Brave and Alive…

“We are wired to be brave; that’s why we never feel more alive than when we’re being courageous.”  ~ Brene Brown, Researcher and Storyteller

Talk about a long time coming…I can’t believe it’s been over 6 months since I’ve “penned” a contemplation. Please know that I have thought of you often. I have been a bit busy and I have so much to tell you.

It’s been a whirlwind…of changing winds.  In January, I started graduate school at Simmons College in Boston to become a family nurse practitioner.  I have now finished my first semester and I am loving it.  I also became a clinical instructor for West Hills College School of Nursing – a dream job of sorts.  In other news, we are pregnant.

24 fabulous weeks of pregnant.  I’ve waited all my life for this or at least since I was 6 years old ~ my grandmother said that when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up – my answer was always, “I want to be mommy.” Most of you know it hasn’t been an easy road getting here. Lotsa waiting and more waiting after that. There’s been heartache. Lotsa of hoping. Lotsa one step forward, two steps back. Lotsa prayers answered.

My grandmother always knew my heart and if I needed a listening ear I could always find her waiting for me in “her” chair.  One of the things I cherished most about my grandmother was that she was always praying for me.  Unfortunately for all of my family, she left this earth in March of 1995. I remember the day clearly. She had been sick and in the hospital. I was waiting for the call. It came while I was at work. I left immediately to go and be with my family. As I was driving over the Courtney Campbell Causeway towards Clearwater, the sun was shining brightly and my tears were flowing freely. I told God in no uncertain terms that I was upset with Him for taking her and now who was gonna be praying for me? His gentle answer that brought comfort and a giggle or two, “My sweet Cindy, she hasn’t gone anywhere. She is right here nudging me with her pointy elbow – ‘please pay extra special attention to my little lamb down there. She needs us.’ ”

As I was talking with my life coach the other day, recounting the brave tale I’m about to share with you, I told her how much I wished that my grandmother was here to watch me becoming a momma for the very first time.  Even as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that my grandmom has probably been right by God’s side (elbow-ready) orchestrating the events that have brought us to this spectacular change in our lives.

I must share a bit of the extraordinary details (for those of you who don’t know) – in 2007 Brad and I got married. In 2008, we found out that my eggs were fried. I was surprised by how many tears my heart could let go. I had always thought I would adopt and maybe I’d get the joy of at least one coming from my belly.  Well, that fateful day in September of 2008 – crushed my spirit.  No mini-me.  No little ones would have my DNA.  Would we even get the chance to be parents? I had been waiting so long. Such a sad heart. I “drizzled” for days. Then, my Bradford, gently asked me to choose hope with him. That night 4 days after we found out, I committed to walk this journey with him – choosing hope.  Fast forward a number of years – we needed to save some money – in vitro fertilization costs more than a few pennies – especially when you have to borrow a dozen or so eggs. After years of losing and choosing hope again and again, tears shed here and there, and more than my fair share of little heartbreaks in those moments when perfect strangers would ask if I had kids – “not yet” – and then in the next breath dare to ask if I wanted them, we embarked on our IVF journey in December of 2012. I was amazed by the buckets of hope and joy that filled me up as we listened to the orientation. We met with our miracle doctor in March 2013.  In April, we joined three of our dearest friend couples in Carmel for a weekend of hope.  We were all hoping to get pregnant in 2013 (yay – we all did).  Then Brad and I stepped through the hoops and ran into a handful of snags along the way – believe you me – IVF is not for the faint-hearted. On Thanksgiving day, after taking the year to get all of our little IVF duckies in order, we got the call that it was time to head to San Francisco to introduce our swimmers to our donor’s eggs.  Our embryos were conceived on December 1, 2013. It was a week of excitement, waiting with bated breath, and soliciting all the prayers we could, we received phone call after phone call from UCSF.  Call #1 – our eggs had fertilized (11 of them).  Call #2 – five of our fertilized eggs reached superstar embryo status.  Call #3 came Wednesday morning telling us that our superstar blast (the best of the best) would be introduced to momma’s nest on December 6th.

I am happy to announce that after waiting (yet again) a good share of the day on December 18th that we received a call from our nurse at UCSF – we were in Hobby Lobby of all places – Superstar Blast was blazing full charge ahead and had decided to take up residence in momma’s warm, cozy nest. Yay, we were having a blast – pregnant at last.

Pregnancy has been absolutely delightful despite the manageable nausea and vomiting, the 120+ shots in my rear to make sure the nest would stay cozy for Blast, and a complication on March 3rd that scared the be-Jesus out of us.  I love being pregnant. I know not all expectant moms have an easy go of it – so I’m extra grateful that this has been a happy, hopeful time for us.

One pleasant surprise for me has been that I love my pregnant body!  Love it I tell you! I was not so happy with my pre-pregnancy body. I knew that I needed to lose a few (we won’t mention how many) pounds to feel like I was at my healthy weight. So, to be in a place of standing before the mirror with this big ol’ belly bump and rejoicing at how I look is spectacular.  I feel gorgeous – it’s almost a “Demi Moore” moment.  Almost – being the operative word.  Now, I must admit this one caveat to feeling beautiful. I do feel like my belly is a bit bigger than others at this stage in the journey. A couple of people have mentioned that “people” might think I’m further along than I am or that I am having multiples since my belly has popped out. Of course, I didn’t take this so well.  I tried to soothe my little heartache with the fact that I have no torso to speak of really – 3 inches top to bottom (breasts to hips) not pregnant – The baby is going to pop outwards when there’s no place up or down to go, right? Brad tried to reassure me that it doesn’t matter what others think – an “it is what it is” approach – we are having a baby and that’s reason to celebrate. But in the end, I had to put on my big girl panties that sit below my pregnant belly and decide to live in the radiance of feeling beautiful and not compare myself to the rest of the pregnant world. I’m hoping this life lesson will serve me well post-pregnancy.

I have one more confession for you. It really is the crux of this contemplation. It’s my very own brave tale. I am 48 years old! Those of you who know and love me well – know that I act 48 years young. But most peeps, don’t have any idea how old I am. I thank my mom for my youthful looks and I thank God for my youthful outlook on life. I do still consider myself a sassy, playful girl* in spite of my years of wisdom and experiences. I do know in my heart that I will make a great momma. I believe I was made for mommy-hood. But there are those out there that might say that I’m way to old to be bringing a baby into this world. On good days, I would tell “those” people to go read about Sarah and Abraham – I’m almost half their age. But on sheepish days, I might agree with them. Let me assure you, Brad and I are not foolish. We know parenthood is not for wimps. It will be the hardest job we have ever done. We know that young bodies will have an easier go of it.  We also know that our wisdom will help immensely. Yes, we know we will be in our 60s when our baby Blast is in high school. I’ll let you say oh-my with us. Do we wish we had had kids younger? Of course, we do – but that is not our story.  We are living our story right now.

I tell you all of this because at the beginning of my pregnancy – I didn’t offer up my age and there was a part of me that was hiding it – albeit covertly.  About a month ago, my dear friend and mentor sent me an insight of wisdom that opened my heart. This glorious tidbit in essence reminded us to rejoice in our blessings. That’s not rocket science – I know.  But for me, I realized that I had been hiding some of me during pregnancy.  I had not fully embraced the magnitude of the miracle within me because I was not willing to shout from the rooftops that I was 48 years old and pregnant. I wanted to hide that part of me. In that moment of realization, I decided it was time to embrace my courage and step into the full light. It is a courageous thing to embark on parenthood at any age. It is brave – to set out at 48 and have your life turned upside down by a new little human. I am a miracle of pregnancy at 48.  With that embrace, I’ll let you know that both of my amazing grandmothers were 49 when I was born. God has finally answered my heart’s longest held heart’s desire. That is cause to shine – not cause to hide. I’m done hiding and this contemplation is proof of that. To celebrate this personal revelation, I brought Brad and I “Be Brave” bracelets. This paradigm shift in my heart has been transformative. I love being brave.  Brave girls rock!

A couple things I’ve taken note of during this season of changes:
Where there is change – fears arise – even if the change is for the better. Acknowledge the fear but embrace change with courage. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s usually a lose-lose situation. Hope is a must. If you can’t hold onto hope by yourself, enlist a trusty hope-bearer. When complications arise – don’t worry, they will – turn to your community for help. Be vulnerable – bravery can take many forms. People love stories of bravery and hope.  Let those around you in on your story.  Hiding perpetuates feelings of loneliness. Vulnerability first takes courage but then rewards us with a greater sense of belonging.

Thank you for being a part of our journey.  We are blessed beyond measure.  In this season of change, I am hoping to take it one step at a time and not wish any of it away – knowing that the real change in our lives will hopefully arrive somewhere close to August 24th.

Basking in change,
Cindy

P.S.  A boy or a girl?  It’s a surprise!

P.S.S. It was not my intent to offend any of the fierce advocates that fight for women’s rights – I know I am woman hear me roar on the outside – even if I feel like a girly girl on the inside.

Living in-between

I am an October girl – born and raised.  With a birthday two days before Halloween it’s no wonder the color orange makes me oh-so-happy.  I love all things autumn!  Raindrops.  The rustle of fallen leaves underfoot.  Crisp, cool weather.  Butternut squash soup.  Football games and hot chocolate.  The smell of wood burning in the fireplace (forgive me global warming).  Pumpkins.  Cozy sweaters and riding boots.

I’m waiting for these summer temperatures to take their leave.  #ohsoimpatiently

I’m lost somewhere between the fun times of summer and the cozy wonder of fall. I must admit this “in between” time makes me a little cranky.  I’m even envious of those of you who live in spaces that have crossed over into fall.  I’m sorry summer girls – I love my cool temps more than a dip in the pool.  I’ve done been ready to trade in my flip flops for my riding boots now for weeks.  I’m a bit pitiful – checking my weather app every morning. I was ecstatic to see 81 degrees for a high this coming Saturday.  What will I do with myself until I see 65 degree goodness?

One of my kindred spirits inquired yesterday, “How are you, Cindy? For real?”  My honest answer – autopilot.  Autopilot seems to be steering this ship.  Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing extraordinary.  I realized my soul is in a holding pattern.

I am waiting to find out if I get accepted to graduate school.  Will they let me know via email since it’s an online program?  Or do they send the tried and true letter in the mail?  Every afternoon – there is a rise in my level of anticipation.  #pleasemrpostman  We are eagerly waiting to schedule the date for IVF.  We thought that would happen in August.  We keep running into obstacles.  We are now looking at dates in late November or early December.  Will there be more hoops to jump through?  More obstacles to tear down?  It all seems so out of our control.  Some days I’m okay with that.  Others not so much.  I am putting finishing touches on my book to be published.  Yay, I think.  How long can finishing touches take?  It seems like years at this point.  Each week I make progress.  And finally, I’m trying to decide whether or not to change jobs while all of these other major life events are about to happen.  I’ve been offered a new full-time job but my heart would rather stay where the certainty of what is known feels safer right now.  Unfortunately, my current job is per diem – which means full-time is not guaranteed.  I’m working full time at the moment but in August I was put on-call more than I worked.  What to do, what to do?   So, that’s how I’m doing.  Caught in the in-betweens.  Feeling hopeful but not wanting to get my hopes to high – in case of disappointment.

What is a girl to do with all this in-between time?  In the last two days, I’ve had some candid conversations with trusted girlfriends.  They happen to living in-between, too.  One dear friend acknowledged that she feels all swirly and disoriented.  Another confessed that she’s relying heavily upon distractions.  They both asked what would be the Less Drama way???

Here’s what we have deciphered so far.  I’m sure there is more learning for us in these times but I thought I’d let you in on what we know so far:

Be gentle and kind with our self.  Take extra good care.  Eat right.  Get enough sleep.  Be active.  Be real.  We will feel swirly and disoriented at times – don’t allow these feelings to capture us.  Don’t candy coat our emotions.  Don’t dwell in the negative spaces – worrying about what might go wrong or what might not happen doesn’t get us where we want to be. Rest.  Deep breaths are our friend.  Lean on others for hope when ours wavers (Brad is my hope bearer).  Trust God.  Believe in future goodness.  Know that we have experience to weather storms.  We can call one foot forward and two steps back – the Cha Cha.  Know that we are not in control – be okay with that.  Distractions are okay as long as they don’t get out of hand.  Downtime helps.  Girlfriend time is essential.  Remember that the “in-between” has lessons for us, too.  Look forward but don’t wish away these moments – there is joy to be had here, too.  In-between is not forever.

We have choices!

That’s what we know.  That’s how we are going to proceed.  We look forward with hopeful anticipation.  We trust in our futures.  We believe in goodness.  Living life in the in-between.

Trusting this space,
Cindy

They Never Left My Side

Originally written February 10, 2012

I am thanking God for girlfriends today!  One of my BFF’s, Michelle, sent me a picture with two little girls on the beach ^^^.

Michelle has been there through THICK and thin.  We are talking T.H.I.C.K. and oh-so-t.h.i.n.  I would not have made it through nursing school or this last year as a “beginner” without her.  Shoot, I wouldn’t be a beginner if she hadn’t got me my job. I cannot count the number of ledges she has gently persuaded me down. Oh my.  When one of us didn’t understand something, the other one explained.  When sticks and stones were thrown in close proximity, the other stood guard with a shield.  When one of us didn’t possess the capacity to go any further, the other just picked up the slack and got the job done. It didn’t matter who got the credit.  We prayed each other through the bumps in the road and we jumped from the rooftops in sync when success came our way.  We embody  “NEVER LEFT YOUR SIDE.”

As I pondered this image knowing I would use it for a contemplation, I thought about my dear friend, Ashley.  We’ve known each other since we were seven.  That’s only 39 years ago.  I didn’t just say that, did I?  Sorry, Ash.  We grew up in the same hood – if you could call Coral Reef Estates a “hood”.  Oh, the stories I could tell or better yet, the stories Ashley could tell.  Here I go – telling you about the time when we were in elementary school and Ashley bit me.  I made my mom call her mom to make her say she was sorry.  Let it be known that Ashley has never let me live that one down.  I remember my granddad taking us to cheerleading practice in the back of his pick up truck (that sounds like a country song in the making and no we weren’t breaking any laws). Then there’s the day we got scolded for walking five feet behind her mom at the mall (who could blame us – she was wearing a moo moo and we were in Jr. High).  I remember the crank calls we made all over Miami the night we found out the numbers to the phone booths were just a digit off from each other.  I recall the boating weekends in the Florida Keys with her family like they were yesterday and our “monumental” trip to Washington, DC.  I loved the night she surprised me by showing up at a fraternity party in Plymouth, NH circa 1988 (she went to school in Schenectady, NY).  And then there was the day we “bumped” into each other in an antique shop in Savannah, GA – we were both on vacation unbeknownst to each other – I lived in Tampa and she lived in DC.  Over the years, we have shared life together – we have shared our families, our faith, the ups and the downs, we have shared our fair share of tears, we have lent each other hope, shared yummy meals and slumber parties.  We have bickered like sisters sometimes do. We have let each other down and we have carried each other over the molehills that felt like mountains. We’ve known each other at our best and our worst.  She is my champion.  I am hers.  We have never left each other’s side.

My heart is all warm inside just pondering the power of girlfriends.  Do you have friends like this?  I sure do hope so.

Now that you have the “back story” I want to share this “power of girlfriends” moment with you.  I told you about Michelle sending me this email with the image attached.   It got me to thinking about those girls who have come alongside of me and specifically Ashley.  Last Wednesday night I was driving home from work and “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King came on the radio.  Guess who I think of when I hear that song? That’s right – Ashley.  I instantly thought, “I should call her and tell her how grateful I am for our friendship and how much I love that we get to journey alongside of each other in this life.”  My next thought was “it’s late” in Annapolis.  I’ll call her tomorrow.  But then that still small voice inside of me said, “NO – call her NOW!”  I decided to heed the urging – Ashley is always up late.  I called.  She answered.  “Wow, you answered.”  She’s not usually a johnny on the spot answer on the first ring kind of girl.  She replied, “I know, huh?  I saw your number and knew in my heart that God had sent you to call me.”  Wow!  She shared that she had been struggling.  She confessed that if I had called on any day prior she probably wouldn’t have answered.  But on this day, a spark of hope had ignited and she welcomed my call.  I marveled at how I got to be the dose of encouragement she needed at just that moment in time to see her through the HUGE decision she made earlier that day.  We both felt the blessing.

Can I please say WOW, again?  WOW.  I could have easily taken the road “Not Called.”  I know this because I sometimes do.  That’s why I’m writing today.  I want to inspire you to listen to the still small voice when it whispers.  I want you to pick up the phone and call that girlfriend.  I want you to stop by her house on the way home.  I want you to give her a hug in the hallway of our cubicles.  Often times, lots of times, we get caught up in the minutia.  We neglect to take those sacred moments that can mean so much to our friend on the receiving end.  Just ask Ashley.  From my vantage point, my heart still overflows just thinking about it.  That’s good stuff right there!

Basking in the sacred moments,
Cindy

Travel light

Originally written January 26, 2012

”Travel light in life.  Take only what you need:  a loving family, good friends, simple pleasures, someone to love, and someone to love you: something to eat, enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink for thirst is a dangerous thing.”
~ Author Unknown

What weighs you down? How’s that for a start?  Oh my.

I’ve decided that being in over my head tops the list for me. It became crystal clear a couple of weeks ago at work. I had the kind of Monday where everything just kept piling on.  What sent me over the edge was that feeling that I might be in over my head.

I started the morning off with a good dose of “everything that can go wrong, did.”  I went to give an IV medication to one of my patients and his IV was missing.  There was no sign of it ~ lost without a trace. The nurse that gave me report said it was in his left hand.  Nope, not in his left hand!  One of the doctors wrote an order in the chart for one of my patients to have a procedure and the patient was to supposed to have nothing to eat or drink until the procedure.  Well, the doctor left the chart in the physician’s office and the order didn’t get entered into the system.  I walked into the patient’s room and she had just ate a hearty breakfast. Argh!  I ventured to the med room to get a certain medication and found out that it was unavailable on our unit, so I had the pleasure of visiting other units ~ a scavenger hunt of sorts with a race to beat the clock for added fun.  Who decided Murphy should have a law, anyway?

I kept trying my best to rise above and not let the circumstances weigh me down. At one point, I was talking on the phone to lab, and the unit secretary and dietary aide were asking me questions simultaneously, and a case manager walked up to me and told me that patient # 3 was being discharged to her skilled nursing facility in five minutes.  That would have been helpful information thirty minutes ago.  “You want me to make that happen right now?”  I kept stating my mantra, “I am only one person” but no one seemed to be listening.  I must have missed the memo to wear my Wonder Woman scrubs and pack my special powers for work that day.  The “pile” got heavier with two more patients admitted…THEN I received a patient that was an ICU downgrade that had a heart rate in the 180’s (normal is 60-100).   That sunk my battleship.  “Oh dear…God, please help.” I couldn’t find my lead nurse because she was busy with other urgent needs.  I felt like I was drowning and the tears started flowing freely.  I wasn’t thinking as clearly as the moment called for because I had been running a non-stop marathon for 9 hours without proper nourishment or breaks.  At least, I had the sense to ask for help and my tears seemed to indicate urgency.  Thank goodness Ester came to my rescue (she is one of our most experienced nurses).  She helped me critically think through my patient’s current circumstance.  Then, she helped review my patient’s orders. That took her another two hours of her time.  Then, Ellie (angel #2 on the scene) took care of a complicated discharge for one of my patients that also took two hours.  I finally said “NO” to one more admission because I didn’t have the bandwidth to safely care for yet another new patient.  7:30pm came and went and I ended my day an hour late.  I was worn down. Spent.  My shoulders and neck carried all that weight of the day.  I was in serious need of the Calgon fairy.  At least, I walked away with some satisfaction.  My workload was such that I had “employed” the help of two other nurses to get the job done. It was too much for me to carry.  A day from the chronicles of “h.e.double toothpicks.”

When the weight of the world comes crashing down – Are you a go-it-alone girl or an ask-for-help kind of gal?  I get that we all want to be responsible and carry our own load.  But often, I think we need help with portion control.  As women and talented multi-taskers, we tend to keep heaping loads onto our proverbial plates.  Of course, at work I don’t always have a say, but in my personal life I certainly have the choice to say yes or no.  I believe we tend to say yes more often than we should and we don’t exercise a healthy “no” often enough.   We take on too much by ourselves.  We think we can do it all or we will keel over trying. We all have competing responsibilities, desires and agendas coming from different directions.  We carry it all – not always in stride.  What’s a girl to do?

Tips for traveling light:
#1 Traveling light is a state of mind.
#2 Choose to leave some stuff behind.
#3 Intentionally create a packing list – take only what we truly need.
#4 “Easy-care” instructions are a must.

Let’s make a pact to travel lighter.  I hope you will join me by intentionally creating our packing list.  I expect the things I carry in my backpack will come in handy the next time I’m weighted down at work.   I’ve decided to step out in grace and confidence and share my lists with you. Will you share yours?

Learning to travel light,
Cindy

Powerful Questions to Ponder:
What weighs you down?  How much does it weigh?
Could you give it a weight in pounds?
What do you need to leave behind?
What are you tired of carrying?
When do you need to ask for some help?
What lightens your load?
What benefits would a life of traveling light hold for you?
What’s in your backpack?
What are your essentials?
What are your special care instructions?

What weighs Cindy down?
rushing, being in over my head and not having help available, discord, feeling disconnected, not having enough time to get it ALL done, being late, making mistakes when I know better, an “unexplained silence” from a friend, ineffective people, and clutter.

What lightens Cindy’s load?
a listening ear, a good book, fresh flowers, a glass of ice cold water, a walk outside, a day at the ocean, snowflakes falling, rainy days, nature “singing”, prayer, hope, faith, girlfriends, a hug, a smile, a helping hand, words of encouragement, laughter with my happily-ever-after, spending time with family (especially my nieces and nephews).

What’s in Cindy’s “back pack”?
the communities I’ve been apart of, my Oak Street House family, Miss Cindy’s kids across the USA, bible verses, the love of Bradford Lee Steele, memories of games played with my family, memories of brad’s 50th birthday party, the ocean, memories with my grandparents, my iPad, my girlfriends, a cozy blanket, my Less Drama Queens, daisies, my orange chucks, my memories of New Hampshire, St. Simon’s Island and the Florida Keys.

Cindy’s Special Care Instructions:
Let her grow.  Let her make mistakes ~ she learns well.  She likes to give and doesn’t mind being on the receiving end. She needs hugs daily.  Fresh flowers make her smile.  Have lots of warm, cozy blankets to comfort her.  Her thread bare Old Navy blue hoodie holds lots of warm memories – don’t ever throw it away.  Give her words to play with.  Variety is her friend.  She loves to be snuggled.  Laughter is a must.  She loves pjs, dogs and rainy days.  Girlfriend time is oh-so important.  Talks with Brad fill her up.  She needs downtime.  She doesn’t like rushing, especially in the morning.  Take her to the ocean often.  Orange is her signature color.  A glass of Pinot Grigio or Passion Iced Tea provides refreshment.  She thinks painted toes are fun year round.  Chocolate chip cookies for breakfast are her favorite and will brighten any day that gets off to a rough start.

Sacred ground

For the last two weeks, I’ve been working at what we lovingly call the “happiest place on earth.”  I’ve been picking up shifts at my “Tuesday” job – the one I kept PRN (as needed) while working in dialysis.  It’s actually less like Disney and more like a network sit-com.  I feel like I’ve walked onto the set of “Cheers” where everyone knows my name.  Everyone greets me with exuberance and delights in acknowledging “Hey, it’s not Tuesday”.  I feel oh-so loved.appreciated.cared for.  It’s great to work alongside your peeps.  I feel like the doctor prescribed a big healthy dose of #theygotmyback for me.  A nurse’s work is never done but I’m here to tell you that my Adventist Health colleagues make it fun.  We laugh. We cry.  We share the load.  Some days we run marathons.  Every day we get to make a difference.  After a season of turmoil on the job, it’s just what I needed.

I’m amazed at how “being with those who help my being” provides breathing room for me.  Despite the fact that I’m working harder these days, when I’m at home I have more energy.  My bandwidth is expanded.  I have space to contemplate.  I look forward to writing.  In the midst of all that negativity, I did not realize the full toll it was taking on my well-being.    Those monkeys in that circus were not only stealing from me during work hours – they were pillaging my home life, too.  I am thanking God every day I have been delivered from that roadshow. Thank goodness for “PRN” jobs.  #justwhatthedoctorordered #blessedbeyondmeasure

I’d love to share two episodes with you from my “Cheers”.   Last Friday was #3 in a row.  I was tired and the afternoon ran me rag-ged.  Oh my!  There were two moments that I will carry with me.  Let me introduce you to patient #1 and patient #2.

patient #1 – an older gentle-man with a bunch-o-kids, some of them in the medical field.  he had served our country in three wars.  quick witted, lovable and weaker than you can imagine.  he needed a diagnostic procedure that he wasn’t convinced he wanted done because he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the outcome.  for 3 days, he and his family wrestled with the decision.  he finally decided to participate even if there was still some reluctancy on his part.  the procedure took place in his hospital room with a more-than-competent radiologist who possessed a stellar bedside manner.  at the end of the five minute-almost painless procedure, patient #1 thanked the radiology nurse with tears in his eyes and a frog in his throat.  he apologized for being so difficult.  i held out my hand which he quickly grasped, those tears gently flowing down his sunken cheeks.  i asked him what he was thinking about.  in a whisper he told me he was thinking about being a part of the greatest generation.  about his comrades that fell at his side during war.  about not wanting to die.  i was tear-jerked and keenly aware of the honor it was to be standing there in that moment.  i gently asked him, “what do you need right now?”  a pensive look crossed his face.  i chose to speak first – “how bout a glass of ice water?”  relieved, he said, “yes.”  when i came back with the ice-cold water, i asked him if he wanted to watch tv.  he wanted the music channel.  i could have put pandora on his tv screen through a long complicated maze of technology that more times than not thwarts me and i knew that the chaos of my afternoon was quickly ensuing outside room 267 (no such room – hippa laws) – so i chose a simpler way.  i placed my iphone next to his head on the pillow – i picked a big band station.  i requested only one thing in return – please take care of my phone. my intuition was right.  when i returned to check on him a little while later – he told me tales of his brother who journeyed the country as an arranger for a big band one year in a string of “one night stands” and of lovely dances with his wife. 

patient #2 – an incredibly likable guy.  age 50ish.  a man that had sown wild oats early in life – he told me so.  one who had learned what’s really important in this life. #familyandtreatingpeopleright.  he lived this week in a place of uncertainty.  an undetermined mass.  despite the unknown, he was good-natured and full of life.  every time i walked into the room, i walked out with a smile in my heart. he was simply #livingonaprayer and #walkingbyfaith  knowing that his maker was keeping him close.  he embraced a “let’s just wait and see” before we borrow worry approach.  he’d offer up to me, “God’s got this. i am not alone.”  wow.  inspiring. i fell in love with his 2 nieces, both under the age of 10.  they want to be bakers when they grow up.  they are already working on the business plan for their bakery of treats. on wednesday, the youngest informed her uncle that he looked like a robot (he had a few wires peaking out from his gown).  when his nieces arrived yesterday with their mom and a big fluffy teddy bear in tow i was delighted to hear their gleeful hi miss cindy’s.  earlier in the day, i had mentioned to patient #2 that we had prayed for him in our morning huddle.  he remarked that had he known, he would have joined us.  i asked if he’d like us to come and pray with him before surgery.  he replied with a big, fat yes.  before the chaos could squander all hope of time for a sacred task such as this – my bff, michelle, and i joined hands with said nieces who were gripping their uncle’s hands with all their might.  each of us in turn made our requests known – none more simple and eloquent as the eldest niece’s – “dear God, please keep my uncle and don’t let anything happen to him. amen.”  #straightandtothepoint.  #notadryeyeintheroom

It’s good to be with people who appreciate me and my work.  My well-being is jumping for joy.  If I’ve learned one thing this go-around – life is too short to spend it with people who don’t have my back and thrive on negativity.   Are you spending time with those who help your being?  I sure do hope so.  If not, what changes can you make?  I’d rather be with those who build me up and value my worth, even if I have to drive an hour and a half to work.

Working on sacred ground,
Cindy

Let me introduce you to Ms. Insecurity. She’s the one that…

From the Archives:  May 12, 2010


Oh that’s right – no need for descriptions here. I’m guessing you are already well acquainted with her. Some of us know her better than others, but shall I be bold enough to say, “She’s probably one of our oldest friends, more like a frenemy.  She’s no longer my constant companion but I must admit she shows up more often than I’d like. How close is she to you? What does she mean to you? Is she invited into your inner circle or is she only invited to the big events in your life? Let’s be honest with each other, “What kind of frenemy has she been to you all these years?”

I don’t need to tell you she’s been a bad friend. Some might even tag her “abusive”. I went to a women’s conference two weeks ago. The “hot” topic was insecurity. Guess how many women attended the “live via satellite” event? 300,000. That’s right – that many girlfriends were at least secure enough to gather and discuss their insecurities. Yay for us! It’s about time we brought Insecurity’s ugly self out into the open. Beth Moore was the conference speaker and is the author of the new book, “So Long Insecurity: You’ve been a Bad Friend to Us.” I’m reading it right now (research, of course).  😉 She started off the discussion with this question, “When was the last time you met up with Insecurity?” It was a “she had me at hello” moment for me. I had just encountered her. I had just surveyed the auditorium looking over the outfits of all the women within my view. My friend, Ms. Insecurity, needed to see if I was dressed JUST RIGHT. Then, I thought back to the evening before the conference and I had had a moment with Brad where I was questioning my security. Wow. Yikes and I consider myself to be a fairly secure, confident woman.  If I had had two run-ins with Ms. Insecurity (that I was aware of) in less than 12 hours, this insecurity thing must be rampant, especially amongst women.

The next point Beth brought that resonated and the reason why I’m writing today was this, “NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM INSECURITY.” I will say it again, “NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM INSECURITY.” Think on this. Ponder it. What comes to mind?

How often do you meet up with her? Is it time to say goodbye? Is it time to let this friendship go? If you’re like me, you are ready. Some of us have already started on the journey to letting go of our insecurities. Letting go of Ms. Insecurity won’t happen over night. It’s a cultural thing. We must tackle it together. Let’s meet. Let’s discuss. Let’s be honest with each other. We will need to be vulnerable. It will take work to truly say goodbye. But let’s do it. Let’s speak the truth. Let’s live in the truth.

Contemplating change,
Cindy

Hello confidence

From the Archives: August 26, 2010

“…And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
~ Lee Ann Womack

She’s six years old and she’s got game.  I’m watching with bated breath from across the pool.  She’s climbing higher and higher – up she goes calculating each foot placement as if she’s rock-climbing Mt. Rainier. The lifeguard watches in amazement – she’s a tiny little thing – weighing all of 42 pounds soaking wet. He asks with a bit of trepidation, “Is she afraid of anything?”  I’m shaking my head, “I don’t think so.”  She reaches the top, smiles a proud smile and whoosh she lands in the pool.  She’s out of the pool lickety split and back in line.  She’s doing a happy dance with an invisible hula-hoop and singing “Aunt Cindy, did you see me?  I did it. I did it!  Look at me – I climbed to the top.  Woohoo.  I’m so great.  I did it!”

My heart sang for my niece, Cady.  I was all smiles.  I thought, “Wow! Now that is confidence in its purest form.”  How could I capture that confidence? There must be a way to protect that in her.  Cady’s happy dance was an inspiration.  She’s full of life.  She knows what she wants and goes for it undaunted.  She’s not afraid of looking silly or patting herself on the back in public.  She did a good job and she was happy about it.  She didn’t wait around to see what the rest of her world thought about her accomplishment.  She just celebrated out in the open for all to see.   How beautiful is that?

I think we all know when we’ve done a great job.  I’d be willing to guess we all know the happy dance…unfortunately somewhere along the road we learned we shouldn’t celebrate out loud in front of everyone.  What will people think?  We might look conceited or full of our selves.  Someone might not agree a celebration is in order.  I’m guessing the happy dance we do is not on the dance floor of life – it’s done in the privacy of our heart or within the confines of our walk-in closet…or just maybe we misplaced our confidence or worse yet had it stolen through life experiences and the happy dance is no longer in our repertoire.  This saddens me – all “grown up” and afraid to do the happy dance.  I dare us to be six again.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see our “fellow” girlfriends celebrating life and accomplishments out loud with a happy dance for all the world to see?   I can envision it now.  The happy dance becomes happenstance in the market, at the gym, and down the hallway at work.  The next time we have an accomplishment, big or small, I dare us to change our “grown up” perspective and have the freedom and the confidence of a six year old to exuberantly do the happy dance and sing out loud, “Did you see me?  I did it. I did it!  Look at me – I climbed to the top.  Woohoo.  I’m so great.  I did it!”  Let’s get the word out – if Cady can do it unabashedly, why can’t we? 

I hope you dance,
Cindy

P.S.  I missed you all!  It was good to be with family and make some fun memories – like the one I just shared.  I’m now in the throes of the last semester of my RN program, trying real hard to keep Cady’s perspective.  

At the water’s edge

From the Archives: March 26, 2012

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” ~ Maya Angelou, Poet


The waves crash. The sea churns. There’s no imitation sea foam here. The storm has rolled in. The rain patters against our windows. We sit and wait with bated breath for bigger breakers to send spray up into the air as they dash themselves against the rocks.  The bigger the better. The show is spectacular!

I love a good storm – literally speaking. I’m not a big fan of the figurative kind. I grew up in South Florida where thunder boomers were a daily occurrence every summer – you could count on one to rise up each afternoon at 3pm. I lived in the lightning capital of the world for 10 years – Tampa Bay. Talk about light shows – Wow!  San Francisco would throw quite the winter thunderstorm.  It’s howling winds would wake me up from a sound sleep. I admit storms like this bring pure joy instead of trepidation. Give me a storm that rages on the outside and I feel all warm and cozy on the inside. The same can’t be said for my step mom, Diane. Storms terrify her. I still remember the thunder and lightning storms in New Hampshire that would send her over the edge. My dad and I would open up all the curtains and doors in the house for a front row seat and poor Diane would tremble in fear – hoping and praying that we would close everything up tight as a turtle in her shell.  She’s probably shaking her head as she reads this and is thinking “Did she really need to share that with the world?”  Don’t worry, Diane – my audience isn’t world wide – yet!

Isn’t it funny (in the uncanny sense not the haha sense) how one thing can bring fear and trembling to one and security and safety to another? You should see the different things that invoke fear in Blitz and Giggles. Blitz and Giggles are our chocolate retrievers. Blitz gets anxious when we set out on a drive while Giggles snuggles in for the ride ahead. Giggles is afraid of heights or anything that makes her think she is way up high. Blitz is always trying to climb up on top of things to see the world. We first noticed Giggles’ fear in Yosemite one day as we were crossing a wooden slatted bridge – you could see the river below sloshing onward. She crouched down low under Brad’s wheelchair shaking in terror.  Giggles’ safe place has always been under Brad’s wheelchair.  Any time she’s afraid – she runs for the protection of her daddy and plants herself safely under his chair. You should have seen her this morning. I took her out for a walk and there was a storm drain in the middle of the parking lot – you could see way down through the grates. She put her brakes on. She was not going anywhere near that drain. Of course, it took me a little while to figure out what was spooking her. When we left the hotel room later in the morning with Brad – guess where she “weathered” her fear of the storm drain? Yep, she crouched under Brad’s chair until she was a safe distance from the drain. I love that even dogs have their safe place.

Do you have a safe place from the “storms” of life?  I do. It’s at the water’s edge.

It’s where I run for cover – my refuge. I find tranquility from the storms that rage within. It is my safe place. Whenever I get stressed out just thinking about the water’s edge brings peace. I imagine the water washing over me, taking my worry out to sea.  If I can get to the water’s edge – be it the ocean, a lake, river or stream – a sense of calm always comes rushing in. Clarity comes quicker. The vast ocean gives me perspective. It brings me back to my core, back to my center. It’s where I meet with God. My true sense of self is restored. The water’s edge seems to set my world back in order.   I think that’s why I haven’t totally settled into Springville in the four+ years we lived there. It just might be too far away from my safe place.

Many of my treasured memories of security and comfort are all found at the water’s
edge. The sound of halyards wooing me to sleep on the sailboat in the Bahamas; a 9-year old Cindy soaring from the bow of my granddad’s boat named the Helyon in the Florida Keys; endless tubing trips down the Pemigewasset river in college; praying at the water’s edge and seeing dolphins come out to play along the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater, Florida; Kerstin and I driving down to East Beach when we lived on St. Simon’s Island at night to hear the waves lapping the coast – a lullaby to our soul; “surprise” vistas of the San Francisco Bay as I traversed my beloved city; and getting married at the water’s edge in Carmel-by-the-Sea to my Ferd Lee.

Oh to be in my safe place (I’m in Monterey this week – yay!). Oh to envision my safe place. Contentment replaces worry. Peace silences fear. Comfort rushes in and takes over my unsettled heart. I’m at home and safe at the water’s edge. Lisa, my coach, and I have discussed this at length over the last year especially while I’ve encountered new struggles while trying to become a competent registered nurse. There have been days when I urgently needed my safe place. The coast may be 200 miles away from Adventist Medical Center but I can bring it close by taking a moment to imagine myself there. Oh, the power of our imagination.

Here’s one of the simple exercises Lisa and I came up with to help me reach my safe place in the midst of the storms of stress that come my way at work. When the storm comes upon me, I am supposed to take a moment and go get a cool cup of ice water. Then I’m supposed to drink it slowly taking deep breaths between each sip. It’s amazing how instantly the transformation begins to take place as the cool water “pours over me”.  Centering takes place. The challenge for me is recognizing that a storm is upon me and then trusting the process and taking that moment to get the cup o’ aqua. When I do, comfort finds me.

Thank you for letting me share my safe place with you. Take a moment or two this week and contemplate your safe place. Where is it? How does it make you feel? Practice “transporting” yourself there the next time a figurative storm shows up on your horizon.

Resting at the Water’s Edge,
Cindy

 

Cup o’ tea

From the Archives: February 16, 2010

“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” ~ Catherine Douzel

Phew.  Last week came to a welcomed end.  At 3pm on Friday, I laid down for a nap.  7.5 hours later, clinching the title of world champion napper, I woke up.  Oh my!  My mind knew I had had a stressful week, I guess my body did, too.

On my way to a 3-hour seminar and a full day of nursing clinicals at the hospital on Wednesday, I had a little “moment” talking to my sister.  In that moment, I realized just how much worry I had borrowed:

Tuesday morning.  Truck stuck in mud on way to clinicals.  Call AAA.
Two hours late.  Borrow a little worry – check.

Tuesday evening.  Husband.  News of another torn rotator cuff, argh – the same shoulder that had surgery 16 months ago.  Another surgery?  Job uncertainty?  Borrow lots of worry and some sadness for Brad – check.

94 year-old Granddad, 90% heart blockage, headed to Europe for his 3rd cruise in 2 years.  Go Granddad, go heart.  Granddaddy, please be safe.  Borrow adequate amount of worry with a little hope – check.

Sister.  Her husband deployed to Iraq for a year.
Borrow decent amount of worry – check.

Nursing Care Plan due this week.  Must write and implement – 20-hour project.  Must get enough data with minimal time allotted while caring for my patients.  Borrow just the right amount of worry – check.

First test of the semester.  Those who have gone before us encourage us to set our expectations at failure.  Studied beaucoup hours, 40 pages of handwritten notes.  Borrow way too much worry (more than my fair share) – check.  

Weight of all the worry.  Not enough downtime.  Rush, rush, rush all week.  Still rushing.  Can’t afford tears at the moment. Must hold it together.  I’ll take a minor meltdown for $400, Alex.  Cry a little, pray a little, love a little upon my sissy, who’s going through enough stress of her own.  Check.

I get to the seminar about 45 minutes early.  I really should study.  Too tired.  Too drained.  Must muster up my networking savvy.   I ask myself, “What would be the best use of my time?  In the hotel lobby, as I see those little packets of calm, I know instantly.  A cup of tea, a moment of silence and, “Voila!” – peace came.

The cup of tea was this lovely blend of mint and tarragon leaves.  Its name was rejuvenation.  It was made just for me and my borrowed worry.  I sat down in a big comfy chair.  The cup warming my hands.  The steam invading my soul.  Ahhh….

It only takes 5 minutes and the benefits are numerous.  Sipping tea slows you down.  The tea itself can have calming effects.  There are even health benefits – the research proves it.

So, I dare you.  The next time you are borrowing more than your share of worry, grab your favorite mug and sit down to a cup of tea.

Sipping my tea,
Cindy

Dream Catcher

It’s been too long. I have missed you.  As usual, I have some confessions to make.  I started off this year with such hope.  such gratefulness in my heart.  for a year of plenty.  Remember?  I know some of you do.  You have been kind enough to remind lately.  Good thing you’ve done so – because that brings me to Confession #1.

I’ve lost sight of the plenty.  I confess that the muck and mire of my current job situation (which is less than desirable) have consumed me and left me feeling anything but abundance.  I hate when that happens.  It’s not pretty.  It’s not every moment of every day that I feel the drain swirling but I can tell you I feel like humming “Killing me softly” on a regular basis.  It’s difficult to admit that the queen of less drama has done her fair share of shriveling.  Rising above hasn’t been easy, either.  I have had a few triumphant moments thanks to my newly acquired mantra ~ NOT my circus, NOT my monkeys ~ but as Brad, Kerstin, Mom, and Michelle can easily attest to I’ve let myself wallow in the mire. Let’s not focus on the muck because frankly it’s pitiful.  I know deep within me that it’s just temporary.

What I want to share is a gift.  It’s the gift of hopes and dreams.  Hopes and dreams are keeping me from “puddle on the floor” status. I’m thinking this particular muck and mire have purpose.  I won’t venture to guess what that is (we’ll just have to wait for the hindsight version).  Until then, I am trusting the struggle.  After experiencing steep learning curves on more than one occasion I have come to believe that “the struggle” brings learning and wisdom that cannot be acquired any other way.  We don’t often realize it in the moment but it’s that pesky hindsight that enlightens us in situations such as these. Trusting the struggle is challenging but it often ushers in the plenty.

(artwork by Leigh Standley, aka Curly Girl)

As I glance through the snapshots on my phone, I’ve already captured lots of plenty this year!  I am not a girl who is lacking.  As I think about what is happening around the world and on our own soil ~ Bostonians, you have been in my thoughts and prayers ~ I know gratefulness should be oozing from my every pore.  If only I could remain in my grateful place.  I’m trying.

So here we are.  At this contemplation.  All present and accounted for?  I hope you have enough of the backstory to grasp the beauty of what I am about to share.  It fills me up and keeps me going.

Let’s take a glance at April 8, 2013.  Dream-catching in unexpected spaces!

I went to work at 6:30am and started diligently entering data points into spread sheets (I’m thankful to have a “light duty” job that pays but oh-so tired of NOT doing what nurses do best – take care of patients).  At 9:00am, I left for my doctor’s appointment.  I was on my way to see the specialist for my work-related back injury.  I was desperately hoping that Brad could be with me.  On the spot, he is much clearer and more concise than me.  As I drive, I’m dwelling on the fact that as much as I love the people that I know (Confession #2) I’m ridiculously introverted when it comes to strangers.  I don’t know this doctor and I’m sullen in my introverted-ness wishing that I didn’t have to go all by myself.  This might be redundant but I wan to make sure I paint the picture for you.  It’s drizzling which matches my mood.  The rain drops actually bring some comfort to this Florida girl who can never get enough rain in the Central Valley of California.  I was thinking about my dear friend and her “coffee shop life-style.”  She’s about to launch a new business and she gets to spend an exorbitant amount of time (remember I was in a funk which always distorts my perception and usually doesn’t meet up with reality) in coffee shops and at the water’s edge planning her launch.  How come she gets to do that and I get to spend my days entering tiny little numbers into endless rows and columns?  Not fair.  (Confession #3) Oh ya.  I forget that I’m more content when I’m not comparing myself to others (apples to oranges).  When I’m focusing on what I do have instead of what I don’t have I am happier.  Why is this so hard to remember?

Surprising even this dreary soul, the doctor’s appointment went well.  The physician was personable, knowledgeable, and I easily connected with him.  For this, I was grateful.

After the appointment, I received a couple of calls from UCSF’s IVF program that caused some inner turmoil and I was wondering to myself, “Why does life have to be so complicated sometimes?”  My inner angst coupled with driving back towards “Excel-land” had me all worked up.  So I called my mom and shared my “burdens” with her.

I told her that I just wanted to be a writer, retreat speaker, and mom – was that too much to ask out of this life?  She delighted, “That seems do-able to me.”   Wow ~ a breath of fresh air.  Wind in my sails.  A colossal sigh of relief.   My heart instantly started day-dreaming.  My vision was renewed.  Even now, as I type, I feel my sails filling with the cool ocean breezes…

our home on the coast.  our less drama queen retreat center nestled among the redwoods.  i can hear the waves lapping the shore.  i can see it.  i feel it.  every day is just right.  life is full. i am content.  i am free.  i have purpose and intent.  i get to spend my days pouring into the lives of women.  women who travel together in the deep waters.  ladies who are not afraid to be brave.  girly girls who trust vulnerability and who want to be known.  women who believe in the power of girlfriends and making life matter.  i am a nurturer. i am wife.  i am mom. i write.  i speak.  my days are my own.  i answer to a higher calling.  my “job” is to champion others.  i breathe hope into their lives.  a dreamcatcher of sorts – i inspire.  i teach.  we are community.  we are connected and i am the queen of less drama.

That felt good.  Hope reborn.  All the mire ~ just a season that will pass soon enough.  There is something to be learned here.  I’m trusting.  I’m taking hold of the dream.  I will find rest in it.  Rest for my weary soul.  In those moments it was as if our savior had come to carry my heavy load.  My mom’s words “that’s doable” sent beams of light through the phone line to my very being.  I decided to cherish the idea of my eight upcoming MD appointments in the next two weeks.  I thought if I can have dreams rejuvenated like this when I’m away from the dreaded spreadsheets – my cup will overflow.   I went back to “Excel-land” bright eyed and bushy tailed.

(Confession #4) I sometimes check my Facebook while figuring out calculations on my phone while I’m at work.  I hadn’t been back to Cafe Excel but five minutes.  It was there.  In my inbox.  The message that gave me confirmation.  A young mom that I’ve known since my children’s ministry days in Tampa when she was 10 was reaching out to me.  She spoke of deep waters ~ longing for connection.  She was feeling brave yet scared all at once.  Asking for hope.  Needing a shoulder to lean on.  Oh how my heart sang.

It was then that I believed. My dream will come true.

 

A couple of days later, one of my BFF’s shared with me a dream she had while sleeping.  She had the unheard-of-opportunity to buy a fixer-upper on St. Simon’s Island, GA for $45,000.  In the dream, she realized she would have the bank roll to finance all the renovations.  She shared some of her vision with me.  The one thing that stood out to her was that this vintage beach cottage she now owned really needed some work but that it had stellar character and some really great “bones” that she wanted to keep in the renovation process.

When I asked her what she thought it all meant?  After all, we are girly girls – we like to think everything has meaning.  She ventured out with uncanny insight – she believed that this dream cottage was her true self – that she had deep character and great attributes worth keeping but that there were parts of her self and her life that longed for transformation.  Being a coach and BFF I could not help but inquire, “What parts would you like to keep?  What needs to change?  What’s your next step?”  She chuckled before answering.

So, there you have it.  I’m turning my focus back to this year of plenty. Let me choose to believe that I am enough.  There is plenty to go around.  It’s win-win.  There are some renovations in progress.  My higher purpose is calling and I’m in the midst of answering.  I will trust this struggle.

Will you join me in believing? Let the dreams commence.  I know you have them.  Let’s hope together.  Let’s reach out to each other.  Let’s connect.

Be brave!  Be vulnerable.  Be known.  Dreams do come true!

Cindy