Contemplating the Incarnation

Last month I was privileged to hold my granddaughter, just 6hrs after her birth. I was gripped by joy and awe and relief as my hand cupped her soft newborn head, and she drew  perfect tiny legs and feet up to her tummy and nestled close to my chest.  I felt joy  because I raised up my newborn son  all the way to fatherhood, awe because  two cells had divided and developed into this perfect child, relief that mother and baby were thriving after the trauma of birth.

I can’t deny I have always been deeply moved in my gut by the birth of an infant. My passion prompted me to partake of the experience five times! Despite that, my rush was infinitely intensified as I held my granddaughter. She is the first newborn I’ve held, since my own  spiritual birth into Christ’s Kingdom. The thought of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe, The Lord, being born in the same violent human way, without antiseptics, analgesics, and  warm clean linen is -staggering! Just as astonishing is  The Lord, was a newborn, completely vulnerable and dependent upon human parents to feed and protect him. We hear much about the Passion of Christ, his mocking, flogging, crucifixion and  resurrection, rightly so as our salvation depends upon it. But without the incarnation there would be no resurrection.  Cradling my grandchild, I contemplated just how passionate it was that our God endured the suffering and vulnerability and trauma  of human birth. Maybe this is what has attracted me to infants all along, a kind of latent comprehension, that is finally realized. Thank-you Jesus for enduring the shame of incarnation and resurrection. Help me to grasp the depths of your mercy and grace more and more each day.

First of All Just Listen

Enough of the rocks ! Let’s get back to some practical nurse homeschool mom tips.

Recently I volunteered to serve as the nurse at our church soccer camp. I have staffed this position four times in  five years.  I set up a little “station” in the middle of the soccer training area, stocked with ice packs, band-aids, bug spray, tissues,  battery operated fans, and spray bottles filled with water. I greatly  enjoy participating in the camp this way. I generally see several kids who twisted an ankle, or were hit with a ball. A bit of ice, a brief exam, a prayer and all is set right.  This year we emphasized cooling off and hydration, kids came to me for even the slightest hint of over heating.  Hot kids sat in front of the fan, were spritzed with water, and  evaluated for signs of heat related illness. These interventions worked, and even in 91 degree heat, all the kids remained healthy.

I titled this “First Of All Listen”, because I find that is probably one of the most critical keys to helping someone in distress. I have a perfect example of this from camp this year.

On the third camp day, before the games began, a child was brought to my station,  distressed because he had a bug in his ear. Between sobs he told me the bug flew inside his ear and was crashing repeatedly into his ear drum and stinging him. He said the buzzing and humming of this biting bug was unbearable. I did not have my otoscope with me, I was so focused on the over-heating threat, and forgot to pack it. I tried to look into the child’s ear using a light, but I couldn’t see the alleged bug. I started to doubt that the boy knew what had happened. Maybe he was brewing  an ear infection and the  pain  just started.  I rolled up a tissue and inserted it just barely into his ear canal, and did find a speck of blood. This further exacerbated his angst.  We tried gravity. I had him lie down with the afflicted ear toward the ground.  The bug refused to leave.

I suggested the boy go home with his parents or to a clinic for evaluation. His distress escalated , he did not want to miss the world cup.  Aha! Now I knew one more attempt by me to evacuate the bug would be less offensive than missing the camp. I offered to put some water in his ear to drown the bug, explaining it would be like getting a little water in his ear while showering or swimming.  I sprayed a bit of water into his outer ear with my misting bottle, and had him lie down ear up, using gravity “irrigate” his ear. After a minute he changed his position to ear down, and out floated the drowned bug. The child stood up, gave his head a shake, thanked me and sprinted off to join his team. I was sure glad that I listened to his history of the event, and listened to his priority of camp participation.  He was absolutely right, and a simple intervention fixed the problem. I think most of us could brush up on our listening skills. Likewise, we might learn something from this boy. He was determined to have me hear his story.  He knew what was wrong with his ear.

Do you ever need help presenting a history of your illness to a healthcare provider? I read a book I find  useful for getting your healthcare provider to listen, and for helping you present your case. “How Doctors Think” by Jerome E. Groopmen, is an excellent resource.  Jerome is an MD and his book is practical for understanding how good communication between patient and   provider is necessary, and how that communication can be optimized. Check it out.

Obviously listening is much easier without a bug crashing into your eardrum! Next time your  ear is invaded by a bug, try this method to clear your ear and restore your hearing.

Killing or Curing Stones?

Thirty seven hours of work has reduced the  muddy pile of river stone  to a  smear of gray  dust on my paved driveway.  And I do hope  ultimately  to banish the residual  stain in the next few days.

Thirty-seven hours of rock washing afforded me many minutes  to process my plight. I felt angry and humiliated as I knelt in the mud and loosened the stones, then placed them on wire racks, washed them, arranged them around my foundation, then hauled away the buckets of dirt I washed off, repeating this  about every 15 minutes for 37 hours.

I began to think of the many ways the stones could kill me. Boredom was on the list. Heat stroke. It  was a balmy 95 degrees while I sorted, washed and hauled. My thoughts explored other killing stones.  I had 42 stones in my gallbladder, ranging from pea sized to golf ball size. From my pile I selected  42 stones like that- yes left in place those could have killed me!   Only a few generations ago “gallstones” was a terminal diagnosis. Anger feelings were replaced by gratitude that I  was cured when a surgeon skillfully cut 5 tiny holes, then pulled my corrupted, inflamed  gallbladder out, discarded it and sewed me back up, so  13 years later I am alive and well.

After that happy revelation, I still had plenty of time on my hands to contemplate other ways stones kill. I selected a few that I  imagined resembled  David’s stone that  killed Goliath.   I thought about Stephen, murdered for serving widows, protecting the weak, and naming Christ as his God. For this reason an angry mob pelted him with large rocks until he died, all the while forgiving his attackers.  I thought rock songs. Not just  rock and roll, but hymns about “rocks.”  For example Rock of Ages Cleft For Me and On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand. I began to think about how rocks don’t only  kill, in fact they can protect, provide shade, and make great foundations.

By the time I whittled the stony mess into a shadowy smear on my driveway, I was no longer angry. Partly because I didn’t feel quite as humiliated about the nursery cheating and abusing me.  In all of that thinking time, I remembered  freshly, with renewed zeal, my real rock, my creator, my Lord Jesus Christ.  He loved me covered in the muck, he washed me clean, and left  no stain behind.  And He, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords never griped about his humiliation.  He doesn’t  disdain His people soiled with  muck, trapped in  a mire of sin.  He just takes as we are and washes us clean.  Perhaps, hopefully, next time I am slighted, or face  a mess, I will reflect on these points before I wallow in  35 hrs of self pity.  Actually as my mind wandered and processed the rocks as weapons all the way to the rocks as shelter and foundation, I actually began to enjoy the project. I am in work in progress, not so different than my dirty stones, except  I have potential for more gratitude to my rescuer. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 118: 1

Helen and Scott Nearing Died

Yes, it is true. Even though the Nearings lived the good life, they died.  I should have guessed it by the subtitle, Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living.  Even living the “good life” failed them in the end.  A particular stumbling block I encountered in the book was Scott’s determination to die on his own terms.   Even though my belief in “god”,  was vague I was pretty sure there was a higher power sovereign over life and death.

I grappled with the sovereignty over life and death almost daily  when I worked as a bedside nurse. I  cared for many dying people and  frequently was  present at the moment of death. I realized dying was a most  intimate time, and  felt strongly my only role and privilege  was to provide excellent nursing  care to the failing body of my fellow human being. I changed damp and wrinkled sheets, swabbed chapped lips and moistened  dried tongues, I  held frightened hands and  I administered prescribed pain medications, with the sole intent of easing pain, never with a motive of expediting death, that was in the hands of the higher power I could not name.

Therefore when I read  that Scott Nearing intended to, and did end his own life by starvation, self sufficiency began to look pretty fragile and empty. Why would one subject themselves  to  years of digging and building and surviving only to starve to death on purpose? This was sounding less and less good. This dampened my zeal for the Nearing style of  good life.

For quite a few years I had been seeking to fill the hole in my soul, the one that ached badly when a fellow human departed this planet. I had walked labyrinths, meditated, learned reiki, and experimented with variety of new age spiritual belief models,  always moving on when the soul hole persisted. Scott Nearing’s  good life ending in suicide and emptiness failed me right along with all the other self-help spiritual models I explored.

Readers, I share this with you because I didn’t want you to think I was promoting Living the Good Life as a viable spiritual option. Not long after my disappointment with Scott Nearing, what I sought, found me and my family.  I was a little bit right about the source. The voice of the source is in a book. And not only that, the book was in the same bookstore where I purchased The Good Life. And best of all the voice in the book, is the only balm for the soul hole. It turns out a homesteading lifestyle is one of many lifestyles that can be good once your soul is in Jesus Christ.

This is getting a little long, and my home is getting a little noisy, so I will end here for now. Please do come back, because there is much more homesteading and nursing  advice and adventure I hope to share as a an RN turned homeschool mom who by grace  is also In Christ.


Why Isn’t the Homeschool Home RN Home?

I know why this one wasn’t home. She has been driving up and down the East Coast. Fortunately homeschooling is very portable, and not limited  by an academic calendar. And I have discovered former homeschool students are also highly portable.  One daughter, an x-ray technologist lives outside of Washington, D.C.  One son, a computer engineer, has moved to Durham, NC. One  daughter a second grade teacher has moved to Georgia.  One son a pharmacy student lives in Vermont. One son  a property manager lives on the West Coast.  One son and daughter thankfully still live at home. So this homeschool teacher , home RN is becoming rather portable too.  A couple of weeks ago we visited our way down the East Coast .  While in Georgia we also attended the General Assembly of the PCA – our church denomination.  It was a fun and refreshing trip. And there was plenty to learn along the way about geography, government, southern type creatures, and red dirt.  I also had a chance to look at red marks, bruises, sunburns and blisters and offer my two cents worth of advice. Apparently life continued back home even without my careful management. The grass and weeds  grew, the cupboards emptied, the dogs toenails lengthened and the dust collected on every surface. It took me a bit of time to tame the home front! While on the road,  and then catching up at home my blog joined the ranks of started and abandoned, at least that is how it appears at a glance.  Next road trip , I  need to keep up my writing better while on the open highway, meanwhile , here I am again reclaiming my space!


Where Has All The Ipecac Gone?

In my first post , I mentioned  moving  to a farm in the Mettowee Valley. We moved there to live a simple life,  and to grow and sell organic vegetables. As always,  I devoured books, trusting  published experts  to guide  my minimalist self-sustainable, “simple life” transformation.  Browsing the  Northshire Bookstore one afternoon, I found and  purchased a used copy of “The Good Life” by Helen and Scott Nearing.  It looked promising and I eagerly began to read. Halfway into chapter 1,  I commented to my husband, “I could be wrong, but it sounds like the Nearing’s Bondville property was very near where my grandfather grew up.” Page 25 confirmed my hunch, the author mentioned Rodney- my grandfather, and relayed the story of Rodney and his brother  Harold burning the pasture that bordered the Nearing  boundary.  Soon after the pasture burning incident ,  Scott Nearing approached my widowed great-grandmother Mercy and purchased  her land.   
My grandfather remembered the Nearings-
“Yep they were kind of strange people from the city.”

Knowledge  that  the Nearings  lived on my great grandmothers land,  fueled our interest, and intensified our devotion to the Nearing model. I would have loved to have visited the stone house they built there but  deciding  Vermont  was too congested with skiers, the Nearings left and  started over in Maine.   I had to settle for a  visit to  their Maine home.  Their home was small and sparely furnished with a built in table and benches.  We lived in a  drafty 2400 square foot farmhouse so we couldn’t really copy that too well.  But they did eat mostly food they produced, and each owned a single wooden bowl from which they ate. That was something we could work with.   On the way home from our visit we purchased 7 Vermont made wooden bowls. Each family member learned  to  wash and put away their personal dish after eating. We consumed mostly  food we raised on our farm- dried beans, eggs, chicken, root vegetables and our canned foods nourished  us through winter. In the summer we ate everything fresh and in season. We traded some of our produce for raw milk and grass fed beef. We purchased lamb raised on the hillside opposite our house. It was a lot of work, but tasty and overall satisfying.

Nowadays,  I see the irony of our looking to the Nearings for a model of the simple life ! My own ordinary grandparents were the experts.  As a child, almost every weekend I had visited their modest home in Shaftsbury Hollow.  There I gathered eggs, picked corn and peered into bird nests. Lillian my gramma, was a fabulous cook and stuffed us with homemade bread, venison, canned berries,  and ears of Silver Queen Corn.  Maybe someday I will write my grandparents guide to the simple life!

While we were busy copying the Nearing model, sugar was a rare treat in our home,  but that didn’t eliminate  childhood cravings.

So one hot summer day, as we gathered for lunch, our son Danny, four years old, walked into the kitchen wiping his mouth on his shirt sleeve, and with a guilty look handed me the empty bottle of liquid Advil. “I just finished it,” he whispered looking at his bare feet. “You drank this whole bottle of medicine?” I asked incredulously. “Why?”  “It tastes good ,”he shrugged. I dialed poison control, already missing my kidney which would soon be donated to Danny.

Bear with me readers , we are almost to some useful information here. The situation wasn’t as bad as I feared. The bottles of flavored medicine are small precisely for this reason, kids before mine have removed the safety cap and gulped down all of the sweet grape liquid. Danny’s  kidneys would survive. In 2004, poison control did advise us to administer Syrup of Ipecac as an additional precaution.

Danny innocently swallowed the Ipecac Syrup, bribed with a Kicking Cow Cola chaser. Somehow our son who was raised on healthy home grown natural foods had become a sugar addict and now we were using it to our advantage!

The Ipecac Syrup worked as expected, ten minutes later his stomach contents were flushed down the toilet. From that day on I tried to keep Ipecac handy with my other emergency first -aid supplies. Recently the current bottle expired and I sought a refill only to discover it was no longer sold in the first aid department- and more surprising – it is not sold on Amazon!

The Tip- Finally!

Investigating further I  learned Ipecac is no longer a recommended poison treatment. (Good thing I check medication expiration dates, or I would never have known!) If an intervention is necessary for poison ingestion, activated charcoal administered in a medical facility is the preferred current treatment. Treatment within an hour of ingestion is ideal, and an Ipecac attempt may delay the best treatment.

With any poisoning concern, head to the hospital or call 911 and then call the poison control hotline. You will receive expert advice from the poison hotline.  What a practical use of a mobile phone, you can consult an expert, even while driving toward one.

Thanks for listening to my ramble, please check your cupboards and cull expired medications, and add the poison control hotline number to your contacts.   You might  avoid using an ineffective treatment, and may learn something new as well.

Antibiotics Are Like Uhaul Trailers

About 1500 miles ago I stated I would soon post on the topic of antibiotics. That was an optimistic proclamation based on my May Google Calendar! Many consecutive Mays have been overrun with graduations, weddings, moves, conferences, retreats, showers and holidays, still I always believe that I carefully planned less than my previous  May! Maybe so, but I was still a little overbooked, and didn’t  allow much  writing time.

You’ll soon see what happens when my mind has many hours to mull over what I think is most important about antibiotics, while glancing frequently into my rearview mirror and monitoring the trailer in tow.

Last week I rented a Uhaul trailer and my husband and I towed it in a giant circle from our house, to near Boston, to Vermont and back home, collecting items along the way. It was  packed and parked overnight so we could attend a wedding, and then my fifteen year old daughter and I towed it in a giant loop to North Carolina, emptied it,  and towed it back home. Next, I traded it in for the type of trailer with ramps, and headed to Vermont once again, to fetch my repaired lawn mower.

Trailers are exceptionally useful for moving furniture and lawn mowers, and each task is completed most efficiently with the most suitable type of trailer. Trailers are not very helpful for transporting people, pets and groceries, the passenger vehicle suits that purpose much better.

The same rule applies for  antibiotics- because they also are excellent for some situations, but not for all, and should be carefully chosen by a professional for the best effectiveness, based on proper diagnosis. 

Antibiotics are medications that fight bacterial infections. There are many different types of antibiotics, and different administration routes, including pills, ointments, and even intravenous infusions. Antibiotics can do a lot of good, and many lives have been saved by appropriate use. If you have ever had a miserable case of strep throat that responded quickly to antibiotics, you know just how useful antibiotics can be. It is extremely important however, that they are used correctly.

Antibiotics work to kill bacteria that cause infection.  Some of the common illnesses that antibiotics are indicated for include , strep throat, pneumonia, bladder infections and some sexually transmitted diseases. Definitely see a prescriber if you think you need antibiotics, and trust their advice.  Do not take antibiotics  that you have left from your last illness, or some your friend has on hand. Also if you are prescribed antibiotics be sure to finish all of them. ( See my post on MARs to help keep you on track).  Taking the wrong antibiotic, or failing to finish a prescription contributes to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The dreaded “super bugs.”

Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Common viral illnesses include the common cold, most sore throats, and flu. In my family, I usually assume an illness is a viral unless it really hasn’t begun to improve in 7 days, resolving completely in 10 days. Viral sore throats often strike quick, the throat becoming very sore, frequently accompanied  by a very high 24 hr  fever. There is no curative medication, you have to support your body while it fights off the infection. Medications that help manage the symptoms can be helpful, like Tylenol and Advil, throat lozenges, and hot tea with honey. Rest, and plenty of fluids can facilitate  recovery from viral illness as well.

Personally I think it is very important that everyone strives to protect the effectiveness of our antibiotic medications. Many people fear that cancer is the most fatal diagnosis. But that is because our  highly effective  antibiotics allow children and young people to survive strep throat, appendicitis, infected wounds and pneumonia.  Without effective antibiotics infection is as at least as life threatening  as cancer.

The two trailers I used last week are different, each selected for the right purpose.If you are taking antibiotics be sure you use one prescribed for you, the right way. It is important we protect this valuable resource.

I know it sounds rather odd to compare medicine and trailers- but maybe it will help you remember with a smile, why it matters !

Oops, Now What?

In a previous post, I recommended using a MAR,( Medication Administration Record) to ensure proper  completion of your prescription . Hopefully the MAR will prompt you  to take all of your medication as prescribed, but sometimes the MAR cues you that a dose has been missed.

How to proceed after discovering you missed a dose of medication is one of the FAQ’s prone to show up in my text messages.   Very often the question refers to a missed dose of antibiotic. A MAR is very helpful for determining the best course of correction.

When I miss a dose of antibiotic, I handle the situation this way.  If the missed dose is discovered , and it’s 4 hrs or more until the next dose, I take the missed one immedieately, then resume the normal schedule.  If the error is discovered when  it’s less than 4 hours until the next dose, I  take the next scheduled  dose a little early, then resume the proper schedule. If I  opt to skip the missed dose, and  move on,  I  create an extra box on my  MAR, and take  the skipped the dose as the  new final dose.  The goal is not to  have any partially completed bottles of antibiotics in my cupboard!

The course  of action may vary with different types of medication. A good habit to develop is to ask your provider  what to do if a dose is accidentally omitted.  Pharmacists are also excellent resources for information about medications.

For best results,  try and take your medications just like you provider recommended. Poppet finished all of her antibiotic, and is feeling fine !

I plan to follow the medication theme, antibiotics in particular in my next post. Please check in for more information on  antibiotic why, when and hows !

Consider a Career In Nursing

At ten years old , I admired my  teachers, and made up my mind I too,  would become an elementary school teacher.

After high school I pursued  my childhood plan, and enrolled in the education program at North Adams State College. Lacking significant merit scholarships and  wealth, I supported myself working as a certified nursing assistant, and commuted to college.  Juggling work and school were challenging, but I persevered for a couple of years, until student teaching was near at hand. At this time I  began to doubt my career choice. My first two years of college  revealed to me how little I actually knew.  What if a student asked a question about geography, or science, or politics and I didn’t know the answer? I feared I would not be a good teacher.

In contrast, working as a nursing assistant increased my confidence that I possessed skills useful to an RN.  A few applications later, I was enrolled in an RN program.  Yes, this was the right path for me.

I  soon learned graduation from  RN school  is more a beginning than an ending. Licensure is the necessary credential to explore  countless employment opportunities. It is true that  entry level shifts and  supervisors may not be the kindest, but I dare say this isn’t unique to nursing.  As experience accumulates, so do opportunities to specialize and find your own perfect nursing  niche.

Ultimately nurses training  is a very useful life skill to have. Most of us will need to access the healthcare system in our lifetime, and it helps to be, or to know an insider.

Without hesitation,  I recommend considering  a career  in nursing, for yourself, your spouse or your children. If it’s the right fit, you’ll be employable, useful,  and mobile!  You will meet so many interesting people, and helping a fellow human is a fulfilling vocation. At minimum your loved ones will have access to their own personal nurse.

Please check back soon, because I have many tips to share about creating a healthy, well stocked home, for wellness and healing.








Poppet’s MAR

Do any of you have family members taking medication? My family is generally healthy, but even so, more often than not someone is trying to complete a course of medication.

As a hospital nurse, I was obsessed with proper medication administration. I faithfully documented medication every time I administered it. This seemed to be an important habit to adopt at home, so I made a simple MAR for family use.

MAR is short for Medication Administration Record. And nurses called it that long before  the texting language of lol and btw arrived on the scene!

My favorite way to make a home medication record is on an index card. As I prepared to write this post, Poppet very obligingly developed a urinary tract infection, requiring a course of antibiotics. So, I have a nice current MAR for you.   Basically, the MAR includes her name at the top, the dose and frequency of the medication, and the duration of the script. Spaces are created for initialing doses as administered.

 I tack this card up in plain sight, usually attached by magnet to one of my cast iron pans. You might tape your MAR to your refrigerator, place it near the medication bottle, or tuck it under a clear placemat at your seat at the table. Put it where you can’t miss it. Once a patient begins to feel better, the medication is at risk for being forgotten. Depending on the medication, a variety of complications may occur if the course isn’t completed, including development of resistant strains of bacteria and even a relapse of illness. 

Now you know what a MAR is. Are you curious about Poppet? She’s our precocious ten month old Golden Retriever. She sports a perpetual smile and a powerful tail wag making our home a bit chaotic and a lot happier. Many people ask about her name, sometimes mistaking her as “Puppet”, believe me she is no puppet ! Here is the back story on her name.

Last summer we downloaded the audio book , “The Night Circus”. In the novel we liked the  character “Poppet” , a young girl who was part of the circus.  The way Jim Dale pronounced “Poppet” in his crisp British accent, made the name all the more delightful. As we pondered dog names, we looked up the definition of poppet. Poppet is defined as a sweet young girl, or a term of endearment, also poppet  sometimes refers to a child’s dolly. Certainly this name fit our puppy perfectly.

I asked her permission to publish her MAR, and she smiled and wagged approval. Although this MAR is intended for two legged family members, it is also great to assure our four legged members have the benefits of proper medication administration too!