Meditation on 2 Wheels

I’m grinding up a steep hill on my bike. Quads are burning, breathing is ragged, the sun baked pavement stretches up ahead of me, taunting me in an inexorable gradient as sweat drips off my nose.

I’m focused, single minded in my intent. Nothing else clouds my mind except the turn of the pedals. The thoughts that woke me too early on this weekend morning forgotten, washed away by the wind on my face, burned away by the pain in my legs as I start another hill. It’s meditation on two wheels. It’s just what I needed.

Like a punch to the gut.

My wife and I were hanging out own the couch, chatting about a variety of topics from a local townhall on Agenda 21, gun control and what color of laminate flooring would look nice in our entry hallway and we looked over to see our two cats lazily lounging in each’s favorite spot bathing. They were so content, lulled into peaceful complacency by our dreams, our conversation and our simple quiet life. She said, “look at them, contented and happy” with a sad smile.

That’s when it hit me, like a sucker punch right in the gut: we had said that about our daughter. When they (my wife and daughter) were in the hospital we had a nightly ritual. The floor that my wife was on listed visiting hours at 9pm which meant I had to leave but since our daughter was in the NICU they would allow us stay visit as we wanted. So we would go and sit in her little room say hi to our little fighter and talk about our dreams, hopes and plans, just like we had while she was in the womb. Her nurses would always comment that before we got there things would be a little out of whack, a little agitated, working against the vent a bit, but as soon as we got there she’d calm down, eased into peace by our presence. They would then step out to give our little family time to be just that. Even with lines and tubes coming out of her little body she was peaceful when we were there. It is some of my best memories of her.

I realized my eyes had welled up and I saw tears in my wife’s eyes too. Even though it’s been over 6 years since she was born and we experienced something I wouldn’t wish on anyone and even when I think that I’ve healed from it, something comes along to remind me (us). If she was alive today I can’t begin to imagine how different our life would be. Luckily we still have our memories and even though they hurt sometimes, it’s nice to have them.

Some Reasons Why I Moved

Locals ask me, “Why did you move heeere?” with a questioning sneer. It’s simple really: small town living, even with its different political/religious views, over-abundance of Bud Light, lack of “things to do”, is more palatable at this point in my life than ever before.

I love my little trailer. Sure, it’s a mess, but it’s our mess to change, clean up and fix up.

I love that I can drive to work in 10 minutes or less. I actually love that my in-laws are 20 minutes away, more because it makes my wife very happy to be close to her mom.

Most of all I love that it is quiet. Before I moved we heard gunshots daily, sirens all the time, noisy neighbors, bratty neighborhood kids screaming at all hours, general noise. I’m sitting on my porch and all I really hear is the wind in the trees and the occasional traffic on the highway.

Did I mention trails? Yeah, that too, literally right around the corner.

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Some nice double-track in the pines.

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Nice vistas.

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Where the pavement ends.

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And hills.

Yeah, I’m a happy camper right now. Hopefully in 6 months I’ll still be signing this tune!

I’m not dead, yet.

Truly, I’m not dead. I just feel dead.

In the week I moved I climbed thousands of stairs. Never, ever, living in a three story building again.

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It took 2 days, well, actually 3 if you count the two hour jaunt the first day, to travel 1500 miles. The wife and I, along with our two cats in the front of a 24 foot Budget truck filled to the brim towing a vehicle.

Now comes the fun adventure of homeownership with all the little things. And finding a job. Yeah, still need work, but things are looking up.

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Things are a’changing…and I couldn’t be happier!

A Little Nostalgia

The wife picked me up a couple of beers last night at the corner mart, a Rainier and an Olympia.  Both were huge regional favorites in the Pacific Northwest growing up and I vividly remember the commercials growing up.  When I used to drive up from school home to Seattle I would pass both of the breweries on I-5, you can still hear traffic guys refer to traffic on I-5 being “backed up at the brewery.”  Sadly, they’re both gone, although the beers are still being brewed by powerhouse SABMiller.  The old breweries have still stand though,  one is an artist’s rental space, however the other is empty.  It’s odd though, for a region where craft beer really took off to have forgotten about these old monuments to brewing.

But thanks to YouTube, the commercials still exist.  (these bring back childhood memories!)

First, Oly (it’s the water)

Second, another classic from way back (not a “local” though, but I remember it well)  From the land of sky blue waters…

Last, the best use of the doppler effect in advertising ever.  The Rainier motorcycle commercial…

Now, go have a beer!

The First Day

Yesterday was the first day of a new adventure.

I no longer have a job and I’m OK with that.

I volunteered to be part of a “reduction in force”, business speak for “laid off”. Why? Many reasons, but mostly it was beyond time to leave. Also because I things have become clearer to me with regards to what is important in life. It’s like the axiom goes, no one lays on their death bed saying, “Boy, I wish I worked more.” Work was overwhelming my life, permeating every nook and cranny and luckily I had the clarity to realize that wasn’t what I wanted out of my life and this was the first step in doing something about that.

I woke up yesterday though with an odd feeling of freedom. Nowhere to be I just sat around in my sweats and relaxed. Then the reality set in. I had a momentary burst of panic of when I was going back to work, then realized it was never.

I then had another more sustained burst of overwhelming panic realizing that I no longer had a job.

Then came the calm realization that it was going to be OK.

Things would be OK.

…more to come…

Seeing the Writing on the Wall

There are days where the obvious course of action is just that, obvious. But some backstory.

My facility is facing financial issues of an extreme variety. Between reduced reimbursement due to Congressional inaction, higher amounts of Medicaid and flat-out charity care we’re millions in the hole and it is necessitating drastic action. Layoffs are definitely in the picture. We thought that nursing itself would be spared, reduced to not replacing retirements and unloading PRN/part-time nurses. But no, the emergency reaches further than that. It won’t be calmed by those measures and there are only so many non-nursing auxiliary positions to cut. So it comes down to this: layoffs of bedside staff. This means increased ratios at the bedside, less staff on the floor and a general reduction in our ability to care for patients, while still being required to deliver the same care, check the same boxes and generally carry on, doing more with less.

This was not the facility I came to 5 years ago. It is not the same floor I came to 5 years ago. We’ve devolved, reduced to essentially a nursing home with telemetry capability. No longer being challenged except for the nightly herding of cats I knew it was well past time to move on. And I had been waiting for the right time to do so. When this unprecedented financial morass emerged I had a feeling that things would be changing. Being involved as a charge nurse, I knew the enormity of the changes and how it will effect the staff. And I wanted no part of it. Plus, I was scared for my own job.

So when the offer for a severance package for those willing to leave voluntarily came by email, I saw it as my sign. It took a bit to realize it was my sign, but in the end both my wife and I came to same conclusion: this was our impetus to move on into our next adventure.

So I took it.  So did quite a few other staff, which is telling to me in that folks would rather leave than endure the changes slated to happen.  There is a bright side, because so many opted to do so, no one had to be involuntarily laid off on the units I’m a part of.  We saved jobs and found a new path.

I didn’t want to write anything of this until it was for sure, but I signed my papers yesterday and have a firm end date.  It’s official.  When I signed the papers there was a rush of conflicting feelings, fear, excitement, sadness, peace all fighting for attention.  The last couple of days have been a huge upper as person after person comes up to me and tells me how much they’ve enjoyed working with me and will miss me when I’m gone, it validates the hard work I’ve done over the years.  Still it’s freaky.  It is a huge step into the unknown.  But there is a precedent.  When I went to nursing school, we did much the same thing, pulled up stakes, packed the truck and headed out into the world and things turned out OK.  While finding work could be a problem, I’m confident with my experience and knowledge it won’t be a problem for long, plus there is a little cushion thanks to severance.  I’m not leaving nursing, just finding a new place to practice it, new things to learn, new people to meet, a new start one that will hopefully help pull me out of the burnout ditch I’ve been stuck in for the last year or so.  And you all have a front row seat to it!