Eureka!

Doesn’t it make you feel proud and happy when you stick with something that seems impossible and then the moment comes and you can shout Eureka! because you figured it all out?

My Eureka! moments usually come in connection with something electronic or a technological situation. I had a moment today at work. I’m still pretty happy, hours later.

Everything that happens to/for/with a patient is recorded electronically nowadays. When I complete my screening of a baby, I print a paper record of the outcome and I also chart the results in the EHR (electronic health record). My weekend at work was crazy and while I was charting today I went back to a patients results from Saturday to gather another piece of information. I realized that I had charted a screening result incorrectly for that patient. Try as I might, I could find no way to edit that result.

I sent a message to my coordinator asking how to handle the issue and went off to screen my last baby for the day. She sent instructions, I sat down to correct my error and…no more baby. During the time I was away the baby and parents had been discharged and when they leave the floor, they are no longer available in our patient list.

I enlisted the aid of the charge nurse who walked me through the process to find and then edit a record. My access to patient information is much more limited than the staff access. We work much of the time with a “need to know” access and can be denied certain areas. I wasn’t sure if the path that she was showing me would work but I was determined to give it a try.

Things began well but when I accessed the patient record it looked nothing like the screen that had been available to the nurse. I was missing tabs that she had, my screen seemed to be set up differently and quite honestly I had forgotten exactly which part of the chart she suggested I locate to edit my record. Undaunted, because by gosh I wanted that chart entry to be correct, I began opening tabs one by one, exploring, seeing how far I could go and if anything even vaguely resembled the area I needed.

Ten minutes in I managed to locate two notes that I had written and filed regarding this baby. The downside was that there was no way to edit them from the screen I was in. More searching, more clicking, more exploring and as I came closer to the final few available tabs the screen began to look familiar. Thirty minutes after my search began there in front of me was the Audiology tab and the page with my charting. The best part is that it was able to be edited!

I was so pleased with myself that I whooped in delight and loudly began to declare myself to be amazing and skillful and definitely best at never giving up. Thankfully the nurse in the NICU directly behind me was busy with a loud, fussy baby and missed out (I hope) on my zealous display of pride and fist pumping.

I fixed my error, charted an explanation of the changes and promptly forgot all the steps that I had to endure to get to where I needed to be. I did however, walk out of work with a silly smile plastered on my face, a huge feeling of accomplishment in having conquered the EHR, and the phrase “never, ever give up…” running through my head.

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What Am I Worth?

That’s a loaded title question because I know that I’m worth a lot. But the time has come around for my employer to decide how much I am worth to them. It’s performance evaluation time and I am but one tiny, inconsequential Hearing Screener in a vast sea of the same scattered throughout the country.

Is it weird to say that I am looking forward to this process? As someone who has never actually participated in an official huge company with a bazillion employees type review, I find some excitement associated with this event.

When you work in the dental field, as I did for many, many years, reviews and raises and bonuses are often hit and miss, unless maybe you work in one of those large chain type dental practices with offices all over your state.

My first dental office offered some form of profit sharing if I remember correctly. Probably a bonus based on earnings. When I went back to dentistry 12 years after leaving that practice it was much the same thing, although that employer also tossed in a Christmas bonus as well. Everyone at that office was keenly aware that the extra dollars at Christmas were tied directly to how much he -the employer- liked you, and how you -the female employee- put up with his moodiness, his attempts to show “affection,” and your ability to show sufficient gratitude on the occasions that he took the office out to lunch or closed the office early. I was never given a raise at that office. I had to approach him and state why I was deserving of an increase in pay by pointing out everything that I did to make his practice run efficiently and why I was an asset and leader among his team. I got every raise I asked for, but he was still a jerk.

When I left there and moved on to oral surgery and my final office I encountered a world of dentistry that was financially unlike anything I could imagine. I started out at a higher pay scale, which was common because of the added medical responsibilities associated with surgery. However, on a regular basis and even at times when others did not get raises in pay, I would find that my paycheck had grown. I distinctly remember a few times wandering over to the office manager and describing what I believed to be a mistake in my check. She would just smile and say “No, it’s correct. Doctor wants you to know how much he appreciates the great job you are doing.” We got bonuses as well and were offered investment opportunities with matching funds. I had chosen not to participate in the investment plans offered. Imagine my shock when the practice was sold and legally everything had to be distributed or officially rolled over into a new employer plan and I was handed a check for over $7000! Even though I was not contributing to my own investment plan, the office had been since I started working there.

Now I work for a multi-billion dollar healthcare company with eight or so different divisions spread across the United States. I am identified by an employee number: 3***5. Raises are based now upon performance reviews: clear, concise criteria with a 5-point scale. My supervisor gets to check off boxes, present the review to me, we discuss, re-evaluate, adjust if needed and everything goes to some mysterious corporate office somewhere in Florida. Someone, behind a desk, or maybe even a computer algorithm, evaluates the results and decides how much, if any, increase in pay I am worthy of.

When I think about it the whole process reminds me of some sort of SAT test: color in the boxes, feed the paper into a machine and you either get a passing score and smiley face or a sad face with a note saying “sorry, try again after you study some more.”

So why am I excited? I am curious as to how my supervisor will rate my performance over the last year+ with the company. I am curious to see what she has appreciated about my work ethic, teamwork, flexibility and skills. We just completed our own localized 1-year employee review in June. She found everything as it should be, but for this review, will she find that I am not only meeting expectations, but exceeding them? I think we all know that doing your job as expected may get you a small raise in pay. Exceeding what is expected may (should?) garner a bigger monetary reward.

I will not know of a monetary decision until early next year. Leading up to that is all the back and forth. I see no reason to anticipate one of those sad faced notes. It has been a long, long time since my dental career when I had to fight for my worth but I haven’t forgotten the powerful feeling of that fight. If needed, I’m ready and willing to point out just how worthy I am.

Future

I began caring for granddaughter #1 just months after she was born. I was leaving my dental assisting career and so the timing was perfect. I was a mom who never had to put my kids in daycare. They had lots of teen babysitters growing up as I worked part time, but I always felt fortunate that we managed financially without a larger paycheck from me. I went back to work full time once the youngest was in school.

I feel good that I have been able to give my daughter and son-in-law the ability to avoid daycare as well. What grandma wouldn’t want to spend time with the best granddaughter in the world, plus help to raise her and impart some of my wisdom. Granddaughter #2 came along and was immediately bestowed with equal status in the “best of” department. I was then challenged with a whip-smart older sister and a wonderful new baby to cuddle.

As one would expect, time has moved on and now these girls are six and just shy of three years old. #1 started 1st grade last month. #2 may, or may not be, ready for a few days of preschool next fall.

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Their mama has also had an amazing opportunity to move away from her clinical job as a nurse. She now works in a healthcare related field utilizing her nursing skills, but she gets to work from home. She has longed for a job like this.

Looking back to the time when I began caring for #1, I’m not really sure that any of us had a definitive plan for just how long my involvement would be. Jobs change, families often relocate, I keep getting older, girls grow up, challenges make us question everything, and solid financial considerations come and go like the wind.

There did come a time that I envisioned an end to this long-term arrangement. Logic told me that a point would come when both girls would be in school. Logic also told me that continuing a financial arrangement whereby I was caring not for my girls, but for the family dog for 8 hours per day was even too ridiculous for me to propose. There was also this little matter called divorce that happened. Ironically, as the financial settlement for the divorce was discussed and agreed upon, the timing for my exit as childcare provider was really made clear. The year that I turn sixty two was to be the magic number. Financially things would change, and finally both girls would be in school full time.

I don’t think that either my daughter or myself really anticipated that her job would change, despite just how often she would dream of using her skills in a different setting. She has spent two weeks in orientation, and it is quite clear that as she moves forward on her own, the flexibility with her new role will be amazing.

Logic and reality once more has me speculating that the end of our arrangement could come sooner than my sixty-second birthday. This new job should offer my daughter the opportunity to be more available, especially as #2 matures a bit more. I have mixed feelings about this.

There are days that I can hardly wait to see these girls. I want to hear what #1 is doing in school, the names of her new friends, if she is buying hot lunch or taking peanut butter and jelly. I want to hear her ask me questions about myself or her mom. I want to see the happy look of understanding on her face when we figure out a math question or come to a conclusion with a science experiment. I want to hear #2 say, with a barely contained giggle as we jump off the couch for the hundredth time “Do it again!” I want to watch her learn colors and shapes and numbers. I want to continue to take walks through the forest with her. I want to tuck her in at nap time.

There are days though that I watch and listen and wonder how many more fights they can have over a Barbie, or who will win the bossy sister contest, or who will storm away to “be alone.” I listen to complaints and tattling and whining. I correct and instruct and show my frustration and even get mad. I seem to be ignored more and more often. I remember the days when I could roll around with them on the floor, or run with them, or just get back up without knee pain (and a crane) after sitting on the floor to play. I have serious doubts about just how many more times I can climb up and down their stairs.

I have been a parent to them just as much as their own parents. Part of me is ready to move forward, sometimes very ready, but part of me is not. Part of me never wants to miss a day with these girls, but part of me needs more vacation days. Part of me cannot wait to see who they become six years from now, but part of me wants to hold them frozen in time…at least until the fighting starts!

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As my day to day care of these two girls changes, I am able to see opportunity for myself as well. They have been my priority job for six years. My newer, second job at the hospital is one I love. Perhaps more opportunity waits there. Perhaps unexpected opportunities will present themselves. I am ready for that. Will I remain an active caregiver with these girls for 3 more years? Changes have already begun. My full days with them are now 1/2 days. I anticipate even more change by this time next year. I am ready to turn over this role as it slowly fades away, which may be more advantageous (and easier) than facing an abrupt end.

I raised my own three children. I had no idea that I would be helping to raise my grandchildren. I will be forever thankful that I could be a part of their life in this way but I am ready to move forward to whatever may be waiting down the road for me.

 

Autumn…for DM

Not long ago fellow blogger DM, who writes mostly at Heart to Heart, asked me to talk about why I like autumn so much. DM, (Doug) loves details. The more details you give him the happier he is. I have been trying to figure out how to frame this post since autumn has officially arrived. A list would be simple, but I know that Doug would find that lacking. I could take, or borrow, pictures and just show you all the things I like about autumn, but I doubt that method qualifies in the details category either.

I’m going to approach this from a sensory perspective I think. So, in no particular order, and likely with some overlap, and perhaps even a quasi-list or two…I give you some of my personal joy surrounding autumn.

The sight of autumn…

I live in the Pacific Northwest. We have lots and lots of green things here. I like green, but after snow covered green, and then spring green, and then blazing sun-drenched summer greens I need a change. Change is a part of who I am. I cannot live in a world of green 365 days per year. October is when autumn kicks into high gear around here. The leaves on the deciduous trees begin to lose their deep greens in September. The fade starts out slowly but then almost overnight mottled yellows take hold. When you see that change in the plants then it can only be a matter of days before vibrant oranges and reds appear. The trees look as if they are on fire.

Autumn brings the opportunity to see more squirrels darting up and down the acorn trees collecting winter food. I put aside the fact that squirrels are rodents, and focus on their enormous bushy silver-gray tails, their enterprise and relentless focus on stockpiling food, and their ability and agility to race up and down trees.  Do you, like me, ever wonder what they might be thinking as they sit on their haunches with their prize acorn in hand watching silently as a human approaches down the sidewalk only to then skitter away chirping a warning to their friends?

I can’t forget about fog. I live in a valley that also lays claim to a large river. I am surrounded on the northwest, and all along the eastern borders of this valley by significant foothills. There is something mysterious about a rolling white blanket of fog that settles near the banks of the river and down over the farmlands that I travel through to work. There is something magical about the low clouds that drift and then scatter themselves here and there as I climb the foothills in my car to care for my granddaughters. You can just never be really sure what lies underneath or on the other side…

The feel of autumn…

So I think this is going to take on a list form.

  • crisp morning air juxtaposed with warm sunny heat in the afternoon
  • the softness of a long sleeved sweater
  • a plush cozy bathrobe
  • warm hands thanks to a cup of pumpkin flavored anything
  • sun warmed dirt in my fingers as I put the garden to bed for winter
  • rough textured root vegetables ready to be roasted or made into soup
  • a sleek and slippery TV remote, forgotten during the summer but resurrected now that fall TV has returned
  • comfy flannel sheets and warm wool socks as late autumn turns to winter

The sound of autumn…

Again, Pacific Northwest perspective dictates that one of the major sounds of autumn is the sound of rain. Water falling from the clouds here can be a gentle plop, plop, plop as fat drops fall randomly from equally random clouds. Rain can also mean the rushing sound associated with menacing black clouds that open their taps full force, sending what seems like gallons of water toward the ground all at once.

Wind chimes blowing in a gentle breeze before a brief autumn rain. Wind chimes clanking and clattering during a heavy, windy autumn downpour.

It can’t be autumn without the sound of leaves crunching underfoot. One of the things that attracted me to this little town was the trees that line the residential streets. I get great pleasure walking in the late afternoon sun listening to the crackling, crunchy, swooshing sounds my feet make as they interact with all those leaves.

Silence. Days takes on a muffled existence when winter arrives as snow blankets harsh noises, but autumn is the precursor. Light fades more quickly in the evening and as such commuters hurry from the train and tend not to linger, but seek the warmth of their homes. Darkness signals the body to slow down, to rest, and to talk in hushed tones.

The smell and taste of autumn…

Pumpkin, dark coffee, soup simmering in the slow cooker, warm bread with butter, vegetables roasting with thyme and olive oil, candles, wood smoke, patchouli, apple spice tea, clover honey drizzled on yogurt, wet dog, musty rubber boots, spiced everything, sage, applesauce donuts, hints of evergreen sap, maple, lavender blooms from my garden, red wine, earthy wet compost, sticky caramel … I somehow think that this could go on and on.

The best thing about autumn though has to be that it is typically the perfect mix of endings and a look ahead to renewal. Constant action associated with a feverish need to stretch sunny summer days as far as possible can finally come to an end. I always feel a sense of calm during these months. There is no hurry, no need to rush. I will get to where I need to be and I won’t miss out on anything in the process.

I am mindful of what lies ahead. The cold and dark winter brings challenges so this time- this season of autumn- usually brings peace to my mind and heart. I prepare to endure winter knowing that the rain and the green and the sun will return.

 

 

Examples

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Is it cute or creepy that Google sends Happy Birthday wishes to my home screen?

I woke up this morning to silly dancing candles on my computer and a birthday coupon from my favorite online used book store. Two things I can definitely say the two woman I am about to describe never even imagined might exist…

Today I have embarked on my last year as a 50-something woman. When I think that next September I will be 60 years old I can’t really imagine myself there until I reflect a bit on my past.

I remember as a child my maternal grandmother (Grandma Bunny we called her) used to visit our home. She was probably in her 60’s when she began driving down in her big Cadillac to spend a few days here and there with us. She dyed her hair red, but there were always white roots when she visited. I would watch her in the mornings, in the bathroom, following her beauty routine. It always began with her slathering her face and neck with Oil of Olay. Her face always looked like an oil slick afterwards. She swore it helped to keep the wrinkles at bay. I remember thinking that I would never use that stuff on my face.

I remember my paternal grandmother (Grandma Fiscus) during that same time as much older. She dressed mostly in house dresses and aprons and always sensible shoes.  She wore no lotions, no makeup. Her hair, while always neat and curled, never saw a bottle of dye. I’m sure she had no beauty routine and didn’t care. Her wrinkled face proved that she likely had never even seen a bottle of Oil of Olay. I always felt more comfortable around this grandma. She was more real, more like someone I wanted to be when I grew older.

Turning 59 today means that I have a few wrinkles but they are incidental enough that I still have no plans to start down the path of greasy moisturizing. A light moisturizer with SPF is fine for me. While I do have to add a bit to my eyebrows, I am thankfully not at the stage of drawing them onto the middle of my forehead as Grandma Bunny used to do. I have not adopted house dresses or aprons, but I do like my shoes to be comfortable and appropriate for my casual days. There are no high heels in my closet. If you read my recent post about hair color then you know that unlike Grandma Fiscus I am not yet ready to embrace the gray. Maybe at 65?

After watching how these two women went about aging I find that ultimately I have adopted bits and pieces of the routines and habits of both, something I assume that we all do as we grow older. I have no expectations that anything will cause me to change my habits or become someone different when I leave 59 behind next year. Sixty will be just another number and it will be fine. I do wonder however, how my examples are making an impact on those women in my life younger than me…daughters and granddaughters specifically.

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I tend not to make much of my own birthday, but I do use the occasion to treat myself to something. This year I decided to restock my almost empty book shelves. Here are a few of the new titles:

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I have a couple on retirement and social security, because…almost 60 you know.

I have some new feminist dystopian literature…3 pictured but actually a lot more of that genre on the shelf.

I have some science fiction with “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.”

I got the latest Stephen King, who I like, but I was probably more motivated because of the fact that I just finished up watching the Hulu original Castle Rock.

I also picked a few memoirs with “Somebody I Used To Know” about author Wendy Mitchell facing early onset dementia, and ” Educated” from Tara Westover, who went from living in the forest as a child of survivalists to earning a PhD from Cambridge.

Although I didn’t include it in the picture, if anyone is an Austen fan and can’t get enough of “Pride & Prejudice” I also picked up “Mary B” by Katherine Chen. Said to be set before, during and after P & P, this story is written from the perspective of the awkward, bookish middle sister Mary Bennet.

My curated reading list continues to grow…again, but most are new releases and I almost always buy used so as these books move out they can be replaced from the list. My interest has broadened this time around. I was in a classics mood the last time I made a major book purchase years ago. Now it seems right to step away from what is already old and established. Could that be because can now consider myself old and established?

What books does one buy when they turn 65, the official acknowledgment year of senior citizenship?

I have a few years left to figure all that out.

 

 

Brave

I had an email from my youngest daughter about one week ago.

It started out, “Hi! I purposefully didn’t tell you this when I last saw you because I knew you’d just worry…”

This is perhaps not the best way to start an email to a parent, but in our world, with a daughter who works for the US Geological Survey and who is always outdoors, typically around water, often rushing cold possibly dangerous water, I figured she must have had an adventure at work and was telling me after the fact. I don’t really worry much about what she does on her job. She has been through numerous safety training classes so unless she is launching some sort of equipment off of an extremely tall icy bridge into a raging river (yes this is me projecting my extreme fear of heights onto her) then I usually find most of her unexpected work situations rather funny.

This email had nothing to do with work however.

This woman, in her spare time, volunteers on alternating weekends at a local animal shelter and also with Habitat for Humanity. In the time that she has been doing this she has fostered a few cats and adopted Finn, a sleek black short hair who seriously is the epitome of the standoffish cat. She has helped to build a number of homes in her local community as well and gained some valuable construction skills along the way. Her email, as I read more, was connected to a fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity. Here’s more of the email that followed after that sketchy opening line:

“…but I got to rappel off the roof of the Hotel Murano today (24 stories, 245ft) and I just wanted to tell someone because it was awesome and definitely a unique experience.”

So, being the adventurous volunteer that she is, she signed up to help as part of the ropes crew for this fundraiser.

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Pre-invite to rappel: safely on the ground watching the challenge participants

Each year the local Habitat for Humanity challenges folks to raise $1000+ for affordable housing. In return they get the privilege to show their family and friends that, even without any experience whatsoever, they too can rappel off of the side of the second tallest building in the city. Once all the participants had finished their turns, the folks who run the technical part of the process allowed the volunteers to have their chance to plunge over the side of the building as well. Sort of a thank you (?) to them for their assistance I suppose.

So, my daring daughter jumped at the chance. That fact does not surprise me at all. I have watched her, okay followed her actually but only once and completely terrified and frozen in place, swiftly hiking along mountain trails 2 feet wide with no barriers to prevent a tumble down hundreds of feet of sheer rock. Descend down the side of a hotel…probably a piece of cake for her.

My reaction to this news: I laughed out loud. I wondered for a moment if I should be offended at her secrecy and the fact that she knows me so well and did not want me to project my own terror onto her. I choose to believe she was simply trying to spare me extra stress. I would never try to talk her out of doing something new and exciting. She is an adult who makes her own choices, but honestly, especially in this situation, I was truly better off not knowing beforehand. Actually, I envy her. She has the desire and the capacity to try things that I will never attempt and I could not be more proud of her for those choices. I think, at 25 years old she has already done so much more than I was ever willing to undertake when it comes to gutsy, maybe even dangerous activities.

She ended the email with this: ” There were event photographers on site so I should have some photographic evidence within the next few days, so stay tuned.”

I’m sure she won’t mind if I share…