To live a good life

I recently listened to a podcast on the great books of the world and how reading them can shape you for the better. I admit I have not read (many) of the greats. I read the Illiad, a little Plato and Aristotle and I’ve got an ancient Roman book, and a couple of history books from the Greeks. I find them hard to get through because they come from worlds so entirely different from mine. Also, women typically didn’t have a written voice, so most of them are from a man’s perspective. The nut of the show for me was how Aristotle explores what it means to have a good life (sorry, can’t remember the book). How he defines it. How it is really the same as many of us feel today. He defines a good life as the pursuit of happiness. But firstly, what is good? What is life? Those questions could take some time to explore. And dissecting happiness as well was an interesting topic. Happiness being defined as a deep, fulfilling joy brought about through living ethically, investing in relationships, having enough money to be able to focus on the latter, and the spinoff idea that yes, money helps us focus on those things, but the pursuit of money in and of itself can lead to a loss of happiness. Random thoughts that brought me a lot of pleasure thinking about and also a curiosity to explore the great books of all time!

*Charleston, SC 2019*

Influence

I wonder how the influence

of all the words I’ve read

loops around to the synapses in my mind

and shapes my thoughts and actions

all those writers who spoke into my life

some from thousands of years ago

some from today, literally

but even modern thoughts come often from far away

the buzz of thinking humanity in expression

reaching out to each other

teaching reflection and perspective

in different cultures, far different circumstances

change the way I view the world today

*my bookcase, Denver*

Spring

Even as the world weeps

the tragedies increase

my brothers and sisters in medicine give all they have with nothing left to give

there is the arm of my husband next to me lying on mine in the morning

my children sassy and laughing in the kitchen

the sunshine of spring with the freshness it brings

feels warm on my face and I can’t help but feel hope

 

*Salem, Oregon March 2020*

 

 

The best and the worst

I am pissed. I am elated. I am encouraged by humanity and I think people suck. This ride with a world pandemic has been the best and the worst of humanity in full view. Around my neighborhood in Stapleton, Denver there are signs on windows and front porches that say “We are going to be OK”, and “Standing together, we love you”. I have been given masks by two people who saw my request on a community facebook page which I gave to my hospital. I have other acquaintances who are making masks for healthcare workers (sewing them). I go to work and the nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists are afraid. We are afraid. We see it coming like a wall of water that hasn’t hit us yet. We are already running low on supplies and the worst hasn’t even happened. Rumors in the medical communities from Washington, California and New York, from our colleagues there, are telling us they are having to treat COVID-19 with a mask reused over and over and not enough gowns to go around, not enough ventilators, not enough staff. I saw a facebook post today that Kaiser in California directed nurses to stop wearing their own N-95 masks with COVID patients and threatened their jobs if they were found to be doing so. Those Kaiser nurses received guidelines downgrading protective standards and giving instructions on how to reuse eyewear and masks as they said the CDC said downgraded protection for droplet contamination (but CDC said the change was based on supply rather than science). To heavy hand nurses and pressure them into not protecting themselves is heartless and criminal in my mind. I know that we don’t have what we need in Denver for what is coming toward us. Our Governor Polis said the federal government basically told the governors good luck and find your own supplies. The World Health Organization has said the lockdown efforts are to be used to ramp up supplies, ventilators, figure out where all the patients are going to go. It’s a time to prepare. But from where I’m standing we aren’t going to be ready. I hope I’m wrong. But the people of my city, my neighborhood, my church, my incredible colleagues they give me hope and heart. There has been such goodwill and appreciation and help from the community toward each other, toward the healthcare community, toward the elderly. It reminds me of The Little Ships of Dunkirk, where 850 private boats sailed from England to Dunkirk in France in 1940 to rescue soldiers trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk during World War II. That’s what all the mask making and mask giving feels like to me. I have a friend/nurse at work who’s cousin is going to be testing patients for COVID. She was given one paper mask to reuse all day. The science says they don’t work after a few hours once they are soiled. I brought in a box of N-95 that one of my neighborhood Facebook friends had brought to my house. They were in her garage being used for woodworking. My friend asked if she could take one to her cousin who was worried she was not adequately protected. I said yes, and the rest of those masks are going to the ICU and ER. That little box in someone’s garage is going to protect people’s lives in the hospital. It is the best and the worst. Here’s hoping the best prevails.

*Stapleton, Denver March 2020*

As we go

As we go about living our lives in this time of the Pandemic of Covid-19 each of us are impacted quite differently depending on what we do for a living and where we are demographically. I will share my experience here in Denver, Colorado and would love to hear from you what is happening in your area and how you are impacted. I’m a neonatal nurse. I care for premature and ill babies. We have instituted very strict visiting restrictions, are having trouble with our supplies as many of them come from China. We are reusing things and rationing gowns and masks. We have very few pump parts left as they come from China. Human breast-milk is like medicine for our babies and having our moms pump right away has always been the gold standard in providing their babies with lifesaving nutrition. Formula can introduce dangerous bacteria and can lead to intestinal infections for the littlest ones. We are going to have to go hand expression for breast-milk if things continue this way. I am at the same time enrolled in an online RN-BSN degree after 22 years as a nurse. I am grandfathered in in my hospital, but if I ever want to move I will need a Bachelors degree to practice. Oddly, the course I am taking is public health and my paper I am writing is on the spread of communicable disease or Epidemiology. My topic is Covid-19. So in the next few days I will learn even more than I know now about this new virus. The school that I go to, WGU, has quite a presence across the US for nurses like me as it is well prepared, accredited, and pretty cheap. So I find myself connected with RNs all over the US on my WGU facebook group. It has turned into an information sharing platform over the last couple of days. Therefore, I have my finger on the pulse of almost every region of the US as we are telling each other what is happening in our individual hospitals. Seattle is in a dire situation. The nurses there are talking about running out of beds and supplies, exhaustion, lack of personal protective equipment. Massachusetts is nearly as bad. The rest of the nurses are gearing up and seeing more cases, limiting visitation and preparing. Most of us have gotten a rapid education in Covid-19. Initially, many of us, including myself, were skeptical and thought it was nothing more than the flu. Now, I know it is different, it is a real public threat. The hospitalization rate is roughly 20%.  If enough people get it this would overwhelm our hospitals. We don’t have a whole lot of ICU beds in the US. A great portion of these patients would need ventilators. We simply wouldn’t have enough. We are a lean, mean hospital machine in the US. We run tight, not just with staff but with everything. We get them in and get them out. We are not set up for a mass influx. We would have to start triaging who gets treatment and who doesn’t. None of us want to even think about the ethical implications of that. Suddenly,  I find myself pretty outspoken to those who think social distancing, the closing of our schools, public places and restaurants is “overblown, an overreaction”.  I am posting things on Facebook and commenting on newspaper articles (a first).  I told a guy in an automotive shop today,  when he was complaining about the job losses that will happen and the economic fallout, that we simply cannot handle this if people don’t listen to the CDC. I feel sorry for the coming economic pain, for the restaurants, for the small businesses, for the hourly workers who will have to stay home. I think my family will be affected as well. We run an AIRBNB that has dried up, my husband is a pastor and expects to take a pay-cut. I have a daughter in college that is driving home and now doing online classes. She still has a rental house that we’ve been paying for in Salem, Oregon.  I told her I’m not sure how we are going to pay for things in the near future. But people’s lives matter more. They just do. That’s why I got into healthcare in the first place. I believe and have hope that others feel the same as I do and will sacrifice money, comfort, socialization and put up with some level of hardship for the protection of the vulnerable in our communities.

*Charleston, SC October 2019*

Life happens in the minutes

Today is my birthday. I turn 50. Fifty years has revealed that there is no perfection yet always blessings and joys. The most frustrating thing about fifty is that I would like to plan out the next fifty and I have realized this is not going to happen. When I reflect on the last year, things have happened which I would not have foreseen, some plans have worked out and others have not. The most meaningful things continue to be people I have drawn closer to and feeling that I am working hard towards some purpose. It is the small decisions every day in the way I reach out and care for my marriage, my children, my friends and family that make my life richer, happier and more meaningful. The habits that I form at work, school (as I finally pursue a BSN after 22 years as an associate degreed RN), writing, music and being healthy physically keep me grounded and moving forward. Life happens in the minutes, so my goal this year is not to neglect making all those minutes count!

*Denver, Co 2020*