It has been 7yrs and I have an itch. For months I have struggled with wanting a change in my professional life but I wasn’t sure that I was brave enough to jump off that cliff. But what is life without moments that make you catch your breath and wonder what the heck you were thinking.

For a long time I have been more of a hand therapist than an occupational therapist and each year I felt like I was drifting away from my profession. I work in an office full of physical therapists and I was starting to become one of them (no offence ment – I love PT’s – especially my husband). I was getting mighty comfortable wearing my nice work clothes, dealing with patients who (for the most part) could take care of themselves. Of course when you’ve injured your hand or arm there are things you need help with but usually it’s the “clean” stuff. I can’t even remember the last time I helped a patient transfer to a toilet or shower chair.

So I am ready to jump into something totally different. In January my New Year’s resolution will be to embrace the reason I became a OT in the first place – to make the biggest difference possible in the lives of people who are in need. I am so torn because I know there are not many hand therapists out there but I am very excited about joining my fellow therapists in the home health field. I am excited about the opportunity to come into people’s homes and make an impact on their lives.

I am also scared! I am used to being the one people go to with hand questions, the specialist. Soon I will be the newbie, the one who doesn’t know what the heck she’s doing. But that kind of change is good. It will keep me humble. I don’t want to ever get so comfortable in life that I’m not willing to be stretched. Life is not about reaching a goal and then coasting along enjoying the view – at least not for me. Life is about making the biggest impact on the people God puts in your path and allowing the people around you to touch your life as well. I’m still learning how to walk that out. It is too easy for me to pull into my shell because it is safe there. But I don’t want to be safe right now.

It is possible I will not like home health – that it won’t be the place for me – and I may regret leaving my job that I still love. But I am willing to take that chance. I don’t want to look back on life and see a lack of mistakes or failures. I want to look back and see all the things I’ve learned and know that I learned as much from my mistakes (or more) as I did from my successes.

So I’m standing on the edge, ready to jump, ready to feel the wind in my face and my heart in my throat as I rush towards my next adventure.


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Like a Child

One of my goals in life is to forever be teachable. For some reason (especially in the healthcare industry) admitting you do not know something is frowned upon. We should all know that learning doesn’t end when you walk out of a classroom – I would actually argue that most learning takes place somewhere far away from classrooms. So why is it that even when someone knows they have more to learn they are terrified to admit it?

There is nothing more infuriating than watching someone do something wrong, watching their frustration grow, trying to give some instruction and then have them respond “I know! I know!” and continue to do it the wrong way. Maybe it is my delivery, and I can work on that. But instead of dwelling on the frustration from the situation I am thinking about my own response to instruction.

On the flip side there is nothing more contagious than the enthusiasm of a child when they are learning something that really excites them – the wonder on their face as they watch a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, the wide eyes as they see a wrecking ball hit an old building (and then rush off to recreate the scene with all available objects and your purse).

Children are told over and over that there is so much for them to learn. They are praised and rewarded for learning and then somewhere on the road through adulthood we stop praising ourselves. Instead we feel bad that we don’t know how to properly eat a lobster or what APR means on those car sale ads. But this is only a bad thing if we shrug our shoulders and say “Who cares?” or worse yet “I know! I know!”

So my goal is to embrace my lack of knowledge and admit it, to chase down the facts like a child – without any self-consciousness or fear – with anticipation and expectancy.  I want to pay attention to what the people around me are saying – what they are teaching me and I want to learn. But first I will look up the definition of APR.

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The Creped Crusader

When I married my husband (almost 10 years ago), I married into a culture with some of the most amazing food I have ever tasted. One of my favorite shows – No Reservations – has featured Vietnamese food on more than three episodes. Anthony Bourdain has travelled all over the world and where does he want to live? Vietnam.

One of my favorite dishes we have learned to cook is Banh Xeo. It is a crepe that is flavored with coconut milk and turmeric. Add to it shrimp, pork belly (or bacon), onion, bean sprouts and mushrooms. It took us a while to perfect the recipe but here is one recipe to watch – Banh Xeo tutorial.

To thoroughly enjoy we wrapped part of the crepe in a baby mustard green leaf with fresh herbs (basil, mint and a spade-shaped leaf) and dipped in nuoc mum sauce (fish sauce mixed with water, sugar, lime juice, garlic and of course hot peppers).

So while this has absolutely nothing to do with hands I just could not resist sharing the feast we had last night. I love my husband for many reasons and yes – food is one of them.

The kids (ages 6 & 3) have not embraced banh xeo yet. They do however LOVE nuoc mum and the youngest has been known to through a mini tantrum if there is not enough on her rice. In fact she will not touch rice unless it has fish sauce on it. I’m ok with the fact that they eye the crispy crepes with suspicion. That just means more for us!


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Chuc Mung Nam Moi! AKA – Happy New Year

If we lived in Vietnam we would still be celebrating Tet, the lunar new year. We would be traveling to the homes of friends and family, eating amazing food, and watching our children collect the little red envelopes with money in them. But we are in the US and my in-laws live on the south side of the States.

I miss Ba and Me on holidays like this. I miss the stronger connection they have with Vietnamese traditions and memories. But we still celebrate. We took my very American parents to a Vietnamese restaurant owned by a friend. We watched my parents clean their plates and praise the food. We watched my friend’s young son chase our daughter around the tables and listened to the laughter and squeals.  We might as well have been in a friend’s home.

We called Ba and Me and my 6 year old son proudly stated the phrase he had practicing all day, the phrase it took me 7 years to pronounce right “Chuc Mung Nam Moi!”

We handed our kids a little red envelope and we took pictures of them in their new clothes. I know that I cannot make the same traditions and memories my husband grew up with but I am blessed by the new. I watch my husband as he watches the kids carefully open their envelopes and I know that he is blessed too.

So to all the people who stumble across this blog I wish you a new year full of joy and peace, prosperity and health.

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Clean (verb not adj.) House

Let me start by saying that I am preaching to myself more than to any other person who may stumble upon this post. Cleaning house is therapeutic – especially when it is done the right way. That leaves a big question on the table: What is the right way?  Well I’ll take the easy way out and say that it is simply the right way for you.

Ok so I would not be writing this if that was the final answer. Here are just a few tips I am trying to follow myself and ones I’ve seen work for others.

  1. Break the job up into manageable pieces – no one wants to spend an entire day cleaning the entire house (well not any sane person).
  2. Use proper body mechanics – cleaning is no fun when it hurts and you cannot clean at all if your back goes out on you. Learn more here.
  3. When you make a mess clean it up right away – this is the maintainance part of cleaning and makes the bigger jobs much smaller.
  4. Share the work – if there are other people in the house then they need to help with the cleaning. Children can take empty trash cans back to their place, spouses can carry the laundry basket back upstairs.
  5. Reward yourself! Take time to sit back and enjoy your hard work. Pat yourself on the back and let yourself enjoy something that is truly just for you.

Besides not being mortified when a neighbor expectantly drops by, cleaning has other benefits. I am less likely to trip over a stack of books and break my wrist (I do not want to be my own patient). I can find what I need more quickly. I enjoy my house more, and I actually like sitting in my bedroom reading a book rather than losing myself in the TV. Also I feel pretty good that I have made a personal goal (keep the house more clean/neat) and I am getting it accomplished.

I used to treat cleaning like the 50 yard dash – a sprint to the finish line that left me exhausted. I’ve realized that cleaning (the verb) is more like a marathon. When I pace myself but stay moving then the job becomes monumentally easier. I don’t think I will ever truly enjoy the act of cleaning but I am learning to enjoy the results enough that I don’t mind it as much.

So what are your cleaning secrets? Please leave a comment because I am still learning. Thanks!

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Snow Day

My little one’s insomnia was the result of an ear infection. Once the doctor said “oh gross” and I knew she wasn’t talking about ear wax build, up my conscience was relieved. I was now justified for taking the day off. And I loved my day off. The kids and I got to enjoy Taco Bell, a little TV, some snowman building and hot (more like tepid) cocoa.

I am reading a book written by Ann Voskamp and it has caused me to pause. Life rushes by us so fast. It is easy to get up every morning, drink our coffee, go to work, come home, eat dinner, help with homework, read stories, say prayers, go to bed, wake up and start all over again. I am trying to give thanks for every moment- the good and the bad, cherish every moment, and realize that even the mundane is full of God.

I am so conscious of how much I take for granted or worse – complain about. I am convicted of my lack of gratitude. Even on the worst day my life is overwhelmingly full. Even on the best day I don’t give thanks to God enough. I want to find joy right where I am, in my job, with my children, my husband, my messy house, my car, my struggles, and my failings. God wastes nothing.

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It’s 8:30am and I’m on my second cup of coffee. The kids are eating breakfast at the coffee table and SpongeBob is on the TV. I’m not going to work. Usually I am wrestling with doubt and guilt at this point but today there is snow on the ground so I’m probably not canceling as many patients as usual.

So what’s the reason for this homebound day? Last night my three year old was up until 11:30 refusing to sleep. Her reasons alternated between not being tired, being afraid of the “bad stories” (aka bad dreams) and needing either food or drink. Unfortunately a small but more constant theme was that her right ear is hurting. Now she is happy as a clam and full of energy – but still says her right ear is “sick.”

The guilt comes from struggling with this question. When is my child sick enough to justify cancelling the appointments of 8-10 other patients who need hand therapy. If they are seasoned patients then I don’t worry too much – they all have homework, exercises to be done no less than 3x/day. But if it’s a patient who is brand new, who needs a splint after surgery, or exercises to keep the newly repaired part from stiffening up with scar tissue then I’m a wreck.

I wouldn’t struggle with guilt if there was another person to step in for me and take on the priority people. Then there is the possibility that the pediatrician will say “it’s just a virus, no ear infection” and I realize that she would have probably been fine at day care. Ok no judging – that’s where she got the virus in the first place (and my no-break rule is no school if there is any fever or vomiting).

So here I sit waiting for the doctor’s office to open, wondering how the snow on the road will affect my chances of getting in. I hope my patients are doing their homework and are relieved that they don’t have to venture out in the weather.

One more note: I love my job and I love my kids more. While I struggle with how to balance the needs of patients with the needs of my kids I am so grateful that I have the kind of job that I know makes a difference. I am spoiled by the instant gratification I get when someone tells me they can finally clasp their bra, open the car door, or fix dinner like they used to.

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