Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lake Oconee

As promised:

We arrived at the lakehouse last Saturday afternoon, and it was lovely :) Pretty view of the lake, roomy downstairs, comfy couches (perfect for reading, lounging, napping, all the things that I did on our vacation!) ... very nice. Here's an outdoor view in the evening.

Then on Sunday, it was Father's Day. Mark's dad sadly had to go to work, and we didn't do much during the day (basically lounged, read, napped, you know the drill), but that night, Mark grilled steaks and we had a lovely dinner :)

On Monday, it was off to the lake (and that's where we stayed for the rest of the week...)

Kelly and I on our first day on the lake :)

Thomas and Mark go canoeing! (Kelly and I followed later, and I almost drowned in the floor of the canoe while trying to climb in. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of that...)

Mommy brought Ninny (my grandma) down to the water - you'd think that she'd be burning up in that long sleeved shirt and long pants, but she stayed cold all week. She was quite comfortable outside in the 90-degree heat... go figure.

Next day: Kelly and I in our matching skirted swimsuits!

Mommy and Daddy down at the lake :)

Later that day: I learn to drive the boat! Yay!

Skinner family photo!

Later, Kelly and I get a bit silly...

And later in the week, we get to watch Thomas show off his impressive wakeboarding skills :)

And that's that. We were there for 6 days, and it was lovely and restful and nice :) And now I'm back to reality, and the craziness that is my life right now.

Life in NI

We're back!

Mark and I got home from a lovely, restful vacation on Friday afternoon, and I will post a blog telling all about that tomorrow, but I'd like to touch on something that I haven't really talked about before: my work.

I love these NICU babies. I love to cuddle them (which happens not often enough), and I have poured blood, sweat, and tears into some of them. I have fought for them and with them, I've chased them and their lab values into oblivion, I've caught illnesses early (and also later than I've wished as well.) I've laughed and cried with their families, cheered over small hurdles ("He peed!! Just a couple drops, but his kidneys are working again!!"), mourned over huge losses, prayed for them... I really, really do love them.
When people first learn what I do, where I work, their immediate reaction is usually something along the lines of "Oh, that must be so sad!" And really, it isn't as sad as most people think. We have a lot more happy moments than sad ones, because babies' bodies don't really like to die very much.

But sometimes it's hard. Right now, I'm in a pod with a few of your run-of-the-mill preemies, not really sick, just not really big enough to be well at this point. But also here with us are some heartbreakers. Babies who will never be "normal," babies who will potentially be vegetables, babies whose mothers don't care about them, babies who would be perfect, aside from the fact that their mothers did drugs while pregnant, thus sending them into a spiraling withdrawl from birth. These babies can be frustrating to take care of. They are long-timers, they stay for months, they can be very irritable, they like to pull tubes and IVs and other important things out, and a lot of people don't like taking care of them very much. And I fall victim to the frustration too. But sometimes, in the quiet of the night, a little part of my heart whispers "You know you love them the most." It's true. Because they need it the most. They are the "unlovable," if a baby can be such a thing. But there's just something about walking up and down the unit with a crabby, crying baby in your arms and ever so slowly soothing it to sleep, placing it in its crib, and knowing it will stay asleep until time to wake up and eat again. There's something about finding beauty in babies with congenital malformations, and agreeing with their parents that yes, they really are lovely. That, despite the fact that a baby may never read or readily communicate, they still have worth and deserve a fighting chance in this world.

Sometimes this job rips my heart out. When a baby dies, part of my heart dies with it. Sometimes you know that medically, it's for the best. Best for their quality of life, best because it's never right to prolong the dying process in a tiny little precious person (at least, that's my opinion...) And it never matters. It never becomes commonplace, never routine, never okay. And I hope it never does.

But other times, which happen much more often, my heart overflows. With love, with joy, with happiness that a little life has been spared by the grace of God and His mercy. Because He loves these babies too. I think God has a very special place in that big, big heart of His for our precious NICU babies (and all babies who are sick, in fact.) I rejoice inside every time a baby goes home to a loving family. I rejoice every time these little miracles prove that they are stronger than anyone believed them to be, and beat the odds. I rejoice even more when I hear from a family I took care of before, and get an excellent update on the baby (who is now walking/talking/sitting/smiling/hearing/will never have CP/etc, etc, etc.) In fact, tonight at least, I rejoice when it's quiet, when all my babies have calmed down and I have done a decent job at placating them. It's funny what you never take for granted in the NICU.

All of this, this long, drawn-out explanation, is why I am commuting back and forth from here to Birmingham, to wait for a NICU job there to open up, rather than seeking out just any old something just to have a job. I am a NICU nurse, and a good one at that. I know that sounds pretty terrible to say, but it's just what I'm good at. I am always so impressed with anyone who can work in a nursing home or on a medsurg floor without completely losing their minds. Other jobs just aren't for me at this point ... I'm a NICU nurse, through and through. So I will wait, and be patient, and God will provide me with my dream Birmingham job. I just hope that it's sooner rather than later, so me and my dear hubby will not have to be parted for so long.

Friday, June 19, 2009


After three not-so-great days of work, freedom has come - I have 8 days off! And what will I do, you may ask, on those 8 days?


Which, in all actuality, means spending lots of time with Mark and the rest of our families, reading the oodles of books I'm bringing with me, riding in the boat (hopefully, if they can get the starter working), lounging in the lovely air conditioned climate ... just essentially being a bum.

We're leaving tomorrow afternoon-ish for Lake Oconee, and staying here:

Vacations with the Skinner family are always interesting to me - they involve essentially the things I mentioned before (lounging, doing nothing, etc.). Vacations with the Shannon family are typically itineraried, non-stop, go-and-do-and-see sort of experience, which I am very used to (since I was a Shannon for 22 years before becoming a Skinner.) So I like doing both. I like vacations like my mom and my sister and I took this March to Hilton Head/Savannah (there was a lot of going and doing and seeing there), and I also really like the laid back lakeside do nothing at all vacations with Mark's family. Best of both worlds :) Although, the last time we were at the lake, I was studying non-stop for the NCLEX, and had a sunburned rear-end (that's another story for another time) and it was not so relaxing as it was "ohdeargodpleaseletmepassboards!!!" But this time, no boards to study for, and I will remember to apply sunscreen AFTER taking off my shorts, so it will be lovely, I'm sure :) Pictures will be following our return! (No internet at the lake, so no posting from the lake.)

Side note: I need to know where to get CPR certified through the American Heart Association sometime between now and the end of July. (Preferably in Chattanooga, if anyone from Chattanooga reads this blog. Does anyone read this blog?) There's this ENORMOUS conflict in my schedule that comes from one of the great joys of working at night, and I really can't attend the class that's offered at work. And I have to have this to be able to work. So - if anybody has any info, send it my way, please!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the job front, and other things

I applied for a job yesterday. It's in a hospital I like a lot, in a unit I've wanted to work in since I graduated - so I'm hopeful about that. However, it's a "flexi Carlson" shift, and I have no idea what that means. Nobody I know has any idea what that means, other than possibly staffing more people when the unit is the busiest. So I think it might be "flex," which is sort of a rotating shift. As long as it's a full-time, benefit-eligible position, I'd work any schedule they gave me. I would BEG for any schedule they'd give me, but I feel like that might look desperate and unprofessional.

Speaking of work, working here has been quite pleasant the last several nights I've been there. I like a variety - some super-duper-dying sick, some not-quite-so-sick, and some pretty-darn-cute-close-to-discharge. Last night was the not-quite-so-sick category - a pretty peachy assignment. Not a bad night at all. And I have two more like that (tonight and tomorrow night) and then - off to the lake for the Skinner/Shannon vacation!

Another thing to be excited about: Elissa is passing through Chattanooga tomorrow on her way to pick up her new pet hedgehog (squee!) So she's meeting me for a late lunch at Panera ... shocker, I know :) I'm really excited to see her. She was originally going to come to the lake, but ended up not being able to, so I was sad - but, she promised to help us move in to our Birmingham apartment! Thank God for another set of hands :)

Randomly: our cat has fleas. And I'm tired of it. So we're bombing the apartment tomorrow.

And one final thing: I really have to brag on Mark about his cooking abilities and house husband-ry :) A list of some of the dishes that he has made me: grilled tilapia with mango salsa, chicken cobb salad, roasted chicken with apples and leeks, ginger chicken with sesame spinach, pasta skillet, shrimp cakes, veggie stir fry, cashew chicken lettuce wraps ... and the list goes on. (I think I may have made him into a foodie! Yay!) Fairly recently, we have set out to try very hard to eat non-processed, fresh food with more fruits and veggies incorporated in our meals, and it's going well. I also have to brag: Mark is drinking water!! and very little Coke!! Granted, it's bottled water (that's the only way he'll drink it) but still ... it's water. And much, much more cost effective than soft drinks. So - way to go, hubby!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Friends and fellowship :)

I have to say, I love double dating. There's just something about going out with another married couple and getting connected, knowing that they get it, they get you... And besides all that, it's part of a healthy relationship (having friends besides your spouse, that is.) With my social tendencies (I'm what you might call an EXTROVERT), I think this comes more naturally to me than to Mark. Not to say that he doesn't enjoy it - I think he does - but he tends to take longer to warm up to people than I do. He's a great sport, though, and doesn't put up a fight, and goes out with pretty much anyone I ask him to, as long as I make the details happen :)

All this to say, we have lucked out to find some really good friends here. One such couple: Sarah and Thomas. I've worked with Sarah for about a year now, and she and Thomas just got married a couple weeks ago. We've gone out several times before, and tonight was one of those fun double date nights. We met at O'Charley's to eat dinner, had some great conversation, and then headed to Sir Goony's to play mini golf (after some debating at the bowling alley about whether we wanted to wait the 40-or-so minutes for a lane to open.)

Sarah and Thomas in front of the volcano :)

me and Mark in front of the volcano :)

We played about a round and a half before calling it a night, and we each got a hole in one - and some of us got more than one :) It was so nice just to be able to relax and enjoy each other as couples and friends for a while, not having to worry about moving or money or work or when are we going to sleep and what are we going to eat... Just good, quality fellowship time over a couple rounds of crazy mini golf. Made for a pretty good evening.

I think that's what I miss the most about college, some days. It's what has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to, working full-time and being on nights and being far away from my closest friends. I miss the fellowship, the social interaction, the ability to just call a friend and meet for lunch at a moment's notice. I miss my heart-to-hearts with Elissa, I miss my silly moments with Kristine, I miss my nursing study group, I miss the friendship that Andy and Mark and Suzie and I all had altogether, I miss all those relationships that helped form who I am now. I miss these sweet friends so much that the ache in my heart is tangible sometimes. But I've learned a few things during this time of loneliness, too - how to open up, and let new people in. I have been privileged to realize that new friends do not replace old ones, that old friends will never leave you or stop loving you. But new friends can bring such great new dimensions to your life too, new experiences, new memories made, and a broadened group of people to love, and who love you back. The first year or so that we were here, I was very lonely, missed my friends, I was shy at work, and reluctant to come out of my shell and open up to people a whole lot. I was almost afraid to try to form new relationships because I didn't want to betray the old ones. During this past year, though, I have found such a joy in getting to know the people I work with, some better than others. We have gone out on numerous of these double dates, with many different couples. Some we clicked with better than others; Sarah and I just ended up hitting it off right away. And I have been so very thankful for her friendship these last several months. It's so nice to have a girlfriend here to talk with, commiserate with, do girly things with, work with, and mourn over babies with. I do so appreciate her, and I hope she knows that. Mark and I will both miss her and Thomas very much when we move.

Me and Sarah

Just another reminder that God is in the business of loving people and providing what they need - even if all that means is a good friend in my immediate vicinity. Thanks - Mark and I both needed that :)


I decided to make a blogspot account so our friends and family can follow us on our journey through ... life in general, I guess, at this point. For those of you who are behind, here's an update on the Skinners (be forwarned, it's long... I promise that my future posts won't be this wordy):

We got married right after undergrad in June of '07 and moved to Chattanooga. I started working in the NICU, and while Mark valiantly searched for a job and skillfully played the role of "house husband." He found a job working as a Claim's Coordinator for US Express, did that for about 5 or 6 months, hated it, and quit. Then, after a couple months' search, he found a job as a front desk night auditor for the Hampton Inn - hated it too. Then, early this year, he got an interesting email from the head of the history department at UAB, saying that his original application for grad school back when we got married was received but never processed, and asking if he was still interested. "Heck yes!" was his reply - he was ready to get out of the no-education-required workfield - and we began the application process. He was quickly accepted (of course, since he's brilliant), and we started making plans to move to Birmingham this summer.
Enter: April's job search. Having worked in the NICU (my dream job) for two years, I'm sort of reluctant to change fields, particularly over to adult side (gag me with a spoon ... no offense to all those adult patients out there, just not my cup of tea...). However, with 7 NICUs in Birmingham and the surrounding area, I figured it would be a piece of cake to find something. WRONG. I've been job-searching since March, applied to four different jobs, heard from one (they were filling that position internally, thanks so much), and there hasn't been a single thing open since. I've made contacts, called nurse managers, checked the hospital websites daily: nothing.
Meanwhile, we went down to Birmingham and found this sweet apartment complex (Rollingwood, for anyone in the area) and managed to snag a 2BR townhouse that I think we'll really love. But here's the rub: we are moving in, for sure, on July 15th. I do not yet have a job. So I might be doing some taxi-ing back and forth, working here and living there, for a while. Which I'm not thrilled about, but I'm way more thrilled about that than the prospect of working on an adult psych floor at Brookwood (the only position that seems to be in abundance in Birmingham at this time.)
So. You're caught up. That's where the Skinners find themselves at the moment - caught in limbo (what else is new?) between Chattanooga/Birmingham, facing a LONG commute, and some LONG weeks of work, and one heck of a move. (My schedule is sort of ridiculous the week we move, provided that I still do not have a Bham job when that takes place. After that, the plan is to work Thurs, Fri, Sat, Mon, Tues, Wed with a Sunday thrown in there once a month to fulfill my weekend requirements, and that would secure my being off for 7 days in a row, during which I would trek back to Birmingham to live with my hubby and set up my house.)

Whew. Long explanation, complicated situation... I'm tired. I'm ready for this all to be done with...

So, blog followers, that's where we begin. I'm looking forward to see where we end up...