living with the greatest evil

Saint Augustine once said, The greatest evil is physical pain, and all I can say right now is preach on good saint!

I like to imagine that I can handle pain. I mean I have birthed babies with no pain meds on board. I road a bike from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene and back the next day with my right arm in a cast. I’ve run my fair share of half marathons. Come on, surely I am capable to handle a little pain and survive.

But time, spondylosis, and osteoarthritis is telling me otherwise. Forget an exhilarating 5K run to start the day. The same goes for a slow walk around the park just around the corner from The Big Top. Reach for that salad bowl on the top shelf or bend down to tie my shoes guarantees the constant throbbing to amp up to knives stabbing the spinal column, hips and knees. The 20-30 commute to work just might kill you were it not for the salvation of the heated seat in that fun-sized Dory-car. The pain of swollen fingers,, hands, wrists and elbow promises that sleep will be interrupted numerous times through the night…or day for this night shift nurse. Yes, I tell my ortho doctor, I do take THAT much Naprosyn daily – my stomach is fine, for now. Late at night, as I attempt to console a baby born addicted to opiates because of mother’s addiction, I find myself having a better understanding sometimes what that mother must have been living with and trying to erase with prescription and illicit medicating. I’m still Team Baby, but as my back, neck, shoulder and elbow scream in protest while I hold their baby in comfort from their own withdrawal pain, I can imagine wanting to do just about anything to make this pain stop.

I’m working on it with the help of my ortho and pain specialist doctors; but this chronic suffering did not come about overnight so I imagine that relief or adjusting to a new normal that I can live with, work with and play with will take time too. I tell myself that. I tell myself that a lot – every day, every week.

Today though, today was not a good day because that chronic pain is peaking with no relief. I might have ugly cried at least three times – driving home from work this morning, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep this morning and waking up just an hour or so after falling asleep to that same pain. Days like today, and last night at work can be much too much sometimes.

But hurray for a new ball cap representing the fact that I am just a Steeltown girl and that, in spite of the pain, I woke up like this.

You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and…you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about your business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way. ~ Elizabeth Taylor

playing with sharp objects

Just in case you missed the other night in the land of Laura’s social media, this happened:

Three years ago he began this adventure with all the trepidation and tears any kid might have over the idea of shots literally every day. Still, we soon settled into a routine where mom or dad and sometimes sisters and even sometimes favorite aunties have given him his daily injections. But tonight, three years and ten inches and fifty pounds or more later, he asks if he can give himself the injection. And with his Dad’s hand on his for moral support, he does it.

We might still be in complete and utter shock over this here under The Big Top y’all.

He asks the next day if we are proud of him for giving himself his own human growth hormone injection.

Proud?

Yes.

Surprised?

Absolutely.

Surprised?..

He ponders this.

Well, most folks who need injections of medication aren’t so eagerly doing it for themselves. His own mama, who needed to inject a subcutaneous needle into her skin every three days while pregnant with her fourth child, just wasn’t that into that until her home health nurse told her that her darling husband can learn how to do it for her.

Yeah, no.

Necessary, Yes. But c’mon, not something we are falling all over ourselves to do to our own body with a sharp needle used to pierce our own skin….I get it son. I really do. Poking yourself with a needle is hard. But you did it. You really did it!

upheaval benefits

Anyone who has followed life under The Big Top of late knows much has happened in a very short time:

  • my darling husband turned 53 and got really, REALLY, REALLY lucky in a car versus motorcycle accident so that he could enjoy celebrating turning 53.
  • Fallon now enjoys making direct eye contact with Mima’s camera and is literally counting down the days before she begins pre-Kindergarten…it’s coming y’all in DAYS!!!
  • Daniel is back to school in 8th grade and we are all pretty certain that I will be that mom as this is the last time ever for me to have an 8th grader who will be graduating 8th grade nine months from now. I’m already teary y’all.
  • And in one weekend, Abby and Jodie both moved out. Jodie moved back for another year at Arizona State which means that she won’t be home for dinner tomorrow or the next day or even the days after that. Abby ran away from the circus to her own apartment shared with her best of friends. She is not far but she is definitely off doing adult things like grocery shopping and hanging pictures and dealing with apartment maintenance trouble shooting a leaky dishwasher.

One would imagine that I am here just wanting to settle back into a quiet, calm, easy, normal routine.

Are you kidding?

It’s quiet around here…it’s even quieter than I might have ever imagined when all these kids of mine were home and noisy and loud and everywhere and underfoot and standing on my last nerve. This is too calm, y’all.

And so I decide to challenge myself with a little change or two or more.

Why not?

Yes, I know that I am late to the Whole30 party…but I am not the only one. Truthfully, I might have never given it a second or third thought were it not for the inspiration of two people I am acquainted with, two very busy moms of four. I watched them both take on the Whole30, making all the changes in their kitchens, their routines, their diets…and they did not go bat-shit crazy trying to balance Whole30 into everything else that busy moms of four kids under 12 must do. On the outside, they both looked better reporting inches and pounds lost, better sleep, better skin, hair and nails…and for one, who has dealt with a number of health issues after a major medical crisis a few years ago, dramatic improvements in her overall health.

Hmmm…

Why not look into this. I am a woman of a certain age now…menopausal with all the fun and games that comes with that bull-shittery. Sleep well? I am a a nurse who works 12 hour night shifts…please. But positive health changes and inches and pounds lost aside, it’s too quiet around the Big Top and I need a challenge,,,soo…

Of course it takes time, planning, patience and support from people around you. It might seem hard but as Melissa Hartwig phrases it: Quitting heroin is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Childbirth is hard. Drinking your coffee black is not hard. I’ve birthed more than my fair share of babies…which doesn’t come close to beating heroin or cancer but I get it. This is a challenge but it is a do-able challenge.

The initial pantry-stocking shopping list will likely hurt but you got to start somewhere. The dreaded first week might have been hard except I had a killer summer cold to distract me from feeling miserable without sugar and pasta and bread. Let’s just say they both made me miserable. But I did survive Bill’s birthday cake by letting his children serve it up.

Ultimately, it wasn’t as hard as I imagined it to be. The circus that remains under the Big Top has literally never eaten better. I didn’t miss Bill’s birthday cake or bowtie pasta with pesto sauce or even the big bowl of Jelly Bellies in the break room at work. I enjoyed feeling full between meals, improved sleep and energy levels. My skin literally has never, ever looked better.

The Whole30 is not really a diet but more of a dietary reset. Eliminating excess sugars, dairy, grains and over-processed foods resets your gut allowing it to heal and then work the way that it is designed work. Still people think of Whole30 as a diet and, of course, want to know what are the results? How much weight did you lose??

Well, 30 days later I am happy to report that along with all the other positives I have lost a little over 9 pounds and 8 inches and yes, that is pretty cool too. And now, 30 days later, where do I go from here? Whole60? 90? Whole30 forever? How about Whole30ish. I’m liking the overall changes in my health and physical condition and I imagine that I, like other mere mortals, will need more than 30 days to see far dramatic results…like the end to these ridiculous soaking hot flashes because menopause happened more than five years ago….so I will continue to maintain following Whole30 guidelines with the exception of treat like when a coworker brings in a Nothing Bundt Cake to share or wine or a Moscow Mule or an ice-cold glass of chocolate milk after a 5 mile run because, literally, there is nothing better than that!

it’s in his dna

With adolescence comes the need to figure out yourself…who you are…do you fit in. Normal. Completely normal. Yes, even for the most well adjusted child raised with all the love. Perfectly normal.

And so we enter this phase of this favorite son’s life which leads to some very interesting conversations lately. Some answers are easy thanks to his own NICU records mom was privy to. Some, but not all. Why is his brown hair so fine and curly and so damn unruly? Will he go bald like Dad? His biological mother was Russian but what about his biological father? He looks in the mirror and although he knows he is our son and his sisters’ brother, he is not certain where the face that looks back at him comes from. He wants answers and he is not willing to wait four more years to see if he can get those answers; because odds are high he likely won’t get those questions answered by the ones who made him.

Answers to some questions are here, in his DNA. Answers he will likely discover in a couple of months. Answers that with his mom and his dad, he looks forward to discovering.

And you thought the sex talk with kids was hard.

When he looks in the mirror, we want our son to know himself. It’s hard to face the world when you don’t know where your face came from.—Adoptive Parent

adventures in human kindness

Remember that one darling daughter of mine who just fifteen years ago, after her ambulance ride to a trauma center and time in the PICU, followed by reconstructive surgery weeks later promised me that the next time she would find herself in a hospital she would be married and having a baby? And remember when she found herself in an ER just  three years ago after discovering that magical, mystical creatures like herself STILL don’t bounce? Yes, she had to apologize for breaking her promise to me via FaceTime with her doctor laughing a little in the background.

Well…

Here we were earlier last week…

again…

her guardian angel, sitting in the corner, rolling her eyes, shaking her head back and forth and I’m pretty sure I saw her take a hit off of a bottle in a brown paper bag because…

OH MY GOD, Zoë Elizabeth!!!

Long story short, she ‘s okay. She is okay except for the fact that last Tuesday she passed out cold in her kitchen while trying to clean up some puncture wounds on her leg thanks to her asshole cat and when her sister found herself having a hard time reviving her, called 911. The paramedics found her blood pressure and heart rate to be very low so they decided to take her to the local ER known for their Human Kindness. Mom arrives soon after to micromanage and basically be in the way of her caregivers as moms who are nurses often do; and just as mom arrives, an ER nurse approaches her with a pill she directs her to take because the doctor ordered it.

Wait, she was seen by a physician? Because she tells me she hasn’t been examined yet.

Oh, the doctor looked her over when the ambulance arrived.

He examined her?

He looked at her.

Zoë joins in, So that guy in scrubs who talked to me was a doctor? He never told me that.

ER nurse rolls her eyes

Anyway, the doctor wants you to take this.

What is this?

It’s an antibiotic, for the puncture wounds. It’s to prevent infection.

As Zoë swallows the pill, the nurse walks away without a word.

The ER is crowded. It’s a triple digit evening in Stockton. Of course the ER is crowded. Time passes with staff walking back and forth but never stopping to say anything to Zoë or the other patients sitting in chairs around her. After a time a tech comes and takes Zoë, with me tagging a long, to a curtained area where he begins to prep her for a 12 lead EKG.

So the doctor ordered an EKG?

Yes.

EKG complete. Normal sinus rhythm. Heart rate is a little low still. Tech remarks, as he removes the leads, that from the appearance of her skin right now she is a little dehydrated; which might be why she passed out given how hot it has been all day today.

Literally the first time someone talked to her about what brought her to the ER.

Returning to her place in the crowded exam area, a nurse comes and tells me I must wait in chairs in the waiting room because of the overflow of patients. No problem because, yes, this ER is literally overflowing with the humanity of Stockton seeking their special brand of Human Kindness…like the lady sitting next to me in the wait room chairs who receives discharge instructions from her nurse for treatment for allergies and post nasal drip…yes, ALLERGIES and POST NASAL DRIP was her admitting diagnosis!

Ugh!

Looking around, over-hearing conversations, it was clear that there were some in the ER that evening for similar minor complaints but there were people in pain, people desperately ill seeking emergency care with a little bit of Human Kindness.

I waited in chairs anxiously for Zoë while she advocated for herself in a way that would make her nurse mama proud. Registration seemed relieved almost as she confirmed that, yes, Zoë was insured. And then we were on our way…

…to her local pharmacy…a very crowded pharmacy…a pharmacy that took more than 24 hours to even begin to attempt to fill her prescription…because Augmentin is super hard to fill.

In the end, I remind my darling daughter of the fact that she broke her eight year old little girl promise to me…again. I also talk with her about the reality that is healthcare today and how although we healthcare providers do strive to help people live happier, healthier lives, to thrive and to connect on a human level because human connection leads to better health, we healthcare providers, all of us, need to do better. We need to try harder. We need to really treat each and every patient we encounter with the level of care our mission statements declare. Like it or not, we healthcare providers are graded by HCAHPS; which we really shouldn’t stress too much about if we are truly working to strive to help people live happier, healthier lives, to thrive and to connect on a human level because human connection leads to better health.

Zoë is going to be just fine. The puncture wounds will heal. She will do her very best to stay well-hydrated…and not scare her sister, her mother, her guardian angel anymore. Zoë also will be filling out the patient survey that St Joseph’s will soon be sending her way with all the brutal honesty that is needed and deserved because Human Kindness is exactly what all of their patients deserve and must have. As for me, this RN, I am all the more reminded, nudged and inspired to try harder to do exactly just that for my patients and for their mamas who expect just that as well.