulties at school (as an instructor or as a student), problems with this or that relationship, etc. We let these minor problems fill our thoughts and assume such importance. Truly they are as nothing. A day volunteering in a setting like this really puts things into perspective. Traffic may be bad, but we get to drive and have the luxury of a car. Lines may be long, but we have the money to buy presents (however small) for our loved ones, and we will likely receive presents in return (something we often take for granted). School may be hard – but we have the luxury of attending or in my case – the luxury of having a good job. We may have problems in our relationships, but we know there is someone who loves us. For many of the individuals we met Wednesday, many or all of these luxuries are so far out of their reach it is hard for me to even begin to fathom how difficult to obtain things I so easily take for granted.

I met some amazing people Wednesday, not only the homeless persons, but also the volunteers as well. People who freely give of their time, not just this one day, but on a regular basis. One man with kindly eyes was there last year, and told me he volunteers every week in different settings. Another gentleman said he volunteered at RITI every week that it helped him to achieve balance in his life. He told me he worked at the front desk of one of the high-rise condos within walking distance of RITI’s Campus for Human Development. Condos there run from almost 200k to well over a million bucks. This lovely man told me about how demanding and self-centered some of the tenants are and that many of them have so much. He walks from work to volunteer for a few hours with the homeless persons at the campus and it helps him maintain balance he said. Balance. I think we all need to remember that. The image of the wealthy man in a high-rise condo right up the block from the homeless shelter is imprinted in my mind…a picture of balance.

Several things  in particular struck me this year: calves, swollen ankles, smiles and introductions.

Calves: I really noticed some powerful calf muscles – so much so that I commented on several pairs. The owners of those calves just smiled and said “yeah”. “Walking.” Miles and miles and miles of walking. One particular pair of calves seemed totally incongruent with the rest of the woman they belonged to. She had tiny little ankles and Rocking-hard calves – but was otherwise obese. I wondered how much of that trunk fat was her body’s way of protecting her, sheltering her from the cold and the elements…just like her powerful calves enabled her to walk the miles she must walk. Her face will stay with me for a while. She seemed so touched that the pair of socks I gave her matched her sweater…she knew I picked them out just for her, and that seemed to mean so much to her. Just a pair of socks. I didn’t even buy them. But you would have thought I gave her the moon.

Swollen feet and legs: Now this is something I see regularly. And I have a regular response: (in short) elevate your legs above your heart, balanced fluid intake, reduced salt intake. I couldn’t respond that way here, and I found myself at a loss. How can I tell someone to elevate their legs when they must be on their feet and walking most of their day and they DON’T have a consistent or safe place to do elevate them anyway. Dietary instructions are a challenge as well, because when you eat what you can get when you can get it, it is hard to be choosy. I take for granted having a faucet to fill my water bottle with filtered water to drink my fill of and the luxury of walking down store aisles to choose reduc.

Smiles: such heartfelt smiles. Really thankful and grateful for what they were receiving. Not grasping or needy or asking for more. Just so grateful. Again and again I was told I had a “special place in heaven” because of the care I was giving them. They had no idea that they were giving me so much more than I could ever give them. Some people who were not involved have commented to me “ugh, feet” and “how could you wash feet”,  “thats gross” and other comments of that nature.  It wasn’t about the feet. It was never about the feet. And truly, the feet were beautiful and amazing.

Introductions: I try to introduce myself to people. I tend to forget people’s names (a horrible impediment as a teacher and a nurse) and I project that others do the same – so I introduce myself. Sometimes more than once. Students and other volunteers would often call me (as the medical resource person) over to look at something on someone’s feet and it would have been really easy to look at the foot, give advice, and move on. I made a conscious effort to stop and say “Hi, I’m Jennifer” to each person and make eye contact. Their faces would brighten for just a minute in just such a way that tore at my heart strings. Those faces said “people don’t usually see me” – a mixture of surprise, shyness, quickly averted eyes or incredulous eye contact. It is true. We normally try not to see them. I normally try not to see them when I encounter them on the street, especially when I am alone. My fears fed by the stereotypes. I am ashamed to admit that, but it is true. We all need to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be heard, to be cared for.

Two people that I will never forget:

A young mother of three. The youngest child 9 weeks old. She had been clean for 8 weeks. She seemed to be working so hard to make her life better for herself and her children. She wore her NA chips on a key ring at her waist proudly.

A very young man whose foot was partially amputated last month. Diabetes. He was doing what he could. Walking. Walking. Courageous.

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my life. I am grateful and thankful for my life.

more thoughts on Woolf

It is with much reluctance that I am returning A Room of One’s Own to the library. Rather, my husband is prying the book from my fingers in order to avoid incuring more late fees. Dang it.

I just have to quote one more line (or several rather). Her “peroration” that concludes the book.

“What is meant by reality? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable – now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now in a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech – and then there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Picadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent. That is what remains over when the skin of the day has been cast into the hedge; that is what is left of past time and of our loves and hates.”

The she speaks of how it is the writer’s “…business to find it and collect it and communicate it to the rest of us.”

She certainly does a fantastic job of relating her reality…making her world so very real. This writing gives a glimpse into the world of a female writer of the 1920’s….and takes you back into the ‘reality’ of a similar kind in centuries preceding. At the same time the words she shares are relevant today. Knowing where we have been, where we have come from and what we have come through as women not only gives encouragement and hope, but also pride…yes, I am proud to be a woman….a woman that writes. Even if just these little trivial blog attempts.

I can say quite honestly that this book is one of,  if not THE best book I have ever read. Awww, quit all the noncommittal nonsense. It is the most wonderfully splendid, thought-provokingly marvelous work I have ever read. So there.