#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Parent’s Night Post-Covid

I went to my kids parents night at their school. It was really cute and also weird… post-COVID. For one, I was inside my sons school. We were allowed inside at the very end of last school year, with masks. Tonight was a normal parents night though. No masks. Teachers. Desks. No social distancing. There is still a no food rule, which is fine, but it was just totally normal. In a super NOT normal way.

For two years normal became not socializing. Masks. Fear. Then we are all just supposed to bounce back. It was bizarre.

I sat in my sons desks. I had to go back and forth between two classrooms and two teachers doing the first grade presentations at the same time…which was fun. I recognized other parents, and said hi to them, and we talked about our kids. Without masks. Inside a building. In our kids classrooms.

When I was walking out, I had to park far away, and as I was walking to my car I passed, well almost everyone, but specifically two parents talking who I know- but it’s that kind of know when we are friends but new friends so it’s still kinda awkward or at least I’m still kind of awkward I also didn’t make friends for two years…pandemic…so I’m more awkward than normal…so there I am.

Walking toward my car and I actually think to myself- because they are talking- do I say hi? Do I wave? Do I pretend I don’t see them? Ugh! I can’t pretend I don’t see them. I have to walk within a foot of them. I say “hi guys,” as I approach, and keep walking. They say hi, how are you, and I answer and keep walking and they resume conversation, totally chill, and I’m like why was that so weird? Why did that make me so anxious? I literally just sat with both of them at a kids birthday party last weekend.

Oh yea. I haven’t had to “people” in over two years. That’s why. I’m out of practice. I was never good at “people-ing” pre-pandemic and then take away two years of forced socialization and not just allow but encourage isolation…yeah. I need some practice.

How bizarre though that there is this point in my life where I have to remember how to socialize. I have to retrain my brain to engage with people instead of hide from them. I also sat next to a dad who is as socially awkward as I am. We ran a field day station together in the Spring. I love socially awkward people. We can sit in comfortable silence. We acknowledge one another, hello, how are you, good, great, silence.

So aside from my mind blowing socialization situations I also learned the teachers know my sons. One son is sitting in the back row, furthest from the teacher, and he is there because he is incredibly obedient and I know he can be trusted to be far away from the teacher. My other son…is front row center. I was always a kid that could be back row. Very quiet. Very obedient. My other son- the front row center- not obedient. Pleasant. Polite-ish. But not back row obedient material.

Front row son has a broken arm. It’s been a long horrible week honestly. So today was his first day back to school. And the teacher told me she heard the girl next to him (who I know b/c we went to her bday party last school year) told him today after they got their lunchboxes for snack, “Whatever you need I’m here for you,” and then opened his lunchbox and juice box straw for him. Melt my damn heart.

I’ve also been told by his teacher he has been doing great and extremely well behaved. I laughed and said, “Keep him in the front. No matter how well behaved he acts for no matter how long.” She smiled and said, “Yeah, I kinda got that vibe.”

So I am learning how to socialize again, and it doesn’t feel bad. Just weird. And terrifying. But not bad.

Of course there was the one parent who asked about lockdown drills and I had to remember mass school shootings are a thing; even though I had already scoped out the room and noted two exits and my immediate thought had been if there is ever a shooter they have a way out…totally cool having that thought as a parent of a 6 yr old.

#IlovetheUSA #gunssuck #fucktheNRA

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Reconnecting (post?/peri?) COVID.

I’ve had a lot on my mind for potential blogs. 1. I have been a nurse for 15 years. 2. I graduated high school 19 years ago. 3. My niece had an in-person recital for the first time in 2 years. 4. My sons got to see one of my Aunt/Uncle’s.

COVID is still here. I’m going to preface this blog post with I am fully aware of COVID. I am fully aware of the risks. In fact both my sons had COVID in January, and both of them coughed all over me, one literally in my mouth, and I think I’m one of those magical immune people…because I never got it (I got 3 PCR tests…all negative).

I will say that as people are getting it now- many who are vaccinated have much less severe illness. Many who are unvaccinated still have risks of death.

So don’t get on your soapbox about COVID to me. I get it.

But. People around me are very done. We are all fully vaccinated and we all basically miss each other and doing things. We are not stupid. We still test before seeing each other. We still discuss risk factors. We still spend as much time outside as possible. But we also need to live. We need to connect.

One of my Aunts was immunosuppressed during COVID making it doubly risky to see her. So we waited. And waited. We did see her at Christmas and my Uncle and cousin for the first time in two years. After Christmas, well my sons got COVID, and it was still difficult due to COVID to get together. Finally Spring arrived and we made plans for my sons and I to go over for dinner and pool time. It was heaven.

I was making a side dish that morning and I was marveling at the fact that I was making a side dish to bring somewhere. My world has shrunk to two friends, my mom, and sister in the last two years. So while I have done meals with them…and I love you all for being part of my bubble…it was incredibly exciting to see other people.

Now, mind you, I also grew up with both my Mom’s sisters. So going to their houses has not ever been a novelty, because we were frequently with them. But it felt so incredible to hang with them by the pool, and to have my sons there. The boys ran around their house, and it’s just not possible to describe the feelings of seeing your children run through hallways that I ran through as a child, and to think that we couldn’t do this for two years.

It’s felt like such a loss in many ways. Not only because I have not been able to see family members, but because my sons have been growing, changing, and they haven’t gotten to know the family members who I grew up with, who mean something to me.

At one point my Uncle had my son in a position to sort of dunk him, and if it had been my sister, my cousins, or I, there is no doubt in my mind he would have dunked us. But he doesn’t know my sons well enough yet to do it. He and I made eye contact and laughed because we both knew that I would have been toast in that position. And some day my sons will be too. We will get back to the connections that we had and honestly they are sweeter because I felt the loss of them over the last two years.

We have all changed, grown, I got divorced, and experienced so much through my business. And they have been facing their own battles. A simple dinner and some pool time was the sweetest moment of connection I have experienced in two years. And I hope to never take that for granted again.

Obviously I have many thoughts about being a nurse for fifteen years (two of which were during a global pandemic) and my niece’s in person recital is more a commentary on COVID and how I was able to attend an in person event and it was lovely! More to come about nursing. And as for high school…19 years…yeah. I have nothing more to say about that other than I feel old!

(The picture is NOT of my family and I lol, it just felt appropriate and was free through WordPress)

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Yes I own a business. Yes I Am Female.

I had friends over the other night. The mom and two boys came and there were then four boys running rampant in and around my house. The Mom and I had a glass of wine and chatted. They were people who were not in my COVID bubble. It was weird and nice and bittersweet and overstimulating. How many nights have we missed like this over the past two years? While I love my two friends in my COVID bubble and am incredibly grateful for ALL the nights we have had in the last two years…it’s a weird freedom to see other people.

It was so great and the reason I say bittersweet is because I just couldn’t help wondering how the last two years have impacted my sons.

I thought back to my own time between ages 4-6 and I had a best friend who lived down the street. We were always in and out of one another’s houses and always together. We did sleepovers and campfires and so much more. And my sons have never done a sleepover at some one else’s house. And until last month they hadn’t even seen their classmates full faces.

I don’t regret protecting them over the last two years. I don’t blame science as I fully believe the mitigation steps we took were necessary. I am grateful they are vaccinated. I am taking them to NYC for two nights in April, we are going to the Statue of Liberty. I may have booked this during a moment of temporary insanity but we are going.

Life feels semi-normal again. And it’s weird.

Some things that have not changed- the Republicans continue to push their anti-abortion and anti-trans agenda forward with little to no resistance in midwest and Southern states. I keep working and growing my practice and upon expanding I have encountered time and time again the micro-aggressions of society toward a female business owner. I have built and moved more furniture in the last month since opening my second location…then ever in my life. Sometimes I have help, and sometimes it’s just me. Swearing at the furniture. Fighting back tears as I realize the last three steps I did wrong…it’s a good time.

Back to being a female business owner. There are good people who treat me with respect. But there are also not nice people, mostly men, who can’t believe that my pretty little head can think and speak and tell them to go to hell.

I’ve been asked so many things, “So you own this business or you’re the admin or something? Who is your boss?” “Yeah but who is in charge?” “Yeah but who is above you?” “So this is your first time having an office?” No- second office location 3rd space since I opened. “So your income last year was what? Around sixty thousand or so?” Uh no. “So you own a solo practice?” Uh no. I have employees also. “Oh you have one or two employees?” No, I have eleven. And counting. “So what it’s like a spa?” No. Mental health practice. “So what you talk to people about their problems? Like a therapist?” yes. Kind of. I prescribe medication also. “So there’s one person who prescribes and then the rest are therapists?” Five. There are five prescribers. Four, soon to be five, therapists. Two administrative staff.

When I give my answers that are complete opposite to what they are expecting- they try not to look shocked but seem to keep grasping at a way to make me be less successful with their follow-up questions.

I’m not a bragger and I generally do not like talking about my work. But if some one is clearly making assumptions devaluing me because of my gender. I have a lot of feelings about that. And it is conveyed in my responses. If I was male I do not think I would be approached in this way. And my practice is not huge, it’s still small, but yeah I have worked my butt off for all of it. And if all my employees quit tomorrow I’d start over on my own. Failure and success do not scare me. I have made mistakes and will make more mistakes. But I do a few things right too.

I’m in a single mom’s group on FB and there was a thread about how dating. Some one posted a link to an article published in a journal in 2021- that showed through a rather large and well done study that men are seeking attractive females and if the male has a high education level then they are seeking a female with a lower education level. Females on the other hand, while they also seek attractive mates, they seek education levels that are on the same level or higher than theirs. So females are looking for mates who are smarter, and males are seeking mates who are less educated. And there’s surprise as to why dating apps have low success rates in creating a long lasting relationship. It’s not the apps fault though it’s user error.

What is so threatening to a male about an educated female? We have all seen it play out rather publicly this week- not just a well educated, well spoken female but a female of Color. Judge Jackson was composed, intelligent, and everything that the accused rapist now sitting on the Supreme Court was not. The Republicans who questioned her were grasping at straws trying to break her and again- most of them were white males. It felt as though they generally do not like her. But deeper, they are threatened by a woman with education- likely more education then them.

I don’t know why- a google search says everything from threat to their ego to their masculinity makes them feel like a failure…etc. But the data is clear. Men are threatened by smart women. Not all men. George Clooney is a great example of a successful man who openly acknowledges his wife Amal is smarter than he is and he is proud of her. George Clooney brings his own set of skills to the table though so maybe that’s a bad example.

In my own life I certainly hang out with smart women who are in partnerships with smart men and it is not detrimental to their relationships. As a female business owner who has lived mostly in seclusion in the last couple years, it’s been hard to enter back into the world and experience men at their worst though.

All I can do is keep on keeping on. Each time a transphobic law is passed I hire an LCSW or an APRN in my practice. I will keep expanding an LGBTQ owned business that services the LGBTQ community and nothing spurs me forward more than the hate we continue to face as a community. It’s hard work. It’s exhausting. But it’s worth it. It’s important to me that I stand. When I first started my practice I wanted to just be in a place where I could practice as myself. A Queer provider. Now it’s a place for me to practice, but also for me to help educate providers on Queer competence, and a place for Queer individuals to feel safe. It’s become something bigger than myself.

So I’ll take all the demeaning questions and follow-up questions and I’ll keep answering them. Because men should not be threatened by a woman’s success. And if they are that’s a them problem. Not a me problem.

On the flip side, my two little men, are proud as heck of their Mama, and after I showed them the new office in the new town we went out to eat, and they told the waitress beaming that “My Mama has a new office, and she’s the boss of two offices, she’s the big boss in charge.” Hopefully I’m raising two boys into men who will not be threatened by a woman’s brains.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys · Nursing

Shut your piehole KK

A few months ago I hired some one to take over the billing for me. I had been doing the billing every waking hour that I wasn’t seeing clients…mostly between the hours of 8p-11p nightly. But I could see that either I’d have to give up my caseload of patients- which was not an option- or give in and hire some one. She already did my Quickbooks and happened to be in need of full time work. It worked out. She had no knowledge of medical billing.

But she is meticulous and could learn. I had no knowledge of medical billing until I owned a practice and taught myself.

The first month was a lot of questions that I answered and that she then would ask, “Okay where can I find that though?” and I’d smile or wince and say, “In my head,”. After a month and after the hundredth time I said that she laughed and said, “I literally cannot believe how much you remember in that brain.”

Can’t find my keys on the daily but I can remember the different sliding scales we offer for a hundred different people, and who has a payment plan on which days and who we have to call the Mom for, and who we have to call the Dad for payment, and who we have to email the Mom and the secret code words…lol. I mean it’s a whole thing. “I can’t find her in the system, is this another one whose Aunt or Grandma or Mom or Dad pays?” Was a question. And I knew the Grandma’s name and email. And it’s not my patient, it’s some one else’s in the practice. What about this one? “Aha, that’s a partner of x, x sees Rory and pays with this card, Y sees Alana and pays with this card,” “Why is the name different in both systems for both of them?” me “Yeah just accept that’s how it is and move on for this one, it’s too long to explain.”

“This one the transactions look…odd…is this one that we only bill on the 15th because that’s when they get paid?” I mean she picked up quick on the patterns at least. I told her part of her job is sleuthing because she’ll have to figure out the inner workings of my brain. Which is a scary place to go.

She’d ask about random Cigna plans and carve outs of Aetna plans and a NY based UMR plan that carves out to Cigna…and all the things. And it was all just in my brain.

Then after a month she was picking it up and I could back off and I suddenly had these hours FREE at night after the boys went to bed. I had these images and dreams of me being so productive, writing that blog post, folding the laundry, when in reality for the last month or so of free evenings I’ve stared mindlessly at the television watching episodes of Blacklist (I could do without the girl, James Spader is my favorite), murder docs like Murder in the Middle & I’ll be Gone in the Dark, and I went to bed. Many nights.

It was like that meme “My plans for my day off” “Me on my day off”. In the midst of the last month I also opened a second location which has resulted in many many days of moving and building furniture. And still seeing clients. And single mom-ing it. I planned out my Summer for childcare. A whole freaking expensive thing. I hate this country and our lack of support for working parents.

But I digress. I felt guilty the first few nights. Guilty that I had two hours to sit and stare at Blacklist episodes and snuggle with my dog. Then I thought. Fuck that. I get no time to myself. I’ve worked my ass off to get here and I was still working my ass off every day. What is wrong with me that I feel guilty for sitting for two hours and not being productive? When I saw clients this week I actually felt engaged and refreshed and not exhausted and burned out.

I literally thought to myself- this is odd- why do I not feel burned out and exhausted right now? Oh that’s right because I can actually go to bed. And snuggle with my dog. And think about things other than work for two hours a day. I still log in and do work. But I logged in the other day and there wasn’t anything for me to do. It was the weirdest freaking thing.

Within a month it was a forty hour position. I was doing a forty hour position on top of my 32 hours of clients and 8 hours of employee managing. That’s not okay.

I recognize now that was not okay. And I’m incredibly grateful that I took this step.

The best part of my week so far though was reading and watching Kim Kardashian’s comment that women need to work their ass off and no one wants to work these days.

I’m sure you can hear my eyes rolling. To speak as a billionaire who started life in a family with millions…yeah that falls a little flat.

We want to work. We are working. If you don’t start life with millions though it’s a little hard to work hard and still get ahead. Not for nothing but as some one born in 1985 I will never see a pension, I will never have fully covered health insurance with low co-pays and no deductible, I may never get rid of student debt if I decide to go back for my doctorate- if I stay with my master’s I may have it paid off in 5-10 years. I entered the workforce during the “worst economic disaster in history” in 2007. I didn’t get a raise my first three years as a nurse. I am parenting and working during a pandemic- again a “once in a lifetime event”. My clients who are going hungry do not have access to food. I love when a Boomer says, “Well they just need to access the resources, or apply to the state,” yeah that doesn’t exist. There are food stamps- they are extremely difficult to qualify for. There are no state programs that offer housing and food to any one who makes over 18k a year. You can’t live on 19k a year in this state. You go hungry. Like my clients.

But I digress onto a rather large soap box.

My point to this rambling. I work my ass off. Our society dictates we work our asses off. When all is said and done it will take three full time positions to take over all the administrative tasks I do for my practice. I do not want a medal. But I would appreciate a billionaire who was handed millions…to not make a gross judgment about women in a capitalistic male dominated society.

Stay strong. Work hard. Binge watch Blacklist or whatever you like and don’t feel guilty though. Because we all deserve a freaking break.

And yeah. Shut your piehole Kim.

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Hospitals and Nurses

I usually write a fiery, steamy, infuriated, depressing, crying, first draft of a blog post depending on the topic and my mood. Then I leave it for a night. Then I come back and completely erase and/or heavily edit it. Last night, I may have accidentally published the fiery, infuriated first draft. In my defense. It was late. The publish button is close to the preview button, and I was trying to figure out the picture size. Then all the sudden I got 5 views in maybe three seconds…and thought “hmmm”…immediately replaced by “shit fuck holy shit. Delete Delete Delete.” Of course not before my subscribers got the emailed copy.

So I get a call from my friend who subscribes and says, so…yeah. Maybe not a great idea to publish a rather thinly veiled expose. Fair. I agree. Picture me waiting for the lightening to strike.

I feel like that sums up my life. Letting out the emotional side before I make it PC and having to then backtrack and attempt to censor myself. Which, in all honesty, I should be censored at times. I fully own that.

However, the point of my blog post, even in all it’s fire-y-ness was to address the fact that hospital ferociously protect even bad doctors. Really bad ones. And if they put a fraction of that energy into protecting their nurses…there would not be a shortage.

That hospitals are advocating for legislature to cap travel nurses salaries instead of advocating for legislature to protect nurses aka: automatic felony for assaulting a nurse, student loan forgiveness, tuition caps for furthering nursing education, patient/RN ratios, safe staffing ratios…etc. To name a few. It’s freaking insulting. Not just a little insulting. But fiery steamy infuriated first draft blog post insulting.

Nurses are the lifeblood of hospitals. We see all. We know all. If every nurse let loose publicly the biggest secret they know about their hospital system…that would be, well, epic. But for hospitals…it would be literally a liability and natural disaster. So I just don’t understand why they keep pushing the very population of people who can whistleblow the crap out of them.

But here we are.

Hospitals are messed up places. Any one who has worked in one is emphatically nodding their head, smiling to themselves thinking of the most messed up thing they have seen. And I’m not talking with patients. I’m talking with staff. Because there’s a lot of both. Grey’s Anatomy…I mean I’ve never made it through more than ten minutes but I think real life would have it beat. Big time.

Hospital systems should maybe consider the true power nurses hold. In our knowledge…of everything. They should then consider supporting appropriate legislation to protect nurses. Protect nurses with the same furor and energy that you protect doctors and maybe you’d actually retain them.

My employees know that I have their back. When they are wrong I tell them. But, I never undermine them to clients or to other employees. They also tell me when I’m wrong. As I think they should. I am protective of them. They know that. We all have scars from working for larger corporations, mostly hospitals, where we were not valued or protected and even if we were right…we were always wrong. That sticks with you, and it completely destroys peoples confidence and sense of self. As an employer I feel like I worked to create a space where we can all just be ourselves and not be scared to be right or wrong and to always feel valued.

COVID sucks. But what it did was force healthcare to face the chasms that exist. It forced nurses to acknowledge they are treated as second class citizens. It forced families to discuss masks, health decisions, testing, vaccines and so much more. Could I have done without COVID? Yes. But I am not sad about the discussions it has brought forth. I am also not sad that it has finally publicly unveiled the lengths hospitals go to in order to not protect, not reward, and not promote their most valuable assets- nurses.

#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · mom of boys

Encanto & Psychotherapy

I did not know what I was getting into when I sat down to watch Encanto. I saw previews with a house and young woman with glasses. That’s it. My sons and I watched it on my birthday in January. By the time Surface Pressure was over I was welling up with tears. When the grandmother was berating Maribel; the tears started to actually fall and by the time the Mariposa song was over I was literally sobbing. My sons at some point asked if I was okay and I sort of stuttered “Yes…it’s fine…it’s just very sad.” They didn’t understand why I thought it was sad I could tell from their perplexed expressions; but they didn’t question it further. I think they are used to me crying at movies. It happens a lot.

Family dynamics are intense. I don’t get into my family dynamics in my blog because I respect my family members enough to not write publicly or engage in gossip about them in any capacity. But every family has dynamics. Every family has inter-generational trauma. Mine is no different.

As Maribel stood and her grandmother berated her in front of her extended family members, the scene with Bruno as Maribel sees his plate drawn onto the table behind the wall, the many scenes with Maribel being scapegoated as she seeks and speaks truth…I felt all of that.

There is nothing like family, and a room full of people with blood connections to you, that can make you feel the most isolated, alone, and wrong.

I not only have experienced this but I spend my life counseling patients on their family attachments. What struck me about Encanto was the recovery scene at the end. The song her entire extended family partakes in that they see her, they love her, and they want her in their family. She is their family. The patients I treat generally never get to experience that moment. Because real life is not a Disney movie.

That connection scene provides validation and love. Psychotherapy can provide this in a different way. For all those individuals who do not have reparative moments and relationships with family members psychotherapy provides a space for the client to examine the relationship dynamics, the traumas, even the covert ones- the isolating, the scapegoating, and it’s looking back at the times you’ve drawn a plate on a table to feel close to your family who seem so incredibly far though they are sitting just six feet away.

Psychotherapy allows clients a space to examine the idea of love. Self love. Love of others. Receiving love and giving love. Insecure and secure attachment styles. It also allows us a space to examine the dissonance of deeply loving a family member be it a sibling or parent while acknowledging they may have done horribly traumatic things to you.

Psychotherapists spend their days singing the song at the end of Encanto. “We see how brave you have been. We see how bright you burn. You’re the real gift. What do you see? I see me. All of me.” (edited)

I used to love Disney movies. I still am a Disney fan. But. I have a more adult view of the movies. I have a more adult understanding of reality vs. fiction and good vs. evil. There are good people who perpetrate evil things. And there are evil people who everyone believes are good. There are so many shades of grey in between the black and white world of Disney.

The part of the movie that I viscerally felt was as I watched the grandmother pick up her three newborn babies and run with her husband. As they cross the river all I could think of was my own twin boys. The three little heads were reminiscent to me of all the times I looked down at my two boys little heads nursing, sleeping, crying, smiling. Even as I watched it I had one little head on each shoulder. I think it was deep for me because I took a journey also and am now a single mom. I felt her grief, her fear, and her determination. I’ve had to make my own miracles though.

I am grateful for my boys. I am grateful for the organized chaos that is my life as a single parent, business owner, boss, and clinician. I am proud of my work and I am proud of my employees as they are all dynamic and skilled clinicians. But I think Encanto succinctly summarized what we do for people in a way that I have never been able to. We see people. We help them see themselves. We empower. We are the family in that last scene watching with pride as she walks bravely to the door.

I’m opening a second location and a long time client (9? years) texted me because I told him I needed to tell him something. We then chatted on the phone, and when I told him I was going to be based in the new location he said, “Yeah, well just tell me the address and I’ll see you there. Remember that closet you used to be in? Your first spot?” Then he laughed and told me about the pharmacist messing up his last prescription and being flabbergasted that the patient had my direct number to text me so I could resend it. “He doesn’t know what we’ve been through together,” then he laughed. He’s always joking and lighthearted, but I heard the ring of truth. I have seen him through a lot. A. Lot. And he still has work to do. But that’s outpatient psychiatry. Developing trust, rapport, and being the constant there through…a lot.

#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation · lesbian mom

Reflections on Christmas Eve 2021

Christmas Eve 2021. My kids are at an age where they are starting to be kinda cool. They can laugh at stuff. They can appreciate good music. They can carry firewood. One piece at a time, but still, it’s one big piece now; used to be just kindling. Today I had them fill up the rack inside the garage from the racks outside. I told them 20 pieces each. They can count too which is quite helpful for the firewood.

It was 30 degrees out. They trudged back and forth in the cold. With promises of hot chocolate and the reminders that Santa is watching. They also helped shovel the driveway. That was less successful than the firewood. They helped me feed the cats, and herd the cats away from the dog. They miraculously kept the dog occupied for 40 minutes today while I took 40 minutes to myself on the treadmill. Usually I have to crate the pooch.

We went to my Mom’s and saw extended family outside of my sister and sister-in-law and niece. Literally the first family event with actual extended family since before March 2020. We know about the COVID surge. We took precautions. We all kept staring at each other. Because it’s been so long. But staring in a good way. I unfortunately was on a time crunch because the poor pup can only be in the crate just so long at five months old.

My Aunt and cousin have purebred yellow labs. I of course have my heinz 57 rescue mutt pup Cheetah. But we could commiserate on the new puppy blues. Because that’s definitely a thing. It was a lovely dinner and evening and honestly just a relief to see my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin.

As my sons and I drove home I put on the Sing 2 soundtrack.

The soundtrack is kind of amazing. We belted out the song the Gorilla sings. Then we belted out I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It was all amazing. And then I started crying. Not sobbing. But tears definitely fell.

I got to see my Aunt and Uncle and cousin once in two years. There are other Aunts, Uncles, and cousins I still haven’t seen and do not know when I will see again. The boys looked at my Aunt and Uncle on Christmas and smiled, and said, “We never see you!” Leave it to the kids to state the obvious.

Their childhood is shaped by this weird isolation. Their experiences are so incredibly different from my own childhood filled with Christmas Eves of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, great Aunts, great Uncles, and tons of second and third? cousins. Whoever was in the general Northeast area in the family would be around for Christmas Eve.

I grieve for what the boys are missing out on. I grieve for my Dad. Because he would be part of my inner COVID safe circle and he would love my dog and he would make horrible Dad jokes and be intrusive and annoying. But he would make the isolation of COVID so much less lonely. He’d probably come over every day just to see the dog.

As I drove home singing Sing 2 wiping away tears with my sons singing loudly I grieved for my marriage. Not because I want to be married to my ex but because I am lonely. It’s incredibly difficult to be a single parent during the holidays. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting and depressing in a way I can’t really describe other than to say if you know, you know.

But I also was happy. Happy to have that moment with my sons where we could laugh and sing and be silly together. It was a beautiful clear night and when we got home, let the dog out, and I put them to bed, it felt right. That night felt right, and that I suppose is the magic of Christmas.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Karate Class & Masks

There’s something about karate class. I’m either falling out the door or, like today, my kids are mask-shaming another kid, whose mom then looks appalled, and my kids may or may not have said her kid was stupid for not wearing a mask. At which point my mouth was dropped open (behind my mask) and I was desperately trying to pull my kids back from unmasked kid, while avoiding eye contact with unmasked mom who was uttering, “It’s…a…CHOICE!” And I was muttering, “I didn’t say people are stupid I said not wearing masks is a stupid choice.”

Then I have to explain to my kids after class that while we may exercise our rights to wear our masks other kids may not, and we cannot make them feel bad for not wearing one. “But Mama that means they are stupid doesn’t it?” “And stupid is a bad word right Mama?” chimes in the other one.

“Did I actually use the word stupid? I don’t think I did.”

They are both nodding emphatically. Yes. I did. But again. I didn’t mean it makes a person stupid. It’s just a stupid choice. Uneducated. Ignorant. Okay stupid.

Then I’m texting one of my friends and one of my employees because they have been with me from the start of karate class adventures. They both basically said the boys are passionate and they love them and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s an odd thing. To sit in a waiting area of mom’s whose kids all thing the sun and moon revolve around us and to be teaching our kids such different things. Then there they all are, doing karate together.

I coached their basket-ball team this Saturday. At 8 AM. On a Saturday. The day after I got my COVID booster. I’ve had better times. But I’m glad I was there representing because I was the only female coach out of six parent volunteers. Twenty kids. Co-Ed. All in kindergarten. At the end I looked at another coach and said, “Well we have no where to go but up from here.” He laughed and agreed.

Basket-ball requires masks. So that was good. And all the kids did great with them. What I found interesting was the girls were far less aggressive than the boys. Then of course I’m friends with therapists, so I tell one of my friends my observation and she says, “Well do you think that’s because girls are socially conditioned to be less aggressive than boys? And boys are given societal permission?” That’s the thing about being friends with therapists. Being friends with therapists is a freaking trip.

There I am saying girls just need to toughen up, and then she drops this thought provoking bomb on me and I’m like well damn. I dunno. Then I get all introspective and think, I never felt conditioned to be less aggressive, in fact I was aggressive as hell from day one in basket-ball…so what does that say about me?

So do the girls all suck because of societal norms and expectations? I do live in a super red town and maybe girls here really are told to be girls. Whatever the hell that means. But then I’m thinking there are only twenty kids signed up for basket-ball. They keep it low because of COVID. So this is a small sample size. Though my town is small. But maybe there are other girls in town who are aggressive and they just are not playing basket-ball.

Then I think this is why I always have problems with other people. I’m intimidating, unapproachable, and blah blah blah. Said every manager ever. My response was always if I were a man would you be saying this. Their answer was always an awkward introspective silence. See I can pull out my therapist ju ju too.

Here’s my conundrum. I’m raising two white boys. Who clearly have my passion, drive, and lack of any hesitation to confront some one about what they think is right or wrong or whatever. They did the same thing last week at karate about the vaccine. But I intervened before the other kid’s mom heard. The thing is, I’m teaching by example for my sons to be somewhat confrontational. And as a white cis dude it’s different. But I don’t want to censor myself.

In other words. This single parenting situation is tough. I have to teach by example. But who and how I am as a Queer woman is different than how they should be as white cis ?straight dudes. I’m making assumptions based on them saying (age appropriately) girls are gross but they want to marry a girl. (Though one of them asked to marry me recently which I wholeheartedly accepted so all those other 6 year olds can just back off). Then I think should is a strong word, and how do I teach them to harness their power for good? Because the two of them standing in front of a maskless boy and pointing their fingers at him telling him he should wear a mask and people who don’t wear masks are stupid….that’s not what I’m going for. But honestly, wear a freaking mask. It’s hard. Because it’s not the kids fault his parents are making uneducated decisions.

Pandemic parenting 101. Wear masks. Don’t shame another kid for not wearing a mask. But, acknowledge that your kids will likely hear you say other people who are unvaccinated and not wearing masks are stupid and endangering everyone else in society and essentially slapping healthcare providers in the face who are working the front lines (AKA me and clients I treat and all my friends who are healthcare providers). And then will repeat that to unmasked individuals at karate class.

Then make a plan for how to survive karate class sitting next to that kids parent.

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Why America Cried At Steve Burns

I can’t be the only one who wiped at tears at the end of Steve from Blue’s Clues recent video that was posted to Twitter…? In every FB group I’m in from medical based, to illness based, to therapist based, to even a Harry Potter fans group….they erupted with Steve memes, with hearts linked to Steve’s video, and many many of my individual friends posted a tribute to Steve and his video.

Let’s break this down.

America literally lost its shit when a former childhood show star posted a vulnerable, truthful, completely unremarkable video.

It is quiet. He is soft spoken. There is no tension build-up. There is no comedy and no time when he is purposely trying to make us feel angry or sad or anything. So why? Why did an unremarkable video hit our hearts in a way that makes it completely remarkable?

I have some guesses and because I feel like I’m smart and Steve told me I look great I’m going to go a step further and say it’s an educated guess. Below is a rough quote of the video that I re-watched three times and typed while listening to it in order to get the words down.

“We were younger and we used to run around and find clues and do all the fun stuff…and we didn’t see each other for like a really long time. Can we just talk about that? (Pause) Great. I realize that was kind of abrupt. I just kind of got up and went to college. And that was really challenging by the way but great. Because I got to use my mind and take one step at a time. And now I’m doing many of the things I wanted to do. And then look at you, and look at all you have done, and all you have accomplished in all of that time. And it’s just so amazing. I mean we started out with clues and now it’s what? Now it’s what student loans and jobs and families. And some of it has been kind of hard. You know? I know you know. (Pause) And I wanted to tell you, I really could not have done all of that without your help…and in fact all the help that you helped me with when you were younger is still helping me today, and that’s super cool. I guess that I just wanted to say after all these years I never forgot you. Ever. And I’m super glad we are still friends. You look great by the way. Whatever it is your doing. It’s working.”

Reading the words does not have the same impact as watching the video. They fall somewhat flat with Steve’s vulnerable and honest voice and earnest eyes slicing through the horrible bouncy background music.

When I do therapy, as in when I am in the therapist chair, there are moments when I can see I hit the vulnerable spot in a client’s defensive armor. It’s in the moment when I say something that to me can feel like a shot in the dark but I know I hit it when their eyes well up as we maintain eye contact and they nod without speaking and I just named something that let them know, “I see you.”

Steve Burns literally just did that to every kid who grew up watching Blue’s Clues. Even if you hated the show. That two minute video he said, “I see you, and it’s hard, and you’re great.” In a way that we yearn for every day but often lack in receiving. Steve saw us. He let us know with sincerity that he sees us because he is us. He has student loans too. He went to college and gets to use his mind and do all the things every day he wanted to do. And he did it with us, for us, because of us. He says you helped me accomplish things and you still do and I’m grateful for you.

He called us friends still. And told us we look great.

Why did America lose it’s mind? Why did this bring tears to our eyes? Because we lack validation in our every day lives. Especially in the last year and a half. Our lives have been thrust into complete uncertainty. As a parent we don’t know if our children are safe anywhere. We don’t know if we are remote or in person for work, appointments, and school. We don’t know if we should go to the grocery store. We can’t see our families and our friends. We are isolated. Nothing feels right. Everything feels scary.

Steve came in and in two minutes let us know that he gets it. He gets that things are scary. But look at all we’ve done already. Look what we are capable of! Look! Because I am looking and I SEE YOU! Why is Steve Burns the first and only person who has been able to penetrate the “scary” of the last 18 months and provide validation, acceptance, and reassurance in ways that brought us all to tears?

Because he gave us what we yearn for. He gave us non-judgmental acceptance of our choices.

He gave us positive feedback.

He bolstered us to be able to keep moving forward with the same greatness with which we had arrived in the moment to watch his video. Why do we not get this validation from our jobs? Partners? Families? Friends? Some of us, probably do. Some of us have supportive and positive people surrounding us. But so many of us, clearly, are lacking in this area because it was painfully obvious we had not received any of this for a long time by our extra reactions to his video.

His voice was calming, unifying, and his message was of appreciation and hope. Hope. We all are craving the elusive ray of hope that crept out of his video. Are there other people who didn’t forget me? Do I really look great? Other people struggle with student loans too? He spoke directly to the viewer. It felt like sitting down with an old friend. He paused at the right time and the inflection in his voice was always to add calm not uncertainty. It was the least anxious two minute video I’ve ever seen. And if there is anything over the last 18 months it has been a steady influx of anxiety.

This is important because it shows what America lacks. Empathy, validation, and understanding from authority figures- employers, family, friends, etc. It’s important because it shouldn’t take one video to unravel us and that it did shows that we all need to be in therapy if we are not already because we are all raw, so raw. You cried because your emotions are bubbling so close to the surface it took one person to say- I see you. Your feelings are valid. I’ve felt them too. I see you.- to have you in tears. He did that therapy move that I do. He took a shot in the dark to say what we all needed to hear and he landed acutely on our weak spot in our defenses.

Why did we cry? Because we felt seen. Because we felt connected in a time of isolation. Because an old friend greeted us warmly without judgement and told us we are good enough as we are and that he is proud of us. It seems so simple yet we cannot find this validation, connections, and positive reinforcement in our every day life. We cried because we needed to cry; we needed a release valve.

I am grateful to Steve for his video. I am grateful it brought catharsis and relief to so many people. I am saddened that so much of America feels unseen. I can tell you as a healthcare provider and as a mental health provider for many other healthcare providers the most important unvalidated person walking America is the healthcare worker. We are tired. We are dying- from suicide, substance use, and damnit from COVID. We are sick of the horrific deaths. We are sick of the ignorance. We are burned out in a way that no one else outside of healthcare can even begin to comprehend. It’s making us resent the patients. It’s making ICU nurses refuse to turn their unconscious unvaccinated COVID vented patients, leading to more pressure ulcers, more black eyes from being prone and not having their cheeks turned. It’s making the fifteen respiratory therapists who can do ECMO in one hospital system think about quitting. All 15. If all 15 quit ECMO can’t function. I don’t think Americans grasp the devastating consequences COVID-19’s ongoing toll it taking on our healthcare workers. We are going to lose them all. There will be none left to care for us if we don’t get our shit together.

Get your shit together America. That moment that made you feel tears when Steve Burns breached your defenses…make healthcare workers feel that moment. Make them know that you see them. That you hear them. Get the freaking vaccine. Wear freaking masks. Stop saying science isn’t real. Because science doesn’t give a shit when you are drowning in the fluid in your unvaccinated lungs. Your going to die regardless.

This is a plea. One human to another. Think. Feel. Change. Because if you don’t we are looking at devastating consequences for our healthcare workers.

To my nurses I see you. I am you. I feel you. I understand if you leave. I truly do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the blood, sweat, tears you’ve already given. I can’t ask you to give more than you’ve given. We all hit our walls at different moments. If you’ve hit yours. Step away. Know it doesn’t make you less. I know you are not abandoning us. I know you have to take care of you in this moment and I will never fault you for that and if any one does- tune them out. They don’t know what we’ve seen and been through.

If you are still fighting the fight- rock on, stay strong, and take care of yourself in a way that no one else will. “You look great by the way. Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it.”

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Therapist Friends

My sons started kindergarten. I have minimal pictures because I’m generally bad at taking pictures. I like to think it’s because I’m being present in the moment and just soaking up the emotion of it all. But it’s also because I forget. The first day the school and aftercare program lost them. They were never lost. They just didn’t get off the bus at the aftercare stop. So I thought they were lost. I had epic Mama bear panic ten minutes of tearing out of my office while picturing just pulling over every bus I pass and going up them aisle by aisle until I found them. But then the school secretary verified with Dattco the boys were still on the bus with a sleeping child who also missed their stop.

Nothing like a good adrenaline rush after a morning of blubbering for my week to start on the right foot.

The highlights I get from the boys are the bus rides, hot lunch, and yeah. That’s all they really talk about. I’m assuming there is some learning that occurs but who knows.

The great thing about being friends with therapists are moments. My friend and I were hiking in the woods. We had already dissected the boys being lost on the bus where I received validation that I was within my rights to have epic crazy town ten minutes.

There was a road within a half mile of where we were hiking. We just couldn’t seem to get there from the paths we kept choosing. There was a lovely orange circle that looked really easy and was 2.1 miles. Perfect. Then we were on blue. Then we were on blue/yellow. Then we were on orange/yellow. Then I don’t know how but we ended up in an unmarked section where another person emerged looking confused.

We kept walking. I was sweaty, hot, and cranky by this time. Meanwhile my friend who is a therapist says, “Maybe we are just supposed to be lost in the woods right now. Maybe this is exactly what we both need right now.” She literally says this smiling and if she could have been skipping I feel like she would have been. There I am the nurse. The nurse is like oh hell the fuck no fucking way are we supposed to be fucking lost and sweaty…and I’m not skipping. I keep that all inside though as I mentally handslap my forehead and look at her smiling positive attitude and try to channel the therapist side of me.

I gotta be honest. I couldn’t find it. But I did smile because how therapist-y was that moment? And literally. I just pictured her skipping.

(She sometimes reads my blog…I say this with love my friend)

I’m not sure the plus side of friends with nurses. We swear a lot. We are blunt. And you send us pictures of random skin conditions and expect diagnosis and treatment. Literally happened the same day from another friend and is not uncommon; not even a trigger warning usually just a random picture of a body part with a rash. (She never reads my blog but on the off chance: with love also my friend)

My therapist friends and I are careful to never do therapy on one another. And if some one starts to sound to therapist-y we will say, “Stop therapizing” at which point there will be denial they are therapizing but also a general backing off and trying to approach differently. The pro’s of therapist friends are we can get into deep analytical discussions that other people would find boring. They also say things when we are lost in the woods that are annoyingly positive but also hilarious because it’s beyond comprehension to me how some one can be that positively existential while hot sweaty and lost.

When I went into psychiatric nursing I never thought of a by product being a cache of therapist friends that would develop over time. But here we are. It’s been interesting evolving from emergency department co-workers to psychiatry. They are all a little messed up but in very diverse and special ways. I vibe with both sets. Definitely my people.

What’s nice is that I can be therapist-y and a nurse. Typical intake with a nurse goes something like this, “So you were a nurse?” “Yeah, but I’m still a nurse, I’m just an NP now.” “Yes but in psych.” “Yeah….okay. I worked in the pedi-ED”. “Aw shit. Okay so you’ve been in it.” “Yeah, you?” “ICU. (or ED. or MICU. etc.)” “Nice, you see other psych providers?” “yeah they don’t know shit.” “Yeah, it’s hard to describe what it’s like seeing some one’s insides or holding their brains in your hands.” “Yeah. I like you. I’m so glad I found you.”

Ver batim I’ve had that conversation more times than I can count. Nurse’s have seen some shit. It’s different sitting with a nurse as a provider than sitting with a therapist who has never worked as a nurse. I usually have to reference seeing guts and brains (which is not a lie or exaggeration) in order for them to relax and open up about what’s going on. Their reason for seeing me does not even have to be about nursing but them just knowing I get what they see relaxes them.

I’ve never regretted going into psychiatry. I’ve never regretted declining intakes to save spots for nurses and the LGBTQ community. I’ve never regretted forging the friendships I have with therapists, in fact they have seen me through some of the hardest couple years of my life starting back in 2019 with the death of my Dad.

I am a firm believer in fate and people showing up in your life when you need them. I worked in the ED when I needed ED friends. I still have them as friends, but not seeing each other every day like we did means we naturally grew apart. What’s nice about the ED though is I know I could reach out to any of them at any time for anything and they’d have my back. Just as so many have reached out to me for family members and friends since I went into psychiatry for help connecting to services.

I honestly feel blessed for the people who have been in my life since going into psychiatry. I’ve met such good people who work hard, are smart, compassionate, and are just good role models for me professionally and personally. And I’m still surrounded by nurses too; they are just psych nurses so haven’t necessarily held guts and brains- still cool but different than ED nurses.

I’ll take the annoying positivity while lost in the woods because that’s what I need. I need people who see the best in others, therapists seem far less cynical than nurses, because it’s something I need to practice. Since March 2020 mental health providers have been stretched beyond what you can even imagine.

I see it, I hear it, and I feel it.

We hold pain, secrets, love, and loss. I started my day today with a person calling and bursting into tears when I said we could not take her daughter as we are closed to adolescent referrals. Then I heard her story of calling fifteen offices and I was the first person who even answered the phone. Not even my client. That’s how the days go now though. Long, hard, and with a lot of tears.

I have such immense respect for mental health professionals, my friends included, because this work is hard and my friends in particular can still hold onto such positive outlooks in the face of such darkness. They also are woke and call themselves out on privilege. They make me a better person. I know my psych APRN friends right now are going, hmmm, am I a therapist friend or a nurse friend? More on the therapist friend side but with the cynicism of a nurse. Good people.

Take this for what you will. An ode to my friends- therapists and nurses- who helped me survive the last couple years. I can’t remember a time in my life I needed friends more and of course it was the hardest time to see anyone. I am grateful for the people who keep showing up for me and who I am happy to show up for.

This is also a call to examine the people you surround yourself with and what they contribute to your life. As I get older, as my kids get older, they see my friends. They know them. I surround myself with people I want my children to know. There should be equal parts giving and taking with one person perhaps taking more at different points in life and vice versa.

This is also a thank-you to all the mental health professionals still standing in the wake of COVID-19. I see you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are and do.

And if you’re friends with a nurse…two words: Trigger. Warning.