Freedom is a glass of wine

I’m not a fan of prohibition at all. Especially the prohibition of alcohol. And I’ve begun to equate alcohol with freedom. Freedom is a glass of wine… with friends… or family… or own my own!

I’m back in Saudi at the moment and all I really want is a glass of wine. A beautiful big full glass of red wine. Real red wine. From a bottle that I picked out  for myself at the shop… and then drove myself and my wine back home in my car…

Having a drink is more than just having a drink to me now. It means I’m free. It means I’m relaxed. It means I’m not in Saudi Arabia. It means I’m either on vacation. Or on a day or night off. It means I’m probably surrounded by family and friends. Or I’m on my own just enjoying a quiet night. That’s freedom to me. Freedom is a glass of wine. Or a bottle. Or a cool, refreshing G&T… or a good craft beer…

I probably sound like an alcoholic, but I’m not (and I’m not just in denial). Really. I just miss the simplicity of a lazy evening at home with a good book and a glass of good red wine. Or a beer on the patio in the late afternoon sunshine. I don’t get to do this stuff over here. I mean, not completely freely without any suggestion of repercussions.

I was so happy to be home during the end of summer and all the family BBQ’s and dinners we had… as well as being home for my aunt’s birthday party and hanging out with aunts, uncles and cousins… laughing a lot… drinking a lot of wine and whiskey… and dancing to a whole lot of country music… (country music never gets played in Saudi if you happen to be at an event where there is music and dancing!!) But now I really miss those family nights and events…

I love a night out with girlfriends… catching up… getting all the gossip… having a martini… and a lot of laughs over a shared bottle of wine. I get lots of girls nights in Saudi… but they don’t include a good martini 😥

Freedom is nipping out to the next city over in my car with all my favorite tunes blasting while I go to meet an old friend… who just happened to share 11 months with me in Saudi… someone who completely empathizes with me…

Freedom is a good night with one of my closest friends from high school and her Aussie husband… remembering good times back a few years ago when I went to visit them in Australia and we had the greatest night out in Sydney ever!!!! And now they’re living in North America instead of Australia, and I’m in Saudi… crazy how our lives change!!

Oh yeah… can’t forget… going out for dinner with a guy who is not my brother, or my father, or my husband, or my boyfriend either… just going out for dinner with an old guy friend. Having wine and beer and chatting for hours and hours about medicine – conventional and naturopathic… and generally just catching up on life… and no-one raises an eyebrow. There’s no fear that one might get caught by the muttawa (religious police). It’s just innocent and fun and free!

Anyways… that’s enough boozy talk now. I just really miss these days at home. I miss this freedom…

I love you, You love me

Back in August/September/October 2015

Family. I love my family. All of them. But my nieces hold a very special and very big place in my heart.

 

I absolutely loved every minute of the hours and hours of time I got to spend with them in the nearly 3 months i was home. A day felt incomplete if it didn’t include a stop at my sisters house for baby cuddles and big girl snuggles…

I spent a lot of time babysitting the two little girls so my sister could run errands/get out of the house. So i spent so many hours playing on the trampoline with the oldest of my nieces or running around outside… or just being goofy and silly at my sisters house… chasing her… adoring her…

Teaching her to play piano and then watching her show her “baby” how to play too…

IMG_1863

Taught her how to snapchat too and use the “filters”

How about this “selfie”??

IMG_1911

 

Walks through the greenhouse with her and my brothers and “gwampa”…

But one of my favourite memories was just sitting in the sunshine on the couch cuddling the wee one while she slept and singing with her big sister… “i love you, you love me, we’re a happy family. with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?”

I definitely look back on those precious moments with the girls with so much love but also a significant sense of loss now that I’m back in Riyadh and so far away from them again!!

Anyways… before I get too much more homesick… enjoy the love 🙂

xx

The Last Few days… at Home.

Its not often in our adult lives that we are gifted with 3 months vacation. Mine was definitely unplanned. 6 weeks max was the original plan. But someone had other plans for my life and those 6 weeks turned into 3 of the most beautiful months of my life. 3 months of family and friendship and a whole lot of love to rejuvenate my soul!

But… It had to come to an end eventually. I bit the bullet and made my decision to move back to Saudi… Contract was signed… Flights booked. And suddenly I had only one week left at home.

My family doubted that I would actually get on that plane… But I’d booked a stopover to see my best friend in Minneapolis… Also a strategy to ensure that I actually would leave. Because it made it easier to pretend I was just going on a little trip to Minneapolis and forget about the Riyadh part after that.

Anyways. It’s hard to describe what happens in that last week… A lot of tears. But part of me kind of switches into Riyadh mode and I just try to turn things off a little and get into leaving phase…

I tried to cram in as much time with the family as possible… But it’s never enough time when you’re leaving.

My most favourite memories of this week definitely evolve around my nieces… Especially my last afternoon with them when my sister and I took the girls for a walk by the river to go crunching through the fallen leaves. Addison and I were throwing leaves around and being generally silly… So cute to see her try to copy me by holding leaves by her face… Initially sticking the end of the leaves in her ears…

I had the loveliest dinner date with my sister… As much as I adore my nieces, it was so nice to have dinner with just my sister without precious kiddos interrupting our conversation constantly!

Thanksgiving Day was shortly before I left also… maybe a little more than a week. I was so thankful that this year I was actually home for it… with my family… because I think family is the most important thing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day! That and all the ham and turkey and pumpkin pie 😛

A couple days before I left… Canadian elections were held… so my mom, dad, brother and I all went out together to vote and exercise a freedom that not everyone has in the world… and that people have worked so hard to get!

Enjoyed a few last fabulous bottles of wine…

Last few drives in my car…

All these simple things that I love but won’t be able to do for a good long while again…

And a few last family dinners… the best one… my sister (who is an amazing cook/baker by the way…) made a gorgeous pumpkin spice cheesecake… and we all sat around eating and drinking and talking and laughing… I miss those moments!!!

And then suddenly… definitely before I was ready… it was time for me to head off to the airport again… abandoning my family… again :S I think they understand it… at least I certainly hope they do!!

Relatively early in the morning… I headed off to the airport with mother dearest and baby bro… I’d already said all my goodbyes to the girls and my sister the night before. Goodbyes at the airport are so awkward… I can’t stand to say them… but I kind of just want to say it and get it over with so that I can go get a coffee past security and go hide in a little corner and cry… or snuggle up to a very life sized and Canadian looking bear!

And then… I was up in the air and flying away from my home yet again… Minneapolis bound for a day or so with my bestie… and then back to Saudi!

See you soon Saudi… Adventures await!!!! See you later Vancouver… and dearest family…

Fall Days… So Idyllic

I love typical fall days. I don’t care if they’re over-instagrammed or over hash-tagged or considered “typical white girl” activites and such… I love the gentle bite the air has in the fall… the crispy leaves that crackle when I walk on them… all the vivid colours on display… watching the leaves change color… the sky more blue than usual… the misty mornings… walks by the river with a girlfriend while we drink a pumpkin-spice latte from Starbucks and our boots crunch through the leaves… or… apple picking at the Apple Barn with my sister and nieces.

I didn’t get fall last year as I was living in Saudi Arabia throughout the entire fall of 2014. And fall in Saudi Arabia reminds me of spring at home. Really. It’s bizarre. It cools down. The air is fresher. And everything blooms!!! There’s fresh flowers blooming everywhere and the gardeners plant petunias and pansy’s and marigolds and verbena and all the flowers my daddy sells in the springtime at home!! The grass is new and bright green and the trees grow new leaves… That’s nothing like fall at home!

So I really appreciated having extra time at home during the fall this year! And I did every typical fall activity I could!!!

A river walk in the sunshine with Pumpkin-spice lattes with a good friend from nursing school…

Word & Deed baseball tournament… I helped babysit the kids with my sister (hand/eye coordination when it comes to a ball and bat is absolutely shit! :S) But we helped cheer on everyone we love!

And one of my favourite days of the whole time I was home… a trip to the Apple Barn with my sister and nieces to take the girls apple picking! The Apple Barn is actually an apple orchard, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, and playground for kiddos… it’s a lot of fun with little ones!!!

We started our visit to the orchard with a hay wagon ride through the orchard…

We spent a little time apple picking (but it’s so much more convenient to go pick up a bag or three of apples from the apple barn shop than pick them all… plus my niece wasn’t terribly interested in picking apples.)

She was a lot more keen to bounce around on the kangaroo cushion (as were my sister and I :P)

We stopped at the petting zoo to see the bunnies and goats and even a donkey and a turkey!!

Climbed on the pumpkin truck… and the old red tractor… sipping on apple cider slushies. I really can’t think of a more idyllic way to spend a random mid-week fall day!

There’s one more fall day that was really special to me… but that was the day before I moved to Saudi Arabia… so I’ll save that for another post…

Looking back now… I’m sitting here on my couch in Saudi Arabia thinking… and wondering… why am I back in Saudi Arabia and not with these people I love more than anything in the world?? But I had a purpose… a reason for returning… and that’s coming up in a post soon…

So that’s all for right now…

A.

Climbing Mountains

Sometime in September 2015

Hiking… seriously the most significantly challenging workout out there! Well… maybe an exaggeration. But nothing tests your heart strength and health and your endurance like a proper hike!

I’d done a couple little hikes with my little brother and my sisters… but they don’t really count as a proper hike. Get’s your heart rate up no doubt, but we were hiking Teapot hill… which is definitely uphill but there’s only one significantly steep hill that gets your heart freaking out. It’s a lovely 45minute walk/hike that gets out you outdoors in nature and in the forest though. And it’s a nice start to a weekend morning.. followed by breakfast somewhere.. like Cookie’s grill! My sisters and I did that one morning and it was great!!

After nearly 2.5 months of vacationing with not nearly as much intensely physical activity as I’d hoped… my heart and the rest of me, was a little out of shape.

I learned this when I hiked Elk Mountain with my aunt and uncle one day. For the first time in a very long time, I nearly felt like vomiting while doing physical exercise!!! I was short of breath and huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf (accept I’m not so big and bad although I sure had the huffing and puffing down pat) after only a few minutes into the hike. By the time we’d been hiking at a pretty decent pace and up a rather significant incline for about 20-30 minutes I was just praying we were nearly at the top because my vision was starting to blur and I thought my chest was going to explode my heart was beating so fast… and then the nausea started… and I seriously regretted the weeks of slothing on the couch at my moms house or my sisters house!!

Of course, this is slightly dramatized… but it was pretty miserable for a bit. Worse for that fact that my aunt and uncle were kicking my butt… and they’ve got a couple years on me… we won’t say how many cuz it doesn’t matter cuz they’re probably one of the fittest couples I know!

Anyways… as miserable as hiking can be when you’re not in particularly good shape… I know why people love it. The views. The views are absolutely worth the pain and suffering you go through to get the view. And obviously if one stays fit enough and hikes more regularly… it’s not so painful and the payoff is just incredible!!! Not just physical health like heart health, increased endurance and strength, but also better mental and emotional health because the mountains and forests are absolutely so serene and peaceful and calming… and who doesn’t love a good endorphin rush??!!!

So now lets talk about the view… actually let me just show you some pictures!

IMG_1034IMG_1030IMG_1055(Cultus lake in the background in the picture directly above… the cloest lake to my home for watersports 🙂 )

The hike to the first major lookout point took about 45minutes to an hour… it was intense but the view from that lookout was breathtaking! (literally I was breathless. hahahaha).

It was a bit of a cool and misty start that day… but it warmed up quickly when we were out of the tree cover and out in the open sunlight… it was early fall and leaves were starting to change colours…especially the berry bushes on the side of the tree whose leaves turned the most beautiful burgundy red colour! The sky was so blue with just a little haze in the distance. We could see the rivers running through the valley below and layers and mountains shielding the valley…

We decided to carry on though through a little meadow and then over the ridge-line that led to another mountain peak and lookout. That ridge-line was amazing as it was so much more open and the view was gorgeous the whole way! As much as I love the serenity of walking through the trees… it’s amazing to be out in the open with a view too!

It was such a beautiful day…. I wish I had time to repeat it… but my time at home was coming to an end and within a week or two I’d be headed back to the desert. My one major regret: not spending more time hiking while I was home! Oh well.. something to look forward to when I get back home I guess!!! And I love spending the time with my aunt and uncle… they’re amazing people and what better way to spend a day with family?!!

 

#notjustanurse

For a month or so in September/October 2015

By this time, I’d spent a good 4 weeks at home, just slothing (being a lazy bum) and vacationing… not being particularly productive with my life other than agonizing over what I’d do next with my life and whether i’d go back to Saudi or stay in North America.

I decided it was time to step out of my funk and get on with work. Things would eventually fall into place with a long-term plan again… but while I sorted it out, I was desperate for some good, proper, really hands-on nursing again. I was going through patient care withdrawls.

Also, Miss Colorado (in some pageant) just made a major statment in international entertainment news when she wore scrubs and a stethoscope and went onstage and talked about her role as a nurse. But what really caught the world’s attention, and especially the attention of nurses around the world, was when a few ignorant talk show hosts, specifically the ladies of The View, made mention of her “doctor’s stethoscope” wondering why she as a nurse was even wearing a “doctor’s stethoscope.” Obviously, we were all a little offended. Nurses united around the world, speaking out on social media against the ladies of the view, and promoting our profession in whatever way possible!

Miss Colorado: Not Just a Nurse

So, I returned to work with great pride as a nurse, wearing my “doctor’s stethoscope”, grateful that I’d chosen this wonderful profession and not medicine. Because I chose to be a nurse and not a doctor. Nursing was not my fallback. I didn’t go into it because I couldn’t get into med school. I could have gone to med school. But instead I chose to be a nurse, to spend more time working directly with patients, being their main point of contact, being that person to see them at and help them through their most vulnerable times!

I have my very own stethoscope, and I use my stethoscope to listen to my patients lungs to ensure they’re not filling with fluid/developing a pleural effusion/observe for signs of infection… to listen to their hearts to make sure they’re in a normal rhythm… to auscultate their bowels to ensure things are moving through properly and to detect when they’re not so that I can fix the problem. Unfortunately, part of my job is also to use my stethoscope to auscultate a heart that is silent and no longer pumping blood throughout the body, and lungs that are no longer breathing and filling blood with oxygen… and then to tell a patients family in the kindest but always most inadequate words, that I hear nothing anymore and confirm what they already suspected, that the one they love is deceased. And it’s me, the nurse, who has to do that, not the doctor, with my very own stethoscope. However… that being said, I don’t mind it, because next I get to hug them all, and do exactly what I went into nursing for… to offer comfort and support and care for people at the most difficult moment in their lives. So, I’m very proud to be a nurse and part of this very honorable profession. I can’t imagine being anything else!

When I first graduated from nursing school, I was blessed to get a fulltime job on the unit I did my final practicum on, a Tertiary Palliative Care Unit. I know I put the unit way up high on a pedastal, and I consider my colleagues on the unit to be the very best nurses I’ve ever worked with. Maybe it’s just because they’re the first nursing team I’ve really been a part of? Maybe it’s because they’re the team that raised me from a green, super fresh and young baby nurse to the nurse I am today? Maybe I’m just super biased?

But then I think about it a little more and remember how I saw them interact with patients and their families on a daily basis… their infinite care and compassion… seriously, the most caring group of individuals I’ve ever met. Nurses with a heart and passion for one of the most difficult fields of nursing practice… nurses who daily pull together as a team and are so supportive of each other as it’s the only way to survive in such an intensely emotional environment… nurses who advocate daily for nothing but the best for their patients and consistently put a patients needs and desires above their own… nurses who go to great lengths to ensure comfort of both a patient and their family… nurses who go above and beyond every single day, without ever asking for or needing recognition, because it’s just what they do, it’s what they love to do.

They’re not just nurses. They ARE nurses. They are the people you want spending 24 hours a day with the person you love and who is at the most vulnerable and difficult point in their life. They are the person who will ensure that the one you love, is loved and taken care of so that they want nothing but to spend time with you in comfort and peace!

Palliative care nurses are a special breed of nurses. We are faced with death and dying and sadness on a daily basis. Yet we are happy, not sad and gloomy. And our unit is suprisingly filled with light and laughter and happiness, not just from the nurses but from our patients and families also. We’ve learned to see the good in everything, to find the shiny silver lining to it all! If we couldn’t see the flip side, it would be come intensely overwhelming and we’d all crash and burn out for sure. But we have each other, we have the most lovely patients and families… people who are generally focused on the good things in their lives and have let go of the bad because who wants to hang onto the bad and nasty things when theyre so clearly faced with their mortality?

I miss palliative care. I think it’s the best of everything in all health care disciplines brought together to create the most holistic and collaborative and patient/family centered care possible, care that is dedicated purely to meeting a patient’s goals and ensuring their comfort in everything! Due to the culture, the lack of education on palliative care, and just general misconceptions, palliative care doesn’t really exist in Saudi, at least not at all in the way it does in North America, and it really is a shame. While I was home I read the most fantastic book by Atul Gawande called “Being Mortal” who suggested that patients who have palliative care services involed in their care, generally tend to live 25% longer. That’s an extremely significant result. Depending on the estimated time frame, it could be anywhere from extra days to extra years… but if it were me, I’d take anything I could get, especially when it only means that I’d be more comfortable and experience less symptoms and side effects…

Anyways. I was so happy to get back into palliative care and work with my favourite colleagues for a good month while home. I was worried that I would have lost a lot of my skills as I’d been out of inpatient care for well over a year by this time, and outpatients is much different! But… it was like riding a bike… but so much better!!!!

I probably drove my colleagues crazy with all my comparisons of Saudi to home. But i forgot how well stocked our supply room is at home… all the time!!! Like heaps of IV fluids in all sizes and all flvours… NS, D5W, 2/3 1/3, lactated ringers, NS with 10, 20 or 40 KCL… it’s amazing!! And we never run out of IV lines either like we do in Saudi!!!

And don’t even get me started on the narcotic prescribing and accessibility!!! Appropriate doses, with ranges for nurses to use base on patient needs… with normal time frames for administration (anywhere from q30min for a PRN to scheduled q4hourly analgesics)… and then all the adjuvants… gabapentin, citalopram, etc… and meds to manage all the side effects of narcotics… And a Pyxis (electronic drug cabinet) filed with everything from Tylenol #3 (shit) to Morphine/Hydromorphine/Fentanyl/Methadone!! It was amazing!! In Saudi we have Morphine (5:1, i’ve never seen anything more than 5mg IV prescibed unless palliative care services was somehow involved and the patient was recieving long acting morphine 10mg) Demoral (who still uses that crap except ER??!!) and Tramadol (even more ridiculous especially as it seems to be the drug of choice for oncology physicians in Saudi!).

And our doctors… oh my goodness… they’re so fabulous. They’ll just sit and spend anywhere from half an hour to an hour just talking through problems with patients and their familes. And they’re so open to suggestions from nursing!!!! I feel valued and respected! It’s wonderful!!! (and the feeling is very much mutual!)

Anyways… enough comparison… I’ll just mention again how much I adore my colleagues, how much I loved spending so many nightshifts just catching up with them, how much I loved working as a casual and picking up heaps of shifts in a two week period so that I manageed to work with almost every single nurse on the unit, and how much I loved our Thanksgiving night potluck… it was wonderful!!

Wearing colored scrubs with no repercussions… instead of shapeless/baggy white scrubs!! Personally I think they’re so much more cheerful and make me much more approachable… plus, hello?… white coat syndrome??!!!  Also, In Saudi, I’m not allowed to drink coffee on the unit unless i’m in the staffroom, and getting caught drinking coffee at the nurses desks can result in a serious talking to/written warning… so I very gleefully drank coffee on the unit/at my desk/in the lobby… all day long actually. I loved stopping at the Starbucks in the lobby for coffee breaks and drinking my coffee while looking out at the trees in the atrium… my seasonal “autumn” cup from Starbucks! And then… can’t forget stat holiday pay!!!!!! Working Thanksgiving night meant I got a couple hours of holiday pay… that’s another thing we don’t get in Saudi… (but considering we get 54 days vacation, i can’t really complain!!)

And then to top it all off.. breakfast with a few colleagues and a now moved on to Calgary colleague who came to visit with her adorable little munchkin…

 

And a wine night with one of my nursing school classmates who is now working on my old unit too…

I think it’s important to be able to sepearate our work and personal lives… but it is also amazing to be able to have a great relationship with your colleagues and spend time outside of work with them also!!!

So, when my last day of work in Canada came again… i was really sad to leave everyone behind again. (Not sure why i keep torturing myself with goodbyes!!!) But… back to the adventure… let’s see where this crazy ride takes me again!! I’ll be back again… and if not back to this unit… at least back to palliative care because every time i work in palliative care I know that is where my heart is… So… one day again soon…

IMG_1956

Mother Natures Glory

British Columbia, my home, is mother natures playground! It’s my happy place. Obviously I’m biased, but it truly is one of the most gorgeous places in the world to live. Being away from it from a year has really taught to me to appreciate the beauty of home so much more than I ever did before.

Every place is beautiful in its own way. But BC is particularly beautiful for its natural beauty. It’s tagline is “beautiful British Columbia” for a reason. The colours everywhere are unbelievably vivid and vibrant… Rich greens, shades of blue, deep Browns of rich earth and millions of trees… The darker purple shadow of the mountains… Puffy white clouds or streaks of white in otherwise clear blue skies…

There are mountains to hike and climb and explore… (upcoming post on some hikes I did at home…)

Lakes… So many lakes… Big and small… Sunny summer lake days spent on the beach, or floating… Or doing water sports like wakeboarding…

IMG_0857

And then there’s the ocean too…

I had planned to do something active outdoors every single day… like a run or a hike… din’t quite pan out that way but I did run down the road 500m to my sisters house on a daily basis 😛

Regardless… I had some incredible outdoorsy days where I just fell in love with my home all over again.

There were many river walks with my sister and nieces. One which resulted in me slipping on a little mud down by the river and ending up with a very wet and muddy behind. My little niece Addison doesn’t easily forget that one! “Ammie walk wiwer? Ammie get wet?!” Too cute!!

I had a few solo river runs also, along my favorite trail along the Vedder river. Those runs are good for the soul. In the sunshine… along the windy trail… through the woods… over the occasional garter snake that decides to scare the pants off me and dart out across the trail just as I’m running by!  

And then there were a few bike rides with the baby brother. One of the best bike rides was actually on a rather grey day where it started to rain as we went along… It hadn’t rained at home in quite a long time (months in fact) and I hadn’t experienced a proper rainfall in many months more than that even!! So it was just so lovely to feel the raindrops on my skin… fresh and cool and cleansing…

IMG_0150

And then… There were misty morning drives home from work… Calm, sunlit, serene views…

IMG_1397

Looking back now several months later over all the pictures, I’m just awed by the beauty that surrounds me every day at home! So much peaceful and serene beauty… I’m a happier person at home not just because I’m with my family… but constantly being surrounded by these vivid but calming colours and naturally gorgeous scenes… it makes one happy and so at peace internally!

I feel like I should be a tourism ad for beautiful British Columbia… but really… I hope you get an opportunity to visit this beautiful place someday and find out why I call it my “happy place.”