Counting my blessings

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted… the last part of this semester was very rough. Normally in college you have a ‘hell week,’ which is your last week in the semester during finals. I’m going out on a limb to say the last two months were our ‘hell months.’ There were many days that I just came home and cried after school because I was certain I was going to fail. Now, I’m done with finals and school…just have an NCLEX prep course and then I graduate on Friday! I’ve also got an ER position at home.

 I think I am more excited about Dude coming home than my own graduation. Dude is burned out, and I can tell from his voice on the phone. Luckily, we’re very close to being through with deployment. I have heard from many of my military friends that the last couple of months is the hardest for both of you because you’re both SO ready to be done. The last few weeks feel like they are just crawling by and can’t come soon enough.

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I think I am also feeling the effects of change in general. The last two semesters have allowed me to really connect to some of my fellow nursing students and now I am going to be moving and will be leaving them. It makes me sad, but I’m also glad to be going home to my family. It’s bittersweet for me.

Part of the reason I chose to go home is that Dude might be PCSing to another state soon, and depending on where he ends up he could deploy again in 2018. I wanted to be close to family in order to have a support system just in case. One downer is that Dude lives close to the same city where I went to school so in a way I’ll be moving away from him, too. I can’t lie and say that I’m not nervous about it, even though we only ever saw each other on the weekends before he deployed anyway. I’m not moving so far away that we can’t see each other on the weekends again, it’s just the principle of the matter.

Anyways, I got to thinking this morning that I shouldn’t be feeling so down. Yes, I am going through a lot of changes, but they’re all happy changes. Remember in my last post when I sad that any change can be stressful, even good ones? I just need to think about all of the good things in my life and focus on the positives. I also need to practice some self care.A few nights ago I watched one of my favorite Christmas movies in the world – White Christmas by Irving Berlin. One of the songs in the movie really hit me this year, called Count Your Blessings. The lyrics are

“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”

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I need to count my blessings….so here are a few:

  1. My family – I have the best parents and sister in the world. We are all very close, and although we argue sometimes they’ve supported me my entire life. Even when I made stupid decisions, they were there for me. Sometimes I take that for granted, and I just want them to know how much I love them.
  2. My boyfriend – Dude is wonderful. That’s all there is to it. He is there for me every day, and he is a constant source of encouragement. If I’m wallowing in self pity, he’ll tell me to suck it up and keep on going. If I’m happy, he celebrates with me. If I’m sad, he does his best to comfort me even when he’s far away. He’s patient when I’m being impossible. He dealt with my anxiety about passing nursing school. He’s my teammate in every sense of the word.
  3. My friends – I have been lucky because I have known most of my friends for 10 years or more. I have never been the type of person who has a large group of friends who are not that close. I guess you could say I’m picky about who I consider a friend. All of my friends have been SO supportive of me throughout this process and I don’t know what I would have done without them.
  4. My nursing school friends – I put these people in a special category because although we have only known each other for a short time, we go through a lot together. There aren’t many people who can relate to nursing. These are the people who I can talk to about bodily fluids spurting everywhere and the happy and sad things that occur on my floor. Most of my friends who aren’t nursing students don’t want to hear if a patient died, and they don’t have the sense of humor we develop. My roomie (shoutout to Kelly) in particular is the best for allowing me to vent every day after work when I deal with patients who can be assholes or laugh with me about some of the funny things that happen. We also have an endless supply of candy at study sessions…very imporant.
  5. My boyfriend’s family – They have been so great throughout our entire relationship. They invited me for Christmas last year, and then they invited my parents for Easter all the way to Texas. His parents and siblings have kept in contact with me through the whole deployment which really means a lot. Even if it was just a random snapchat, it has been great hearing from them. They also invited my entire family (including my sister, nieces, and her boyfriend) for Christmas this year. Although Dude can’t be with us, it will be very special to be around the people who love him most and will help me feel like he’s a little bit closer.
  6. My dog – my little Lilly is the most constant companion in my life. She’s always happy to see me and always my cuddle buddy. Her little ball of warmth every night in my bed is the best feeling after a hard day, and playing with her every day relaxes me.
  7. School – I have been very lucky to even beable to go to school, let alone get three degrees. There are plenty of people in this world who cannot go to school at all, let alone go to college. It is always humbling to remember that even if I have a small number in my bank account, I still have a roof over my head, food, and can go to school.
  8. Adventures – going on road trips or small hikes with my friends kept me sane through deployment and school
  9. Little things – little things like coffee in the morning, my dog’s tail wags, phone calls to my mom and dad, pictures my sister sends me of my nieces, and ‘good morning beautiful’ texts from Dude.

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I’m in a hurry to get things done…

Happy Saturday lovely readers! I love Saturdays in the Fall – football, a crisp breeze in the air, coffee (not pumpkin spice though), boots…and plaid, all the plaid. At least in Tennessee Fall is when people start looking like lumberjacks, and being a mountain girl myself… I see nothing wrong with that situation. In my current state I am almost halfway through my last semester of nursing school (and halfway through deployment, yay!). Let’s be honest here, I’m too poor to go out and buy Starbucks, so I am sitting at home with my good old fashioned homemade coffee, a protein shake, and a fiber one bar. This post is going to be a little different. It is going to be about something that I have struggled with the last few months. This post is about self care and the art of saying ‘no’.

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Recently, the American Nurses Association added an extra code to our Code of Ethics stating that not only should nurses care for their patients…but they should take the time to care for themselves. If we do not care for ourselves, we will not be in a position to care for others. It is now IN OUR CODE OF ETHICS because it has been such a big deal and nurses have not been able to do it. As a nurse it is often our personality to take care of others before we care for ourselves. Our Dean of Nursing put it to me this way… you know when you are in an airplane and they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you put it on someone else? We need to do that. If we can’t breathe, we can’t help someone else breathe. 

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Self care is an important aspect of anyone’s life, whether you are a healthcare professional or military member or stay at home mom. Everyone needs to do it, but we rarely do. It is something nurses are taught in school that we should do, but it is a LOT easier said than done. Especially when you are in school, working as a nurse extern, have a boyfriend deployed, need to maintain your grades, and also have social relationships you need to maintain between your family and friends. It can be very easy to get caught up in caring for your patients (as in not peeing and/or eating for a 12 hour shift), staying up all night to write papers, putting off your time to yourself, and a myriad of other things. You can get so caught up in trying to do everything for other people that you overschedule yourself, overexert yourself, and then, depending on your stress response…get sick.

Case in point- Me.

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I called in sick to work yesterday for the first time ever at this job. This past month has been one of the most stressful in nursing school, and to be honest, it feels so jumbled up to me that I can’t even pinpoint one reason why.  The part that is stressful is that you cannot miss a beat. If you schedule your 12 hour practicum shift on a day when you have 12 hour clinical, you are screwed. If you don’t count your scheduled hours for practicum and clinical correctly and miss one hour, you don’t graduate. If you forget you have a team leading clinical (where you teach the freshmen nursing students), you fail a class. To complicate matters, your critical care clinical may be day shift, while your practicum is night shift… which means you lose an entire day of scheduling a clinical around your classes because you have to sleep (good luck with that). And you cannot schedule any clinical or practicum when you are supposed to be in class. Which blocks out three days of the week where you cannot do clinical or practicum, which might be the only days your preceptors work that week. Add to that scheduling work days, which are also 12 hours…that adds working at least three 12 hour shifts a day (maybe 4), on top of three 8-12 hour class days a week…6-7 days a week, and you only get paid for two. That is our special brand of nursing school logic for you.

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Nursing school logic:

Oh you needed that weekend to be a bridesmaid in your best friend’s wedding that you committed to before you were even in nursing school? You’d better schedule your ER practicum for the night before you leave and just go to the wedding exhausted, followed by another night shift ER practicum the day you return from it…. If you don’t you FAIL. (This was my weekend last weekend in a nutshell, true story).

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Oh you need to cook dinner? Sorry… go grab some Chick Fil A and forget about trying to eat healthy and lose weight before your boyfriend comes back. Side note: Thank god for grilled chicken nuggets and the Panera drive thru…

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Oh you need to work out? Ain’t nobody got time for that… you need to apply for four jobs this week and also go to some interviews, which happen to be during your class time, so you’ll have to email your professors and ask if you can leave early.

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Oh, you’ve been trying to stay up to talk to your boyfriend who’s deployed? Sorry, you’re so tired you’re going to pass out before he calls.

All I can say is… I needed to call in to work. Both for my physical health as well as my mental health. On Monday, I burst into tears in class. Although I complain about the scheduling in nursing school, I do have to say that our professors are some of the kindest people I have ever met. My professor whose class I broke down in happens to be the Dean of the nursing school (embarassing), and all she did was come up and hug me. As a nurse, she could tell it was something I needed. She didn’t judge me for it, and didn’t even really say anything. Just hugged me.

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I was also lucky that one of my best friends came into town from 13 hours away. She has been having a rough time as well, and so all of my best friends from college…my ride or dies…my squad… came to meet us halfway to have dinner. It was something she needed, and I needed as well. They reminded me to have fun, laugh, vent, and not be so uptight. We spent hours talking about life, giving each other advice, having a few beers, and ended up dancing to Zac Brown Band in the middle of the street in the tiny, middle of nowhere town we picked to meet in. There are only so many people I am willing to dance in the middle of the street with in life, and I’m so lucky I have them. I didn’t want to leave, and I cried when I did.

I’m writing this post to illustrate that we ALL have stressors, no matter what we do in life. As military girlfriends, wives, and moms, we have the general stress of military life added on to the daily stresses we already face with our careers, families, and friends. I know a big part of my stress is the fact that he is deployed, and although I don’t feel it every day… it is still there in the back of my mind at all times. Stress doesn’t just mean the things that eventually make you break down and cry or get sick, it is often actually a ton of little things you didn’t even realize were stressing you out up until that point. Stress can even be a happy event like the birth of a new baby, a promotion at work, or graduation!

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Here are some things you can do for self care in order to help you cope with daily stress:

  1. Have a bedtime routine – I can’t stress this one enough (see what I did there?). Anyone who knows me knows that I have turned into a grandma in nursing school. I am legitimately in bed by 10:30 every night, and that is actually late for me. When I come back from work (whether it is night shift or day shift), I have a set routine. I walk my dog, take a long hot shower to wash off the MRSA, VRE, or C-diff I’ve encountered during the day, fill up my water bottle, take my vitamins, set out my clothes and lunch for the next day, put on my aromatherapy (hippie, I know, but it truly helps..we have aromatherapy in our hospital hallways), lotion my legs, set my alarm and read and cuddle my pup for a few minutes. Normally this routine takes me about 30-45 minutes…but it is completely worth it. If I don’t do it, I don’t sleep well.
  2. Plan out your week on Sunday – I used to be a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person…before I went to nursing school. Now my planner goes everywhere with me and if I lose it I could legitimately have a problem. I write down everything. On Sundays, I go through what I have already written down and add anything that I might have missed. I also try to plan out my workouts and food.
  3. Meal prep – Sometimes I am really good about this, sometimes I’m not… but it is really nice to be able to come home and just pull out something I’ve already made so I don’t have to buy nasty hospital food for lunch. If you’re watching your diet it is obviously also a lot healthier than eating out.
  4. Take time for yourself – whether that is walking your dog, reading, watching a few episodes of TV, or doing yoga… it is important. Don’t forget it. Make this time just for you. Not your significant other, not your friends, not your kids… just you. This can also end up helping your relationship because everyone needs their own time to just be by themselves. I know my boyfriend likes to have some time to himself to do the things he enjoys, just like I do. The key is finding a balance, and that balance can definitely be thrown off with things like returning from deployment and just getting busy with life in general.
  5. Spend time with your friends and family – My friends and family keep me sane during school, and also during this deployment. Even if they can’t help me out with something specific, they are always there to listen.
  6. Enjoy your life – do things that make you happy, make you laugh, and remind you that life isn’t all about work. In the immortal words of The Sandlot… “Get into trouble for crying out loud, not too much, but some.” This might mean going out with you friends, going on a trip, or even *gasp* playing hooky once in awhile.
  7. Exercise – This one is right up there with having a bedtime routine. Sometimes I’m great at it, sometimes I’m not. I’m not the type of person to say you must exercise every day of every week… sometimes you’re too exhausted. I know there are days I come home from work and my legs are swollen from being on my feet all day and they feel like lead weights. I don’t push myself on those days. I will say though, that I ALWAYS feel better after a good work out. It is time for me to be left alone with just my music, my goals, and my thoughts.
  8. Get a pet – pets are proven to relieve stress. We use service animals in the hospital for just that reason, and veterans who have PTSD often have service animals. Dogs especially have a certain sense of when their human is upset or stressed, and just petting them can calm you down. Studies have also shown that dogs understand what we are saying. Specific areas of their brain light up just like ours do when certain trigger words are said. Just be sure you have enough time and money to care for them properly – they deserve vet visits, walks, and lots of love.
  9. Aromatherapy – science is still out on this one, but I will say we use it in the hallway at our hospital and not only does it take away some of the bad smells, but it can be relaxing or energizing depending on which scent you use. Currently I am using a citrus scent since it is the morning and I have a paper to write after this. At night I use lavender.
  10. Budget – I am not going to lie… I’m not the best at budgeting either. Since I am subsisting solely on student loans and the little bit extra I make from my nurse extern job, I have about 1500 a month to work with (not a lot in Nashville). But as my graduation date comes closer, my student loans are looming at me out of the corner of my eye. This is something that has stressed me out to no end the last few months. I keep thinking “Oh my God, I have to pay back X amount of money each month, I have to find a job.. maybe a second job… maybe even a third job.” I have already told my dad (an economics and finance professor) that we are going to have to sit down and make a financial plan for me once I graduate. I’ve already told Dude (my boyfriend) that if we end up getting married, I do not want him to be saddled with my student loan debt, since he has none. Student loans are my debt, and my debt alone. I haven’t quite figured out my budget yet, since I still have a couple of months. I do know that once I graduate and start working, I am going to use my 6 month grace period to save up every penny that I possibly can and put it in an account specifically for student loan savings. In fact, I already opened that account and place all of my nurse extern money in it so that I do not touch it unless it is an emergency. I’ll write more on budgeting once I have actually made a budget. I have to graduate first. Priorities, people. 

I know I just wrote a monster post about this… but it is something I also needed to do for me to remind myself to take care of my needs as well as others. When you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed…remember to put your own oxygen mask on first.

 

 

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Halfway there…Livin on a prayer

Wow, ya’ll…. it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. The summer got away with me because of school and work. Let me just tell you, it’s been crazy…which has been great because it kept my mind off of Dude being gone. As of today, he’s about halfway through his deployment (don’t judge me, but I keep singing Living on a Prayer in my head). If you’re going through deployment of your SO, I definitely recommend keeping yourself busy. It has definitely helped, especially when he can’t communicate every day.

Let’s just list out some pros of keeping busy: If you’re in school, it gives you an opportunity to focus only on school – because let’s be honest, even if your SO is super supportive and motivating (like Dude), you can still get distracted while they’re in town. If you’re at work, it gives you an opportunity to get ahead at work – get that promotion, work more hours, or even pay off an extra loan you had breathing down the back of your neck. If you’re doing neither and you’re a MILSpouse, you can try to go back to school – I’m not sure what the exact benefits are but I do know that military spouses get discounts on school tuition. If you have no interest in school and want to be a stay at home mom (which is a full time job in itself) I would suggest coming up with LOTS of projects to do with your kids or around the house. Even with school I took on some creative projects just to give myself a brain break. I do count Dude’s care packages in those creative projects because I truly enjoy coming up with themes and putting them together. Whatever you do, give yourself time to relax and also just get out of the house every now and then.

One thing that I do miss is my best friends from college, I really wish I could just call them up and ask them to go out to dinner or dancing (we were big line dancers, again..don’t judge, it’s good exercise! haha). Unfortunately, I don’t live in the same town as them anymore, but I have made some good friends in nursing school who I enjoy hanging out with. We all ended up getting a lot closer over the summer since we were in class together 8-10 hours a day, and I moved in with an AWESOME roomie who is super supportive, fun, and also in my nursing class. She has encouraged me to go to church, always asks about how Dude is doing, goes out with me when I need to get out, is a great cookie taste tester, and also a great study buddy and exercise partner. I’m so lucky we ended up living together.

Although I haven’t written anything in my blog for awhile, don’t think I’ve forgotten about ya’ll! I’ve been taking pictures of everything blog-worthy I’ve done, just needed to find some time to sit down and actually write about it.  So here is a brief glimpse of my summer in pictures!

 Memorial Day Weekend

Bachelorette Party Shenanigans- ATL Beer, Bourbon, BBQ Festival

Trish’s Wedding

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Asheville, NC – July 4th weekend with family

Nursing School Life

Weight Loss/Self Care- In the first picture, the right side is the beginning of May, the left side is now..so some progress being made!

Projects/Care Packages

Embrace the suck

Yesterday was the first day I’ve had off in awhile. The past two weeks have been pretty stressful between school and work. I ended up getting exposed to Tuberculosis while working during my public health clinical – which didn’t end up badly but was a whole day completely lost getting screened and tested, and then a few nervewracking days waiting for a negative result. I was disappointed in that class simply because I was really looking forward to it (public health deals with military health and I could also use my Spanish in the community) and now feel like it was a waste of time. Plus, OB and Labor/Delivery is a lot harder than I expected it would be, emotionally and content-wise. On top of that, Dude and I have both been a little bit down and missing each other more lately. All I can say is I’m really lucky that I have parents who have been around (or in) the military before, and also very close friends that are in the services. That and being able to talk to his mom and family every now and then helps, because we all miss him.

That being said, being up here in a relatively new city by myself can make it hard. My best friends are all back in the town where I went to college for my first degree, or even travelling the world (in the military, or just wandering). My parents are two hours away, which isn’t that far theoretically, but when you’re working 12 hour days and in class every day you’re not working, it’s basically impossible to visit. Sometimes phone conversations just aren’t enough, and although I have made good friends in nursing school, we don’t know each other as well as my friends back home. I also find myself talking about him a lot, which even I know can be annoying. I can’t really help it, I just think about him quite a bit since he’s gone.

Most of the time, people tell me they don’t know how I do it, which isn’t meant to be irritating… but it is. I don’t do it because I want to, or I enjoy him being gone. I do it because I love him, it’s what he wants to do, and I happened to just meet him while he is serving our country. Sometimes they say “Well, I guess since he’s military you knew this was going to happen at some point.” Well, yeah… I did, thanks, that doesn’t mean it’s fun. It sucks.

It. Sucks.

But hey, the Army teaches you to embrace the suck. So, we suck it up and take it day by day.

On the plus side, I did get the chance to hang out with two of the guys wives that my soldier is over there fighting with last night, and it really helped. It was nice to have some face to face time with people who are experiencing the same thing right now, and can understand. I know I’m not the only one who misses Dude by a long shot, because we both have wonderful families that miss him so much (my 8 year old niece spent part of our family vacation texting him on my phone because she adores him). But like I said, at times phone calls just can’t even convey how you’re feeling at a particular point, and sometimes you just don’t want to talk about it. So it was nice to be able to be with people in real life yesterday who are missing their guys just as much, are separated from their families by distance, and are in a new city as well. That and we learned how to make sweet potato cupcakes… technically so we can make them for the guys when they get back but Dude HATES sweet potatoes… so more for me 😉

Anyways, I guess my advice for the point where you realize it’s just going to be a long slog through to the end of deployment is to just embrace the suck, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just do you.

Don’t Let the Muggles Get You Down

Hey ya’ll! So I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written an entry, I’ve just been super busy with school and my dad’s birthday last weekend. I also just started my community health class/clinical and it’s been a lot more work than I thought it would be. Let’s just say I spent all of this past week doing busy work and homework before this weekend when I’m working to twelve hour shifts. I’ll probably post more tomorrow, but I just wanted to give ya’ll an idea for care packages if you need one! My first one was a Finding Nemo theme because I was sending him toilet paper and baby wipes. The quote on the flaps was “I touched the butt.” I don’t have pictures of that one since I got a new phone, but on to my second and most favorite one so far!

 

So, dude and I both love Harry Potter… in fact, on our first date, I asked him if he liked Harry Potter to see if we even would get along at all (because WHO doesn’t like Harry Potter, am I right)? Of course, he passed with flying colors when he told me his favorite character was Hermione. Now, we all know a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that it’s Emma Watson… but he also said he liked her brains, so there’s that. We ended up going for a walk after dinner and a good fifteen minutes of the walk was discussing which Hogwarts house we would be in if we ever got our acceptance letter (still waiting, 16 years later… thanks Dumbledore). He called it when he said I would either be Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, and he was Gryffindor or Hufflepuff.

So, since he’s been a little bit down lately… I decided to make him a Harry Potter care package to maybe brighten his day. I might have gone a little overboard because when I say I’m a Harry Potter nerd… I mean it… I actually might have used the excuse of buying some of the merchandise for his care package to preorder The Cursed Child book at Barnes and Noble. I had WAY too much fun looking up names for all of the different items I put in the box from the Harry Potter wiki page, but I’m going to list them here if you need name ideas!

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Quote for flaps – “Don’t let the Muggles get you down” 

Items inside: 

  1. Beef jerky – dragon meat
  2. Floss/toothbrush/toothpaste – tooth flossing string mints 
  3. Tinactin/triple antibiotic (for athlete’s foot) – wigentree bark
  4. Instant powdered coffee – espresso patronum 
  5. NFL draft magazine – The quibbler 
  6. Sportsman’s magazine – The Daily Prophet
  7. Baby Powder – floo powder 
  8. Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash – Navel fluff busters 
  9. Fan mister – pheonix tears 
  10. Baby wipes – Hex-A-Gone wipes 
  11. Cauldron cakes – Barnes and Noble Harry Potter display
  12. Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans – Barnes and Noble Harry Potter display 
  13. Wooden puzzle game – Weasley Joke Box 
  14. Bug spray – to keep away Nargles
  15. Blueberry crisp clif bars (couldn’t send chocolate because it would melt where he is) – Dementor relief 
  16. Razors – enchanted razors

I covered the box in parchment scrapbook paper I got at Hobby Lobby, and then drew the little footprints from the Marauder’s Map around the edges. Then, I attempted to draw the symbol for the Marauder’s Map for the bottom of the box. I also added the quotes from Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs on each of the flaps.

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Then I wrapped everything in a brown gift wrap, tied it with black ribbon, and made labels with all of the new Harry Potter names on it!

The finished care package!

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If you don’t feel like hand drawing or hand lettering your care package, there are tons of sites on pinterest that have Harry Potter fonts. I just was doing this as stress relief from school as well, so I had extra time to spend on it (because lets be honest I was procrastinating). If you don’t like the names I picked as well, you can make up your own names! That’s the beauty of Harry Potter… anything goes!

 

Shark Bait OooHaHa

So this past Memorial Day weekend I went to Destin with some of my best friends that I worked with when I worked at a veterinary hospital. These girls are some of my favorite people in the world. I don’t think there are people funnier or more genuinely good than they are. I specifically chose to go with them to the beach on Memorial Day because I felt like it would be a good distraction from Dude’s deployment and also help me relax from school. It was the best idea I’ve had in a while!

Memorial Day

One of the things I love most about these girls is that we can have fun together without drinking. They are just so intelligent and funny. They love to learn about new cultures, new foods, and have new experiences, like me. They also genuinely care about people and animals. One of them is in vet school, another was a theatre major, and another is going to physical therapy school. We’re all not girly girls by any means, which makes for a relaxing beach trip. When you get four girls who were either raised on a farm, or cleaned up dog (or human) poop and vomit for a living…we’re not high maintenance. We can handle diarrhea and projectile vomit with the best of them. We don’t have to get all dressed up and go out to bars (although don’t get me wrong, that’s fun sometimes), and we can do all the squicky things that most girly girls wouldn’t even think of doing. Case in point: we went deep sea fishing.

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Now, I used to love to fish and hunt. Apparently when I was about five years old my dad would take me fishing and quail hunting and my absolute favorite thing to do was to clean out fish guts. I personally don’t remember this… In fact, the last time I went fishing, I pretended I didn’t know what I was doing (with a girly pink fishing rod), so that I could flirt with a guy and let him teach me something. My old Sunday school teacher always used to tell us girls that if we wanted to hook a guy, we had to let them teach us something (lol). So I got the bright idea to let him teach me how to fish, and he fell for it – hook, line, and sinker. Pun intended. My friend from home told my dad that story when  I graduated from college the first time with my Spanish degree and he nearly wrecked the car on the way to graduation dinner he was laughing so hard. He couldn’t believe I had the balls to flirt with a guy, let alone pretend I didn’t know how to fish. My dad put that pink fishing rod in a place of honor at home and he said he’s going to give it to my future husband whenever we get married. Whenever I went on dates after that he told me to bring my pink fishing rod. Also, he told Dude that story, and Dude makes fun of me for that dadgum rod now, too.

fish

Well, on this trip, I’m proud to say I didn’t have my pink fishing rod and I caught 10 vermilion red snapper that are in my freezer right now waiting to be battered, fried, and nommed on! I’m a vermillionaire 😉 My friend also caught a shark. Like a legitimate 7ft, 200 lb shark. We had been joking the whole trip about how one of us was going to catch a shark or a whale, and it actually happened! She was almost shark bait… for real, it nearly pulled her off the boat, but she hung in like a champ and caught it. We let it loose though, so no nice shark dinner for us.

Anyways, it was so nice to just get out of my town for awhile and relax with people who genuinely care about me and about Dude. Deployment is never fun, but so far it has been manageable because I’ve got a great support system, and because I’ve been keeping myself busy. If you’re the girlfriend of a soldier, cultivate your friendships, because those people are the ones who are going to be there for you when he can’t physically be in the same place as you. Cultivate your relationships with your family and with his family. I try speak to Dude’s mom at least once a week on the phone, and we text in between that. She’s super awesome, and I’m lucky she is. His whole family is great, actually. I’m friends with his sister and brother on Snapchat/Facebook and we even have a group message going with his mom. It really helps me feel better to be able to check in on them and make sure they’re doing ok as well – maybe that’s just the future nurse in me. I know they miss him just as much as I do, probably more. I call my mom and dad every day and let them know how I’m doing. Dude actually calls my parents from overseas, too. I think that’s really going to be a big help throughout this time. Which, by the way, isn’t he the BEST for doing that? I don’t know many guys who would think about doing that when they’re in 105 degree weather and dealing with infinitely more serious issues. I had to brag on him to his sister about that one. His mama raised him right :).

Patient #1

My first patient that ever had an effect on me was a little old man. When I say old, I mean old. As in, he was almost 100 years old. In a world of patients that are grumpy, complain over the littlest things (like that their coffee isn’t Starbucks…sorry, not a waitress), and are just generally unpleasant sometimes, he was a breath of fresh air. All of the nurses and student nurses basically thought he was the sweetest thing. I’ve noticed in school that you can get a pretty decent feel about how a patient is going to act that day by the attitude that they exhibit when you first walk into the room. This goes for nurses’ attitudes to their patients as well. If I walk into a room grumpy, not smiling, and just go about my business without talking – a patient isn’t going to feel comfortable with me. Just like if I go into a room and I can sense my patient is not having a good day, sometimes it’s the best to just let them talk about it on their own and be there to listen if they feel like disclosing what is bothering them. This patient was putting off a very calm attitude, like he was actually content to be in the hospital for the moment (which is very rare).

I personally love the fact that as a nursing student, I am not assigned six patients to care for each day. This gives me time to get to know my patients and actually speak with them. In school, they tell us to try and spend as much time with your patients as you can once you get out into the real world, but it is very difficult with the patient load sometimes. Some days I have better patient interactions than others, and this day was one of the best days of my clinical experience. He was a remarkable man. Until he got put in the hospital (for a completely minor injury, nothing serious at all), he would walk at least two miles a day. He spent most of his time outside on his farm, and still enjoyed hunting with his son and dog. Although these days, he took it easy while his son did the work. He was mostly concerned for the well-being of his dog while he was in the hospital, and I distinctly remember his son telling him he was being well taken care of. A veteran of WWII, he preferred not to discuss his time in the military. It was his way of coping, I guess. You could tell, however, that he was a strong individual. He had a certain poise about him that just commanded respect, even when he was frail and slightly weak from his injury.

As we got to know him throughout the day, we jokingly asked him what his secret to longevity was. His response, completely seriously, was “Find the right woman. I was married to my wife for over 70 years, and I wouldn’t be alive without her.” Unfortunately, his wife was no longer with him, and you could tell it still affected him. He got slightly teary eyed when he spoke of her, but he was a military veteran, and he was fairly stoic about it. I am just one of those people who cries when men cry at anything, and it made me tear up a little bit.

This patient didn’t affect me because he had some serious disease process that would lead to a tragic illness. He was a perfectly healthy individual (except for getting old). He affected me because our generation seems to have no idea of how to live a good life. We’re all so stuck in our technology, we don’t get outside anymore. Obesity is a huge epidemic because kids are inside playing video games for twelve hours a day. It will be very rare in our lifetime for people to live until the age this man has unless we make some changes. He affected me because of his love for his wife. My generation also has an issue relating to one another. Divorce is at a higher rate than ever, and it’s because we don’t try to understand our partner and be forgiving. Nobody can tell me that these two people didn’t fight over 70+ years, that’s impossible. They just had to learn to work with one another, sometimes sacrifice for the other person, and support each other through everything.

In the short clinical day that I was able to talk to this man, he made me think about all of these things just with one little sentence and by being himself. It just goes to show you never know the effect you will have on somebody.