4 Lessons I Learned From Nurse Florence (And Not The One You Think!)

Before our final goodbye, she bestowed upon me a few key lessons which have significantly influenced my personal and professional life. I’d love to honor her by sharing them with you today.

Florence Nightingale turns 200 today, May 12th, 2020!

That’s what we in the biz would call an “Old School Nurse.”

Ms. Nightingale was a leader, an innovator, and, as I learned at the museum in London dedicated to her, was celibate and a writer too! (Sounding familiar right about now.)

You may know her for sanitation reform during the Crimean war, (‘wash your hands’, anyone??) and as the founder of the first nursing school. 

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From the Florence Nightingale Museum, London, UK

But there’s another Nurse Florence I want to share with you today. She also served in the military – World War II – and retired from Skagit Valley Hospital in 1981, the year I was born. A beautiful Japanese Maple was given to her as a retirement gift. Thirty-eight years later, this tree flourishes in my front yard.

While she may not boast the same accolades as the esteemed “Lady With the Lamp,” in my view, she deserves recognition this National Nurse’s Week, amidst the global celebration for Year of the Nurse.

Continue reading “4 Lessons I Learned From Nurse Florence (And Not The One You Think!)”

It’s Time to Suit Up and Stop the Mask-Shaming

What would resorting to public displays of personal protection say about ME? Had I become weak? Had I always been?

FYI – This post will NOT cover the following mask-based material: 

  • Politically charged discussion re: mask availability/approval (though it’s no doubt mixed messages and misinformation are leading players in the delayed decision to recommend them.)
  • Controversial discourse regarding public access to masks and healthcare professionals shortage. (though trust me, it’s caused me a significant amount of heartburn.)
  • Heartfelt pleas, imploring you to wear a mask, based on my firsthand witness of ongoing tragedies. (though each shift bears more testimony that masking vigilance is necessary. And OK, there may be an overture or two within.)

The following is an examination of human behaviors and relations, of judgment and compassion, and tracks my evolution from mask-critic to humble mask-aholic.

Continue reading “It’s Time to Suit Up and Stop the Mask-Shaming”

Year of the Nurse Spotlight #2: Shannon – “Addicts need help, NOT punishment.”

Rather than feeling empowered to self-report and get help early on, nurses end up in legal trouble or trouble at work for diverting.

 

Shannon McDonald’s smile is contagious. She’s funny and kind and has a passion for refurbishing furniture and hitting the trails with her family on their ATVs.

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But it wasn’t always this way.

In 2009, Shannon’s life was the stuff addiction is made of: a lack of coping skills “I was a negative person”, a troubled relationship “My husband and I were awful to each other” a legitimate cause for pain prescriptions “migraines and herniated discs” and high-stress job as an emergency room nurse in a Level 1 Trauma Center.

Similar to my experience, Shannon learned the hard way: marijuana’s not the gateway drug, opiate prescription pills are.

This post is longer than usual but worth it! In the following interview, Shannon opens up about procuring drug hookups in jail, suffering withdrawal from heroin, and finally, the joy of recovery.

Recover and Rise: Shannon, how long have you been sober, and what do you define yourself in recovery from?

Shannon: My sober date is Dec 2, 2015. I’ve been in recovery for 4 years and 3 months from drugs, alcohol, job burnout, and a generally crappy attitude – LOL!

Continue reading “Year of the Nurse Spotlight #2: Shannon – “Addicts need help, NOT punishment.””

The Year 20/20: Creating A Clear Vision

If I want to become the best version of myself, I can’t carry the burdens of 2019 forward. I also can’t just cover them up with a pretty blanket of snow.

As I’m writing, the world outside is turning a soft winter white. The ground underneath it, mostly a dirty brown state of decay or Washington state moss (mold) green, is being transformed by a fresh coat of snowy paint.

Snow makes everything beautiful. It creates a world that appears clean, peaceful, poignant, and full of possibility. A foot or two of snow on the ground can turn any landscape into a Thomas Kinkade painting.

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The thing about snow is it’s temporary. It’s going to melt. (Unless you live on one of the poles in which case your snow-covered world looks less ‘awe-inspiring Kinkade’ and more ‘stark Nat Geo magazine spread’) As it melts, the dirt below remains. The only difference is it will be wetter, colder and so dense you’ll need a supersized industrial-strength shovel to get it out of the way. (There’s nothing grosser than the gray-brown slush that builds up along the sidewalks after a snowfall.)

But right now, the snowflakes are like falling crystal, and it’s the essential backdrop for a New Year’s reflection and perfect analogy for a blog post. The snow may conceal the ugliness of the past, but it won’t eliminate the mess for good.

That part’s up to me. I have to clean up my own messes.

Continue reading “The Year 20/20: Creating A Clear Vision”

Current “Condition” Brings About Blog Changes…

I’ve silently endured this for years, not knowing where to turn for help. Just when I was starting to believe it could be futile, I encountered hope. My treatment plan begins immediately. 

I’ve suspected for awhile something is wrong with me. For the last couple of months, I’ve been researching and seeking professional opinions to get to the bottom of my issue.
(And for once it’s nothing to do with addiction, alcoholism, job burnout or codependency!)

My search for answers took me to the National Nurses in Business Association conference, which was held in Las Vegas in September. While my alcohol-free lifestyle made me feel like a total stranger in Sin City, I was blown away by the business leaders, innovators, writers, and coaches all gathered together. Each and every one of them a Nurse!

I met Kati Kiebler, a charismatic speaker and co-author of The Nurse’s Guide to Blogging, which I am now greedily devouring.

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I also met career coach Nurse Keith. He led a workshop on creating written content and I immediately signed up for his services. After just one session together and a brief examination of my blog, we agreed; I’ve suffered a severe case of BLOGHORREA. 

Continue reading “Current “Condition” Brings About Blog Changes…”

The Road Trip Sessions: Installment #3

I had a secret weapon to deal with anxiety, pain or discomfort: simply self-medicate with substances. Being a little tipsy, a little numb and a little checked out helped me tolerate the surfing situation (not to mention all other hard things in life). The day would pass in sea-salt tinted haze.

“I own a surfboard, but I’m not a surfer.” This is my go-to script when discussing the salty sport.“Surfing is the hardest sport I’ve ever tried.” Is the next sentence that flows off my tongue. It’s all true. I purchased a 9’6” bright red longboard before ever attempting to tackle a wave, and once I did, found it to be the most challenging, intimidating and exhilarating activity I’ve pursued.

Surfing requires balance, coordination, strength, mental composure, a love of water and proclivity for adrenaline. When I first donned a wetsuit at age 30, I didn’t possess many of these attributes. I was physically clumsy, preferred reading on the beach vs. frolicking in the waves, and I’ve got a weird quirk about putting my face under water. I hate it. While I grew up thoroughly enjoying swimming in pools and lakes with my dad and siblings, I would rarely immerse my head. Like a cat, when water touches my face, I instantly recoil. Even in the shower. I know, it’s ridiculous.

(I have a couple theories why this is, but not enough blog space to elaborate. Perhaps another time we’ll examine my two near drownings along with early belief that  maintaining a perfectly made up face to gain male attention was more important than letting go to playfully swim. I’ve predominately overcome these, gratefully, but I still swim with my face fully above the surface!)

Submersion underwater is non-negotiable in surfing. My face was going to get wet; no way around it. But when one is 30 years old, in a new relationship, leaping into life in a fresh, adventurous way and one’s boyfriend says, “I want to take you surfing!!” one does not say “I can’t do that, I don’t like to get my face wet”. One purchases a surfboard and wetsuit and faces their watery foe head-on (after vomiting in the grassy dunes on the way to the waterfront.)

My first surf adventure was at Short Sands on the Oregon Coast. Lucky for me, my older brother is an excellent surfer and was there to walk me through the process. I’ll never forget laying shakily atop the unfamiliar red surfboard as he held tightly to the sides, chest deep in the water.  When the right wave was near, he’d say “Paddle” and push me ahead of the wave. Next, he’d instruct me to “Get up!” as I struggled to get vertical. The ocean was threatening and unpredictable. My brother: reliable and serene.

I’ve surfed a few dozen times since then, but not well. I’d schlep out into the cold liquid and hours would pass as I fell again and again. I’d make it up to my knees a handful of times, but rarely to my feet. The water was frigid, salt relentlessly stung my eyes, and the neck of my wetsuit suffocated me. Mostly, I stood waist deep with my feet firmly planted on the sand, looking out toward limitless rolling waves, hoping everyone was too busy to notice I hardly tried.

Besides avoiding plunging my face under, I was burdened with all the “normal” fears associated with entering a vast, creature-filled body of water:

  • Deep, primal fear of what lies beneath the surface: jelly fish, stingrays, and sharks oh my!
  • Fear of possible and probable injury: surfboards are hard when they hit your head and fins are VERY sharp when they cut your ankle, thigh or arm
  • Fear of unpredictable, merciless currents, waves and riptides: the ocean has a reputation of tumbling people like socks in a giant washing machine.

Signage along the shore warns of the risks assumed by stepping into the sea. The ocean plays by her own rules, and if you don’t know or understand them, you can easily end up a victim to the game.

All of that sounds awful as I put it on paper. “Why do it at all?” you ask. (I’m asking myself as I write this as well.)

I persisted because my partner at the time was into it and it was something to do as a couple. It was also an activity in common with my brother and bonding moments with him were rare and special. I persisted because it was the sexy thing to do. It feels young and trendy to wear a bikini top and a wetsuit pulled up to my waist, flaunting natural beachy waves in my hair. I persisted to belong; to join the after party without feeling like a fraud on dry land when everyone else had kicked ass in, or had their ass kicked by, the ocean.

More significant were the few exceptional moments when I got it. I mean really got it. The wave swelled under me, my body found its way upright and I maintained a balanced, athletic posture all the way to the foamy whitewater at the shore; the moment I caught a wave. That was a feeling I wanted more of. A feeling of alive seldom achieved in any other sport.

That sensation was so pleasant, so magnetic, it was worth facing all my aforementioned fears. Besides, I had a secret weapon to deal with anxiety, pain or discomfort: simply self-medicate with substances. Being a little tipsy, a little numb and a little checked out helped me tolerate the surfing situation (not to mention all other hard things in life). The day would pass in sea-salt tinted haze. Somehow, I’d make it safely to dry land and move on to more savory pastimes such as reading, beach combing, and more drinking. Alcohol washed away worry and Vicodin dulled the dread as I hesitantly paddled out into the Pacific, though they certainly never assisted in gaining balance or expertise.

WARNING: Do not ever surf under the influence. I am in no way insinuating substances ACTUALLY made me brave. They simply numbed my fear.  Which means they also numbed my joy. And then I became an addict and lost my job and many relationships and almost my nursing license along with my dignity and it’s taken me years to overcome the shame and sickness that ensued from thinking it was a good idea to self-medicate. I’m simply relaying how my brain worked at the time, before I understood the catastrophic consequences and life-threatening risks I was taking and before I truly loved myself. Ok, with that out of the way….

The seductive call of surfing sang to me again in Costa Rica, while traveling with family. The waves were comparatively warm and small, but I was no less terrified than I’d been in the polar Pacific. All my previous fears remained, with one major distinction: I had no addictive crutch to calm my shaking nerves.

In Costa Rica I would be surfing sober, and I lacked a backup coping mechanism. I longed for a super strong IPA and little white pill to transform my cowardice into (false) confidence.

Continue reading “The Road Trip Sessions: Installment #3”

The Roadtrip Sessions: Installment #2

Especially as a woman in recovery from religious trauma, self-loathing, perfectionism, opiates and alcohol, the ability to walk around with the experience that “I am absolutely OK just as I am” is nothing less than a miracle.

It’s been 10 consecutive days camping, hiking, swimming and posting up in driveways. The evidence is indisputable:

  • I have not changed out of my Olakai sandals, except for ONCE when I used the local Planet Fitness in Eureka California. My feet are toughened up for the barefoot season, to put it nicely. (I did book a pedicure today. I’m camping, but a girl still has needs.)
  • I’ve not worn a bra once, only occasional tank top like sports bras. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I probably don’t NEED a bra. (refer to this early blog. Fair warning: not my best material. Raw, genuine, but pre-writing course and I’m not taking the time to edit.) From the looks of the locals, I don’t think this part of Oregon requires the undergarment.
  • My skin is glowing with summer tan. And by tan, I mean my freckles have grown together close enough that from a distance, if you squint your eyes, I appear to have a mild bronze sheen. I’ll take it, it’s the best I can ask for.
  • My eyes are sparkling, my gait nonchalant and my face relaxed. (Ok, that could be the botox I got right before the trip…) Schedules/plans/obligations are beginning to feel like a thing of the past.

It’s official. I’m in vacation mode. After a week of reveling in the foggy western coastline and brilliant green shade of Northern California’s Redwoods, it was time to head inland for sunnier times.

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Sunny spot just outside Eagle Point, Oregon

Meandering northeast, I stopped for the night in Eagle Point, Oregon where I met a charismatic, van-owning woman whom impacted my life significantly in a matter of hours. She gifted me a homemade smudge stick, added me to a women’s only online van community, and generously shared the journey of her grief/healing process when our conversation turned to aging dogs and loss of parents. She introduced me to Laurie Anderson’s documentary “Heart of a Dog”,  and showed me mementos such as a healing candle from her mother’s service, and gorgeous glass pendant created from her beloved dog’s ashes by Psyche Cremation Jewelry in Bend, Oregon (which as you know was my next stop!) Cassie – my own special canine soulmate  – is still very much alive, but a large part of my trip’s purpose has been to celebrate her life and prepare for inevitable loss as she begins to slow down at 14 years old. And always, in the back of my mind, are thoughts of how and when I’ll begin to deal with my father’s passing in 2017. So much occurred in one brief night at Eagle Point, it’s hard to explain in a paragraph. Just trust me; I was meant to meet this woman.

Continue reading “The Roadtrip Sessions: Installment #2”