Thursday, February 27, 2014

Adventurers Wanted!

Please consider joining up with Jon Acuff in pursuing your dream!

Read more here--

It's just a group of people helping encourage one another.  Each person's hustle is a little different.  Some people are working on weight loss.  Some are paying down debt.  Some are going back to school.  My January hustle was to finish unpacking all the boxes in my house.  Your hustle is whatever you decide it to be.  More than likely, it will evolve.

Sign up and see what you think!!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shelly Moore

Sometimes when what's deep inside my heart comes bubbling up and spills over, I realize it smells suspiciously like methane gas and not quite the "pumpkin spice" scent for which I had hoped.  I don't love learning more about me when what I learn is ICKY.

Today I was presented with one such learning moment.  Driving along, radio on, I heard a song I really, really enjoyed.  After it was over, the radio announcer dj person said "And that was 'Unraveling' by Shelly Moore."

Shelly Moore.

Shelly Moore, the girl I sang with in an acapella group in college.

THAT Shelly Moore.  She has a freakin song on the radio!!

There I was in workout-type clothes that I most definitely did NOT work out in, but washed my car and was driving to Krispy Kreme all grungy with my kids in the know... living the dream and all...and somebody familiar has a song come on the radio.  I'm embarrassed to tell you what my gut reaction was.

"UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE."  That's what I thought.  I assumed several things about her in an instant.  Here are a few of those things:

1)  She must be successful, she's on the radio!
2)  Successful people make bazillions of dollars.  In every case.  Every time.
3)  Bazillionaires are always happy.  Always.
4)  There is a limited amount of happy/content in the world.  If she has lots, that's less for ME.  Wah.

I did not squeal with joy for her success.  I didn't say OH EM GEE I KNOW HER!!  HOW EXCITING!  In a word, what I felt was jealousy.  Sprinkled nicely with a little bitterness, humph, discontent, feeling threatened and some 'well-i-can-sing-too'.  How bizarre that moments before I was not unhappy or lamenting my life or anything remotely close to those feelings.  But then... I was.

Sugar and spice and everything nice...that's what girls are supposed to be made of, according to my interweb search just now.  Not this girl.  In the blink of an eye, I got to see some fantastically ugly junk spew out of my heart.  Awesome.

To Shelly:  I owe you an apology.  I'm sorry for thinking mean girl thoughts towards you.  I think it is crazy cool that you have a song on the radio.  I hope that song blows up and is the gateway to wonderful things for you.  I do.

To me:  Girl, you need JESUS.  You need his peace, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and a changed heart towards people that only God himself can orchestrate.

Here's the song she wrote.  I really do like it.  Maybe we should all buy it on iTunes!

"Unraveling" by Shelly Moore

Monday, February 17, 2014

Columbia Life: A Day at the Park

And by "day" at the park, I mean "hour", just to be clear.

We headed downtown to check out Finlay Park here in Columbia, SC.  It was chilly out (40's--that's chilly to us, balmy to some of you), but definitely tolerable.

Reese is still working on the whole walking-thing.  She requires, shall we say, "assistive devices."  During our time there, she walked at least a half of a mile.  She's napping now.  She may sleep until tomorrow morning after all that exercise.

Wow that's a lotta purple she's wearing.  Who dressed that child?? (cough cough me)

Memaw and Pawpaw appear to be Reese's security detail here.  The Colonel is ever vigilant.  Thankfully the Colonel is not too proud to push a stroller with a hot pink blanket in it.

James enjoyed three different sized slides.  A small, medium and large one.  He would go down one, stand up and say "Again?!"

There were some shady, shady characters (pictured above) at the park.  Thus the need for the security detail.

Do you ever feel like you're just watching life pass you by?  Reese does.

When you find yourself in that situation, be sure and invite others to join you as you watch life pass by...

Come on down for a visit!  We'll take you to some of our new favorite places!

Adoption: How Do I Answer The Question About How Many Kids I Have?

I'm in a new job which means getting to know new people.  Very common questions I ask and get asked:

"Do you have any kids?"

"How many?"

"How old are they?"

Maybe this is a ridiculously easy question for you to answer.  Maybe it isn't.  Maybe you had a miscarriage and you don't know how to answer.  For me, this question isn't particularly hard to respond to, it just usually involves me giving the asker more information than they thought they would get.

Whenever someone asks me how many children I have, I answer this way, usually all in one breath so there is no room for questions until I'm done:

"I have three kids.  My first child I placed for adoption when she was born, so I'm not raising her.  She is 9.5.  Then I have a 2.5 year old son and a 1 year old daughter."

People respond in all kinds of ways to that information.  I give a lot of grace here because I know they were not necessarily prepared to hear what I just told them.  I don't know how other birthmothers respond to this inquiry.  I just know for me, in my circumstances and how I feel about it, it feels wrong not to acknowledge Chloe in my "kid count".  To me, it feels like a way to honor her.  If I only said I have two kids, that would be dishonoring her.

My first day in the NICU, my preceptor (Courtney) and I had this very conversation.  She asked me how many kids I have.  I answered how I usually do.  I had my hands in a baby's isolette (incubator) at the time.  As I answered, though, tears started welling up in my eyes.  I was mid-sentence about how since I moved here, this is the first time in her life that we haven't been in the same city (generally speaking) as each other.

Side note:  since I'm a verbal processor type person, a lot of times I don't know how I'm feeling about something until I start talking about it.  The words come out of my mouth and it is only after the fact that I have a new revelation about the inner workings of my heart.

This was one of those times.  I didn't realize it was weighing on my heart until I said it out loud and had TEARS in my eyes.  I talk about adoption, Chloe, the whole scenario, all the time without crying my way through it.  And then in this instance, out of the blue, TEARS.  I blame unpredictable momma hormones.  I apologized profusely to Courtney.  Bless her heart.  She's going to be afraid to ever bring up the subject of children again!

I think part of what upset me was that I miss Chloe.  Although we didn't see each other frequently, we both knew we were there, available.  Also, it breaks my heart for her to think that I left her.  Does she feel this way??  Aw geez.  More tears.  I hope and pray she doesn't.

Her parents are so awesome.  I'm grateful every day for them.  I know they will help Chloe through this transition, as they have helped her through every phase of her 9.5 years thus far.  I pray that God would grant us all wisdom and discernment about how to care for one another during this stage.

I will continue to let inquiring minds know that I have three precious children.

Well, until I have four! No, I'm not pregnant.  Just sayin...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snow Days, Hotels and Working

As you may already be aware, there was some major winter weather happening in South Carolina and lots of other southeast places this past week.  It made for some exciting situations.  Here's how it went down for me.  If you don't want the play-by-play, just skip to the end to read what I learned through this experience.

Monday:  Threat of winter weather happening on Wednesday early am through Thursday sometime.  Me: Crap.

Tuesday:  Hemmed and hawed about what to do about the impending weather situation since I live 18 miles from my job and was working both Wednesday and Thursday.  I went to get gas so if it took me hours and hours to get somewhere, my gas tank would not be a limiting factor.  My options were

A) Stay at the hospital (free).  Frequently in these type of situations, hospitals will offer for employees to stay in vacant patient rooms, on cots in conference rooms, wherever they can fit people to insure more of their folks show up to work, and do so on time.  I've never taken part in this before because at my last job I lived < 7 miles from work.  I figured if it got really bad, I would walk.  The major downside to this option is the quality of sleep to be had in a hospital, whether as a patient or a staff member, is COMPLETE AND TOTAL CRAP.  At least that's what I've heard from everyone who has ever done it.

B)  Stay at a hotel across the street from the hospital ($$$).  Unfortunately, the hotel across the street is not a Motel 6.  It's a Marriott.  I called to ask if they had any specials going for hospital employees, they said no.  $199/night was the going rate.  Awesome.  Jerks.

C)  Stay with a friend closer to work than where I live.  WINNER WINNER.  I texted two friends (one 3 miles from work, one 6 miles from work).  Jimmie and Cheryl (the 6 mile away friends) said it would be no problem for me to stay with them that night.  Brooke also said it would be no problem, so I asked her if I could make a reservation for her house for night #2 (Wednesday night).  I had not yet had a chance to get together with Jimmie and Cheryl since I moved to Columbia.  Our first sighting of one another was me saying "Heeeeey... can I come stay at your house tonight??" and showing up there three hours later.  Those are good friends.  We can just pick up where we left off years ago!

I packed enough clothes and such for being gone two days and working both of them.  I got to Jimmie and Cheryl's about 8:30pm on Tuesday night.  We stayed up way too late catching up but I loved it.  They are seriously good people.

Wednesday morning:  I left their house about 5:45 am in order to get to work by 6:45 am.  I know I only had 6 miles to go, but I had no idea how the roads were going to be.  I drove between 20-30 mph the whole way.  The ice layer already on the road was noticeable, but passable.  I could hear the sleet/freezing rain tinkling on my windshield as I made my way downtown.  Thankfully there were not many people on the road at that hour.  I ate breakfast in the cafeteria at work and then clocked in to start my day.  According to our manager, our unit was one of very few in the whole hospital that had every scheduled employee show up.  Go team!  Not even 30 minutes after I arrived at work, the precipitation changed to snow.

Wednesday day:  It transitioned throughout the day between snow, sleet, and freezing rain.  We all kept tabs on the conditions outside as we went about our work.  It became clear to me that I probably shouldn't even TRY to make it to Brooke's house (3 miles away) that even after work.  It was dreadful out.  Even with my 4 wheel drive Jeep, I didn't have a lot of confidence I could make it up and down hills on the ice-covered snow.  My amazingly gracious preceptor, Courtney, kindly offered for me to share a hotel room with her and another coworker that evening.  I accepted that offer.  I didn't want to spend the money for a hotel room, but I WANTED TO LIVE, not die in an icy ditch, so hotel it was.

Wednesday evening:  After work, a handful of us made our way from our hospital, across the street and down a block or two to our hotel, the Sheraton.  The Marriott was booked.  It was bitterly cold outside! Walking those couple of blocks was quite a feat.  The ice-crusted snow under our feet was completely and totally treacherous.  I was so glad none of us had to drive in it.  We dropped all of our stuff in our room and then headed back to the Marriott for dinner.  The dining room was packed.  They weren't allowing anyone to order off of the menu but made the buffet the only option.  Apparently a lot of their wait staff and chefs didn't make it to work that day.  Our server had been waiting on people since 6 am and there was no end in sight to her day.  I was suddenly VERY VERY grateful that at least my shift ended.  I got to be off work.  I now know a lot of others were not so fortunate.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and settled in for the night.  We had lights out by 10 pm.  Such party animals we were. :)

Thursday morning:  Our room starting stirring about 5 am.  The three of us got ready, packed up and headed out for our walk to work.  It was so odd, walking to work.  In the dark.  Down the middle of the downtown street because it was slightly less treacherous than the sidewalk.  A truly bizarre experience.  We grabbed breakfast in the cafeteria before the work day began.  We're pretty sure there were some managers and other not-usually-front-line-people working the registers and dishing up plates.  This was an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation for their department too.  They had call outs.  They were running under-staffed.  They made it work.  We were so grateful they did.  (Our hotel offered free breakfast, but it started at 6:30 am, just a wee bit too late for us to partake.)

Thursday day:  We watched the weather again through the windows of our unit.  It snowed.  It stopped.  It flurried.  It stopped.  Whole snowmen fell from the sky, or so it seemed.  The flakes were SO BIG.  It stopped.  Families of our babies called to say they couldn't get out of their driveways.  We updated them about their babies.  Can you imagine?  Not even being able to get to your loved one in the hospital??

Thursday evening:  The trek home began.  There was some melting that happened during the day.  Some more roads were cleared.  I was hopeful for my trip home.  All I knew was that I WAS GONNA STAY IN MY BED THAT NIGHT.  Come what may, I was going home!!  I called home to let Scott know I was beginning my journey.  I drove 40-45 mph most of the way home.  There were not a lot of people on the road.  Those that were seemed a little more confident about the roads than I did.  They just went around me as I snail-paced it home.  It took me about 40 minutes to get home, but get home I did!!  I hugged Scott and told him that was the worst vacation I'd been on ever. :)  It really wasn't a horrible situation, thanks to the kind people around me, but I most certainly would rather be HOME.  And if I am staying in a hotel, I don't want it to be in between two work days!

I don't think I MOVED in my bed that night.  I slept so soundly!

What did I learn from this whole situation?

1)  Healthcare workers are not the only ones who still have to go to work NO MATTER WHAT.  Before this, I wouldn't have classified food service workers as part of "critical staffing needs", but they very.much.are.  So many of us were completely dependent on those hard workers showing up so we could EAT and make it through our days and nights away from home.  Food service workers in the hospital were absolutely critical.  The food service folks at the hotel we ate at were crucial as well.

2)  Be nice.  Just be nice.  I watched multiple people give our server a hard time at the hotel for dinner.  What's the point of that??  She was doing the best she could.  I tipped her well in hopes of helping make up for the jerk-faces she had to deal with.  Speaking of on.

3)  No seriously, BE NICE.  Five minutes after leaving dinner, where I was shocked at how mean people were to our server, I made a very snarky remark to some gentlemen standing outside of our hotel.  (These were the same gentlemen we had walked into the hotel earlier with when we checked in.  When we came back from dinner, that was the second time we had seen this group.) I made a snarky remark and one of the guys got offended.  Immediately afterward, as I rode up the elevator to the room, I could not believe myself.  I had barely even stopped thinking about the MEAN PEOPLE at dinner before mouthing off to a total stranger myself.  Unbelievable.  Mean people suck.  In that situation, I was a mean people too.  Dangitall.

4)  If you are ever looking for an opportunity to serve others in a bad weather situation and you live close enough to be safe to do so, here are some ideas.  Bring food to firemen, police officers, hospitals, cafeteria workers, housekeeping staff of hotels or hospitals, news reporters, linemen from power companies, etc.  Sure you can't feed the whole hospital or police department, but you could feed a few people and that would make a difference.  Bring bedding, blankets, air mattresses, tooth brushes, toiletries, to the above mentioned folks.  I packed an overnight bag, but forgot a toothbrush.  My manager provided me with one.  If you don't live near any of these places, maybe you live next door to a nurse or doctor or police officer or food service worker.  You could check on their family for them.  Help put their minds at ease about what's going on at home while they are stuck away from home.  My parents came to our house and stayed with Scott and the kids.  That eased my worrying immensely.  Scott could have handled our kids by himself with no problem.  But this way Scott was keeping an eye on my parents and my parents were keeping an eye on the kids and Scott.  I felt confident all was well at home without me. :)

5)  My preceptor Courtney deserves a medal.  I had only known her for four days before she was inviting me to split a room.  She didn't have to do that.  She spent all day, night, and day again with me.  She went above and beyond as a preceptor!!  I told my manager that this was the most THOROUGH orientation I've ever seen!  Mandy, another coworker, also deserves a medal.  She's the one I actually shared a BED with in the hotel!  Mandy, we have a special bond now, you and I.  :)

How was YOUR bad weather experience??  What recommendations would you make to people looking for ways to help?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Transition Is...Challenging!

When was the last time you started a new job?  How long were you at the previous one?  Did you have a hard time starting over?

On January 27th, I started my new job here in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Columbia, SC.  I worked my last job (my first job as a nurse) for 5.5 years at Rex Hospital in the Special Care Nursery in Raleigh, NC.  I loved it there.  I loved Rex, my coworkers, and my job.

Starting over has been challenging!  Not bad or icky, just hard.  Don't get me wrong, I really, really like the new job.  I do.  The people have been kind, welcoming, and supportive.  Yesterday I met the director of Women's and Children's department (my new boss's boss).  She was in our department, knew I was a new employee, sought me out to say hello and introduce herself.  I was feeding a baby at the time and couldn't stand up and shake hands or salute or anything.  I felt irreverent.  She was very nice, though, thankfully.  I digress.

New job: challenging.  Stay focused, BA.

It's just hard to start over, ya know?  My preceptor said it well.  It is hard to go from being competent, confident and self-sufficient to needing help with everything and second guessing what I thought I knew. (My preceptor has been fantastic.)

Here are a few things I'm learning during this job transition:

1)  Keep my mouth shut about my opinions on everything.  Nobody cares.  At least, not yet they don't.

2)  Stay humble and teachable.  I definitely do NOT know it all.  I have much, much, much to learn.  This NICU is more intensive than Rex.  I have a lot to learn about sicker, smaller babies and their care.  I have a lot to learn about how this hospital does things.  If I can keep an attitude of "I have so much to learn!" it will help keep me in check.

3)  Moderate the sarcasm and snarky-ness.  This is/will be a significant struggle for me.  This is my go-to mode for humor and stress management.  When the pressure is on, I get sassier.  Have to remind myself of #1.  My poor, poor preceptor...

4)  Be kind and helpful, however I can.  I cannot anticipate the needs of my coworkers yet.  I struggle trying to find supplies simply because I'm new.  But I can follow directions and offer helping hands.  I came from a great teamwork environment.  I've already seen a lot of teamwork on this new unit.  That's encouraging.

What else would you add?  What do I need to keep in mind?  What advice do you have for me?

I know transition doesn't last forever.  The discomfort it brings with it drives me to learn, grow, stretch and be better.  I'm going to try and make the most it.

Breastfeeding: Pumping At Work (Part 3)

A long, long time ago (yes, in a galaxy far, far away) I asked a few working moms to answer some questions about how they managed to pump while at work.  Jessica is one of the oh-so-gracious ladies that participated in this anecdotal compilation.  

Jessica is a mother of two sweet girls.  Meredith is seven years old and Caroline is two.  Jessica works in the corporate world for a biotech company called Biogen Idec. 

Aren't they gorgeous??

What kind of work do you do and how long are your work days?

I have a desk job and generally work 8-5.

How long were you on maternity leave?

I returned to work full time after 12 weeks of maternity leave.

How long did you breastfeed your children?

I nursed my first baby for about 5 months and now I actually kinda kick myself for stopping when I did because that’s when it gets so much easier. Although at that time, I was in school at night for my MBA and I spent lots of time away from my baby, so I’ve had to make peace with that now that it was the right thing for both of us.

I had 5 years between my two children and knew that I would do my best to breastfeed for at least 5-6 months again, but I surprised myself by going for a full 13 months this time.

I was more prepared this time since I knew what to expect and other than the sleepless nights, it was much easier this time. Less cracking and bleeding (ouch!) and she really took to nursing quite well. I set small goals for myself, like I’ll make it until she’s 3 months old, so that it didn’t seem so daunting to think of potentially going for a whole year. Then everytime I got to one of those goals, I was never quite ready to stop. Gradually, I worked my way through the whole year- some by setting those small goals and some by being too stubborn to give up! 

What, if any, apprehensions did you have about continuing breastfeeding and pumping after your maternity leave was up?  

I was quite nervous about going back to work because for a few weeks beforehand, I had started transitioning her to a bottle just to get her used to it and she hated it! I bought every kind of bottle under the sun and she just hated them all. Everyone told me she’d eat if she got hungry enough and sure enough, she finally caved on my first day back and did fine with bottles after that (ended up with Dr. Brown’s).

Where did you physically pump at work?

We have a wonderful mother’s room with partitioned spaces, power source and a fridge. Biogen Idec was even recognized in Carolina Parent magazine for having great resources for nursing mothers.  

Describe your pumping at work schedule.

I pumped twice a day for about 30 minutes each time (from setup to cleanup) once in the late morning and once in the afternoon, so I was always ready to nurse as soon as I got home. I used a Medela pump and also used their cleaning wipes (in our new building there is now a sink to use). 

What did you pack in your pump bag?

I packed my bag with a cooler bag & ice pack, plenty of storage bottles, the Medela wipes and a hand towel to lay on my lap to protect my clothes from inevitable drips or the dreaded spill. My Kindle or other reading material was a huge help to pass the time. I know I read more in that time than I have since!

Any other working-mom-pumping-related 

thoughts you'd like to share?

I have several friends who also pumped for the full year and I felt like I had cheerleaders keeping me going when I had those rough days. I think the support system and camaraderie was one of my biggest success factors. I never anticipated making it 13 months, but with small milestone goals and lots of support, I made it and am so happy I did! I used to think people who talked about missing breastfeeding were crazy, but now I really understand because I actually long for that closeness with my baby from time to time now too!
My advice is to push hard through the first few months- they are by far the hardest, but if you can get through it, the reward in the end is totally worth it! That being said, I also fully believe that each mother has to make the best decision for herself and her baby. Don’t allow yourself to feel bullied one way or the other.


Thank you so much, Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions!  And for your patience with me turning this into a blog post almost a year later!

Questions?  Leave it in the comments!