15 Lessons Learned from Camping with a Toddler

December 3, 2016


When your partner suggests the idea, try your absolute best to barter for an alternative adventure. Use their favorite meal, sex, voting for their choice politician, anything. If this doesn’t work, beg not to go. If you don’t know how to beg, consult with your toddler.

  1. Be 100% certain there WILL be a campsite available for your massive entourage of crap BEFORE you get there. There’s nothing like spending an hour squeezing coolers, tents, blankets, mattress pads, diaper bags, babies, fire equipment, and hiking gear into the back of a Jeep only to be told by the snarky, skinny dude sitting behind the “welcome” desk that there are no sites left and you may depart the way you came.

(Side Note: Kind sir, it is advisable you recommend alternative options to the young family that looks as if they may burst into tears – all 3 of them – before you. Such as the fact that if they waited around for one hour, over five sites would open up.)

  1. Don’t give up on finding a campsite. See #2 side note. Mentally remember to scold the skinny dude with mommy eyes upon departing.
  2. If access to the beach is possible, do try to select a campsite near one. The beauty of watching your toddler dance with the crashing waves is worth the ensuing 24 hours. They surprise us every day.
  3. Test drive how well your toddler sleeps in a tent. Forget everything you learned from the test drive because it will NOT play out in the same regard. Consider buying a “mini tent” for their individual bodies. Laugh (or kick yourself in the head) when your makeshift version — a pop-up train apparatus — does not work. Decide whether you will laugh or cry when your toddler wakes up for the 10th time that night, you ask your partner what’s wrong, and they respond: “His head fell out of the choo-choo.”
  4. Get used to being that freak that jumps every time your toddler walks within 10 feet of the first fire you and your partner have ever built without adult supervision. “Hunnie, I think that was too much lighter fluid…”
  5. While sitting in the pitch dark, silently remind yourself to remind Alexa (your Amazon echo) to add a lantern to your shopping list. Curse the fact that the borrowed one from your father doesn’t work. It was last used in 1996, but it looked like it could do the job.
  6. Sing hallelujah when you find yourself assigned a lot near the “host campers”. They likely have everything you failed to remember, including a can opener for replicating those delicious fire fruit pies you made in childhood. If your toddler doesn’t want to try a bite, ask them repeatedly until they get so fed up, they take one just to appease your nostalgia. Don’t feel bad about this, remember how many times per day they ask you for a snack.
  7. Don’t be alarmed when you hear a scurrying sound that wakes you from your slumber in the middle of the night. It could be a bear, but chances are, it’s your toddler’s best version of a combat crawl, escaping the choo-choo to come snuggle you.
  8. Chuckle when you learn of your partner’s midnight standoff with an armadillo. Insist he wake you the next time something like that happens, even though you likely would’ve throat punched him if he did.
  9. Be content knowing you will receive a maximum of two uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. Be sure you have coffee creation plans that are tightly woven and unbreakable, even in the presence of a two-year-old.
  10. Embrace the fact that your child will call you out every time you sneak off to relieve yourself. “MOMMY, DADDY, GO PEE PEE” may become the new campfire song.
  11. Maybe try NOT to camp for the first time when all three of you are infected with a viral snot party of daycare respiratory illness.
  12. Smile as you and your partner recall the fact that you packed a collective three condoms (that went untouched) for your 24 hour stint in nature. Compare adjectives with your partner regarding this fact. Ours were: “Optimistic” and “You couldn’t pay me enough…”.
  13. Promise each other you will give it another chance, in another lifetime.


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What 24 Hours in Washington D.C. did for my Soul

October 31, 2016

I was scheduled for a quick three-and-a-half-hour meeting in our nation’s capital, just one week before we elect our next president of the United States. This election has caused personal angst, communal stress, and a world, it seems, that has gone mad. People are behaving in a way that resembles the trespasses I see among children in my kiddo’s two-year-old classroom.

You know how that looks. One kid is contently playing with a toy (their choice candidate, if you will). Another kid doesn’t like what they see and decides to forcefully remove the toy from the first child’s lap. No discussion about sharing, no polite request. No maintaining respect and just leaving the poor kid alone. Consider this being that constant person that, despite telling them who you have chosen to vote for and why, they still decide they want your toy. Want to debate you, prove why the decision you have made is stupid by picking apart your every word, post antagonizing Facebook updates because maybe, just maybe, they will turn a few votes.

So, that toy. It is just snatched. The first child begins to wail. Major tears. They have been hurt, disrespected, devalued. It seemed to come out of nowhere. The toy-snatcher may glance the crying child’s way, but they typically bee line for a haven to stow their latest victory. Hiding. How does the hurt child act the next time the toy-stealer comes around? Defensive. Angry. Distrusting. Close-minded about the intentions of the person.

It’s embarrassing to watch people treat each other this way. It’s demoralizing.

So, I was somewhat nervous about going to D.C. immediately before this historic election. I told my husband “I’m so over all of it”. It’s going to happen, let’s get on with it. We need to get on with it.

JetBlue got me there in a jiff. I stepped off the plane and into Ronald Reagan Airport. It’s a pretty place, the ceilings quite intricately designed for an airport, I think. I took an Uber ride to my hotel, where I am told I cannot check in yet but we will be happy to store your carry on. Just see the bellhop. She is standing to the side of her podium, with a solemn face. After I tell her hello and what I am requesting help with, she acknowledges my presence with only movement of her eyes before gesturing to the elderly man next to her. He does all the work, pleasantly. I silently wonder what her job was exactly, besides being rude, and headed outside for a stroll around our nation’s capital. Perhaps, she had her toy snatched, I think.

It is a beautiful day as I step onto the curb. The temperature is a delicious 68 degrees and I can already catch a glimpse of the capitol building as I begin walking. There is traffic, but not much. I walk to the gate that says “must stop here” and admire the architecture. I notice there is a stage being built. The fresh wood remains exposed in its natural beauty. Not yet painted nor corrupt. I move on to the reflecting pool and notice there is a group of ducks in one corner. I am drawn to them, or to the people surrounding them. The ducks are multicolored and quiet, focusing on the task of remaining afloat and looking calm while doing so. Like most Americans, I think.

I walk toward the Washington Monument. Young adults have arranged a kickball league, adorning their matching shirts and yelling “Run it out! They might drop the ball” to their playmate as I walk by. After walking a small portion of the U.S. Botanic Garden, I stop in to the National Museum of the American Indian and eat some food in their cafeteria. I was seated next to a woman about my age and an older man who had a little girl next to him. The woman looked uncomfortable and I wondered why. He started to ask her about her relationship, a long-distance situation that had been a struggle for a few years. “That’s hard” he remarks. She agrees with no elaboration.

I haven’t heard a political word uttered since being here, I think. Quite refreshing, just like this apricot and leek salad sitting in front of me. I will enjoy both.

I walked into the lobby of the hotel that was to host my meeting. Signs pointed me upward, to the escalator. As I approached the floor and stepped off the moving staircase, I am greeted by cardboard cut outs of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Smiling, standing next to each other. A guy is completing a selfie with Hilary. My first reaction was that they were real and I internally panicked. Here they are, standing alone in front of me, smiling. I guess I must be polite and go say hello. I want to run away. Thankfully, they are just cardboard. I wonder who’s hand I would shake first, I think.

The meeting happens, it ends, and we are sent to a lovely reception of wine and hors d’oeuvres. There, we sing happy birthday, as instructed, to one of the meeting attendants. She was all smiles, and appeared genuinely appreciative of the gesture. Again, no politics.

I fly home and catch a bus to my parking lot. The bus driver is petite and pleasant, helping joyfully with my luggage and chomping her gum quite loudly as she drives me to the bus stop. I pay the meter and drive home, happy to be returning to my family.

It was a peaceful twenty-four hours. I heard no anger, no disrespect, no hostility (apart from the bellhop). This sat well with my soul. It told me, no matter the outcome of this election, people will continue living their lives. They will continue to smile at one another, they will continue to play kickball. They will continue to frequent museums and walk outside, enjoying ducks in ponds and beautiful buildings. What is to come in the next couple of weeks will come and it will go. We will have a next President of the United States. We need to respect that. We will still be here.

Let’s be kind to one another. Let us learn. Let us stay open. Let us work together. Let us respect one another’s opinions and rights. Perhaps the toy-snatcher will find a way to give it back, or maybe even share. It wasn’t theirs to begin with but I am hopeful the crying child will find it in their hearts to forgive.

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I Screamed “Control Your Child” at a Restaurant

October 13, 2016


I recently had the opportunity to explore Boston for a work trip. My husband and I decided to make a family vacation out of the event, packing up our 22 month old son and toting him along. I am a relatively new mother, and this strange world often feels foreign and sometimes very alone. Motherhood was never a planned event in my mind. In fact, I graduated college with attempts at feminism. I would tell my friends “I’m never getting married, and if I do, it’ll be when I’m 40. I’m going to travel, be independent, and not worry about men.”

I met the man for me immediately  upon my return from college. We got married at 24, after a quick 9 month courtship and subsequent 9 month engagement. It felt completely natural, and I enjoyed the progression without resistance. We did make the conscious decision to enjoy 5 years of marriage before diving head first into the world of pack-n-plays and midnight cries. Throughout this time, we traveled, got to know each other, and focused our efforts on completing graduate school and enjoying young adulthood. I didn’t stop to ponder the question of having children. I never asked if it was an option or an expectation. I just knew that kids were a logical step in the ladder of life – based on what I had observed.

From the moment I sat on a toilet in the wee early AM hours, staring at the pregnancy test that nearly caused me to pass out, it’s been a wild ride. Pregnancy was a slow physical realization that my body, mind, and spirit would no longer independently belong to me. I had selfish thoughts: anger that I could not exercise quite the way I used to, or the fact that I even had to worry about the effects it may cause on my unborn child. Annoyance that everyone around me was enjoying alcoholic drinks on a family vacation when I could not. Sheer surprise at the weird physical changes that accompany our bodies as they work to form a new human. Please do not interpret these feelings as a lack of gratitude for this gift. I sadly realize there are many women who struggle painfully with infertility and these comments may seem extremely insensitive. They are, however, real. And so, I am revealing them. I also had many tender moments with my pregnancy. The most precious part of everyday was lying next to my husband each night, watching my belly excitedly for movement. Feeling those precious hiccups. Observing his growth as the time to meet him drew near. Planning and preparing his nursery, where he would spend his first months of life.

Now he is here, almost two years old. He is running, talking, and testing every boundary. As we walked the streets of Boston, mature parents would remark “Enjoy this time. Don’t blink. It is truly over before you know it.” They share this wisdom with such nostalgia – wistfully – sadly. Their faces reveal a longing for the time with their children that slipped out of their hands. I attempt a promise that yes, we will do our best to soak it in. Then, I am quickly distracted by my son’s attempt to dart across Newbury street traffic and my mind shifts to a familiar mixed emotion of concern and fear.

I was meeting the boys for a quick lunch in between conference sessions. It was a beautiful fall day with a gentle breeze and clear skies. We were sat at a table against the window. Restaurants are a terribly frightening place for me in this season of life. Our current strategy is to distract the child as much as possible, before strapping him in to a highchair when the food comes. We then eat as quickly as possible, dodging flailing arms and food. Hopefully, we have consumed enough calories by the time his patience runs low. He starts whining, not a few bites into our food. “Oh no” I think “Here we go.” He cries, refuses bites of either of our meals. He finally takes one, it is too spicy (Woe to you, Italian meatball!). He tightens his fist, screams in pain. I offer his milk to him and he throws it back at me. More crying. Kicking. Screaming. I start to feel heated, both from the perception of critical eyes upon me but also at my own frustrations.

I see myself at another table, 5 years ago. I’m rolling my eyes and flipping my hair, remarking to my friend “Control your child!” before dismissing this misbehavior and returning to my warm, organized food that has eloquently remained within the perimeter of my plate. Such entitled, confident judgement. That younger me goes back to discussing my plans for the day, including the necessary afternoon nap. The current me is lost, unsure how to climb this new mountain, unsure if I want to. Sure that however I decide to proceed, it will be wrong. We leave the restaurant. I’m feeling like a failure, defeated, exhausted. My son is unscathed. He happily climbs back into his father’s baby hiking apparatus and begins remarking on the city transportation. “A bu(s), a bu(s)!!” I feel drained, as if I have just come back from war. My son is laughing at a raindrop on his head. I don’t understand it, this parenting thing. I do know I’m messing it up, that much I am sure of. My husband senses that I’m shaken and we talk. He tells me I’m too hard on myself, a fair assessment. He tells me that most parents have probably felt this way. I ask “Every day?” and we smile together with a unified understanding that this is only the beginning.

He then said something that caught my attention, which is tough to do whenever in the presence of my child. “You know, if anyone else said the things you are saying about yourself as a mother, I’d punch them in the face!”

I sought multiple confirmations regarding the behavior of my toddler, by the way. That is one way I make myself feel better. The general consensus is: You cannot reason with a 2 year old. I’ll go with that.

Whoa, I thought. My husband is one of the most gentle and patient men I know. I’ve never heard a statement like that come out of his mouth. Taking time to reflect on it, I realized how important him telling me that really was. I am too hard on myself and I stink at remaining mindful of it. Why is it so dang hard for us, as mothers, as women… to just cut ourselves some slack? To relish when we do something RIGHT and stop judging ourselves when we do something wrong? Perhaps because we want so much for our kids. We want them to grow up to be loving souls who are compassionate to other’s needs. We want them to find out what it is that lights them up inside, then chase that dream down fervently. We want them to be a part of the good in this world, and fight courageously against the bad. Perhaps we worry too damn much about what other people think — particularly, other women. Did her child just sign the alphabet? Crap. Half of our “A, B, C’s” pages are ripped out.

Maybe we want them to be their own being, but we also secretly want them to be better versions of ourselves. A reflection of our countless hours of parenting sweat and tears. So tonight, I choose to forgive myself, as God already has many times over. I choose to take a deep breath the next time my son shrieks so loud, it rattles my eardrums. I choose to remain calm in my responses to him, realizing that he is soaking in so much of what I model every day. I choose to forgive myself if I do lose my cool. I choose to forgive the eye rollers of this world, for their time may also come. When it does, I hope that I am able to recognize their trepidation, their difficulties, their fear, and welcome them (and their children) with open arms.

Originally appeared on Elephant Journal 10/19/16 at following link:

Why I Screamed “Control Your Child” at a Restaurant (& Why I now Regret It).



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5 Surefire Tactics to Take Full Advantage of the Daily Commute

November 6, 2015

One of the main time-consumers of our day, with the exception of deleting countless e-mails, would have to be the daily commute. Whether it be in your own car, the subway, a train, or otherwise, the amount of time we spend waiting to get to where we need to go averages 26 minutes one way for the typical American commuter. This inspires optimistic creativity – to determine the best way to optimize our time on the road in a safe way. It also inspires math calculations – even for a science major.

26 minutes x 2 = 52 minutes per day

52 x 5 days a week = 260 minutes per week

260 x 52 weeks = 13,520 minutes per year

This roughly equals 225 hours or 9.4 days per year of our lives commuting. And that is for the lucky ones only driving 26 minutes each way (JEALOUS!)

Disclaimer: The last time I took a math class was freshmen year of college at Florida State University (GO NOLES). It was a statistics class and I got a B-. The class was early morning with a horrific Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. The majority of college kids would tell you this is the absolute worst course schedule ever. Perhaps If I had attended on the regular, the grade outcome may have been different.

Anyway, I digress. The point of the above blurb is: CHECK MY MATH.

In my continual attempts to make my day-to-day activities better, much better, I have paid a great deal of attention to how I can optimize the time spent in the car. Listed below are my findings.

  1. Find 2-3 podcasts that inspire you and listen to them consistently. When I search the podcast app for areas of interest, I also pay attention to the # of podcast episodes already available, user reviews, and of course – the subject matter. Using this highly complex equation as well as suggestions from friends, I have found podcasts that have replaced the t.v. show “Friends” as my daily guilty pleasure. However, not so guilty if they are teaching me new and helpful concepts!

The take away from #1 – take this time that is typically spent in autopilot mode and utilize it to get better at whatever you are striving to improve on.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Is this a buzz word yet? Because it should be. It means to LIVE IN THE MOMENT AND BE AWAKENED TO YOUR CURRENT EXPERIENCE. You’re like “ummm… embrace traffic jams?”

I don’t have to tell anyone, we live in an overstimulated world. Learning to be mindful of our current situation is a lesson we all can benefit from immensely. While you are sitting on the subway or driving in the car, practice being mindful of those around you. You may surprise yourself. You could potentially avoid many an accident or help a commuting neighbor in need.

 Perhaps an equipment-juggling dad dropped his sunglasses in the road while loading his baby into the car at daycare pick up and didn’t notice. You could be that very nice person that ran across the parking lot in the rain to save them for him. (my husband says “thank you, nice stranger”, by the way).

  1. Use this time for taking deep breaths. Did you know that when we do this, our heart rate slows down, our blood pressure can decrease, and it physically aids in our “rest and relax” body system activation. Sure sounds like something we need on the road. This Harvard article recommends we aim for 10-20 minutes per day practicing deep breathing. Hey, that seems to fit into my math above.
  2. Pray to a higher power. Whatever that may be that you believe. I have personally found this to be a wonderful start to the day, beginning prayer as I leave our neighborhood. Starting the day with a verbalization of what I am grateful for, thanking God for my many blessings, and asking for his guidance has provided a tranquility and inner peace that requires continual renewal in life.

If you chose to do #4, please do so with eyes open on the road. Just sayin’.

  1. Work on your posture. I don’t know about you, but I hunch over way too much, particularly in times of stress (think: post work commute). This posture is terrible for my back, making me more prone to injury, particularly in my neck and shoulder region. We are more likely to practice poor posture during this typical time of zoning out – therefore, it behooves us to practice the exact opposite and work to improve our posture at the wheel (or in our train seat, etc.). Ensure you are sitting straight up with proper alignment, head directly over your body, shoulders back, hips aligned with the body.

So there you have it. 5 simple ways to improve your commute by improving yourself. It sounds like a win against the road to me. As you incorporate these practices into your daily routine with your own individual tweaks, it will truly help you optimize your time on the road in a safe and positive way.

Here’s to a Better. Much Better. Drive!

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Why You Should Always Bring a Loved One to the Hospital

October 26, 2015

Nobody wants to think about it but the vast majority of us WILL require a hospitalization at some point in our lives. Maybe it is a quick day stay for toe surgery or a colonoscopy. Maybe the only time you’ve ever been a patient in the hospital was to have a baby and go home 48 hours later. Typically,  if you are very blessed, being admitted to a hospital system is an exception to the rule. Our goal is to stay out of there!

For many, this is a far more complex challenge. People live every day with chronic conditions — meaning, they don’t go away. They aren’t cured. Often times, these conditions flare up or cause infections, severe pain, complications that must be addressed and stabilized in the hospital.

We also get into accidents. Our kids cut their fingers, bonk their heads. We injure ourselves performing one of those “simple” do it yourself projects we see on Pinterest (damn you, mountable, rustic bird house!!)

This means — GULP — we must seek medical care. And when we do, a massive chain of events spiral into action before we even realize what is happening (because we are the ones injured, after all). I will tell you as quickly as the next provider, our healthcare system is far from perfect.

It is flawed, BUSY, complex, confusing, frustrating. Is it one of the better ones in terms of patient care in the world? I think so. Would I prefer to be treated here compared to many other countries? Absolutely. But, as you are well aware, we have our issues.

*COUGH* Personal accountability *COUGH* Major abuse of the system *COUGH* People with jobs paying a whole lot more for healthcare than those that do not work or “can’t work”.


Uff Da! (Norwegian expression for sensory overload — exhaustion — dismay)

Sorry, let me clear my throat. I caught my child’s cold and a symptom of it is digression.

Anyway, one of the most important actions you can take when accessing our healthcare system is:

Bring someone who loves you to the hospital.

 Below are my observations:

You can’t retain everything. You only have one head. There is a dump truck full of information that gets unloaded onto you when you receive a diagnosis, discharge instructions, a new medication. One cannot possibly absorb it all in the midst of recovering from an illness or injury. Your brain is already working feverishly to recover from the stress of sickness.

 You won’t remember the whole story. Or, you may not choose to tell it. Have you experienced what I like to call the healthcare version of “Ask 20 Questions”? It’s more like “20 Providers Ask the Same Question”.

“What brought you to the hospital?” rolls into a complete interview of many components that includes your recent history, full medical and surgical history, social history, family history, etc. Your ability to retain and regurgitate these crucial pieces to your diagnosis puzzle is again compromised by the fact that you don’t feel well. Your brain is again working overtime trying to heal. You inevitably will not remember everything. Somebody who knows you and your health history well is EXTREMELY valuable in filling in those interview holes.

Also, sometimes we don’t reveal the whole story for various reasons. If your loved one knows something valuable in helping to treat you, it should be communicated. Withholding information truly hurts the patient more than anyone.

You want someone there, looking out for you. As I stated above, the healthcare system has its flaws. It is not without error. Shoot — when I broke my hip a number of years ago and crutched in to my nursing unit to hand my nurse manager proof of fracture, she immediately sent me down to the emergency room to get it further investigated. (Whether or not that was out of true concern or disbelief that a 23 year old fractured her hip, one cannot say, but I have my suspicions). Once they triaged me and made me put on the awful green gown, I was taken for x-rays. 15 minutes later, a different employee attempted to take me for the SAME SET of x-rays.

Let’s avoid the # of times we shoot electromagnetic radiation to my pelvic region, shall we? You will be answering to mama if my fertility is affected.

Granted, this is a smaller example of a “near miss” in the medical world.  However, I provide it here to explain that they happen in all forms, to all individuals. No, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. are not immune to it. Don’t worry healthcare friends, I am not about to break out the swiss cheese effect slides.

This point is of utter importance the older and more absent-minded (or crazier, whichever you prefer) we get. Knowing exactly what medications the patient is on is an absolute requirement to receive the appropriate care. I recently cared for an elderly patient who was being given 4 different blood pressure medications during her hospitalization. Her pressure plummeted and we didn’t know why… until her daughter revealed that she was actually only taking 2 of the 4 that were on her “current medication” list. Not good…and definitely not helpful for a speedy recovery and discharge.

Sidenote: There are helpful apps such as The Pill Monitor that help keep track of your current medications, dosage timing, full  list, etc.

Nobody knows you like your family and friends. If you start behaving in a concerning way, 9 times out of 10 — your loved one will recognize it before any staff member will. Simply because THEY KNOW YOU like none other. Someone being alert and in tune with your progression or decline for the duration of your hospitalization is only going to improve your outcome. Many a life have been saved by a patient’s family activating the Rapid Response Team in a timely manner.

You need the support. The hospital is not a fun place. We try to make you as comfortable as possible. The food has come a long way over the years (or not..depending on who you talk to). It’s still no fun to be there. You need the love of your people to heal. Consistent patient advocates are always preferred but shift work among family and friends is usually a requirement (what..you have lives?).

As a provider in the hospital — I personally see the direct effects of the above on a patient’s experience. Clear communication is the cornerstone here. It makes for a better, much better, outcome.

Stay well, friends.

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I Can’t Please Everybody

October 19, 2015

Sometimes I wonder if our grandparents felt the way we do in this generation. Does anyone ever feel like they have “gotten ahead”? — If so, please share your secret. Seriously.

My late maternal grandmother (God rest her soul), Bonnie, articulated our trending lifestyle dilemma so well: “Nobody has time for anything anymore”. What did she mean by that?

Time to make dinner?

Time to walk across the street and chat with the neighbor?

Time to open our bibles?

Time to play with our families outdoors?

As a woman, I feel I place a significant emphasis on attempting to multitask the various facets of my life. Be a good Christ-follower. Be a good wife. Be a good mother. Be a good daughter / sister / friend. Contribute to the household income. Contribute to the world. Take care of my patients. Keep the house (semi) reasonable. Do my best to keep up with family and friends.

I fall short. I fall short often.

The frustrations are palpable when I attempt specific mindfulness to appreciating a family member for something kind they have done, attempting to spend a few precious moments with a few precious individuals — all the while realizing I have inadvertently hurt another’s feelings all in the same evening.

Sometimes, I think so many of us feel we just can’t get ahead. Can’t win. Can’t get it all aligned. Our mental fatigue overwhelms our attentiveness and we don’t always foresee issues we could have avoided.

Thank God he has never expected that from us. He came, knowing every single one of us are sinners. He came knowing how badly we needed his love. He came to show us the way, the truth, the life is through him. (John 14:6). He knows we ALL have shortcomings.

Hurts. Disappointments. Tempers. Anger. Jealousy. Laziness. Greed. Guilt. Trespasses. Grudges. Pride.

He came to love us, knowing we are all sinners, and showed us the way to be forgiven for our sins.

So maybe tonight, and likely every day of my life, I didn’t please everyone. That will never happen.  However, the Lord gives me strength to start anew tomorrow, to know that his promises ring true forever. I don’t know him as well as I want to, but tonight feels like progress.

Better, much better. Not perfect by any means.. but better. Did I please everyone? No. Did I please him? I hope so.

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Why Are Nurses So Mean?

October 17, 2015

In the wake of the  The View commentary outrage, I curiously ventured over to Google to browse recent chatter about nursing. For those of you who do not recall or somehow did not hear by word of mouth, nurses across the country were quite distraught over the comments made about a Miss America contestant during her talent show segment.

The conversation went something like this:

Miss Colorado got on stage, in GASP, her scrubs.

Wearing a DOCTOR’S stethoscope.

…and to our horror, began talking about caring for a patient.

Within minutes, The View’s Facebook page was blasted with angry nurses, nursing assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, paramedics, physical therapists, physician assistants, and doctors (pardon me if I missed anyone — we appreciate the support!) commenting on the ignorance of their statements.

Movements such as “Show Me Your Stethoscope” (which is 781K strong and growing) erupted in titanic proportions on Facebook. Thousands of selfies with stethoscopes appeared. One ER physician posted a hilarious picture of at least 25 confiscated “doctor’s stethoscopes” from his RN colleagues. Another doctor wrote a detailed explanation about the importance of each RN involved in a surgical patient’s experience at the hospital.

…Which then caused the hosts of the show to somewhat forcefully apologize to all of those in the nursing profession the next day. Allegedly. Many did not take kindly to the gesture. I think because it was quite authentically not genuine. And I think the majority of the general population wonders:


What an intriguing question. What IS the big deal? Why are nurses so ANGRY? I have felt the anger myself many times over and it is extremely difficult to articulate at times.

Bingo. In my attempts to search for public answers to THAT question following this talk show calamity, Google revealed to me the top 5 questions the general public asks them every day about nurses.

The following image is a photo of the recommendations Google gave to me, based on popularity.

 why are nurses

Um…Ouch. Granted, people are more likely to search the internet for sympathy when upset with an experience. It’s like when we receive very poor customer service at the local auto repair shop, so we tell the world not to go there. It makes sense that searches for bad nursing would be more common than what actually happens with significantly more commonality every day:

A nurse takes amazing, attentive care of their patient, often saves their lives, and they go home safely. Nah. I’m not googling “Why was my nurse so amazing today?” — Why not? Because dude. Our brains default to the answer…because that’s their job? Plus, I’m busy breaking free of superbug zone and cruising in to the local Starbucks for a real java fix. Holler on the early discharge!

With further curiosity, tonight I have googled “Why are doctors…”

Any guesses?

why are doctors

Hmm. First of all, sorry to hear there is a trend of death among our MD friends. That’s not cool and I pray that has abated! Secondly, patients do comment, and comment often, about the attractiveness of their physician. I blame McDreamy. ..and the fact that MDs are sugar daddies / mamas.

However, there is much one can gather by these two different but very relative searches. It is apparent that the representation of nursing to our country is negative, which is beyond discouraging for so many reasons.

 The career of nursing is incredibly demanding and requires fierce resolve to pursue. We need to continue the conversation of reinstating respect for this profession and uplift our nurses that are doing such a dang good job.

Side note: Please think twice before asking your family member’s nurse for a beverage. They have many important responsibilities that fill their 12+ hour shift — that of which are increasingly being bogged down in documentation. Giving your nurse optimal time to provide bedside care will ensure the best outcome for the patient. I know a plethora of nurses that would gladly assist you with this request simply because they are kind, but please do not abuse that knowledge as an excuse to ask. Plus, it’s super healthy of you to walk downstairs to grab a drink, and provides family members with a much needed breather at times.

Hey, this is a small example of a nursing frustration. But, it is a start! 

Healthcare friends — thoughts?

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Why I am So Proud of People that Wear Their Lifevest

October 10, 2015

No, I’m not talking about the life vest we don when prepping to water ski, albeit we should wear that, too. The vest I speak of is manufactured by the company ZOLL LifeVest. It is a wearable cardiac defibrillator – medical jargon for a device that will shock your heart if it tries to stop. It is actually worn outside of the body, under the shirt. The LifeVest is prescribed by a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant temporarily to people with weak hearts.


Why you might ask? Because this product can actually save a life and has, many times. This happened just the other day, in our cardiac clinic waiting room. A patient was waiting to be called back into the exam room when suddenly, without warning, he became unconscious. Bystanders remarked that a voice was coming from his chest, warning that a shock event was about to occur. Like clockwork, his entire body was suddenly jolted. The staff yelled for the cardiologist, who sprinted to the waiting room and performed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until the man regained consciousness.

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. 

What in the world just happened? Just 1 month prior, the patient was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – meaning, a weak heart. When our hearts pump ≤35% of blood out of them with each beat (called the ejection fraction), we are statistically more likely to die from a sudden cardiac arrest. When he was first hospitalized, this man had an echocardiogram performed that revealed his heart was at risk for this. He was sent home from the hospital with a LifeVest.

This product is meant to be a temporary protection. There is a period of time – usually 90 days – that must be given to the heart to allow it to recover from whatever damaged it in the first place. Once the 90 days are up, an echocardiogram is repeated. If the heart continues to pump ≤35% of blood with each beat, it is recommended that a patient get a permanent, implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD).

Many problems can cause a heart to become weak. The most common include:

The LifeVest was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2001 and now thousands of people wear them every day. It is a wonderful product, but anyone who has had to wear them constantly, 24/7, may tell you otherwise. I have heard many a complaint:

“It itches me.”

“It’s too restrictive.”

“It bothers my bra.”

“It’s not doing ANYTHING, why do I have to wear it all the time?

“I can’t sleep with it on.”

“I am allergic to it.”


I am a provider. I prescribe this product every week, but I don’t have to deal with the nuances of it every day. The truth of the matter is, most of the patients who must wear them for the usual 90 days will not have needed them…but there is always the one patient that did. We can never predict who it will be.

I watched the patient whose LifeVest shocked him walk out of the hospital this last weekend. He had a brand new, implanted defibrillator and was now forever protected from an unpredictable cardiac arrest. His wife was so happy he was coming home normal. She was also so happy she was able to wash the blue gel that is released from the LifeVest to conduct the electrical shock out of his shirt. Completely out. It’s the little things.

When I walked into his room to send him home, I had to remark like a proud mama “I am so proud of you for wearing your LifeVest.”

His response? “And to think about how I was getting so fed up with it, I almost stopped.”

Keep wearing, my brave cardiac patients. It is temporary, as all obstacles are.



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Why You Should Climb a Mountain

October 5, 2015

We are planning a trip to Asheville, NC to enjoy the foliage and Blue Ridge Parkway. MOUNTAINS. A term Floridians often are not able to incorporate into their vocabulary. It’s more like “Yesterday, I stepped on an ant hill”. In preparation for this adventure, I am reminded of the greatest hiking trip I’ve ever been on.

Mount Whitney

Mount Whitney

It started off as a solo venture. Dad, who has been bagging peaks (a hiker’s term for reaching the summit of mountains) while working as an engineer in Nevada, California, and Utah where the ranges are plentiful, announced to the family that he would next be climbing Mt Whitney. This mountain is the tallest peak in the continental US, measuring 14,497 feet, give or take a few. This was not your typical day hike.

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So close to our old Cali home – Ridgecrest

As his daughter and a concerned nurse, I quickly decided I wanted to crash the trip and hike it with him. Brent, my brother-in-law who loves a good adventure, was IN. Scotty, my little brother, would be working at dad’s mine in Moab, UT for the summer, so he agreed to be the fourth and final member of our ascent team (whether he actually wanted to or not remains to be determined).

I thought later about what this hike meant to me. Was I doing it strictly because I aspired to be my dad’s trail nurse, should the need arise? And what was it in him, or Brent, or my brother that drove them to do it? It was 22 miles round trip, a 6,100 foot ascent climb. Slightly different than the daily work out routine of stair-climbers. A quote from Edward Deci, who studied human motivation, helped me sort it out:

“Human beings have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn.”

As I joked to my NP colleagues just the other day when attempting to put into words why our beloved, retired cardiologist friend retired 1 MONTH AFTER going live with electronic medical records (once of the worst headaches in this generation of healthcare) as opposed to PRIOR TO the roll out:

“When we stop learning, we stop living”. — We all chuckled because I sounded like a 75 year old grandma but it does ring true.

To climb Mount Whitney,  you do have to register for the hike lottery, as the trail only allows 100 day hikers per day. Our plan was to complete the summit and return back to the trail head at Whitney Portal by sundown, all in a days time. The experts averaged it would take us 12-15 hours if we got started by 4am. We set our trail date for June 27th, 2013, a Thursday, and were accepted as a group of 4 day hikers. Dad purchased 2 cans of heavy duty bear spray  and we made plans to meet in Vegas the Tuesday before.

From Vegas, we made the 4 hour drive to the small town of Lone Pine, California. We stopped by the visitors center where they handed over our day hike permit and 4 “pack out bags” or “wag bags”. It was a rule on the Mt Whitney trail to pack out your human waste…meaning if you have to go #2, you must perform the task in the bag and carry it in your pack for the remainder of the hike. We all aspired to avoid this unpleasant chore but we knew we were at the mercy of the mountain.

We went to the local Pizza Palace for our last full meal before the hike. After eating a fairly light meal of subs, we convened in dads hotel room while he safety briefed us on 3 important obstacles:

1. Footing
2. Altitude sickness
3. Bears

We then returned to our respective rooms to hit the hay by 7:30 PM because our alarms were set for 1:45 am. We wanted to get to Whitney Portal (the trailhead) by 3am to begin.
Waking up wasn’t terribly brutal, no doubt due to the adrenaline pumping through our bodies. We armed ourselves with hiking packs full of water, food, toilet paper, flashlights, wag bags, and picture phones, laced up our hiking boots, grabbed our trekking poles, and loaded up in dads lifted truck Sherman for a 30 minute drive to the trailhead.



We got there when it was still pitch black at 3:15 am and wasted no time getting started on the trail.  The start was exhilarating, we all felt full of energy. We crossed a few babbling brooks and streams, all the while remaining vigilant of the possibility of bear sightings. Every time we turned a corner, I almost tricked my night vision into believing an overhanging tree branch was a black bear reaching out to say hello. Dad said he noticed that I kept shining my flashlight (meant for footing) way out in front of him. The outline of the vast mountain in front of us was illuminated by the light of the moon. It was so peaceful to hike alongside.

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We hiked about 3 hours before we made our first official rest stop at sunrise. After an energy bar and a couple lengthy breaths, we were on our way again.

About 6 miles in, we reached Trail Camp, the place that sane hikers stop to camp out. According to a fellow trailer, we were “animals” for attempting completion in one day. Next up was the notorious 99 switchbacks in which you painstakingly crisscross up the mountain, gaining altitude every step of the way.


99 switchbacks to climb on the mountain, 99 switchbacks to climbbbbbb.

It was about this point (or sooner as we later confessed) that the early signs of altitude sickness set in. A very palpable headache, widespread and thump-like. Not pleasant. And with approximately 2.5-3 miles of elevation to go. We reached the Trail Crest sign, a noted marker that you are indeed making progress. We stopped to refuel and 2/4 of us (not to be named) used our pack-out bags. Hey, someone had to.

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The view from Trailcrest

The men

The men

Dad & daughter

Dad & daughter

The remainder of the hike up diverted to the other side of the mountain, which opened up into a vast and beautiful new view with deep blue lakes and ridgy, textured mountains that have been there for centuries. We were becoming exhausted and downright sick. At this point, it felt as if we were stopping every 5 minutes for one or all of us in the group to catch our breaths.

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God’s creation

I succumbed to the altitude sickness against a rock, making sure to turn away from the drop down cliff on my left as I relived the smell and taste of my peanut butter sandwich/cliff bar combo I ate a couple of hours prior to. My dad and I had a talk at that time (after he was very attentive with reassuring fatherly gestures…”oh sweetie, take some water”). He sat down next to me and contemplated for a few minutes. I knew what he was struggling with in his head. Do we continue? I was also building my defense case for absolute resolve to get up that stinkin’ mountain.

Our leader, dad, struck a deal: “Tell you what? If you do that again, we turn course and go back down the mountain.” We had approximately another 1.5 uphill miles to go. I said “fine”, felt much better anyway, and planned to remain stubborn with our uphill climb, double-vom or not. We had enough water to sustain ourselves. Another 0.5 miles up, Brent, my brother-in-law, sat down abruptly. We all halted for a breather. A few hikers began gaining on us from behind and we moved to allow them to pass. Exactly at that moment, Brent turns towards them and hurls big time.

“You gotta think of it as fertilizer, man” was the response he got, and off they went.
I secretly felt better the other sea level brethren had also succumbed to the same humbling effects of this massive mountain. We were comrads now.

We finally caught sight of our saving grace: the small hut that had been erected at the summit. It was in view. That last climb felt the most grueling and as we made it, the nausea won out again and I subsequently punished a big rock off to the side. By this point, it didn’t matter. No way were we turning around now.

When we made it to the hut, we found the trunk that sits against one of the walls. Hikers from all over the world have signed their name and date of completion, which later becomes part of our national archives, so we are told. We made our mark on the cardboard of the last notepad available. Brent placed an Orange Park fire station sticker in the chest.

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As we took a seat on the flag rocks of the summit, a fellow hiker emerged from a different pathway up called the John Muir trail. His friend, who was already there, asked “How was it?” The hiker’s disgruntled response:

“If John Muir was here, I would head
butt the sh*t out of him.”

Dad did his best to make us refuel but there is a sensation of being at almost 15,000 ft that makes food as appetizing as the wag bags still in our backpacks.

We recovered as much oxygen as possible, scanned the 360 degrees view of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, and stood back up to begin our descent. Before leaving, dad pulled out a picture of our late uncle Gerry Cummings, a marine with many years of service to the country of America. “This is a place of honor”, dad said, “it makes sense that Gerry is here”. We all held his photograph and took a picture to commemorate that moment.

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Being on top of that mountain, surrounded by God’s beautiful work, made me feel closer to him.

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Boy, we felt on top of the world — and in a literal sense, we almost were. There was just the small feat remaining of walking back down the mountain. That’s all. For anyone contemplating this hike, I can tell you the altitude sickness is completely self-limiting. As our altitude footage decreased, so did our nausea levels. It was grueling and mentally deflating — we had worked so hard to get to the top and now we just have to walk down for 11 miles? LAME. We began to fantasize about our dinner. Undoubtedly, it would be back at the pizza joint because Lone Pine has approximately 1.5 restaurants within a 30 mile radius. We were each going to order a full pizza and beer. Oh yeah.

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The start/finish of the trail

We finally made it to the end of the trail and met some really nice hippies there. They applauded us for finishing and I think I might have cried. Dad’s knees were on fire. Brent was so hungry, he was bear hunting. Scotty’s anger at the turn of every corner revealing MORE trail subsided. The sheer joy of completing the mission we set out to do was beautifully satisfying in every way. Our faith was put to the test as we were challenged mentally, physically, and spiritually. I categorized that day as one of the best in my life — for reasons I can’t fully explain in writing. I think my trail family would agree.

It was like you felt  yourself grow.

Would I recommend this trail? Absolutely. Do you have to be a little crazy to complete it in one day? Yes. So, think about going to climb a mountain. Have the faith. And if you do, PLEASE tell me about it. We came out of the experience better, much better.

faith to move mountains

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Today, I Got Nothing Done

September 24, 2015

It was one of those days I started out with a mission in mind: GET. STUFF. DONE.

I had a list of mental to-dos that had been transcribed to my smart phone’s notepad application that I was determined to check off, one by one, so as to document my efficiency to the world. “See what I did?” It was a special Wednesday for me too, because I have been at the hospital rather consistently lately, seeing patients. The home work was lacking, backed up, screaming for attention.

We (Adam) had finally conquered the main living quarters circa 1985 wallpaper. It came down, shred by shred. To those of you who state your wallpaper came down in one swift sheet:

A) I don’t believe you.

2) Prove it.

Our plan was to maybe sand off the remaining pieces and visit our local paint shop to browse color choices for our newly naked walls. The heaping piles of laundry in each room’s respective baskets were going to be tackled. The cardiology article I am to write for a looming deadline was going to elongate. Ah, it was going to be a productive day.

My 9 month old had other plans. The poor kiddo started to “vom” (a West coast term for throw up that I recently picked up) consistently and unpredictably. His first GI bug and it was so sad! Mommy hasn’t had to experience her baby looking at her so sadly with a “help me” face before getting sick repeatedly. It was also extremely time consuming. Without fail, whenever we would step foot off of an easy clean surface (such as tile) onto a super absorbent flooring (think: carpet), the VOM came ON. Lord, give me strength.

Isn’t that when we seem to talk to God the most? Out loud, looking up, trying to make sure he hears us? He is so present, knowing that we are reminded how much we need him in our most difficult moments. Mind you, I understand my kid being sick is no where near many’s darkest days but when you are “in it”, in the midst of all of it, it sure feels like a moment of despair. Everyone has their own moments of hopelessness, and new mommies and daddies are amongst them.

It’s ok… and so part of life, to feel this. Shoot, there is even a song dedicated to it:

“My momma told me.. there’d be days like this.”

Van Morrison reportedly wrote these lyrics to remind himself on those really good days where you feel like you’re winning at life — that you should stay prepared to have those more challenging ones that knock you down a peg or two. Some of us have more of them than others — sometimes WAY too many in a row. I don’t think anyone but God knows the answer to why. I do know that the most inspirational people I have met have been through some humdingers. They have dealt with many a trial and tribulation and have emerged better, stronger, more courageous. That gives us hope on the hopeless days.

 So, today I comforted my sick child and my pessimist side would say “I got nothing done”. But I know God and he tells us:

 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5 3-4

My day pales in comparison to the daily struggle that many of my friends and readers battle, this I know. However, I firmly believe in allowing us all to express our feelings out loud, to each other, because only then can we grow in our faith together. My neighborhood church group has been wonderful for this. It’s a safe space — and no, that’s not scary church talk for holding hands and humming — but it means we can all share in each other’s victories and failures the way God intended. I’m glad the day ended with them. Truth be told, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Get dressed, leave the house, socialize.

When we first made the decision to attend a bible study group, I was TERRIFIED. What if they make me hold my hands up, talk to God in front of them? Do I know any scripture verses by heart that I can recite to sound like a worthy Christian? What if someone judges me because I let it slip that I drink wine and beer? These were some of the thoughts that ran through my head while walking up to the door of our first neighborhood meeting. I am so glad these “church people” proved me wrong. They just love Jesus. And they sin, like me. I can’t stress enough how much this group has helped me to grow. I didn’t realize I was missing such an important part of life and fellowship until we had them.

If you live in the area and are interested in hanging out with some awesome people, I’ll get you in touch with a great church or neighborhood group. Ours is always actively recruiting!

If you want to talk about this matter further privately, please be in touch.

Tonight, I’m feeling better… much better. (Our son is, too btw)

sawyer sick day

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