Season’s Reasons

It’s late afternoon and I’m  sitting on sandy, beach steps that lead out to balmy Miami Beach while my beautiful grand daughter sleeps in her stroller next to me. I am feeling blessed and beyond happy. I arrived here after flying corner to corner across the country to celebrate the New Year  with part of my family. (They were flying in from Christmas in the Caribbean- I know, rough life) The other family members are in Southern California and the beautiful Pacific Northwest – wish we could be all together for every holiday but I guess that would be greedy.  Shame on me for having so much and wishing for more.   

I am writing this post on my phone and trying to wrap my head around the wonders of modern technology (as I do about 10 times a day). Four days ago I was sluicing down a snowy mountain with temperatures in the teens and today I am blogging on the beach in 80 degree Miami. Mind officially blown.  

Most of the family spent a beautiful Christmas together in a snug, serene cabin in the Cascade mountains dressed in winter white. It was truly beautiful with less emphasis on gifts and more on just being together. This Season was filled with colleagues, friends, and family. There were several celebrations in many different forms:  Get-togethers  with family/friends, gifts donated for special giving trees, holy communion brought to my sick friend in the hospital, quiet morning, weekday masses, and yes a little shopping but not  much. Entertainment was in abundance and I soaked up all that I could: Our annual Christmas Tea at the historic Sorrento Hotel (where I met my husband), an incredible musical – “Come From Away”,  Seattle’s new Balanchine version of the Nutcracker, but none was so enjoyed as my favorite grade school’s Christmas program, Baby Jesus and all.  One of my happiest moments was Christmas caroling in my condominium building for my neighbors with a small group of gradeschool girls who sang their hearts outs. One man was so touched he wept. Then we went back to my place for hot chocolate and cookies – and more singing. 

I awoke Christmas morning, a few days later, to icicles hanging off the cabin roof and several inches of new powder snow. My youngest daughter accompanied me to Christmas mass at our Lady of the Snows church in Leavenworth Washington. That was my big gift. Her husband is from Brazil and had never experienced snow before but his surfing skills kicked in on his first snowboard run the day after Christmas. I’ll never forget the grin on his face.

 So as this Christmas season 2015 comes to a close, I can see that there are many reasons for the Season and I feel like, this year –  I got it just about right.


Irene and Lori, colleagues/ friends


Penny and Theresa (below ) my 2 oldest friends



My Gal Pals -how lucky am I?!


The PNW Nutcracker


Holy Rosary Pageant


my sister, Carla, & nephew


Vera & my sis


Dickens Carolers @ our Sorrento Tea

Christmas at Lake Wenatchee

Securing the tree (hope the pass opens)


Traditional dinner prep

The gang is ready!


Our Charlie Brown cabin Christmas tree





“Take No Prisioners ” Hearts ❤️

    Christmas morning


My Scout


Brothets-in-law Andre & Gui

  From my writing desk in Miami- Happy New Year!💗 


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Well….this is it – my last official day. It feels….ok. Maybe that’s because I’ve already agreed to help orient the new students for a couple of days in the beginning of winter quarter. It’s not easy to say “no” and I think I knew that the beginning of the new year my assistance might be requested. I’d like to think that it’s because I’m not that easy to replace, but that’s not exactly true…….not precisely…. SO as a safeguard I made some plans very soon following the holidays….but still I held out a little….knowing, thinking…..hoping it wouldn’t be THAT easy.

It’s been a quarter of finals. Final clinical, final group of students to mentor, final team meeting, final FINALS, final End of the Quarter Conferences……and all the final goodbyes. These past two weeks have just been crazy busy with finishing up everything, meeting with my students for the last formalities and cheering them on to finish their final exams strong. They work so hard and give all they have. I really don’t know how they manage. As a young student nurse I lived in a nursing dorm attached to the hospital and though we were bussed out to the local college for our sciences, we pretty much ate, drank, slept, studied, and worked right there. We really didn’t have much else to worry about – our meals were provided and we had to be in bed at 10:30pm – they checked! I completed my diploma and then, when married, became an undergraduate to finish my BSN. I didn’t even have to work, but still I felt overwhelmed with all my responsibilities. I had learned a bit about organization, how to cope and good management by the time I had three kids and was in grad school, but I certainly didn’t have to worry about holding down a job, as well. Some of our students do it all while in school full-time. I worry about them, try to teach them good self-care, but somehow most of them make it and the final celebration is something to behold. Yes….I did get to go to graduation, and while it was their moment they honored me unexpectedly.  Thankfully this one was not my last. I’ll still have students in my rotation that will graduate this time next year, so I can ease into that FINAL…final.

I really don’t think that I’m going to have a problem with the fact that I’m not working. Unlike many other employees, I haven’t held a full-time position consistently since I got married over 40 years ago. I feel very fortunate that I got to work where and when I wanted for most of my adult life and most importantly took a break to be home with our children for many years.  My two best buddies from nursing school and I worked for a year following graduation and saved our money to go to Europe. It had been our secret impetus that propelled us through one horrendous quarter after the other. We’d dry our tears after a particularly terrifying conference with our nursing dean, Sister Martha, and then plot and plan our way accross Europe. By the time I worked a year in an intensive care unit, I was so burned out I didn’t care if I’d ever worked as a nurse again. I got over it and soon realized that any other job paled in comparison. We ended up staying in Europe a year, working non-medical jobs and traveling. Near the end of our sojourn we were all sitting in a cafe and over heard someone behind us excitedly gushing over that fact that the next day they’d get to sleep in. My friend, Gloria, turned to us and exclaimed, “I can hardly wait to get home and get a job so I can have a day off!” Crazy as it sounds we knew exactly what she meant.

No, I won’t miss the early 5am mornings, or the piles of paperwork, nor will I miss the intense  pressure from being responsible for the safety of lives that are cared for by brand new nurse wannabes, but I will miss those students. What I’m grieving over is the thought that I’ll no longer be a nurse. I told our new graduates the other night, “Once a nurse, always a nurse”, and it’s true, but I just don’t know what that means yet….or how it will look and feel. Unlike other jobs, I have always felt a calling to be a caregiver. It never occurred to me to inquire about what nurses were paid when I began my studies – it really didn’t matter. So here I am now…on my last day and I know I’ll figure it out. I am certain I can offer care in so many ways.

Today I talked to a woman from my church who is in charge of our Out Reach program. I was inquiring about what I had to do to be able to take Holy Communion to my dear neighbor who has to remain in the hospital following surgery. I told her that I had been a Eucharistic minister at our parish for a while and I know this will mean a lot to my friend. I explained that I am a nurse and have observed volunteers bring communion to patients and how uplifting it seems to be. As we discussed the details for my bringing the Eucharist to my friend this woman asked me for my email address. “I am very interested in you, she said, ” I don’t want to lose contact. We have home visits that are needed too.” -Here we go! I’ve been warned to take it slowly, to consider what I’d really like to spend my time doing, but I have little fear that I won’t find others that need my care – even if I have to drag someone across the street against their will. Nor am I worried that the identity I’ve built over the years as a professional will be lost, for I truly believe  what I told our students – that once a nurse….always a nurse! Now I just have to make it through Christmas….

This is how I set up my final conferences – I’ll miss all my students the most!

The hard part…closing doors. The fun part…opening new ones – oh, and parties and presents!


Even a former colleague/friend showed up! Love you both~


Part of the gang! What a great group. We do have men faculty too, but they know they’re out numbered….I think they’re afraid…very afraid…j/k


My Gal Pals – always there to support! Love them like sisters~

IMG_4671IMG_4670 IMG_4673IMG_4826 IMG_4792

Those who know me well understand the significance of owls in my
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Tattoo, Austin

One category that I’ve included on my blog is: Haven’t Been There/Haven’t Done That. The posts that fit one or the other OR both will be tagged there. I think that at this stage of my life I need to push myself to experience new people, places, and things. The more I settle into my comfort zone this may be challenging.  Remember that one person’s place of safety is an adventure for someone else. It may seem that I place my thrill bar a bit low, but hey – who’s judging?

This year, my family spent Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas. While a few members (I think all of them) had been there before – for me this was some place new. I’ve learned from past experiences not to anticipate nor have preconceived notions of what to expect about…..well, anything. Usually it’s a sure-fire set up for disappointment. I’m not being a pessimist, quite the opposite – I always think everything is going to be stupendous and therein lies the rub. That is not to say that I don’t make up my mind ahead that I will have a good time no matter what….that’s just how I roll.

My immediate family decided to crash my youngest daughter, Anya’s, new Brazilian family’s first Thanksgiving. I’m being totally serious. She and her husband were invited to join his older brother and family in Austin, Tx for Thanksgiving since they were recently transferred there for his work. I think they mistakenly thought that my daughter’s previous experience in preparing a turkey would come in handy – ha! The minute I learned that her in-laws were also arriving from their home in Porto Alegre, Brazil I was ready to pack. We’d all first met at their son’s and my daughter’s wedding nearly a year ago. I adore them and couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them again. “Tell them we are coming too and be sure to call your sister – they might want to come as well!” (another chance to see my only grandchild) Poor Brazilians didn’t stand a chance.

Fortunately they are gracious people – what else could they do? Actually they were pretty excited about all of us coming and we began to plot and plan on group “WhatsApp” messages flying back and forth. Thanksgiving 2015 was in the works and everyone was onboard! It’s not easy to organize these things -any of you who have planned trips involving several different groups can empathize. We had not only travel arrangements and accommodations to make, but also the planning and execution of an international Thanksgiving meal. We were all arriving the day before which put a little pressure on shopping. The host family was providing the turkey, but little did they know that their newest family member was biting her nails over her responsibility of cooking that illustrious bird. “Mom, you gotta help me!”

The texts span from September 22nd (I know, not a lot of notice) until today when I sent off a video and another huge “Thank You!” They entailed flight plans, itineraries, menu suggestions, actual seating arrangements, and reassurances that “we are very independent and will be no trouble.” A frequent phrase  used over the couple of months was “we’ll make it work” – how’s that for positive thinking?

Most of us had never met the brother and his family (wife and two adorable girls), four members of our new family speak little or no english and the amount of portuguese our group could muster amounted to “obrigado” (thank you) and a few swear words that I was panicked would slip out in front of the children. Being an international family – that didn’t deter us in the least. My husband defected from the former Czechoslovakia and I’ve spent years around family and friends with frequent helpings of english stew -usually with very little notion of what was being said. I could manage “dėkuji” (thank you) and a lot more swear words, but that never stopped me….I just kept talking. Also, my daughter-in-law is from Romania – need I tell you what I know in her language – shameful, I know, but what can I say – it’s an American curse.

Amongst all my retirement preparations (last days of work, financial and insurance arrangements etc.) I prepared to take off for five days which included making arrangements for my buddy Scout, my faithful parrot, Baby, and cleaning my home like I’m expecting company myself. I know – makes no sense, but there it is. My biggest pride was finding a bargain on Groupon for parking my car in a MasterPark lot for five days. My son, Andre, just rolls his eyeballs, but for me….well that is a big accomplishment involving multiple levels of technology, not to mention using my phone as my boarding pass. Seriously, my nightmare is that my phone will die at the security desk. FINALLY we were OFF!

I only packed a carry-on but truth be known I could have lived out of my 2nd piece – my backpack. Everything fit, including all my grand daughter’s gifts (one for each day, of course) and the bribes for the new kids…oh yeah, the smoked salmon for the Brazilians – can’t forget the Seattle chocolates….lets see, what else? We all arrived within a couple of hours of each other and once settled met up at the first Whole Foods store in the entire country. I’m not saying I was disappointed, but I mean…it was just another grocery store. It’s probably the way most people feel when they come to our Pike Street Market to see the first Starbucks! We finished up our shopping in record time, grabbed a quick bite, shared last-minute turkey instructions, and headed to our individual abodes to tuck in for the night. The air felt oddly balmy.


Verde Camp

My oldest daughter, Bianca, has a real talent for finding unique travel experiences and accommodations. honestly, she could do it for a living – you know, if she ever gave up her day job. While Anya was ensconced with her new family, the rest of us bunked down at Verde Camp which is a small compound of updated cabin-type houses with an Old Texas vibe. They were SO cute and right next door to each other. Andre and his wife, Mariana had the bedroom in our house and I climbed the wrought-iron ladder up to my loft-bedroom. FullSizeRender-2This fact alone kept me sober for the entire trip and I learned that my bladder has a capacity that has not been tested in a while. Bianca and her family were next door in the two-bedroom and for a few days I was living my dream (their nightmare)…right next door to my kids. I’d pop open my door and hear my little grand-daughter, Magnolia, yell…”Nona, come over!” We watched Bubba-Guppies, her favorite cartoon show, and once I realized she wasn’t saying “thank you” but “tattoo” I found myself sporting a colorful temporary butterfly on the inner aspect of my left upper arm. I am currently aware of why young women, in particular, should give permanent tattoos a 2nd thought. As I move through the normal motions in a day my little butterfly (less temporary than I’d imagined) seems to be in perpetual motion. Fortunately this is the season for long sleeves.IMG_4753

IMG_4793Thanksgiving morning we woke to a light rain and temperatures that eventually rose into the 70’s. So much for my wool sweater/skirt, tights and boots. Little Maggie Moon’s tummy seemed to be acting up, but it was quickly chalked up to “travel.” She was not interested in much more than a little fruit the entire day…but still we did not quite get it. We loaded up, hoping our little one would nap along the way (she did), and arrived several minutes outside of town to our Thanksgiving destination and …..THE BRAZILIANS!! The welcome was overwhelming and wonderful. The Christmas tree was up, the kitchen already steamy and in full swing, the nervous Turkey chef dragging me over to the oven waiting for words of approval, and delicacies of the foreign variety were awaiting our domestic counterparts to join them….we did not disappoint! Soon our languages, voices, and tasks began to mingle and collaborate. I finally was able to lure the shy little girls in to bracelet making, card games (I have my ways), and showing off hula-hoop skills. Everyone found their special spot around the table and before long we were all as stuffed as our prized turkey.IMG_4735IMG_4727

It wasn’t difficult to say our goodbyes since we’d see each other soon, except for Anya who was clearly torn between her family of birth and her new one. It was a unique feeling on both sides, but we still had a few days to meet up. Little did we know that the small hint Magnolia had given us earlier in the day would be come less subtle as the evening wore on. In the next couple of days it was apparent that an uninvited guest had joined us for Thanksgiving and presented to us in the smallest package. Formally known as viral gastroenteritis, but also called norovirus….but we had a couple other names for it. A few of us escaped completely….I was not among them.

Happily the epidemic was short-lived, except for my poor son-in-law, Mike… it hit him violently. We still managed to meet up with other family members, bundled up (temps plummeted to the 40s) huddled under Unknownumbrellas (the heavens opened and unleashed all hell) eating great pizza by the slice outdoors and shuttling across the street to the vintage AirStream trailer for famous Austin “Hey Cupcakes.” Hmmm, wonder if any of this had anything to do with our gastric problems.


Magnolia wearing boots once worn by her mama~

It is difficult not to have expectations for events so heavily anticipated. No matter what actually happens memories are made and experiences are recorded in our hearts and minds – most of them so worth the effort of making them happen. As I enter this new phase of life I plan to make the most of all the opportunities I have to connect with family and friends and to experience new places and try things I never have before. If it isn’t something fresh and new I vow to approach each adventure with as few expectations other than to be present and appreciate the moment. I think with that attitude I’ll take away precious impressions that will last much longer than my new tattoo (hopefully, anyway). Thank you family and Austin for a wonderful, memorable Thanksgiving. Tattoo very much!

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Pro Crastinator

I am a PROcrastinator….not an amatuer-crastinator. I know I am not alone.

I am so passionate about this that I even procrastinate about procrastinating – I had to go to bed last night before finishing this post. What I SHOULD be doing is the final evaluations of each of my students and preparing for their end-of-the quarter conferences that I’ve scheduled for right after Thanksgiving. This happens every quarter (ok, a little in-between too).

IMG_4681This process involves going over all of their nursing process plans (already graded), patient data that they’ve gathered,  reviewing the outcomes that are  required in order to move forward, AND writing my critique of their performance. This is a task that I do not take lightly considering all of the hard work they’ve put in, and is also one of the few things I will NOT miss as I retire. I will miss them, not the paperwork – no surprise there. I do want to honor and respect their effort with diligence of my own but……

……what I AM doing is everything else!!! Once I actually get started on an individual student’s folder I am pretty much golden for the duration of that one, BUT when it’s completed I feel like I’ve earned a few days off – at least a nap and a chocolate dipped ice-cream cone…..but I hardly have time for that. I need to get these things done before I fly off to Texas to have Thanksgiving with my youngest daughter’s Brazilian in-laws. (Now that will be a story to report – it’s their first! Plus I’m bringing the rest of my family with me. Sure hope they know that!) I am looking at a folder right in front of me, but so far, today, this is what I’ve accomplished:IMG_4677

*I slept in until 8am (it is Saturday after all). The shock is that my trusty pooch and all around BBF (best buddy forever) allowed me to slumber that long. She has an early morning strategy, but that’s another story….
*I am lucky enough to have access to a little garden area at my condo, so while still clad in my fuzzy blue robe I take Scout out to do her morning toilette first thing. This morning while we were at it I decided to plant a few tulip bulbs. Nevermind that there was literally frost on my left-over Halloween pumpkin – I’m sure there are rules about that. I don’t know how I managed the large yard at my old house. Well, my husband helped a bit – then there was that landscape company.
47b7d722b3127cce98548811788000000047101AbMWbNw2asd*The morning was a flurry of round-robin family texts regarding the final moments of our beloved chihuahua, Mikey. He is (*spoiler alert -was) 16yrs old. He originally belonged to my mom, but when she died 14 yrs ago our youngest daughter (who is now a large animal vet) adopted him. Today he left us to join the kids’ Nana and the years of memories and, yes, stories will linger, but just now we all feel a bit tender. So I moped and everything just took longer. Then I realized that if I want anything to wear this week I better do some laundry….
FullSizeRender*I had a date with my elderly neighbor (who I lovingly refer to, behind her back, as the condo’s “grand dame.” She cleverly conned me into entering our little town’s annual scarecrow contest with a submission from our place of residence. Well I’ll be damned, we won 3rd place so I HAD to take her to the reception, this morning, to accept our award. She has big ideas for next year and I am dutifully taking notes.
*Once I had my dear neighbor, her walker, and our scarecrows ( they were also invited) safely back home I noted that I still had time to make my “pretend grand-daughter’s (yes, there’s a story) volley ball game, but…….
*On the way to the game I encountered a young man herding one border collie (kind of ironic) in the middle of the highway while holding another one on a leash. I pulled to the side, put on my hazards and ran to help him. When I asked if the loose pooch was his he told me “no” that it had just fallen out of the back of a pick-up truck that kept going. A third good Samaritan sped off in his SUV to try to track down the owner of the truck. We did a quick physical assessment and miraculously he (we found out, his name is Bandit) was not badly hurt. I parked my car more safely and hurried back to help secure Bandit just as the young guy found a dog tag. I called the number, but had to leave a message. Boiling with anger at the thought of anyone leaving their animal in the open back of a truck, I controlled myself with the task at hand. We certainly didn’t know what actually had happened and I cautioned the young man (and myself) not to jump to conclusions. The SUV driver returned, unsuccessful in finding the truck, and the three of us were making our next plan when my phone rang. The woman on the other end was SO frantic that I forgot how mad I was and tried to calm her, reassuring her that Bandit looked surprisingly good (as far as I knew), and giving her directions so she and her husband could backtrack. The moment they pulled in I saw the open-door of the crate in back and knew exactly what had happened. They’d loaded Bandit quickly as they were about to drive off of the local ferry and failed to secure the latch properly. I left the men to clear up the details…..and took off, you know….for volleyball.
*I did manage to make the last game, hugged all three of my pretend grandchildren (I’ll fill you in later) blew kisses to the rest of their family and rushed home to, well…uh…work on my students’ folders. BUT THEN the owner of Bandit called….I guess she took me seriously when I asked her to let me know what their vet said. Can you imagine that she actually interrupted my important work….?! He’s okay, by the way. I also HAD to make a call to my own veterinary-daughter to let her know that while one dog left us today ….another one lived to see new adventures – to attach himself to more memories and create future stories to tell.

Well I guess I better get a crack-a-lackin’! I do have some work to do before I have to get fancy-dressed up for the symphony tonight. Oh, it’s still daylight……I have plenty of time…..where the heck did I put the rest of those tulip bulbs?!

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A Whole Other Ball of Park – the beginning

My beloved, late-husband (what a stupid term…if he is just tardy then I’ve had a very long wait and he has a lot of explaining to do.) died just over five years ago. I wrote a blog during the last part of his illness, through the sadness of his death, and for at least three years of the grief that followed. Slowly I worked my way through all that loss and dragged several readers (at least six) with me along the way. Finally I realized, as I began a tortuous spiritual exploration that I’d ranted, and mourned publicly long enough. The hole in my heart that remains will be mine forever and mine alone. I have a new transition to harangue. I have no idea where it will lead me, but again if my handful of readers are game maybe it will take us up and down some winding roads – it could be a fun adventure…but maybe not. I’m in!

My husband defected from the former communist Czechoslovakia, in a rather dramatic fashion, just before the Russian invasion in 1968 that followed the “Prague Spring.” By the time we met in 1972 his english was excellent, but there were always a few phrases that he would butcher, to my delight. Among them were:
*”When the cat is not at home – the mice, they have a ball” His version of our “When the cat’s away the mice will play.”
*”Corn on the knob” …for our “corn on the cob.”
*”White chops” – his take on wind-frosted water normally known as “white-caps”.

There are several more….some were tossed out when we were in a heated argument intended to “one-up-me” (impossible to do by the way) and of course these always resulted in my dissolving into complete hysteria, which angered him all the more. BUT my all time favorite is, “Something’s rotten on that danish” of course for our old standard, “something’s rotten in Denmark” which infers that something, somewhere is just not quite right (originates from a line in Hamlet lamenting the moral decline of Denmark). Whenever he said it I always thought of a moldy cinnamon roll.

“A whole other ball of park” was my guy’s way of indicating that we were now talking about something  new – something completely different. Usually when we talk about something that is a completely different situation and often a challenging one we use the colloquialism, “a whole new ball game.” I’m sure somewhere among all of our sports idioms: “ballpark figure”, “knock it out of the park” he felt he was close enough. It never mattered because, as in the defending words of a deli-sales girl,  charmed by his accent and reprimanding me when I laughed as he ordered a “bear paw”……”I knew what he meant!”

Yesterday I left the hospital after teaching my last clinical. I am retiring! While I still have about a month before it’s official I was surprised to find myself fighting back the tears. Why am I such a mushy heart? How come waves of nostalgia waft over me so often…over everything? I know that wistfulness can conjure up emotions of loss of happier times, but there is a bittersweetness about such feelings too. The recollection of such times can be generally pleasant, happy memories, but they are in the past…..and I miss them – him.IMG_4632

Although the facility has changed a lot over the years, including ownership/management-even the name, and largely for the better, it was a young nurse that worked in this very hospital with her dashing doctor-husband. I birthed all three of our children in this same building and returned here to teach future nurses to deliver the same quality, compassionate care that I have always valued. I hope I’ve been a good role model. If I have come even close it’s all I could hope for and more.

Retirement implies endings….AND beginnings. I need to figure it ALL out. I’ve been a nurse for a very long time. Who will I be? Where will I go? What will I do? Will I have enough? What is enough? Certainly I’ve planned for some of it….but what do I know, I’ve never done this before…alone. So – who’s with me? Shall we find out? After all, this is a whole other ball of park!!

As I checked out the brand new, sparkly, space-age Emergency Department in our hospital last week, I was thinking of what my husband would think of it. I spotted a former student, now an experienced ER nurse, leading a tour of a high-tech trauma room. I gave her a shy wave from the back. She stopped and said, “There’s Patti, she was my nursing instructor. She’s why I’m here”. It’s been quite a ride.

Here is the link to my old blog Pattis Grace Notes. My husband died in August of 2010. My solo-journey began then although I’ve never really been alone….it just feels that way sometimes.

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