Thursday, May 28, 2015

God Bless the USA

This past Monday was Memorial Day. When most people think about Memorial Day, they think of sales and barbecues and days at the park. But I was raised in a military family. So Memorial Day to me means flags and red poppies and fields of tidy rows of white headstones. It means thoughts of gratitude for my country and the many people who have sacrificed to make the United States of America a land of so many freedoms. 

I go to the gym most days. It's a tiny, bare-bones kind of gym, but it fits my needs: cycling classes, a ladies workout room, and a daycare that my children LOVE. All for just $20/month. Works for me. Since I started going, I noticed many ladies of middle eastern dissent that regularly frequented the gym as well. Over the last year, I have grown to be good friends with some of these women. They are all Arabic, some from Iran, some from Iraq, and some from Serbia. They are all Muslim, although they have varying levels of devoutness. But they are all WONDERFUL women. 

As I was cycling and talking to one of these women the other day, she and I got onto the topic of how she met her husband. She explained to me that growing up in her country, she never felt safe. Her family would receive phone calls daily with death threats. She never knew if her father would come home from work. She always went to bed wondering if she would live to wake up in the morning. She had to keep her head down and never cause any trouble. Eventually, in her late teenage years, her family made the decisions to leave her homeland and escape to a neighboring country. There, they were allowed to experience a small degree more of freedom and she met her husband. But they were still not safe. Hateful phone calls continued and they decided that America would be the safest place for them. 

She and her husband and their entire extended families are now living here in the United States. She loves it here. When asked if she missed her country, she laughed. "How can you miss a place where you never felt like you could breathe? How can you miss a life where that life could end from hatred at any moment? No, America is go. Here, I am finally safe. I don't have to worry."

Here, we are safe. We really, truly are. All of these marvelous women that I have met and made friends with, they chose to leave their homes, the lands of their ancestors, and come to America because of the safety and freedoms it provides. Let us remember WHY America is how it is and let us PRESERVE those freedoms. 

I hope you all stop and stand still with your right hand across your heart when you hear the National Anthem. I hope you choose to recite the pledge of allegiance when given the opportunity. I hope you have a burning of gratitude when you see the flag waving in the sky. I hope you vote in elections. I hope you obey the laws of the land. I hope you allow others the freedoms that you enjoy. I hope you thank our service men when you see them. I hope you pray to God in gratitude for this blessed nation and ask for it's protection and continued freedom. 

Don't forget what we have here.

God bless the USA.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A new love.

Have you ever had pavlova?

Cuz you should.

It is heaven.

Easiest dessert ever to make and everyone thinks it is super fancy.

Especially when in the shape of a bunny : )

Hope you all had a very happy Easter!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Miracle of Easter

About a month ago, I was asked by a woman at my church to help her out during her lesson to the sunday school children, ranging from ages 3 to 12. She was having special "visitors" from the scriptures come and tell their story of meeting and knowing Jesus Christ. They kids would pick a picture of one of these people out of her pile and slide in under the door on their "time machine" and out would walk that person to visit them and tell their experience. She asked me if I would be Mary Magdalene. I was so excited! I got to dress up and everything! I prayed that I'd know what to say to these little kids. I knew the story of Mary Magdalene so well, but what should I share with these children in the 60 seconds I got to talk to them?

As I walked out of the "time machine" and into the room crowded with precious little children, I knew EXACTLY what I should say. I looked into their excited eyes and knew without a doubt that they were each loved by Jesus SO MUCH. I recounted the story of Mary Magdalene in the garden outside the empty tomb. I said that I was the first to see the risen Lord. I talked about how I had been so sad that Jesus was gone that I didn't even recognize him when he came to me. And then he spoke my name, MY NAME, Mary, and I knew him. I told them that Jesus knew all of their names, each and every one. That each one of them was VERY special in his eyes. That each one of them was loved and important, so much so that he died for them and rose again that we can all rise again some day. He loves them THAT MUCH.

It was short. It was simple. But my heart was filled to bursting as I looked at these wonderful, sweet, precious children and told them that they were something truly special and that Jesus knew it.

I am so grateful for Easter. Because of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the World, death has no sting, the grave has no victory. We know that there is a purpose to this life and that life continues after we pass on and leave our mortal body. We know that we will live again, that our imperfect bodies will become whole and glorious. We know that those that we love that are taken from us are only taken momentarily, and we will be reunited again in incomprehensible joy. We know that we are important, so very very important, to our creator and god, and that we are loved with a love so immense that we cannot even begin to fathom it. How great the goodness of our God, that he would send his Only Begotten Son, to atone for our sins and to die on the cross and to take up life again so that we too can have hope of a beautiful and glorious eternity, pain-free, illness-free, strife-free. What marvelous hope has been given to us all. We need not fear, only believe.

If you have a moment, please listen to this beautiful sermon on Jesus Christ and his Resurrection.
D. Todd Christofferson: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

May you all have a beautiful, joyful Easter!

Holidays away

I LOVE holidays. They are just so fun. So much energy. So many smiles. So much tasty food. And PLENTY of excuses for family time.

This weekend is Easter. Right now my mother, father, brother, sisters, and all the grandkiddos are running around having the Easter egg hunt to beat all egg hunts. Last year my mom had 500 eggs! 500! They are eating a marvelous breakfast together and opening their baskets. I know my mom is eating Peeps, my sister and brother Reese's eggs, my dad whatever chocolate might be found. I can see how excited all the 4 grandkids there are with their baskets and as they race to grab as many eggs as they can. Who will get the most eggs this year? It is always an epic battle between my brother, my sister, and her rugby-playing husband. Last night they celebrated the Passover as my mother taught them the symbolism between Christ and the sacrificial lamb. Tonight they'll have their big Easter feast, starting with the pear bunny salad appetizer that my mom has made my entire life. Tomorrow is devoted to worship of our Savior and rejoicing in his resurrection.

And I am not there.

And it is hard.

If it were up to me, all my family would live on the same street, just like in Elder Perry's talk from conference (it made me cry. I missed my family so much!). I'd bake cookies every day for all grandkids. My older sister would teach us all about gardening to keep our yards looking beautiful. My little sister would be in charge of all things cute, like decorating and scrapbooking. Gramma's house would have the awesome toys, the tramp, the swing set, the pond. My big brother has the video and computer games, my little brother the amazing fantasy library collection. It would be perfect. We'd get together for Sunday dinners and holidays. We'd all be around for birthdays, blessings, and baptisms. I know all these fun little details about the nieces and nephews. We'd all be in each other's business and have little squabbles and it would be awesome : )

As I was moping this morning, my husband lovingly reminded me that what we get to celebrate out here is pretty awesome too. It is our first Easter celebrating as OUR little family. We have a son that is old enough now to understand what is going on get excited. He asks me to tell him about Jesus and the cross and the tomb multiple times every day. He is so excited that the Easter bunny is coming and he gets to have treats in his basket and find eggs. He is old enough to dye eggs and help me make birds nest cookies. We have a little girl who can crawl around and shake eggs and clap her hands and try to climb over her brother to get his candy. We have a big yard to hide eggs in. We have a YARD!

And because we don't have family to celebrate with, that means we get to invite friends over to be our honorary family for the festivities. Friends that maybe are missing their family too. If family were in town, we'd be tempted to forget to reach out, but instead, now we get to make memories a different, but still good, way.

And everything is still going to be awesome.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


When I first started working at Parkland Labor and Delivery, one of the seasoned nurses that had a locker across from mine in the dressing room said "You'll know you've made it as a delivery nurse when you have a baby named after you."

Well, about a year into my job, it happened.

I was taking care of a sweet laboring patient. She and her husband were refugees of a sort. Because of her husband's assistance to the United States Armed Forces in the Middle East, their family was no longer safe in their home country and had to flee under protection of the US military, ending up in Dallas, TX. This woman was nine months pregnant, far from home, family, friends, and everything familiar, having just escaped an attempt on her life. Understandably, she was terrified.

Her English was poor but her husband's was excellent. As I spoke with this couple, I learned about her previous delivery back in her home country. Her due date had come and gone with still no baby. Whatever people there help in the delivery of babies came to her and beat her to induce her labor, triggering contractions as a stress response. She had no medications available to help relieve her labor pains. During the delivery, she tore horribly, so badly that she needed major reconstructive surgery. Her surgical site got infected over and over again, required surgery after surgery. It took months, if not years to heal. She was traumatized.

And now I was going to a major part of her initial impression of America. I explained to her that we had special medicine that we could give her to gently induce her labor. I taught her about the magic of epidurals, that she need not feel pain during labor or delivery. I reassured her of the competence of our midwives, that she would have not only a safe and healthy experience in the hospital, but also a joyous one. And then I went out the door and prayed like crazy that everything would go perfectly for her.

And it did. A little pitocin and she was off to the races. Soon after her contractions started in earnest, we got her an amazing epidural. She progressed wonderfully and in no time was ready to push. She had the best midwife on the board and together we coached her through the whole delivery process. Her little girl came out smoothly and screaming with out any injury to mother or baby. She and her husband were crying from relief and I was too!

To express their gratitude for making such a previously horrible process into an incredible one, they named their little daughter Laura. They took a picture of me holding my namesake and showed me their happy post on the husband's facebook profile.

Coolest. Feeling. Ever.

And then, with my heart overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven who cares about the desperate plea of a delivery nurse, I went and offered up my prayer of thanks.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Then Sings My Soul"

The summer before I was married, I took off to do a couple internships while I was still single and my choices still only affected me. One of those involved working at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for ten weeks. We were assigned which floor we'd be working on. I was given Urology. I was NOT excited about it, and often saw lots of things that I wish I hadn't had too (suffice it to say, my experience there led me to become a Labor and Delivery nurse in the future. No more old men with plumbing issues!!). BUT there were some good experiences too.

One of those came as quite a surprise. During one of my shifts, an elderly lady was transferred to our floor as an overflow from the GI service. Her insides were riddled with cancer. She had tubes and drains coming out of everywhere. She looked so incredibly frail and uncomfortable. In fact, I KNOW she was uncomfortable. She made sure I didn't forget it by way of calling me into her room every 5 minutes or so to adjust a pillow or rearrange her legs. But my frequency of trips into her room allowed me to talk with her as well and get to know her. Turns out she was a really sweet and pleasant lady, just in a very distressing and honestly dire situation. One Sunday morning, towards the very end of my internship there, she buzzed me into her room. She was tired and hurting and so down from her troubles. She asked me to sing a song for her, stating that she couldn't remember the words or how the tune went, but needed to hear it to comfort her troubled heart. As she described the song to me, one about Jesus and trees and mountains, I realized she was referring to "How Great Thou Art". Turns out I know that one ; ) All four verses. I sang them to her.

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

It was such a sweet tender experience for me to watch that dear, sick woman just close her eyes and lay her head back and worship Might God. I witnessed the tears streaming down her face and could feel her love for Jesus Christ and her need for his peace. I felt truly blessed and humbled to have been able to witness and participate in some way to ease her discomfort.

When I was leaving the Clinic at the end of my internship a few days latter, she gave me her address and asked for me to write to her. She'd be being discharged to live at home for a little while longer instead of at the hospital. We wrote back and forth a couple of times until the responses stopped and I knew she was now singing in heavenly choirs, freed from earthly cares and pain. 

Being a nurse is pretty awesome, huh? Better than awesome ; )

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yellow Cheese

My first actual nursing-related job was as a CNA in a nursing home. I think everyone should work at some point as a CNA in a nursing home. You learn so many important lessons in that role, lessons of gentleness, patience, charity. It is tricky to help an individual retain even an ounce of dignity as you change their dirty diaper, shower them, pull up their pants, comb their hair, put in their dentures, and spoon feed them pureed meat mystery. You CAN'T do all that stuff without your heart softening a bit. There were patients that drove me CRAZY at times but as I served them, I couldn't help but love them. You got to know so much about them as you assisted them throughout the day and in and out of months.

I still remember all of my patients. I remember Mrs. Gardner with the terrible shingles. She hurt SO badly yet always smiled at me and asked me about my love life while I messaged her poor back. Mr. Basker was left partially paralyzed from a stroke but was VERY particular about what he'd let you help him with. If you tried to brush his hair or button his shirt he'd HOLLER! Flora was as angelic a woman as I could ever imagine. She no longer talked, I suppose she couldn't, but her beautiful blue years shined so brightly and her hair was a gorgeous fluffy white, silky soft halo. To thank me for my assistance, she'd reach up her small, thin, wrinkled hand and brush my cheek. I spent all my free time making Rosemary comfortable. She must have been less than fifty but was already confined to bed without anyone to assist do to Multiple Sclerosis. Having a dear friend of mine also diagnosed with MS, I was drawn to her room to help in whatever way possible, praying that some day, if my cherished friend also found herself in a situation like Rosemary's that she'd have someone like me to help her.

My very favorite patient was Genevieve. She was spunky and cute. With her salt and pepper hair and owl rimmed glasses and cat socks and hot pink slippers, I couldn't help but smile every time I saw her. She would shuffle down the hallway in her wheelchair, forgetting that she could use her hands to push her, instead just scoot along by brushing her barely-touching feet along the floor. She would often do laps around the care center after mealtime or activities, not for the exercise but because she couldn't remember where her room was or even what she'd been doing, so she just kept going in circles until I'd find her and give her a lift. And she LOVED cheddar cheese. Every day, as I brought around the snack cart, I knew to save her out a little packaged cheddar cheese. Without fail, when asked what she'd like for a snack, she'd forgo the Oreos and pudding and Ritz Bits, asking instead for the "yellow cheese". "I just love that so much. It is my absolute favorite, you know!" Yes, I knew.

Time went by and eventually I had to leave my job. I skipped town for 3 months and returned married and licensed as an LPN. My previous place of work didn't need LPNs so I found work elsewhere. Months went by and one day, as I was passing out medications, I saw a familiar figure turn the corner of the hallway and start scooting toward me. It was Genevieve. Supposedly, her family had removed her from the previous facility after a battle with the owners and had relocated to this new one. I was SO happy. I ran up to the snack cart, grabbed out a cheddar cheese, and hurried down the hall to give it to her along with a hug. She looked up at me with a smile and said "Thanks, Lovey! Yellow cheese is my favorite!" She didn't recognize me, just like she never had recognized me day to day before, but I recognized her and was filled with joy. I never saw her after that. She passed away before my next shift.

The joy I felt on seeing her reminded me of how I imagine that heaven will be, only it will be so much better. Eventually, we'll all see each other again, all those wonderful, dear people that we love yet have been separated from for such a long time, but this time we will be made perfect. Someday, I will see Genevieve again. Her mind and body with be new and whole and well, but her soul, her beautiful soul, with be the same, and I will recognize her and rejoice with her.