(un)happy father’s day

This is my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I can’t escape the barage of commercials and advertisements suggesting the “perfect gift for Dad”; my heart breaks and I change the channel quickly. This year, as I visit my Dad at the cemetery, I am painfully reminded that everything is different this year. There will be no family BBQ, or “Whale of a Dad” Carvel ice-cream cake, which my Dad loved so much (those chocolate crunchies were his favorite!); no sentimental card with a boat/fishing theme (because that was his favorite thing to do when he was healthy), and no brightly covered gift of pajamas/shirts/shorts/slippers, or whatever Mom thought he could “use” that year.

This Father’s Day I am working, so today Shea and I, and our dogs Riley and Gracie, visited my Dad and planted flowers at his grave. He always enjoyed it when we would bring the dogs to visit, and he loved Riley so much; she never left his side during his final days. He didn’t get the chance to meet Gracie, but I’m sure that they would have quickly bonded, playing fetch with tennis balls, and some belly rubs too of course! Here’s a fun fact, I was sent Gracie’s picture and notification that she needed a home with a strong mentor dog (aka Riley) on my Dad’s birthday… which may, or may not, have been a coincidence.

I brought my Dad a stepping stone and solar-powered cross to decorate his grave, and I thanked him (again) for being such a great Father and Pop-Pop.

My Father and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye, especially when I was a teenager growing up in Jersey City. He was tough; very (very) strict. When Mom got angry and said “wait until your father comes home!”, we knew that we were in big trouble. Times were very different back then, and for better or worse, we were literally afraid to misbehave. He did the best that he could, and I don’t think I fully appreciated or understood that until I became a parent myself. He looked out for us from the day that we were born, and protected us until his dying breath.

After my Dad became a grandfather, or “Pop-Pop”, as he was called, I saw a completely different side to him, which was pretty awesome. He adored his granddaughters, and he learned to be comfortable saying the words “I love you” out loud (which was not common as I grew up)… and those words later evolved to “I love you more”, which we knew, deep down, that he sincerely did. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to grow close to my Dad and have him in my life for as long as I did. I was able to witness seeing him open up his heart to the life of being a beloved, generous, supportive, loyal, dependable, (and really funny!) Father and Pop-Pop.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven Dad!

I love you and I miss you everyday, but today even more.

me and dad

The Giving Key

Keys open things that are kept locked in order to give us a feeling of security and comfort that our most cherished things are safe and protected, such as our deeply vulnerable and honest words in a diary, our fragile heart, which has been broken too many times…and also, the door to where we live; our sanctuary; our home.

The Giving Key is a “pay it forward” movement that helps support and create jobs for people transitioning out of homelessness (TGK, 2018). The concept of The Giving Key was created by Caitlin Crosby, who was a singer and living out of a NYC hotel room; she wore her hotel key as a necklace, and realized that like old keys, we are all unique, flawed, and sometimes discarded or replaced. She wanted to repurpose old, used keys and make them meaningful, so she got the idea to engrave them with inspirational words (such as Dream, Love, Hope, Strength, Faith, and Believe), and give back to the community to open doors to those who are in need of a place to call home (TGK, 2018).

Each key has a word of your choosing that represents something that one may “need”; the meaning can be different for everyone. The gift of the key may be yours in the beginning, but ultimately, the true gift is in the giving to others. When you find someone who needs “it” more than you do, you pay it forward and give them your key, and hope that it helps them, as it has you.

I have purchased several keys over the last few years. My first was “love”; it was an old silver key that had been weathered and worn. I identified with it. I wanted the gift of love to open up my heart to the world around me as it had been closed for a long time. It is a scary thing to be able to learn to love and trust again; I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Once a heart is broken, it is never truly the same. But one day I found someone who needed the key, and the word, more than I did…she was going through a really tough time after a difficult divorce. I recognized her pain and brokenness, and I knew that she needed to find love again…self love.

love

After awhile, I came across the keys again and I chose another word, “strength”. When both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, and I was struggling with working full time and commuting to NYC, and taking courses for my Master’s degree, I prayed for strength to get through each day, and be present for everyone who needed me. A few months ago I reconnected with an old friend…the kind of friend that you don’t see often, but when you do, it’s like no time has passed at all. That day God put me where I needed to be; she needed to be lifted up. She needed a friend, a cheerleader, and someone who understood her struggle. Once again, I saw something in her that I knew all too well. I gave her my strength key because I wanted her to have a constant reminder that she was strong and brave, and that this, too, shall pass.

strength

My new key is “hope”, which I chose because it is something that I need to remember to never lose, so I don’t give up on myself or others. As long as there is hope, there is a chance that things will get better.

hope

I just purchased a key for my daughter. I won’t share with you the word that I chose for her, but it is something that I hope for her every single day. I only wish that she could see herself the way that I see her. It is probably my most important key.

 

The Giving Keys. (2018). About us. Retrieved from https://www.thegivingkeys.com

 

 

Celebrating Nurses

Every year around this time I receive a “Happy Nurse’s Day” card from my parents…today, my card came from my Mom; she always remembers. She reminded me how proud she is, and how proud my Dad was, of me being a nurse. The loss of my Dad always sneaks up on me. It is that constant flow of support and love that has been the driving force throughout my career, and completion of my Master’s degree. The journey that I have been on has not always been smooth sailing; there have been more than a few bumps and sharp turns (and U-turns) along the way, which have led me to where I am today…which is mostly a good place.

Nursing has been the one constant in my life. This amazing profession has helped me to grow in my career and overcome many challenges. It allowed me to support my daughter as a single parent, buy a home, and basically make “ends meet”. We are not paid nearly enough for the work that we do, but we get by.

I have worked with amazing nurses in my long career and they will always be my forever friends; the “job” connects and bonds you in a way that most other professions do not. We share similar stories, frustrations, heartbreaks, and challenges. Nursing is hard work and often we do not get recognized for having sharp instincts, endless patience, strength, and resilience…all with the sole purpose of keeping our patients alive!

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Nursing Supervisors    

nurse supervisor

As a nurse leader, it can be challenging to perform your role while walking the line between Nursing and Administration; the rules change. We are held accountable to strictly adhere to staffing guidelines, ensure patient and staff safety, consider patient acuity with staffing that is balanced with expert, competent, and novice nurses so that those with more experience can teach and develop new grads. In most hosptials, there is an abundance of upper management/leadership support and resources for patients and staff during the weekdays; on the off-shifts (eves and nights), weekends, and holidays, the responsibility of “steering the boat” changes from “many” to “one”; this singular, fearless leader is the Nursing Supervisor, who has to make difficult decisions and know when, and who, to call for help. They are called to respond to patient/family complaints/concerns, patient and non-patient emergencies, and occasionally discipline/coach staff… all while knowing that some of the choices you have to make may not be popular or well-received. I try to make the best decisions that I can, with the information that I have at the time. I am imperfect. I have made mistakes. I have miscommunicated via email, and I may have been too busy to remember to count to 10, and think before I speak during a particularly stressful moment. I am acutely aware that during every shift, I have a ton of responsibility to many: patients, families, staff, colleagues, and administration. Not everyone can appreciate that perspective…some can only see what is happening in their own area, and not the other things that may be going on in the rest of the hospital that can sometimes take precedence. We only know what we know.

Several years ago I worked with a really strong and brilliant Nursing Supervisor, Jackie; she did not mess around….she knew everything that was happening in the entire (very large) hospital, even if she wasn’t covering those areas. She could work the staffing numbers like a mathematician, and quickly move people where they needed to be to balance the numbers. In a crisis, she was calm, cool, and collected. She taught me a lot and never gave up on me, even when I made the decision to return to staffing and not stay in that role; I just wasn’t ready at the time.

We all have our own leadership styles, but the most important thing is that we lead with authenticity; we do the best that we can, practice the values of the organization, develop trust, and show compassion for others.

Happy Nurse’s Week! Enjoy the recognition from your family, friends, colleagues, and the organizations in which you work. You have earned it! It is the best job in the world!

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All Dogs go to Heaven

Please allow me to tell you about my sweet, beautiful collie, Steffi… I adopted Stef when she was 5 years old after being a breeder and show dog in Connecticut. I found out about her from a friend at the Children’s Hospital where I used to work because one of the therapy dogs who frequently visited the pediatric patients was a beautiful collie named “Jump”. Jump’s owner knew of my love for collies (I had one as a child, Timmy) and she knew that Steffi was being retired from breeding after having 3 litters, and she needed a forever home. I could not refuse this beautiful girl. Her picture and “story” below is still proudly displayed on the website today:

Steph2

CH. RIVERRUN DREAMIN’ OUT LOUD

“Stephanie”

(CH.Fleur de Lis Secret Weapon ROM x
CH. Long Acre Riverrun Rampage)

2009 Collie Club of America Winners Bitch

Judge Loralee Runnels-Bergmann critique at the 2009 Collie Club of America:
“Riverrun Dreamin’ Out Loud is another “Great One”
“Beautiful head, lovely stop, eye and expression.”
“What a beautiful girl – she has it all!”
Stephanie finished her Championship with 4 specialty majors
and her exciting win at the National Specialty.
Thank you to Judges Loralee Runnels, Mike Esch, Patti Merrill and Mary Benedict.

Stephanie is enjoying her retirement with Debbie Aston of East Brunswick,  New Jersey.

 My Stef

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself”– Josh Billings
Stef was gentle and sweet; she was graceful and elegant. She couldn’t care less about a tennis ball or stuffed toy…she was far too refined. She enjoyed being the center of attention, being petted and brushed, and she was a big fan of cheese and pizza. She got along easily with every dog and person who ever crossed her path and I was so proud to share the story of how we came to find each other.
Sadly, she seemed to develop severe anxiety and dementia the past two years; after many visits to the vet and extensive testing to rule out a medical issue, she was placed on medications to reduce anxiety; first, we tried Valium, which only made her sleepy, and then, Prozac, which helped a little…until it didn’t. We changed her diet to help manage her incontinence, which was hit or miss. Eventually we just kept her calm, happy, and comfortable, and helped her manage her difficulties with vision and hearing. Many times I had to help her navigate out of a corner because she couldn’t find her way out. I waited for her to let me know when it was “time”. Her “good” days of being perky, playful, eating/drinking, and wanting to be petted and loved, were being measured against her “bad” days, when all she did was pace and sleep, pace and sleep, and not eat or drink.
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day” – John Grogan
When I brought my new Golden rescue, Gracie, home two weeks ago, she didn’t even know she was there… she slept through it all. I think she just thought she was seeing two Rileys; they do look alike. When I came home from work on Thursday night I found the back door to the yard wide open with the outside light on; my daughter Shea came home for a few days and when I asked why the door was open she told me that she couldn’t get Stef into the house; she had tried for two hours and she wouldn’t move. After some gentle encouragement, I was able to wake her up and get her in the house. Soon after, I heard Shea screaming for me from the living room; Stef had fallen and was having a seizure. I could no longer ignore what was happening. And yet…I was afraid to make that very final decision. I still waited. What if she was going to have more “good” days? I worked Friday night while Shea stayed with her and kept an eye on her. It was now three days since she had eaten anything. My beautiful pup, who could no longer walk without tripping, or stay awake for any extended amount of time, and who could barely see or hear, needed me to love her enough to make the right and hard decision to let her go. Still… I waited one more day… I just had to know for sure. Today, she paced and she was anxious; she was breathing heavy and she broke my heart. Today, I held her and told her I loved her as she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge…. she is with Kika, and Ziggy, and Molly, and Simba…. I hope she is with my Dad too because he loved her. Until we meet again my beautiful girl.
Steffi
“Grief is the price we pay for love”- Queen Elizabeth II

The Power of Teams

Most nurses will tell you that they wouldn’t be able to get through their shift without the help and support of their colleagues. It is very difficult to safely care for patients without other able bodies to help you during an emergency, or consult with over a patient/medication/equipment issue, etc.  Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help; if you are unsure about something, or have any doubts, ask someone else (who knows just as much, or more, than you do) what they think. My advice is to always follow your gut instincts and question things that don’t sound or feel right. Nurses cannot work in silos; neither can nurse leaders. Working together can build stronger teams who are kinder, and who instinctually know how to help each other.

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Some days it can be hard to leave your work at the job, and you bring it home…you think about a difficult patient or situation, and how you could have handled it differently; you pray for a patient’s relief of pain, or hope that their condition improves during the next shift, and that he/she is still there when you return to work the next day…sometimes they are not. Yes, it can be hard to stop thinking about work, but it is important to try to do so for your own health and well-being. It can be equally hard, maybe even harder, to leave your personal life at home, and not bring it to work with you. We all have our “stuff” that we carry, be it a sick child or parent at home, family emergency, broken furnace, loss of a beloved pet, concern over our own health issues… we are only human, and it can be difficult to care for others when we are hurting inside. I have often found that it was during the most stressful times in my personal life where being at work was a welcome distraction, but not everyone can do that; we have to be self-aware to know when to ask for help… and when to take that mental health day. Patient safety is of utmost importance, and if you come to work not feeling well, or are so distracted that you forget to use best nursing practice, you are putting yourself, your license, and most importantly, your patients, at risk of harm. You are not alone; trust that your work family will understand and be supportive. That is what being a part of a team is all about.

compassion

 

It takes a team to successfully “get through” your shift… and that feeling when you see the next shift come in, looking (and smelling) all fresh and clean…ahhh, relief at last! The hand-off report, or as I like to call it, “tag,  you’re it”, is the final sign-off endorsement before you can clock out, and get back to your real life outside of work.

oprah new shift meme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On which truths would you stake your life?

I read an article from a recent Oprah magazine featuring an interview with late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel. Oprah asked Jimmy “On which truths would you stake your life?” (Winfrey, 2018). Predictably, he responded with a joke… something about never putting ketchup on hotdogs… but then he answered seriously “do unto others…”. The golden rule. Good one. But the question resonated with me more than the response because I feel so strongly about my convictions and truths that I have often gone toe-to-toe with people who, in my opinion, are just plain wrong. The answer to this huge question is uniquely personal to all of us, but I believe that it tells a lot about who we are, and why we do what we do, every single day. I also think that it is important to consider what we stand for, and what we don’t, from time-to-time to check in with our own moral compass.

enemies winston churchill

The truths that I would stake my own life on are simple. I believe that you should always try to do the right thing, even if it’s hard and people get mad at you. I believe in honesty, fairness, equality, human rights, and animal rights, and I will do my best to advocate for those in need when I feel that there is an infringement on those rights. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance (after that, it’s a crap shoot), and even though it can be difficult, it is both necessary and important, to forgive others who have hurt you. You have to do it for yourself, not for them.

I’ve definitely made mistakes that I wish I could change. Looking back, I thought that I did the best that I could at the time, but regrettably I could have done better. If I did, I think my life would be completely different than it is now. I could have been braver, trusted more, fought harder, or let go faster. Live and learn. I think that it is extremely important to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, and try to not live life with regret/guilt/shame…these things can haunt you forever if you allow them to; trust me, I know.

Last but not least, a final truth that I would stake my life on is this…I believe that all DOGS are gifts from God, and if they are vicious, it is (only) because they have been treated cruelly and inhumanly by a human(s). Dogs will never judge you for making mistakes, they won’t talk about you to others to sully your reputation; they are always happy to see you, and they jump and wag their tail every time you come home from a long work day, or even just a short walk to the mail box… it’s like having a daily welcome home party! And they always love us even if we are far from perfect.

So I ask you…on which truths would you stake your life?

stand up

 

Reference

Winfrey, O. (2018, April). A stand-up guy. Oprah Magazine, 19(4), pp 120-121.

Why I Pray

I start and end each day with a simple prayer, which I’ve done for as far back as I can remember. Some days I ask for strength to get through the long day ahead of me; other days, I ask for patience, or guidance in making decisions. I often do “off-the-cuff” casual prayers, because that’s the kind of relationship I have with the ‘Big Guy”; these are actually more like “pep talks” before I even step foot out of bed in the morning. Although in serious times, or when I am worried about something, I go old school with the classics and pray like the good Catholic girl that I was raised to be.

prayer

This morning, after a long, sleepless night of tossing and turning, I prayed for courage. I tried to mentally prepare myself to do something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for the last two months. I had to have an endometrial biopsy done, which really isn’t that big of a deal in the medical/surgical procedure scheme of things, but I was worried nonetheless. It hurt like hell, but I got through it… and so the waiting game begins…these results must be ok.

Each night, without fail, I say a prayer hoping to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I always try to do/be better. I think about what I should have done, or said, to make a difference. The day’s events play over in my head and sometimes do not shut off. On good days, I sleep well and feel content that I made good choices. Other nights, I think of things that I wish I had said, or not said, and just listened (better). I remind myself to listen more than I speak. I get into less trouble that way.

Accepting Disappointment and Moving On

I cringe when I think about all the time that I’ve wasted worrying about why /if someone doesn’t like me. In the age of social media, “likes” can easily be confused with a measurement of popularity, acceptance, or even love. I recently heard a song with the lyrics “how many likes is my life worth” (TCS, 2018), and it hit close to home because I have caught myself noticing who has “liked” my posts, and even more disturbing, who has not “liked” them; the silence speaks louder to me. I am (still) learning that it is really important, for the purpose of self-preservation, to not pay attention to the negativity, because if you allow yourself to believe that others’ opinions are more valid or valuable than your own, you risk becoming an active participant in the judging and minimization of one’s worth. That is a slippery slope of which I have been guilty.

Not long ago I held someone in such high regard that they were placed on the top of a virtual pedestal of whom I thought was “above” all others in my profession. It’s not fair or realistic to put someone in that place. It is literally a set-up for disappointment; no one can possibly live up to such expectations. Instead of blaming that person for my hurt and disappointment, I had to look at what my own role was in the broken relationship. While I am not responsible for what other people say or do, I am directly responsible for how I react/respond to people and situations. It is during the dark times when you find that your true friends will always shine a light in your direction.

Doing Your Best

All one can ask is that we do our best on any given day. Some days our best is a reach; we are tired and not as patient as we aspire to be. That’s Ok though; forgive yourself. No one can be “on” all the time.  Just remember that when you try your best, it is always “good enough”.

example not opinion

 

Reference:

The Chainsmokers. (2018). Sick boy. Retrieved from https://genius.com › C › The Chainsmokers