Friday, August 29, 2008

Bringin' home the bacon

We FINALLY found out today that Matt is officially hired for his job!!!!! It's so nice that the job he's so diligently done for the past year he can actually keep. :D We're so, so thankful. We fully recognize that everything we have belongs to God and He has the authority to give and take...we're humbled to be on the receiving end right now.

I'm officially enrolled in a basic statistics class through Davenport University; it begins October 29th and ends December 21st. Seven weeks to cram a semester's worth of statistics into my brain. Oh dear. I'd RATHER write a thesis using fifty literature sources in APA format than take stats. So I bought "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Statistics" to prepare myself. Arghhh!!!!

We're taking off for the "farm" this weekend to spend time with my fun family. We'll play outside and eat ourselves into oblivion, which is exactly what the farm is all about. Fun pictures to follow! Have a fabulous holiday weekend if you have it off!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who by worrying has added a day to his life...

I apologize right off the bat if I write a barrage of nursing-related posts and it bores you (all three of you!) to death. But since I decided to take on the possibility of returning to school, it's taken off like a wildfire. On Monday I went to work and prayed that if this truly is the direction God wants me to take, then there's a lot of stuff I need to get done, I'm working all week, and I don't know how I'm going to do it, so He's going to have to provide the time even if I'm at work. I got to work and was scheduled in the Special Care Nursery, where there was only one baby to care for, and Labor and Delivery was unusually slow for a Monday. My friend Carolyn was in the newborn nursery (MUCH fun - Carolyn and I share brain cells). It was what I like to call a "nose picker" of a day. :D Prayer answered affirmative: twelve hours of nose picking...or school-applying. Said baby's mother is afraid of her and rarely comes to visit (why are people so afraid of babies/preemies?? They're a lot hardier than WE are, just really, really small!) So I unhooked her from her monitor, propped all four pounds of her in my arm, and set to work.

First, I should tell you about Carolyn. Carolyn graduated from nursing school with me - we knew each other and were acquaintances but not close friends. She was an emergency room nurse for about five years and left it for many of the same reasons I left the NICU (I shall blog about that sometime) and now we're washing/rinsing/repeating at our current job. Carolyn is VERY smart; the best IV start I know; one of my most amazing sources of accountability, whether with our marriages or exchanging lists of what we eat...but I digress. Anyway, I got to work on Monday, bowled Carolyn over, and talked her into doing school with me. It didn't take much convincing; Carolyn exhausted the same list of excuses as I did over the past six years. Carolyn is the only child of two University of Michigan professors, and grad school's been in her face her whole life, and she's avoided it like the plague. What it came down to for both of us is plain old fear and pride: fear of failing, and having our pride broken if we did.

Well, Carolyn doesn't need a fire lit under her: she IS the fire. Carolyn zooms around like a crazy little chicken (I mean that in the best of ways), both literally and figuratively. She took off. We took our nose-picker of a day and downloaded applications, took notes, ordered transcripts, and applied to the community college for the Statistics course. (Did you know that you can fax an application to the community college and have a student ID # within 30 min?? Brilliant!) The next day (yesterday), Carolyn had the day off and negotiated spots for BOTH of us in an online stats course that starts in October (not at the community college, after all).

Today I'm meeting my friend Becky at the beach. Becky and I became friends when I worked in the NICU in Grand Rapids. She flew out to California with me to drive from LA to San Fran when I moved there; when I met Matt she was the first one on a plane to come out and meet him; her house was my "home away from home" when I was traveling hither and yon...she's just one of those solid rocks of a friend who would do just about anything for you. I told Becky about my latest plans on the phone this morning, and she just about fell over because SHE'S been itching to do this, but is scared to death. Becky is alarmingly smart and one of the best nurses I know. She tells me of the number of people at work who are harrassing her to go back to school and she's scared to death, just like me and Carolyn. Scared to death.

All that to bring me to one big question: WHY are nurses - people in general, actually - so afraid to take another step? The first thing that comes to mind is that most of us don't give ourselves enough credit...but what it really comes down to is I'm not giving GOD enough credit, for gifting me in such a way, for leading me thru so many experiences, for placing a desire in my heart that could very well be fulfilled if I absolutely trusted Him to help me follow thru. It's the parable of the talents: are you going to bury it, or are you going to take a calculated risk and use it, invest it, for perhaps better results than you even thought it would yield?

By the way, this doesn't only apply to three short nurses applying for grad school. It applies to everyone. You never know what God will do with your life if you refuse to let Him lead you down that road. Like He's going to lead you down the wrong road. Do we really think He's on the edge of His throne wondering what's going to happen next??

All three of us are absolutely petrified that we're not smart enough, it'll be impossible to do while working full time, it'll be incredibly expensive, we'll flunk (not too hard to do in nursing programs, where a grade of less than 75% is failing), or just not even be accepted in the first place. Just applying feels like a daunting process, requiring transcripts from previous schools, letters of recommendation, personal and academic statements, an interview...what if Carolyn gets accepted and I don't, and I'm the one who talked her into it in the first place?

But since when has fear motivated me to not pursue a dream? This is the only time. It's ridiculous. If any one of us fails, doesn't end up following thru, decides it's not really what we were looking for, what have we lost? Nothing. We still have a job we (usually) love. We still have a roof over our heads. Families who love us. Dogs who fetch toys. Nothing has changed or been lost. Why worry about that?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jennifer Gouveia, RNC-NIC, MSN

These are letters that I'm trying on for size. They stand for Registered Nurse Certified - Neonatal Intensive Care, Master's of Science in Nursing. I've had mixed feelings about pursuing them and hemmed and hawed and prayed and hemmed and hawed some more. About seven years ago my best friend and I (Bezoar) took a couple of Master's level courses at GVSU, ones that we could take without having to officially apply to the Master's program. It was kind of a "I'll do it if you do it" type of thing. Around that time I started working in the NICU, which was a whole new learning experience in and of itself, and once our Advanced Pathophysiology courses ended, the Master's degree went on the back burner. Furthermore, GVSU at that time seemed to want to funnel students in the Nurse Practitioner direction and that isn't the capacity in which I want to practice. So I got my bearings in the NICU, took the opportunity to travel (which was a higher-ranking "bucket list" goal anyway), and walked away from pursuing more education.

So fast forward to now. Working at Holland Hospital is so great because it's a large enough hospital that you see enough-ish of some higher-level stuff, but it's small enough that you don't get sucked into a huge black hole of anonymity the way you do in a huge teaching hospital. There are opportunities to be very involved. Being that our Special Care Nursery is brand-new and I brought a fair amount of recent NICU experience, it's been a fun chance to have input in protocols and decisions and be on committees that are carving out our own best practice.

In the past several months I had the opportunity to attend some meetings and conferences, help develop a policy, write a Power Point presentation, and teach inservices for the rest of the Birth Center staff on the most recent American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for infant safe sleep and preventing SIDS. It was a ton of work and I got kind of tired of the topic, but it totally fired up my love for teaching. I LOVE to teach - it's one of my favorite aspects of my job. It's also one of the primary components of my job. I love explaining things to families, precepting student nurses, looking up research and discussing it with my's just a huge passion. So when I had originally dabbled in the graduate program at GVSU, my goal was to complete their nursing education tract with the goal of teaching at the college level.

I've been praying a lot about this and Matt has always needled me about it (by "needling" I mean encouraging!), especially recently. It keeps popping up in my mind and as I talk with people at work, and I've been saying, Is this the next thing you have in mind, Lord? I've been praying about my motives for pursuing this - would they be for prideful reasons (just to say I did it and feel great about myself) or is it an avenue by which God will use the gifts He's given me as a nurse? I've been praying about how pursuing this and ultimately using it would fit in with my role as a wife and mother (don't freak out - that's in the future, NOT the next several months!), and ultimately how would it further God's kingdom?

This afternoon my friend Renee and I met with one of our nursing professors from Hope for lunch. Renee invited me along, and I confess I dreaded going because Dr. Dunn has been on my case since graduation about going back to grad school. I always had an excuse as to why I hadn't done it, and I simply did not want to tell her THIS time that I was out of excuses and I am just too scared/lazy/whatever to follow through. She always gives me this wide-eyed, serious "And...????" expression and I just don't like it.

Well, this time she did more than just encourage; by the end of lunch she had helped me come up with a plan. She told me to get my feet wet by becoming a clinical instructor at Hope. As a nursing student, you have your classroom lectures, and you have correlating time spent in the hospital, called "clinicals." You have your lecture profs and clinical instructors. The professors who lecture are now required to have a PhD, but the clinical instructors are soon to be required to at least be working on their Master's degree. The latter requirement will be implemented about a year from now, and the person currently in that position at Hope does not want to pursue graduate work. Enter someone like me, who would like to try out that type of position and be required to be working on a degree. The position would be part time and would pay a stipend. Theoretically, if I were to pursue this type of thing, I could drop to part-time at the hospital and part time with the college, while taking one or two classes a semester.

This is very appealing has me very excited. I don't want to put the cart in front of the horse, but this is something I've always wanted to do but never thought I'd follow thru. I did travel nursing for that very reason, because there are so many things that people talk about doing, and that's all they do about it: talk. I never wanted to just talk about travel nursing. But I guess I've thought all along that I would only ever talk about teaching bachelor's students. I love my profession. I love research and evidence-based practice. I love the hundreds of stories I could tell. And I LOVE passing that passion on to a student. I love having students with me. I love grabbing a student on my way to a c-section or delivery, I love pushing them to the middle of the crowd when a baby is being resuscitated, I love giving them the opportunity to see things that they might not see again ever or at least for a very long time. I love doing all that because I HATED being a student myself. I hated feeling in the way, like the nurses who were so supposed to be teaching us were being forced to do so, like they thought we were stupid nuisances, like I didn't understand what was going on. Nurses still enjoy "eating their young" and the shortage isn't getting any better because of it. A huge percentage of new nurses leave the profession within the first five years. The majority of nurses are nearing retirement and there are few to replace them. Nursing is an incredible science and an art and an unbelievable opportunity to help people steer their ship in another direction. The technology is amazing. The research is vast. The joy is palpable and some of the heartache I've seen is too difficult to describe. BUT. I. LOVE. IT. It is serving humanity at its rawest level and I can't think of a better way to minister.

So that's why I want to teach, and I want to start plowing forward. If my mission turns out to be a bust, at least I tried. I have not applied for anything or done any more than gather information. My first choice is Michigan State University; it's a good program that offers a completely online option to study. I have to take a Basic Statistics class that I absolutely dread, and I'd probably do that at the community college. Lord willing, I want to see if they'll allow me to apply and enroll for this fall semester, which starts September 2nd. Provided they don't laugh me off the phone, I'd like to wrap that up and apply for school this coming spring and start next fall. During all this, I'm going to study for my national certification for neonatal intensive care. It affords no more luxury than a few more letters behind my name, but it'll get me back in the mode of budgeting my time for studying.

For the two or three of you who actually read this, I appreciate your fortitude in plowing thru my novella. I didn't really want to blog about it, because what if my excitement wanes, the plan backfires, I don't follow thru, etc etc. But then I realized that's exactly why I SHOULD blog about it and make it public knowledge: more accountability! (As if Dr. Dunn isn't enough.) And I really have nothing to lose if I come up short. I'll pursue it and see where God leads.

(And yes, for those who are wondering, we'll still have kids. That's partly why I am entertaining this so enthusiastically. Teaching affords a MUCH nicer schedule than the hospital, and if I eventually teach full time at Hope, tuition for them is FREE!!!!!!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who WOULDN'T want this guy??

I forgot to mention this week that Matt had to interview for his job (yes, interview for the job he currently has) on Wednesday. He's been working on contract for the City of Grand Rapids via a company that provides IT service to the city. Well, the City has opened a new contract for this service with another company, and when a new company comes in they have the option of hiring the people who are already working in those positions, bring in their own people, or start all over again and hire entirely new people. So he interviewed on Wednesday, and it went very well, but we won't know until the end of the month if they're officially hiring him or not. We're not stressing about it because we know God will take care of us either way: either He will grant Matt favor at keeping his current job, or He has something better in mind for him/us. It also helps that Matt's married to someone whose job is guaranteed forever and ever and amen!

Nonetheless, please pray that the Lord's will will be done in our lives, job and all. Thank you!

This old house

Simple things thrill me. Such as finally having a functional second bedroom in our house. Our second bedroom is quite small, the walls were stark white, and served only as a junk storage room for the first 6 months that we lived here. Matt had his office stuff in here, but he was happy to move it all to the basement (no, it's not finished, but he doesn't really care) so we can actually fix it up and at least offer a place to sleep to a guest.

We painted the walls a mocha-y color, I found a good twin bed on sale, and picked thru an antique store to find the bedside table and a decorative chair. I love old windows to use as decorations, so I'm going to hang one of the windows that we just had replaced on the house. There's a quilt at the end of the bed that Matt's aunt Millie made for him when he was little (you can't see it in the pictures yet though). The room is girly, but comfy. Not much on the walls yet, but I'm hoping to find an antique-y headboard for the bed that I can paint and spiffy up.

Matt is equally thrilled because we had a new microwave mounted over the oven. Our kitchen is small, and counter space is almost nonexistent. Now with the microwave off the counter, I have about three inches of counter space instead of two! :D

So now the house is just pretty much complete, all we have to do is touch up a few areas with some paint. I painted all the rooms this winter, and at the beginning of the summer we hired a contracter to replace the roof, the windows, the doors, reconstruct the door frames, and make some minor repairs to the foundation. We had glass block windows installed in the basement and re-routed the dryer vent and the bathroom fan (which was vented into the ATTIC...hmmmm...not so smart). Now the house is solid and energy-efficient and we won't have to keep the heat at 60 degrees this winter (it was leaving the house as fast as it came thru the vents)!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

B. Zoar and V-man

Let me introduce you to a fun little medical term: Bezoar (BE-zor). A bezoar is a collection of "stuff" that ends up as a wad in the gut, basically. Hair, wax, any sort of nastiness that can potentially end up in this ball can be part of a bezoar. Well, I don't have a bezoar. Matt doesn't have a bezoar, either. That's not why I'm telling you about it (thank goodness). My best friend, Kristin (the cute girl holding the cute baby in the picture) is a GI nurse. She used to work on a unit at Spectrum that specializes in digestive disease and now she works for a colorectal surgeon in Grand Rapids. I'm sure if you pressed her for a good story, she'd come up with way more than you could stomach (no pun intended).

Well, one night when Kristin and I were roommates a few years ago, we went to Grand Haven for dinner. On the way back she said, "Have you ever heard of a bezoar?" and proceeded to regale me with a grand description. I don't really know why, but it was one of those moments where everything in the universe must have been in just the right place because I found it maniacally hilarious. Just the way she described it or something, but I nearly had to pull over the car because I was laughing. So. Hard. Anyway, all that to say, ever since, the word (now a name ) "Bezoar" has stuck, and that's what we call each other. She's Bezoar to me, I'm Bezoar to her. Seriously, you can't say it without smiling or giggling. Bezoar-Bezoar-Bezoar!!

This past weekend I went up to Northern Michigan to see my Bezoar, where she was vacationing with her husband and their 10-month-old (Baby Bezoar). We hardly have a chance to spend much time together anymore, so it was well worth the drive up there for the afternoon. I was lazy and didn't really take any pictures, so the picture on the post is from this past spring.

There's a couple we know from church, and our husbands are like two weird little peas in a pod. Their last name is Verkaik (Ver-KIKE - gotta get used to these Dutchy names), and Mike calls Matt "G-man" (and I'm "the Jen-ster") and Matt calls him "V-man." They have this strange engineer-weird-humor-share-one-brain-cell type of thing going on. Well, when I got back from spending the day with Bezoar we went to the Verkaik's for a "fry fest." Matt was told, "you bring it, I'll fry it." we rotted our guts with deep-fried everything, from onions to banana bread. Yes, the banana bread that I so lovingly made for Matt's lunches, cut up and thrown in a roiling pot of molten lard. The not-so-flattering picture above is them, and though not flattering, it captures the oddness that flows between the two of them fairly well. In that picture we had just had a bonfire deleted by the Storm of the Century back in June, so G-man and V-man were discussing the design and development of their prototype for making s'mores under the broiler in the oven.

So there's part of what happened over our weekend. We spent Sunday afternoon painting "the stupid ugly room" in our house, the room that was more of a junk receptacle than a functional space. It will be a guest room by the end of the week, and a quite cozy one at that. I'll thrill you with pictures when it's done.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shout-out to our town...

Every year, National Geographic Adventure puts out an issue that highlights the 50 best cities in the country to live, work, and play. That stupid issue always gets my travel bug buzzing, and this year is no exception. I LOVE adventure. I love the thought of going to a new place and not just being there but BEING there - know what I mean? I want to hang out at the coffee shop that only the locals know about, make friends at a church, hike the trails that are off the beaten path. Just soak in the local-ness of a place.

In my short stint of gypsy-ness I've been able to cover a lot of ground. Between last year's "best cities" issue and this year's, I've racked up a few National Geographic points in my life and covered a lot of ground they've recommended (either in living or spending a lot of time in): Denver, Pagosa Springs, and Durango, CO; Flagstaff, Sedona, and Tucson, AZ; San Francisco, CA; and Traverse City, MI.

But I'm sorry, National Geographic dudes. You dropped the ball this year. You totally overlooked Holland, MI. I'm dead serious. You think, "Holland! Puh! Michigan! Puh!" But we seriously live in one of the Midwest's best-kept secrets. Matt and I have said before, if we could create a perfect town to live in, what would we want? Hmmm...a college town, because all that youth and activity brings in a lot of enthusiasm and life and creativity...water or mountains, for sure, for fun adventures...small but not too small, big but not too big...a great church...lots of community involvement and activities...and then we were like, HEY!! We already live there!

Holland totally rocks. The downtown is artsy and hip and funky and cool, and there are always tons of people milling around, drinking coffee and eating ice cream. Twice a week we also have a farmer's market; I was there yesterday and there was a string quartet playing bluegrass AND the fiddler was tap dancing! So fun! On Saturday mornings Matt and I love to walk downtown and eat at the Windmill, your quintissential always-been-there, everybody-knows-your-name type of diner, where you can eat an awesome breakfast for $3 per person. The beach is totally sublime; the water is warm and usually calm in the summer, the air is clean, the sand is soft, and the sunsets are perfect. And there's always something to do: every Thursday evening there is an art festival of sorts downtown, with dancers, acrobats, singers, and every type of street performer you can think of. On Tuesday and Friday evenings there are free concerts in the city parks.

So here are a few pictures of the fun place where we live. It's been such a great summer, not too hot and humid (usually), tons of fun with friends, and having fun fixing up the house (we'll get some pictures of that out soon).

Monday, August 4, 2008

There but by the grace of God go I...

Ahhh...a Monday morning off, a huge thunderstorm rumbling in, a lime-green kitchen to sit in...what more could I want? I worked all weekend in the Special Care Nursery. It was a busy weekend in Labor and Delivery, which trickles down to the other areas (I work Special Care, postpartum, and newborn nursery, just a constant rotation). I actually ran up to the hospital on Friday evening to try to start an IV on a baby, and failed. Arghh.

Our Special Care Nursery is nothing like a NICU (sometimes much to my delight, and others much to my dismay), but we do admit babies who are as young as 32 weeks (2 months early) and can support them with antibiotics and oxygen (which isn't a lot of support), but if they need more support than that, then they have to be transferred to Spectrum in Grand Rapids. If a mom steps into the hospital ruptured and contracting and ready to deliver a 24-weeker, we can stabilize that baby and prepare it to be shipped to the "Big House" as well. I'm not gonna lie: I LOOOOOOVE stabilizing those tiny, sick, and fragile babies. I don't wish for that to happen to any family, but if it has to happen, please let me be there!

One of the (many) interesting sides to dealing with such an unpredictable population is that with every baby comes a set of parents (or at least one parent, as is frequently the case). You never know what you'll get from either side. Just because someone had a baby doesn't mean that they're prepared (mentally, emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually...the list goes on...). Just because someone had a baby doesn't mean they're happy. Just because someone is having a baby doesn't mean she's taking care of herself. And that's the rub...

I must speak in somewhat vague generalizations here, but some of the hardest babies to care for are those who are withdrawing from whatever mom was using during her pregnancy. It happens more than one cares to realize. Sometimes we deal with babies whose mother never sought prenatal care and abused street drugs thru her whole pregnancy, and in those cases the mother willingly gives the baby up for adoption, or Child Protective Services steps in and removes the baby from her (that is, if drug testing in the baby was positive). In other cases, the mother was abusing some pretty hard-core drugs (crack, meth, heroine), quit those drugs, and began using a prescribed drug that is "safer" to take during pregnancy, helps her wean from the illicit drugs, and prevents her from going thru the severe withdrawals. The drug of choice is usually methadone, and it's potent, highly addictive itself, and the effects on the baby are still ugly. But it's the lesser of the evils, and it's controlled. The sticky wicket is that CPS may be involved, and the mother's parenting might be highly questionable, but there's not enough reason for the child to be removed from her care.

A newborn going thru withdrawal is horrifying. They're usually (but not always) medically managed and have to continue taking methadone for weeks while they're in the hospital. The baby is frantic, beyond your typically fussy newborn, nearly impossible to console or control. The mother is usually pretty frenetic herself, a fast and drastic emotional cycler, demanding, and manipulative. Taking care of the baby itself is exhausting, and then you throw mom in the mix. If dad's involved, he may be in jail, he may be abusive, he may abuse the drugs himself. Usually her support system is shoddy at best, and she has absolutely no coping mechanisms.

We emerge from nursing school vowing to be non-judgmental with all of our patients, regardless of their illness, history, circumstances, the way they treat us, where their piercings are, etc. It's far easier said than done. Nurses can easily become a crass and jaded crowd. Nurses can be VERY judgmental without realizing it. I admit, it's terribly difficult to deal with a situation like this and keep myself from shaking the mother and screaming, "LOOK at this!! You DID this!! Look at your baby - he didn't ask for this and he didn't even have a chance!" Other families who are present in the nursery aren't getting the care they deserve simply because, well, they're 'normal' and they're not the squeaky wheels. The consequences of one person's actions are so far-reaching.

But if I grew up in an abusive household, how would I have turned out? If my mother were an alcoholic, a drug abuser, a prostitute, whatever, what decisions would I have made? People don't just make these decisions because it sounded fun, and they're dying for any form of love, numbing, whatever will help them block out of the fact that their life is a train wreck. They don't usually WANT to be in this position, but life and circumstances pushed them there, and there but by the grace of God go I save for the fact that I was born into a stable environment.

Galations 6:14: "May I never boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ..." I have no - NO - reason to be so haughty as to think that people in this position are below me, that I'm better than they are. It is only by God's grace that I woke up again with AIR in my lungs, let alone the fact that I woke up clean and forgiven in God's sight. Sin is sin to God: it separates us from Him and that's that. Whether I gossip or snort crack is irrelevant; I'm a sinner in need of His grace and we are ALL in need of Him. I can take credit for nothing in my life; the work that Jesus completed on the cross is what it all comes down to. That's all that matters, no matter who you are or how much you have. May I continually put my pride to death on a daily basis and consider the kindness I've been shown by Christ, and humbly extend that to everyone...not just the ones whose decisions I like.