Out Of Retirement Part 3- Welcome Home

Still leaning against the oak door, Michael tried to slow his breathing. He closed his eyes and pictured Miriam greeting him at the door after a hard day at work.

She would hurry to the front door as soon as she heard the door of his Cadillac close. Barefoot, she would stand on her tip toes in order to drape her arms around his neck. Miriam hated wearing shoes at home and Michael didn’t mind. He thought she had the cutest feet. They were dainty, like her, and her toes were always painted red. Even in the yard, she would garden barefoot.

“Welcome home, handsome,” she would say as she helped remove his jacket and hung his hat.

It didn’t matter what time Michael arrived home, Miriam would be at the door. He looked forward to it. Her arms around his neck, her soft lips against his, immediately he would relax no matter how rough of a day he had. Even if they had an argument that day, she would be at the door to greet him.

“I missed you so much,” she would say.

His eyes began to water. “I miss you so much, love,” he said aloud.

He opened his eyes. The clock across the room read 1600. There was still three hours until shift change and he couldn’t wait that long to find out what had happened to Tiana. He needed to make sure was OK. He couldn’t bear anything happening to her on account of him.

How in the world did he get himself into this mess? Why couldn’t he just stop working?

“Oh Michael, you will be working on the day of your funeral!” he could hear Miriam say.

He needed to get more information on the new nurse and he knew just how to do it. Janette!

Janette was the head nurse at Manor Lakes for the past 25 years and not only was she very hard on the new hires but she was known to be quite the petty gossip.

Michael made his way to the outdated nurses station once he made sure the coast was clear from trouble. Janette was just finishing up a phone call when she noticed Michael approaching her. She smiled and put up a finger to signal him to wait for her to finish up. Her salt and pepper hair was up in a loose bun held by a pen. She wore her glasses around her neck alongside her stethoscope. She was arguing with the caller. From what Michael could gather, it was the physician and as always Janette was advocating for her patient to a man who didn’t want to hear it.

She hung up the phone and mumbled, “How stupid can you be?”

Michael smiled. She reminded him a lot of Miriam. “We have to stop asking people that question,” he said. “Too many people are taking it as a challenge.”

Janette laughed, her cheeks turning pink. “Mr. Henry, you weren’t suppose to hear that!”

He shrugged.

“What can I do for you?” Janette said. “It’s not everyday you grace us with your presence.”

Michael looked around and while he didn’t see the ice queen anywhere, he didn’t want to chance her hearing their conversation.

He cleared his throat. “It’s sort of private, could I talk to you in my room?” Janette’s face became concerned. Michael never complained or wanted to be bothered for that matter. This must have been serious.

“Yes of course! Let’s go,” she said, standing up from her desk. She signaled to one of the other nurses that she would be stepping away for a bit and they made their way down the hall.

As they approached Michael’s room, the new nurse came out of the room across the hall. Great, Michel thought.

“After you,” he said to Janette holding the door open to his room. He shut the door behind them, but left it open just enough to keep an eye on the spy. She had parked the med cart right outside his room to make it look like she was working. She wasn’t going anywhere.

“What’s going on, Mr. Henry?” Janette asked.

Michael could feel ice queen’s eyes on him through the cracked door.

“Going on? Oh nothing really,” said Michael, shifting side to side. “Same old routine.”

The spy slammed one of the drawers to the cart shut and it startled Michael. As he jumped, Janette noticed.

“Svetlana, try to be a little quieter! No need to slam the drawers and startle the residents,” she barked at the woman in the hallway.

So that’s her name.

“Michael, are you feeling alright? You are not yourself! Come over here and sit down, let me take your vitals.”

“I feel great. I’m fine, really.” He said, not wanting to let Svetlana out of his sight.

“So what did you want to talk about?” she asked.

“Talk about? I didn’t want to talk about anything,” he responded.

Janette’s face was full of worry now. “Mr. Henry, I am very concerned. You are acting very confused. I need to check you out and possibly send you to the hospital.”

“I assure you that’s not necessary,” he argued. He was still pacing and peeking out the door.

“At least let me take your blood pressure,” Janette said. He knew she wasn’t going to take no for an answer so he sat on the edge of the bed and held out his arm.

“It’s very high! Let’s get you your prn dose of your blood pressure med. We need to get this down.”

Janette waved to Svetlana. “Can you get Mr. Henry’s prn blood pressure med? His numbers are 170/101.”

Svetlana nodded and smiled. “My pleasure,” she said.

There was no way Michael was going to go down like this.

“I’m refusing the med,” Michael said. “I’m fine.”

“Michael, what has gotten into you? If you don’t take it, I’m going to have to send you to the hospital.” Janette was annoyed now.

He shrugged. “I’m not taking it.”

Michael laid on the stretcher surrounded by EMTs.

“Have you had any falls? Any recent med changes? Any fevers?” The one gentleman asked.

Michael knew they were trying to make sense of his “confusion.”

“What if I told you I was being plotted against by Russian spies because I ruined a plan of theirs?”

The EMTs looked at each other and made their way to the hospital. He felt Svetlana’s eyes on him the whole way out of the building.

He wasn’t in the hospital room for more than a minute when the young doctor came flying in through the thick curtains. He looked familiar.

“Agent Foster?” Michael said. Foster put his hands up to his mouth. “I’m Doctor Roberts. Would you be able to take a urine sample for me today?” He said loudly, eyes wide and head nodding up and down. “Uh yes?” Michael responded. “Great, here is the cup. Bathroom is down the hall to your left.”

Michael took the cup and headed down the hall. He stopped outside the bathroom door but it was out of order. The janitor standing outside the bathroom handed Michael a key. “Down the utility hall, to the right.” He said, nodding in the direction.

Michael looked at him and made his way to his destination. At this point, what did he have to lose?

He approached the locked bathroom and opened the door with the key he was given. Inside was a duffel bag. He opened it up slowly. For the love of God, please do not be a bomb, he thought. He was relieved to find a suit, a government ID badge with his photo, and a letter.

Head out the cafeteria back door towards the loading dock. If anyone asks, say you are the health inspector.

Smart, he thought. Everyone usually runs from those guys.

Everything went according to plan and about 20 minutes later Michael hopped into the car with agent Foster.

Foster handed him a bottle of pills. “For your blood pressure, these are safe.” He said. “Would you like some water?” Agent foster offered, holding a bottle of Evian.

“The only water I’m interested in right now is one that’s been filtered through a brewery first,” Michael responded.

“Well, we don’t drink on the job, Michael.”

Boy things have changed.

Michael noticed Foster spending a lot of time on the computer.

“What’s the plan? Are we going to sit here and play Tetris all day or will we be listening to the recorded phone conversations to find their headquarters and Tiana?”

Agent Foster laughed. “There is no need to waste our time listening through hours of calls. This here is the latest computer program that does it for us. It sorts the calls and translates. It can even give us approximate locations.” He turned the computer towards Michael so he could see.

“Hmm, I don’t care for computers much. They are easy to hack and can’t always be trusted.”

“Things have come a long way since your tim…since you have retired,” Agent Foster said. “I have been using this program since I attended Penn.”

Michael glanced at Foster and rolled his eyes. These college kids think you can learn the world from text books but real education comes from life experiences.

“I’m worried about Tiana. How do we know she is safe?” Michael asked taking his medicine. His head was starting to hurt and he knew it was related to his blood pressure.

Foster clicked away on the computer and hit play on a recording.

“The girl is here with us,” a man said in a thick accent. “She will not be any trouble at the facility.”

“Keep her alive,” a second man said. “We may need her later.”

Michael’s heart dropped. He now knew she was alive but not necessarily safe.

“We need to get to her fast,” Michael demanded.

“These things take time,” Agent Foster said. “We learned in Penn that you really shouldn’t-“

Michael cut him off. “Stop thinking having a college degree makes you smart. I know plenty of people who have drivers licenses and can’t drive for shit.”

Agent Foster was in shock. “I’m…I didn’t mean to disrespect you, sir. We can try your way. You are very respected among us.”

Michael felt a little bad for the kid in that moment. “What does your robot say about their location?” Michael asked.

Thirty minutes later, they got a location and told the driver to take them downtown. On the drive they listened to more recordings. In doing so, they found out that the bomb was a distraction they were setting up so they could assassinate the Senator McConnell, who was planning on running for president that fall.

“Why would they want McConnell dead?” Agent Foster said. “It makes no sense.”

They listened to recording after recording and came up empty on a motive each time. Finally, they came across something as they pulled into the parking lot of the building.

The recording was poor quality but they could hear an American on the other end making a deal. He was giving them orders and information on the senator as well as government information. “I’ll be in to see the girl tonight,” was the last thing he said.

Who was this man? Whoever he was, he would be at this location by nightfall.

Agent Foster got on the phone to call for back up but Michael couldn’t wait anymore. He was out of the car making his way towards the building.

“Where are you going? You can’t just walk in? How do you even know what door to use?” Foster said as he grabbed Michael’s arm.

“Son, this is not my first rodeo. I know what I’m doing, let go.”

Agent Foster made one more phone call and quickly followed behind Michael as they made their way to the very back of the building where the loading docks were. There were two big trucks backed into opened garage doors and they heard boisterous voices coming from inside.

The trucks were loaded with refrigerated items and Michael knew exactly what to do. Agent Foster watched as Michael got under the truck and snipped a few wires. Immediately, an alarm went off inside the truck. The men walked into the back of the truck to check out the commotion.

“The reefer is broken,” the one man said. The other two men walked in to take a look. Michael could see there was no one else in the building so he took the opportunity to shut the gate of the truck and lock it. The men banged on the door, cursing in Russian.

Agent Foster was speechless. “How did you know?”

“Like I said,” Michael replied. “It’s not my first rodeo. They talked about shipping goods in the recordings. I know they have a candle shop in the mall as a cover and candles can melt easily so they would need temperature controlled trucks to ship.”

“Let’s go before they get help,” Michael said.

They searched the empty warehouse and were about to lose hope until they came across a basement door.

They opened it and made their way down the stairs.

“I’m not eating!” Tiana screamed. “Just take it away.” She was tied up in a chair, still in scrubs.

Michael ran over to her. “Tiana it’s me. We are here to rescue you.”

“Michael? What’s going on? Are you the old man these men are talking about?”

“No time to explain,” he said untying her. He looked at Foster. “How much longer until back up comes?”

“They are pulling in no-“ he was cut off by the sound of boots hitting the metal stairs.

The three of them stood frozen.

Out from the shadows appeared the president of the United States, Samuel Smith and Svetlana.

“It’s really a shame you didn’t just stick to your routine, Michael,” he said walking closer to him.

Michael had his hand on his gun just in case but didn’t want to pull just yet. This was his leader, after all.

“You really should have just stayed out of it.”

He could feel Svetlana’s eyes on him.

“You?! I trained this woman at work! You are involved?” Tiana shouted. Svetlana slapped Tiana across the face and threw her to the ground. Michael drew his gun but things weren’t the same anymore and he didn’t move as fast as he used to.

He heard the gun go off and felt his abdomen catch on fire. Looking down, he knew it was him.

Tiana rushed to his side and applied pressure. Agent Foster and President Smith had their guns drawn at each other. They could hear sirens and helicopters outside. Help had arrived and justice would be served.

“Help is here,” Tiana said with tears in her eyes. “Just hang in there a little longer, ok?”

Michael could hear Miriam singing their song as she walked down the metal stairs towards them. She was much younger as she stood before him. Her brunette hair was up in the same style she wore it the day they met. She always had a glow about her but today it was different.

Michael stood up and walked over to her. “Welcome home, handsome,” she said as she draped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

He could hear chaos behind them, although muffled. He looked behind and saw himself lying on the ground in Tiana’s arms. He saw President Smith being arrested and Agent Foster comforting Tiana.

He looked back over to Miriam. She frowned, then smiled. “It’s time to retire, love.”

Following Your Heart Is Not Sound Advice.

The world will often tell you to “Follow Your Heart.” In fact, I am willing to bet you have seen that quoted on a t-shirt or mug. It’s supposed to motivate us to find our drive in life, but many times following our hearts can get us into sticky situations.

As a nurse I know that the heart is a muscular organ that is roughly the size of our fist. I know it pumps blood through our vessels and that it’s divided into four chambers. I know how to keep it healthy and all of the conditions that can make it sick.

In many cultures, our heart symbolizes much more than a vital organ. Our hearts represent the house we keep our emotions in and we humans have a lot of emotions.

Let’s be honest…I can go through six different emotions by lunch time!

Follow your heart…

To follow means to go or come after. In order to follow means that there is someone or something leading us in that moment.

Our emotions are not trustworthy and certainly shouldn’t be something we trust to take the position of leading us in life. Don’t get me wrong, our emotions are real and we should acknowledge them. It’s ok to feel sadness, joy, anger, and grief. It’s ok to work through these feelings and accept them….

But they should NEVER lead us.

The bible warns us of this in Jeremiah when it drops this truth bomb- “The heart is deceitful.”

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

We should not be led by feelings or emotions but only by Jesus Christ and His Word.

Is it easy to do when our emotions are running high? Absolutely not, but it is possible to find healthier and more biblical coping mechanisms. Here are some things you can do instead of following your heart.

Pray– Studies have shown over and over again incredible health benefits of prayer. It can improve your attitude, help you gain forgiveness, and even give you a stronger mindset. Here is an article that goes deeper into this.

Exercise-30 minutes of exercise in the morning has been shown to help with decision making through the rest of the day. Facing some big challenges? Take a walk or go for a run!  Read more here.

Talk with a friend-a Godly sister will tell you like it is, even if it hurts. She will keep you accountable and on track even when you are emotional. I’m so incredibly grateful for these women in my life. I enjoyed this article.

Write it down– whether is is keeping a journal or jotting down a pro and con list. Writing has been linked to positive effects in our mental health.

Read the Bible-God’s word is the light on our paths 🙏🏻

Pray, meditate, & breathe until you gain some clarity among the thick fog our feelings can create. Once the fog dissipates, you will be happy you didn’t follow your heart and instead followed discernment and wisdom.

 

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On Choosing Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may mature and not lack anything.” James 1:2-4

Many years ago, a desperate and afraid teenager girl was handed a card on the streets of Camden by an elderly woman who stuck out like a sore thumb. The double-sided laminate card resembled one of those bookmarks that sold for 25 cents at the school book fair in elementary school. You know the ones that sat right by the register and were adorned with some sort of animal. For an extra 10 cents you could get one of the 3D lenticular effect ones that move depending on the angle it was held. The thought brought her back for a moment to a time when things that were complicated were interwoven with routine and stability. She looked down at the card in her hand. One side held a bible verse that was quickly dismissed and the other side was neon pink with the words “Choose Joy” written in cursive. “Ha!” she said bitterly as she tossed the card into the street. In that moment she couldn’t think of one thing to be joyful about. Her baby boy was dead, she was homeless, broke, and in a bad state. Anger and resentment started to build up inside her towards the woman who handed her that card. Easy for you to say, she thought.

 She has seen the term “Choose Joy” before. In fact, at one point it was sprawled on her binder written in whiteout. It is one of those mottos thrown in the same category as sayings like, “Follow your heart” and “Live, Laugh, Love.”

These words look great on mugs but do they hold any real meaning?

There is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness often depends on external factors, in other words happiness happens to us. Even though we may seek it and pursue it, feelings of happiness is not a choice it’s an emotion. God made us with big emotions but his intent was for us to use them as gauges not guides. When we make decisions based on how we feel we can miss so much of what God has planned for us.

The bible warns of this in Jeremiah 17:9 which reads: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” All of our lives many of us were fed the lie to “follow our hearts” when that very mentality separates us even farther away from our Father.

 If we walked into every situation in life applying the “how does it feel” method instead of God’s truth we are setting ourselves up for failure and to live a life full of inconsistencies. The truth is many days we aren’t going to feel like doing things. We may not feel like working out, spending time with a friend, going to church, serving, or spending time with God. If we live life based on how we feel each day nothing beneficial would be accomplished.   

Our emotions are meant to turn us to God and lucky for us, through Jesus, we were given a better way to lead our lives, through the Holy spirit. Thank the Lord, many years later the scared girl (me) in the story above was given a chance to find out what it meant to “Choose Joy.” When we spend more time with our Father and learn to listen and live spirit led lives wonderful things begin to happen. I’m not saying that it will always be easy or that I will always want to be obedient. Sometimes I drag my feet kicking and screaming like a toddler. But Father knows best and, in the end, it’s always worth it.

Joy is a choice and an attitude of the heart and spirit. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may mature and not lack anything. “

Is it possible to feel joy in difficult times? I believe it is all about shifting your perspective. Gratitude is at the heart of Joy and if you look hard enough there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Waking up every morning in prayer followed by reflection in a gratitude journal is one way to remain Joyful. Philippians 4:13 is one of my favorite verses. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The bible refers to Joy as contentment in Christ above all else. It is faith that God will give us strength in hard times and if we give up our worries and burdens to Him that is one less weight, we need to carry for ourselves.

Everlasting Father, I thank You for the breath of life that I am fortunate to have every morning. Remind us to continually rejoice in our salvation and to bring everything to you in prayer. My lips sing praise and I give thanks for all you have done for me, Father. Weeping may last overnight but joy comes in the morning. I praise you for strength to face another day. May I continue to praise your name forever. Amen.

A Nurse’s Hands

Not long ago I was out at the mall with my son when we passed by a mall kiosk. I was in kind of hurry so I looked down and tried not to make eye contact. It was clear out of my peripheral vision the woman was trying to get my attention. Before I knew it, she waved to my son. Shoot I’m done for now, I thought. I was right, my sweet boy will say hello and talk to just about anyone. He has been this way all of his life. At 3 years old he proudly yelled in Starbucks after a nice older man held open the trash can lid for him, “See mom! Stranger dangers are NICE!” True story and today was no different. The woman asked my son if he was enjoying his summer and I could see she was holding a bottle of luxury hand lotion. Once he was finished giving her a detailed account of his summer, she quickly made eye contact with me and asked if I was interested in trying the lotion, for free, of course. I felt obligated at this point seeing as her and my son were now besties, so I obliged.  

As she began to massage my hands with the thick cream that smelled of lemon and green tea from the $25 a bottle lotion she held, she made a face. “Your hands are very dry! What do you do for a living?” “I’m a nurse,” I answered. She nodded, “That explains it.”

Often unpolished, dry, and cracked from constant handwashing a nurse’s hands are vital to perform an array of tasks. It is a physical and very hands on trade.  A nurse’s hands hold steady as we inject a vaccine into a squirming toddler with gentleness and accuracy.  Hands that guide our stethoscopes over the hearts of babies and the elderly alike. With these hands we squeeze the bulb of a sphygmomanometer to get a precise blood pressure reading on a patient with a splitting headache.  Our hands pass out lifesaving medications, dress wounds, remove stitches, and apply oxygen masks. Our hands have seen more bodily fluid then one would like to admit. These hands have applied pressure to stop bleeds and held urgent lab reports. Hands that cramp up at the keyboard from the massive amount of documentation required and hands that administer chest compressions 2 inches deep during CPR, desperately trying to save a life.

Anyone who has been to a doctor’s office or hospital has witnessed a nurse performing one or all of these tasks, but our hands can tell you stories far more than what meets the eye.

These same hands that perform lifesaving tasks do much more than you will ever learn in nursing school. You see these hands have held a sick child rocking them to sleep when their parents couldn’t be with them. These hands have held the hands of the dying and embraced mourning family members. These hands have brushed the hair of those who could not do so themselves and patiently fed those who could no longer hold a fork. These hands have held story books and played peek a boo trying to make a child smile.

These hands have held the salty tears from our eyes after particularly hard shifts and have been clasped together tightly as we fall on our knees and cry out in prayer for our patients.

I don’t ever expect to be remembered by my patients but if I am, I hope it is for these things and not the skills that are required of me.

I left the mall that day with a bottle of expensive new hand lotion and a smile on my face. At least I know the next time I hold the hand of a patient I will have the softest hands they will have ever held, or at least that’s what the saleswoman told me.

I would love to hear from you! What are some things you hope to be remembered for by your patients?