Caught in the panini press of life…….

We have all heard the phrase, “the sandwich generation”, a description of baby boomer life in which we are sandwiched between the needs of aging parents and growing children. I’m here to say that my sandwich is a Dagwood variety (remember the comic strip?), not only composed of layer upon layer of stressors, but, true to 21st century culture, squeezed and heated in the Panini press of life! You all know the feeling, right? Trying to write, make a living at the “real” job, be a good mother, daughter, Nana, Aunt Kat, in-law, cousin, etc., etc. And, of course, trying to be at least a modestly good wife. Oh, and there are the friendships that are so sadly neglected because there just seems to be not enough time (or energy) to go around. And Facebook. And what about Twitter–I don’t even understand that whole scene yet. And LinkedIn ……….. I am doomed!

Well, of course I am not really doomed. I just feel that way sometimes. I’m trying to understand why. Reason one: An obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic nature (although I am slipping away from the latter as evidenced by the dust on this desk as I write). Reason two: Failure to cultivate a heart of gratitude by recognizing and remembering my blessings and giving thanks on a regular basis. Reason three: Impatience (you know the feeling, wanting it all now–forever seeking a sense of completion and control with the mistaken perception that it would come if the house were clean, laundry done, pantry stocked, bills paid, blog faithfully posted to–you get the drift.)

I am reminding myself right now that that Panini press is of my own doing. Sure, life is full of stress. That’s how we know we’re still alive, a friend of mine often says. But I don’t need to be in control because someone higher and better and wiser than I is. Remember Jeremiah 29:11? “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That verse should turn off the heat and release the pressure of that Panini press!

So, right now, I lay the imperfection of my obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic, impatient, ungrateful nature at your feet, Lord. And I prayerfully ask for your forgiveness for taking the remarkable blessings of this life for granted. I thank you for your love, grace and mercy; for faith, family, friends, work, and the gift of self-expression through the written word. May it always be done for your glory. Amen.

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Signs

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My family and I have just returned from a short trip into the great state of Texas. Stopping in Dallas, San Antonio, and then Fort Worth, our trip involved a significant amount of drive time. Riding in a car is when I get lots of ideas for my writing. I see a house and my mind begins to imagine who might live there. Then plots for stories develop, and I’m off!

The travel time also gave opportunity for reading roadside signs. A couple of the billboards struck me as rather humorous. One displayed the photograph of a VERY attractive woman with the caption She Spies! The advertisement was describing her business as a private investigator. I gave her kudos for a catchy name for her business. Another, again graced by the photo of a VERY attractive and professional-looking female, advertised her services as an attorney. She received my congrats for the catchy headline, which read: Ever argued with a woman?, giving her positive marks for turning what can be a negative connotation toward the female gender into a positive attribute.:)

However, it is the third sign I am going to describe which gave me pause and left me feeling rather disturbed. A small church near the expressway displayed a sign sporting this advice:
Considering suicide?
Call on Jesus, the
source of all comfort.

I do believe in prayer, and I am not discounting its benefits to both the sufferer and his/her family and loved ones. However, I do not concede that depression and suicidal ideation are necessarily spiritual problems. The dark pit of depression is known to have origins in abnormal balance of neurohormones in the brain. For too long we have viewed depression as some kind of personal weakness that only needs a little prayer and a little faith and some getting on with life. It’s not that easy, folks. I’ve witnessed both the agony of depression and the tragedy of suicide, as well as addictive behaviors that develop in the effort to self-medicate oneself out of the pain. And many of these victims have had strong Christian backgrounds and beliefs.

I hope we as people are becoming more open-minded, more informed, more sensitive, and more ready to step in with real, meaningful intervention when indicated. I know I’ve learned a few lessons over the past 10 years, and I’m sure I’ll still be learning more 10 years from now. But we Christians need to more careful about presenting Christianity (or any other faith) as the sole solution to suicidal thoughts. We need to pray for wisdom and insight and discretion and love as we try to help those we know who are fighting the battle with the enemy of depression.

The sign scared me. What if someone suffering severe depression with suicidal thoughts reads that sign and stops meds or stops seeing their mental health professional, depending solely on Jesus’ comfort to protect them from harm? And what if that spiritual strategy just doesn’t work? I pray that that doesn’t happen.

A dream coming true. . . . .

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Above you see evidence of a dream coming true–the “physical proof” of my first novel. It seems I’ve dreamed of being a writer all my life. As a matter of fact, I guess I have been a writer, but, perhaps now, I’m becoming an author.

The book is NOT the “great American novel” by any stretch of one’s imagination. It is simply an inspirational romance which celebrates life in small southern towns, where life is often centered around the church. It is a love story but very “pure” by today’s standards, reminiscent of Grace Livingston Hill and Emilie Loring novels that I read as a young girl. Those novels proved to me that love stories can be inspirational and pure, yet still entertaining. I hope and pray that there are some who will still find that style of writing enjoyable and uplifting.

But, most of all, as I have seen this project come to fruition, I have become more aware of the very good things that God has blessed me with in this life. A good education, the profession of nursing, loving and supportive family and friends. And, most of all, faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As I was kindly rejected by a literary agent, I remember telling him that God would do what He wanted with this story, for it was His. And, it is His. Seeing it come to life has inspired me to try harder, do better, be kinder, be more faithful.

And so, whether it is commercially successful or not, whether it receives positive or negative reviews, whether readers find the characters as charming as I do or not, it is a success. Because dreams come true for very few, and I am one of the lucky (blessed) ones. And this process has made me a better person.

New beginnings………………

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Well, hello again, blog friends. You might say I’ve treated friends with little consideration to be so long absent from the blogosphere. I’ve thought of many excuses: a demanding fulltime job, the distraction and time demands of self-publishing a novel, trying to make some effort to be a good wife-mother-daughter-grandmother. All reasonable and true, but not really valid reasons to neglect this part of my writer life!

My contrition was stimulated in part by a devotional thought this July 1 from my trustworthy book pictured above. That day’s thoughts were all about perseverance. Remembering all the times I have prayed for the strength to persevere, my heart was convicted that blogging is a test of that ability. Oh, yes, there are other important areas in which it is important to persevere–one’s faith, family relationships (even when somewhat dysfunctional), the continuous learning required in one’s profession, cultivating friendships–to name a few. But the commitment to contribute to my little corner of the digital world should not be taken lightly. I began this adventure with selfish motives–to build a platform and get my book published. With the decision to self-publish (a process which is well underway and responsible for many of the afore-mentioned distractions and demands), platform slipped on the totem pole of priorities. The past few days I have been bothered by the nagging truth that blogging and the discipline necessary to this form of self-expression is an important measure of my ability to persevere.

“Because perseverance is so difficult, even when supported by the grace of God, from that is the value of new beginnings. For new beginnings are the life of perseverance.” Edward B. Pusey

Therefore, I am embarking on a NEW BEGINNING do not labor under the misapprehension that this will be my last new beginning, for I am sure that sooner or later I will lapse, as is the truth associated with all resolutions, New Year or otherwise. However, I pledge to do my best to do better. So, I was gratified to read a few lines later:

“Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean, do not be disturbed because of your imperfections, and always rise up bravely from a fall. I am glad that you daily make a new beginning. There is no better means of progress in the spiritual life than to be continually beginning afresh, and never to think that we have done enough.”
Francis de Sales

I have indeed not done enough, but what an opportunity for improvement! I wonder how many of you might have experienced similar lapses. I hope you recognized and corrected yours more promptly than I have mine! I thank you for your understanding and forgiveness……………

Close encounters………

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Steven Spielberg created a sci-fi classic in 1977 with the release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the story of an ordinary, working-class guy whose life is changed by an encounter with a UFO. The phrase, “the third kind”, designates the inclusion of actual encounters with aliens in the story. The United States Library of Congress designated the film as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in December of 2007, and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Now, this post is really NOT about UFOs or aliens. It’s more about the phraseology, “close encounters of…..”. Yesterday I began thinking about what I have termed Close Encounters of the GOD Kind.

The good thing about teaching a children’s Bible class in Sunday School is having to read the Bible as part of class preparation. This week the young ladies’ (5th and 6th grade) class that I teach studied Esther. Esther was a young, beautiful Jewish girl who became the queen of Persia at a time when Jewish captives in that country came under persecution and threatened annihilation. She became a reluctant but effective champion for her people. At one point, in an effort to encourage her to act heroically, her adoptive parent advised her: “…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b, NIV)

Esther’s story reminded me of another. Genesis recounts the beginnings of the Jewish nation. One of Jacob’s twelve sons was Joseph. The recipient of his father’s obvious favoritism, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. While in Egypt, with divine help, Joseph became powerful, enabling him to save his entire family from famine. His brothers feared retribution for their evil deed when they approached Joseph to request aid. However, Joseph offered a different perspective: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5, NIV)

Do you ever consider the “close encounters of the God kind that occur in our lives? Because I do believe that they are real. It may be the head-on collision that almost happened, but didn’t. Or the phone call or note originating with you that arrived at a pivotal time in the recipient’s life and made a real difference in the order of things. Maybe you were the recipient of that call or note. Perhaps you’ve always longed to teach or sing or play an instrument or write! That longing may be God’s hand prodding you to branch out in your life experience. Maybe you have been at just the right place at just the right time with just the right words or skills to change the direction a life is taking (or to save a life). Maybe your life work (teaching, building, nursing, healing) is not just a job or profession but a true calling–aren’t you blessed? Do you acknowledge the reality of a divine being who is planning and directing our life course? How often do we write events off to luck or coincidence when divine intervention is the real explanation?

For much of my life, a small plaque has been in my bedroom, as it is even now in my adult years. I have no idea whose work it is. In my childhood, the version pictured below was sold door to door. The imagery is a beloved interpretation of God’s watch care over His children, hazardous though our walks may be. And, hazardous they would truly be, without His loving care. I invite you to join me this and every day in being thankful and joyful and full of praise to the Lord for all of our “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE GOD KIND!

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Nursing, Past and Present

The way it was.....

The way it was…..

I remember my days as a young nurse, days all in white, head to toe, with white dress and stockings and freshly polished white shoes. There were bandage scissors in my pocket, and a watch with a second hand on my wrist. I was an oddity in the small community hospital–an RN with a four year college degree in nursing, stethoscope hung round my neck, daring to listen to heart and lung and bowel sounds as I made rounds to assess the thirty patients on the medical ward where I was charge nurse. The LPN, displaced from the charge nurse position by my arrival on the scene, was somewhat dubious of this upstart young nurse who thought nurses’ notes ought to say more than “a good day” or “slept well” or “up in chair” and “ate well”.

I remember the excitement I felt the first time I recognized the signs of congestive heart failure in the patient before the doctor had diagnosed it. And the satisfaction of receiving a call from the OR with the surgeon’s message, “Tell Ms. Parish the appendix was hot.” It was oh, so satisfying, since I had called so many times to convey my concern for the patient that she was finally taken to the OR. The memories that fill my mind, the stories I could tell, the love that I have had for this profession sometimes overwhelm me. Often I have said, “I came up in the glory days of nursing.” No IV pumps–we counted drops to control the flow of IV fluid. I can shake down a mercury thermometer and take temperatures without the aid of a machine. I can use manometer and stethoscope to check a blood pressure–no Datascope needed here. I wrote legible, meaningful notes and enjoyed the confidence placed in me by both my coworkers and the physicians with whom I worked.

It’s all changing now, you know. Some things are so much better. It is nice to have an IV pump to control the flow of intravenous fluids and blood and medications. And it’s nice to have patients on continuous cardiac monitors that detect changes real time. Temporal scan thermometers are cool. Heart attacks can be stopped by a trip to the cardiac catheterization lab and an angiogram and balloon angioplasty with stent. Slow heart rates can be corrected with pacemakers. Sudden death can be aborted by implantable defibrillators. There are now a multitude of medications to treat hypertension and diabetes and high cholesterol that were not on the market when I started.

Some changes, though, leave me with a sense of sadness. The paper chart that used to be the story of the patient’s hospitalization, to be safeguarded and reviewed and valued as a communication tool is becoming obsolete. Electronic medical records are the future, and the future is now. Please understand that I’m not bemoaning the advent of electronic records in their totality. They’ve made my life easier in so many ways. And, to the extent that they contribute to a seamless delivery of care to the patient in a high quality manner, they are a gift to both patient and practitioner. But, in some of their incarnations they serve only to tie nurses to computers and turn physicians into clerical workers, and those iterations bother me. Are we losing some of the humanity of healthcare? Is the relationship of caregiver to patient being disrupted by the presence of mere machines?

But, there’s no going back. So the white cap is on a closet shelf, and I wear scrubs instead of white. And I struggle to adapt to the changes while still cultivating the patient and family relationships that make this profession so rewarding. I remind myself that life itself is a series of changes, as is the profession I have chosen and enjoyed for so many years, and I try to develop a sense of anticipation that better things will come from this struggle.

The way it is.........

The way it is………

The Gardener Inside Me (or, Am I Becoming My Mother?)

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For the past ten days, I have been gifted with time–time to catch up on neglected tasks, time to bring order to my surroundings, time to enjoy my family, time to think and be and do–without the pressures of schedules or work or exhaustion. It has been a blessed time. And, a bonus is the sense of hope and peace and calm that it has brought to my life. Tomorrow the respite ends, but I pray that I will be able to hold onto that serene spirit as I reenter the work world. Above you see evidence of one of the pleasant days that I shared with my family–specifically, one morning at a local garden center with my mother.

You see, Mom is a gardener. If we had been more affluent as I was growing up, I am sure that she would have been a member of the garden club and, most likely, a Master Gardener. (Instead of waiting tables at a local diner and then working at a hospital, starting in housekeeping and retiring from work in the central sterilizing department of surgery.) She has the gift of making things grow, and she has a heart for the beauty of God’s flowering plants. Her 88th birthday is approaching, and family, friends, and acquaintances often comment how young she seems. Just this week it dawned upon me that gardening (and a big, fat, tiger-striped cat) are two of the ingredients contributing to her youthful spirit.

She comes by the love of growing things honestly. She was a devoted daughter, and we made weekly trips to my grandparents’ place when I was growing up. A part of each visit was always a walk around the yard to ooh and ah over the latest bloom on the rose or cactus, iris or daylily, or, perhaps, a tomato or cucumber plant. As a child, I was less than impressed with the two adult women as they carefully observed each plant and commented on how nicely it was doing or discussed possible cures for an ailing bush. My grandmother, of course, has been gone for many years, and now I frequently hear my mother say, “You have to stop by now and see the blooms on my gardenia” or “My azaleas are so pretty this year–be sure and look at them when you pass”. “The Easter flowers (daffodils) are so pretty this year and I have so many kinds,” she would say as she delivered an arrangement of the same to grace the dining table at our home. And, on my daily stops I ooh and ah over each new bloom, just as I heard her doing so many years ago.

And, surprise of all surprises, there was I yesterday morning, picking out lantanas and some climbing miniature sunflower-like thing and an asparagus fern, and enjoying every minute of it. Perhaps some genetic plant-loving predisposition has lain dormant in me until I became appropriately mature and appreciative of the botanical world. And, appropriately mature and appreciative of my mother. Or perhaps I am, as I am told all daughters do, becoming my mother.

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It would be one of the best things that ever happened to me, for a more loving, beloved, and godly woman would be hard to find. I often hear it said that she has the sweetest and most loving and kind spirit. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here’s to you Mom, a cutting of Aunt Georgia’s rubber plant repotted by your daughter, to grow in memory of your departed sister. Now, if it will only grow for me like it would for you! Nonetheless, I love you, more than you know.

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