Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stop. Think. Invite...better yet, stop, invite, then think.

With so much to do in nursing school, I often find myself without the time to think. While this may sound dangerous for a student who will one day be responsible for the lives of patients 12 hours at a time, not recognizing the lack of thinking would be far worse. As a nurse, it is imperative to think critically. It’s not enough to be given a list of tasks, complete that list, and then rest until another task appears. During the course of the day, a nurse must continuously evaluate a patient’s situation with its innumerable variables. The nurse then must assess the progress of care, develop a plan of change if necessary, and then present that plan to the physician while monitoring and evaluating other situations at the same time. Moreover, a good nurse should take the time during the day to evaluate their own progress and make changes accordingly. Of course, once a nurse has given their responsibilities to another nurse, they can jump in their car and reflect upon the day. Yet, during that car ride home or when they finally lay down for the night, they might realize that they failed in managing a patient’s care. Well, that day is over. They might have another day to use the fruits of reflection, if the Lord allows it.

In nursing school, there are countless requirements demanding so much time that I risk becoming predominantly task oriented. In many ways it’s more challenging than working as a nurse because the day doesn’t end when I leave the hospital or school. The work has to be taken home. Over the course of months, it’s easy to lose focus on taking the time to stop, reflect, and self-evaluate.

This summer I’ve been doing a preceptorship, a voluntary (unpaid) internship at a healthcare facility. Because it’s not as demanding as a full class load and this past Monday was the last day, I have had time to slow down. I’ve taken hours to delve into ideas, thoughts, and situations that have occurred over the last year. So using my “drive home” analogy, I realized that, spiritually, I’ve had successes and failures this past year. During the year, I wish that I had been more diligent, intentional, and reflective with the time that I used to pray. When I did take the time to meditate and pray meaningfully, I allowed the Lord to open my heart and educate me. (Being Sicilian, I refer to this process as being “bopped” upside my head by my Father.)

Moving deeper into my thoughts, I confirmed that in striving to be a disciple of Christ, I am called to think critically about my spiritual progress multiple times a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade…permitting the Lord to order my life to His will. It’s good to recognize my weaknesses after the fact, but how much better would it be to consistently recognize my own tendencies before a sin is committed and invite the Lord to help me. Sounds like common sense, but how difficult it can be for me!

After coming home from Adoration a few days back, I also realized how efficacious my thinking becomes when I invite Christ into it. On my own, I find that my thoughts and reflections suffer from concupiscence, distractions, and evil. With Christ beside me, I feel like I have a friend guiding me with gentle conversation. I also realized that even this insight was only possible by His grace. I’m grateful that our Father is patient with this stubborn Italian.

When do you find time to critically think in a given day?

Photo credit: Ann Douglas

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Deo Gratias: Liturgy of the Hours

A few weeks ago David expressed interest in praying the Liturgy of the Hours more regularly. He found what prayers he could on eBreviary (which went subscription-only on the majority of its prayers recently). He tried using my simplified Christian Prayer book but wasn't satisfied knowing that it doesn't allow him to pray exactly what so many other Catholics (especially clergy and religious) are praying around the globe that day.

Late one night David heard God prompting him to turn on the computer and order the full set of Liturgy of the Hours books. An unusual prompting, I know, but how can we question something that will inevitably make us holier?

The box came on Thursday and David unwrapped the books with delight when he got home from a 12-hour shift of his preceptorship. He found all the proper pages and we prayed Night Prayer together on the couch. It was lovely! Praying the Liturgy of the Hours brings me great peace and centeredness. I hope his new prayer regimen (as his nursing school schedule allows) brings David that same peace and deepening of faith. I look forward to joining him often!

Photo credit: bhsher

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Working from home

This week I had the privilege of working from home one day. I'm happy to report that the experience was fabulous! I began the day somewhat concerned that I would not be self-disciplined about getting a lot of real work done, but prayers for my productivity and some encouraging conversations after Mass that morning set me off on the right foot. After a nice breakfast at my own kitchen table (a rarity these days, when I often set a bagel or muffins in a napkin on my lap and nibble while I drive to work after morning Mass), I set up the laptop on that same table, connected to our wireless internet, and worked away.

Perhaps this adventure was made easier by the fact that David was gone for 13 hours (working at the hospital) and I couldn't let myself be distracted by wanting to hang out with him. But the best part of working from home (besides not having to drive the long commute or pack two meals with me) was being able to spend my little breaks doing practical things around the apartment, like running the dishwasher, wiping down the microwave, and picking up a package from the apartment office. I got to welcome David home with an empty dishwasher, clean countertops, and a complete cooked meal (already divided into meal packs). Most days he's the one welcoming me home and starting dinner.

I felt so fulfilled after my day of working at home. I got to take care of my home AND be productive for my job (among other things I researched the Baltimore Catechism and wrote back cover copy and a preface for the editions Saint Benedict Press will be publishing this summer).

Working from home will be a rarity for me, but I will treasure those opportunities until the day when I can be at home full-time taking care of any children the Lord may bless us with!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I don't wanna...

...wear my retainers ANY MORE. I'm posting about them because I'm hoping someone (or multiple people) will tell me I don't need to wear them anymore, but David says that won't happen. He says I'm just looking for someone else to blame if I stop wearing my retainers and my teeth move. Are you feeling brave?

I had a large overbite as a little girl, and my parents wisely (and generously) decided to invest in some orthodontia for me. I started with a few brackets and bands in the fifth grade and advanced to a full mouth of metal, complete with rubber bands pulling my jaws together, and a headgear to wear at night. Four years later I experienced a blessed release from all that headache (literally and figuratively).

But the braces were immediately replaced with these clear plastic retainers. At first I wore them all the time. Then, months later, the requirements decreased to night-time wearing. As high school graduation approached, I was wearing them every other night. In college I went down to every three days, then every four, and so on. Now I have to wear them one night every week or so or my teeth will hurt intensely the next time I put them in.

I used to wonder when I could stop wearing them. After ten years? When I got married? Here I am, 10 months married and 14 years into wearing retainers (and they've only been replaced once due to cracking). Has the time finally come?

Why do I hesitate? Because I've seen how teeth can shift back to their "natural" positions even after years of orthodontia. And I'm afraid of that because many people consider my smile my best feature. Is this vain reasoning? I don't want to care so much about my physical appearance. I also want to make a choice out of gratitude to God for the gift of a smile and to my parents for the sacrifice they made to enhance this gift.

In the end, I will probably have to continue my retainer regimen as a practice of obedience and self-denial. I should probably wear them until they break. And no, I will not hasten their end . . . not on purpose, anyway. ;)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Free Haircuts!

For David and I, anyways . . . I don't know if anyone else would be brave enough to face the scissors in our hands!

Since our marriage, I have been cutting David's hair. We bought a new set of clippers that came with a DVD tutorial. I watched, I listened, I tried. I've had mixed success. Three out of the four times, it looked mighty fine overall (only David and I noticed the little mistakes around the ears, etc.). This last time I must have gotten over-confident and rushed, and the job came out a little sloppy. But time heals all wounds, especially when it comes to hair.



Tonight, for the first time, David cut my hair. I've always been cheap when it comes to my hair - once a year or so I visited a chain hair cutter and got about six inches chopped off (and whenever I could, I used a coupon!). Curly hair is very forgiving. But I didn't always appreciate the conversation in those places, and even the "cheap" haircut was too much for my frugal soul. So I asked David to give it a try. He watched the DVD tutorial, and then improvised. He aimed for four inches, just in case. I am pleased with the results!



Meet Manuelito

Back in 2004, a few months after I began my first real job, I decided I wanted to sponsor a child in need. I had heard about the big Christian organizations like Compassion and WorldVision, but I did a little web searching for a specifically Catholic organization, one that would support the Catholic faith of its sponsees. That's how I discovered CFCA, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. CFCA matches sponsors (mostly by making presentations in Catholic parishes throughout the United States) with impoverished children and aging people in 25 countries. According to their website, "Sponsorship provides for fees, books, school uniforms and supplies - items children living in poverty cannot afford. Our work enhances the lives of the poor with clothing, nutrition and household items needed for basic comfort and good health." CFCA is not a Catholic missionary organization, so they do not proselytize sponsees of other faiths. But if the sponsees' family and community are Catholic, sponsorship dollars also go towards their catechetical formation. I know this because my sponsored child told me about the benefits he receives.

I am happy to introduce you to Manuelito, a sixteen-year-old boy living in a village outside of Manila, Phillippines. He is the oldest of three children of a casual laborer and his wife. Manuelito attends school and does well in his studies (I get to see a copy of his report card - in tagalog and English - every year). In his most recent letter he told me that he is now folk dancing with his school's intramural team. He also won second place overall in their Mr. Teen competition. Woohoo!

Isn't he a cutie?

late 2004

early 2006

early 2007

the latest (quite the young man now, isn't he?)

And isn't this a great card that he designed and wrote for me?

(Note: due to the time delay in our communications, I just received this card that he made me in February. And he hadn't heard at that time that I'm married now and have a new last name.)

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, aging person, or religious vocation candidate, visit CFCA's sponsorship page for more information.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eatin' Zucchini

I recently took David with me to the Farmer's Market so he could experience it himself. He picked out four little zucchini. David definitely prefers vegetables raw, while I generally prefer them cooked (at least a little). Since we've been married David has probably eaten more cooked veggies than he ever wanted to, and I have slowly but surely been learning to buy, store, and serve raw veggies.

I've crunched through my fair share of carrots and celery over the years, but I can only remember eating raw zucchini once before this past week: in a delicious avocado/zucchini salad with lime juice and cilantro. When David sliced up a zuke (people call cucumbers cukes, so why can't we call zucchini zukes?) and served it with dip, I tried it . . . and liked it!

I'm getting so used to the idea that, when I was looking for a snack last night, I grabbed a zuke out of the fridge, poured myself a little dab of ranch dressing, and went to town. Why bother slicing?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pen Pocket

This summer David is keeping busy. He usually works two shifts at the hospital as a nurse aide (work he finds very fulfilling). He is also putting in 90 preceptorship hours over several weeks (mostly in 12-hour shifts) - this means he is practicing nursing under the supervision of a preceptor. Finally, David is still giving much of his time and heart to the Mass in the Extraordinary Form now offered weekly at our parish. He facilitates fun training sessions for a group of boys who want to serve at the Latin Mass (which he has now done four times).

Because I believe in David and the types of service that God is calling him to at this time in our lives, I try to do what I can to support his efforts and reduce his stresses. One simple (and fun!) thing I did recently: sewed "pen pockets" into the pockets of his nurse aid scrub tops. His fancy nursing student scrub tops came with these slender compartments for pens and he quickly discovered how useful they are. He lost two pens from the open pockets of his other tops "in the line of duty," as he said.

I purchased matching thread, measured the compartments on the student tops, marked the distance with a washable fabric pen, and sewed the simple line three times. David is satisfied and I am hoping that this project jump starts me for some more sewing this summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Watermelon Shark

Do you see it?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

WOW Hits

Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer is hosting a fantabulous giveaway of Christian music. Have you heard of WOW Hits? They issue a 2-CD set every year featuring the year's the top Christian artists and their hit songs. After years of borrowing previous years' CDs from friends I got the 2005 set. It's a great mix!

Turns out they're issuing a new CD called WOW Hits 1 and promoting it by allowing Shannon to give away 20 sets of 20 CDs over on her blog. Interestingly, the giveaway is not the new WOW Hits 1 CD - it's a set of 20 CDs, one by each of the artists featured on the CD. Here's the list:

1. Barlow Girl - How Can We Be Silent
2. Aaron Shust - Whispered and Shouted
3. Cadia - Cadia
4. Point of Grace - How You Live
5. Skillet - Comatose
6. Brandon Heath - Don’t Get Comfortable
7. Michael W. Smith - Stand
8. Third Day - Wherever You Are
9. Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago
10. Casting Crowns - The Altar and the Door
11. Steven Curtis Chapman - This Moment
12. Chris Tomlin - See the Morning
13. Matthew West - Something To Say
14. David Crowder Band - Remedy
15. Jeremy Camp - Beyond Measure
16. Newsboys - Go
17. Toby Mac - Portable Sounds
I share this with you for three reasons, mainly. 1) I want to have a chance at winning the CDs. 2) I want you to have a chance at winning the CDs (if you're a blogger...details are in Shannon's giveaway post). 3) I want to recommend several of the artists featured.

Newsboys were my first exposure to contemporary Christian music (the radio kind) - they gave a concert in my high school auditorium back in the late 90's and my mom got tickets. I've since grown away from their sound, but their old songs have a special place in my heart (especially "Shine" and "Let It Rain" from their self-titled album). David, on the other hand, loves their new stuff. He has their Adoration album. We agreed to play one of their recent hits at our wedding reception: "Something Beautiful."

I also own a Michael W. Smith CD - he's way old school and I usually can't stand his nasally voice, but I like the lyrics of "Never Been Unloved." Check these out:
I have been unfaithful
I have been unworthy
I have been unrighteous
And I have been unmerciful

I have been unreachable
I have been unteachable
I have been unwilling
And I have been undesirable


Sometimes, I have been unwise
Ive been undone by what Im unsure of
But because of you, and all that you went through
I know that I have never been unloved
(The rest is here)

Third Day has a wonderful earthy sound. I have their self-titled CD and learned to play "Love Song" and "Take My Life" on the guitar so we could sing them during Praise & Worship at our nondenominational campus ministry.

David can't seem to get enough of Toby Mac when he's studying for nursing school. The psuedo-rapper is quite the wordsmith AND some of his songs are downright inspiring (David and I rocked out to "Made to Love" at our wedding reception).

We also own CDs by Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Chris Tomlin, but I better stop now or this will be a very long post. I'd love to hear about your experience with any of the artists on the list - do you have a favorite album/song by any of them?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Turkey Lessons

A few weeks ago I bought a frozen turkey on an impulse. I love Thanksgiving dinner (my college dining hall served it every month, mmm) and a single turkey can make many meals for David and I (we freeze some of the cooked meat and make broth with the bones). I first attempted to roast a turkey by myself for Thanksgiving 2006, when David and I were engaged. I used a roasting bag and everything came out wonderfully. Here's me preparing the stock pot to boil while we ate:

And here's the spread:

Well, I decided to try again this past weekend. What resulted can be summed up in two words: learning experience.

1. If ice forms in the pickle jar in the back of your fridge, you probably need to turn the fridge's temperature up. If you don't, your turkey will not be thawed all the way through even after almost 5 days in the fridge.

2. When you reach inside the turkey to pull out the giblets, etc, and you find that it is still frozen inside, A) make sure you reach all the way inside and remove EVERYTHING, even though your hand is very cold, and B) run water through or something to try to defrost it, otherwise cooking time will lengthen drastically and the turkey will not cook evenly.

3. When you decide to roast the turkey in your new roasting pan (not in a bag), special considerations are necessary. Do not cover the exposed breast with tinfoil too early or it will not reach the desired temperature before the drumsticks are done (half an hour is too early).

4. Turkey is traditional fare for winter holidays because roasting them in your oven generates a lot of heat for an extended time. If you choose to roast a turkey in 90 degree weather, your air conditioner will run continuously and still not get your home very cool. You might not sleep well that night because of the remaining heat.

But I also learned something else: my husband is very patient, understanding, and dutiful (to the point of slicing and pulling as much not-quite-done meat off of the bones as possible after I was quite frustrated with said turkey). We turned off the oven and vowed to microwave the meat very well later. Needless to say, this is not the most moist and flavorful turkey we've ever eaten. But we're trying not to let it go to waste. At my mom's suggestion, I even put the carcass in the crock pot and made stock.

When we finally sat down to eat and thought through the experience, I declared that I would be roasting all future turkeys in those slightly expensive but oh-so-helpful roasting bags. But my dear husband came back with a very good question: do they leach plastic into the turkey during roasting? We're trying to avoid cooking in plastics, so we need to do a little research into this one.