Thursday, January 29, 2015

Belly Laughs

Angus Barn's Chocolate Chess Pie.  Oh, the decadence.

It's 3AM and I think I've successfully managed to sneak out of bed and into our living room without my husband noticing.  The truth is, I've been lying in bed awake for hours, as is often the case when I am coming off of a string of night shifts.  I slept until 4PM coming off of my night shift yesterday and now I fear that I am paying for this.  After lying awake for a few hours, I realized I was hungry and thirsty after only eating one meal today and drinking wine and coffee as my only beverages, so here I am eating pita & hummus while drinking water and writing things that I will likely wish I hadn't written come 9AM tomorrow (today? This is the ultimate struggle of a night shifter.  Which day is it??).

Tonight we celebrated the birthday of one of our most beloved friends in Indianapolis.  We surprised him with plenty of good friends, food catered by his brother's catering company, lots of wine, birthday Oreos (I never knew there was such a thing! What a game changer), and my first attempt at homemade chocolate chess pie, inspired by Angus Barn back home (by inspired I mean it's their exact recipe).  There was laughter like I haven't experienced in weeks, the deep belly laughs that I used to have with friends back home.  The kind where you get tears in your eyes and feel like you can't breathe.  It was lovelier and more needed than I think I ever realized at the time.

The week leading up to this night has been quite interesting.  It's been another one filled with night shift, but with word that I am now second in line for day shift on our floor.  My nurse manager asked if I wanted to officially be on the list for day shift, which is what I've been wanting since I first started there.  I've dreamed of the normal hours of sleep and the peace of sleeping next to my husband every night.  This is what I have been wanting forever (read: 1 year).  But when it was dangling before me, a question hanging in the air waiting for me to capture it and respond, I hesitated.

Do you want to be on the list for day shift? You'd be second in line. 

What? Leave all of my friends on night shift? Leave the family that I've been a part of for a year now? Leave the opportunities I've been given to be charge nurse and to precept new employees? Move to day shift? With all new people and cliques and personalities to learn and new processes? Day shift, where there are resources I couldn't even imagine at night and where family members come and go and call you ten thousand times for updates?

All of the sudden, I wasn't so sure.  I recently heard a day shift tech on our floor make a comment about how easy night shift was and I snapped and got incredibly defensive of it.  I've worked day shift and night shift in different hospitals and know that they are different beasts entirely.  I know that day shift can run you ragged, but night shift has run me ragged, too.  And to hear someone saying this in such a matter-of-fact way made my blood boil and maybe made me realize how much I've come to love night shift, so much so that I'm willing to defend it to someone who makes a negative comment about it.  In any case, I'm on the list and I am processing what it means and knowing that it will still be many months before I will have a chance of moving to day shift, but it's there in the pages of what's ahead.

As I left for work last night, Scott told me he was having friends over tonight and that I should leave and make plans with friends.  Basically, I was being kicked out.  I was frantically trying to make plans but couldn't quite figure out where I'd go or what I'd do-- should I study for my med/surg exam or have a girls' night with friends? Should I go to the gym or go shopping by myself (one of my favorite things to do.  Something I'm sure I'll miss when little people are in our lives)?

Hours later I got a text saying that some of the guys were bringing their significant others, so I was allowed to stay.  And gracious, am I glad that I did.  Sometimes the only therapy you need after a draining week is the company of good friends and a little bit of laughter.  Chocolate chess pie doesn't hurt, either.

I hope you've experienced deep belly laughs and that you find yourself surrounded by people you love to do that with.  I hope you find therapy in laughter and joy in the simplest of things this week. Work hard and rest well, friends.  And I hope you find people you love to laugh deep belly laughs with this weekend.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

(Un)Kind Words

"Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

I'm sitting in Panera reportedly studying right now.  I've been here for a few hours trying to make my way through some practice exams have determined that I am just tired and lacking focus.  I'm distracted, feeling deflated after a difficult week. 

I started the beginning of my week with my arsenal filled with optimism and determination to see things to their finish this week, and I'm now left feeling like someone took little pieces of me and scattered them all over the place-- in patient rooms, in my bed where I've barely been able to get adequate sleep this week, in the hallways and break room at work.  It's been an incredibly frustrating week at work, and I am finding myself contemplating the kindness of other people tonight, and wondering if there is any at all.  

I'm speaking more about kind words.  I have found kind words to be lacking in my life lately, both from myself and from other people.  Do you find that you respond to unkind words with a flicker of anger and pride, and maybe some even more unkind words in return? Do you find that you're in a volley with other people in your life for who can best prove their point or who can cut the other person down and make themselves look even better?  This is what I feel engulfed by lately.  I really feel like I'm drowning in it.

For whatever reason, it's been a week when my patients have been dishing out all of their negative emotions and energy towards me and other nursing staff.  As a nurse, I've grown to have some pretty thick skin, but last night was completely over the top.  After dealing with being "kicked out" of the room by two separate patients (one of which was not even my own patient), I really just wanted to pack up my things to go home.  I wanted to tell my patients to do the same, that they really weren't doing themselves any favors by treating the nurses taking care of them that way.  That if they thought this is what I went to nursing school for, they were totally wrong.  That I didn't get paid nearly enough to be taking abuse like that and that they had no right to make my feel inadequate and incompetent.

I didn't say those things.  I removed myself from the rooms and took a minute to put myself back together.  I didn't fight back with the unkind words that were consuming me like poison.  I held in every tear that I could feel welling up, ready to burst through the floodgates at any moment.

Several other interactions with staff members this week have also left me feeling deflated.  I'm finding that people are determined to let you know that they know something, that they are valuable and important in their job.  As a lover of words, both written and spoken, I appreciate when they are delivered in a gentle, loving way.  Lately, I'm finding people cutting each other with words and trying to make themselves appear more intelligent or more professional or more serious about their work than anyone else.  And the unkind words jut flow out as if they are deserved and expected, as if I obviously should have known the right thing to do in the situation and I obviously did whatever task it was incorrectly.  I'm so disappointed in myself for returning those unkind words, for being defensive and for letting my pride get the best of me.

Last night when all of this was taking place, I was training a newer nurse on our unit who was primarily taking care of our patients.  I could tell that she felt the weight of unkind words last night, as well, and we even talked about this as we were nearing the end of our shift.  We'd dealt with a series of impolite individuals on the phone that night as well as all that I have already mentioned above, and she stated that she just didn't understand why people thought it was ok to treat other people that way, that it doesn't help any of us in any way to talk to people in such a degrading way.  I agreed very much with her and was glad for a moment to realize that these frustrations were ones felt by someone else, that I wasn't just being overly sensitive.

I recently wrote about the Who Moved my Cheese principle in Growing & Stretching & Moving the Cheese.  If you didn't read that post or don't know what in the world I'm talking about, it's actually a book that many Fortune 500 companies make their employees read.  The illustration in the book may seem childlike, but its implications are universal.  It's about a mouse in a maze who is searching for a block of cheese.  Every time the mouse gets close to the cheese or sees it just ahead in the maze, someone moves it.  The frustrated mouse continues searching and continues to have the cheese moved every time he gets close to it.  What we are to learn from this is that we have to adapt to our cheese (goal) being moved, and that we can't get caught up in being angry at who moved it.

I reminded myself of this cheese principle as I reflected on all of the unkindness that I've felt around me lately, and I realized that unkind words are the obstacle to reaching my cheese this week.  I have been so upset about the unkind words and the individuals who have delivered them that I've been blaming them for my horrible week.  The negative energy from all of this is what is leaving me deflated, and it's what is keeping me awake tonight, unable to focus on any task I had set my mind on accomplishing tonight.

So I'm refilling my arsenal over the next two nights off with more optimism, and more determination to get to the cheese despite the road blocks or people in the way trying to move my cheese.  And most of all, I'm remembering that when people are unkind towards me, I am not to be unkind towards them.  I am to be light and love, and I am to reflect Jesus in everything that I do.  I'm sure He's disappointed in me this week, as much as I am in myself.  I'm thankful that His grace abounds, for I am in desperate need of grace this week.

I'm memorizing Ephesians 4:29 this week, the verse that is the namesake of one of my favorite bands, Building 429.  I had this verse memorized in middle school and feel that maybe I was much wiser then than I am now.  I think middle school Cristina may have been a lot kinder than the adult version of myself, and though middle school was tough and many days ended in tears from unkindness and gossip and mean girls, I think she was still braver than I am now to deliver kind words in return for unkind ones that are spoken to me.

I realize a lot of my posts lately seem bleak and filled with complaints and glumness, and I am thankful for those who still read despite all of that.  I try to be as authentic as I can on here, and some days, in the spirit of being genuine, I want to leave you with what's real instead of a blog post about self-improvement and how to live your best life now.  It's all way easier said than done, and I'm a girl who is just trying to figure out how to play my part in this corner of the world in a way that is loving and helpful to others.

Lots of love and kindness to you this week, friends.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The In Between Spaces

Sometimes I feel like I'm waiting around for the next big thing to happen in my life.  When I was in college, that meant a break from school, a summer, graduation, etc.  Once I graduated, it was finding a job, taking vacations from said job, trips to visit Scott in Indianapolis, and other things of that nature.  And the progression continued.  I was waiting around for a sparkly ring from the man I loved, and after that, it was waiting to move, waiting to find a new job, waiting for our wedding, our honeymoon.  All of those things.

And now a lot of those things are over.  We had a more beautiful wedding day than I ever could have hoped for, traveled throughout Italy for a honeymoon I'd kill to relive, and I'm in the job that I wanted before I ever even moved up here (the one I interviewed for 5 months before I could actually start it).  So what is the next big thing I'm waiting for?  I scroll through Facebook and see baby bump pictures of friends I grew up with, pictures of newlyweds buying their first home together or doing a DIY bathroom remodel.  I see people posting about their promotions or moving across the country, or someone deciding to go into full time missions work asking for prayer or financial support.  I see friends getting accepted to graduate schools or getting their dream job, friends who win big fancy awards for research and a job well-done.  I wonder if any of those things are the next big thing that I'm waiting around for.

The thing is, maybe something big is coming.  But right now, I don't think that there is.  None of those situations listed above really apply to the stage of life that Scott and I are in.  I think that I am learning how to live in the in between spaces, living life in the margins.  I think living for the next big thing leads to a lot of discontentment, like we're in a constant state of wanting more and never feeling fully settled where we are.  I suppose this kind of goes back to the lessons I learned last year with trying to ground myself in the present.  There is so much volume to living life in the in between spaces.  It's where a lot of the laughter in my life takes place, where random cooking adventures begin and runs on the Monon take place.  The in between spaces are where I see the most beautiful sunsets from our apartment or where I burn the most delicious smelling candle.  These spaces are where the textures of life are felt in the most tangible way, where the details seem to be so loud and important.

I've learned to love the in between spaces in my life as much as I do the white space in a book.  Can you imagine trying to read a book where all of the words were crammed together without spaces in between them? Or reading books that don't have margins for you to scribble notes in (does anyone else do this?)?   How overwhelming that would be; the pages would look so cluttered!  In the same way, I don't think it's healthy to live life from big moment to big moment.  I've seen people do it, and it seems so completely overwhelming to me.  I think it works for some people, but for me, I need those in between spaces.  I need the time to breathe that comes with white spaces and blank pages between chapters.  I need the time for nurturing and taking care of myself that happens in those restful spaces.  Time for candles and magazine articles, for good books and freshly made beds.  Those things don't happen too much for me when the big moments are happening, when the feature film is being released with my next big life event in the spotlight.

I like the in between spaces, and I'm learning how to live in a giant in between space.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Year Ahead.

Here's to a year of views like this from our bay window

Last year I made a practice of not looking too far ahead.  I grounded myself in the present and focused on being grateful for the now.  I'm still aiming for that in the coming year, but I'm also allowing myself a little time now to look at what is coming and to anticipate good things for the year.  Most people made their 2015 goals a few weeks ago and started the year off with a refreshed, clear head, ready to take on the coming year with immense hope brewing deep within.  For reasons I choose not to share, I was unable to do this.  I started the year unsure of many things in my future and wondering if I would just be better off not choosing goals for this year.  I was sulky and tearful and probably quite a drag to be around.  I chose my word, endure, in the midst of all of this, and though I'm now wishing I had chosen one of the words I had been contemplating later in 2014 instead of what I felt in early January, in the spirit of the word endure, I shall endure it for the year (I think there's a lot of things that are making my grammar spine feel all prickly with this sentence, but I'm just going to let it happen if that's not a problem for you, friends).

Two weeks later, I'm in a different place.  I decided to do something this morning (read: early afternoon) that I haven't done since back in my single lady days here in Indy.  I carried my computer and my coffee over to our little glass dining table where we sometimes eat meals (these days, I have our coffee table set for meals instead, as this is where we tend to enjoy most meals together.  Weird? I don't know, maybe.  We've come to enjoy our Chancey couch dinners over the table we sanded and stained ourselves last Spring), and I set myself up to write.  I used to spend all of my mornings here when I first moved to Indianapolis.  I was jobless and living alone in an apartment much too large for just one person (yet, in marriage, much too small for two), and I found myself indulging in early morning sunrises by the bay window as I wrote about adventures in a new land.

As I sit here today, I'm excited for what's ahead this year.  I've also decided to allow myself to make goals this year to share with readers and friends and family.  Maybe it's too glass-half-full of me or maybe it's a little cliche to make goals for the year ahead when we all know that we end up busying ourselves so much that we have little time to make room for our goals halfway through the year, but in this very moment, I feel excited about 2015 and want to do my best to make room for good things in this year.  Here's a look at what I'm hopeful for in the year ahead.

No. 1: Pass my Med/Surg Certification exam. I've been talking about this forever.  Or so it seems.  I took a break from studying over the holidays but have decided to resume studying and answering practice questions this week.  I have off until Friday (hooray!) and feel like I can catch up on a lot of the material I've allowed myself to get behind on.  I am still waiting for confirmation that I can go ahead and sign up for the exam, but once it comes, I have 90 days to schedule my exam and honestly, I'd rather take it sooner than later!  This should be a goal I can check off fairly soon as long as I truly work for it and don't neglect it like I have over the past month.

No. 2: Write a letter a week.  I've been SO bad about writing letters lately.  Just ask Shannon! I'm months behind on responding to a pen pal letter from her, and though I have felt so guilty for it, I just haven't made the time for it lately.  I love writing (especially handwriting notes to friends) and need to continue my practice in this.  There aren't many of us left who send snail mail-- how dare I step back from my part in continuing this practice.  I have oodles of cute winter stamps that I need to use before Spring comes-- must get to writing!

No. 3: Read a book a month.  I would have laughed reading this goal a few years ago.  I would devour a book in a week!  Now, a combination of life circumstances leaves me with less time for reading.  What will life look like when there are little people running around our house? I will probably make a goal of reading one magazine article a month! (Don't worry.  Little people aren't on the radar for 2015, and likely not for 2016 either, unless the Lord has other plans.  We're working on paying off our giant fancy house-sized student loans first.  Our student loans really are the size of a fancy house right now, wish we could just move into the house instead of paying these loans back!)

No. 4: Write a blog a week.   One of my favorite bloggers, Annie B. Jones, vowed to write an essay a week for the next year, and I quite like this goal.  I sometimes go months at a time without posting, and I'd like to make a practice of writing weekly.  I have come to love writing in this space after getting over my fear of sharing my writing with people on a public space, and I do feel guilty when I go weeks and months without writing.  Anticipate a post a week and remind me of this goal if you see that I've gone too long without writing!

No. 5: Simplify our home.  I'm a clutter bug, a trait I've always loathed about myself.  I find inanimate objects to be so overly sentimental and hold onto them for far too long.  This year, I've already started the process of decluttering and cleaning out our closets.  We have two big boxes waiting to go to Goodwill and likely will have more in the coming weeks, and that's just how I like it.  I'm finding that I really don't miss a lot of these items as much as I thought I would.  Once they're out of the house, I usually forget about them anyways.  Out of sight, out of mind, really is true in our books.  I want to know where things are in our home instead of freaking out every time we need a belt or a pair of shoes or that little piece of paper with the phone number of the car mechanic written on it.  I want everything in our home to have a proper place.  Maybe I'm not destined for this sort of orderly life, but I sure am going to try to make it happen this year.

No. 6: Be professional.  How vague, right?  I'm working on being more professional at work instead of getting caught up in gossip and drama and all of the things that come with working with so many women.  I struggle with this immensely, but know that my faith and the roots of who I am do not like gossip and meanness.  I also mean for this goal to be more than just my attitude as a professional but my practice of nursing as well.  I've spent a lot of time recently reading articles about things I've always wanted to know more about in nursing.  Things I have little experience with or things that I should know more about.  Things I fear (chest tubes, ventilators, etc.), things I want to be proficient in.  I want to continue to practice my profession this year and to know as much as I can about something, through policies and continuing education and all of the resources available to me in my profession.  I start my first shift as charge nurse this week and do not take this opportunity lightly.  I want to be a good resource for those around me and I don't want to tell someone the wrong way to do something.  I'm fortunate to have some good experiences under my belt from the past 2.5 years as a nurse, and though those years may seem tiny compared to the 20 years some nurses around me have, I've worked in several different settings that have prepared me for this.  I used to think that I was less of a nurse on my unit because I haven't worked on my floor for as long as some nurses around me have, but I have realized that I have different perspectives than they do which is not such a bad thing.  I've known more to nursing than just the floor I work on, and I've seen how different systems work other than just the one that we are practicing at our hospital.  I respect the systems and the policies and procedures where I am, but I also recognize that these can always be better and that I have some knowledge of how other places do things, which I can bring to the table.  I've recently embraced my other experiences as a nurse (and as a nursing assistant before that) instead of thinking of them as something that makes me inadequate for the job I'm currently doing.  Sorry for the novel, maybe another goal of mine should be to get to the point quicker in my posts?

No. 7: Be good to my body.  I'm being vague here again because I know I don't do well when I commit to running a marathon or taking up cycling or anything like that.  I get too bored with doing the same physical activity over and over again.  I love kickboxing and Body Pump classes and running outdoors, but I need to mix it up a little to really feel excited about exercise.  Scott and I are supposed to join a gym this year, and I think maybe we'll wander over to the one we've chosen this week to get started.  Our apartment gym is lovely but I'm never motivated to walk downstairs to go to it because I know it's aways going to be there and it's always going to have the same things in it.  I need the variety, the spice of life.  One of my biggest goals this year is to drink more water.  I think I've lived in a constant stage of mild to moderate dehydration because of drinking coffee and tea and soda way more than I should.  I've been trying to drink more water at work lately and have really enjoyed how energized I've felt.  I used to think that drinking lots of coffee at work would keep me going on night shift, but I've been surprised by how energizing water can be.  Another goal with being good to my body is preparing more meals at home for Scott and myself instead of eating out as often or grabbing Chick-fil-a chicken minis on my way home from work (but they are so yummy!).  At 24, I think it's time to be serious about my body and preventing chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.  I'm doing my body no favors by being sedentary and eating meals out so often.

No. 8: Spend time with Jesus.  Oh, how neglectful I have been lately in this regard.  I've prayed often but spent very little time reading Scripture and learning more about Jesus.  This is a big one.  This should really be my main goal of this year.  I think all else would fall into place if I only picked this one goal.  He has already provided so much this year for our family.  The fact that I'm even able to write a post embracing the year ahead and feeling hopeful is such a testament to His provision.

No. 9: Date my husband.  Scott and I have spent a lot of our past 9 months of marriage making lemonade together.  We've been faced with a lot of interesting circumstances that most people don't have to deal with in year one of marriage.  We've learned together how to make the most of what we are given, and I think we've done a pretty ok job with it.  I want to spend year 2 of marriage doing the same.  I want to continue making lemonade and laughing and having weird dates in our apartment over bizarre 80s movies and homemade meals.  I also want to adventure with him, though.  I want more trips like our honeymoon in Italy and more spontaneous weekend outings to Nashville, more bike rides on the Monon Trail and more stops for Brics ice cream along the way.  I don't want the busy-ness of life to get in the way of cultivating a good marriage.

No. 10: Finish my book.  Oh, remember that old forgotten thing sitting in my Google Drive? It's still there.  It still has chapters waiting to be written.  It's been long-neglected, but I have SO much I want to say in it.  Once my Med/Surg exam is over, I hope to spend a lot of free time working on the book again.  Maybe I need a little staycation in the coming months to work on writing it.  I think that will be happening quite soon.

Lots of love to you all in the new year.  Now that the dust is settling and the Christmas decorations are in your closets until later this year, I hope you have time to reflect on goals you've made and what you hope for in the coming year.  I hope you find ways to work towards them while not always living months ahead of yourself.


Friday, January 2, 2015


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

Don't you love the hope that comes with the start of a new year? Or do you find it all to be very superficial and overdone? I fall into the former category, one of those who fills with hope and the promise of a fresh start.  I used to make New Year's Resolutions until I finally came to terms with the fact that I only stick to them for about 2 weeks before caving and going back to my old ways.  For the past few years, I have instead picked a word to focus on for that year, modeled after something my home church encourages (My One Word).

Last year, my word was present.  I spent the year trying to ground myself and keep myself reeled into what was going on around me instead of always living in the past or constantly anticipating the future.  It was something I had to be intentional about, and I would often catch myself veering away from the present.  But that's part of the whole purpose of picking a word.  You have to refocus your mind and pull yourself back into what that word means to you.

I'm almost a little bit sad to part with present for a new word, but I do think it's time for a new practice and a new focus.  This year, I'll be focusing on endurance.  Our little family has been facing some deeply personal struggles over the past few months, and I know that there are more ahead of us.  I'm focusing on enduring this year, in all aspects of my life.  Physically, I want to begin running again and I want to know that my body can endure the long hours of training that I used to do when I lived in North Carolina.  I want to know that I can run 10 miles without stopping and that afterwards, I can sit down and feel like my morning was well-spent running through beautiful place, talking to Jesus all the while as I run.  Mentally and emotionally, I want to trust that whatever may come, my hope and faith lie in something other worldly that helps me to endure my circumstances.

I'll be praying over Hebrews 12 this year and ask you to join me.  Despite all that is going on around us, I am still hopeful for 2015.  I think by year's end, we will have learned more than I can even imagine in this moment.

If you're a New Year Resolution maker, I hope your's go well this year and that you find ways to stick with them. I hope that come June, you are still practicing them and working towards your goals in earnestness.  And if you are not a resolution maker, I still hope the year holds good things for you and that you find so much joy and peace.

Lots of love and blessing to you, friends.  And I hope you will run the race of endurance with me this year.