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Hospital chronicles

This is Day 6 of visiting my hubby, Bryan, in the hospital. In his hand is a thermos of homemade chicken tortilla soup prepared by yours truly…me. If God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, He must think awefully high of me.  Not to mention, my son has been battling some kind of illness that I’m diagnosing as a combination of asthma, allergies, and a cold. I thought I was going to have a stress-free, cozy Christmas break with my family and add in some time to myself to think about my mom. Nope.

It turns out that Bryan needs inpatient physical, occupational, and cognitive therapy and will likely be here for another 2 weeks.  I’ve accepted it because it’s not in my control. However, I’m frustrated because I have been communicating my obervations to his doctor for months now. As a social worker, I understand how the system works, so I am thankful that I can advocate on his behalf. The hospital believes he needs to be here and I can see he does too. I want him to be safe and as close to his optimal level of functioning as he can be prior to discharge.  Naturally, Bryan wants to come home.

I don’t want this experience to dampen my outlook on 2018, but I’m not going to lie, I’m in a funk.  Bryan wants to be home. I want him to be home. Our kids miss him and he misses them. I miss him in our bed. He wants to sleep in his bed. It sucks to drive out here everyday. I’m exhausted spending half my day at the hospital, then going home to attend to the kids. I feel bad that my son has been sick. I feel bad because I’m spending so much time away, but I also feel bad about how lonely it must feel for Bryan to be in a hospital over the holidays. I feel bad that my kids have spent part of their holiday in a hospital. I feel bad about Bryan’s condition. He has a long road of recovery ahead.

Despite my moaning, there have been some bright spots and moments of grace throughout this ordeal.

  1. As the paramedics transferred Bryan from the chair to the gurnee while outside our home, a lady from my old church passed by, stopped and said a prayer for Bryan.
  2. We have health insurance. 
  3. The hospital ER neurosurgeon told me that Bryan’s doctor should have listened to me. 
  4. The hospital staff have been attentive and professional. 
  5. I didn’t get a speeding ticket after being pulled over on Day 3. I told the officer why I was speeding and he gave me a warning instead of a ticket.
  6. My prayer warriors have been praying for us.
  7. My friend treated my daughter and I to some pampering with a mani/pedi.
  8. Traffic has been light due to most people being off work for the holiday break, so the commute hasn’t been so bad despite the distance.
  9. My leadership at work have been understanding.
  10. WE HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE.

I’ve gotten a lot of calls and I’m not in the mood to talk. I haven’t been in the mood to write either, but I can’t stay away from what comes natural. Writing is therapeutic. I do have faith things will get better.  My current strategy is to take things day by day.


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Next level thinking

When you desire to go to the next level in life (work, relationship, growth), you don’t play around. You do what you need to do to make yourself better. That’s where I’m at now.  I put my pride in a timeout. I put my shortcomings in a timeout.  I’m doing things I’ve never done before or thought were options for me.   

I was in a sticky situation at work this week. Navigating relationships with professionals on different levels within an agency can be tricky sometimes.  I recognized that I needed ideas beyond my own to help me through the situation. I quickly enlisted the help of my mentor.  In the past, I’ve rationalized that I have a master’s degree, so if I have a problem with an agency, I can find another job. In graduate school, one of my professors actually told me when a job stops being fun, then it’s time to move on. At the time, her advise saved me because I was absolutely miserable at my current job. After about 7 years of employment, it hadn’t occurred to me to search for a new job. That evening, I applied for a couple of jobs, and by the next month, I was employed at a different agency.

I went through a honeymoon phase of about a year with the new agency until I noticed some problems unfolding.  After a few years, I sought employment elsewhere.  I was out of that new agency in 6 months.  My professor was right, when it’s no longer fun, look for another job. However, it may not be solving the problem.  There may be evidence that supports the days of employees working at jobs for 20-40 years are gone. In American society today, depending on the occupation and geographic location, it’s normal to switch jobs every few years, especially in the social work field. I believed this to be my destiny.

What I’ve learned is that every agency has its own unique culture, politics, and you’re thinking it…PROBLEMS.  However, another common denominator, if I’m moving through these different agencies every few years, is me. It just so happens the same theme does emerge.  I get frustrated with people who have strong personalities and/or exhibit unchecked, bad behavior.  I eventually give up.  I believe I’ve lost some opportunities because of quitting too soon. Some people won’t blame me for quitting.  I listened to an audio book this spring by John Acuff called Quitter. (When I figure out how to do it from my phone, I’ll paste the hyperlink to the book.)  I was attracted to this book because I was convinced my destiny was to become self-employed because I was no longer feeling the fire at work. At some point, I may become self-employed, but the point I want to make here is the author gave me a different perspective on how I view my job.  I gained a whole new appreciation for the opportunities that I could create for myself.  I was promoted a few months later. 

Imagine this: Today, I’m confronted with the same situation as I’ve had several times in years past. God is and has been telling me to deal with this issue. This is David and Goliath. This is a matter of me standing up for myself as the dynamic professional that I am.  This is a matter of me not walking away from what God has in store for me. This is a matter of me making a change, so that I can be the change.  And I will do it in a smart and strategic way, but not alone.

When you see a problem, enlist the help of people you trust to help you through it. Especially seek out people who know more than you and who have been there. Common themes in my posts are that it takes vulnerability and courage, but how badly do you want a different result? This is next level thinking.

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The power of voice

I stood in the hallway of an unfamiliar building, not sure where to go and noticing the time. No one was around.  “Darn it! I don’t want to be late. Managers get to meetings early.” As I shuffled through my notebook to find the printed Microsoft Outlook invitation hoping to find the room number, I saw a sentence instructing attendees to plan to provide a one minute introduction about themselves.  “Great (sarcasm)! How did I miss that? I didn’t prepare anything. I’m going to have to wing it AGAIN. It’ll be ok. One minute isn’t long. I’ll think of something on the elevator ride up.”

I got off the elevator to find 3 familiar faces and each appeared lost. No one knew how to get to the conference room. I felt relieved I wasn’t alone.  After a few minutes of confusion, another familiar, smiling face appeared and guided us to our destination.  At the entry to the room, I laid eyes on who will become my new tribe of professionals: managers, directors, and officials. “Do I belong here? Absolutely.”

There were about 30 of us crammed in a small conference room. This was the first meeting of its kind. The introductions commenced, and to my dread, they were starting at my table plus we each had to stand up.  As an introvert, I’m usually uncomfortable talking about myself. I decided, “I can do this” as I have many times. However, the stakes were higher this time because of who was in the room. I recalled my boss telling me in the past, “It’s time to shine.” I always resented her telling me that because I shine on my own accord, not by command or pressure. My boss was in the room, at my table. Even though I had my elevator speech ready, thankfully, the facilitator decided to go to the other tables, so I would almost be the last person to speak. I claimed my stake and told myself that I would be relaxed and make an impression. As I listened to the years of experience, wit, and honesty, I began to feel inspired and privileged to be in the room. 

With each person that spoke, I’d think of something else I wanted to say about myself and add it to my imaginary list. By the time they came to me, I was poised and relaxed. For a moment, I questioned my attire, particularly my top, because when I stood up eyes seemed to have laid on the tie at the base of my denim blouse.  I was imagining curious looks. I knew I needed to call attention to my words not my attire so I amped it up.  I blocked out the thought about my blouse because let’s face it, I couldn’t do anything about it at that point. It was a cute. It just didn’t look as conservative as shirts other people were wearing. I said a couple of things that made people laugh, even my boss. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I felt exhilarated after the meeting.

This true story is a snapshot of my Friday this week. The meeting lasted four hours.  I’m sharing because I want to emphasize how important a positive inner “voice” or “self-talk” is. What are you telling yourself? Sure, I have moments of insecurity and doubt, but they are fleeting moments.  Sure, I put pressure on myself, but I stay focused on the big picture. Overwhelmingly, I talk myself through until I get the positive outcome I, not only desire, but have already imagined in my mind.  If it doesn’t happen that moment, I work hard not to don’t beat myself up by saying “It’ll be ok.”  I try again the next day.

I believe that most people wouldn’t tell their best friends the negative things that many say to themselves. I view my internal voice as my best friend who is looking out for me and loves me. Now, I have to work on listening to ensure she (my voice/self-talk) is feeding me positive thoughts and telling me the truth.  For some, it can be oddly comfortable to wallow in negative emotions and self-talk.  We might not even notice the negative mumbles, which is why it takes self-awareness to do this work. It also takes courage. 

Be courageous and claim your stake in your life. Do the work of being the best version of yourself. Get to know yourself. Challenge yourself. You’re worth it.

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Gratitude 

I’ve had a wonderful time enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday being in the house with my family. For an introvert like me, it has been a slice of heaven. I’ve read, slept, cooked, and watched mind-numbing t.v. My children might feel otherwise. Unbeknownst to them, I’ve been soaking up their chatter, laughter and conversation. I didn’t host anyone for dinner this year, which hasn’t been the case for a long time.  It was just us and that was plenty. 

I’ve read countless articles on the benefits of being grateful and of expressing gratefulness  and I absolutely agree. I’ve also read passages on being grateful for all experiences, good and bad. In the past year, I’ve experienced so much (breast cancer, mom’s death, husband’s health struggles, son’s struggles in school) and I’m still here to tell you about it. I have 2 healthy children and a husband who loves me.  I’m healthy. I have the support of my family and friends. I have a job with health insurance. I have peace of mind and contentment. I can go on, however, I want to point out that wish I could turn that grateful button on when I’m in the midst of a gut-wrenching problem or one of my self-inflicted ruminating tirades. 

For me, it takes work to be grateful. In case you are one of those people rolling your eyes at what I just typed, hear me out. I believe being grateful and expressing gratitude is a practice. I have an awareness that there are some mental deficiencies in me that trigger self-sabotage and other unpleasant outcomes if I don’t keep them in check. I constantly have internal conversations with myself to lighten the atmosphere in my mind because I can “go there”.  Inevitably, no matter what perceived turmoil I’m experiencing, eventually things settle down and I can see the whole picture for what it is. 

If it takes work for you to be grateful in the midst of challenging times, don’t despair. I suspect I’m not alone. Be persistent with your positive self-talk. Surround yourself with the things and people that bring you joy and remind you why you’re grateful. Spend time alone. Let go of things you can’t control. Read books and articles on gratitude. Pray. Repeat…

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Mom Chronicles

I’ve had some busy days at work lately. Thank God for my husband who has always helped with the kids. However, as a working mom, I feel like I’m constantly juggling two worlds – work and family. My busy life doesn’t stop me from enjoying the little ironies that pop up and give me a good chuckle every now and then. I hope to capture these moments in my “mom chronicles” series.

A couple of weeks ago, towards the end of a stressful day at work, I received a text at 5:05 pm on a Thursday from my teenage son with an unexpected request. He asked me to pick up some…underwear. Huh? He proceeded to type he needed baby powder because his current underwear caused chaffing and he thinks the dryer shrunk all of his underwear. Son, you don’t have not one pair that’ll get you through tomorrow…Friday? The backstory of the dryer is it’s so old it takes forever to dry. Not only that, it makes loud noises when it’s on and it stops intermittently on its own during the cycle – could be up to 10 times or more.  We purchased it brand new, but damaged from Sam’s Club about 10 years ago. It only made a slight noise at the time, but now it’s on its last leg and the noise sounds like we have our very own train depot in the house. A new dryer has been on our list for over a month, but with my husband’s new work schedule, we haven’t made it to shopping around.

I returned a call to one of my colleagues on my way to the department store that evening and received some disappointing news I would have to address with a member on my team.  We talked for a little while I sat parked in front of the store. The conversation was tense. It was dark outside by then. I ended the call telling her about the text from my son and how my daughter wanted me to also search for “suspenders” for her Halloween costume (a nerd) since I would be buying my son’s underwear anyway. We both had a good laugh. 

Here’s the thing: I’m thankful I had that story to tell. I’m thankful my kids balance me and put things in perspective. I’m thankful I have kids to shop for.  I’m thankful my kids add to my character. I even believe they give me an extra edge. They make me do what I do even better. So for all the frustrations and disappointments we experience in life, don’t lose sight of what’s important.

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Health is wealth

In the last 2 weeks I had a health scare…two more tumors showed up on my mammogram and ultrasound, but the biopsies came back BENIGN. Praise God! The results confirmed my commitment to healthy eating. Now, I’ve completed my lunch prep. A big part of my weekend is spent preparing meals for my family and vegan/vegetarian meals for my work week. I’ve found a sweet spot of being mostly vegan/vegetarian during the week day, then eating meat in the evenings and weekends. I may deviate from time to time, but I don’t deviate from my daily green smoothies. 

I was tired today, as usual, but I went ahead and prepped my lunch bowls. I could easily not do this because it’s time consuming. However, I care about my health too much and enjoy eating healthy foods. I haven’t decided if I’m going to have a smoothie as an afternoon snack in addition to having one for breakfast, but I blended two pumpkin green smoothies. Yum!

Pumpkin green smoothie ingredients

Lunch prep: one down, three to go

Lunch bowls: quinoa, sweet potato, egg, sauteed peppers

This week I plan to work on this sweet tooth I developed after returning from Chicago after my mom’s funeral in July. I’ve been on a cookie habit…one or two every couple of days.  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, but I went months without eating sweets aside from fruit. 

Roasted Garbanzo beans & spices

All in all, I make healthy food choices. Health is wealth and a large part of being healthy is eating well.  Thank God my latest tests were benign. My oncologist again told me I’m healthy and to keep doing what I’m doing. For a while I have been slacking off a little, but I haven’t veered off course.  The recent health scare reminded me of what’s important in life and reconfirmed my commitment to take care of myself.

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I love you back

What’s up with these children of mine?  I’m not sure why I don’t write more about parenting considering I have two children – a 16 year old son and 12 year old daughter. It might be because they’re at a phase where they’re no longer impressed by us as their parents. They’d much rather spend time on the computer, phone, or talking to their friends. My husband and I have officially been deemed boring. We have a few choice words about how we view them too. We often find ourselves rolling our eyes in awe of the foolishness that’s come out of their mouths, particularly my son who I affectionately call, “THE BOY”. Karma is a @#%^!@ because we were once them too.

Whatever they think of us, we know they are our blessing. And I find them to be quite humorous.  I’ve said time and again, my life would be boring without my children. I’ve told many a story to coworkers, friends, and family regarding their shenanigans.  Even though they can get on my nerves with the arguing, ignoring, yelling, making excuses, exaggerating, correcting, resisting, stealing (apparently our room is a store), procrastinating, etc., every now and then, I see a glimmer of sparkle and innocence in their eyes like when they were little. 

Occasionally my daughter spends the day with me at work when she is out of school. On one such day, she typed an action memo on my phone, ” I love you, mommy”. I didn’t see it immediately…maybe later in the day, which made it so much sweeter. Those little gestures warm my heart and fill me with so much joy.  My children like to make me laugh too, which I think is funny. It reminds me of how much our children’s identities are tied to us as parents. We are their first mirror. They look to us for who they are. They look to us for confirmation and validation. They look to us to determine how to act and react. 

When we’re watching my daughter’s shows on tv, she spends more time watching US to see if we are laughing at the funny parts or gasping at the shocking parts. When we make eye contact after having the same reaction to a scene, I can see how excited she gets. Even though she’s starting to explore being in opposition to us (i.e., the clothes she chooses, her selection of hairstyles, what foods she likes), I can see that she’s still watching us…watching to see our reaction…watching to see if we approve.