Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gut Feelings and Decisions

I have hit a point of burnout and I need a break from racing. So I will do that and put my energy into adventure type runs as I go into this coming year.

I'm not talking commercially-run adventure races that are so popular. I mean my own personal homegrown low-key on a whim exploration adventures. At the current moment no races appeal to me. I can't even get myself to sign up for the Pemberton 50K.

I am lucky right now to get myself to do a daily workout at all. I have been more consistent the past two weeks, I am doing something each day, but I have been struggling mentally with it. Each day it becomes a challenge to get my butt out the door, even for an hour. And if I don't get out the door, it's a challenge to get my butt on the bike. And I can't even fathom going over to the pool.

Yesterday I received an email from Pearl Izumi reminding me and all the others on the promotional team that they are taking applications for next year. I have made an executive decision not to apply for 2015. I really don't want to feel obligated to attend races or events this coming year. And I am ready for a break. I just want to run when and where I want to run, without feeling like I have to represent something. It was fun and I love their products, but it doesn't make sense for me to do something when my heart isn't in it, so I will relinquish that and let someone else have the opportunity. I need a physical and mental break from all of it.

My heart right now is in developing my business further and in writing. I haven't been doing very frequent blogposts because I've been putting a substantial amount of energy into a separate writing project. I suppose that's where my energy from running has gone. It's okay.

This blog is approaching a quarter million pageviews, while I know there are always a good number of those that are fake spambot-type hits, the readership has gone up exponentially over the last year. I find it interesting that I get so many readers from health care as I do running. I know there is a need for expression of the frustrations of health care workers and since they can't express it freely in their own workplaces due to the inability to trust others, and the suppression of free speech in the workplace, they look to other outlets. There's a lot to say, worthy of a big fat manuscript.

Reading social media comments makes it obvious that it's a widespread phenomenon. The sociopaths of the world who buy politicians and shape the political landscape to their advantage don't care if they are exposed, because sociopaths have no conscience.

But there are plenty of warped, fundamentally insecure individuals who reside in the organizations that benefit from these conditions that are fertile for exploitation. With their sick, twisted motives to protect their self-interest, for power, status, money, or sadistic thrills, they thrive at the expense of a lot of wounded human beings who thought they were getting into it to care for others.

And our numbing apathy or apathetic numbing enables it. Good health is important, but we don't value it nearly enough until we get sick. When you enter the health care system, whether against your best intentions as a patient or as a health care worker who needs a paycheck, the lights go on. The true sickness of our health care system is exposed. But much of the general public doesn't see this until it's too late.

I want to chip away at the conscience of people who are already feeling the effects, and I don't have any illusions of changing the world or health care. What I do hope to do is make a few people more aware and remind them, again, as others have, that we are not doing ourselves any favors by sitting back and allowing the country to slip deeper into the oligarchy we have. And from there, to move into action.

Even if it's only a few who take action, it chips away at the outer shell. Eventually if you chip away enough, the core gets exposed and the guts fall out. Health care needs a good exenteration.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Happy Re-Birthday: A Year Out of the Dungeon

It's been one year since I left my corporate nursing job.

Just one year. Seems impossible that the time could go by so quickly, and so much could happen. But it seems like forever, really, like a distant nightmare. I was reading over some of what I wrote last year, and I am happy to say that I'm able to look at it without the emotion engulfing me. I've done a lot of healing in that time.

At first I missed the patients and some of my coworkers. But I've stayed in touch with the coworkers that mattered, and have more meaningful relationships with several. I've run into many of my former patients in town, and continue to work with a few of them, but in different ways now.

The work I do is so much more satisfying, I don't miss sticking needles in people or filling their veins with poison one bit. And I certainly don't miss punching a time clock so I could get a steady paycheck but feeling like I would have to sell my soul in order to keep getting one.

I have learned so much more since I left because I have more energy to read and research information on what's going on in cancer care far beyond the confines of a dingy little windowless cave subjected to the whims of toxic people who made decisions without considering the people they would affect most or asking for input from the nurses who worked with those people every day.

There are thousands upon thousands of nurses out there who have left what they felt were oppressive conditions in the workplace and moved on to something else. And I am just one.

Before I left corporate nursing I was surrounded by other nurses who were afraid. Some of them did not-so-nice things to each other, and to me. I no longer take it personally. Now my true colleagues are nurses who are not stuck in the system. They are not afraid. They have found a way out, and many of them have suffered great pain and loss to get to where they are now. Much worse than I did. They are a diverse group, some are employed in the profession, many are self-employed, many are out completely.

There is a common thread among most of these nurses, they love nursing and they would like the profession to change for the better, but there is a long climb ahead and it seems we lose ground on most days. Occasionally there is a bright moment, but then we fall back into the void. 

There is a definite hum that's picking up in intensity, the misplaced blame on nurses in the Ebola situation fueled it, but that's only a glimpse of the problems. Nurses have HAD IT.

I've been listening to and talking with a lot of nurses over the past year, all over the country, and in other countries too. I've been thinking about ways to fix things, ways to improve things, and most of the work I've done has focused on individual people, which is good on my own, but always knowing that in the big picture of health care, most of the work nurses are doing in those workplaces is like building sandcastles at low tide.

And when the tide comes in, it's more of a rip current, a crashing of water with overwhelming force, an undercurrent that knocks you off your feet and threatens to drown your breath and silence your voice forever.

And the damage it does comes from all of the following forces and more...

1. A two-tiered system where managers, administrators and executives answer to money and quantitative data (numbers that are now called "metrics") that have everything to do with what they like to call "quality" but really mean more busywork for the people who are supposed to be doing patient care, but that data really translates to "reimbursement" aka money. Meanwhile the other tier, nurses, physicians and other health care staff, take seriously their professional oaths and training to not do harm, and the two tiers have little mutual understanding of each others' obligations to their own callings (money/boards/shareholders/stockholders vs. moral and ethical obligations to patients, oaths and licensure), each speaking it's own language not fully understood by or ever truly communicated with the other tier.

2. Lack of leadership in the highest ranks of nursing organizations, which consist of leaders from industry and higher education who protect their own turf which goes against the best interest of working nurses.

3. A great amount of fear among workers that has been exacerbated by the past three decades of eroding workplace protections, a mainstream media that fosters unrestrained hate and divisiveness and fosters paranoia and misinformation, ignoring facts in favor of hype. Attacks on free speech (in the craze over the second amendment, seems we've forgotten the first) and organized labor, and legislation that favors the big corporate money interests, giving them the rights of individuals.

4. A system on steroids that intensifies the poor people skills and lack of empathy held by a great number of those who advance to administrative positions and executive power, leaving the staff at the bedside populated by people who care about patients' best interests but without a voice or support to help them.

5.Lack of advocacy or assertiveness by nurses for their own interests in their workplaces in the face of strongarm tactics used to intimidate and dismiss their concerns.

6. Eroding job security as employers look to part-time hiring, reducing staff, decreasing benefits, and electronic spying on employees both in and out of the workplace.

7. Increasing burnout due to the task-oriented nature of nursing work and increased demands to do more with less staff, working equipment, support, training, at the same time being faced with expectations to increase the amount of documentation time and checklists, taking away clinical judgment opportunities and interpersonal connection in patient care duties.

8. A work culture that values "yes-men and women" more than clinical skill or attention to safety, that provides disincentives to speak, disagree, or otherwise question the status quo, motives, or actions of "leadership".

9. A capitalistic system run amok where the distribution of wealth becomes more skewed all the time with no brakes to stop it.

10. A legal system run amok with power that works in favor of the wealthy white collar criminals who can afford to buy their own teams of attorneys, and can buy lobbyists to buy politicians who will work even more in their favor, with no brakes to stop it.

11. A health care system that enriches the top-end insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, but makes no investment in the base of the pyramid: health education in schools to teach children how to manage their health from an early age, universal basic health education for people at all stages of their lives with and without disease, teaching chronically OR terminally ill people about palliative care, the options not to treat some illnesses, death education so it is accepted as part of life and not so feared and avoided at all costs.

12. A public health system that has been underfunded to the point of endangering public health by promoting misinformation and being embarrassingly unprepared for a crisis.

13. A for-profit so-called health care system (even though some of it calls itself not-for-profit but it is still working for profit) that results in competition to a degree that hurts patients' best interests by withholding information about options and resources available to them outside of an organization's domain. Health care is not at all about health, and it is not about caring. It is about making money off of chronic illness, of various types and trajectories.

14. The collective personality-disordered nature of "leadership": with it's insecure, narcissistic, sociopathic bent that has no empathy for patients or their families true needs, or the needs of direct patient care workers. This distorted method of leadership pursues matters in the interest of building their egos, power, status, bonuses, perks, and the ultimate perk of all, the insurance policy of guaranteed future personal economic security via outrageous sums of money upon leaving an organization regardless of the reason.

There's a lot to say, and I'm not done saying it. Just getting warmed up.

I'm not dead yet, and I won't be done until I'm dead. I don't know how long I'll live, but if I died today, I'd be okay with it.

Because at least I will know I tried, I spoke from my heart, I called out what I saw, and I felt the passion and the horror, witnessed the suffering and the relief, and I know I lived true to myself and my own principles.

And unlike those narcissistic shadows holding nooses around the necks of hardworking direct patient care nurses, I didn't look the other way knowing what I was doing, despite what I claimed and hid behind, was really not about caring for people but instead lining my own pockets and enriching myself at the expense of other people's well-being.

There are at least three differences now.

One is that I can say these things calmly, without the raging anger that I felt a year ago.

Two, I am on the lookout for solutions, and I know I am not alone, as I felt a year ago.

Three, I am pursuing my passion, and I have no one holding me back, I have lost the shadow and the noose of a year ago. 

Every day I wish the same for my fellow nurses who are feeling alone, stuck, and fearful in those oppressive environments. I hope they find their way out of the dungeon, because they already have the key, they just have to turn it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fourteen Degree News: Badwater Returns

Today I actually got my butt out the door before 9 am. I went out, it was 14 degrees, but I ran a full hour, followed by a mile with the tire.

Then I got into the warm woman cave and when I checked my email, this statement came in a message from Adventure Corps:

"I am pleased to announce that the 2015 Badwater 135 will be held July 28-30 on the traditional route from Badwater to Mt. Whitney. The race will have a three-wave start in the evening, but will otherwise be held essentially identically to previous Badwater 135 races. As was the case in 2014, 100 runners will be accepted to compete and each entrant will be limited to just one support vehicle and a maximum of four crew members. We are excited to return to Death Valley! Applications will be accepted January 19 to February 2 ONLY and additional details are on the race website. We hope you will join us for one or more BADWATER® events in 2015!"

Not sure what happened in negotiations, but it's back. The evening start is different, but should change strategy for many runners and their crews. It's hot at night in the bottom of the valley, so the heat will be a factor and getting to the far end by Stovepipe Wells won't happen until morning, which will make the climb up Towne Pass and the Panamint Valley sections challenging in the heat of the day.

Not sure if I'll be out there next year, we'll see what happens, but I'm really glad to hear that they were able to bring the race back to Death Valley. Looks like the course from last year will be changed to a 100 miler and held in the fall of 2016. That's something I might consider running myself. We'll see what happens over the next year or two.

Right now I'm working on getting my butt out the door each day, that's enough of a challenge.

Anyway, I am happy for Chris that he was able to get the race back into the valley and I hope all goes well from here on with the Park Service.

Nothing better than thoughts of Death Valley on a 14 degree day.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Readin, Rite-in, Runnin

It's been ridiculously cold the past few days and I'm looking forward to it warming up. I managed to keep my running and motivation streak alive through the cold snap. Just one day indoors on the bike, other than that it was an hour a day of running. 

I'm finally getting around to doing some reading I've been wanting to do, some books on health care policy that are really not bad, and another one sort of for fun that is more of a psychology book. No this is not recreational reading, it all has a purpose, feeding my thoughts on health care for the writing I'm doing. 

Just like with running, every so often I hit the wall mentally with writing, the past two days it's almost like my brain circuits froze up and everything that's coming out if garbage. But give it a few days to recharge and I'll be back at it.

I cooked lentil soup with kale the other day that was really good, and today I made a sweet potato black bean stew with shredded pork that is decadent but awesome. I've been into the comfort food cooking. It's too cold for salads right now. 

Iris doesn't seem to mind the cold, I trimmed the hair between the pads on her paws so she wouldn't get ice balls when we walk. Isabelle doesn't want to go out to walk, but she's happy to lie down in the snow in the backyard, even on the coldest days. 

The motivation is better, even though it's still a struggle every day to get out there. I figure I'll go through the motion until I find the autopilot button again. Probably buried underneath a few extra pounds of comfort food.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Watching Winter Fly

This morning when I woke up it was 50 degrees. By the time I took Iris out for her walk it was 54 degrees and when I came home with her, it was 51.

Lucky girl, she got a taste of her favorite delicacy for the first time this year, fresh seasonal goose poop. It's goose poop season again. They're back...

Then I went out for my own run, and when I left home the wind was just starting to pick up. I took a fleece jacket with me, good idea. By the time I circled Warren Lake and headed home, it was 38 degrees and dropping.

One I got inside the house, it started snowing, and I watched winter move in over a period of an hour and a half. Typical Colorado weather.

Tomorrow the running club group meets at the high school track and I am going, even if I have to wear six layers. I will not let cold weather defeat me.


Sort of looking forward to the coming week's temperatures in the single digits, that means the mud will freeze. Better footing at the lake.

What else is good about winter? Getting to wear some of my favorite articles of clothing, all piled on top of one another in layers.

No more yard work, except for occasional snow shoveling, and keeping up with the dog poop in between storms.

Night running. More of it. Night running is even better in the winter. I better enjoy it, because there are only 52 days until spring...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The End of Color

Today we gathered up all the leaves in the yard and I cut back the flower garden for winter. Nice weather couldn't last forever. The wind is supposed to pick up tomorrow and the coming freeze will drop the few remaining leaves hanging on our maple tree and our neighbor's cottonwood tree.

I have a few scattered appointments this week but hope to get some good productive work done before Thanksgiving. I'm wanting to start on a few work projects over the winter and get some help from students in the spring semester so I need to get all that organized. On my writing project, which is ongoing, I have made good progress in the past month. Cold weather is perfect for holing up in the woman cave under blankets with the heater cranked and pounding away at the keyboard, after I get a good run/bike/swim/workout in.

With the cold weather arriving, I need to make sure I don't wimp out, given my recent history. I have no excuse, really, I have all the warmest, highest-tech Pearl Izumi gear I need. Getting my butt out the door will be the challenge. I can't remember ever being this unmotivated for so long. And here it's only been two months since early September when I first started tapering for nationals. And I have put in some decent runs since then. Really it's only been a month of being a slug.

I did get on the scale and 4 1/2 pounds have piled on since the end of September. I guess that's not too bad for not working out and eating everything in sight. Time to start moving in the other direction. The mountain bike tire is threatening to return.

The gray skies and bare gray tree limbs will be the colors we get to look at in town, all in a monochromatic landscape. Fortunately the higher elevations have pine trees and red rocks up at Horsetooth. I'm looking forward to running the trails at Coyote Ridge and Blue Sky again this winter, and at Horsetooth and Lory State Park. I need to keep working on my hip strength to keep my ankles from rolling over, and pick up my feet!

Sunset in the foothills tonight. When I wake up tomorrow, it will be winter.

Three In A Row: The Charm

YESSSSS!!! I did it, ran three days in a row, to wrap up the week with a total of 24+ miles and 2400 feet of vertical.

This morning I left the house at 8 am, before I could lose my motivation, and I drove over to the stadium and ran up the A Trail to the top, where I took pictures of Arthur's Rock with the nearly full moon setting behind it, Horsetooth Rock, and Hughes Stadium (soon to be the former CSU stadium).

I felt so much better today, my legs weren't creaky or whining. I had no problem running the uphills all the way to the top, and even threw in some surges of fast running on the way down, on the smoother parts of the trail.

I wanted to run for a full hour, so when I got down to the parking lot I finished up with an extra mile or so on the trail around Dixon Reservoir just to fill in the time.

I finished at my car at an hour and then pulled out the tire and ran up the first hill past the Pineridge sign on the road going up to the reservoir. It's a good 100 foot climb and I did about 0.8 miles with the tire, powerwalking up and running down. I felt good and was able to maintain good form with the tire.

I feel so much better today. I think maybe I flushed out whatever it was that was stuck. I must have had running constipation.

For some reason I can't even motivate myself to run the roads, all I want to do are trails right now. Except we're about to have a major change in the weather...hopefully not a lot of snow, but it is supposed to get COLD within the next 48 hours, down to single digit cold. That will be a shock to everyone who has been running in shorts through today. Tomorrow is the big change.

I think I will still need to do trails for my sanity, and as long as we don't get anything too messy on the ground, the trails will be there, I'll just have to bundle up. Fall, it's been nice knowing you. At least I know that winter will only last about 8 weeks. January 1st is right around the corner!