Take Heed and LEAD!

As most of you know, I am in school to obtain my BSN. I plan to continue on for my MSN in nursing education after I finish. Currently in my leadership class we are having various discussions about what makes a great leader! I am learning a lot about myself as a nurse, as a professional, and as a leader. I am also learning about those whom I have been lead by over the past 14 years as a nurse. I have been thinking a lot about the qualities of an excellent leader. Tom Peters once said, “leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. No matter what role we are in professionally we should be creating more leaders. We all have someone looking for our guidance, assistance, and encouragement. I believe this makes us all a leader to some extent. I was challenged with describing the qualities of an excellent leader. The following acrostic are my thoughts on what true leadership consists of:

L-LEARNS-A good leader learns from their staff. They view learning as a continuous, ongoing, infinite process.

E-EQUAL-A good leader realizes that everyone is of equal importance. While there may be levels within the organization, each level is needed, valued, and appreciated. All team members are of equal importance.

A-APPRECIATIVE-A good leader appreciates their team members. They express their appreciation in a variety of ways; publicly, privately, in writing or verbally. Someone once said “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected”.

D-DELEGATES-A good leader does not try to control every situation. Instead, they delegate to their team. They trust that their team is capable and competent.

E-EMPATHY-Without empathy a leader is empty. As Theodore Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. If a team does not have a caring, empathetic leader then they do not listen when that leader is guiding. During my teaching years I spent so much time building relationships. I knew if I did not have an individual relationship with each one of my students they would not be open to the knowledge or advice that I had to share. To be a good leader you have to have empathy. No one follows an empty leader.

R-RECEPTIVE-A good leader is receptive of constructive criticism, ideas, and change. Being receptive is often difficult for leaders because they tend to be the decision makers, the rule setters, and the “closed book” type of people. Being receptive is not a comfortable place at times but it is very necessary. It means being vulnerable and open to others.

S-SUPPORTIVE-A good leader supports their team. Even if the leader has doubts they will support the ideas of the team. Just as a house cannot be built without support beams, a team cannot be built without a supportive leader. Support looks different to each individual. The leader has the challenging role of learning how to support each team member individually. Not an easy task!

H-HUMBLE-A good leader stays humble and never forgets where they started from. Humility is an expression of gratitude and understanding. Leaders that think they are better than their team are full of pride. Pride leads to selfishness and selfishness leads to loneliness. No one willingly follows arrogance. There is no room for egos in leadership. Humble and kind will win every time!

I-INFLUENTIAL-A good leader influences others to become leaders, to grow, to make a difference. A leader is only as good as those around him/her. If that leader never influences their team in a positive way the team will not grow or develop. I honestly believe in making a difference and influencing others positively each and every day. That is a leaders purpose.

P-PURPOSE-A good leader leads with purpose. They see the vision of the team and they go after it. They do not aimlessly wander about waiting for others to make change. They are purpose driven. Each and everything a leader does has a purpose behind it and that purpose should always point to the betterment of the team.

These qualities can be challenging, overwhelming, and exhausting! Think of those people in your life that have had the most influence…..what qualities did they possess? Are you in a leadership position? What qualities do you think are essential to excellent leadership? Remember, everyone is leading someone in one way or another. Are you a positive influence to your team? If not, you could be part of the problem. Self reflect and focus on what qualities you can improve upon. Making a difference by influencing others should not be taken lightly. Besides, it is possible that you became who you are because of someone’s great leadership. Pass it on.

~Amber

Lessons from the trail

I have been missing in blog action for quite sometime! I have been working really hard to pass my CCRN exam and keep up with going to school part time for my BSN. I am busy with two projects at work and have just really been trying to “find my way” professionally and with work/life balance. Even after 14 years of nursing I am not where I would like to be professionally. A trip I recently took gave me several thoughts and analogies that parallel to my career at this time. Maybe you are trying to find your way through a job situation, professional growth, or work/life balance. Here are some things I am learning along the way…..

My family and I took a trip to the mountains to spend time together and to get our annual Christmas tree! Anytime all 7 of us do anything at all it is always an adventure! One last minute (the only way the Thompson’s do things) idea we had was to ride the Virginia Creeper trail. My husband called the bike rental place and set it up for us to head out 2pm. We had eaten a really big breakfast that day sort of later than usual and no one was really hungry at lunch time. We were super excited as we picked out our bikes and loaded up the van to go up the mountain. My husband planned for us to eat midway on the trail at a little restaurant that he had been to before. The sun was out and it was a little chilly but not cold. I was nervous because I haven’t rode a bike in a long time but like they say….”its like riding a bike”! It all came back to me as soon as I sat on the bike! We had a 3 and a 5 year old at the time that we pulled in a buggy and it didn’t take long for the boredom to set in for the little ones! We made a few stops and after all the goldfish were gone we heard “I’m hungry” about 70,000 times! Our 3 older kids consistently stayed ahead of us and would stop and wait on us every now and then. When we made it to the halfway point, the restaurant was already closed for the season and it was starting to get dusky outside, also I was super cold! As I was riding I was thinking about how unprepared I was…..only a few snacks, no gloves, no hat (just my hood), no coat (just my hoodie). I also thought about how there were no signs to tell us how much further we had to go, how I was glad to be with my family instead of alone (even if half of them went ahead of me), lastly I thought about how nice and sweet the ending was going to be! The entire ride I kept comparing this trail to my ongoing professional journey.

1) Preparation: Often times as nurses we are super prepared when it comes to taking care of our patients but not so much when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Whether you are trying to return to school, become certified, start a new project, or join a committee take time to prepare. I don’t recommend doing all of these at the same time 😉 Research whatever it is that you would like to accomplish. Ask more experienced nurses their thoughts. If you are returning to school research programs that fit into your budget, schedule, and meet the needs of the degree you are seeking. Remember to ask your institution what incentives they offer for returning to school, obtaining a certification etc. Often times assistance goes untouched and unknown because no one asked!
2) Comparison: It is OK if others are ahead of you on their professional journey! I have spent so much time beating myself up for not returning to school a long time ago! There is no need for that……just go! Comparing yourself to others will drain your energy, self esteem and your momentum! Often times I look at new nurses that are excelling and flying through certifications and I cheer them on because that is what we should do! Encourage each other no matter where we are in our journey. Comparison in any aspect of life whether personally or professionally is toxic. Some Moms are guilty of this! I think I did compare with the first child but after that I was so overwhelmed I haven’t had time since! Wives fall into the comparison trap as well…..”if my husband did this” or “her husband is so that”. If you are busy comparing you are looking to the left and to the right and I promise you are missing out on what is right in front of you. Your focus can’t be divided up by comparison. Your journey needs both eyes on the road! Several times during the bike ride I would hear “on your left” which meant someone was passing me. For the rest of your marriage, motherhood, and nursing career there will be someone “on your left”. Just stay in your lane and keep pedaling.
3) The Unknown: I bet I said 100 times to my husband along the trail…..”how come there isn’t a sign to tell us how much further?” his answer was “maybe if you knew you wouldn’t want to keep going because you would feel defeated.” Unknowns are good thing. I really believe we are only given our life book one page a time because we would be too concerned with the ending to enjoy the journey. On this ride I was cold, uncomfortable, and hungry! I pushed myself harder than I have in a long time physically because I wanted to get back to my “comfortable”. Maybe you are in a really uncomfortable spot right now. Use this feeling to motivate you. Maybe you are stuck in a job but can’t move because of needing to go back to school??? Don’t become a victim in your environment. Make a change, take the leap, and work hard towards becoming the professional that you want to be.
4) The Victory: The feeling of seeing the sign of the bike rental place was glorious! I was so happy, the kids were cheering, and I was too! I am still working towards a few victories professionally. This CCRN exam will be a huge victory when I pass. I am a horrible test taker and get horrible test anxiety right before the test. I will become certified and I will celebrate that victory because I will not give up. I have a goal of finishing my BSN in this upcoming year and moving into the MSN program for Nursing Education early 2019. Going to school, working full time, being a mom to 5 kids, being a wife, daughter, grand daughter, and friend is an uncomfortable, busy, tough place to be but the Victory is going to be sweet! I am enjoying this journey one day at a time and often one moment at a time. Victories are like gifts, they come in all sizes and shapes. Celebrate the small victories because they lead to big ones!

I am thankful for that bike trail. It reminded me to always prepare myself, don’t compare myself to others, embrace the unknown, and celebrate the victories. As you journey through your career, parenting, marriage, or any unknowns, may you be able to stay focused but uncomfortable. It is in those times that you will be able to dig deep, find your strength, stay in your lane, and pedal through to success.

~Amber

Among the Alarms……

In an ICU setting, nurses get really used to the different alarms of the unit. In fact, it is possible for us to completely block them out and not hear them at all (or is that just me?). It’s almost like we are “tone deaf” to them. It always makes me chuckle when a non-nurse says “What’s that noise?” or “will you stop that dinging noise?”…..my first thought is “what noise?” Then I realize there is an alarm of some sort and I address it. We have had our acuity escalate over the past month and quite honestly I have been challenged mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was silencing an alarm the other day and I noticed lots of other activities going on. Over the past 3 weeks I took mental notes of what was going on around me and decided to list them all out. Of course this was just what I experienced from my patient assignment and from a distance. Nurses feel free to comment with other things that you have experienced among the alarms over the past month.

Among the alarms……

There is a mom crying over her son
There is a patient taking their last breath
There is a Brother saying goodbye to his lifelong best friend
There is a family in a conference to make decisions regarding the end of life care of their loved one
There is a sister singing a hymn over her critically ill brother
There are family members crying outside the door of their loved one while the team of nurses are working to restart the heart of someone they hold close
There is a patient withdrawing from substances that have held them captive for years
There is a patient crying because his parents are leaving for the day
There is a patient hugging his nurse goodbye because she won’t be back for 4 days
There is a pastor praying for a family who is uncertain about the outcome of their loved one
There is a patient walking for the first time since his injury
There is a family member feeding their loved one for the first time
There is a patient waiting for pain medicine
There is a patient that just reached their 349th day stay in the hospital
There is a young patient seeing his grafted skin for the first time
There is a patient begging for a drink of water but is unable to have one
There is a wife praying for one more day to see her husband
There is a mom blaming herself for her sons accidental burn
There is a nurse watching the monitor as her patients heart beats for the last time
There is a sister unsure of what decisions to make regarding her sisters plan of care
There is a patient returning to clinic and asking to see their favorite nurse for a surprise visit
There is a new patient arriving that will be forever be changed because of this admission

Nurses, as we go in day in and day out, we silence the alarms so they are no longer audible. It is my hope and prayer that we never silence the alarming events that are taking place around us. These moments are real, they are heavy, they bring tears of sadness and joy. Families and patients depend on us to get them through these times. May we have compassion, understanding, and patience. For these are the alarming events in the lives of others that are not easily silenced, they remain audible in their hearts forever. As nurses, we have the unique privilege and opportunity to soften the sound of them for our patients and families. What an honor.

~Amber

Windshield or Rear-View? Which are you looking through?

On August 4th this year I celebrated my 14th year of Nursing! I use August 4th as the date for my Nursiversary because it was my very first day of work as RN! Do you remember your very first day of your career? I couldn’t sleep the night before from excitement and nervousness. I only knew the name of the nurse that was precepting me, where to go, and what time to be there. When I got to the unit someone helped me obtain a pair of blue scrubs, little did I know, this was the beginning of a journey that would change my life. I walked out onto the unit, eager, smiling, and so excited I could pop! I couldn’t find my preceptor and then I was told by someone to join her in room 4. When I walked in the patient was crying and screaming at the nurse (my preceptor) and asking her to let her die as they were bathing her wounds. The patient had lost her left arm at the time and had multiple traumas in addition to her burns. My preceptor smiled and said “welcome, jump in and get ready to go”. The rest of that day is a blur now, but I do remember feeling like I was living a dream. Every time someone called me a Nurse or I had to write Amber Thompson, RN – I couldn’t believe it. Every time I gave a medicine I kept thinking “am I going to get in trouble for this”. When someone needed to know who the “nurse” was for one of my patients it took forever for me to get used to saying “I’m the nurse”. I just really couldn’t believe that I made it into the profession that I wanted to be part of so badly. I was told by so many people that I would not graduate nursing school, that I should learn a skilled trade, that I wasn’t college material and so on. There was always a small part of me that feared those people would be right. There was a bigger part of me though that wanted to prove them wrong.
I am grateful for the past 14 years of an amazing career that is known as the most trusted profession. I have come full circle from where I started and burn nursing will always be in my blood. I have loved every job that I have had. Each job was a blessing and I was placed there for a specific reason. As a new grad starting in the burn center was one of the best decisions I ever made. It laid a foundation that allowed me to go any direction I chose to go as a Nurse. After several different stops along my nursing path, I now find myself back where I started. I am still eager, and excited to start each day…..it just takes A LOT more coffee than it used to!!
A couple of weeks ago one of my best friends (Meredith Mitchell) husbands (Buddy Mitchell) and I were talking and he said “there is a reason why your rear-view mirror is so small and your windshield is so big-what is behind you is the past and you don’t need to be looking for anything there, but what’s in front of you, the windshield (the future) is wide open and ready for you to see and go towards it.
Anniversaries, Nursiversaries, and Birthdays (just celebrated my 37th :/) are all excellent times to look back and look forward. Look back through the review over the past year of your life, your career, or your marriage…….how was it? Some of you may say “It could of been better” or some may say “It was wonderful”. No matter what your thoughts are about the past year you now have the next year to look forward to. So think about the windshield in front of you…..What would you do differently? DO IT! What do you wish would get better? How can you make things better for yourself and others in the upcoming year? Be sure to be looking through the windshield, if you are only looking in the rear-view you will miss what is right in front of you!
I tell my kids (and I used to tell my students when I was teaching) “You are responsible for YOU”! For the past 10-12 years I have been saying “I really need to go back to school”. I guess I was waiting for someone to do it for me!!! I am finally returning!!! I don’t want to celebrate my next Nursiversary without any professional growth, or personal growth. I am responsible for me. If your career or marriage or both are not where you want them to be, take time to reflect inwardly and work to improve on your shortcomings (we all have them). Most of the time it is our attitude, lack of commitment, lack of gratitude, and/or lack of motivation. Don’t blame your boss, your spouse, your kids, your parents, or anyone else because you aren’t where you want to be. Like George Elliott said “It’s never too late to become what you might have been”. That can apply to any aspect of your life, career, marriage, parenting, or friendship.
I am so grateful to be looking through a windshield full of opportunity and growth while learning from the mistakes in my rear-view mirror.

~Amber

Professionally Jaded

A few months ago I floated to another unit and the nurse I received report from was so sweet and kind but somewhat “gruff”. I didn’t judge though because she had just worked a 12 hour night shift and I have mad respect for night nurses! I tried to work nights years ago and almost died 🙂 Anyway, as our report continued and we got to know each other a little she asked me how long I had been a nurse, I told her “It will be 14 years in August”. She then had a puzzled look on her face and said “how are you not jaded”? I then proceeded to tell her that I genuinely love what I do and I simply treat everyone the way I would want to be treated. She told me she had been a nurse for 4 years and was already looking at switching professions.
Just yesterday this same subject came up. Nurses getting jaded and losing their caring and compassion after a period of time. This came up in a different way yesterday. I am honored to be precepting a brand new graduate RN. We met for lunch prior to our first day together and it was so cool to hear why she chose nursing, to see that glow and passion for patient care and the profession of nursing. As we started our day yesterday, I could feel her positive energy and my heart was overflowing with excitement and happiness for her! I seriously felt like I was looking back in the mirror to 14 years ago when I started that first day! As the day progressed there were several times that I “preached” about the right way and not ever compromising care. She made a statement about not wanting to ever lose her caring heart and she was so glad that she seen through me that it is possible!
Since this theme of becoming “jaded” seems to come up over an over in our profession I thought I would write about it!! As I was thinking about this as it applies to nursing I realized it actually applies to all areas of life! Jaded is defined as: tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something. (Websters dictionary) WOW!!

How about you? Would you say that you have become jaded in your profession? Can other’s tell?

Becoming jaded professionally is easily identifiable. We all know that person that looks as though they are miserable in the workplace! Seriously, they are angry, they are fed up, they have no desire to be there, no one can do anything to please them and they have a complaint or a better way for every aspect of the job. I have been a nurse for a long time but not in the same place for a long time!! I have worked as a burn nurse most of my career but have also been a research coordinator, home health nurse, clinic nurse, and health science teacher. I have absolutely loved everything I have done in nursing! However, with each position there would be times that I felt “jaded”. Patients do not deserve to be treated like they are an inconvenience, a medical record number, a body in a bed. They are humans that did not plan to be where they are. As a healthcare professional we must remember that it is a privilege to help someone in need. When you get to a point of “being tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm” professionally, these are some things that I have found to help:

1) Look for ways to grow professionally -this will look different at different places. Do you have a clinical ladder? Can you do an in-service/education on something that is an issue? Can you teach others about something to increase knowledge in your area? Can you mentor someone? What is the next level of advancement? What do you need to do to move up? What does it take to get there? Anytime you lead others, you become refreshed professionally. It reminds you of your “why”. It will also bring you out of that bored state that we can all find ourselves in. Besides, if you aren’t moving forward you will become stagnant which leads to being bored and lack of enthusiasm.

2) Expand your knowledge-read articles, attend seminars, attend journal clubs, read books, take a college course or even go back to school. Learning new information helps you feel like you are moving forward and growing. Professionally we become experts in our field and it is easy to put on blinders for our areas, but there is so much more to learn out there! Take the blinders off and LEARN something new!

3) Take a break-take vacation, do whatever possible to “get away” and refresh and renew yourself. I realize this is not easy to do! Taking a break may mean that it is time to take a break from the area you are in. Maybe it’s time to move on and do something else in the same profession. Nursing is a wide open profession with so many different paths to take. Teachers-maybe you need a new school? If you are no longer effective in your position, you are no longer growing, you are no longer learning, you are no longer an asset to those around you, no longer improving the lives of others, maybe it is time for a change??? As I have said before, I have done many different things and usually it was to grow professionally, and to increase my knowledge in other areas. Each position I have held as a nurse has helped me to grow professionally and contribute to the lives of others. I can’t imagine staying in a position where this wasn’t occurring.

Take time to think about where you are professionally, and then think about where you would like to be. Are you doing anything at all to move forward? Maybe you are perfectly content with where you are…..does that show? As “new grad” season is beginning, it is my hope that these eager, passionate, knowledgeable, new nurses are joining a team of skilled, wise, passionate, caring nurses that are ready to be examples for this great profession. No matter what profession you are in, may you work so that others will wonder why you aren’t jaded.

~Amber

It’s in your HANDS!

I am not sure why but lately I have been paying attention to my hands and others hands and I know that is super weird but that’s me…..I am weird. I am constantly telling my littles…”hold Mommy’s hand”. I make my middles hold hands when they are arguing and decide they don’t have to stop when I ask them to. We have sayings that have to do with hands, such as “give me a hand”, “hand me that”, “you are in good hands”. Hands are powerful but their movements and actions are completely voluntary. Meaning I can choose what my hands do or do not do. I love looking at the older peoples hands…..don’t you know that every line, bump, or scar has a story? Hands can hurt, they can heal, and they can help. What do you find your hands doing most of the time??

1. Are they hurting others? You may think….I don’t hit anyone so this one doesn’t apply to me! But let me help you think of other ways your hands can hurt others. Are you pointing out others wrongs? Are you judging them? My dad always says this “When you point a finger at someone remember there are 3 more pointed back at you”. In other words, you should only be concerned for yourself not judging someone else.
Another way hands can hurt is by spending time doing things that take away valuable time? Just recently I took facebook off my phone. I realized I was constantly scrolling and reading when I could have been spending more time with my children. I am not saying that mom’s don’t need to be on facebook! I just know that it took more time than I wanted to spend. Time that I will never get back. My ADHD brain loves social media and I have to put limits on myself. My hands were doing too much scrolling instead of my ears listening! So, while your hands may not be physically hurting someone they may be emotionally damaging a relationship, pointing at things that don’t concern you, and allowing you to lose time that you will never get back.

2. Are they healing others? You don’t have to be a nurse to heal with your hands! Mamas do it all the time! When someone is hurt or sick sometimes there are no words at that moment, but a simple touch can let them know you are there. Healing can come from someone in the form of a hand written note, a meal, or a phone call. All done with your hands! The power of human touch is amazing. Research shows that it decreases anxiety, tension, and depression. Give a hug, hold a hand, and heal a heart!

3. Are they helping others? Really it boils down to this: you are either helping or hindering. My kids love to stand around while I am cleaning up a mess……I say to them “if you are going to stand here then you are going to help”! Of course that leads to a quick exit. You don’t have to be in a helping profession to make a difference in the lives of others. Hold a door, make a donation, pick up a piece of trash, lend a hand, mow a widow’s yard, mow a single mom’s yard, take a grandparent to lunch, volunteer, do something outside of yourself. Your hands are blessings, just ask someone who doesn’t have one or either of them. Use them for the good of others. We all stand in need of help at some point and time in our lives.

Today my hands have spanked my 3 year old, cleaned up a ton of glass from a storm door that shattered (long unbelievable story), washed clothes, cleaned toilets, (I washed my hands afterwards) hugged friends, rocked a child to sleep for a nap, washed dishes, push mowed the yard, and they are getting ready to go grocery shopping! I have been “off work” for 10 days…..I am looking forward to returning on Thursday to allow my hands to do what they are called to do!

Our hands can be folded to pray for those that are hurt, need healing, or need help as well. Whatever you choose for your hands to do, may you be a blessing to others and choose your actions wisely. You have the potential to hurt, heal, and help. What you do will impact those around you. What will you decide to do daily? It’s in your hands……

These are some pictures of hands that have impacted my life…..they are of my children. The far right (bottom corner) was a picture I took at a cross country match almost a year ago….a runner was hurt and limping and a runner from an opposing team came and put his arms around him to help him to the finish line….I keep that picture to remind me that there should not be limits on who we help.

~Amber

The one that matters sees you…….

So many great things happening in the nursing world this week! I have received my first invitation to a pinning ceremony for prior students that I taught. I remember the relief so well. The relief of no more stress about having to make a certain grade on an exam, not following proper procedure in clinical and the stress of not actually finishing nursing school-(which did happen to me one time). To all of you brand-new grads, I say “congratulations”! You truly are about to embark on a journey that will not only change your life forever but the lives of those who are in need, in pain, distress, and those who are unable to advocate for themselves. Welcome to the profession, I look forward to working along side of you!
To my fellow colleagues, registered nurses whom I have worked with over the past 14 years I would like to say a few things. What you do matters, what you do makes a difference. I see you struggle as you leave the rooms of those who are suffering, I see you struggle as you put aside your personal stress to pour out to others. I see you step up and work as a team when you have plenty to do for your own patients. I see you encourage others and celebrate small and large victories. I see you bite your tongue during rounds for various reasons, I see you tear up when someone passes, I see you smile when an intervention works. I see you comfort families when they have lost hope, I see you supporting your patient as they look in the mirror for the first time or covering up the mirror because you know they aren’t ready to look. I see you act silly for a pediatric patient to get them to smile, or even create a nail station out of cardboard so that a child can do something other than focus on their wounds and scars. I see those of you that stopped for manicures during your busy shift and proudly wore your messy fingernail polish as long as it would stay.
I see you sweat and work harder than any other profession. I see you rub wounds with love and compassion. I see you make patients feel as if they are the most beautiful person in the room. I see you go long hours without using the bathroom, without eating, or without anything to drink. I see you stay late to chart, and I see the look of “does this ever get any easier?” On your face. Not only do I see you but the one who matters sees you…..your patients.
Our profession is selfless. Not one part of what we do is about us. It is giving, nurturing, loving, healing, advocating, and intervening. The days are long and the nights are too. I know there are times when you feel like “I can’t do this anymore”. Maybe you are there right now? Take time to restore yourself, do something you enjoy….take a mental and physical break. Then, when it is time for your next shift take a deep breath, slide on your scrubs, put on your shoes and go in knowing that what you do does not go unnoticed. You may feel like no one sees or understands what you do, and honestly you are right. Your family has no clue, administration may of forgot, friends in another profession just envy your schedule, and society has different views of what you do. Remember this one thing: your patient knows what you do and they are appreciative, they see it, they get it and even though they don’t always show it, they are grateful. At the end of the long day or night when your legs hurt, you are starving and dehydrated, and you finally get to go to the bathroom, remember that you changed someone’s life that day or night and doing that will never be understood or easy.
Thank you for serving in this selfless profession. May you always feel the pride and appreciation for what you do. Not everyone can be a nurse. You are where you are for a reason and I am grateful for you.

~Amber

Love is spelled W-O-R-K!!

Just recently, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage! It really blows my mind! We were high school sweethearts and then broke up during our college years but found our way back to each other. We have friends all around us with struggling marriages and divorces and it has started multiple conversations about how we have made it to 15 years and what our plans are to make it 15 more! Please know that we have had our struggles and every day is not a rosy love story by any stretch! In fact, just last night I tried to push him out of the bed for snoring, this morning we fussed as soon as we woke up about lunches, book bags, and shoes! I promise we are not perfect! I am writing this as a reminder to myself, really! A dear friend of mine, Caroline Auman, and I were texting this past week…..we say that one day we are going to write a book about being foster parents. If we do, watch out because you will laugh so hard you will pee your pants! She is currently fostering 2 children and she has 2 biological children. I would like to quote what she said because it puts my heart into words “Love is work, and love is working”. Isn’t that so true?? Love is work! Marriage is work, Parenting is work, Fostering is work, Friendship is work, Adopting is work! All of those “jobs” are in addition to your “working job”! All of those take lots and lots of love and that is work, but let me tell you something…..love works every time.
I wanted to put out a few blurbs about love in each of the areas of my life, in every area it is work but it is working!

1-Marriage
Ladies, I know you are tired. I know you are overwhelmed. I know you have “to-do” list a thousand miles long. Marriage is work. Marriage is intentional. Each day we choose our attitudes, our behaviors, and responses. Honestly, some days I don’t choose wisely! The more you love your way through this the more love will work. Have you ever thought or heard “this is just not working”? Love works. Bad attitudes, constant nagging, slamming stuff around, smart comments, silent treatments, and so on-they don’t really work. (I was only able to list these things easily because I am guilty) Love works. Be intentional. Make time for each other. Even if its 15 minutes at night to talk about your day (and even if you or your husband fall asleep while talking). Send “thinking of you” messages. Say “thank you” for the things your husband does! I know, I know, it isn’t the way you do it or would have done it or maybe you had to wait a week or a year but still say “thank you”. Gratitude changes a hardened heart and will soften the heart of those that receive it. Hold hands. This is one of my favorite things! We are both stomach sleepers (until I push him out or over for snoring) and somehow our hands end up at the top of the bed and we hold hands until we fall asleep. (I know you want to throw up) Pray together! Its really tough to argue with someone or be mad at them if you are praying together! If you don’t know where to start just say “I know this is weird but I want to pray with you” and go from there! Love is work and love is working in our marriage.

2-Parenting
Whew, Lord have mercy! Parenting is so exhausting! Yesterday was the last day of spring break for my school kiddos and all 7 of us were at home together. I cooked, cleaned, cooked, cleaned and then cooked and cleaned again before baths and bed! My 5 children are ages 3,5,10,12 & 18. All of them have different personalities, different likes and dislikes, and different mood swings! Sometimes I parent on the basis of “Is this going to scar you for life or not”?! I will tell you though, even with all their differences, they all respond to love. They respond best to patience, kind words, and positive encouragement. One thing that I am constantly working on is individual time with each child. It is so important! I do well with the oldest and youngest but the middles get mingled in so I have to be sure that I take time to spend with them. Pray with your children, eat dinner at the table together, have electronic free nights, go to the park, go outside and play with them (the dishes and the house can wait), read with them. One thing that we do that I love, is my 12 year old son will say “everybody tell the best and worst part of your day” and we go around the dinner table and tell it! I am definitely not a perfect parent but I do try my best to love at all times. I also admit to my children when I mess up and I apologize and ask for forgiveness from them. You have to be real with kids….they only want honesty, humility, and genuine love and caring. Love is work, and love is working.

3-Nursing
I have a really difficult time leaving my job mentally when I leave physically. I think about my patients constantly. I replay events in my head and I am always thinking about how to do better. It is important to mentally “take a break” and I do some days, but not everyday. Sometimes as a nurse I am frustrated when things don’t go as planned or I feel like I am jumping through hoops to get what I need. I have to remember, Love is work and love is working. If I care about what I do, then the rest will fall into place. You can’t teach someone to love and care! All of the other stuff can be taught! So if you are nurse, just love. Just love on those patients, love on those families, and love on yourself! Love what you do and you will do it well!

4-Fostering
I have a few friends that are currently in the “foster fog” at this moment!! As most of you know we fostered for 4 years and then adopted. It is a wonderful, difficult, happy, sad, painful, overwhelming, fun, funny, and exhausting world! So many people say “I don’t know how you do that, how you can take care of a child that may leave”. The answer is LOVE. Love is work and love is working. Love works in the life of a child that has no where to go, no one to hold them, no one to tell them “everything is going to be ok”, no room to call their own, no house to call a home, no one to identify as Mom or Dad, no one to sign their report card, no one to go on a field trip, no one to come to their school programs, no one to hold their hand, no one to order school pictures, no one to take them on trips, no one to buy them clothes, no one to cook their favorite food, no one to celebrate their birthday….the list goes on forever…but love works and love is working in the lives of these children. To those of you who are going from court date to court date, visit to visit, and child to child, just love. Keep loving them and being there for them. That is all it takes to change the life of a child forever. For those who say “I couldn’t do that” or “I wasn’t called to do that” then find someone who is and be a source of encouragement for them. Babysit, take a meal, send a card, whatever you can do will help! You will be part of something bigger than yourself and you will be blessed! To all the foster families out there: Love is work, and love is working.

The dictionary defines work as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result”. Love definitely is work!! It does require physical and mental effort to achieve a purpose! Your purpose is worth it though right??? Keep working hard, keep pressing forward, and know that you were made for a purpose greater than yourself by someone who knows that love works.

~Amber

I hope my children know…….

Only God loves you more than I do
You bring me JOY
I would give my life for you
I will always worry about you
I will always be your biggest fan
God has a plan for your life that is bigger than anything you can imagine
It hurts me to see you hurt
I want the very best for you
I believe in you
I am proud of you
People, material possessions, and careers do not define you, your identity is found in Christ
I get nervous for you
When I have you all home together at the same time and we eat dinner together or watch a movie, my heart is so full
Some of you grew in belly, some of you did not, but all of you grew in my heart
Family is not defined by genetics
Love others unconditionally, always
Serve others
Stay humble
Stay grateful
Never, never, never give up

I am the blessed Mother of 3 boys and 2 girls. I don’t have it all together, I don’t ever claim to. I am grateful for the opportunity to love, teach, nurture, and raise these human beings that I pray will grow up to make a difference in the kingdom for the King.

~Amber

Great challenges bring great changes!

I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post!!! Life is too busy, and time flies by! Recently a former student of mine posted a quote, I am unsure of who the quote was from but it really helped me the moment I read these words, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. This is such an accurate, truthful statement. I stopped to think about all the times I have been challenged in the past 36 years, and with each challenge I can now look back and notice the change that took place. Not every challenge brings about positive change, some challenges reap a negative change but regardless, a change takes place. If you are breathing right now you have probably faced a challenge of some kind in your lifetime. Think about those for a moment. My list looks a little something like this:

-Parent’s divorced
-Struggled academically in high school
-Struggled academically in college
-Lost my place in the Nursing Program due to grades, had to return a year later
-First child born with special needs/cleft lip and palate
-Second child born with a bleeding disorder
-Lost my brother, my only sibling (I was 26 he was 31)
-Being a High School Teacher
-Being a Registered Nurse

These have not been my only challenges in life but they are ones that have brought great CHANGE!
My parent’s have been divorced for 30 years now. They have both remarried wonderful people and I am grateful for that. Their divorce was a challenge growing up but it has changed the way I look at marriage. I truly believe that my marriage is stronger because of my experiences as a child of divorced parents. I am grateful that as I grew up my parents and stepparents managed to get along. I am grateful that I have learned a lot from my stepparents and they have been a source of support for me. My husband and I are getting ready to celebrate 15 years of marriage. This challenge brought change that will last a lifetime!
Losing my spot in the nursing program was very humiliating. I was devastated and I was pretty sure that life would end that day! I really had to swallow a lot of pride. I moved back to my hometown, and moved back home. It seemed as if everyone around me was moving forward but I was moving backwards. I wanted to be a Nurse so bad but I had not made sacrifices or put in the effort that I was capable of to do so. At that point in my life I did not deserve to become a Nurse because I had not put in the effort! During my involuntary break from school I learned a lot about myself. I formed a force within myself that could not be stopped. I became determined, strong willed, and focused! I no longer took my education for granted. I returned to complete my last year of nursing school. I was focused, humble, and unstoppable. This challenge brought a change of humbleness and gratitude. Because of this challenge I continue to go after anything I put my mind to.
Having children with medical issues is challenging. My son with a bilateral cleft lip and palate changed my life. At first I viewed this challenge as unfair and overwhelming. However, he has taught me to be comfortable with who I am, love unconditionally, and appreciate the differences of others. God created him to be the most humble, sweet, caring, serving, and loving young man I have ever seen. He is full of life, fun, and never meets a stranger. He is loved by many and has no idea that his life (which started out as a challenge) has brought so much positive change to my life and our family. My daughter is missing a clotting factor (only 1-we have several) in her blood. This challenge started when she was 3 years old. Her surgeon was my boss at the time and long story short she discovered this bleeding disorder by a postoperative bleed that occurred twice! This challenge taught me that God places you exactly where you need to be and he has a purpose for where he places you! This challenge brought forth a change of allowing God to guide me and place me where he wants me.
Losing a loved one is never easy whether distant, close, old, or young. My brother’s death was sudden and very difficult to get through. It changed my life forever. Love without judgement. Speak kindly. Keep your relationships healthy. If you are thinking about someone, let them know. Be sure that those you love know it and that you not only say it, you show it. I am grateful for the memories we have. I am grateful that our last words were positive and that I will someday see him again.
Being a teacher was very challenging!! However, it brought forth a lot of change in my life. I learned so much from my students. Every teenager has a story they want to tell but just need someone to listen and to care. Being a teacher changed me for the better. My students taught me that not all teenagers are bad, teenagers have huge hearts, teenagers listen more than adults think, and teenagers want to be respected and treated like like the young adults that they are. Teaching was challenging for me because not all students listened or believed in themselves, no matter how much I told them to. Teenagers have a lot of pressure on them from many different areas and most of them feel like no one cares or understands.
The biggest change that being a teacher had on my life was becoming a Mom to my oldest son. He has changed my life for the better and I am so grateful for my teaching career because it allowed our broken paths to cross and come together. He has taught me what strength looks like, not to judge a book by its cover, and not to let your past determine your future. Teaching was a challenge that brought forth lots of positive changes for me.
Being a Nurse is tough. Each shift brings forth its challenges. Just the other day, I lost a patient and was quickly reminded how fast life can go by. With each patient I am changed for the better. I am humbled by what I see each day. I am grateful for the privilege to help others during one of the most difficult times of their life. Nursing challenges continue to change me. I never want to stop learning, I never want to stop caring, I never want to stop being whatever it is that my patient needs that day. The circumstance that brings a patient to me is what changes their life forever, the 12 hours I spend with them is what changes mine.

So what are your challenges? I know there are many! Just remember that challenges bring forth change and without change we would never move forward. So face these challenges head on because who wants to move backwards??

~Amber