Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fourteen years ago...

On this day, fourteen years ago, I married my sweet husband, Brian (aka Firehubby)

We’ve walked an incredible journey together from that day and we continue looking forward:

For better
(Times are wonderful, established job, kids who sleep well, dates with my hubby)

For worse
(Can you say PMS…nuff said)

For richer
(Thankful we have “recession proof” jobs, being a firefighter and a nurse)

For poorer
(When Brian transitioned from being a writer to a firefighter things got a bit scary)

In sickness
(Praying for Brian’s ear injury)

Or in health
(Thank you Mayo for giving me my future back)

To love
(and oh how I do love him)

And to cherish
(We grow closer all the time)

…'till death do us part.

I love you Brian.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sleep, Sweet Sleep


After a long week at work and a busy week at home…I’m tired.

Are you?

We do earn our weekends!

Unless you are a nurse (or even a firewife, the more I think of it) then, there is really no such thing as knowing that every weekend is your very own.

I was thinking about how much sleep I need.

A straight 8.

If I get that, I am feeling good…less, not so much.

How about you?

When I was a night nurse and single, I could (and often would) sleep for 12-16 hours every chance I got. I was skilled!

Sleep, sweet sleep.

Once, when I was in high school, I was so exhausted that I did NOT want to get up.

I know, I know, but I mean it was worse than usual.

But I was not sick, so there was no excuse for me. However, mom had not gotten back from her nursing shift yet and so I told my bro who was supposed to drive me to school that I was staying home sick.

Then, I opened my closet, made a nest and got into it.

Yep, I slept all day in my closet… (stop laughing!)

That poor mom of mine got home and went to bed after her night shift. And we both enjoyed that sweet bliss, known as sleep.

Thankfully, we did not own a gun, or things could have gotten ugly!

But I digress…later that afternoon, brothers began arriving home.

Before long, I heard footsteps… and then, the closet door swung open!

“BUSTED!” shouted annoying brother #3, laughing his bottom off, “Wait until Mom hears this!”

But you know what…I didn’t get in trouble! (Ha, ha, annoying brother, picture me sticking my tongue out here)

My mom later said, if I was so exhausted that I was willing to sleep in the closet, then she was willing to turn a blind eye to the infraction.

But, I was instructed not to do it again.

Sometimes, for old time sake, I get my pillows and blankets and sleep for the day in my closet…

Had you going! LOL!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

True Story Tuesday-Not Just a Fish Story

At night, if I left my window open, I could hear the howls and cries of the disturbed. It was eerie. Across a narrow drive, just yards from my nursing dorm, hundreds of troubled souls tried to find rest, just as I did. But by the sounds echoing off the walls of my small darkened room, it seemed that instead of respite, night brought terror and torment to many. Getting out of my bed and peering through the window, I couldn’t distinguish where the sounds were originating, I could just see scattered lights through the trees and frosted glass of the medical center’s psychiatric hospital.

The noises seemed to permeate my dorm room more than usual that night, a reminder that the next day I would have to face some of my deepest fears. I tossed and turned thinking of that what lurked inside of that dreaded building, only a stones throw. It would be the site of my next clinical rotation-Psychiatric Nursing.

A few short hours later, tired from a fitful nights sleep and full of apprehension, I found myself at the entrance of the psych hospital.

“Walk in, just put one foot in front of the other and go in,” I cajoled myself.

A dozen of my classmates had already entered the building, but I hesitated for a moment. Just the thought of going onto the locked wards was overwhelming. My experience with the mentally ill was very limited. Aside from seeing a few homeless people talking to themselves on the street, I had no idea what mental illness was all about. I was about to come face to face with the outcasts of society, the deeply psychotic, paranoid, delusional, and I found myself feeling powerless and afraid.

“Okay, when we enter the ward,” my instructor was saying as I caught up with my class, “I want each of you to find a patient to sit down with and talk to.”

A loud buzzing sound signaled the opening of the secure doors to the psych ward. My instructor left us, just inside the entrance, and headed to find the charge nurse. We stood there wide eyed and filled with anxiety about being left alone. A moment later the charge nurse joined us and gave a brief orientation. We wouldn’t find the patients in traditional hospital rooms, she informed us, as the patients were only allowed in their sleeping quarters at night. She then directed us to the dayroom. The dreary, grey-green dayroom was quiet when we entered. A couple of dozen patients, in their own clothing, sat expressionless on worn vinyl sofas. They were all in close proximity to each other, yet each seemed to be in his or her own world.

Over the week or so leading up to my time on the psych ward, my class was briefed in the basics of psychiatric nursing. The limited knowledge that was imparted to me seemed to only leave me feeling more vulnerable. I realized that simply conversing with the patients would not be enough. We had begun training in a behavioral medicine skill called therapeutic communication. This special technique would help us to connect with our patients in a more effective way and we were expected to apply it.

Reluctantly entering the dayroom, I noticed an empty spot on a couch next to a woman with a white towel draped over her head, looking like she had just stepped out of the shower. Timidly, I approached and sat down. Looking at the band around her wrist, I could see her name: Rachel Earl. Remembering that I needed to make eye contact, I positioned myself so that I could peer under her towel.

“Good morning Mrs. Earl,” I said softly, “My name is Julie. I’m a student nurse, how are you this morning?”

“Oh dear,” she replied, “I don’t feel so well.”

“So, you’re not feeling well,” I said, deliberately reflected her words back to her in an awkward attempt at therapeutic communication.

“I see you have a towel on your head,” I said, self consciously expressing my observation.

“Well, I don’t want my gills to dry out!” she said responded somewhat impatiently.

Oh no, what do I say to that?

“You don’t want your gills to dry out?” I clarified.

“Yes, I need to be back in water. I can hardly breathe like this.”

“Go on…” I led.

“The towels do help. They do keep my gills moist,” she informed me.

Be therapeutic, I must be therapeutic.

“Mrs. Earl, you don’t have gills,” I said gently, presenting reality, “You are a person, a human being.”

“No, I am a fish, you just don’t understand!”

“Would you please excuse me,” I said as calmly as possible, seeing I was clearly not equipped to deal with her, “I’ll be right back.”

Finding my instructor, I told her that my patient seemed to think she was a fish. She encouraged me to go and speak with one of the ward nurses.

“Oh yes, Mrs. Earl,” the nurse said, responding to my inquiry “the fire department was called to her home yesterday. A neighbor reported water flowing out of her front door. She had plugged up all of the drains in her home and turned on all of the faucets, trying to fill her house with water. Indeed, she thinks she is a fish.”

Returning to her side, I tried to think of therapeutic communication techniques that I could use to help her return to reality.

Self disclosure? No, I’ve never thought of myself as a fish, or any other animal or object.

Humor? Not unless, I wanted to be slapped with a fin.

Validation? It just didn’t seem appropriate.

No, as a first day psych student nurse who wanted to do no harm, I used my best therapeutic communication tool yet…I just sat with her silently. Calmly present, but silent.

That night, as I lay in bed listening to the turbulence of the psych hospital across the way, I pictured a little old lady who thought she was a fish. It was clear to me that my prior impression of people with mental illness was way off base. My fear had been unfounded. Now, my trepidation had been replaced by sadness. A sorrow brought on by a deeper understanding of the devastation of mental illness.

Today I am joining Rachel and Mr.Daddy at Once Upon a Miracle for True Story Tuesday. Head on over to their blog and read some usually fun and often hilarious stories.

Friday, September 18, 2009


My kids used to be absolutely crazy
about each other.
Now, they just make each other crazy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Gonna Miss This...

The Princess asked if she could use the big tub in my bathroom.

She loves a nice bath, just like her mom.

Looks like she left some friends behind.

I think it's so sweet that she can still enjoy moments like this, even though she's in sixth grade.

I'm gonna miss this...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where Were You?

Black Tuesday-Crash of the Stock Market October 29th , 1929

Pearl Harbor-December 7th , 1941

The day JFK was assassinated- November 22nd, 1963

Man first walked on the moon-June 20th 1969

The day the space shuttle blew up minutes following launch-January 28th , 1986

Every generation of Americans has experienced events that were so important, so traumatic, that almost all of us, young and old, can when remember them. These memories take us to specific moments and specific places where we were when we heard the news. Just mentioning the date or event evokes vivid memories.

It goes without saying, September 11, 2001 is one of those dates.

I remember…

It was the very first day, of their very first year of preschool for both of my kids. I was awakened by the ringing phone, it was my husband. I hear stress in his voice as he tells me, “Turn on the TV, two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center in New York!”

I can still picture the light in the living room as I rapidly descended the stairs and dashed towards the T.V.


There on the screen were the two burning buildings.

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh Brian, how are they going to help all of those people?”

We talked over some of the rescue scenarios. I imagined people leaving the buildings and pictured firefighters walking up endless stairways. Prayer, I started praying for everyone involved.

I stood and stared at the screen for minutes, when suddenly I realized my alarm was going off upstairs. It was time to get the kids up.

Scout was 4 ½ and the princess was just shy of 3, they were so excited about their first day of school. I had always imagined that their first day of school would be traumatic for me…little did I know just how traumatic it would become.

“Mommy has to keep a warm and positive attitude so her preschoolers will remain calm and positive,” I kept reminding myself, “Don’t let them see you upset.”

It was torture, but I kept the TV off, I needed to preserve the innocence of these little children.

Soon another call came from Brian as he drove home from the fire station, “Julie, a plane just hit the Pentagon!”

The realization came upon me that evil was at work in our country. My mind started swirling. We are less than a mile from a military base, was it possible that the chaos of the morning could come to my own neighborhood? I dropped to my knees in prayer.

As we all know, the horror increased beyond belief. Call after call came from Brian as he drove towards his family. “South Tower collapsed…North Tower collapsed.”

My mind went to the scene…the people in the building…the firefighters. Did the people of the WTC get out alive? At the very least the firefighters would be dead. How many? Hundreds? I pictured the crushed fire trucks…

Be calm, be calm. Do not upset the kids.

Brian came home in time to get the kids off to their first day of school. We put on a happy face and ushered them into their classes. There was no joy in the moment and very little of the kind of anxiety I had pictured for that special day.

There was no time to talk with Brian, I was off to my first day of Bible Study Fellowship.

Rushing into the sanctuary, I found my friend. The music started and I felt the emotions of the morning starting to come to the surface.

The leader started talking about what was happening in our country and I lost it. I began sobbing. As I rushed out of the church, many eyes were on me…they were dry.

I don’t think that, at that moment, people on the west coast had begun to figure out that this would be one of the worst days of their lives…that this would be a day they would never forget.

If you are up to it, I am very interested to hear where you were on that fateful day…

September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Twitter LA County Fire Memorial-Sept 12

Firehubby is helping the department prepare for the memorial for the two heroic firefighters who lost their lives at the Station Fire last week. The memorial service will be held at Dodger's Stadium.

For those of you who Twitter, you can show your support by following the site below.

Here are links for the official Twitter site and for the department's website:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Congratulations Are in Order

I am so happy for my baby brother and his new bride!
(This photo is gorgeous)
A warm welcome to my new sister in law.
The happy couple lives overseas and will come to California
in December to celebrate with us.

(I promise I won't hurry you for nieces or nephews,
but I hope to hear some good news this December -hint hint )

Monday, September 7, 2009

It Haunts Me

Labor Day, for the past thirty years, has brought one young man to my mind. A deep sorrow comes over me as I think of him. But, I know that what I am experiencing is not nearly the pain that his family feels, year after year, as they yearn for their son.

The memories start to come as a blur of scenes…the ambulance pulling up and the young man being wheeled in to the Emergency Room, CPR being performed, the blood…

As a young teenage volunteer, because of my eagerness to help in any way and my positive attitude, I was given the privilege of being allowed to assist the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. The staff often had me help with bringing patients from the waiting area, cleaning equipment, running for supplies, and other basic tasks. The ER became my second home. It was my refuge from the dangers that I was encountering in my young teen life. In one year I spent 3000 hours in that small emergency department. The nurses and doctors became my second family.

Despite my age, I was not shielded for the harsh realities of life. Trauma, suffering, pain and death were part of my daily life’s experience. In many ways I was immature, but deep inside the experiences made me older than my years.

Today, decades later, my mind again drifts to that fateful Labor Day. My imagination forms what the young man’s day might have been like. He was probably disappointed to have to work on a day when so many were enjoying a barbeque or the beach. Or maybe he was thrilled to get a chance to make holiday wages. I picture the warehouse bustling, heavy equipment moving large objects from place to place. Then, with dread, I imagine the scene that was described to me. A scene where a huge container fell from it’s shelving high above. I can see it tumbling down, and then striking the young man on the head, dealing a crushing blow.

The ambulance attendants and paramedics were performing chest compressions and artificial respirations as they rushed his gurney into the emergency room.

“He was in full arrest when we got to the warehouse, doc,” the paramedic said breathlessly, “We’ve got nothing”

The cardiac monitor showed a flat line when the emergency medical tech stopped performing chest compressions. The paramedics had gotten a line in place in the field and IV fluids were rushing into his body. From the foot of the bed, I could not see any trauma at all to his lean, healthy frame. As I moved to the top of the bed, I had to withhold a gasp. His head, from just above the eyebrows was deformed and bleeding heavily.

The resuscitation efforts continued. The doctor rapidly making assessments and giving orders to the nurses and respiratory therapists.

“Do you see the halo sign?” I heard the doctor say to the nurse.

When I asked the nurse what he meant, she brought me closer to the bed and showed me that each drop of blood had a clear ring of liquid around it. The clear liquid was cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid from within the skull that surrounds the brain.

It did not take long to determine that there was no way to bring life back to this young man. He ultimately had died upon the impact. But, a valiant effort was made to resuscitate him. No one could let him go without at least trying to save him.

As difficult as it was to see him there lifeless, the most heart wrenching part of the day came next. His mother and his siblings were brought in to see him and say goodbye. The wailing was so very loud, so very understandable. Soul-piercing. I can hear the mother’s cry very clearly in my mind, three decades later.

So today, and what I suspect will be for all my Labor Day’s here on earth, I remember him. Today, I say a prayer for his family.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Twitter in the Operating Room

A hospital in Iowa is experimenting with Twittering in the OR, to help families track the progress of their loved one's surgeries.

Is this the wave of the future?

“Ok, Linda, you will scrub the case, Lisa you’ll circulate,” the charge nurse would say, “Oh, and Julie you’ll be the twitter nurse.”

I can imagine some of the tweets:

Surgery delayed doc on back 9…

Grandma not responding to anesthesia, double checking doses…

Pizza here, y’all have change for a twenty?...

Is CPR 1 breath to 5 compression, or 2 breaths to 30?...

Just imagine the lawsuits...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Childhood Obesity?

"Mommy, have you seen our blankies?"
(Princess and Scout-2003)

Momma's just havin' a Flashback Friday

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Firehubby!

Dear Firehubby,

(Here's a little Link love for your b-day)

I wish you a year of:


Restored health



Satisfaction with your work




Happy Birthday!

Loving you,