Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Curse of the Nurse.

My parents let us use their trailer at the lake for a few days as a vacation. It was fun, except for all the fun parts.

Walking along the docks trying to catch minnows, leaning over the sides with the nets. Thinking about the near drowning kids I see at work. And panicking when Toby manages to pry his hand clear of mine and take off running down the docks.

Catching a painted turtle on a minnow hunt,and while my kids lean in to get a better look at him on the dock, my mind flashing to a nasty turtle bite I've seen.

Being down at the beach and wanting to help build the canals and waterfalls, but scared to get too involved and taking my eyes off them, because I know that even in shallow water kids can drown.

Sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. Holding my breath every time one of the kids gets up to walk around the fire, remembering kids who lost their footing and ended up with burned hands and bums and faces that come into the hospital every summer and are often stuck there until fall, enduring painful dressing changes and skin grafts that never look quite "normal" again.

I'm trapped between wanting my kids to have a wonderful full childhood, packed with memories and experiences, and wanting to lock my children in rooms with padded walls and soft low furniture to keep them safe.

I'm used to the eye rolls and "well you turned out okay" when I make a comment on safety to my parents who often take care of my children. Never mind the fact that my mother did a brief stint as a teenaged candy-striper and saw one unlucky motorcyclist,and spent years ranting to us children that she never wanted us on motorcycles. My husband knows better than to question my judgment, but even he can't understand, because he hasn't seen the horrible life-changing things that can happen in the blink of an eye. Granted, I don't see all the kids who go for a snowmobile ride and come back with smiles and happy memories. I just see the broken limbs, internal injuries, and the families that the ones who aren't going to make it are leaving behind. I have another friend with whom I've worked at the hospital who's now a mom and now getting the eye-rolls as well. So, I'm lucky that I have someone in my life who understands.

So, no, my children aren't allowed outside while the grass is being cut. No, they can't put another log on the fire. No they can't ride in the back of the pick-up truck (even though I did on a busy highway as a teen several times and somehow I "turned out okay"). No, they aren't allowed to play on a trampoline. No, they aren't allowed to skateboard, bike or rollerblade, even for a minute, even on the quietest of streets, unless they have a proper fitting helmet strapped on their head. No, they aren't allowed on an ATV, dirt bike or snowmobile, even to do a quick test drive on an empty back lane. You may find something here unreasonable, and probably things will change as they get older(and more responsible, she says with her fingers crossed), but if everyone saw what I do at work there'd be a whole lot more children walking to school dressed up like hockey goalies.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Drama Queen requests an end to all this Drama

Bruce's alarm goes off, waking up Luke. Luke is alternating coming out of his room whining to get up, and laying in bed crying to get up. This wakes up Toby, and by the time Luke's Monkey Light turns on at 6:15am signaling that he can get up, everyone is grumpy, especially me. After being out later than I should on my Stonewall Epiphany and having trouble sleeping with my mind racing from all the excitement (and maybe the latte), this morning came WAY to early.
8:02am- I finally shake my grumpiness and we decide to start breakfast. As always these days, Toby wants "blueberries...with a...bit of...sugar" (in his high squeaky voice) as his fruit.
8:04am- Apparently the "blueberries...with a...bit of...sugar" taste funny. They taste fine to me, but Toby refuses to take my word for it. Refuses to have any other type of fruit. Refuses to just eat the #%@&%$ berries.
8:10am- trying to diffuse the situation and get the #%@&%$ berries out of the way The In-MOM-erator 3000 steps in. At the site of the disappearing berries a tantrum ensues.
8:56am-the tantrum has ended, but the stubborn boy has decided that he will not be eating breakfast today.
10:23am-a fresh bowl of "blueberries...with a...bit of...sugar" followed by Rice Krispies masquerade as a "snack". We both think we have won this battle, but the war is far from over.

- Bruce's alarm goes off, waking up Luke. Luke is alternating coming out of his room whining to get up, and laying in bed crying to get up. This wakes up Toby, and by the time Luke's Monkey Light turns on at 6:15am signaling that he can get up, everyone is grumpy, especially me. Deja Vu.
8:12am- everyone is showered and dressed, the boys are just finishing the TV show that kept them from forcing me to jump out of the shower to referee fights. I'm enjoying a few minutes of peace, but know that the boys need breakfast. The phone rings and I discover that the in-laws aren't coming to church, CRAP! During the call the boys have made it downstairs and have started with the Hot Wheels, and now don't want to come up for breakfast.
8:23am- Luke is starting his breakfast, but Toby is staging a sit-in downstairs. He's not playing anymore, but refuses to come upstairs for breakfast. As the sit-in wears on, the howls from the basement grow louder, although it is not an organized chant, it still gets his point across. All he needs is a protest sign. I didn't realize that breakfast had become so political.
9:08am- after a sit-down negotiation, a truce has been declared and breakfast restarted. Guess we're not going to church, since we should have left 3 minutes ago and I'm just sprinkling "a...little bit...of sugar" on His Highness' berries.
12:45pm-there is a surprisingly smooth relaxing atmosphere of having a lazy Sunday morning at home. It has put me at ease, and now I'm getting's nap time in 15 minutes for both boys and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. The phone rings, apparently my grandma went into the hospital last night and now needs to get home, and since the paramedics had cut off her nightgown, she's got nothing to wear. The boys try to put away as many toys as they can while I run around looking for things to make my grandma decent enough to get home.
1:25pm-Victoria Hospital emergency room. Luke is persuaded by stickers, but people are looking at Toby screaming in the hallway, only screaming louder if staff approaches to try to help. And after trying to hear the story from my grandma's nurse, I walk out behind my grandma wearing bright red pajama shorts and the only button-up comfortable shirt I could find in my closet. It's fleece and it's hot outside, but my grandma is too busy trying to say thank you whilst apologizing for imposing to even notice the heat. Luke trails behind. I've got new prescriptions and a purple patient belongs bag in on arm and a screaming Toby under the other. As we walk past security I swear to the guards that he is my child, and this is not an abduction in progress.
2:12pm-The screaming finally ends when we finally make it into the apartment and I pull out the box of toys. I call my in-laws and although he missed church because he wasn't feeling well, he willingly comes around and picks up the kids so they can have some semblance of a nap. After running out for the prescriptions and a few groceries. I get to spend the afternoon visiting with my grandma without being interrupted every 23 seconds.
7:40pm-My parents arrive home from the lake. My grandmother reluctantly is driven to their house for the night. She's upset that they had to come home early from their vacation "when they didn't have to". She knows she almost died and that her heart needed to be "shocked", but now wishes that those paramedics hadn't come because then she'd be gone and my parents wouldn't have had their vacation spoiled by her, and I wouldn't have to spend the day away from my children. I still don't get the logic of all that, but she's facing cancer, and a fatal arrythmia seems like a much easier out.

5:21am- Luke's not waiting for Bruce's alarm anymore. His internal alarm clock is now set. Luke is alternating coming out of his room whining to get up, and laying in bed crying to get up. This wakes up Toby, and by the time Luke's Monkey Light turns on at 6:15am signaling that he can get up, everyone is SUPER grumpy, especially me.
7:55am-Today, both boys are happily requesting blueberries. There are pink lady apples is the fridge, so that they'll be cold, just how Luke likes them. Strawberries used to be Toby's favorite, until he discovered the joys of blueberries this summer, but there are still strawberries in the fridge ready to be eaten. There are still 4 bananas in the fruit bowl, but I know these are destined to become banana muffins, because there are a few brown spots, and more importantly there are no stickers on them. Luke will only eat a perfect blemish-free banana, and Toby will ignore a few brown spots as long as there is a sticker on it. I'll have to remember to complain to Chiquita and Del Monte, because after being pulled off the discarded banana peel, the stickers will only stick to 2 more bananas before it ends up as just an oval of no-longer-sticky paper in the fruit bowl. There are red grapes that were well tested in the store to make sure that they were the firmest bunch for my beloved picky husband, which my beloved picky youngest will only eat whole on the stem, despite my trepidation about choking. But they are whole and still on the stem, so it shouldn't be a problem. Not to mention all the watermelon sliced into triangles in the downstairs fridge or the untouched cantaloupe, which won't do for Toby, but Luke likes melon so much that he begs for it in the store when we already have it at home, except that his melon craving dissipates as soon as we enter the front door. But blueberries, well I figure there's probably about 18 left in what used to be a 2 lb container. 9 blueberries each...I don't think that counts as a serving in the food guide...18 won't even do if I could somehow serve them to one without being one of those moms who plays favorites. I'm getting tired of writing, so you must be tired of reading, so I'll spare you a play-by-play of today's dramatics, the begging, the pleading, the bargaining. Let's just say it breakfast took a while and by the time we made it out of the house to go grocery shopping for more blueberries (amongst other things), it was close to 11am.

-you guessed it.
8:04am-breakfast seems to run surprisingly smooth. I'm not sure if it's because I know this is my last day off, or if Toby feels his point is proven, or if we're both just too plain tired to play games.

4:05am-I wake up and sneak out of bed and go out to sleep for a while longer on the couch.
5:20am-My quietest little alarm on my palm pilot goes off. I quickly turn it off. And stalk into the bathroom like a Ninja. I leave the bathrroom door open with the light on for just a minute hoping it is enough to wake Bruce before his alarm goes off. I get into the shower turning the water on ever so slowly and gradually.
5:32am-Bruce walks in. Judging by how long it took him I'm guessing my light signal didn't work and he slept until his alarm went off.
5:33am-Luke walks into the bathroom, already whining and crying. Bruce sends him back to his room. I shampoo, rinse and Luke repeats...and repeats, and repeats.
6:04am-Luke is still going on like the world`s going to end. The monkey light is set to go off early today at 6:10am, but I`m dressed and just finishing up my makeup, realizing that nothing will hide the bags under my eyes, if I was even motivated enough to try. Bruce tries to send him back to his room yet again. Toby`s awake and chatting in his room, and has been since 5:33am. I yell to Bruce to give it up, let Luke come out. I grab Toby out of his room, and everyone is dressed and loading into our respective vehicles by the time Luke`s monkey light would normally come on at 6:15am.
6:28am-I usher the kids into my parent`s house. I`m trying to play the part of caring mother who is torn about leaving her children to go to work, and I`m hoping my father can`t see the excitement in my eyes. I stay awhile anyways, making sure to leave with enough time to stop at Starbucks for a VENTI Caramel Frappucino (that means big ole blended milky, caramely and espresso-y goodness). YUM!
I dream that I`m headed off to a day of pampering at the spa, but after the preschool drama, I`m happy to even head to work for the next 2 days. Working in the PICU has plenty of drama, but it`s real drama, not tantruming over blueberries. Besides, the kids can`t whine with breathing tubes in, they can`t refuse to eat with a tube that goes through their nose down to their stomach, and I`ve got lots of drugs to help anxious kids settle.
I admit to being a bit of a drama queen at times, but I even I can`t handle all this drama.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Path Not Taken

On Friday night I drove to a little cafe in Stonewall to meet Oria Dale. She`s currently in Zimbabwe (an has been for quite some time) working as a photographer & missionary. I thought it would be cool to pick up my friend who lives in Stonewall and we could sit in the coffee shop, looking at the beautiful pictures and catching up. What I didn`t expect was the churning up of those old feelings inside. Soon after we got there, this beautiful woman with her dreadlocks pulled up in a scarf making her look like the artist she is, stood up and began talking about what`s going on in Zimbabwe, and what she and some other artists are striving towards. She is a part of Artisan ("a creative network for people grappling with issues of Christianity within the arts"), where she and a friend brought this international network to Zimbabwe. She is also part of 24-7 Prayer where from time to time it looks like she posts updates.

Although what she`s doing sounds wonderful and amazing, that`s not the reason for this post. When she was talking about Zimbabwe and the people and conditions there, I felt a familiar feeling that I haven`t felt in a long time. When I was in nursing school my plan was to go to Uganda after I graduated. I pictured myself there helping the orphans of the AIDS epidemic. I studied the spread of AIDS throughout the regions and wrote papers on it. I took courses like "Death in the Family" trying to prepare myself for helping these children who only knew loss. When Bruce and I started dating I told him one day that I was planning on going to Africa when I graduated and I wasn`t going to let our relationship interfere with those plans.

My Stonewall friend went to nursing school with me, and when Oria was finished talking she turned to me and said she had a strange feeling, flashing back to nursing school, because it could have been me up there talking.
And although I argued that the dreadlocks wouldn`t have looked nearly as good on me, she was right. It could have been me coming back from doing something wonderful for God in Africa. And part of me feels that it SHOULD have been me.

But obviously I never made it. I took the easy road. Life here was so comfortable, I`ve never left the continent, all my family was here...and there was Bruce. The person I loved most, and he loved me too. How could I leave all this? Truthfully going there terrified me, and as graduation drew near, I made the excuses that I didn`t know how I would get set up there, that I didn`t know of any organizations that fit for me to go over as both a nurse and a missionary to help these kids, but the truth was, I didn`t look very hard. The next excuse I found was that I had no experience and it would be better to work a year or two first. After that I saw the aboriginal children right here in Canada who need love and thought Ì don`t have to travel to the other side of the world to help children when there are so many here who need help. And I had managed to convince myself.

Now a decade later I sit at my computer in my comfortable house with reliable electricity and running water, and I worry that I`ve missed out on something really big. I feel that I`ve failed. I love my job and feel fulfilled when I`m able to help, but I`m stunted in sharing my faith and resort to praying for babies and sleeping children when no one`s around. The hard days when a child is dying and the family is trying to come to grips with the fact that there is no hope, those are the days when I cry all the way home, but love my job the most. It sounds sick writing that, but I feel like I`m doing what I was made to do when I have days like that. And I think that`s how I would feel in Africa. And it makes me question if the life I`m leading is what God wanted, or if the other path was what was meant for me. I looked at Oria, two years younger than me, doing wonderful things with people she has made her friends, and I look at my husband and my children and think that I wouldn`t have them if I were in Uganda or Zimbabwe. Growing up, the biggest desire of my heart was to get married and have children. And I have to think that it seems to me that I couldn`t have this life had I not chickened out.

Maybe one day I`ll still make it over there, maybe once the kids are grown Bruce and I could go together. I don`t know. But for now I guess I`ll stick to praying for Oria over there, and the children at my work here.