Sunsets and Birdsong Dawns…

Clackamas River Sunset

Life has thrown another curve… It does that.

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll find after I turn the corner, but for now I’m walking slowly along the path in no real hurry to get around the bend. I have spent this last week or so in my childhood home while working on my Finals for this term — this curve in life forced me to fall way behind in my classwork and I needed some help with the boys so I could get everything caught up and finished before the term ended. Somehow I’ve managed to catch up with everything despite all my current life drama…

While here my “baby” sister and I have had the opportunity to go for evening walks together — the boys have grandparents to help if someone takes a fall — I can be away for an extended period of time without worrying. This means that there has been a period of unexpected Rest in the midst of this chaos. Being with family – it’s easier to get up in the morning, easier to remember to eat, easier to sleep… I’m not spending my nights right now dreading the waking of another day…

Out walking with my sister in the evenings gives me the chance to just breathe, and hiking along the river in all its familiarity, it’s easy to remember who I am. The beauty that shaped me is still here — sunset skies above the river and birdsong filling the dawn. The air here at my childhood home by the river I know so well – it still smells like the late summers of my girlhood — like sun-warmed berries and dry grass, heavy with the weight of the heat and the scent of the river… Summer’s end hangs in the air as the days shorten and we all feel the coming autumn looming despite the present heatwave. I miss the sea – the sound of her breathing tides and her scent in the air – but I am so grateful to be here right now…

Life is hard — I hope you all can find Beauty when you’re travelling your own rocky path… Remember we’re all on this journey together – stay soft with each other…

  • #rememberingme
  • #childhoodforests
  • #viewfromthewaterfall
  • #clackamasriver
  • #sunsetsandbirdsongdawns

Midday Musings

I walked to the beach and back during my lunch break with my hubby today. It smelled like the hikes I took daily as a teenager – water and earth, sunshine, damp bracken and gravel, and then… a different scent – The Sea. She is the only difference from my youth spent much further inland in the woods east of the Willamette Valley, and she is a constant presence now — scent and sound even when out of sight. Sometimes there’s just the low constant hum of the waves rumbling below the surface of conscious notice, and sometimes she roars with wind and intensity — a ferocity bound by the shore even when she seems to be bent on reaching further… The Pacific has an ironic name – she is not a tame companion, even if a constant one.

Today she gave the impression of playfulness amid the sea foam and sunshine. I wanted to stay and play – we were the only ones there in the middle of the day — stealing unseen kisses and pretending the world is as it should be… But of course, it was a lunch break — time was limited and I am not free to ignore reality, or create my own… Today has been another difficult day for so many — Covid is not as tame as people would like to believe… Perhaps Omicron is not as fierce as Delta, but neither is Alpha, and without a vaccine every variant is dangerous and unpredictable as the sea…

This weekend I will have three days off — there is sunshine in the forecast and I hope to spend some time in it. There will be schoolwork and housework… There are books to read, and I have a new sweater to begin knitting (yay!) — the time will fly — but it will be enough to remind me that life is good. The tides are constant and faithful, even if not safe, and Time’s rhythm of life is the same… Change is constant.

Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.
God alone suffices.” St. Teresa of Avila (found on her bookmark)

Simply Being Today…

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It has been a “simply being” day…

I am unmotivated, tired, heavy with the weight of all that seems wrong with this world. The sun is shining in a blue sky — but I am homesick for the sound of the sea rather than traffic… I miss home today… and the two years of this nursing program seems to stretch out in front of me in a long, blurry line of exhausting hours… ones that I must be grateful for since it’s so hard to get into any RN program – let alone one that had two openings at once and accepted both myself and my Mister. We are halfway through our first term — despite the pandemic that has us shut in our homes and unable to go to campus. Online classes are providing us the education hours we need…

Our nights are spent waiting for the phone to ring to send us out to patients in need — whether there’s a medication issue or the family needs a death visit, whatever the need one of us is ready to go at a moment’s notice depending on who is on-call. This week my Mister is the LPN on call, but we both tend to be awake waiting… Our schedule is basically a 24 hour one right now — we sleep whenever we don’t have to be doing something else whether the sun is down or not. We tend to be tired and under constant levels of stress… This virus continues to take a toll on societies around the globe, and we have our own unrelated struggles as well…

I never realized before how much you can get done in a 24 hour period if you are awake for most of it. I read two books yesterday, did housework (somehow it doesn’t matter how many hours in the day you use – Mount Washmore doesn’t seem to get smaller), watched episodes of Gravity Falls with the boys, and plenty of other things — no wonder there’s a constant sense of fatigue right now. However, keeping up with the news has been avoided this week — I know the bare minimum I need to keep myself safe when I have to leave the house for work, but I can only handle so much input from the rest of the world and still maintain my sanity…

With this spinning globe in such a mess, it’s strange to look out the window and see the sun and shadows playing on the rooftops in front of me. There’s a breeze blowing through the neighborhood into our window, and the sound of potatoes boiling on the stove… It would be easy to believe that all is right with the world — that people aren’t dying and there are no crazy protests against the stay-at-home orders… Unfortunately, viruses don’t care about how beautiful the world is and this disease is an equal opportunist… we still don’t even know how “recovered” those in the recovery numbers actually are. Many will have life long health troubles after “recovering” and it’s looking less and less like long term immunity is possible. How can such ugly facts exist alongside the beauty of springtime in Oregon?

It’s all overwhelming…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This evening I will look around at the things I haven’t finished (always seems like so much) and then convince myself it will all get done eventually.  I will take a hot shower and wash away some of the grief of this current time… The other side of this darkness will come — even in Narnia’s “always winter never Christmas” spring eventually arrived. Aslan is still on the move…

 

Grateful even on this “simply being ” day…

…memories of the sea near home

kitkat snuggles (my word – barely a kitten not quite a cat — a kitten teenager)

…The Bookshop on the Shore (Jenny Colgan‘s books are just so lovely — she’s currently my favorite — we are kindred spirits, she just doesn’t know it ;) )

…heart-shaped blueberry muffin cakes for breakfast

…watching old tv shows with the boys

…dark chocolate

…homeopathics

…The Philosopher’s bedtime music playlist

…The Professor’s encyclopedic knowledge of Wordgirl

…laughing with my Mister at night when the lights are low and the rest of the world is sleeping

It’s still all Grace…

Jenn

Creatures That Cope

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It has been almost two years since I posted anything in this little corner of cyberspace… This catch-up post might take a bit.

Truthfully, I considered just closing this blog down entirely and starting a new one since my life after 40 has been so different from what it was while raising the boys. I am a Licensed Practical Nurse now — in fact, I am a hospice nurse — and I’m so grateful to be able to be part of this sacred work in a much more practical way than before. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to begin an entirely new blog for this new season of my life. However, it is simpler to just use this space that I’ve already created, and right now simple is one thing my current life lacks…

It is April of 2020.  I am a hospice nurse during the global COVID-19 pandemic. People are dying daily and the entire world is basically on lockdown in their homes — as of today  over 26,000 people have died in our country alone — more than even Italy now.  Currently, about 2,000 a day are dying of COVID-19 here, which makes this virus the greatest killer of 2020. We are practicing “social-distancing” — staying in our homes to try and limit the movement of the virus through the population so that the hospitals are not overwhelmed… It’s only been partly successful. The nurses and doctors have limited supplies — we’re all reusing our masks – and people all over the country are sewing cloth masks to try and increase our supply. The bodies of the dead are literally filling hospital morgues and spilling out into mobile refrigerated trailers. Those who are dying of COVID die alone in hospital isolation and families cannot even have the comfort of a funeral to aid in their grief.

Re-reading the last paragraph sounds like something from a post-apocalyptic book — and yet, every day I’m watching it continue to unfold…

In the era of COVID even hospice nurses seeing their normal patients cannot hug or offer the normal comforting touch we are so used to providing. When we enter someone’s home we follow the new guidelines — we reuse our masks and wear gloves. Just wearing a mask feels like such a barrier in this work — but we must keep our patients safe, and there’s no way to know that we aren’t carrying this virus with us when we go somewhere. We go back to our colleagues and vent about our frustrations as this virus impacts every aspect of our work in the field. We are still as present to our patients as we can be… but we can see how the isolation is wearing on them…

The stress and uncertainty of this time is wearing on us all.

The part of my life not taken up by work — specifically the daytime hours as work fills the hours of 5pm to 8am when I am on-call for 7 days, and then my Mister is on-call for the following 7 days — those hours not waiting for the phone to ring are spent studying and keeping our little home a home. Mister and I were accepted into an RN program that began just days before the COVID lockdown. Classes are all online in accordance with “social-distancing” rules, and we’ve managed to get through the first half of the first term this way. I’ll admit — it’s very hard to take school seriously when you’re working in the field during a pandemic. Somehow, getting an A on a test just doesn’t mean much when thousands of people are dying every day and I am on the frontlines when I get called out to see a patient. (I went into my first locked-down COVID building the other night — it was surreal — I had an unfitted n95 mask and a pair of goggles to protect myself…)  My mind doesn’t want to study. Sometimes it seems like it doesn’t want to do anything but sit and stare off into space.

The Professor and Philosopher are hanging in here with us. The Professor’s TBI remains symptomatic and continues to limit him. The Philosopher is in need of an MRI and probably another spinal cord de-tethering surgery, but that will all have to wait. The hospitals are not safe places with this virus in play. They continue to work on their projects and hope for improvement… The Philosopher at least has a nice wheelchair to get around the house with now. Pain has become a big part of their lives over these last years and I’m amazed at their patience in the midst of it all. Their Faith keeps them going, and their sense of humor helps us remember that laughter is still the best medicine. They are brilliant, patient, thoughtful young men… and I am proud of all they have accomplished in the face of their struggles.

We are all tired… When I step back and look at the world, the gravity of this situation is overwhelming, but there have been so many beautiful moments shared despite it all. We are all still human, and we are doing what humans do… when faced with a mountain we just climb it. We create beauty out of ashes… we light candles in the darkness… we make music out of the rhythm of silence and storm. As one of my boys said… “We are the creatures that cope.”

I have seen social media alight with music and song as we seem compelled to sing and dance our way through this darkness. We play instruments together with the help of technology that allows us to be “together” from our own living spaces. We sew masks to show we care and fill our social networks with words of encouragement. I don’t know what society will be like on the other side of this dark tunnel… the future is unclear, and even the present is a bit of blur as everything seems to change from one day to the next. But, I know that love will still exist on the other side… as long as there are two hearts left beating, there will be the rhythm of life waiting to become song.

I decided to sit down today and re-enter this little corner because I need to count my blessings again… I need to remember there is Grace in the moments that so easily get lost right now…

With gratitude for the little things…

…stolen moments with my Mister

…The Philosopher singing to himself

…The Professor asking what our favorite parts of the day were

… clean clothes

…we still have hand sanitizer

…chocolate non-dairy ice cream

…finishing a midterm

…masks for safety

…delivered groceries

…kitten whisker tickles

In the Darkness, it’s still all Grace…

Jenn

 

 

The Flow of Time…

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I’ve been away from this cozy little corner for quite a while, and I probably don’t have the time to try to explain where the last few months have taken us, but I’m stopping by anyway. When life itself moves too fast it’s easy to fall behind. So, this nook of the internet will have to forgive me for my periodic abandonment. Time flows too quickly…

We were settled down to enjoy our beach house life when our economic circumstances took a sharp turn. After some prayer and researching, I decided to begin nursing school with the goal of moving from a hospice volunteer to a hospice nurse, and my hubby decided to join me. This means, that while we will be able to keep our home at the coast, we need to be close to the city for school for the next year or so while we’re in school…

Fast forward from my last blog post to this one and I now find myself at the beginning of my second term. I knew when I began that I would enjoy it, but I didn’t realize how much I would love it — or how engaged with the entire process I would be. This is the first time I’ve studied anything and not be “bored” after a few weeks. :) I’m having a blast! Don’t get me wrong — it’s not easy. I might be making A’s, but I’m actually earning them — I’m working hard for my grades. There’s so much to learn in such a short period of time!

Right now, we’re studying for our LPN licenses, which basically gets your foot in the door as a nurse, and then we’ll be able to get jobs anywhere with the health insurance our boys need. Once I’m employed I plan to continue my education and “climb the ranks” of nursing — perhaps even becoming a nurse practitioner at some point for a hospice. I’d actually love to run my own hospice house someday… we’ll see where life takes me… A year ago I never would have imagined I’d be where I am now, so I’m curious to see what my life will be like a year from now.

The boys are hanging in here as their parents are both in school. The Professor’s 2nd anniversary of his head injury passed a couple weeks ago, and it’s been hard not to get discouraged with the healing process. We recently began seeing Dr. Thom again though who has a new plan to try to encourage his healing, and it really helps to have a little hope sent our way. The Philosopher had an MRI recently and we’re hoping to hear some enlightening news about it this next week. He has symptoms that point to a re-tethering of his spinal cord, and mostly we’re just hoping that whatever is wrong is something “fixable”. Thankfully, while we’re away at classes during the day we have plenty of family around to help the boys out. Second Sister has really been helping a lot, and of course, my mama has been a rock. Really, I couldn’t be doing nursing school without all the family support — it just wouldn’t be possible.

Since I’m back “in town” I’ve been able to begin visiting hospice patients again as well — I missed it so much while I was “away”. I simply love being with the dying — being present with them wherever they happen to be in any given moment. I think the hardest part of being a hospice nurse will be not having as much time with patients as I do as a volunteer. As a nurse, I’ll have a lot more patients than just the two that I visit now, and instead of simply being there to spend time with them — to play music and hear their stories — I’ll have to be one of the people who come in to poke and prod them. I’m pretty sure it won’t be easy for me to make that switch, and yet I’m looking forward to playing a bigger part in the care team — with a stronger voice for what I know is best for my patients. A nurse has a lot more “pull” than a volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, a volunteer’s observations are a vital part of the team — we inform a lot of the care that happens for our patients — but a nurse’s opinion simply goes further I think.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty tired though. Nursing school is intense! Plus, there’s so much else going on in life too — I feel like I could sleep for a week… There’s just always something I need to be doing — which means I have very little time for writing or reading… and forget knitting! My life is mostly homework (I swear Pharmacology is some kind of strange mix between Stephen King and Dr. Seuss — completely terrifying, fascinating, and full of made up words)… and it’s hard to maintain a sense of balance.

So amidst all the craziness of life lately, I am trying to keep my focus on my Lord… I am trying to remember that in school, I’m learning new ways to do “small things with great love”. All of this hard work is going to give me more tools to love others with — more ways to show the love of Christ to the world — especially the sick and dying. In learning things like how to do a Head to Toe Assessment I can show compassionate care for someone — I can really listen to them and hear their concerns. This is how we touch lives…

Love makes a difference…

…even in the small things.