Friday, January 29, 2016

Rising Strong and Rumble Dreams

Recently I finished reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown. In her book, Brene states that there are 3 phases or 'acts' of overcoming a tough problem. 1. The Reckoning 2. The Rumble and 3. The Revolution. The reckoning is where you get to the point where you recognize what your problem is and you can't avoid facing it. The rumble is the phase where you try and fail and try again and work hard to solve your problem. The revolution is where you get to otherside of your mountain. You are changed and victorious. One of the things that she said is that so many people when describing their success skim over this phase as 'it was hard, and I pushed through it'. She said more people need to share their stories about how they actually got through the difficult spots.
 As far as graduate school is concerned I am still in Act II. I know the finale is coming, but I'm not there yet. It's still hard. Many people still think I am crazy. Another thing about me is that I have a tendency to have vivid dreams that often represent things I am dealing with. (And no, not abstract vague voodoo things, but dreams that portray things that I am dealing with.) I thought I would share them here (and honestly I have been meaning to write them down for awhile) because perhaps it may help people with their own struggles. (Or maybe you may just enjoy the crazy things that go through my head at night.)

Backstory: Graduate school last semester was rather soul-sucking. I have too much student debt to quit without graduating. In order to attend school I have to have health insurance, it is required. My husband's employer does not offer it. At the time high deductible private insurance cost us more than $1100 per month. And I was struggling to find a job that was willing to work around school, wasn't trying to do shady things with my license and offered insurance. I looked into cheaper and closer graduate programs, but to transfer would mean scrapping too much of the work I had already done and would take longer in the end.

 Dream 1: I was in the ocean with my husband and my kids. Previously something had happened to the boat we were on. We were holding arms together in a circle and we were treading water. Everyone was miserable. My kids were crying and wanted to give up. I wanted to give up. I could tell by looking at my husband that he was miserable, but I know that he won't give up on me or the kids. We are both so exhausted trying to keep the kids and ourselves from drowning. We are all so tired of fighting. We have no idea which direction is the closest way to land. Every time a wave would wash over our heads, we would hold tight to each other and feel a little more defeated as we fought to rise to the surface again. We would choke and sputter and rally again. My legs did not want to move, but I made them move because I can not give up trying to get my kids to safety. Eventually we made it to a small sandy island that was big enough for the five of us to sit on. I woke up completely exhausted.

 Eventually I found a job that gave me benefits and worked around school. (Hooray!)

More backstory: As I have been embarking on this graduate school and advanced practice nursing journey, I've been trying to figure out exactly where I want to go with it. And I could debate back and forth forever. Of course it is difficult to determine right now. I have more than a year left, the jobs that are available at the moment, most likely will not be when I am finished. And school probably will not end when I finish this degree. I can get a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), a PhD, a second Master's Degree in Psychology or a Masters in Public Health, or some combination. Any of these can help me provide better care to children. However, it's hard to say which is the best plan for me and my family. It's hard to evaluate the pros and cons of any direction. I have spent hundreds of hours talking to people, and researching different options. The paths are not very clearly defined. It makes it difficult to know which step to take next.

Dream 2: I went hiking with Brene Brown. The scenery was impossibly picturesque. It was like Zion's National Park, Arches National Park, Iguazu Falls and Final Fantasy XII all rolled into one. So pretty. On our hike we ate lots of dark chocolate and I talked about my ideas for public health interventions to improve pediatric health. I was so excited to talk about my ideas and the things that I wanted to do, and Brene was excited too. She told me 'You need to do this, these ideas need to be tried. Do the research to support your interventions.' We talked, hiked and ate dark chocolate for hours. It was amazing. I woke up pumped and with increased resolve to keep going even though sometimes graduate school is terrible.

Monday, October 26, 2015

St George Marathon 2015

The first Saturday in October was the big event that I have been struggling to train for all summer. Between kids, work, my hip injury flaring up occasionally and my demanding graduate school program I was not able to train as much as I would have liked. I still managed to do my long runs almost every weekend and cross-trained at least a few days every week.
 Four weeks before the marathon I did a twenty mile run and I felt really good. The following week I came down with a cold so I scaled way back on my training, trying to give my body time to recover. The day before the marathon I woke up feeling worse than ever so I took it easy and drank lots of fluids.
 The morning of the marathon I woke up at three and I felt ok, not amazing, but not bad so I decided to go for it. My sister-in-law and I headed to the starting line together, and hung out around the
campfires while we waited for the race to start.
 Usually it takes a few miles for my legs to get warmed up and get in the groove. After that, the running gets fun. That never happened. I never felt able to kick into gear. Almost every stinking mile was miserable. It was so frustrating to see people around me walking faster than I could run.
 Around mile 8 my knees started hurting. Around mile 19 my ovaries started wigging out (It's a thing they do a few times a year, treatment is worse than dealing with it.) and I cried silent tears when the pains would hit. I kept pushing because I wanted the thing to be done. Surprisingly my old hip injury wasn't causing much problems.
 One of the great things about the St. George Marathon is the community is so supportive. Thousands of people come out to cheer on the runners and give them snacks as they pass. I loved the lady who baked chocolate chip oatmeal pecan cookies. It was the perfect mid-race snack. The race support had lots of small banana and orange pieces along the way which were greatly appreciated, along with lots of water and gatorade. And my neighbor and her kids were passing out popsicles around mile 23.
 I pushed through and my family was near the finish line to cheer me on, so I smiled through the last
little bit, but wanted to break down. That thing was so hard. It really ranked up there with natural childbirth (which I have unfortunately experienced). But I did it. I finished at 5:26:32, averaging 12:27 per mile. Not my best work, but I pushed through every painful stinkin' mile.
 Then I went home and blacked out a few times. I really thought I was going to die. I remember falling in the bathroom and thinking 'Oh, shoot. I've made a really big mistake.' In between passing out I tried giving orders to my husband that were totally incomprehensible because I was so delirious. Eventually I made him take my vital signs, which were elevated for my normals, but not high enough to warrant medical treatment. (But I did contact my friend who was an ER CNS for reassurance.) I drank lots of fluids and ate as much as I felt my stomach could handle. I felt pretty weak, sore and loopy for the rest of the day. Looking back, I know that I followed all of the advice that they give to runners, I just thinking running a marathon + exploding ovaries + having a cold was just too much for my body to handle. I would say that what happened after looked a lot like heat stroke, but my temp didn't get into the heat stroke range.
I'm feeling much better now, I took a few weeks off of running to recover as well as take care of my sick family. I think I'm going to take a long break from marathons, if I ever do them again. I like the half-marathon pace. That length of race is fun. More than twenty miles plus random stuff that life sometimes throw at you, and it's just not fun anymore. I guess the lesson learned from this experience is you can't kick ass ALL the time, also never run a marathon while sick.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Home Remedy for Swimmer's Ear

When my husband was growing up, he and all of his siblings were on the swim team. More than one
of them were afflicted with swimmer's ear. Swimmer's ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. This
happens when water stays in the ear canal and creates a fertile environment for bacterial growth. Ear infections that are not treated can lead to more serious problems like hearing loss. At one point my mother-in-law got a 1 oz bottle of ear drops for one of her son's. It cost $50. (And that was years ago.) When he had used them up she called the clinic for a refill prescription. The nurse told her 'Just use Everclear alcohol. That's basically what the drop are.' And the last time I checked you can get a 16 oz bottle of Everclear alcohol for $4.

For years I have kept a small bottle with a dropper filled with Everclear in the back of my medicine cupboard. On the occasion that my kids or the neighbors kids came down with an ear infection I have put a few drops in their ears. The alcohol is effective in killing the infection, but it burns.

This week my professor mentioned another alternative. She recommends the following recipe to her patients:

1 oz white vinegar
1 oz rubbing alcohol
Use a few drops in the effected ear, or 1 drop in each ear after swimming.

Both vinegar and rubbing alcohol are effective in killing the kind of bacteria that you would find on your skin or in your ears. And my guess is that the vinegar mixture would be less painful than straight high proof alcohol. In any case, there are simple, cheap and effective ways of treating swimmer's ear so kids can keep enjoying their pool time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

10 Ways to Stay Healthy When You are a Parent in School

I often hear the complaint- "It is so hard to be healthy when you are a parent in school." Yes, yes it is.
When you are focusing on your education doesn't mean that you want to ignore your health, because you really can't afford to get sick. You have school and family obligations that don't go away when you need a sick day. However it can be really hard to squeeze those healthy habits in with your responsibilities that are tied to parenting, schooling and/or work.  Here are a few ideas to stay healthy while taking on school, parenting and generally trying to be awesome.

  1. Set realistic expectations- You don't have to do all the healthy things everyday. There are so many hours in a day and you have school work to do. Don't beat yourself up that you don't have a six-pack while you are writing your thesis or that sometimes your kids are not eating enough vegetables. Make reasonable health goals for yourself and realize that it's ok if you aren't perfect at all the things all the time.
  2. Find ways to multi-task- Get your exercise in while you chase your kids at the park. Do sit-ups while you listen to an online lecture. Prepare your meals while you listen to a recorded presentation. Listen to a relevant audio book while you run. Multi-tasking can be overdone, but it can work if you can combine something mindless (exercise, chopping veggies) with something that you have to think about.
  3. Commit to do something for your health everyday. It doesn't have to be running 10 miles. It can be drinking enough water, eating a salad and walking around the block. Small steps forward are better than no steps, or steps backward.
  4. Get yourself a water cup with a straw Keep it full of water and next to your computer/textbooks, so you can sip it constantly while you study. Water is an amazing substance that is cheap/free. Being well-hydrated helps prevent a multitude of ailments. Water literally enables all of your cells to function better. It reduces headaches, helps you focus, curbs appetites and cravings and gives you more energy. If you want to know how much you need take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 2/3. That is the amount of water in ounces that you should drink everyday. (Possibly more if you are exercising a lot or depending on the weather.)
  5. Ditch your chair. Sitting in a chair for hours is bad for your health. If you have to sit, try an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball does a few things for you 1) It reduces back and hip pain. 2)It forces you to use your core muscles more than sitting in a chair does 3) Can help improve your balance. Standing at your computer can also be a good option if you can adjust your screen to make that feasible. Try reading your textbooks while laying down. Switch it up.
  6. Plan healthy meals- Don't leave what you eat for dinner up to whatever you can forage at the end of the day. Even if you don't have time every day to cook, commit to have 4 balanced dinners each week, or whatever you think you can handle. Over the weekend make a plan of what you will eat in the next week. Include some salads. Make sure you have the ingredients available so your plans don't fall apart while you're trying to prepare given healthy meal and your kids are demanding food and attention. When you are prepared it takes less will power to make healthy choices.
  7. Take exercise breaks After I have been studying for several hours it helps me to stay sane to walk away and exercise for 30 minutes. When the outside weather is unpleasant I like to do a 21 Day Fix Extreme workout at home. Other days I go for a run. Find whatever exercise you enjoy and go with it. You can find a short workout on Youtube or even just do a set of jumping jacks. Taking exercise breaks can make your study time more effective.
  8. Plan healthy snacks- If you have healthy food available that is what you will eat. Some easy examples: carrot sticks and hummus, apples with peanut butter, string cheese, grapes, yogurt with granola, etc. Sometimes it helps to prep healthy snacks (chop veggies, put in containers or baggies) on the weekend, so that they are convenient for you throughout the week.
  9. Find friends that support you in your goals- Find friends who are also in school and trying to eat healthy and exercise. If you don't know anyone in real life there are plenty of Facebook groups where you can find support and recipes.
  10. Take a few minutes to meditate- Take 5 minutes to take deep breaths, remind yourself that you can do this and that in the long run many of the little things that are causing you stress will not matter.
To all you parents out there who are also in school, I salute you. Don't give up!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Recent Races: Mapleton Fun Run and Harry Potter 5K

In Utah some people celebrate the 24th of July by dressing up in 19th century clothing, some celebrate by consuming pie and beer, but in our family it is another excuse to do a race together, followed by crazy amounts of fireworks in the evening. This year we did the Mapleton 1 Mile Fun Run. Except certain children who shall remain nameless were uncooperative about getting out of bed and getting to this race, even though they had enthusiastically agreed to this event before hand.  My child who loves running the most is the same child who hates mornings the most. This is somewhat of a conflict of interests. We got to the race, long after it started and by the time we finished the finish line was taken down to start the 5k. But it was at this race that my kids got to meet one of their new cousins for the first time, so everyone could be cheerful about that. I felt like the tech shirts and snacks were decent and I would probably do it again when my child who hates mornings is old enough to left at home alone.

This is our fam right now (minus one sister-in-law)
Then to celebrate Harry Potter's birthday we did a 5k to support the Salt Lake City Children's Justice
Finishers medal and some of those who dressed up
Center, put together by Geeked Out Running. This race was a lot of fun. Tons of runners and staff were dressed in costumes from the Harry Potter films. The medals were also fun and my kids have loved wearing their race shirts. There were so many great costumes that I did not manage to take pictures of because I was too busy trying to get my kids through the race. After the race there was a large snake that the kids could touch (that was my youngest's favorite part) and owls that you could take picture with. I also liked the Harry Potter themed motivational signs along the way like "I solemnly swear that I am running for lots of good." Downsides: the path was not very wide considering how many runners were on it, and the race didn't start until 9 am and it is summer, which means it was already getting very warm and all my kids were pretty grumpy by the end. The race was in a park in West Jordan and we ran around it four times. My oldest wanted to go faster so I ran with her and was hoping that we could lap my husband and the younger kids, except she lost motivation as it got warmer. So my husband ended up by himself and at one point was carrying our middle child on his back while pushing our youngest in the stroller, until he figured out how to squish both kids into a one-child jogging stroller. Seriously props to him. It was fun, but I wouldn't do it again unless it started at least 30 minutes earlier in the day.
The albino Burmese python and a couple owls (and my animal loving girls)
A picture of the whole fam (or those who were there) and my husband the hero

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thoughts on Researching Homeless Youth

Graduate school is hard. Period. Graduate school with small children, I already know that I am a crazy person. People remind me of this ALL the time.
 This semester I am doing a group project about
finding health promotion interventions for homeless youth. One of my jobs in this group project is to find what research has already been done on mental health and suicide among homeless youth. I have to say it is so emotionally draining. I read these articles with hypotheses and theories about what contributes to mental health issues and suicide rates and as technical as it sounds, it's not. Every one of those numbers represents a real child who is going through some really terrible things. The statistics, the details are just ugly. I want to set it aside. But I can't really, finals, end of semester deadlines and all that. (Ok, maybe I can for a minute to write a blog post and to help me process it.) And unpleasant as it is for me to read article after article about kids whose daily life is so terrible that they feel taking their life is the best answer, it is worse for them. It puts things into perspective. My life is pretty amazing. Graduate school has been beastly hard, but I WILL get through it. I have a comfortable home and even though I have to take out mad student loans, we always have food. I have the opportunity to support and love my kids in a way that they will probably never really experience that ugly side of existence. I have friends, family and a husband who support me in little and big ways. I am so grateful for all of that. It make me feel that as blessed as I am, I need to do more. I'm in a place right now, where that is hard. I don't have all the skills that are required to address their needs, but I'm working on getting some. For now I have to be content to study and research, keep loving my kids so they don't get to that place and I can speak out.
 I don't think most people are aware of how big and ugly this problem. It's not a pleasant one to look at, but it effects us in big ways and it is getting bigger. More homeless youth means more crime, which costs us as victims and also in the funds required to put the youth through the criminal system. Homeless youth means more teen pregnancies which is not a good idea for either child involved, and negatively effects the community in many ways. Homeless youth most often take one of two paths- dying young or remaining chronically homeless and on the outskirts of society. In either scenario, we as a society lose. But if we can remember that they are human beings and they just need love, I strongly believe that we can find solutions. It is cheaper to give them housing than to charge them with the crimes that they commit trying to survive, significantly cheaper and it results in better long-term outcomes. We as a society can choose to love them and try to help them and everyone benefits. I'll get off my soapbox, but as you are involved in your communities, try to support local efforts that help these kids and support politicians who are willing to take on this issue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


 This semester I am taking advanced nursing research. Part of that is discussing the qualities that define good research. One of those qualities is authenticity. Authentic research means that everyone
had a chance to give their input. This input leads to insights and improvements. Authenticity leads to increased understanding of self and others. That kind of introspection leads to more thought and all of these insights and improvements lead to action.
 It's obvious why authenticity in nursing research is important. (I have dozens of mind gears turning of how I can use this in my future practice, but I'll save those ideas for when they are more fleshed out.) If we skew results to what we think we should find instead of what we actually find we can not effectively address problems. And really, what's the point of doing research that is inauthentic? To produce dishonest  and inauthentic research is not only wildly unethical, it is down right dangerous and it minimizes the validity of evidence-based practice. (The one study linking MMR to autism that was proven to be fraudulent comes to mind. ) That is why it is important that nursing researchers consult with patients other providers to hear their opinions. That is why peer review is an essential step in the research process.
 As I was reading about what makes authentic research, I couldn't help but notice that authenticity is also important in organizations and relationships. If you have a company that listens to their customers and employees they are able to use those insights to improve their product, to think about what that feedback and use it to get a better result. The same goes for a family. If you are in a place where you can be honest about who you are and how you feel, you are more likely to connect with other family members. When you are authentic about who you are, you are quietly giving other permission to do the same. When everyone can be really honest and listen to one another, it improves communication and it helps everyone to be more effective! Sometimes I feel in relationships we don't address issues because we feel so much pressure to be perfect 'I'm not supposed to be upset about X'. This leads to people not talking about it and not trying to solve the problem. Ignoring problems usually doesn't make them go away. In the past couple years my husband and I came to a place where we decided to be more authentic with one another and our relationship is a hundred times better. We are better partners and we are better parents. We as a team are getting more done and life is more enjoyable too. (Not that things are perfect, they're not. Stressful things still happen and there is that whole graduate school business that I deal with on a daily basis.) Authenticity is powerful.
 Being authentic can be really difficult, especially if you are living in a culture that has so much pressure on you to be very different than who you truly are. Or if you made yourself vulnerable in the past and the result was that you were hurt by the person that you were sharing with. But life is too short to spend it trying to be someone other than who you are. To paraphrase Brene Brown, in order to be successful and love others, you have to love yourself. You have to BE yourself. Recognize that you are loveable and go out and share who you truly are with the world.