Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kissing Frogs

I won't go so far as to say that all frogs are princes because that certainly wouldn't be the case. But, barring a serious case of narcissism, sociopathy/psychopathy or a ginormous dose of cluelessness, I think that many frogs could be royalty, if kissed by the right person.

Let me 'splain... I think that the divorce rate is so high because most people "love the one they're with" or make decisions based on fear of being alone rather than finding the one they want to say "yes" to. I think that if more people waited, well, I'm not saying the relationship wouldn't end... but perhaps the experience would be worth the journey. I think we expect too little; we undervalue ourselves... we replay those dysfunctional tapes that our parents programed and repeat their patterns... and then sadly, we pass those patterns along to our children. I believe we should begin as we intend to continue and that we teach people how to treat us. If we accept or allow someone to treat us poorly early on, then we've given them permission to treat us poorly in the future.

However, I'm asking for something different. I'm asking for something amazing. My amazing will look different from your amazing... and that's totally okay. As long as I think my situation is mostly (no one is perfect) a wonderful fit for me, well then, I've won the lottery. And well, while I'm at it, we all have baggage so if we can look at each others' baggage and think, "yup, that's a load I can and am willing to help carry" well, perhaps we have some place to start. I think that each relationship is different and that we must create a different dynamic with that individual from the one that we'd created with another... because people are different... needs are different and the chemistry created is different.

I had a second date with a guy today who was perfectly nice and attractive, etc., etc. I had a great, very intelligent, real conversation with him the two times we went out. BUT... and it's a big but... I didn't feel that spark. I didn't feel that little thing inside that makes me want to board the train and see where it takes me. I suspected the lack of chemistry on the first date but I've been told many, many times that I'm too picky and that I don't give people enough of a chance. Perhaps... but I've seen the men that they date and opted to be a little more picky... then to pick men like they had. I've experienced a dynamic that allowed me to feel as though the foundation and chemistry created would allow me to reach for the stars. I'd realized that with the "right" person, I am frickin' fabulous at relationships. I am all I want to be: open, honest, giving, a partner... and so on. I want that again. But I want amazing. I frickin' deserve something awesomely amazing! And so, when this very nice man stated that he really liked me and wanted to spend more time with me, I kindly told him that I wasn't experiencing the same thing. I felt it better... and ultimately kinder... to end it early. You see, I would much rather be told early on that "he's just not that into me" than to build up hopes and dreams... only to be crushed like a bug later.

For those reading my blog regularly, you know that I've had a tough breakup and perhaps it's too soon to start dating... but then again, perhaps it isn't. I have always trusted my intuition. Upon rare occasions its led me down paths that I didn't expect and to places that I'd perhaps rather not gone... but in all cases, I came out stronger, wiser and with a greater sense of self-worth. I haven't wanted to say "yes!" often but when I have, it turned into an invaluable experience.

And because I'm worth it... I'll keep kissing frogs, hoping that one day... I'll turn into a prince.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dealing with Alzheimer's

A good friend of mine inspired me to write this blog post.

One day my friend and I were hiking and he was talking about his mom who has started to show signs of dementia. I work with people who have Alzheimer's (Alzheimer's is a specific form of dementia, which by the way, is not a normal aging process) on a daily basis and I believe that I approach them in a unique way that helps to keep them calm while allowing me to provide the care they need. I was walking through the disease process with him when I happened to mention that I thought the kindest thing a person or family member could do for someone with Alzheimer's is to recognize the point where "reorientation" was no longer appropriate or helpful.

Reorientation is a term we (healthcare professionals) use to describe the process of helping the patient orient to reality. It may be a simple reminder of where they are, what the date is or even what time it is. As Alzheimer's progresses, reorienting simply becomes stressful and the person starts to feel paranoid. Their reality has changed. In those instances, it becomes time to go where they go. I have the benefit of having been involved in the theatre. Improvisation is second nature to me. That said, although I know it's incredibly frustrating and painful for family to see their loved one in such a altered state, going where they are is the kindest thing to do for everyone.

A little story (or two):
We have a resident were I work who spent much of his life working as a security guard. He has reached a point where he now thinks that he is working security for a hotel and that he has a room there. Instead of reorienting him, which wouldn't be helpful and only confusing, when he comes up to ask if he's on shift, depending on what I'd heard in report, I'll usually ask him if he's eaten because it's break time and I don't want him to miss his meal. If he'd been up "patrolling" all night, then I suggest that he go and get a nap because he's "on shift" later that night and we don't want him to miss his sleep. I'm able to manage his care by going where he is and using his experience to make sure that his needs are met.

We had another resident that was very, very proper. She liked manners. So, I called her Miss Eve (name has been changed for privacy). She was very paranoid and didn't like people to touch her. So, instead of just coming up and shoving her meds in her mouth, I would kneel down so that I was eye-to-eye with her and say in an enthusiastic tone of voice, "Hello, Miss Eve, how are you this morning?" I would have a quick dialogue with her and because I'd spoken to her and discovered what she likes, I knew she loved applesauce. So I'd put her crushed meds in that. Because I also knew she liked manners, I knew she wouldn't refuse me if I told her that I'd specifically made the applesauce for her. Getting her to take meds was... simple. When she was no longer able to swallow effectively and her meds were put into a gel, I told her that her skin was very dry and that I wanted to put lotion on her. Whereas other staff really struggled giving her care, I never once had an issue. Because I would go where she was and offer what she was familiar with. No stress for either of us.

These basic things have helped me to have a relatively stress free interaction with those who have some sort of memory impairment.
  1. Have patience. Their thought process is slower than ours. If you think of memory like a file cabinet, we all store our memories (everything from words to the first time we saw Santa) within the cabinets, in their own, perfectly labeled files. And, if you're like me, then they're all nicely color coded with a neatly typed label. We are able to access these memories, for the most part, with quick accuracy that doesn't hinder our interactions. When someone has a memory impairment, it's like ALL of their files where tossed into the air. Some of them were put back in the correct file but others weren't and some files are now empty. It takes time for them to access those memories. It's not helpful when we attempt to complete their sentences or express frustration. They're frustrated, too. What helps is to use short sentences. Ask "yes" or "no" questions. Express one thought at a time. Use pauses in order to let them catch up. Sit quietly while they find the words. If you don't understand them, ask the same question... don't try to rephrase it, that only confuses them more because they think you're asking a different question.
  2. You don't need to be right. Being correct is unnecessary and you can't win... because their reality is not your reality. When you deny their reality, it creates paranoia, greater confusion and anxiety.
  3. Go where they are. If they think that you're their great grandmother... then be their great grandmother. What harm does it cause? None. And it provides them with a companionship that is familiar and comforting to them.
  4. Remember that Alzheimer's has stages and that each of those stages must be approached in a different manner. The person may not behave in a way that you are familiar with. They may not seem like the person that you love. But they cannot help their behavior. Some wander, unable to sit still. Some cuss or become overly sexually inappropriate. Remember that this is a stage and will eventually pass. 
Watching a loved one go through the changes of Alzheimer's can be very, very painful and exhausting. If you're a caregiver... find support (other family members, a professional support group, church, etc.) because it's not easy and caregiver fatigue is common. You're also really, really amazing for making the commitment (and it's definitely a commitment) caring for your loved one. If you find that it's too much, please don't suffer guilt. It's exhausting work. And there are wonderful facilities that can care for your loved one... just do your research.

If wish you every luck and my heart goes out to you.

**For more information about Alzheimer's and dementia, please click on the link above.

That Sense of Freedom

Yesterday morning, after tossing and turning and weighing the pros and cons of turning down a $94,000 a year salary (sooo tempting), I called the recruiter and told her that my heart lies in helping people and that I wouldn't be doing that in the position they wanted to offer me. Yes, I'm talented at teaching and training. But I'd rather use that talent to teach people about a disease process or about death and dying or how to maintain their health... not how to use a computer system.

This is the letter I'd received from her this morning. I guess they were even more impressed with my presentation than I'd originally thought.

I think it is the right decision for you- After hearing how you treat “Frank” – it showed me it is what your calling in life truly is! !I went home and told my fiancĂ© that I thought you would not go to the interview and would change your mind – I am fairly perceptive. When I called him and told him – he said you knew it.  I sensed that even if you went to the interview you would not end up taking the position. Later on, after you have been in nursing for a while you can always transition into training again – you would be a great trainer for nursing students or new nurses – compassion and respect are not always taught but shown through examples. I hope my mom finds a nurse like you when she moves to a facility!

Good luck and stay in touch!

When I hung up the phone yesterday, I felt this immediate sense of lightness, almost sense of soaring and I figured that I'd either gone into shock and had disassociated (that's a lot of frickin' money) or that's what freedom felt like.

I'm very excited to start hospice. I think I can make a difference and help people there. And I won't be making anywhere near $94,000 but at night, as I'm lying there thinking about my day, I hope that I fall asleep with a smile and sense of contentment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adventures in Air Travel

Tonight as I was flying into Denver, I was fortunate enough to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. The sun was this burning, hot orange-ish pink that transitioned into hot pink. As it set over the mountains, it hit the gray-purple clouds over the front range, creating a halo behind the mountains. It sank behind the mountains as I thought, "I am so blessed." And I desperately wished I had a camera with me. It's an image that I hope to never forget.

*                               *                               *

And so he goes... "So... are you one of *those* that likes girls?" My loud laughter echos throughout the plane as I reply, "No, I like men."

On the trip between Chicago and Louisville, I ended up sitting next to a career (30 years) Army recruiter. He was awesome! Very funny... He started by tormenting (I couldn't hear what he said) the 3 business men across the aisle and then he turned to me and said, "I love bar-tending their conversation. They simply hate that." He was currently stationed in MN but his wife lives in AK. He was traveling to KY for some sort of training. He was simply impish... and the one that asked me if I were a lesbian when I'd told him that I'd never been married. We talked about travel and Alaska. I told him of my October 2012 trip to see polar bears (a life long dream of mine). He showed me photos of his three adult sons, his wife and his Harley.

I'd left with his business card, a poker chip and a Harley sticker; along with the comment, "You're going to get this job. I can feel it. You have the personality for it"... all gifts from my seatmate.

*                               *                               *

It's occurred to me that if I want to meet another business man (which is who I seem to be drawn to), perhaps I should hang out at the airport on week days. There seems to be a whole lot of men in business suits here. Oh and... it's not the suits, it's the leadership that draws me in.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Success Dilemma

"You may be the only good thing that happens in someone's life today." - unknown

So, depending on how far back in my posts you've read, you've probably realized that I haven't been particularly happy with the type of nursing that I'm doing. It's not that it's a bad or unworthy endeavor; it's just that it's not at all what I'd expected to be doing. In April, I'd reached a breaking point and papered the healthcare system with my resume. With a tad bit of success...

It landed me with an interview at a hospice company. It's one that I'd had great respect for and that I've worked with. I was very excited! Although, again, hospice wasn't something that I thought I'd be doing this early in my career, it was certainly an area of interest. The caveat... it was going to take "a while" to get me started. What I didn't realize was that they meant a LONG while...

I'm waiting... and waiting... I know that I've gotten the job but things aren't moving... at all. And, really, the point of getting a NEW job is so that you can leave the OLD job. A few weeks ago, I get an email from a recruiter about a traveling trainer position. It took a few days before I replied but I wasn't sure it was what I'd wanted. But, contact them I did. The job description is something that I'm perfectly suited to do. I've done very similar work in the past so I figure... what the heck? On the day of my first telephone interview, the hospice company calls and says they are ready for me to start... of course. Of course. In the meantime, I have to prepare a 3 - 5 minute YouTube video where I'm doing a mini training. I get the 2nd telephone interview and the day that's scheduled, the hospice wants me to come in and fill out paperwork... of course. Of course.

In the meantime, I've found out the travel trainer position would require/allow me to travel to 46 different states and will pay me more money (by about 34K) than I've ever made in my life. Needless to say, hospice won't be paying me that much. Instantly my mind starts going "cha-ching" and I'm planning on the extra large tv that I want to buy and the new cruiser bike that I'd hoped to get this summer. Then I start thinking about the masters that I want to get and how I could save, etc. I've also found out that I've gotten the face-to-face interview in KY and that I'll be required to prepare a 30 minute training session (on a topic of my choice) complete with material that I'd need to supply (for any hands-on portions that they're expecting me to include) and Power Point. Needless to say, I'm frickin' stressed!!

Thursday was meltdown day. I kept feeling all this pressure and uncertainty. I couldn't figure out if it were fear of presenting, fear of success or my intuition screaming at me to PAY ATTENTION. You see, I'd been noticing, but ignoring (I've discovered that I'm VERY good at ignoring) some ginormous red flags.
  1. The recruiter kept saying things like, "we had this one woman give an AMAZING presentation but her blouse was too low cut so she didn't get the job because they felt she showed too much cleavage. Really? She was great... but... Wouldn't it have been better to offer the job but to say, "we were a little uncomfortable with your outfit, mind being more conservative in your dress in the future?"
  2. I received no less than 17 documents (a minimum of 4 pages each) with "helpful hints" and requirements for the INTERVIEW! For the love!!
  3. "It's a very, very conservative company."
  4. I'd be a consultant, likely trapped into a contract until the end of 2013. Oh and... although the travel would be fun, I'd be on the road EVERY Monday - Friday. While initially fun, that could get really old, really fast.
  5. I'd be training their employees... when a physician doesn't feel like learning their new computer system... who do you think they're going to blame?? The M.D.?? Oh no, they'll blame the consultant... the RN. 
  6. I'm getting a deja vu sensation and mild anxiety whenever I think about the job. 
  7. I've only been a nurse for a year and in CO, the ONLY way to get a job in a hospital is to get the year under your belt. I feel like I'd be going backwards... going BACK to training computers. The job titles would be different... but it's essentially the same work that had driven me... fleeing... out of corporate America. 
  8. I'm very concerned that after the contract is up, I'd end up back in a LTC (long term care) facility because I would have had a hiatus with my "skills." And, considering this has been one of the hardest, most agonizing years of my life, needless to say, it's not one that I'd care to repeat (any of it) any time soon.
  9. My last corporate America job was really good at helping people board the "Perfectionist Treadmill" and then setting the speed at impossible levels, until you eventually slipped and landed on your face, nose bloody and likely broken. The more questions I'd asked, the more I felt as though this company was of a similar culture. I'd ended one abusive "relationship" (i.e. the former company), I'm not anxious to get into another.
So, though the money is very attractive and for a moment, it's shininess dazzled me and filled me with dreams of accumulation, I paused and asked myself... how do I really define success?? What really matters to me? The voice from my soul said, "you left corporate America and ripped your life apart in order to do something with meaning. Yes, you're an EXCELLENT trainer and teacher. It's a talent, certainly. But so is helping people through trauma. You can do that in hospice, with people whose lives you can make a difference. You're not making any difference by teaching someone how to input a certain code into a system."

I have a quote on my computer that has been there since I started nursing school. It says "you may be the only good thing that happens in someone's life today." It's something that I try every day to live... even when I should simply throw up my hands and walk away... I still try to understand the other perspective and be open to their experiences. So... success for me isn't defined by earning the almighty dollar. I define success by how much of a difference I'm making, whether I'm using my talents and whether I'm happy at the end of the day. I haven't felt very successful this last year. But, I'm working on it. And so, although I will have to follow through with the interview, I'm 99% sure that I'm going to turn it down. Because success isn't about money... not really. I want my epitath to read... "She was a really amazing, kind and compassionate person," not "She was a millionaire." Though, <g> if both are written, I wouldn't mind that either. I mean, I'm altruistic... not a fool!! <g>

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Before Ever After

I cannot rave about this book enough. I just finished it and it's all I want to think about. It's one of the most beautifully written, creative stories I've read in a very long time (and I read many, many books each year). I am deeply touched by the characters and the exploration of love and loss; what that means, how to cope and how to move on. The scenes are vivid and rich and the characters wonderfully three-dimensional. Max's story is moving and original. I couldn't wait to get to the next adventure... but I didn't want it to end. I so desperately didn't want it to end. For the first time in a while, I wanted to BE Shelley. I wanted to curl up next to Max and never, never, ever let go. I want to relive the novel over and over, memorize it, absorb it into my soul, incorporate it in my very DNA.

I hate that I can't tell you more... but I don't want to spoil anything. I will say... you absolutely must check out this book!

A few quotes from the book that moved me:

"Growing old is to be set free, Brother," the abbot said. "It is a slow and long-simmering process that extracts from you what you are really made of. But it requires acceptance. You cannot put a flailing chicken in a boiling pot. You must accept the heat and the pain with serenity so that the full flavors of your life may be released."

 "Shelley, will you let me hold your hand as we outrun reason, brush past elephants, race up steps, tumble down hills, roll in the hay, leap over crumbling walkways, and dangle our legs over ledges?"

 "She had known a love worth mourning, a love worth remembering."