Being Still

I might be content to fly around in an airplane for days at a time. It’s like long car rides when you get to be a passenger and no one expects you to be in a continuous flow of conversation. I love the small, cozy space and limited choice of activities-but simple, delightful activities…time to read, compose letters, write poetry, listen to music, and just think random thoughts…time for quiet reflection.

I smile as I wonder how many folks are out there in the world at this very moment quietly reflecting. I smile even more to think that many people may actually schedule that time into their already mind-boggling, busy routines. Does quiet reflection become just one more thing that needs to get done today or this week? How high is it on anyone’s “to do” list? It used to fall off the bottom of mine.

That’s where I was not too long ago. Then one day I was sitting on an airplane headed on to a much needed vacation when I wrote a journal entry expressing appreciation for my seat…simply my seat. It became an oasis of sorts-a welcome, safe confinement that provided separation from business and hurriedness and bustlingness.

How simple a thing to be STILL in that seat while the clouds passed by my window. Okay, I’ll admit that it took a few minutes or more to adjust to the feeling of being in the moment but when it arrived it was simply delightful! I’m reminded of when I used to go regularly to symphony concerts and how, after being seated, I would feel a bit uncomfortable with the surrounding hush. I felt like I was supposed to be doing something-something tangible, that is. But no, I was to be still. Still and waiting…anticipating the beautiful music to come…music that would fill my senses. And it came and it did…

You can be still anywhere, at anytime, gifting yourself this oasis in the day. No one can do it for you. I wonder if that’s what I was waiting for? Someone to come along and direct me to a moment of quiet reflection.

It’s not something I am naturally good at but put me in a tiny space like the seat on an airplane or in a car and whalaa…I can stop the motion, enjoy the quiet, be in the moment. It feels like a luxury…this peaceful stillness…far from the hustle and bustle of everyday trappings.Trappings because it seems all too easy to become overwhelmed, overstimulated,  over-visible and over-responsive especially in the present world of over-connectedness.

“It was a lesson I hoped to learn in the months ahead: how to stop rushing from place to place, always looking ahead to the next thing while the moment in front of me slipped away unnoticed.”

Alice Steinbach

You won’t find trappings on the long country road or in the clouds. The over-stuff gets left behind. I’m grateful for the journey that takes me to the oasis of stillness.


A Day; A Lifetime

With tender memory of Megan-

The operating room was very cold, as usual. All the more important to have the radiant warmer ready and waiting; humming quietly in the heating mode. I was “gowned and gloved,” holding pastel colored, sterile blankets just below the heat source. Warmth, it’s easy to take for granted when your body is wrapped in all the right places with adipose tissue; vital organs protected and sheltered from the environment. Premature infants lack that important physical characteristic. The radiant warmth helps to minimize the impact of the temperature change from the mother’s insulating body to the relatively harsh climate of the room. The resuscitation team waited patiently for the scrub nurse to call out the time of the initial incision, knowing that in minutes, our expertise would be needed.

It is always a miracle; the birth of a child. I witnessed many such occasions and every single one was just that, a moment of pause and utter amazement. I watched expectantly as the surgeon reached gently into the surgical opening he had created moments before and brought forth a tiny baby girl, twin “A.” He stepped deftly around the operating room table while maintaining the sterile field and placed the limp infant quickly into my outstretched arms.

After receiving the delicate being with profound awe, I focused my attention on assessing her adaptation to the new surroundings. The first few minutes of life are critical as the newborn’s body, now beyond the protective boundaries of the uterus, establishes its new respiratory and circulatory patterns. The uterus is the perfect incubator for the developing newborn but there are times when the intricate process fails. At those times, mother and/or child are at great risk for morbidity, even mortality, without specialized medical intervention. That was the circumstance on the day of Megan’s birth.

Within moments, twin “B”, Sarah arrived and was placed in the competent care of a duplicate team. At 24 and 4/7 weeks gestation, the girls, respectively, weighed 1 lb. 3 ozs. and 1 lb. 9 ozs. Premature infants are tiny in stature but their meek size does not justly reflect their enormous spirits, their vitality. Individual personalities show themselves at even this early age.   

My initial assessment took only seconds. Megan appeared quite frail, pale in coloring with weak muscle tone. Her skin had a pearly translucence. I don’t remember hearing a cry. Her respiratory effort was minimal and her heart rate half-committed to the exercise necessary for the transition to extra uterine life. I was not flustered as I gently but briskly stimulated her tiny torso, arms and legs, and so delicately her head, with the rubbing motion of my skilled hands, drying her little body at the same time. I counted her fingers and toes along the way while gauging her response to my touches. Her beautiful eyes, small beads of blue, too young in maturity to focus clearly, captured me with their innocence.

After a bit of coaxing with positive pressure breaths and supplemental oxygen, Megan “pinked
up.” Did I hear a delicate voice? Perhaps. Megan’s heart rate stabilized with more consistent
breathing and her ability to do some of the work herself. We had arrived at the desired
outcome of the initial resuscitation efforts. A few pint-sized karate kicks and pretend ball tosses
reassured me that Megan was holding her own for the moment, at least.

The team agreed that it was time to transfer Megan to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. I swaddled her securely and placed her into the waiting mobile incubator. As we prepared to exit the operating room suite, my attention was drawn to Megan’s parents, both anxiously looking our way. Her mom was awake but drowsy with the effects of medication and her dad stared,
fixed on a stool close by his wife, now the mother of his two precious daughters. He wore an expression of helplessness. We had only briefly met but I felt an incredible closeness with them. Megan’s parents glanced longingly at their newborn through the window of the incubator. I tried to comfort them, assuage their fears, explaining that I would be by Megan’s side throughout the day. We would talk more soon.

I never left Megan’s side in the hours that followed. There was a constant flurry of activity around her bedside, though the finer details are now clouded in my memory. Doctors, respiratory therapists, and additional nurses joined my vigil. The air of commotion never lifted as the team supported Megan’s premature body’s valiant but gradually failing attempts to adjust to this new environment. My touch had to communicate what Megan could not understand in my voice. My hands caressed her sides as I  tried desperately to shield her, protect her, from the onslaught of necessary medical interventions poised at saving her life. “I am here for you, my precious, I am here for you.” I nested her delicate body in soft blankets, supporting her fragile limbs.

Megan was connected to numerous monitors and lifelines of intravenous fluids. A respirator
stationed by the bedside offered mechanical breaths via a tube secured in her mouth. Megan
was now too weak to breathe for herself. Her lung tissue was very thin. It became impossible to
keep her blood optimally oxygenated without causing small leaks in her lungs’ air sacs. Two
small chest tubes had already been placed in an attempt to maintain the integrity of her lungs.
The most recent x-ray revealed a third leak.

Time stopped for all of us as we surveyed the chest x-ray. My heart sank heavily.

There are occasions when medical interventions are in themselves an assault on the person they are intended to help, fiercer than the alternatives. They do more harm than good; create agony. Together, the care team recognized the inevitable. It was time to accept the limitations of men and their medical technology. Time to let Megan die with dignity after her brave battle to survive.

Quiet came to Megan’s world as one by one, the machines were turned off, the tubes gently removed, the lights dimmed and the curtains drawn. I swaddled her as I had earlier, in warm blankets. She was a feather in my arms as I closely held her to me and again whispered, “I am here for you.” I gazed at her lovingly as she peacefully drifted away but not before she said
tenderly, with her angelic eyes, “And I am here for you.”

Megan’s earthly life was six hours long. She touched many hearts in her brief lifetime. Her life,
though short, was incredibly meaningful. She taught me more about courage, respect,
acceptance, and living a graceful life than I had learned in 50 years on my own. We all need one
Sarah remained hospitalized for 6 months before being discharged to home with mom and
dad. I enjoyed many hours caring for her during that time. She is now a first-grader and running
cross country. I am honored to have a beautiful friendship with this family.

Called to Write

My mind is like a rummage sale of thoughts and half-formulated ideas, all willing to be donated to a blank page for an exercise in creative writing. After five decades of living life with all of its incredible moments of experience, I find myself called to write.

Writing quiets my mind and gives order to the commotion of thoughts rambling from one track of neurons to another and sometimes back again. Just as the parts of an intricate machine all fit together to perform a specialized task; the sensitive and thoughtful arrangement of words can Nancy at Ollantaexpress something exquisite and meaningful. Whether we’re talking parts or words, individually they have limited use but all together they might be an ingenious creation! Before these last few months, I wasn’t ready to write, not in this venue-blogging. What happened? Why am I ready now? Sounds like material for another post…

But I digress, I don’t think that everyone recognizes a “calling” when they receive one. Nor do I think it happens to everyone. When I was about five or six years old I became profoundly impressed with the idea that I would grow up to become a nurse. I didn’t question the thought; it felt right even then. In one of those years my mom surprised me with a very special Halloween costume. I have no idea where she found that costume and perhaps it was a hand-me-down but it was the best in my eyes! That was the Halloween I dressed as nurse!  I distinctly recall the carefully starched white dress, my white leggings, and especially the navy blue cape with crimson red lining. It had a stand up collar and closed at my neckline with an over-sized brass button.

As I am writing this I wonder why I didn’t feel awkward prancing about on Halloween night dressed as a miniature version of an American Red Cross nurse! Instead, I felt very special 🙂 Except for a brief fling with the idea of becoming a seeing eye dog trainer, which lasted only a few days, I never wavered from the plan set early on in my years to become a nurse. It was something I knew in my heart.

I feel blessed for having had the opportunity to touch and be touched by so many lives in a caring profession. At different stages of my career my patients were tiny infants, elementary school children, and the ill and dying elderly. If I had those years to relive I would wholeheartedly follow a nursing career path again.

As I mentioned on my About Page, I have embraced a new chapter of my life which graces me with time to devote to writing. I am excited about this new opportunity for learning a skill which I have only dabbled in before now. At the same time, I look forward to collaborating and perhaps commiserating with new peers; fellow travelers embarking on this writing journey together.


Cheers to Beginnings!

I really wanted to start in the middle here because beginnings can feel so daunting and insurmountable. My feelings about beginnings can be conjured up with the memory of a childhood dream that woke me crying out and drenched in perspiration. In the dream I was ordered to move a mound of loose earth, the mass of about 20 large men, from one spot on the ground to another using only a teaspoon. I was to accomplish this before daybreak, just hours away, or else! Being a perfectionist with a burning desire to please others, I was overcome by the futility of the task.

Similar feelings, less intense, have leaked themselves into my conscious world when I’ve branched out into unfamiliar territory on this path called life. Now I say to myself, “Hey, listen, it’s clearly unrealistic to aim to do something perfectly well the first time around. Practice makes perfect!” Although it’s a cliché, it’s very true, as I am discovering.

Yet, even after that pep talk, I sit here talking to myself in between assorted means of self-distraction like chatting with the gal sitting next to me and indulging in long glances away from the computer screen while inviting my thoughts to wander. I also decide to check out more of the bazillion on-line resources available for beginning writers and bloggers. After reading more than I could possibly absorb on just the basics I concede that I’ve successfully delayed writing this post, or have I?

A grin crosses my face as I find myself doing exactly what I’ve often done when faced with a new undertaking or personal challenge-procrastinating. This is an undesirable habit you can get really good at without any practice-just ask me. That said, I can appreciate that the anxiety experienced at the outset of a new enterprise, once recognized and accepted for what it is, can actually help get the creative juices flowing!

Many weeks ago I started researching the more popular blog sites, their features and user-friendliness. If you are reading this you know that I made a decision-big step number one! The momentum was drumming forward after I played with the features of the themes that were most appealing and chose my favorite. Fortunately, after prior extensive list-making, I had already decided on a name for the blog and the tagline followed without too much ado. This is possible, I thought, with a small sense of accomplishment.

After opting to have a broader array of backdrop colors and designs I watched as the blog started to warm up with personality. On a roll now, my header image squeezed into place with some tweaking and just as I’d hoped the photo smartly captured the warm earth tones of the background. Ahhh…making steady progress! What next? All those scattered ideas scripted loosely in my mental notebook, words on blue lines, waiting to become The About Page. Pause and pause and pause some more because…well… words are forever. “Don’t over think this,” I pleaded with myself. It was a few days before I transcribed those thoughts onto a page to share and with that done I sighed with relief, “Yes, progress indeed.”

Stay tuned as I work my way, initially taking tentative baby steps, along a path that will lead us to the middle. There we’ll find an inviting gently worn, overstuffed sofa in a sunlit parlor beckoning us to stay awhile.