What’s Best For The Patient

Tom and I July 2015I have been a nurse for 32 years.  For all 32 years I have worked at the bedside in the acute care areas of hospitals.  I chose to become an RN because it would give me so many different options for practicing nursing. I wanted choice so I could change where I worked if I got bored.  I could work in the ICU, be a home health nurse, work in the operating room as a scrub or circulating nurse, be a school nurse, work in a large corporation’s employee health department, or be a public health nurse.  Having those options was so important to me when I chose to go into nursing, yet for 32 years I have been a bedside RN in an acute care setting by choice.

I started as most new graduates do on the night shift.   It was at UC Davis Medical Center on a busy medical surgical (now called acute care) unit with complex Urology, GYN, Ophthalmology, and soon after I started, ENT patients.  I loved my job!!  There was so much to learn and I loved my patients!!  It was special working at night as it is during the night that many patients feel most vulnerable.  There are no distractions by visitors, minds are busy, emotions high, and some are scared about their future having just learned that the tumor was cancer.  I felt lucky to be there to help control their pain, both physical and emotional, wipe their tears, sit, and listen, and be present.  I felt like the luckiest woman in the world to be able to share such intimate moments with those at a most vulnerable time,  How many people can say they make a difference in someone’s life every single day they work?

Thirty two years later I still love bedside nursing.  I love the caring connections I made with my patients and their families.  I would explain to my patient what the doctor had just said when he looked confused after the team left on their morning rounds.  I answered questions, explained things, and sometimes just sat there, listened, and held a hand.  I was a strong patient advocate, speaking up and fighting for my patient when necessary. For the patient who took narcotics for chronic back pain who’s pain medications were inadequate post operatively.   I would remind the young doctor in training that this patient required higher doses of medications than the narcotic naive patient in the room next room. I would remind him we couldn’t forget that the patient still required pain medicine to cover the chronic pain.  Whatever the reason, I was there to make sure my patient was comfortable and getting the best care possible.  My patients were first and foremost each and every shift.  I was often late finishing charting, but my patient’s knew I cared about them,A n and did my best for them.

After 32 years I am leaving my familiar and comfortable place at the bedside, and am pursuing a new position in Infection Prevention. It’s a huge leap for me and will be a challenge, and a wonderful learning opportunity.  I will no longer be the expert, I will be the novice, just as I was 32 years ago.  My day to day job as a nurse epidemiologist will be very different, though the one thing that remains the same is – the focus will be what is best for the patient.

I will be in an office away from the daily buzz of the acute care unit I know so well.  A chapter closes and another begins.  Monday June 6, 2016 I will embark on a new journey and open up that new chapter in my life as a nurse. I look forward to this next phase with butterflies in my stomach, a pounding heart, and a dry mouth, and I CHOOSE excitement!!


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NorCal Aids Cycle 2016

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In May last year, I completed the NorCal Aids Cycle for the fourth time. That’s 330 miles in 3 1/2 day!  I had a wee more physical preparation last year as I didn’t wait until the month before the ride to commit (which also means to train) like in 2014.  We were a small group with about 80 riders and 50 crew, as compared to 150 riders and 100 crew the first yearI rode in 2012.  The total group, riders and crew was small, though we raised nearly as much money as we did in 2014 year!!

In August 2015 we distributed $197,000 of the $332,000 dollars we raised, between the 16 beneficiary organizations that we rode for this year.  The rest of the monies raised for distribution were distributed as winter grant money.  Seventy two percent of the funds raised by the NCAC participants went to our beneficiaries, making NCAC the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the Sacramento and Northern California area.  If you Google various other charity events, you can see that many groups out there raising money for charities distribute only a small portion of the money they raise – some as low as 25%!  We are able to do this by keeping our overhead low, doing fundraisers (second annual Crab Feed a huge success!), and because of the generous support we receive from our sponsors, and from the very generous donations that we each receive from our friends, family, and colleagues each year.  Without you, we would not be able to do this.

There were many new faces, including some teens, riding in 2015 and lots of enthusiasm and NCAC love to share.  NCAC is like a big family with open arms.  There is love and support for all riders and crew,yt and each member recognizes that we are a family because of who we are, and what we are doing.  All of us are riding for a reason, for some it is because we have friends or family members with HIV/AIDS, for others it is because we have lost friends, family members and partners to HIV/AIDS. Others may be living with HIV/AIDS, and some are riding not because they have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS, it’s because they want to make a difference by helping the agencies supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS.  Whatever it is that brings individuals to do this event, whether you have ridden the ride all 11 years, or this will be your first year, I can guarantee that you will leave feeling a part of a wonderful, supporting family.

NCAC was started 12 years ago and each year the route has been pretty much the same. We started in Folsom, rode to Gridley the first day, rode on to Williams the second day, Woodland the third day, and ended the ride midday the 4th day on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento.

We had several new enthusiastic board members last year and NCAC under went some big changes. The first big change for this year is that NCAC 2016 will be following a new route. The ride will begin in West Sacramento and head to Auburn the first day.  Camp will be in Auburn for all three nights, with rides starting from there each day.  Sunday morning we will leave Auburn, and end the event on the steps of the Capitol at 1200 PM.   If you have heard about NCAC and have been thinking about riding, are looking for a group to ride with, and a well organized ride to train for, check out our website: norcalaidscycle.org and see what we are all about.  The ride itself is fun and challenging, and there is nothing better than doing something that will make a difference is the life of someone you don’t even know.  Open up your heart and mind and think about it. If you have questions about the ride you can respond to this blog, or email  me through my blog at janet@openhearted.me.  Cycling abilities range from those riding a bike for the first time in many years, to those with many years and miles of cycling under their belts, and everything in between.

This year’s ride starts May 12th and ends May 16th.  If you are not able to ride this year, please consider joining us next year in 2017, and think about making a contribution to support NCAC 2016 at my donor site.   You will be surprised at how good you feel knowing your made a difference in the life of someone you don’t even know!

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In Case You Were Wondering………………..

IMG_4194It’s been almost 4 months now since I did the NorCal Aids Cycle X (NCACX) and I decided it was time to let you know that I did in fact DO the ride, and I DID survive!  If you recall, I made the decision to do the ride about a month before the ride.  The last NCAC training ride was a century (100 mile) benchmark ride.  A benchmark ride is meant to give you an idea if you are trained enough to do the ride.  I decided that if I could finish the 100 mile ride, I would do the ride.

I had 5 days to train for the benchmark ride.  I rode 20 miles on Monday, and 35 miles on Wednesday and that was it for training.  Saturday came and I completed the 100 mile ride without any trouble (much to MY surprise).  I reregistered that day (around April 12th I think), and I had a month to train for the 330 mile in 3 1/2 day ride, and to raise a minimum of $2,000 so I could participate as a cyclist.

I know what you are thinking, “You were crazy, right”?  Well so was I!  I went in with the attitude that it wasn’t about riding every single mile, and if I had to sag (get picked up and ride in the car) a few miles here and there for a break, it was ok.  I mean, come on, I’m not a thirty year old anymore!!!.

Everything seemed to fall into place and by the end of the ride on May 18th, 2014.  I had not only finished the ride, I raised about $5,500 to help those living with HIV/AIDS.  Among the riders and crew, the talk wasn’t “wow you did it with so little training!” it was “wow you raised THAT MUCH money in such a short time?!? 🙂

The riding part was up to me, and I did have to sag some both of the first two days due to problems with the heat.  When it was 100 degrees out and my skin was dry and  I had chills and goosebumps  – it was time to surrender for that day.  Though I had given myself permission to take care of myself and hitch a ride if need be, I was disappointed in myself. Though I completed the ride, the real heroes  were those of you who joined me in the fight to beat HIV/AIDS by so generously supporting me with your donations to NCAC.  Because of all of you, there is money to support programs here in the greater Sacramento area that help those living with HIV/AIDS. Because of you there is money to establish new services for education, testing and treating those in the more rural areas in Northern California.

As a group we raised approximately $333,000 dollars this year.  On August 20, 2014 NCAC distributed $222,100 to our beneficiaries, and another $9,000 has been saved to give away in grants in the winter months of 2015. This means that 72% of the funds raised by participants went directly to our beneficiaries, making NCAC the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the Sacramento and Northern California area.

As I wrap this up, I am proud to say I have already registered for the 2015 NCAC ride and am looking forward to being better prepared physically this year:)   I have a couple of rides coming up this fall, and the official training rides will be starting up before I know it.  Stay tuned for more information to come.  In the meantime, if you want a tax break before the end of this year, please think about joining me again in supporting this worthwhile cause.  You may click HERE to go directly to my donation webpage.

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If You Name Them They Will Grow


Thirteen and a half years ago I moved into my house here in Folsom.  Wanting to make it homey and full of life, I bought a ficus tree at Costco.  Well actually, it was three small trees intertwined and growing together, green and healthy.

During their first winter when the heater came on, the trees started dropping leaves like crazy.  Knowing that ficus have a reputation for not liking change, I was hesitant to move them.  It was clear they were on their way to dying anyway, so I took a chance and moved the planter to a place near the windows in the kitchen. I thought that with more light from the windows, and being out of the direct path of the heating vent, the little family might be happier.

Two of the intertwined trees continued to drop leaves and eventually looked dead.  The third one, however, stopped dropping leaves before it became completely bare.  I decided at that point that maybe if I gave her a name and talked to her, she would begin to thrive.  I named her Francesca, and talked with her everyday and told her how strong and beautiful she was.  She was still too small (about the thickness of my index finger) to stand alone since she had been intertwined with her sisters from early on, so I cut off the tops of the two dead trees, and left Francesca intertwined with their trunks until she grew a little stronger.

Francesca responded well to her name, and before long she began to leaf out again and grow.  When she looked healthy and strong, I cut away her dead sisters (sounds cruel I know, and remember, they were already dead), and she continued to thrive in her new location.  In fact, she grew so much it became obvious that she would need a bigger pot for her roots, and more space to spread out.

I took Francesca outside and carefully repotted her in a larger pot as she was quite root  bound.  I gave her some nourishment and water, and left her outside for a couple of days to drain.  I tucked her as close to the house out of the direct summer sun as I could, and she still got very sunburned.  I put her on a rolling plant stand and pulled her through the sliding door and into the living room with two story ceilings.  Poor thing,  she was sunburned, dragged through the doorway, (an opening which to her probably felt the size of a birth canal), AND, put into a new location.  She probably thought I was trying to do her in!!  It was the ultimate ficus challenge for sure!  I continued to talk to her and pray that she wouldn’t get too pissed off and give up.  Francesca again showed me her resiliency and ability to tolerate change.  She is so big now I wouldn’t be able to get her out of the house if I tried.  I have pruned her back severely, moved her around to different spots in the living room, and still she thrives.  I am beginning to think that ficus have a bad rep as being temperamental.

I want you to know naming my trees and plants didn’t help only Francesca.  When I moved into my house, I had a wimpy oak tree at the edge of the front yard which was a disgrace to it’s oak family I am sure.  It had a scrawny little trunk, and the branches grew longer from one side of the tree than it did the other.  It truly was a Charlie Brown tree and looked pretty pitiful.  To be fair, it did have some competition for water and light with another tree in the front yard.

In a wind storm one winter night, the bigger and stronger tree decided to self prune and split off about 1/3 of its canopy.  Lucky for me, it fell in front of my house rather than into it.  When that happened, I took that tree out for safety reasons and my yard looked rather bare with only my scrawny little oak.  Not only that, I know longer had protection from the hot summer sun in my front windows.  I remembered how well Francesca had done when I named her and talked with her, so I named the scrawny little oak tree Herra, and began to tell her how beautiful she was.  Thirteen and a half years later she is a massive tree . She is greater than a foot in diameter, and beautifully balanced in all directions.  She truly is the envy of the neighborhood!!!

It was purely a gamble that I determined she was a girl.  Over the years, it has become evident that I guessed her gender appropriately.  She is a very fertile tree with TONS of acorns, and her little offspring come up where ever her “ova” take hold in the slightest dab of soil.  Since the squirrels have found her, they have spread her seed far and wide, and she has offspring everywhere!!!!  Just the other day I went out and picked up a 5 gallon bucket of acorns – and she was just beginning to drop them for the fall season.

Herra has a beautiful canopy with tons of leaves.  When her leaves drop, the wind typically carries a good portion of them into my neighbor’s yard, so we work in tandem to clean them up.  He blows them into a pile in my yard, and I vacuum them up and mulch them for my compost pile.  We have done two major clean ups so far this fall, and she still has about a third of her leaves to go.  When I am covered in leaf dust and whining about the work, I have to remind myself how big and beautiful she is in the summer, and how much she shades the sunny side of my two story stucco home.  The picture above is of Herra today.

If you are a doubter, you can ask Francesca, Herra, Dracena, Dinero, Isabelle, and all the others – they are all living proof.  If you have a plant that is struggling, name it and it will grow!!!  Seeing is believing 🙂


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Sending My Fur Kids to Camp


Most people who know me well, know that I like to pack up and go away on vacation to recharge myself.  I have always said, “I work hard to play hard”, and thus do a fair amount of travel. Before I had fur kids, the process of getting ready involved packing my things, making sure the yard was mowed and the plants were watered, doing the laundry, putting clean sheets on the bed, and cleaning the house so everything was in order when I returned.  Not having children made this pretty easy.

I realize now, that as wonderful as it is having my fur children, there is a lot of work involved in getting them ready when I go away.   My nephew and I adopted the fur kids when he was living with me, so he was there to take over when I was gone.  Only once did we both go away together for two weeks, and that time we had a friend come in and stay at the house, AND watch the babies.  Now that Peter has moved out, planning for the care of my of my fur kids takes a bit more time and thought when I want to pick up and go.

My sister doesn’t live too far away, though having to make back and forth trips twice a day for feeding time gets rather tiresome after awhile.  I thought it might make it easier on her, and more fun for the kids, to spend some time away at Camp with their fur cousins.  When we all went away for Vic’s memorial service in July, Linda and Sam’s fur children came to stay at my house, and Desiree came to house sit and take care of all the kids.  My children had the advantage of being on their home turf, so this would be a different experience for them.

It took me much of the morning before I left to pack up all the stuff they would require for two weeks away.  Jasper’s cage is too big to move without a truck, so the Pack and Play I used when he was recovering from surgery would have to do.  I gathered a litter box and litter, water bottles, kibble, hay, his medicine,  Critical Care and syringes, his little house, toys and treats. Oh, and for Jasper, I also packed up the fencing I use to keep him from nibbling on wires and cords.

Once Jasper’s things were loaded in the car, I turned to the kitties. I gathered a litter box, a different kind of litter (bunnies can’t use the clumping kitty litter), the pooper scoop, food and water bowls, two different kinds of food (Maui is on a special prescription food), beds, treats, and toys, and put them in the back of the car as well.

The kitties didn’t get nervous until all the carriers came out.  Jasper has had so many trips to the vet in his carrier he wasn’t fazed.  I got Jasper into his carrier without any problem, though putting the kitties in their carriers was another story!  It’s amazing how strong determined 9 and 11 pound kitties are when they resist!  A few scratches and gouges later, the kids were all crated and seat belted in for the ride to Auntie Linda and Uncle Sam Camp!!  I am sure they will have stories to tell when they come home.  I know Jasper is already writing a blog about his experience – “We’re on Vacation By Jasper Bunny“.

I took the fur kids to Camp the night before I left, and gave them some love and reassurance when I left to get my stuff together for the trip.  In the morning when I went over to Linda and Sam’s to get a ride to the airport, I gave some more love and reassurance that Mama would be back.  When it was time to leave, I said one more goodbye, and as usual, left with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  One thing I have learned is that being a parent leaving the kids behind isn’t for wussies!

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When It Is Out of My Hands, I Must Let Go


I received a call a couple of months ago from a friend.  He was concerned about my nephew and wanted to let me know.  It was over 3 1/2 years ago when my nephew came to me with no where else to go.  He was unemployed and wanted a place to crash for a few weeks to get his feet back under him.  Scared, confused about what to do, hungry, and without a place to go, I took him in.  Three years later he was still unemployed, confused, and scared. The only thing different was he had a roof over his head and food in his belly.  Three years, and he was fighting the same things, and I was getting worn out by moods that went up and down, pleasantries one day, frustrations the next, and never quite knowing what to expect on a daily basis.  Looking back, I was walking on eggshells for much of the time my nephew lived here.  It was easy for me to let a lot of things go, as I understood the struggles of living with mental illness.

I have been told over and over by my therapist that I am a rescuer, and she is absolutely right.  I take care of people for a living – a perfect job for a codependent.   I had a girlfriend many years ago who was a drug addict.  I didn’t know it until she she started diverting drugs from the hospital where we both worked.  I found out when she turned herself in and went into inpatient treatment to get clean.

I had attended a personal growth seminar only months before we got involved.  It was through that personal work that I finally understood just how codependent I was and how it was affecting the relationships in my life.  Knowing that I was new to understanding how codependency affected me, I knew I would want some support to keep me from falling into my old behaviors.  I started therapy and became actively involved in a 12 step program for people like me.  It was hard work being brutally honest with myself and understanding how my helping her, hindered both her growth AND mine.  That first year of recovery was a year I like to refer to as “Mr Toad’s Wild Ride”.

It is no mistake that I went into nursing. I am hard wired to be a caretaker. It is my challenge in life to balance helping of others and taking care of myself while doing so. It is important that I recognize when I am no longer being of service to myself or the individual I started “helping out”.

With my nephew, as time went on and there was no progress being made on his part, I began to get frustrated and no longer felt peace in my own home.  My friends and my doctor kept telling me it was time to let go. Instead, I did what I do best, I hung on thinking – “One more month.  In one more month things will be different and once again there will be harmony in the household.”  Maybe you have heard the saying – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”  Well that’s where I was, stressed, and on the brink of unraveling when my brother died unexpectedly.  It’s no wonder my life spun out of control.

During my time of healing, I FINALLY realized that there was nothing I could do to change my nephew and his moving forward with his life – it was out of my hands.   I was no longer being of help, I was actually hindering him.  For him, and for me the best thing I could do was to let go.

In May my nephew moved out and into a place in Sacramento.  I have not seen or heard from him since.  I trust that his higher power is watching over him and helping him to find his way.  Although we had our periods of struggle, we shared many good times together, and we became closer than we had ever been before, and for that, I will always be grateful.


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Emotional VS Physical Pain


In the first six months of this year, 2013, I experienced both emotional and physical pain.  At the beginning of the year it was the emotional pain I felt with the the loss of my younger brother to suicide, and in June, it was the physical pain of a pinched nerve in my low back and buttock.  Both pains brought me to a stand still in their own way.

There is not good way to describe the pain I felt when I found my brother down from a self inflicted gun shot wound in early December.  When the initial disbelief wore off, an overwhelming sense of grief overcame me.  It felt as if someone had torn my heart from my chest and I cried, sobbed until I could barely breathe.  The sounds of grief that came out of me were haunting.  I felt like there would never be light again in my life.  My emotional pain brought me to a stand still.

The physical pain came in the form of crippling pain in my buttock.   Back in June, I went to bed with a little nag in my upper buttock, and woke up barely able to get myself out of bed.  I couldn’t find a way to move that didn’t bring shooting pains down my buttock or allow me to straighten out.  I managed to get to the floor and crawled to the bathroom.  What the heck happened in the night??  I didn’t think the pain could get any worse than it was until I went to get a massage to help get rid of the “muscle spasm”.

I came home from the massage worse than before I left home, and immediately iced my sore butt.  It was amazing to see my technicolored left buttock the next morning as a result of the massage on my already traumatized tissue.  Looking back, it wasn’t the best choice I made, though at the time it seemed the right thing to do. The pain in my butt lasted a good 2 and a half months before it became but a mere memory.  I knew things were better when I was able to get out of bed and realized that I hadn’t thought about the pain as I no longer experienced it upon arising.

Emotional pain?  Physical pain?  Is there one you would prefer over the other? My immediate response to that question is,  I would pick physical pain over the gut wrenching pain of grief any day.  With physical pain, though it may always be there, there is hope that some day it will be gone.  With emotional pain, the pain of loss will always be there.  Nothing can bring my brother Vic back.  No matter how much I wish, how many drugs I take, how much time passes, the fact remains, he is gone and I am forever changed.





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Cramming for a Metric Century Ride


I remember staying up late cramming for a morning final.  I had all quarter to study for the final, and I am up the night before the exam cramming. Thinking somehow that all that last minute stuffing of facts and equations into my brain would make it readily accessible for the morning test. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t keep my eyes open and kept rereading the same line of notes over and over. By god, I’d put in the time so I would be ready. And just for good measure, I would sleep with my textbook under my pillow as I slept, and place the book on the floor under my feet during the exam.  Maybe, just possibly, information would transfer from my book to my brain during sleep, and from my feet to my pencil during the exam.  Crazy huh?

It has been a long time since those days of exams that showcased the necessity of procrastinating just long enough to put the pressure on to start, and still have time to be ready.  Over the years, I haven’t changed.  I have a 100K bike ride on October 19th, and I didn’t start my training until the end of September. September 28th to be exact, which is a mere 3 weeks until the ride.  If I was 25 I would say “pisshaw – no problem”.  However, I am now a few years older than 25, and with the ride only 3 weeks away I say “YIKES!!!!”.  So here’s to “cramming” once again.

I rode 25 miles with 1100 feet of climbing my first ride, 30 miles of basically flat for the second ride, and 65 miles with a bit of climbing (1355 ft – really?) so I know I can do the distance – it’s just a matter of how long will it take me.  I do plan on doing a couple of more rides before the big day.  I have been impressed at how well this ol gal comes back after a lengthy time off.  Having good company to ride with definitely makes a difference, and just remembering to “take it 10 miles at a time” helps as well.

So as I student I put my books under my pillow for the night, and under my feet for the exam.  With biking, what do I do? – Sleep in my helmet?  So maybe the old adage is true “you can’t teach a dog new tricks”.  In other words, once a procrastinator always a procrastinator.  Here’s to October 19th and the Foxy Falls Metric Century – “I am woman hear me roar!”  WIsh me luck!

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Gone Though Not Forgotten

Vic Toasting at PaulinaIn mid July, my immediate family and my mom’s brother’s family convened at a lake in eastern Oregon to have a family memorial for my brother Vic and to scatter some of his ashes.  Most summers while growing up we spent time at this lake with my mom’s side of the family.  My Mom’s parents had a boat, and we would meet at Paulina Lake, stay in small rustic log cabins and fish. My brother, sister and I each spent time as a baby, in a box, wrapped up in blankets, at the bottom of the boat, rocked by the gentle motion of the ripples on the lake.  I guess you could say our earliest fishing lessons were more by osmosis than actual hands on.  Since Vic loved to fish, and he loved Paulina lake, we felt that Paulina Lake was an appropriate and sentimental place to return him to.

My grandparents and my parents (who were taught by my grandparents) taught us kids to fish.  Linda, Vic and I learned to bait hooks to “still fish” in an anchored boat, and how to hold the pole in the right position while “trolling”.  We learned to reel in if someone caught a fish to prevent line tangles, and when a little older, how to net the fish.  Managing the lines of 3 little kids was no easy task, and tangles happened.  Mom and grandma patiently straightened things out while my grandfather told tales to entertain us.  Our early lessons didn’t end with the techniques of fishing, we we were also taught to clean our catch early on.  Standing on log round at the sink, we learned how to not only clean the fish, but how to determine if it was a boy or a girl, and what it had been feeding on.

Vic and my cousin Heidi had talked last fall about having a family reunion at Paulina this summer.  When the Oregon and Washington parts of the family were here in December for Vic’s memorial service, the plan was put into action to carry through with this trip as Vic would have liked us to do.   By January, a date was set, cabins reserved, and vacation time set aside to spend 5 days at Paulina Lake reminiscing and telling stories about Vic, and bidding him goodbye once again.

We hadn’t all been together at Paulina since the late 80’s when my grandmother was still alive, and there was much excitement about being together again at the lake.  I was totally caught off guard by my emotional response to being at a place where I had spent so many happy times with my brother.  I walked into my Uncle’s cabin the first night, and on the fireplace was a 11×14 inch picture of my “20 something” year old brother sitting in one of these mountain cabins.  He was toasting the camera person, with what was most likely a rum and coke.  What struck me was the memory of that the big smile on his face and how happy he looked.  It totally caught me by surprise and I started to cry.  It was as if I had walked into the room and he was right there with us.

Tears would well up and spill over many times during those 5 days.  My emotions were raw and my heart ached.  It didn’t take much for my feelings to surface and for me to feel that deep loss once again.  No matter how much time passes, and how many tears I shed, there seems to be an endless supply where those came from.

My sister and my dad worked out the logistics and the plan for the memorial service.  My mom and dad put some of VIc’s ashes in little bottles labeled with his name and dates of birth and death.  There were enough bottles so that each family member, even the two and three year olds, had a little bit of Vic to with as they wished – to scatter, to keep, or to do a little of both.   A quiet place on the lake with a narrow beach was selected and my sister would “officiate”(if that’s even the right word) the ceremony.

The day was sunny and warm, and the lake was smooth as glass, as our little flotilla of 5 boats, with all 24 family members, made it’s way across the lake to the cove.  It was quiet in our boat, except for the drone of the motor, for the 20 minute boat ride across the lake.  I drove the boat from the back with tears streaming from the time we left the dock. When we were all firmly on land, my sister beautifully summarized why we were gathered (through her tears) and read a verse my dad had picked out.  My nephew Luke played “Summertime” on his trumpet as each person silently said his/her own goodbyes and scattered Vic’s ashes quietly into the water.  After hugs and more tears, we loaded back into the boats and my father lead the way as we cut through the glassy waters, leaving a trail of rose petals behind us as we drove away from the beach.

I feel as if another chapter closed as I said goodbye to my brother once again – this time in both the emotional and physical sense of the word.   I choose to let the memory of my brother during the good times in his life, when he was vibrant and happy, out weigh the tumultuous times that proceeded his death.  I know he is at peace now which makes him being gone a little easier to bear.  Though he is physically gone, he will not be forgotten now, or ever.

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When A Pain in the Ass is A Pain in the Ass

Piriformis syndrome

I got through my first three days of work and was ready to head out for my first day on my own, and wouldn’t you know it, I woke up with a pain in my ass.  I don’t just mean a bruise on my butt, or hemorrhoid pain, a true PAIN in my left buttock.  I went to bed fine and woke up barely able to get out of bed due to what felt like a muscle spasm in my left butt muscle. I was unable to stand up straight, or straighten out for that matter.  What happened in my mere 4.5 hours of sleep I don’t know.  I went to bed with a little nag in my upper left gluteal muscles and woke up barely able to get out of bed and put weight on my leg.  Great!!  With some not so graceful moves and a lot of grunts and moans, I  was finally able to get out of bed.  I  paced the kitchen floor for a full 30 mins before I called in to work and said I just couldn’t make it in.  No sick time, no holiday time, no pay for that day.

I decided to be proactive and went for an hour long deep tissue massage to attempt to loosen up the spasm.  After an hour of pain and torture, I hobbled out of the spa feeling worse than when I went in.  Not only that, by the end of the day, I noticed my entire left butt cheek was a mass of bruising.  I took an Epsom salt bath and drank lots of water when I got home.  I used ice packs and ibuprofen and I hobbled through the day.

The next day was just as bad!  Woke up, and with creative moves and lots of grunts, groans, and “owies” I was able to crawl to the bathroom.  Maybe that massage wasn’t such a good idea after all.  Went in to see a doctor at my PCP clinic with a spasm in my butt, and he listened to my heart and lungs, tapped my knees for reflexes and that was it! He prescribed a generous number of muscle relaxants and pain pills (that interacted with other of my meds), and wrote me a note to exuse me for the next 2 days I was scheduled to work.

I took the muscle relaxants at night and Ibuprofen throughout the days and 10 days later I felt I could make it through a 12 hour shift on my feet.  When all was said and done, I had missed 4 days of work – four days without pay.  There is nothing more frustrating than something like this, something I just woke up with, and it incapacitated me for most of a week!

I made it  back to work the last two days and I actually felt fine.  At the end of the second 12 hour shift I did feel a little tightness and twinging  in my left buttock, and this morning I have lost some ground. I am having pain not just in my buttock, I have pain down the back of me left leg as well.  Maybe it is a sign I am only to work two days back to back.  I did ask the Primary Care Doc for referral to Sports Medicine to get a  “real” evaluation and maybe a couple weeks of physical therapy to get me loosened up and give me a home program to prevent this from happening again (I had the same thing in my right buttock about 5-6 years ago).

The graphic above came up with search words: “pain in buttock” and depicts “exactly” what I am feeling.   Of course I immediately googled piriformis syndrome, and what do you know, bicyclists are prone to this due to an imbalance of the hip flexor and hip extensor muscles – exactly what my massage therapist has been telling me I have for months!  I guess it’s time to take this whole stretching thing more seriously as this is really beginning to be a pain in the ass! 🙂


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