I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter ‘till they bloom, ‘til you yourself burst into bloom. –Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Just this week I realized that Coming Alive does not have an “about” page. That is the first place I go on a website—how could I leave that page out of my own? The “about” page is the beginning of coming together; it is the connection portion of the entire site, and here is my new website without one! There is definitely something subconscious going on here; probably “shame” (thanks Brene Brown for making that clear). I am guilty of brushing off my past experiences, degrees, careers, and accomplishments for no better reason than I had intentions of doing more. And in reply to that statement, as I would tell my kids and husband the same thing, “then go do more and honor all that you have done up until now, because every decision you made was the right one for that moment in time!” For me that is what Coming Alive is all about—rediscovering who I am today and pursuing my passions.
Every bio that has been written in the last couple of years begins with: “Rachel left her nursing career to concentrate on her growing family…..”. Today I am sharing the parts of the story that are left out. Today I will present my About Me page along with a tiny blog-memoir!
For the short version visit the About Me page……….for those with time on your hands proceed here:
I was born in a small town in central Indiana spending my younger days on my grandparent’s farm and my school days in the city of Anderson. Between my mom’s family and my dad’s family I have hundreds of cousins who all still live pretty much in the same houses they grew up in. Something I have learned through the years is that many people in the mid-west are content to be right where they are. I never was. My plan was to graduate high school and go to college in a big city (New York was my dream and I I have still never been there!). After high school I was accepted to Nursing School at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis and awarded a 4-year nursing scholarship from a local hospital. Indianapolis became my big city….so the story begins.
Once in college I began learning about the many different schools within a university. I did not even Anthropology or Sociology degrees existed. I fell in love with these humanity classes, but was committed to the nursing scholarship. During my final year of nursing school I started working at the Veteran’s Hospital on a day hospital unit for chronic psychiatric patients. I LOVED this job!! The unit was staffed with three CNS (Clinical Nurse Specialists) and one MSW (Master of Social Work). I was able to lead small group sessions on stress management and daily skills. Every week I would work with the patients to plan, shop for, and prepare a Friday meal. I loved taking them to the grocery!! If the hospital would have allowed me to stay there after graduation as a BSN, RN then I may not be where I am today, unfortunately they required I spend a year getting medical experience. I obtained this experience as a charge nurse on a 58-bed Nursing Home Care Unit, then later transferred to the Emergency Department. I enjoyed the ED and even saved a few lives, but when the government was disagreeing on the budget in the early 90s I was trying to get pregnant and buy a house. During that time I had been called about a teaching position in the town I had grown up in. They were actually recruiting me, so the job was mine if I wanted. I took the leap and began teaching a LPN program to adults through the community school system. In this position I taught Nutrition, Geriatrics, and CPR certification. I also provided clinical experiences for a group of students at a local hospital. I missed working with the psychiatric patients, so during this time I also worked part-time as a staff nurse on an adolescent psychiatric in-patient unit and an adult chemical dependency unit.
At this point I was in a groove. We had bought a house in an eclectic part of Indianapolis and I felt like it was time to pursue my advanced degree. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but continually reading Nurse Anthropology journals I decided to make an appointment with the chair of the Anthropology department at IUPUI. He was great and willing to help me develop my own graduate program and then later use it to develop programs for local hospitals to provide medical care that was respectful to other cultures. Then the news came……….after a year of trying I was finally pregnant!!! I finished the statistics and Spanish course then put school on hold to enjoy every moment of the pregnancy.
I returned to teaching and the part-time jobs when Isabel was three months old and was missing her terribly. A group of the Adolescent Psychiatrists approached me with a proposition to obtain my CNS at their expense, but all I could think about at the time was being home with Isabel. My commute to these jobs was over an hour, which meant I had to get Isabel up, fed, and out the door by 4:45 am to get to the hospital for the 6:30 am clinical rotation. After picking her up from our parents’ house and driving home it would be 7:30 pm. The days quickly wore on us. As the universe usually works in wondrous ways I was called again for a new job (I wish it was that easy today). This was a high school nurse position much closer to my house with all of the holidays and the summer off. There was not much to consider—I would be working with adolescents (definitely some psych added in) and I would have lots more time with Isabel. I ran a ten bed clinic for 1600+ students, coordinated random drug tests, plus provided workshops and vaccines for the staff.
At this point we were ready to give Isabel a sibling. Returning to school for my masters did not cross my mind—I was in la-la baby land!! The one pitfall with the school nurse job, was the pay. Living over an hour from family meant that Isabel was in an in-home daycare. Adding Jackson was going to take my salary to the next-to-nothing amount. This is where the story really takes a giant leap. I made a decision to take a year maternity leave from the high school and work as needed for a local hospital on their psychiatric units. While all of this is going on my husband tried to make a career change from restaurant management to being a loan originator (longer story) and ended up with a severe back injury leading to surgery. During a chance meeting with an old boss at a stop light he was offered an opportunity we jumped on! We packed up the kids, sold the house in two weeks, and moved to a house a mile back on a gravel road in the woods of Brown County Indiana over two hours from our family. This was the beginning of a whole new chapter.
We were only in town a few weeks, when the kids became sick. Jackson was only 4 months old and running a fever. I called the pediatrician we had been referred to and they agreed to see him without a pre-physical—I was so grateful! This first appointment led me to my next job that ended up lasting six years. I became an afterhour’s telephone triage nurse for the group of pediatricians at the practice who took call. At first I worked in the office and would return the calls from the day. After Henry was born (a wonderful homebirth—and another long story) they created a way that I could make the calls from home as well as take new calls through the night. This was another great job!!
Raising the kids in Brown County was wonderful, but as they grew we all longed for more culture and urban life. We were close to Bloomington, IN (a campus town) and spent almost every day there at the skate park. When we could get away we drove the four hours to Chicago. There was a pull though to move from the mid-west. Again fate was with us as my husband was offered another great opportunity. After seven years in the woods we left it all behind, loaded up Minnie (our 15 year old mini-van), and headed to Virginia. We lived in a three story townhouse outside of Richmond and felt like we were living The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. It was like being on a mini-vacation with the pool and fresh cookies every day. The school was directly across the street and a great local restaurant asked me the first night in town if I wanted to help out in the daytime while the kids were at school. Another instant job!! We were only there short term as part of the relocation package and ended up in a two bedroom apartment (with three kids) after our house sold in Indiana.
It is this next part of the story that lands us here in North Carolina. After 7 months in VA, my husband was offered a chance to come to Jacksonville, NC. The kids and I scouted the area and fell in love with Wilmington. My agreeable husband offered to make the hour commute, so a house was bought and we found our place to bloom. We have been here almost five years and the blooming is a slow going process—there have been no job recruiters calling, but the experiences and stories that we are creating are full of heart. I have my North Carolina nursing license and have provided home care to a couple of older women during transitional times of their lives. To connect with adolescents I spent a couple of years as the co-facilitator of the DREAMS Teen Council and continue to mentor some of the teens on my own time. Then to revisit my love of culture I work part-time teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) to adults through Cape Fear Community College. All of this combined with my volunteer work with ONE is leading somewhere—I am sure of it.
When I was searching for a quote about sharing our stories and discovered the one above by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I thought how appropriate! Do you remember Women Who Run With the Wolves? I read it before Randy and I were even married (over 17 years ago) and still have the poster on my wall today. I’m not sure where my stories are leading me, but I plan to keep watering them with my blood, tears, and laughter. I am ready to burst into bloom!!