Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Double Holiday Miles and Good Advice

Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, together. What a perfect day, warm, sunny, the massive white peaks of Longs on the west horizon, great day for a run, listening to the geese arriving home for the winter in giant V formations across the sky. I did 7 miles, plus a few walks with the girls. Not many miles today, saving it up for the next few days, when I'll want to be out there in the quiet.

The cottonwoods are just as impressive bare as they are with their leaves.

Early Thanksgiving morning I will go over to Windsor and help with registration and packet pickup for the Pelican Lakes 5K, and after that I might run the race. Probably will, but not 100% sure.

I figure I will get plenty of short runs in between cooking spells all day Thursday. That's the plan- put something in the oven, go for a run, come back and check on it, go for another run.

I always love running around the holidays. There's less traffic and the streets are quiet. Except for Black Friday. Ugh. "Corporate Greed Friday". I try not to spend any money on Black Friday and try not to drive anywhere, either. I like to run, far away from the busy sections of town where shoppers might be driving.

Today I stopped by the liquor store, something I haven't done since before I stopped working at the hospital. I have not even wanted beer or anything since I quit work. Amazing. I thought I'd get some beer in case we wanted some on Thanksgiving while the liquor stores are closed.

I found this new organic lager by New Belgium, called California Route- they collaborated with Patagonia- speaking of corporations- and produced this citrusy hoppy beer that is pretty good for a lager, in a can. It reminds me of a tamed-down version of Dale's Pale Ale. Very tame. But I like it. And they are donating proceeds to flood relief in Colorado after our September flood.

So I partied with the girls this afternoon, and Iris went crazy over the new beer. She had to check it out, she protested not being able to taste it and then when I finally let her smell it, she didn't want it. She doesn't like hoppy beers, she's more of a dark, chocolatey stout, porter or dark ale drinker.

Isabelle doesn't like beer all that much. She prefers to hang out with her mom and watch Iris throw a temper tantrum.

It's Hanukkah, and I don't do Hanukkah. We don't do Black Friday. I don't do Christmas, and Dennis barely does. I'm not into religious holidays, and certainly not the spending and consumption that goes with them. I do Solstice, and New Years. They are running holidays for me. Might as well be my religion.

But speaking of religion...

while I'm on it, what the Pope said.

I like this Pope. I wish people would listen to him. He has some good messages that really ought to be listened to by more than just Catholics. Because there are a lot of people who really need to hear this message. I know it will go in one ear and out the other for those people with no social conscience.

Times like these make me extra thankful that I never had kids because I wouldn't want to try to raise them in this world the way things are, and I certainly wouldn't want to leave them in this world that my generation has screwed up so badly. At this point things are so screwed up that I don't think anything can fix us. Unless we drop a bomb on the whole planet and obliterate it and whatever life form is left starts over.

But I hope the kids like my niece and nephews, the so-called Millenials, will be different, and find a way to salvage their world after their greedy, shortsighted predecessors from my generation and the one after mine die off.

And speaking of religion, here's the best quote ever from the running legend himself, snagged this one from my Badwater buddy Chris Roman's Facebook page today.

"My advice is that you should use your brains more and train less."
- Yiannis Kouros

Might as well be the Pope speaking.

Happy Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or whatever you want it to be. Just be happy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: The Summit Seeker

I recently had the opportunity to review a book on ultrarunning. I'm not really sure what prompted the author to contact me and ask me to review it, but I'm glad she did. I wrote a shorter version of this post as a book review for my running column in our local paper, it will be published on December 8th.

I wanted to say more and the newspaper column only allows so many words. I also wanted to expand a little more on the places where her book took me, personally. So this version is a book review with my own personal commentary inserted here and there, on what it meant to me, and the memories her book brought back to me. Because it touched me a lot more than most books on running ever do.

There has been a mini-proliferation of books about ultramarathons and ultra athletes in recent years, mostly written by or about the fastest and most recognized names in the sport.

The Summit Seeker is different. Written by Vanessa, a young woman new to the sport, she describes a life experience that differs from many ultrarunners, who are often from middle-class backgrounds, have mainstream jobs and careers, generous disposable income, and fairly conventional lifestyles.

In running as well as other sports, much attention is paid to the statistics: the fastest and most competitive. Unless a person is a high-achieving athlete by these standards, it is rare to hear the human story of what drives them to become an ultrarunner. Those stories need to be told.

I think that people are afraid of telling their own stories. They are afraid to share their fears, mistakes, and rough spots. People want so badly to conform and fit in, because they see the pain inflicted upon those who don’t.

Then there are the ones who are always seeking, looking for what’s out there, to go beyond the fences and limits that don’t really exist. When they express themselves fearlessly, they can pay a price in going against the grain, but the beauty of a diamond in the rough is worth the price.

Vanessa tells her story of growing up with El Salvadorean immigrant parents, who crossed two borders with her to land in Toronto, where Vanessa grew up under conditions of economic and emotional poverty.

After losing her mother at age nine and growing up with a father who imposed his strict religious standards and expectations on her, she became a caretaker for her siblings, and had very little given to her in nurturance and support.

Her inner strength drove her to pursue means of escape whenever possible, her restlessness tempered by self-reliance. She made mistakes along the way, but gained wisdom and perspective in her physical transience, resulting in maturity that often comes later in life.

Her desire to run took her to the streets and cold lakeshores of Toronto until she ran a marathon and decided to break free. She left for San Diego, discovering a new social world among ultrarunners on the trails.

She eventually met her partner, Shacky, with whom she still lives in an RV along with their dog and cat. They travel the country and run as many trails as they can find. Along the way, Vanessa finds herself comfortable and at peace.

Ultrarunning is a sport that demands confidence, self-reliance and outrunning fear. While none of us are ever completely in control of our lives, Vanessa is in control of who she is. She experiences the anxiety of being new in the sport and exploring new distances, but enters them fearlessly, because she knows who she is. Grounded despite her nomadicism, she is determined to live life simply, being true to herself, and enjoy it without guilt, qualities that are rare.

Vanessa has the refreshing voice of a young woman expressing herself in a way that’s self-assured. She embraces the uncertainties of life and plows ahead anyway, she’s a great example to so many people who get sidetracked along the way by unimportant things: appearance, weight, competition, and what other people think.

Women often have a different experience when running ultras than men do. Despite so many changes in our cultural attitudes toward women, some things are still unchanged. Women are held to certain standards and expectations, which varies with many factors. Women are still told what they should and shouldn't do, or can and can't do. To resist means you have to exercise your strength and independence, which does not always gain approval.

I love that Vanessa explores places without fear. I did that from childhood and I can completely relate to going out in places where people would be freaked out by a woman being out there alone. I trust my sixth sense, too, and I don't let other people's fears hold me back.

As a kid I loved exploring the woods in Pennsylvania, and later, the desert and forests in Arizona, whenever I had the opportunity to go off by myself, or with other people who shared an appreciation of the outdoors. Even when I'd go backpacking with other people, once we got to our destination, I'd always go off exploring on my own.

When I started running ultras in my 20s, about the same age as Vanessa was, there were very few women running ultras. It was just something they didn’t do, didn't even think of, had never heard of, and/or didn’t have time for, with families, jobs, expectations.

If I wanted running partners, I had to run with the guys, or I ran alone. Usually I ran alone, and all these years later, I still do. I've been lucky over the years to make some great friends through ultrarunning, in the many hours of covering trails and roads you learn so much about each other.

It's a chance to spend time with a person, shared effort, shared company, shared scenery, and shared pain, experiences we rarely share with other people all at once, in any place in our lives. But I equally, if not more, love the solitude of running outdoors, alone, hearing the wind, seeing the landscape, and taking it all in, unadulterated by others' voices and perspectives.

Reading Vanessa's book, there were several times I found myself so emotionally moved by her words that I found myself crying, at the cruelty of her childhood: the dog that despite her best efforts as a child, got neglected, losing her mom at a young age, how her dad treated her, the hypocrisy of religion that she discovers, her intense restlessness and desire to escape.

My own similar, parallel experiences growing up, I believe, also led me to my own restlessness and desire to escape, and eventually, pushing my own physical limits, living in the back of my truck with my dog in the woods, my independence and the things I did that were far from the norm for women.

Vanessa describes life in her RV, and I remember the times of resisting the mainstream lifestyle, in my 20s moving to Crested Butte and waiting tables, running and mountain biking, living on as little as possible, trying to avoid "getting a life".

But when I finally caved and "got a life", I tried three different times to fit into the "life" and each time I ended up depressed, miserable, and frustrated. There is more to life than conforming. Growing up gifted with many talents it’s hard to find your place in the world. And if you are outspoken, people take it personally and they don’t take criticism well. I'm happy for Vanessa and the life she lives and speaks of, and what she has to say. I hope she lives it as long as she wants to, and keeps saying it.

As I read her book, I remembered some things lost in my memory, that I hadn't thought of in years, and my favorite experiences: an enchanted solo run for hours through a blizzard to the base of Paradise Divide in Crested Butte, the magical night sky in the Lean Horse 100, the stars reflecting along with bioluminescence in the water in the Sea of Cortez on a kayaking trip years ago. And the unmatched wonder of the Death Valley landscape.

The book is a glimpse inside her mind, a beautifully written personal tribute to ultrarunning and all that it means to her. It’s a gift to the sport, contributing her perspective and voice in a time where the voices of everyone but the fastest get lost. It’s written through her uncluttered view of life, from a person who has managed to keep the crazy world from obstructing her vision or blocking her path.

The Summit Seeker will inspire anyone, regardless of running experience. Vanessa prompts us to listen to the instincts of the human animals that we are. Like running barefoot on a trail, it restores our contact with the earth so we can remember what is most important, not necessarily the comforts, but the things that truly enrich our lives.

If you've read this far, then I'm hoping you're interested in reading the book, too. Guess what, there is an opportunity to get a free copy of The Summit Seeker, thanks to the generosity of Vanessa herself. I'm having a giveaway drawing here on this blog. All you have to do is write me at sherunnoftatgmaildotcom and let me know your name and email by December 10th and I will notify you if you are the winner. Please let me know in the e-mail if it's okay if I state your name on this blog. I won't give out your address or e-mail or any personal details, just your name.

If you win, I will write you to ask for your mailing address and you will get a book in the mail in a few weeks. Be patient, it's a small publisher. The book is also available on Amazon. You can also check out Vanessa's website.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I feel like I took a giant leap from injured runner to being on the comeback trail.

I had a serious motivation problem this morning, I could not get my butt out the door. I was intimidated by the combination of 20 degrees and gray skies.

It's one thing when the sun is shining, but when there's nothing to warm you up and there's a cold breeze from the north, as mild as it might be, I have a hard time getting out there.

By ten o'clock I'd checked my email, surfed Facebook, and done all the other things and made all the excuses that it's possible to use for procrastination. I knew if I didn't get out I'd be finishing late in the day and I wanted to get it done.

So I dragged my butt out, thinking I'd do 16 miles and ended up with just over 18, slower than snot, but I did it. I had no problem running or moving, it was just slow. My legs were tired and then I remembered I just started the weights this past week and I did squats yesterday.

What really blew me away was when I looked at my running log and figured out how many miles I ran this week: over 47 miles. I wasn't paying attention, didn't realize I got that many miles in. That's progress.

I froze my butt off out there. I dressed the same as I did the morning of 18 degrees and snow, but there was no sun and there was just enough wind to keep me in a constant state of freezing. The threshold for freezing my ass off was exactly the pace I was running. If I stopped or slowed down at all, I was screwed. So I kept moving.

I did stop halfway through at Pelican Marsh Natural Area and sat on a bench, ate a Lara bar, drank some water, and texted my friend Kathy to see if her daughter had her baby yet. Not yet.

A pretty uneventful run but I felt good about the steady pace and no issues.

I noticed something this week. Looking in the mirror I noticed the skin on my face looks different. There are wrinkles there, not sure when they appeared, but it's not from dry skin. The reason I was looking so closely at my face is because I got this HUGE zit on the side of my nose, looks like a new nose is growing there. My face rarely breaks out anymore but this is one lone gigantic mountainous explosion waiting to happen.

I just found it amusing, this big old zit and then I saw the tiny wrinkles in my cheeks, that you can't see unless you look super close. Gray hair, wrinkles, what the hell, it's bound to happen. I just happened to notice. I put extra sunscreen on my face before I went out today. Nothing else I want to do about it. No botox for this chick.

I've earned every one of my gray hairs and wrinkles, and I'm proud of them. I suppose the real test will be in this next year's racing, because I'm hoping that my menstrual cycle has completely stopped. At least I won't have to deal with the race day surprise anymore. The hot flashing has subsided quite a bit recently, and best of all, I have slept through the night almost every single night this past week, since I stopped working at the hospital. Imagine that.

This coming week is Thanksgiving, and I'll be volunteering at the Pelican Lakes 5K in Windsor, doing registration and race packets. I might run the 5K afterwards. Probably will. Lots of studying and writing this week on the agenda. It feels great to be here...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Woman Cave: Winter

Finally, our first taste of winter. I woke up this morning at 4:30 because I planned to meet Josh and go for a run at 6 am. It takes about 20 minutes to run to the spot where I was going to meet him. Nineteen degrees at 4:30 am, and snowing when I went outside to see if I was dressed adequately for the weather. There was a headwind from the north.

I put my Pearl Izumi wind gear on, a shirt, jacket and tights all with windproof panels, and my PI gloves, a few neck gaiters wrapped around my neck and ears, and my Badwater cap to keep the snow out of my eyes. I took off down the street and it wasn't too icy except in the driveways and intersections. I was dressed just right, never got too warm or too cold.

I ran east toward Timberline in the darkness but once I got out of my neighborhood it wasn't dark at all with the streetlights reflecting off the snow. The wind shifted a few times during the run and my face froze on different sides according to where we were going, but I met Josh and we did an out and back on the quiet streets. The snow was deep on the sidewalks where the plows came through but other than that it wasn't bad. We only had about two inches of snowfall at the time. Then I ran home to finish out nine miles, with a tailwind from the east.

At home I did another half hour on the bike and then did my weight workout. Then I went out to the woman cave and studied for a while.

At 11:30 I had an appointment with a massage therapist recommended to me by one of the people I know in the cancer community, I spent some time talking business with her and then got a LONG detox massage with hot stones, lying on top of a heated mat. It was heaven.

I came home and started drinking a lot of water, to flush out all the toxic junk floating around in my body after that. I started cooking some chili and hanging out with the Buffaloes, waiting for their dad to get home from work.

A nice, relaxing day.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

60K, Numbers, and Random Thoughts

I'm decompressing, de-stressing, detoxing.

Easing into the work of pursuing my business startup plans, I'm not putting pressure on myself to try to accomplish too much right now. There's plenty of time. I have some great ideas and it's fun to think, plan, and dream. I am starting regular workouts, is all, and making changes to the bad habits I've accumulated in recent months.

Sunday we went down to Boulder to see family and walk around aimlessly. It felt good, no agenda, no plans, no time frame. Monday I went to the pool, ran and swam, did my weight workout, and went for an easy run at sunset. Last night I went out and met a former coworker at Cafe Vino. We had wine and delicious food, and a great talk about all sorts of healthcare-related topics. She is still stuck in the thick of things, but she is looking for a way out and I hope to be able to support her in that.

Today I'm running at the lakes with a friend, I might do three hours but not much more than that. The weather is changing, it's looking more like winter and we're supposed to get some snow later this week.

My motivation is coming back. I haven't decided on any races for next year yet, I think I'll sit back and watch the improvement over the next few months and see where things are. You're only as good as your last race. Speaking of that,

I'm ranked 47th in North America for the 24 hour distance in 2013 and 232nd in the world. Not very impressive. My performance was age graded and ranked me 13th in my age group, women 45-49 for North America. Not very impressive either. That was my 99 mile performance in the frozen wind tunnel of Cleveland last spring. I know I can do so much better. I love 24 hours and that's what I'm going to focus on when I get my strength back.

And 60K, that might be my total weekly mileage this week. But 60K is also what I saw when I bravely jumped on the scale on Sunday. 60 kilograms. That's what I weigh. And I can feel every gram, every ounce, every pound, every kilo.

I know I can drop what I've gained, the additional 9 pounds since April, and more. I'm changing the habits I've gotten into over the past 6 or 7 months, zoning out in front of the computer, eating more than I need to, eating things I shouldn't eat when I'm not active enough, and drinking beer. Discarding the negative energy and stress will go a long way toward helping that.

I'm so lucky to have my beautiful Buffaloes to keep me going through all the rough times. We are a team. We even have streets named after us. It's time to go for a walk...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Final Purge...

I'm on the other side!

My last day was a weird day, almost too typical and uneventful. It was quiet at work. I even got to go home early.

It started out with a beautiful sunrise...

I started the day by stopping up in ICU and saying goodbye and doing a little happy dance to a friend who was finishing his shift up there and a few other nurses I know who are up there. Then I went down to Oncology and clocked in and started my day by doing a happy dance with my coworkers. Not enough time for twerking before the patients arrived, damn...

During the day I made one last trip down to the blood bank and chose my emotion on the emotion magnet one last time. This magnet has been on the counter since before I ever started there, and the first time I ever went downstairs to the blood bank as a new grad I noticed this thing, and I've always picked out my emotion on it every time.

I can't even tell you how much this little magnet meant to me over the past seven years, being able to get away from the patient floor environment for a little while and stop, breathe, and acknowledge how I was feeling at the moment. It was the most therapeutic item in the entire hospital!

It's funny the little things you notice and hang onto.

And of course I didn't bring lunch so it was one final trip down to the cafeteria for cafeteria glop...
It actually looks a lot better than it tasted.

Today was with good co-workers again, no bullshit. I got through about 7 patients by 2 pm, I said goodbye to about half of them, the ones I knew. I said goodbye to a few more people I have worked with over the past few years. And then my last patient of the day didn't show, and there wasn't much else going on the rest of the day, so it was time to go.

It felt good, it felt right, it didn't feel emotional or disappointing in any way. I think I've processed much of that in the past few months since I made my decision to get out. And even this morning, the usual daily frustrations of using the computers which never seem to work efficiently, reminded me of how sick I am of that. How needless it is.

But it was funny, there was a feature on the employee website about the computers. They picked a few brownnosers, or maybe they just paid those people, which is more likely, to talk about how great EPIC is. Ha! We were rolling our eyes over that one. How do they always manage to paint everything in such an overly fake positive light?

Well I'm ready to leave the hypocrisy behind, the denial that is typical of abusers, those who can never acknowledge the very real problems that exist that are hurting people.

The only hitch, the only thing that stopped me momentarily in my tracks all day was when a patient heard I was leaving and then asked me if I was going to be working at the Cancer Center. I had to choke back the desire to tell what happened. The fantasy of being able to speak the truth:

Oh, the Cancer Center. You mean the one I promoted relentlessly and was a cheerleader for, and raised money and spoke to groups and volunteered my time at work and in the community to support for 5 years? The same one that I spent my time attending cancer support groups for and listening to community members every week for 2 years so I could figure out what the needs of people in the community were for the purpose of developing programs they would benefit from?

The same Cancer Center that when it came time to work on the real substance of the services that would be provided to the actual people who needed it, that I was not even allowed to be involved with, not told about any meetings, not even allowed a toe hold in the door?

The same Cancer Center where the person running the show wouldn't even tell me to my face that she didn't want to include me in any of the discussions about programming or planning or survivorship pilot programs, so she avoided me until I reminded her enough times that I was waiting for a response, and only then did she send someone else to tell me, "We already have enough people involved" and then avoided me the rest of the time I worked there and never said another word to me in the year that ensued, through the day I left?

Is THAT the Cancer Center of which you speak?

But instead I just said, "No. I'm going off on my own."

Small potatoes, those people are, in the big picture. I am glad to be leaving. I don't want to inhabit the same windowless, limited cardboard box that they feel safe and secure in.

Well I'm out, I'm done, and aside from a few celebrations over the next few days, I am ready to take my life back and move forward. I've been waiting long enough, serving my extended 30 day-plus sentence in the corporate jail.

I'm planning a detox run this week, not long enough, of course, because my body will only let me go so far. I'm also getting a massage. Yes, I am done.

'Nuff said.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cheerleaders Only

I have a feeling that on Saturday at 7:30 pm I will feel like somebody shot me out of a cannon...

I am so ready to pursue my life again! It feels like the greatest gift ever, freedom!

But I have to comment on some things that are bugging me. I've allowed myself this time, until I regain my life, to blow off steam and express my anger and frustration as it surfaces. After all, aren't those human emotions? Don't human beings feel those things from time to time, especially when they've been SHIT UPON by other members of the species.

It is not healthy to hold feelings in. It is better to express them honestly. My chosen medium is by writing. I have expressed a few of my emotions out loud but somehow they came back at me via stab wounds in my back. And they were also subject to selective hearing.

I never was a cheerleader, never carried pom-poms. Couldn't do a straight cartwheel to save my life, either. I never was a girly girl either. I never fit the gender police's preferred image of a girl. Or a woman, either, when I grew up. I'm a person. Just like other people are. I believe that most persons are also human beings. At least that's what I assumed until I joined the working world.

I work my very last shift tomorrow, and it looks like I will work with fantastic people, coworkers I adore, patients I will miss. But I will not miss the cheerleaders club.

When I think about my workplace, with the exception of the majority of my coworkers, I imagine they are ready to get rid of me, too. No one in the chain of command above me said even so much as a goodbye this week. There are also a very small number of people (two to be exact) I've worked with in the past who have not bothered to answer my repeated attempts to contact them. People who claim to be caring individuals who work with many patients with serious illness, in both traditional and nontraditional health care roles. Won't even give me the time of day.

People are really afraid because I said what they think, what they wish they had the courage to say. But they are afraid. There is a pervasive atmosphere of fear.

If you disagree with ANYTHING, you have a negative attitude. Cheerleaders ONLY.

Really, I don't know why and probably never will know why the powers that be decided to shut me out of any discussion, planning or pilot programs for the very program for which I had promoted, volunteered my time, and fundraised for 5 years. Because they wouldn't even speak to me to my face. They sent a messenger to tell me they already had enough people. And this was over a year ago, before my attitude took a slide downhill into hell.

And then they avoided me for the remaining time, actual physical avoidance, despite my multiple attempts to let them know about my interest, not to mention my background, skills, and qualifications of which they were already aware from Day One.

I think it is because they only feel comfortable with a very small, select, hand-picked group of people who won't color outside the lines. Because it seems like for every project, the same people are involved. On Day One, I must have scared the shit out of some REALLY insecure person. AGAIN.

I can't help being who I am. But I shouldn't have to suppress it either. And there is a line, and if you cross that line with me, I'm not going to like it. And I'm going to say so.

Today I had lunch with a colleague who is a nurse practitioner. She brought a signed copy of Nursing Against The Odds with her. She had lunch with Suzanne Gordon, the author, at a recent conference. When she brought the book and asked me if I'd read it, I almost started to laugh.

Laughter is probably not the appropriate emotion. It would have been quite sarcastic and I suppressed it. I actually bought the book years ago, when I was a new nurse. I started reading it and it was so depressing that I had to stop reading it because I was new to the profession and it was painful to read. But after seven years of nursing I see that in the time since 2005 when the book was written, not much has changed.

I think it is very interesting what she wrote back then about Magnet, Gordon predicted that Magnet might not survive in an atmosphere of further cost cutting, and she is right. Magnet is weakening, to the point of obsolescence. No one is willing to pay for the things that Magnet requires. But then it seems like Magnet is also willing to look the other way.

Meanwhile in Arizona, Amanda is still fighting the Board of Nursing. Amanda is going through a living hell with those sick @#$%*! at the Arizona BON.

Spies, flies, and lies. Spying on people with social media, tattletales, people who listen in on conversations, people who twist reality so it fits their agenda. Then they try to shame her. Get real people. What business do they have being on the Board of Nursing, in their relentless pursuit of Amanda's license?

This is the reality of nursing folks. Nurses have no protections. If they are lucky enough to have unions, they might have minimal workplace protections, but beyond that, nurses kill one another off. The State Nursing Organizations (ANA disciples) favor management. The Board of Nursing is not there to protect nurses, it claims to be about protecting the public. Workplaces are run by companies with only the bottom line in mind. Nurses are revered only by people who have no idea what kind of slave-like conditions they are subjected to.

Nurses turn against each other by the pressure, lack of control, and hard labor they endure. Bound by their licenses, they try desperately to uphold their commitment to the patients they serve, when the organizations they work for do everything to work against them.

Not to turn the conversation back to me, because Amanda's story stands out in all it's horrifying detail. But her story reminds me, sickly, of the bullshit I experienced when a certain person tried to intimidate me over something I wrote. People with God complexes try to blow smoke and you just want to walk out of the room, because my reaction was, can we have an adult conversation here? If you're so concerned about propriety and behavior standards, then why don't you live up to them yourself?

And then we have this...

This is what mainstream nursing has become. And it is a sad fact that it will go on and continue to get worse until enough nurses are willing to put a stop to it.

I refuse to be a cheerleader. I will not shill for ANYBODY's substandard treatment of human beings in what is supposed to be a caring profession.

Which is why, once I get out of this phase of nursing, I intend to do something meaningful to support nurses who are going through similar hell, in order to help them regain their well-being in a safe atmosphere, where they can heal and move forward with their lives.

But first, I have to heal myself. Another 24 hours or so and I will truly begin...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One More...

Fort Collins beer of the day. Deceit.
Funkwerks Brewery.

Also the word of the day.

The words not said are always so much louder.

I just love corporate adminspeak, words like "leadership".

Don't strain yourself. I know "hi" is a stretch. Simple things are so hard to remember...

The real people who matter said real good-byes.

One more shift.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Last Great Work Hangover...

Some days are better than others. Sunday morning on the quiet streets, on my way to work, I passed this lake.

I can hardly believe I am through three out of my last 5 shifts at work. This weekend I worked with all good nurses, and nice people. One of our long time patients, who is seriously ill and wheelchair-bound, made a special trip over to the hospital just to bring a blanket that he had made for me. I was so touched, I just about lost it...

I've started saying good-bye to a lot of people all over the hospital, people I've worked with for the past seven years. I'd say shock, surprise, and envy are the most frequent reactions I get when I tell people. Initial surprise, but after a moment they are not so surprised. I tell them what I'm doing, and I think in most cases, that says it all. They understand why, without even having to explain.

Monday was extremely rough in the morning, I could not get going. I made plans to do a lot of things but by 10:30 am I hadn't done anything except stare into space, so I decided it is useless to try to get anything productive done this week. I just need to get through the end of this last week of work and then I can rest and get my life back.

Yesterday I took Isabelle to the vet, she's been moving slowly and seems to be having more trouble with her arthritis. She's doing quite well for a 12 1/2 year old dog but I want her to stay more active. She has some arthritic changes to her knees. Some days are better than others. We're starting her on an anti-inflammatory to see how she does. I've avoided using drugs until now but I think she needs a little more help. Iris, on the other hand, still acts like a puppy.

I had a great conversation on the phone with a nurse colleague in another state last night. We are working, a group of us, in several states, to roll out a project that will be a step in the direction of better support for nurses. I'm going to be moving out of traditional nursing but that will in no way diminish my desire to support nurses. More about that later.

Today it's cold outside but the sun is starting to peek through the fog. My energy levels are still very low, but I understand what that's about. Not much longer. I'm going for a walk today with a fellow writer and artist. Looking forward to that very much.

Tomorrow is my second-to-last shift. More good-byes, more emotions. The hurt and anger are dissipating. Some days are better than others. I'm getting there. Things will be better, very soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Morning Fury

I woke up at 2 am, the usual time that I seem to start sweating and throw the covers off. But this morning I could not get back to sleep. My mind was cranking along with the gut-ripping dread of going back to work today.

I kept going over in my mind the thoughts from my talk yesterday with a former coworker who is also getting out of nursing, and watching the tears spill down her cheeks as she described how hurt she was by her coworkers in her current job who backstabbed her, lazy nurses who would sit at the desk and gossip, complaining about my friend taking too much time with her patients.

I am sad that it's not about giving good patient care. It's about who talks to whom and what they say and who believes it. It's about how a gang of people can bully their way into someone's life, health, and total existence and damage or ruin their livelihood. My friend is an excellent nurse, far better than the other nurses she worked with. That's what happens if you stand out, if you're praised by the patients, if you insist on being thorough and conscientious.

By 4:30 am I wasn't sleeping and I decided to get up and run. I have to be at work at 8:00. I made coffee and got my butt out the door by 5:15 and ran for an hour in the dark streets. As I was running through one neighborhood, I was in an absolute fury, venting out loud to no one in the dark. It occurred to me that if someone heard me they'd probably call the police and think I was off my meds...

I've had half a dozen conversations with other nurses in the past week since I got back from Arizona and keep hearing similar things, about the things that have been done to them, about the things that were the final straw before they quit, and the things people said about them: calling them lazy because they can't get their call lights (because they were taking time in a room with another patient) and other people have to answer them, can't multitask, spends too much time in the patient rooms.

Yesterday as I listened to my friend talk about the suffering she witnessed in the patients and their families, and how she felt at a recent patient memorial, and why she does the things she does in her nursing practice because she truly cares about those patients, it makes me wonder, is there any humanity left out there?

How do people live with themselves? How did we get to this point where we care so little about people?

I'm absolutely dreading the day, and I know I'll be wiped out by the end of it, but here goes...the first of my last 5 shifts as a nurse in the corporate world, I hope with all my heart...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Post About Running...

This morning thankfully we got that extra hour after turning the clocks back. I decided to do something out of the ordinary...get up and run!

At 8:00 the Fort Collins Running Club Tortoise & Hare series had a 5K at a park near my house. I'd run into Nick Clark a couple of times at the grocery store this past week, and he reminded me of it. No excuses, he said.

I woke up at 6:45 after about 10 hours of sleep, and I knew there really was no excuse. I pulled my running clothes on, drank my coffee, and got my butt out the door. Now I know I can move that early in the morning. I set a precedent.
I went over and found a huge gathering of people, looked like there were close to 100 runners. I saw several long time friends from the club and it felt so good to be outside and around them again. There is life out there!
I had about 3 minutes to warm up before my start, the runs are held as a time-handicap events so I got going pretty fast without too much of a warmup. I started out easy. I was totally surprised when I hit the one mile mark in 8:39. My next two mile splits were 8:04 and 8:07, and I ended up finishing in 25:42, not bad for a flabby old lady who has been doing next to nothing for the past 4 months.

I fully expected to run 9 minute miles at an effort. So this was a pleasant surprise, even though last spring I was a minute per mile faster!

The other day I also got an email from my friend Brian Wieck, he's the RD for the Pemberton Trail 50K in February. I thought that would be a good first comeback ultra.

I won't be running fast, but it will get me back into things. So as soon as I know I'm on the healing track, hopefully later this month, I'll be signing up for that.

I also ran into Celeste and Scott who put on the Brewery Tour in February, and this year it will be February 15th. Can't miss that!

I'm so glad I won't have to work that new boss is so great, she doesn't make me do ANY weekends unless I want to. She supervises me from the couch. The only thing I have to do is take her for runs and walks. She's not into micromanaging unless there's food involved.

After the 5K I went home and ate some food, then changed into dry clothes, and went out for a two hour run. I felt a little tired. It's been over a month since my last 14 mile run. I got a total of 14.4 today with the 5K, and 36+ miles for the week, my highest since July.

Not a peep out of the hamstring. I will wait a few days to see if there is any flare up from pushing the pace, but as of now it feels fine.

When I was on my run today I saw two people I know and stopped to talk, Wheaties Boy's mother-in-law Faustine was out for a long walk, so we talked for a few minutes. And then I saw my buddy Dan, who was on my Badwater crew in 2011. He was walking his dog out in the field near the golf course, next to Power Trail. I yelled out to him, and we talked for a good 20 minutes.

It feels like the sky got bigger and the days got brighter. I can see the light, just gotta make it through this final stretch and once I recover from that, life will be all mine again.

I'm Tired of It. Let's Start Fixing It: A Rant and Call to Action.

I've done my share of bitching about health care and nursing. I am getting tired of it. The nursing profession needs a total overhaul. And there needs to be a solution. I don't necessarily have the answers, or any good ones, but I know where I'd like to start, so I'll offer a few suggestions here and maybe it will light a spark, if not a fire, under someone. I'm already on fire but I can't do it alone.

So what CAN we do about it?

We need to change the big money in politics, that will be the only thing that really changes things in the direction of the common good.

But barring that, the nursing profession needs an organization that is comprised of direct patient care nurses, free from the corruption of the executive, administrative and too-high-in-higher-education classes that taint the entire system.

Like that's really going to happen anytime soon? Shya...

Nursing needs representation and advocacy from a group that backs them with financial and legal resources, given the reality of the current political climate. Here are a few ideas. They're not anything new, plenty of other people have suggested many of these things. But there's been little momentum. These all have the potential to be fleshed out, they are projects for anyone willing and able to take them on.

Unfortunately, money seems to be the only thing that makes these big guns sit up and take notice, so we have to start figuring out ways to hit them in the wallet.

Patients don't have a lot of choice in going to different hospitals under their insurance plans. But if they see something they don't like, they can complain to their insurance companies, to Boards of hospitals, to consumer advocacy groups, their local newspapers (which doesn't always work if the hospital is a big advertiser), they can talk to anyone who will listen.

Social media is a powerful network. If people see things they don't like when they visit the hospital, such as nurses being too busy to really care for them, then they can complain to management, but what works even better? Post something on the hospital's Facebook page. Tweet it. The hospital isn't going to want visible complaints in the public domain. It's embarrassing.

People need to flex their consumer muscles. It takes a grassroots effort, people talking to each other on the street. Consumer advocacy groups can help with this. If there isn't a consumer advocacy group to help with this, then perhaps one needs to be started.

A grassroots organization would ideally be free from the influence of those who are only in it to enrich and benefit themselves, such as health care executives, and the people high up in higher ed, such as university administrators. We need to stop serving their money and ego interests. They serve on public boards to build their resumes from ceiling to floor, in search of ever higher paying jobs with perks. They are bought by the industries that stand to benefit, the bankers and textbook manufacturers who are lobbying the state legislators and Congress to win favor for their "products".

Remember the sticker shock you were in when you lined up to buy your books in the university bookstore, as we did when I was in college, before the age of the Internet? Same thing now, but those books, software, and other products are bought online. Still expensive as hell. Someone is making a profit off of students. Student loan companies and textbook companies...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-education. I think it's crucial to the future of nursing. But nurses need to be able to use their education to benefit the patients, and to enable their own professional growth in ways that benefit patients, the profession, and nurses themselves, not to inflate some artificial construct designed by self-interested administrators for the purpose of marketing for profit to line their own pockets.

Not to allow some university president to make a huge salary while delivering little to no educational, financial, or career benefit to the student for the exorbitant cost of a degree that puts them in mortgage-level debt before they even have their first job.

We need to disband the ANA and it's Magnet subsidiary, they do nothing except serve themselves. Read their statement of purpose, it is vague... they claim to be at the forefront of health care reform, yet what are they doing for working nurses? They don't even serve all nurses, as they claim. They do little to protect nurses from their big corporate employers taking advantage of them with incrementally unsafe staffing levels, for example.

They are basically using extortion to force nurses to get degrees that they might not even need, threatening them with losing their jobs. Why should a nurse with a bachelor's degree in another discipline be forced to get a BSN? Aren't there just a few courses they could take to make up the difference?

Furthermore, nursing schools keep nursing students in the dark, they show them very few examples of the wide variety of jobs nurses will be qualified to do once they graduate and get a few years of patient care experience. They prevent students from doing clinical rotations in areas like ambulatory care or with nursing entrepreneurs, areas that are the future of health care. Instead, they worry about how many Foley catheters the students can place, learning sterile technique, or starting IVs. All of which nurses will learn much more readily on the job, as needed.

Higher ed has devised some excuses for why it's necessary to take more than just a few classes to "measure up". Does experience count for anything? Is this evidence-based practice? Where is the evidence that a few classes would bring a bachelor's degree-holding experienced nurse up to speed instead of forcing them to spend gazillions of dollars on school for which they are not even reimbursed or compensated?

How can you make the argument that a nurse needs a BSN when you're giving her or him such a busy patient load that all they get to do is rush through assessments, pass meds and chart. If they even have time for that. When all else fails the nurse is forced to do the documentation above all to protect their license and their employer, even if she or he didn't have time to do anything to help a patient.

And if anything goes wrong the employer is going to blame the nurse. You tell me a BSN is going to make a difference under those conditions? Nurses don't even have time to THINK. There isn't a real need for higher education if you're forcing them to function like robots. Nurses get more education so they can get OUT of patient care. Why? Because those 12 hour shifts and running your ass off day after day multitasking like a maniac is EXHAUSTING. Once they cross over to the "dark side" of management, those BSNs and MSNs do little for direct patient care.

Most organizations and Boards of Nursing are made up of the same people, the executives, administrative types, from higher ed or corporate industry. Get rid of these influences on the nursing profession and replace them with real, hard working advocates for real, hard working nurses.

We need to get away from the profit-centered secret mission of these health care institutions. Everyone knows they are in it for the profit, but they will swear on their gold-plated executive suite graves that they are for patients, customer service, health care, and safety. We ALL know that is BULL.

NAASA is an organization that is the brainchild of Amanda Trujillo, it has chapters in several states and membership is free. It's grassroots. This is where we need to be directing our efforts, to take back the profession before it is destroyed and the human-focused art of nursing is lost.

It might not be THE answer, but it is a start. Until grassroots organizations like this one become large enough to exert influence and have a voice, they won't be very effective. But one thing is for sure: the corporate world is scared. They don't like dissent, they don't like anything that calls them on the carpet. Hell, even little old me, I managed to scare the pants off a few people before I left my job. I wasn't even trying to. All I did was point out what I saw. I said some words.

When middle and upper management of these hospitals have the guts to speak to our faces and tell us the truth about why they blew off the most qualified, creative candidate for a project or job in favor of an established yes man,

when nurse managers admit their collusion in encouraging coworkers to backstab each other,

when administrators and management actually fund and complete projects that benefit patient and workplace safety when JCAHO isn't looking,

when executives have the cojones to admit that it's all about them, their profits and bonuses, their ability to double dip when they get fired by getting a severance package from the old place and starting a new overpaid corporate job all at once, and getting to keep the status quo of their gold-plated lifestyles, not even feeling a dent in their lifestyle or budget, while the institution is cutting direct patient caregivers left and right,

when they can at least admit the truth about those things...

Well, that is never going to happen unless enough people point it out, verbalize it, make noise, and stomp their feet until the earth shakes.

And that is precisely what a grassroots movement is going to have to do before it can make any forward progress. We need to stomp our feet, shake the earth, raise a few points on the Richter scale. We need to shine light on the greed, waste and incompetence that keeps us as slaves to the corporate healthcare machine.

People already know it, but they haven't been adequately motivated to do anything about it. They need to find their voices, overcome their fears, and realize that things are only going to get worse until we do something about it. How uncomfortable do you want to be? How uncomfortable are you willing to be before you do something?

The system has screwed the people in so many ways, aren't you tired of it yet? Do you enjoy being taken advantage of? Do you enjoy working yourself dead?

If you do, then go right ahead and keep your head buried in the sand, wake up and see your reflection in the mirror and be so proud of what you have accomplished for your fellow human beings today: setting them back just a little further, enabling the corporate assault culture that wages physical and psychological warfare against those who work in the trenches, and ultimately, the patients.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful for November

I bet you thought I was floating around in the muck at the bottom of the Arizona Canal. Wrong! I'm back! Somehow I managed to evade Sheriff Joe and his helicopters, so I didn't end up in the pink underwear-clad chain gang.

Happy November. I got home the other night after a quiet, fast flight back from Phoenix. I met some fellow ultrarunners from Washington in the airport so that helped pass the time. They were down for the Javelina Jundred, on the Pemberton Trail, my old training route. I also heard from my friend Brian who puts on the Pemberton trail 50K in February each year, and he reminded me to sign up. That sounds like a good first ultra to start with. It's only three months away but I'm pretty sure 50K won't be a problem by then. It won't be fast but it will be a start.

It's still beautiful weather here, the leaves are mostly off the trees now but there is still a lot of color everywhere.

This morning I made it over to the pool but I was exhausted. from the moment I started running in the deep water, my arms felt tired, and I was having a hard time keeping my momentum going, I couldn't stay focused. I was just plain tired. I got out after 30 minutes and started swimming, and the same thing, I bagged it after 100 meters and decided to go home. By 11:30 am I was falling asleep so I got into bed and slept until 3 pm!

I'm sure the traveling, social interactions, and energy of the past week have caught up with me. It doesn't seem to take much to wipe me out these days. Plus the stress of knowing I have to go back to work for a few more shifts. I get this knotted-up feeling in my stomach when I think about it.

I'm just going to have to tough it out until I get done. It's annoying. Why give 30 days notice when they're not even going to even replace you? I really feel like a body filling a few shifts in a factory.

I don't really know how to convey all of what I've been processing the past several days. There's so much to say, some of which I can't say yet, because the words haven't formed in my mind.

All I know is that this has seemed like the most colorful fall ever, going out in a blaze of color. All the old leaves are dropping and next spring will be a rebirth and getting my life back!
Flying home the other day, looking out the window of the airplane over pine dotted mesas dusted with snow, and bright red cliffs, the color was mind-blowing. And with the late day sun casting shadows from clouds over the wind-carved patterns in the landscape, it was psychedelic.

I was having intermittent hot flashes the whole flight, too, like I have been for the past several weeks. That's why I'm not sleeping well, I keep waking up sweating, and I have to cool off before I can go back to sleep.

I can try to describe some of what I absorbed this week. None of it surprised me, and Amanda was very much like what I imagined she might be. She's strong, she's human, she has her strong moments and weak moments, she's not perfect and she readily admits it. She easily articulates her story, her point of view, her understanding of the system, and what she feels needs to be done to change things.

Amanda Trujillo is a real person. She's genuine, passionate, down to earth...she's real. She has the best of intentions. Her story is even more important. What her story shows is the cruel nature of the system and how it beats you down.

That they've censored it in the Arizona nursing schools- nursing schools are not allowed to talk about it with students. That shows you that nursing education is not really about educating people to become good nurses, it shows that they want to produce more factory workers, who will just acquiesce to the executives, say yes, and become good little Stepford Nurses and stab each other in the back when one of them shows a spark of creativity or intellect.

Amanda talked about nurses being authentic, about the practice of nursing allowing you to be who you are. But the system works against us, it wants us to function like robots in a factory.

It's easy to see how the system has skewered her, has engaged in total character assassination, has taken away her well-being and health in just about every way possible, and she's still standing. She's still raising her daughter through this ordeal, and her daughter has suffered too. She's a bright kid and has a future that I hope will not be impacted negatively from this mess. She is fortunate to have a strong mother as a role model, but she's also seen firsthand at a young age how the system can destroy people.

The Arizona Board of Nursing, which I wouldn't trust any further than Sheriff Joe, and Banner Health, have used their power and financial resources to effectively destroy Amanda's reputation and future employment prospects, at least for now. I think that impact will subside and Amanda will move far beyond this, she has everything it takes to succeed, except for the financial resources. And that is a problem that can always be overcome.

The thing that resonated with me personally about our conversation, of all things, was something she said toward the end. She said the exact words that I have said to myself so many times I can't even count, in that searching for existential meaning in all of this mess, in all the pain we go through.

I am paraphrasing here, as these are my own words: "Why was I put here on this planet, when I don't seem to fit anywhere? Is this some cruel joke? Why am I here? Where is my place in this world?" But Amanda asks the same types of questions.

I told her what I learned a long time ago, that when you're different you have to carve your own path, the system will not allow you to exist. It will eat you alive, destroy you in the cruelest of ways. It takes a lot of strength and belief in oneself to overcome the psychological warfare that the world imposes on you. And it takes the support of other people besides what you have in yourself.

Unfortunately a handful of other nurses have engaged in backstabbing Amanda, instead of realizing that there is a lot more positive than negative, or seeing through the ugly smear that the powerful interests paid for their attorneys to dig up, twist and put on display for the world to see. The world of nursing is losing huge potential to move forward by banishing her and it's a sadly transparent display of their shortcomings and shortsightedness to censor any discussion of her case in the schools.

Every time we allow a nurse to be hurt, we hurt ourselves. At the same time nurses wait with daggers for someone else, they are really stabbing themselves.

Amanda and I both like this song because it's something that helps us through those rough days.

For me, by going into nursing after trying academia all those years ago, I gave the system another chance. But eventually it let me down again. I need to get out in order to survive.

On my way back to my car on the shuttle from the Denver airport, I got a Facebook message from another nurse I work with. She said she had worked in my area that day and someone told her that I had quit for good. She asked if that was true. I wrote back and said, yes, it's true, in another two weeks I'll be gone.

I'm counting the hours.