A Blue Mason Jar Full of Post-It Notes Goals for The New Year

Note from JParadisiRN: This post was originally published on this blog in 2011. As it remains one of my most popular, I dusted it off for you to read today. Happy New Year 2014!

Every year I write my New Year’s resolutions on Post-It notes, filling a blue, vintageMason jar with them after reviewing the ones from the year before. I write the date on each Post-It note.  If a previous year’s resolution wasn’t met, and still holds merit, it remains in the Mason jar with the new ones.

Blue Mason Jar of Dreams photo: jparadisi 2011

Blue Mason Jar of Dreams photo: jparadisi 2011

Previous years’ resolutions in the jar:

  • “My health: that I may remain cancer-free” (1999)
  • “The continued good health of our families” (1999) I updated this one to “our families” in 2004, the year David and I married.
  • “David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage” (2008)
  • “To show a financial profit as an artist.” (2008)
  • “Gallery representation”(2008)
  • “Publish more stories in 2011” (2010)
  • “A book deal for my manuscript” (2010)
  • “The blog will have more than 1,000 visitors/month (2010)
  • “Lose ten pounds” (2011)

Most striking about the hopes and dreams on this list is that none of them are actually resolvable. They are ongoing. Sure, publishing The Adventures of Nurse Niki into a book, (or better yet, a TV series) would be great, however, knowing me, the next year I would resolve to write another book, one that won an award or topped the charts, or something like that. Artists are rarely satisfied with any level of achievement. We are always looking up the ladder at the next rung:

  • Gallery representation leads to the desire for critical recognition, increased sales, collectors, fame.
  • Publishing stories leads to writing more stories, longer ones, for larger audiences.

In general, human nature is much the same:

  • Health and happiness leads to the expectation for more of the same.
  • I lost ten pounds last year. For 2012 I expect to keep them off.

Resolution is the wrong choice of word. For me, setting New Year’s Goals is better phraseology. Most of the improvements I wish for in life take time and perseverance to achieve, and more hard work to maintain. To my way of thinking, New Year’s is a time to review the larger goals of my life, and see if they are still worth steering towards. If so, then I ask myself what small adjustments can I make this year to further them? These adjustments are written as goals on the Post-It notes, dated, and placed in the jar.

The most important part of opening the Mason jar each year is reading the hand written Post-It notes, and saying a small prayer of thanks or another expression of gratitude for the advances, which occurred over the past year towards each goal. There is no lasting joy in achievement without gratitude. This year, I am thankful for:

  • A clean bill of health when we were afraid my cancer had returned.
  • Editors who published my paintingsessays, and blog posts.
  • David and I lost weight. He avoided a prescription for blood pressure medication.
  • I was represented by Anka Gallery. I met wonderful people there and made lasting friendships.
  • I sold some paintings.
  • JParadisi RN blog has grown beyond my previous goals.

So what’s on Post-It notes this year? What goals am I steering my life towards in 2012?

  •  Remain cancer free
  • The continued good health of our families
  • David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage
  •  A financial profit as an artist
  • Finish the series of paintings and drawings begun in 2013
  • Gallery representation
  • Write and publish more stories in 2014
  • Increased writing income
  • The blogs, especially The Adventures of Nurse Niki will grow increased readership
  • Keep off those ten pounds

Here’s the cool thing about writing down goals: The Examined Life (Socrates). Today I see  each goal I’ve written down is focused on an unknown future. I haven’t written a single one, which applies to my present reality. So, until my dreams come true:

  • I will continue to develop my skills as a nurse so my patients remain safe in my care.
  • I will strive to be a better team player at work.
  • I will phrase criticism in a constructive manner.
  • I will remember that everyone has a difficult job. That’s why they call it work.
  • I will say Thank You at least once daily. It’s wrong to wait an entire year to give thanks for everything that is good in my life.

I wish to thank my family and friends (new and old) for your support of JParadisi RN blog. May your New Year be filled with Health, Love, Happiness, and Prosperity.

Nurses and Holiday Stress

Painting by jparadisi

Painting by jparadisi

Nursing potentiates normal holiday stressors. For many nurses, the beauty of the winter holidays is diminished by feelings of stress.

Staffing woes contribute: Who knows why every year during the holidays, patient census randomly explodes abundantly or trickles down to near nothing, resulting in too much overtime or hours-deficient paychecks?

We go home to enjoy the glow of Christmas tree lights knowing our patients spend their holidays in a hospital or hospice bed, their rooms lit by overhead fluorescent lights, and this knowledge dampens a nurse’s ability to fully enjoy celebrations of bounty. We may experience feelings of guilt that our income is dependent on the misfortune of others, in this case, illness or trauma.

Mismatched schedules, especially those of night-shift nurses, complicate holiday arrangements with family. Gift giving weighs heavily on sensitive souls: Instead of buying gifts, shouldn’t the money be given to those in need? Or are our expressions of love for family and friends, the creation of memories and traditions left after our own health fails, equally important? Someday, we will become the ones missing from the family dinner table of Christmas’s future.

Here are suggestions for handling holiday stress:

  • Reduce expectations. Holiday preparations and gifts are expressions of love, not declarations of wealth. Stay within your physical and fiscal boundaries.
  • Plan quick, easy, and low-calorie meals in between holiday parties. You’ll feel better.
  • Enlist the help of children with holiday baking and food preparation. This is an opportunity to teach them to cook while spending time together.
  • Lighten your housework load by asking children to help with age-appropriate tasks like dusting, folding clothes, drying dishes, etc. Work out a payment incentive with them. Encourage them to use the money for Christmas shopping, to buy a toy for a less fortunate child, or donate to a food bank.
  • Plan downtime and use it for activities with personal meaning. Don’t skip yoga class or your morning run. Take a break from wrapping gifts for a cup of fragrant hot tea or cocoa with marshmallows. Spend an hour at church, take a long walk, or meditate to regain your sense of grounding.
  • Remember the gifts you give. Nurses give to their patients throughout the year gifts that cannot be remunerated on a paycheck. Although we do not have magic wands to cure disease, taking time to listen and help patients with their needs goes a long way. The best way to feel better is to help someone else feel better. This is the gift of nursing.

Does your nursing job ever affect your ability to enjoy the holidays? What steps do you take to reduce holiday stress?

For The Nurse on Your Holiday List: A “Shift From Hell” Emergency Kit

As if the onslaught of commercials isn’t enough to remind us, the winter holiday season has begun. For nurses, whose patients always seem to worsen, or expire, around the holidays, jumbled feelings of anxiety and guilt may arise.

‘Tis the season to practice extra strength self-care and creative gift giving!

If you need an idea for an inexpensive holiday gift for a preceptor, mentor, student, or that special nurse buddy who always has your back, here’s an idea: Give him or her a Shift From Hell emergency kit for their locker or fanny pack. The contents will vary with your own creative ideas, but here are some suggestions gleaned from my 25 + years of bedside nursing:

  • Nail clippers: for fixing a broken or snagged nail
  • An emery board: see above
  • A pair of tweezers — for wayward eyebrow or nasal hairs
  • A package of toothpicks: Does anyone share my irrational fear of food stuck in my teeth?
  • A small package of antacids: They can mean the difference between leaving a shift early or staying to finish it
  • A travel-size package of ibuprofen or acetaminophen for unexpected headaches and minor pain
  • A laundry detergent pen or wipes to remove betadine, coffee, or blood stains from scrubs and lab coats before they set.
  • Lip balm — For those shifts when you don’t have time to drink enough fluids
  • Change for the vending machine — particularly useful on the night shift
  • Gum or breath mints
  • A hair tie as back-up for the one you wore to work that broke
  • A cheap pair of reading glasses: because who can read that tiny print on single dose medication vials?
  • Packages of fancy instant coffee, a fragrant tea, or cocoa — for when you finally get a moment to sit down
  • Chocolate

Remember to keep the supplies miniature. Collect them into a cloth drawstring bag, coffee mug, or Mason jar. Those cosmetic bags you get as a “gift with purchase” from department stores work, too. Add a bow and gift tag: voilà!

If you prefer a gift for your unit while maintaining a budget, consider buying larger amounts of the supplies, and place them in a basket lined with tissue paper or gift straw, as a group gift available in the staff lounge.

What items do you consider essential items for a nurse’s Shift From Hell?

Close Encounters at The Grocery Store: Thanksgiving

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving, and I’m grocery shopping. Pushing a cart through throngs of people looking for that special can of yams, I wish I’d pinned a sign reading, “Don’t follow, Makes frequent stops,” to my rear, so people might stop running into me.

photo: jparadisi 2012

photo: jparadisi 2012

Surprisingly, most of the shoppers are in good moods. I hear the words, “Excuse me,” “After you,” over and over. Only the very young adults, shopping for holiday meal preparations for the first time, I presume, express out loud their bewilderment at the crowds. Suddenly, their attention to space and time is required. This means they have to get out of the way while text messaging, instead of stopping abruptly in the middle of an aisle where more seasoned shoppers will trample them.

In the produce section I pull a thin plastic bag from a dwindling roll to fill with Brussels sprouts. Another woman poises to do the same. I’m sure she’s a nurse, like me, although I will never know. Simultaneously, we pause at the large bin of loose sprouts, realizing we have to gather them with our bare hands, because there is not even a rudimentary tool for the task. We eye each other, smile, then I say, “Wow, how many pairs of dirty hands have been in this bin before mine?”

She laughs. “I know,” she says, “I’m thinking the same thing. I’m going to have to scrub these well, and remove the outer leaves.”

“Me too,” I say.

I’m sure she’s a nurse.

Happy Thanksgiving from JParadisiRN

*This post was originally published on JParadisiRN in November 2012. 

Celebrate Flag Day With 14% Discount on JParadisiRN Mugs Today Only!

Nurse mugs now available at the JParadisiRN Art Store.
Nurse mugs now available at the JParadisiRN Art Store.

To Celebrate Flag Day, get a 14% discount on JParadisiRN original coffee mugs today only! Follow the links below, and be sure to use the discount code provided in the banner at the top of the page.

The JParadisiRN Art Store is NEW, offering three paintings of nurses, including a brand new painting of a man-nurse, “Don’t Call Me Murse.”  Two of my most requested paintings, “Sometimes My Surgical Mask Feels Like a Gag,” and “The White That Binds (Pinning Ceremony)” are also available. You can choose a mug from seven different styles, and customize them with the options offered.

I will offer new items soon. Be sure to take a look.

There’s also a permanent link to the JParadisiRNArtStore on this blog’s right-hand column.

Nature’s Easter Egg

Nature's Easter Egg photo: jparadisi 2013

Nature’s Easter Egg photo: jparadisi 2013

A nurse coworker raises chickens for their eggs. As a spring gift, she brought to work a carton of variously colored eggs to share. None were plain white like the ones in the grocery store. I chose a buff colored egg.

Peeling it this morning for breakfast, I discovered the interior of its shell was a beautiful shade of aqua. I had no idea eggshells existed naturally colored on the inside. This is nature’s Easter Egg.

Happy Easter to JParadisiRN readers!

JParadisiRN Blog: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 20,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Returning To Hoyt Street, Everything Has changed

photo: jparadisi

photo: jparadisi

I’m standing in line at the Post Office on Hoyt Street, along with at least fifty other people waiting to mail Christmas packages. It’s been two years since I wrote the post, Miracle On Hoyt Street, describing a similar experience.

Things have changed since then. Not gradually over two years, but abruptly. On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, we Oregonians experienced our first, and hopefully last, mass shooting at the Clackamas Town Center. One of the two dead, Cindy Yuille was a hospice nurse. I did not know her.

On Friday, December 14, 2012, twenty elementary school children and six faculty members were gunned down mercilessly in Newtown, Connecticut by a twenty-year old attacker we still don’t know very much about.

What is the differential diagnosis dividing the mentally ill from the criminally insane?

Today, standing in line while waiting my turn to mail packages, Christmas songs play on the same scratchy speakers as two years ago, but this time I feel unexpectedly anxious. I realize I am uncomfortable being in a crowded public place. I look around for my old nemesis, the postal clerk who was the Newman to my Seinfeld. She is not here. Perhaps she has retired, that lucky bitch (insert smiley-face emoticon here). Then suddenly, in my imagination, the remaining clerks behind the counter resemble ducks in a shooting gallery.  It occurs to me that they risk their lives daily, standing behind that counter in a large, freely accessed lobby without security. That thought causes me to look around and find available exits, which are scant. Would my best chance of survival be to race towards one, or hit the ground and pray I’m missed? I shake my head to clear it, and glance at the booklets of stamps available for purchase. One features a picture of the cartoon character Nemo with his father. I chomp down hard on the gum in my mouth to prevent the tears from coming back as I think of fathers swimming the vast seas, searching for children who no longer exist.

When I finally reach the counter, I thank the clerk for her good work, and wish her a Merry Christmas.

Home again, I make a special dinner to share with David when he returns from work. I say a silent prayer of gratitude when he walks safely through the door.

Over a glass a wine, I tell him about my anxiety at the Post Office. He understands, says everyone is feeling it too. He puts his arm around me, and pulls me close, while we watch It’s a Wonderful Life in the glow of Christmas tree lights.

Miracle On Hoyt Street

If It Fits It Ships photo: jparadisi 2010

Trudging out of an Oregon rainstorm into the Post Office, I found a line of 30 people like me with Christmas packages to mail. In a poorly ventilated building, a crowd of wet people smells like wet dogs, but less so. John Lennon’s voice sounded scratchy singing “And so this is Christmas” from a poor quality speaker. I knew the late afternoon was a bad time to go, but I’ve never been a morning person, a characteristic that served me well for twelve years of night shifts.  I started thinking that a busy hospital is a model for Post Office chaos during the holiday season. Each type of health care provider or patient personalities exists in this parallel universe, the Post Office.

For example, attempting to speed things up, a woman wearing a name badge triaged the swelling line of package bearing humanity, asking who needs insurance forms to fill out. Someone at the back of the line asks her what time the Post Office closes. She says she doesn’t know, because she usually doesn’t work in this area. Apparently postal workers float to unfamiliar departments like nurses do during staffing shortages.

In front of me, a woman with silver hair converses with a younger woman. I suspect the silver-haired woman is a retired nurse, because she hands out an endless supply of clicky-pens to other customers in the line in need of writing implements, then pulls a Sharpie out of the same pocket for her own use. The younger woman has long hair pulled back in a barrette. She is sans makeup and wears what we call in Oregon, “tree-hugger” shoes. She is overweight, but kindly attentive to the silver-haired woman. While she speaks, a similar looking man I take for her husband appears and gives her a peck on the mouth. It makes me happy.

I watch a woman wrapping packages in tissue paper and bar code stickers. In front of her, a man loudly complains on a cell phone, “Those #$*#-ing doctors give you a bunch of pills and then you can’t get a hold of them!” He never stops talking the entire time the clerk processes his packages. When he’s finished, she says “Merry Christmas, Sir”, which I think is more than he deserves.

Finally, it’s my turn. Oh no, it’s that clerk, the one who is Newman to my Jerry Seinfeld. She annoys the hell out of me because she doesn’t ask if the contents of a package are dangerous, instead she asks, “What’s in the package?” Once, David and I got into a disagreement when he told her what was in my package. I insisted she was violating my privacy. I’m not special: In the past, I’ve heard her say rude things to other customers and her coworkers too. I brace myself for the encounter, because I have to get these damn packages in the mail in time for Christmas and I’ve been in line for an hour.

She does not ask what’s in my packages. “Anything hazardous, flammable, toxic or a combination thereof?” is all she asks. I say “No.” “How do you want this posted?” she asks. I say “First class,” but she informs me that anything over 13 ounces cannot be First Class. “Priority?” I say as nicely as possible. She pulls out some tape, and fixes a loose corner on one of my packages. “Sorry,” I say, “I never get it perfect.” “Forget perfect, my dear,” she says to me while I pay for the postage. Then she hands me a candy cane. “It’s always a pleasure to serve someone who comes in with a smile. Merry Christmas.”

Nurses, They’re Making Their Lists. Does Honesty Exclude Influence?

The List by jparadisi 2012

The List by jparadisi 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, editors compile their annual lists for publication: The Top 10 Worse Movies of the Year, The Twenty Most Twittered Tweets, The Single Most Googled Christmas Gift, and so on. I enjoy lists, even making up a few of my own: Things to Do Today, lists of Goals For The Week, Month and Year.

December is a list-lover’s dream: Christmas gift lists, grocery lists of items necessary for making the best holiday meal ever, and of course, the requisite list of who’s been naughty or nice, which I will point out, are not necessarily mutually exclusive characteristics.

Unfortunately, some characteristics do appear mutually exclusive, keeping a group of people on one list, but off of another. I’m talking about The 2012 Gallup Poll results, which list nurses as the most honest and ethical of professionals for yet another year.

I don’t need Gallup to inform me of the public’s trust in nurses. Once, a retailer refused to require my driver’s license as proof of identity when I wrote him a check. “You’re a nurse,” was his explanation. “Nurses never write bad checks.”

While I don’t know if it’s true that nurses never write bad checks, one thing they never do is make it on Time magazine’s list of The 100 Most Influential People in The World. A couple of actors made the list. So did the son of Kim Jong Il. Of course, Stephen Colbert made the list; he’s on all the lists, except the Gallup’s list of the most honest and ethical professionals, which we nurses top. That may create a new list: the only list of 2012  excluding Stephen Colbert.

I digress from my point, however, which is this: why are there no nurses on Time’s The 100 Most Influential People in The World list? Not only of 2012, but ever? Florence Nightingale, who founded modern nursing by improving the plight of wounded soldiers, was not included on Time’s somewhat tongue in cheek list, The 100 Most Influential People of History.

I do not cast doubt on the ethics or honesty of those listed as Most Influential. In fact, many on the list, including Stephen Colbert, serve by bringing humanitarian needs to the forefront, and deserve recognition.

Perhaps we nurses should focus on raising leaders, imbued with ethics and honesty, towards influential goals. With health care provision in the limelight of national attention, there has never been a better time for nurses to aspire towards positions on both lists.