Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010 was different this year.
We decorated and put up the tree on Christmas EVE! (Caleb had fun passing us all of the ornaments and just putting them anywhere on the tree.)
I had recruited Jordan to help me decorate the dialysis unit where I work.
(Well, I had to bribe him with a few candy canes in order for him to help out.)
But, it worked.

And since he did such a wonderful job, I knew he would love to decorate the tree with his 2 year old brother! And they had a fun time. Caleb stayed up until right before midnight and still woke up at seven a.m.! I just made him get in our bed and watch Sprout until we were ready to get up.

This Christmas we were not able to spend the holiday with my aunt and uncle like we do every year, because my aunt had pneumonia. It was hard for her, as well as us, to not be able to be with the family, but we needed her to get well and not get anyone else in the family sick. Our day was smooth, and quiet, except for the drum set that we got for Caleb! He played along with Sesame Street and Veggie Tales, putting on a show for us. We had a nice breakfast and for dinner, we had one of my husband's favorite dishes: curry shrimp. Yummy!
I didn't get to cook! Aww, man! (said with a smile on my face :)

Later, that evening, we drove to the home of one of my Army nurse buddies from Walter Reed. She was surprised to see us, and another dialysis nurse was there, also. It was good to get out for a little bit and it was good to be off from work for four days straight! Working outpatient dialysis can really wear you down, from the long days that turn into long nights! Whew! So, it was a welcomed blessing to be able to have my family time all at one lump time.

My husband, Nakia, surprised me with a Kindle. He knew that was all I asked for, and I knew he couldn't get it for me because it was practically sold out. Loving to read until the wee hours of the morning, this was a gift that he would be getting his money's worth!

The time that we shared this Christmas meant more to me because we were all together, I didn't have to be on call, nor use vacation time just to be home. Family members participated in holiday devotionals and we were able to read each other's memories about past holiday times.

Christmas is not about the gifts we give or receive, but of spending quality time with family and friends to reflect on the reason for the season: Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Becoming an Author

I have been on this journey since 2007, when I began writing my first novel while visiting my future husband's family in Bermuda. It Is What It Is was birthed while I sat on the seashore and my son and future husband were fishing. This was a story I held on to for some time, and my desire to write never waned.

This journey has been like a roller coaster, mostly with ups and not many downs, fortunately. I was blessed to have the TEAM that my mentor Ananda Leeke spoke about last year when I first met her. In addition to her recommendations, I was blessed to have an artist for a husband, who I let design my book cover and website. I also reconnected with a childhood friend, Khadijah Ali-Coleman, who is the editor of my novel.

The excitement that I feel now as I felt when I first started is still the same.

To see my book in its final stage has been absolute feelings of exuberance and a HUGE sense of accomplishment. I started my story to tell my "love story" and it turned into a fiction with much drama. When Khadijah told me that I was "holding back", I hung my head because I knew she was right. By following her direction and listening to her pointers, I just jumped in and moved forward. She pulled it out of me, and when I read my book from start to finish, I screamed. My actual words were "This is the freaking BOMB! SAY WHAAAAT!"

My sentiments were shared by three special people who were given a pre-release copy of It Is What It Is. One of them said "I love your quotes and a true reader will have no problem immersing themselves in the story." I was literally tickled pink.

Another reader said she visualized the places I describe in the book, placing herself there as she read along.

Like Kem says in his song "Matter of Time" from his latest CD:

"You are right where you are supposed to be

Everything is in divine order.

Nothing happens under God's creation without His eye upon it.

There is a divine appointment for everything that takes place in your life.

So just relax, let it flow.....it's a matter of time."

Thanks to everyone who has followed me on Facebook, Twitter, and recognizing my desire to get this book done. There is more to come. Thanks for being patient and waiting on me. This was truly a journey that I will never forget.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grandma Freestyling

My seventy-six year old grandmother has decided to learn how to swim. She has never been afraid of water, and will don a swimsuit and jump right in. She just didn't have the technique that my sister and I possess. And as much as we tried to show her the proper way, it was to no avail.

So, I was not surprised when she shared with me her news of taking swimming lessons. Listening to her speak of her Beginner's class, I can hear her excitement burst through the phone. "People in my class can't believe it when I tell them my age," she says. She continues to tell me how her instructor had the class go down the slide.

"And I did it!" she exclaims, with even more enthusiasm. "If I could just get that kicking thing down.....it's so hard, Pooh!"
"Grandma, keep in mind that we took lessons when we were very young, so it is easier then as opposed to now. You just gotta keep practicing. It will come. You'll get it," I reassure her.
I am just glad that my grandmother takes the time to do what she likes to do. See, my grandmother has been caring for my grandfather who has Alzheimer's disease. She has put a lot of her desires on hold to make sure that he is taken care of, but we stressed to her that she not put her desires on the back burner. She has had some rough days, and being a nurse myself, I knew what this could do to her health, if she didn't continue with her life. I don't think it's a selfish thing at all. Caregivers have to be strong mentally and physically to do what we do. If our health and well-being is challenged, then we will be doing no justice to those we care for in the long run.

Grandma has taken hand-dance lessons, continues to participate in her church group activities and NAACP meetings, exercises daily, swims, and still cooks and cleans.

I missed getting over to the pool to see grandma swim, but I still plan to do that. I would love to swim a lap with my grandmother, and even come down the waterslide with her. I know she would enjoy it as much as I would!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sharing and Caring: It's What Nurses Do

Nursing students will always have a special place in my heart.
I used to be one, so I know what it feels like to observe and soak in your surroundings. Coming to clinical prepared, while clad in crisp white uniform pants and top, wearing white Nursemates and decorated with the most colorful stethoscope around your neck, I recall the butterflies of uneasiness in the pit of my stomach that would eventually float away. Being a minority in a private university, I had no choice but to work even harder to attain my goal: B.S.N., Bachelors of Science in Nursing.

So I recognize the newness of a student, arriving to her clinical to learn about what dialysis does to the body. I am prepared to give my lesson on hypertension and diabetes and how they cause kidney failure. And how my job is to help save lives. See, that’s what I do. I hook my patients up to a machine that is calibrated to remove fluid and damaging electrolytes in the body. My machine does for the dialysis patient what our kidneys do for a normal, healthy person: it removes toxins from the body by way of excreting urine.

My students for the day include two young women of Bowie State University’s Nursing Program and my goal is to help them understand terms such as dry weight, dialysate, bicarbonate, and dialyzer, just to name a few. The inquisitive mind of Mikkel and the humble spirit of Tiphany make it even easier for me to explain what I do. These women maintained professionalism and expressed a genuine concern for patients.

Before Tiphany arrived, I was able to give one-on-one attention to Mikkel and explain to her the portion of fluid removal and how the “new” weight affects the dialysis patient. I also made sure to let her know that it is very important to inform the doctor if there are any changes or if you feel there is cause for question.

“You must always document what you do. Because if it isn’t documented, then it wasn’t done.”

“Never take someone else’s information as gospel. Always follow up.”

Tiphany arrived late, due to unforeseen circumstances, but her spirit never appeared broken. She asked appropriate questions, and listened attentively as I explained the answer. As we talked throughout the morning, I learned of her mother’s recent death, just one month prior. She was still able to maintain her composure as she talks about it with Mikkel. And she was in the right mindset, in spite of her tragic loss.

“I feel cursed,” she says.

I turn to her. “It is just the devil trying to get in your way. You have to move on.”

She nods and says, “I know.”

“What would your mother say to if she were here?”

“She would tell me to finish school.”

I smile and reply. “And that is what you will do.”

I learn of Mikkel’s Nursing Program funded by the Navy that allows her to gain education while still receiving military benefits, and I smile as I recall my days in the military. Both of these women have touched me in a way I would not have thought, and I am so excited to be able to share with them what someone once shared with me.

You see, it’s about opening doors for others. Passing on knowledge and sharing stories that will impact someone in their career. Someone allowed for me to attend Dialysis Nursing Course while in the Army, and my training has allowed me to be where I am today (along with the grace of God.) Being able to share with others to help them along the way is what I do. I like to see others succeed, and if I have something that will make the difference in their world, I will share it with them.

It makes my heart smile and it becomes just as contagious as laughter.

As Tiphany and Mikkel prepare for post-conference with their clinical instructor, I am inclined to share with them my email address, as I want to keep in touch with these impressionable women, in hopes of attending their graduation from nursing school one day. I turn to both of them and wish them well, and Mikkel writes down her email address, followed by Tiphany. I let them know that they are going to be fine, and I tell Tiphany, “You will have some valley moments, but you know you can get through them. You KNOW why you have to do this.”

She smiles and says, “Yes, I know.”

They say their good-byes and head off to complete their day.

(note: This is one of the short stories that will appear in my next book on dialysis nursing.)

Moving to a Still Point

Your body is a temple.
Taking time to cleanse the body and mind is a must in our lives. We work hard, we live hard, we love hard. So, when I decided to become a member of Groupon.com to partake of the many splendid discounted services offered throughout the metropolitan area, I was pleased to see an offer for a facial. Women love to be pampered, and I knew it would come in handy one much needed day.

Today I redeemed my coupon for that much needed facial, and it was heavenly. I drove from my home in southern Maryland to Takoma Park to The Still Point Mind & Body. This place was quaint and the customer service was superb! I was greeted with a warm welcome and sat for a few moments for my esthetician. Dewaynia Wilson was very professional, and made sure that I was comfortable. She explained in detail the products she used on my face and educated me on the process of correct cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing of the skin. I am in the habit of giving credit where credit is due, and I am pleased to say that I will be doing so and pay homage in my upcoming novel.

I plan to return in the future to my new best-kept secret. If ever you are in need of services, check out their website www.stillpointmindandbody.com, and make sure you tell Dewaynia that Karen sent you.

So, as I keep constant watch of my surroundings, I am creating images in my head and developing a way to include my experiences in my novel.

And now, I must write.

Monday, April 5, 2010

In the Land of Lacrosse

I decided to stay and watch my son's lacrosse practice on Easter Monday, a day I took off from work. I know absolutely nothing about the game except what he has taught me: it originated with the Native Americans who would play the game as part of religious rituals as well as prepare for war. And it is a full body contact sport.

Great! Like that's just what I needed to see. My barely-ninety-pound teenager getting slammed and knocked all over the field. Nurse mom is kicked into first gear and I have the first aid kit fully stocked and ready to go. Just in case. Not to mention the mini cooler with plenty of drinks to keep him hydrated.

As I sit and watch my slender-framed and underweight son warm up and practice drills with his team, I can only smile and be proud that he chose a sport that is not dominated by our race. It is evident as I am the only African American mother on the field, and I am not met with such friendly faces, as I smile and set up my space to get comfortable for the next two hours. I stick out like a sore thumb, and I feel that my son will feel it, too. I am about as lost in this game of lacrosse as a Chinese man at a Ludacris concert. (Or about as lost as I was when learning how to use chopsticks for the first time!)

But, this isn't about me or my uncertainty and insecurity of this game that my son loves so much. I recall his words to me when I asked him why would he want to play a game that not many of his friends play. "Mom, I don't wanna play what people expect me to play. I like being different."

I have long recognized the difference in my son as he has grown and matured over the years. And I have not always been accepting of it as I struggled with the challenges that he placed upon me. My first challenge was his choice to leave a private school and join the ranks of his fellow neighborhood friends and go to public school.
I recall what he said to me, "I just wanna be normal and ride the school bus like the other kids." I battled with the decision for weeks, and after much prayer and many talks with my sister, dad, and close friends, I agreed to let Jordan enter public school.

And it still isn't about me.

So, as I sit in my folding chair off to the side, with my runny nose and itchy, watery eyes due to my allergies, I can only smile. It is funny what we sacrifice for our children. I sneeze, blow my nose, and continue to look on as my son keeps up with his teammates.

Jordan is "having the most fun playing lacrosse than any other sport I have ever played." His role models are none other than Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.

They made history.

And so will Jordan.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Being a People Watcher on the Metro

I swipe my SmarTrip card, walk down the stairs and wait for my train to take me to L'Enfant Plaza. I grab a window seat, turn on my iPod to my favorite song to get me pumped for the work day ahead of me: Trey Songz "Say Ahh". I bob my head to the beat and begin to people watch. This is how I gather characters for my stories. Looking at the well-dressed men and women on their way to corporate jobs; the young security guard finishing up her night shift; the teenagers on their way to school, clad in uniforms, Jordan tennis shoes, and North Face jackets; military officers reporting for duty; medical personnel in scrubs and Birkenstocks; the homeless man "moving", with all of his life's belongings. Different hairstyles: cropped cuts, locks, weaves(some well done and others jacked up), braids, twists; streaks, spikes, straight, or spiraled; combed or uncombed. The different fragrances (or lack thereof) that burn my sinuses, while some tempt me to decipher and purchase for myself.

You can listen to young adult women speak of the drama from the weekend before, to include a "baby fawvah not calling me back" and not having enough pampers to make it through the week; you can see people on Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs, clicking away on Blackberry or iPhones, trying to keep in the know and see what other friends and family members are doing.

I use the time to just watch. Taking in my surroundings, trying to figure out what is going on in the minds of commuters. I look forward to my time on the train, because it allows me to leave the driving to someone else (I know that's a motto for Greyhound, but you know what I mean!)
Being among the Metro rail commuters has strengthened my thighs and gluteals, as I walk in the "passing" lane up AND down the escalator, in a hurry as the rest of the common folk, to arrive at my destination: work or home or school or play.

Now that my people watching is done, I must write!