Cultural Memory

This post speaks to what I’ve had on my mind since last October, when Derek and I visited the Sacramento capitol building to see a marble statue carved from same block as the David modeling Queen Isabella and Columbus. I had seen it for the first time and was in awe of the incredible workmanship.

When we arrived, we realized the statue had been a casualty of the many monuments removed last summer during protests following the murder of George Floyd. I’m sure it’s disappeared into some storage area. Something worth that much money doesn’t just disappear. I am happy it’s safe rather than destroyed or vandalized like so many other statues were.

I’m happy I have pictures from years ago for memory sake, and thankful I’ll be able to pass on this small bit of culture, and remember the way things were before this cultural change swept through.

Pregnancy, Pilgrimage, Penance

written mid December 2021, but I didn’t have enough stamina to polish until recently.

This December closes an era, and graduation from my nurse practitioner program will allow me to be able to focus more fully on settling into home ownership, married life and getting ready for baby on the way.

The purple robes bring a nostalgic feeling as I remember assisting at births, each time during a penitential season. I witnessed a birth for the first time on Good Friday, in a very hands-off role as a RN student. Last year I waited all fall to see a birth, and then finally helped with three in a day and a half the first Sunday of Advent. As a practitioner I had a much more hands on role. I remember the smells and my aching muscles as I physically supported the women’s chosen birthing position.

I first ventured to Kansas City just before the beginning of Lent, 2019. I returned in 2020 to work at a birth center with a midwife I’d met during my first stint as a travel nurse. (Another peds RN turned midwife? I kept her contact info!) My last weekend there, I was missing Derek on our first married Sunday of Advent with Derek as I attended Mass in the morning. I remember the homily preached by the priest, who had been my favorite to listen to when I was there for the previous three months. “Your vocation is your number one marching order for this Advent” He had been in the Navy before the priesthood.

Kansas city is hardly a popular pilgrimage destination, but relocating and longing for home has a way of snapping spiritual funks and reminding me what is precious about your normal routines. I feel almost like it’s easier to relate to my pilgrim status on earth. My travels to KC have always had a rhythm of a tremendous amount of effort followed immediately by a need to be present for others. This started the weekend I arrived as a travel nurse and attended a silent retreat my first day there before a Monday start at the Children’s Hospital. This trip, I would be up all night assisting with back to back births in the Topeka Kansas Immanuel birth center.

It’s not hard to connect the ideas of Advent and pregnancy, though I usually picture it more as a calm carrying. This year it’s been very penitential for me. Not quite as bad as the Ash Wednesday I got my oral appliance on, but almost, and it’s lasted a lot longer. The nausea never relents. Some of the food aversions are improving, but still every meal or snack requires incredible effort. Clearly there’s a lot of opportunity for resignation and grace through this process, but it’s caught me so off guard it’s been hard to feel that way.

In Between

Waiting in an uncomfortable in between, having just taken my nurse practitioner boards but waiting the 1-2 week interval before results are posted.

It was surreal being pregnant for this this test after meeting and getting to know so many women at their OB appointments through my studies. Most questions brought to mind a face, some woman facing a similar scenario. I thought back to how I or the midwife responded. The entire exam my baby provided input with periodic squirms.

Projects in progress at home are also very in between right now. Our dining room is currently half way through a makeover from rusty toned orange walls and ceiling to a neutral warm white. This is less frustrating than waiting for test scores, since I’m planning to set aside time to wrap up the majority of the painting on my next weekend off. I came home from work one day and Derek had started the ceiling and didn’t stop until it was finished, and that gave my height challenged arms a good head start.

Palaak Paneer-Simplified Indian

It will be a while before I’ll be able to make anything this adventurous, or spend time in the kitchen smelling these spices, but I’ve thought of this recipe several times in the last year. I was happy to discover I’d saved it and recorded my shortcuts here. 

Adapted from this recipe here.

1 10 oz bag spinach

1 Jalapeno pepper

3 T pureed ginger

Pour spinach into boiling water for 2-3 minutes  (I also experimented with putting in the steamer to retain more of the water soluble vitamins B and C, and that worked well)

1 T butter

1 small onion

2 Garlic cloves

2 t cumin

2 t chili powder

1 t turmeric

1 t cinnamon

1 8 oz can chopped tomatoes

1/4 cream

I also did try making the indian cheese, or Paneer, which turned out to be very simple.

At the Well

This draft from March 2017, as I began to volunteer with women in pregnancy help centers.

The first rule of triage (prioritizing in nursing) is to start where you are and move outward. I feel this can apply to the faith life as well. At least that was what I thought when I encountered a woman at the well.

Some days, when I hear what someone has been through, I look at my feet, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been sheltered, privileged. Obviously the right thing to say isn’t, drugs are bad for you why don’t you stop them? He is not treating you right why don’t you leave him?

I remember the words of Christ, “You have had five husbands”. So direct, naming, yet no blame attached. Knowledge of the other so powerful that it could change a heart.

I don’t know how to do this, but I know I have to not draw back before the sin without reaching for the soul.

This four year old post is especially poignant as I realize it was the first glimpse of my current calling. As a brand new RN, I knew how to identify problematic and dangerous behaviors when I saw them. I also understood the slow surrender of freedom that comes with any unhealthy relationship, whether this is with drugs, alcohol, or a man. The last six months I have found a career where I can focus on direct, healing communication. Words that do not draw back from evil, hesitate to name it, or blame or shame. I believe this post shows the first seeds that grew into my work with victims of assault and human trafficking. 

Today I braided my hair

I knew it would be a good day when I caught myself in contemplation of my earrings, crowding each other in two rows on my bedside table. I didn’t make it as far as putting any on but I haven’t thought about anything more than my wedding ring for the last three months. So that’s progress. First trimester really has changed my perspective on ‘productive’.

It did end up being a good sign because now my hair is braided to match the Nordic style on my sweater dress. Sweater dress sounds very stylish, but really it’s now my only option because this is the week most of my pants stopped fitting. I suppose no one else needs to know that and I will own the most stylish ensemble I’ve worn this month.

Feed the Birds

Original post from April, 2017

For the first time, I was able to choose one of the songs that I would perform for my vocal juries, a brief performance critiqued by the entire Augustana music department.

Narrowing my selection, one of three pieces I’d perform, down to just one selection seemed impossible. Rogers and Hammerstein selections topped the list.  I love to sing in the minor key, the unexpected tension conveys profound feeling.

“On Fridays, after work, [Walt Disney would] often invite us into his office and we’d talk about things that were going on at the Studio. After a while, he’d wander to the north window, look out into the distance and just say, ‘Play it.’ And Dick would wander over to the piano and play ‘Feed the Birds’ for him. One time just as Dick was almost finished, under his breath, I heard Walt say, ‘Yep. That’s what it’s all about.’  The song was also played at his funeral in 1966.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in this, as the song’s main point is to take time to do small things for others. This song has a lot of meaning for me, given that this (senior year of nursing) has been a year of eye opening experiences. Through service learning opportunities at my school, I have been exposed to the homeless in temporary shelters, those who cannot afford lunch at the local food bank, and the mental health hospital. I know these experiences have permanently changed my outlook and priorities in life.

Master Draft

Settling in Space and time- draft from August 2016. Part of a series to post raw, unfinished musings that never grew up into posts. 

This post is fragmented thoughts and feelings I jotted down during the stretching transition out of my childhood home. 

gardening

settling

Space

My desk moved in last week. little by little, I have been organizing, moving, adjusting. A few knick knacks from home, but not many, due to space concerns.

I list tasks, beginning is hard. It’s easier to do a task once started. I’ve learned to make small commitments.

There’s always someone to visit with over coffee, a sibling’s scratchy crayon drawing to praise, or baby to entertain. The chore list is never-ending, and the laundry, dishes, and sweeping always need some attention.

No routine exist in my new surroundings. Every minute spent is deliberately decided, rather than home where I would usually travel along the familiar tracks of routine. Aside from regularly scheduled work, I’m not sure what to do. 1030 am, and I have taken a walk, practiced voice, made two dishes, washed two dishes.

Free time young orioles down by the river. I have not honestly had a time where I was disappointed with the results of something I was working on, and not looked back and realized that it was not a lack of skill that caused it. Other things took priority I appreciate having a schedule filled with activities, and next year I have more blocks of time open. This is a little unnerving to me, and I would like to rush to fill the hours. Without I have new respect for the value of time. Prioritizing.  I had to spend nearly two hours a week just organizing my coursework.

OVERHEARD – draft from August 2016

Dad: and if you get the hole dug, the sidewalk cleared and power washed, and the fenceposts put in before win tonight, then we can all go and get ice cream.

John to the boys: Run, you fools. (Only funny if you have seen LOTR)

Pride and Protocol

Original Draft from August 18, 2016. Part of a series to publish unfinished musings in a raw state.

Maria and I have been on a Jane Austen marathon this summer. Since may we have gone through Emma, Sense and Sensibility, two renditions of Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion.

This early 1800’s form the backdrop for these books, an era which is well known for long dresses and even longer winded manners. Of course, Maria and I enjoy contrasting these mannerisms with our own casual habits, and we enjoy watching snippets like this from our family’s favorite band of actors, Studio C.

Of course, Jane Austen was a critic of her time, not a proponent! This was also the same time period also was the home to the child labor, crime, pickpocketing Charles Dickens wrote of in novels like Oliver Twist. Americans may have reason to be proud for throwing off English fascination with manners.

However, I have noticed something interesting, in a favorite word on the street. Awkward. “That was awkward.” “I am so awkward.” “It was a very awkward meeting.”

Contrast that with the recent surge in interest in Downton Abbey and Jane Austen’s works. Just comic relief for the day? Or an indulgence of an unfulfilled desire for stronger roles and rules in day to day life?

Lens of Literature

My quest this July is to bring out unfinished thoughts and ramblings, stored in archives for months to years. This is to serve as tribute to the struggles through time as I tried to develop my voice and perspective. I reveal them now, raw, unpolished, and open. Now I let go of my past perfectionism that has restrained my ability to write and flourish. 

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words are uniquely human. No other creation has this, even in the advent of research on animal communication. Incredible scientific accomplishments such as space travel ‘thought of as left brain skills’, are all linked to the ability to think and record knowledge for others using language ‘right brain skills’.

Literature is one of the subjects is believed to be important enough to be taught in schools. American and world lit develops a way of looking at issues and understanding them more thoroughly through fictional characters. One example that comes to mind is the powerful impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

Studying literature has helped me understand people. It may be that a person brings to mind a literary character. Or maybe the . When working as a waitress, I found that I had the most success in connecting with people if I approached them as a story waiting to be told.

Literature defines my adult pursuit of God. In the first chapter of John’s Gospel, we are told that it was the ‘Word’ that existed first, before anything else. Teresa of Avila stated that spiritual growth was impossible without spiritual reading.

Goodbye, Monty

Little friend, I don’t think I’ll ever have a pet see me through more transitions than you did.

You joined me months before my nursing school graduation, rode in the back seat all the way to Kansas as my only companion on my travel nursing adventure. You were there when I was single and when we came home married. Your singing cheered reading students and interrupted proctored grad program exams. You will be missed.

Invitation to Life

I’d known that given the difficulty of finding clinical placements, I might be delayed at some point in my school. Still, I was disappointed when I learned I’d have to finish my last semester of NP school in the fall rather than this summer. I was set on the idea of graduating this August, only three months from now. Now instead I’ll wait until August 23 to start and finish at the beginning of December.

After I adjusted to the idea of taking the summer off, I’ve been enjoying my summer and using my time to take up activities and projects I’ve neglected for the past two years since I began my masters program August 2019.

I was so tired, and the rest is welcome. I’m burned out on studying and cramming. The break is allowing me to recenter my love for the topics I’m studying. I am reviewing my books and a board certification prep book slowly and steadily.

Weeknight Mediterranean

Baked falafel, greek yogurt, and veggies for a very quick meatless meal.

Phone quality pictures today, but I needed to record the day when I had come home from work, picked up groceries, made food, and cleaned up from supper within the first 30 minutes of being home.

This recipe is completely mine, the evolution (or rather de-evolution, as it became simpler with each preparation) of the first time I made true falafel.

Recipe: 1/2 onion, 2 cups chickpeas, water to blending consistency. Spiced with cumin, coriander, allspice, garlic, and salt. 1/2 cup flour and 1 egg added mixed in. I scooped out the batter and baked like cookies for 10-15 minutes at 350˚. A coating of spray oil on top is desired makes them closer to true fried falafel.

The toppings: cucumber, tomato, parsley, and greek yogurt on pita. other options: eggplant, olives, onions, whatever is on hand. This is the real reason I eat this sandwich…yum.