Saturday, April 25, 2015

12 years

Jeff and I have been married for twelve years. In some ways it seems like just yesterday that we were all gathered at the Stetson Chapel and then partied like it was 2003 at the Kalamazoo Country Club. In other ways such as remembering our glorious honeymoon to St Lucia or the fact that we've had three kids, job changes and moves it seems that a good chunk of time has passed. I have had the privileged of working with patients who have been married sixty plus years. Each time I encounter these individuals I try and soak up as much wisdom as I can. I am simply in awe of two people being in relationship and living life for that long together! I always ask, "What is your secret to marriage?" Every.single.couple has said that communication and not sweating the small stuff is what held them together. Twelve years in, I completely agree.
Jeff and I have had a growing year in our marriage. I certainly acknowledge that twelve years in, especially in this season of smallish kids and the busyness they bring, it is very easy to get restless. The fact that Jeff and I have a solid ability to communicate has hand's down preserved our marriage this year. I can tell my husband anything and he is always there. Some of the things I have admitted to him over this year, I will tell you, would have made me question whether or not I was worthy to be his wife. So loving. So forgiving. So full of grace, this is my husband. What a lucky girl. We went to dinner tonight, with the kids, for wings and beers and over the chaos I looked at him and said, "So, twelve years in, why are you glad I am yours?" He said,as only Jeff Simpson can, " Because you keep my life so interesting!" and then chuckled a classic Simpson laugh. Truer words have never been spoken. I am grateful for a partner that continues to believe the best in me, that aspires the best for our family and that truly knows my intentions and helps me become a better me.
My goal for our marriage this year is to appreciate all I have. I spend a lot of my time wishing that I had a better marriage, better kids, better me. Why?! The life I have has blessed me beyond measure. Am I perfect, Is Jeff perfect? No. Do we make mistakes everyday..for sure. But, we love each other. We are committed to every day and every year and to whatever this crazy life brings us. I can't think of anything more amazing to appreciate and nurture than that!?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The truth about self care.

I knew when I took my new job that it would be depressing. Working five days a week with patients and their families discussing chronic disease and how they want to spend their final days, not exactly uplifting conversations. Hospice talks, code status talks, what it might be like when your COPD or CHF advances to the point that you will die. Tough stuff. It is very different than the work I did in the ER. ER social work is a lot of crisis, a lot of keeping your shit together in the moment because you literally can not fall apart. Plus, I worked part time in that role so I always had a few days to recover from the hardest days. I am realizing seven weeks into this new job how critical it is for me to make healthy choices in my work and personal life. I am also realizing that perhaps, it does not come naturally to me. I often leave work feeling very pensive and if truth be told, as I drive to get the kids from daycare and run them to various activities, I feel a sense of dread . I know there will be fights and grouchiness and running, running, running. I know that I truly won't have a moment to just be for several more hours and after spending most of my day in heaviness, I long for some downtime. But, this season of life does not allow for that and really, expecting that from my kids, who after all are just being kids, is not fair. Jeff said to me the other day, " I think sometimes you just get very overwhelmed by things that don't really need to be." TRUTH. It's like I can feel myself becoming edgy and I try and talk myself down from the inevitable freak out but another truth is bitchy Susan almost always prevails. By the end of the night, all I want is some wine. To dull the millions of thoughts that are racing through my head, to cancel out the sadness and pain I have dealt with all day. The thing about that is, for me, choosing wine every night is not an option. I have never tended to be a one glass kind of girl. I am not naive to think that if you know that about yourself that you won't end up with a problem, especially when you have such an emotionally tough job. I have far too many stories of times I have done and said stupid things when I have had too much wine or whatever drink fills the glass, and really at 40, there is no excuse for that. I will not be able to serve my family, my patients, my friends or my co-workers well if I don't take care of myself.
I have thought of all the things available to me that are healthy ways to chill. Reading is hands down one of my favorite. I love a good book! I love escaping to a new world though the eyes of an author! I love a good cup of tea! Lately I have been experimenting with new flavors and really tea can calm me down much better than wine. Exercise, taking 45 minutes to take a walk, with some good music as my companion, such a great stress reliever. I have found that when I take the time to invest in myself, I am able to be the mom I want to be. At the end of the day, that is the most important legacy I am investing in. Do I want my kids to remember their mom as a witch who needed a glass of wine to deal? Absolutely not.
Every day I see patients who are dealing with the consequences of their poor choices. I am not going to lie, it scares the hell out of me to think that I continue to make choices that have some crap consequences.
So, for now, I am taking it one day at at time. One good choice at a time.
 I am sure some of you who are reading are wondering why I am sharing these issues? I am sharing because I think the struggle is real for many of us. I wonder how other people handle their self care? You don't have to be a social worker to need to take a moment for yourself, right!? And I know I am not the only mom/forty year old woman who looks forward to her wine?! There are so many jokes about the woman needing wine. I see the humor in it but I think we need to be very careful not to normalize something that potentially could be and most likely is a huge struggle for lots of us! I suppose that is another post for another day! If you have any tips on ways you like to de-stress..I would like to hear them!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The new normal

I have been a blogging fool lately! I thought I would update how life has been going since I started my new role as the palliative care social worker at the hospital. I know that I  have mentioned that I love working days! Having a regular sleep scheduled has helped me have more energy and I think I am less grouchy:) (Jeff claims he has seen mild improvement!)  I still struggle with waking up 4-5 times a week at 4 in the morning, wide awake and am still dependent on sleep medications. I am weaning myself off of the Ambien though because that medication has contributed towards all sorts of crazy behavior. I have had full blown conversations with Jeff and other people, texted and eaten weird combinations of food whilst under an ambien spell! I try and only take it if I am really in a bind and have only one refill left and don't plan on drug seeking for more:) !
As far as my actual job, I am loving it. Palliative care allows for the privilege of helping patients and their families have input into what they want their care and in many circumstances, end of life to look like. It can be hard and it is complicated. I have said many times over the last six weeks that nothing complicates a life more than having it be under the magnifying glass of death and dying. I thought leaving the ER would mean less drama. Oh Lord, how wrong I was. The drama is plenty and many days I am literally left speechless. This role can be draining and I have to be careful to do healthy things and take care of myself. Some days I do want to just come home and have some wine! But, I also try and journal, read, blog, work out, drink some favorite hot tea or meet friends for dinner. Working as a medical social worker, in the ER, and in palliative care continues to remind me everyday how precious life is. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Assisting and counseling patients and families in coming to terms with their own mortality can't but help me examine my own.  I have had many conversations with myself over the last few months where I am finally tired of making the same mistakes and am taking meaningful measures to knock off the crap that only  hurts me and my family. Jeff and I do not have our shit together at all when it comes to what would happen if one of us became suddenly ill or died. I realized how foolish this was when I worked in the ER but this job has made me all too aware of how important it is to have those discussions before something happens. We are slowly making our way towards planning and hopefully we won't need to look at it all again for a very long time.
I am certainly still finding my way in my new role. There have been some frustrations and certainly hard days. But, overall I am so happy with the changes! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

It is well..

So I have always struggled with Christian music. To me, a music enthusiast, it always seems to have a cheese factor that  I can't overlook. There are exceptions to the rule, Sara Groves and JJ Heller come to mind, I love their voices and their lyrics move me. About a year ago I heard a version of It is Well, one of my favorite hymns, by Kristene Dimarco , that is perhaps one of the most moving pieces of Christian music I have ever heard. This past weekend was Easter. Jeff and I took the kids to our old church for a few reasons. One of which was the church has recently hired a new pastor and we have heard great things about him. He was great. It was a great message and really what I needed to hear. The message was about how Christ came and died for our sins to release us from the power those sins hold over us. The pastor had several biggish rocks up on the stage and he put them in a backpack. As he added one and then another and another, you could see the weight of the rocks pulling on the backpack. The backpack analogy represented all the crap and sin we try and fill our backpacks and lives with. The most powerful part of the message was when the pastor said that what we need to do is bring our backpack, our rocks, our sin to the cross and and lay it before Christ. I had to laugh, because otherwise I would cry, at the thousands of times that I have tried to lay my stuff before Christ and then I find myself grabbing those dang rocks back and filling my backpack up again. I feel like Christ has to be thinking sometimes..WOMAN! Just leave the back pack here. It is all so unnecessary but I will fully admit those things that I fill my life with, at the time, seem to fill a need. I know that isn't true but it has been a struggle my entire walk with God to truly trust in him. It seems that I have a well worn trail between the cross and my own sinful nature. One of the lines in the song I talked about earlier is, "And through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you". Those words are so powerful to me. If I keep my eyes on Christ and the cross and things that are holy, I have a much better chance of leaving those rocks for good! Oh, how my soul longs for that. Unfortunately, my flesh is weak. There in lies the power of what Christ did for us on Easter. He died so I could be redeemed.  His grace is sufficient. And all I have to do is keep my eyes on him, through it all. Here is the video..enjoy!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Florida 2015

We are back from our vacation in Florida. We had a good time filled with sunshine and fun! I thought to recap for down the road when the memories of the trip fade, I would make a top ten list.

10. Watching the kid's faces during the flight to Florida. They were all so in awe of what was happening and thrilled to be on a plane. However, I did not enjoy everyone complaining that their ears hurt for HOURS after we got off the plane.
9. I remember that magical feeling when you get off the plane and you felt the change in climate. The humid air hits you and it feels like Florida is giving you a big, warm hug! Their reactions to palm trees and everything being green was cute too!
8. Having so much time together. Now, let's keep it real, all this togetherness definitely got tense at times, but overall, being with each other, non-stop for seven days was so good for our family.
7. Spending time with grandma and papa. We don't see them nearly enough and the kids loved hanging with grandma and papa.
6. Jeff got a round of golf in! This is a sport he loves but right now in this season of life, there isn't a lot of time for it.
5. We took a dolphin boat tour on Marco Island and not only got to see lots of dolphins but other sea life as well. The company that runs it does a great job of educating everyone on various sea life. The boat also docks at this little island and the kids were able to comb the beach for more shells. Mommy got to lay on the beach and soak in the rays!
4. Eating out! The kids love to eat out and we had lots of yummy food! Matthew, our seafood foodie was in heaven!
3. Spending the day at the beach with my good friend Liz and her family. We spent the entire day playing in the sand, swimming and then celebrated their 13 year daughter's  birthday with dinner and cake poolside.
2. Matthew got to go fishing at my friend's parents condo. They have a boat and are right on the water. Matt, Jeff and Liz's dad sat on the dock for about an hour and Matthew caught three fish. He was so excited and said it was his favorite part of the trip.
1.  This one certainly isn't my top memory, but sleeping in a queen size bed with Jeff without wanting to strangle him is a memorable moment from this trip.  We have had a king size bed for our entire marriage. Usually we really struggle in smaller beds because we are both so used to our own space. But, for some reason on this trip, we didn't mind being close and snuggling close to each other while we slept.
We are back in Portage now. We all slept wonderfully last night and in the interest of full disclosure, there was no snuggling last night. I have never been more excited to sleep in my own room, in our bed. The rest of the town has left for spring break because our school is on break this week. We have the weekend to get unpacked and organized and of course to celebrate Easter. Next week I return to the work I love. I have given some thought to what that will look like. Because my job is helping those with chronic disease and those that are dying, re-entry could be rough and depressing to say the least. I have decided rather than dwell on the depressing aspects of it all, I will move forward with gratefulness. Our family was at a place where we desperately needed a break from our everyday  lives. Jeff and I needed a week of spending time together and being close (even while we slept). We all feel more relaxed, more connected and renewed. For all of these things I am blessed and grateful. For those of you reading that are on Spring Break..enjoy!