One week ago this past Thursday, I was at work on an absolutely normal, if hectic, day. So was one of my colleagues of many years (for privacy, I will not use any names). We have worked together on our floor for over 11 years, and have seen our children grow up over those years. Toward the end of the shift, my colleague, a mother of 4 and an extremely caring and compassionate woman, received a call that has completely altered the life she knew. In that phone call, she was notified that her oldest daughter, a beautiful 24 year old young woman, was being brought to the EC by ambulance after having had a seizure at work. As a nurse, she knew she could not judge the situation without more information, but as a mother, I saw the fear in her face and her shaking hands as she asked me to take over for her as charge nurse so she could go down to the EC to be with her daughter. A look that a mother instantly recognizes and dreads. A look of complete shock and surprise.

One week, and 2 brain surgeries later, her daughter remains in a deep coma, induced by the neurosurgeons to keep her absolutely calm. There is no news as to the prognosis, or even to the cause of the bleeds or seizure. She had no warning. It came from out of the blue. Like me, and everyone else on that shift, I am sure she had come to work never thinking anything was going to happen, and now she does not know what the future holds for her daughter, her family, her life as she knew it.

The point: none of us knows what the future holds. Each and every day we go about our routine lives, we send our loved ones off to work or school, we work, we laugh, we do all the usual stuff. Not one of us expects that we might receive that split second call that will change our lives forever. I am sure she has replayed the last “normal” moments she and her daughter had before the walls came tumbling down. Knowing the kind of person she is, I am sure things were good and right between her and her daughter. Can we all say the same?

We must all treasure every single moment we are given, and that especially means with our loved ones. Life is too short for us to allow other things to interfere with the time we are given, the “normal” times we all take for granted. I know for sure that God has a plan in all that has happened to my friend, even if none of us can see it at this time. Even if it is to make those of us around her wake up to His precious gifts, the people in our lives, and the time we spend (or waste) with them. We should all hug our loved us a little longer, tell them what they mean to us more often, and love them like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

Be blessed (and please say a prayer for my friend and her daughter),



Yes, I am angry….

I haven’t blogged in a while, have had so much going on in our lives, and have been working so much. But I really could not let today go by without making a comment on another turning of the tides in healthcare.

The Institutes for Health, the Joint Commission, and the federal government have all decided that in order for hospitals to receive a certain level of reimbursement, they must have at least 80% of Registered Nurses with a BSN or higher (among other dictates).  The very large TEACHING hospital where I work has jumped on the bandwagon lock, stock, and barrel. You will notice I capitalized TEACHING. And there lies the heart of my anger and frustration.

I have an Associates Degree in Nursing, which now makes me not good enough. Despite nearly 26 years in the trenches so to speak, and nearly 12 years on the same cardiovascular unit, I am the unwashed. I am one of the “seasoned” nurses that answers the questions and provides the tips and advice to the younger nurses on a day to day basis. I have always loved that they do come to me, and I hope it will continue. It lifts me up when they return to me and say “hey, that really worked”, or some other comment. But according to the dictates I can not precept or mentor a nursing student in a BSN program.  I asked someone very high up in our organization “so you would rather have a BSN with 6 months experience as a nurse teaching a student?” The answer, sadly, was yes.

Now to the point. The extra 2 years of a 4 year degree does not deal with caring for patients per say. Most nursing schools do mix up the courses so that it appears all four years are dealing with patient care. The truth is the patient care aspect CAN and IS completed in 2 years. The remaining upper level courses scattered throughout the curriculum deal with theory and research and leadership and management. When a patient is in crisis, none of that matters. What matters is does the nurse have the skills and knowledge to save that patient’s life. Period.

I am in no way disrespecting the nurses who chose to complete a 4 years degree. They worked hard and spent much additional money for their degree. I work with many talented and caring young nurses, and I love their freshness to the profession. I am proud to be a nurse, I never wanted to be anything but, and it saddens me that my contributions to my profession are no longer enough for those who write and make policy, but would not know a heart attack from indigestion if their lives depended on it.

And it all comes back to the god of money and reimbursement. Somewhere lost in the mix are the patients, without whom the issue of reimbursement would be moot anyway.

So yes, I am angry…but resigned. I do not plan to go back to school to study theory and leadership since for 26 years my education has served me well. We’ll see if I still have a job in 2016.

Be blessed,


An Immeasurable Loss

Last night a restaurant went up in flames. It was a total loss. The Grits Cafe in Forsyth, Georgia was a touch of Southern Cooking with flare, and although I had eaten there only once, the Grits Martini (shrimp and grits in a mushroom base) spoiled me for shrimp and grits anywhere else. The fire, the origin of which is as I write this still unknown, was so large it required 3 counties to send firefighters to put out the blaze and to protect the block of businesses in which the Grits was located. The Cafe, also known as the best kept food secret in Georgia” had a legion of regulars as well as travelers pass through its doors since opening in 1999.

Just a short time ago, the owners were interviewed by the local paper, and said they intent to rebuild the Grits, though they don’t know when or where. 35-40 employees of the Griits are out of work because of the fire, and my prayers are certainly with them, especially in this economy. More than likely the owners were insured, and they will be able to rebuild the Grits. As the owner is trained in the culinary arts, the menu will probably remain the same. Hopefully sooner, rather than later, the regulars and the travelers will be able to eat at the Grits once again.

But there was an immeasurable loss as the Grits went up in flames, and that loss touches me and my family. For many years, my brother has used some of his spare time and applied his talents to painting. Not ordinary brush painting, mind you, he uses a palette knife and oil to create the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. With a vivid use of color and a keen eye for detail, he painted many of his landscapes from pictures that either he took, or were provided by others when he was commissioned to paint for them. Years ago, he started hanging his paintings in the Grits Cafe, and there were times the owner sold a painting off the walls  to a patron. Some, like those in the Bar, were commissioned by the Grits for their permanent collection, and some were just not for sale because my brother liked them so much!  I have one, hanging over the fireplace in our home. It  is a landscape entitled “The North Georgia Mountains in Fall” which he gave us as a wedding present, the only “real” art that we own.   Yes, the fire that destroyed the Grits also destroyed around 20 or more of his paintings, representing over 15 years of time and talent. I am still literally sick to my stomach when I think about it, and I admit I cried when I heard. My brother is not one to get upset and emotional, I got all the genes for that, but I can not even imagine the loss for him. It is a loss that no amount of money could ever replace, and no amount of time and work could ever duplicate.

And once again, I find myself asking “why?”. Is it really just because nothing we do here on earth really matters that much? We still have my brother, just not his paintings, is that the way I should look at it? I find myself constantly at odds with why things happen to good and honest people, when it seems all the bad people in the world are the ones that never have to deal with the bad. Is that because they are getting theirs on earth, but the good have to wait? For now, I am just mourning the loss of his work, and am thankful to still have my brother, thankful that God blessed him with such a great talent, and praying he will pick up the knife again. I would say start over, but there really is no starting over. It is the going forward that keeps us going.

And by the way, if you would like to see some of the paintings that were lost in the Grits fire, and see his work, some of which are in many private collections throughout the US and Canada,  his website is http://www.jstallings.com


Be blessed,


Today is celebrated all over the world as St. Patrick’s Day. For one day every year, everyone can be Irish. You can wear the green, eat cabbage, drink Guinness Stout (or any beer for that matter), and just celebrate the day. St. Patrick was a martyr for his faith, and is recognized as the patron saint of Ireland. All of Ireland, for that was back in the day when there was one Ireland.

From your history books, most people know there are 2 Irelands now, the North (or as the British call it Northern Ireland) and the Republic. My heart lies in the Republic, but my roots are from Hillsborough in the North, where my mother’s people are from. There have been “troubles” in Ireland from the 17th century, since Anglican Protestants took control of the north. In 1921, the United Kingdom took over and annexed 6 counties in the North under British rule, effectively taking those 6 counties as their own. Since 1921, there has been much bloodshed, and many “political” groups trying to take back those 6 counties. The IRA, well known by all, was the military arm and Sinn Fein the political arm of the IRA. In 2010, the United Kingdom and the Republic signed an agreement to turn the policing and justice departments of the 6 counties back over to “home rule”. Although this “peace” has been brokered, many Republican’s sentiments of “a nation once again” will never be put to rest.

I have been blessed to have visited Ireland, known by many as the Emerald Isle. It is said that there are 100’s of shades of green there, and I believe it. North and South, there is such beauty, many know it as “God’s Country”. In the South, I have stood beneath a centuries old dolman and picked wildflowers on The Buren, chased sheep in the meadows of Ballyvaughn, held tightly to my son’s ankles as he dangled over the sheer drop to the sea on the Cliffs of Moher, and stood in the parapets of the Rock of Cashel. I ate dinner with my fingers out of a bread bowl at Bunratty Castle (and there discovered a plaque that informed me another ancestor, William Penn, had lived there as a child.)

In the North, in Antrim, I walked out on the stones of the Giant’s Causeway, and visited the Bushmill’s Distillery.We climbed hills, visited castle ruins in meadows after crawling through fences (and reassuring the friendly cows we meant no harm), and drove for miles along the beautiful cliffs on the coast.

But also, in the North, we visited friends in Derry (Londonderry to the British). Crossing into Derry, I have never been more frightened. Guard towers, soldiers, machine guns abounded. For what? To keep someone in? To keep others out? To intimidate? Graffiti on beautiful stone walls proclaiming “Brits out”. A feeling of tension and strain for the lovely people of Derry. And remembering my fears as my mom and dad attended a wedding in the North, the father of the bride to be was a high ranking member of Sinn Fein, and the provisional leader of Sinn Fein was a guest. Would they be safe? Would someone smuggle a bomb into this family affair?

For now, at least, the Troubles seem to be at an end. Sinn Fein is no longer the powerful political presence it once was, and the IRA has supposedly laid down it’s weapons. It has been years since I last visited Derry, and I wonder if Bebe and Sean rest any easier tonight in that lovely old city. The dream of a totally reunited Ireland remains just that, a dream. But a dream dear to the heart of many Irishmen and women.

So today, as you who are not Irish celebrate your one day to be so, remember what it means to be Irish, and the blood, sweat and tears which built that country.

Slan agus beannacht leat!!!


This morning, I am having an awful time dealing with my feelings about the devastating storms that swept through many states yesterday. Waking up this morning to the scenes on the TV was just too much for me, and I broke down and cried. I cried for all those affected, those who will forever be changed by the events. I cried for those who died and for those who were injured. I cried for those who lost everything they had. But I also cried because I simply do not understand “why”.

I love God, I say that I trust Him, so why do I have the audacity to even wonder “why”. For those who do not believe, as I do, it is the perfect opportunity to offer that worn out phrase “How could a good and loving God allow such a thing to happen?”, and I will say to them: I do not know. For I am not worthy to know His business. My husband, in comforting me this morning said “well, honey, it is not time for you to know “why” yet”. It may never be that time.

The people of Henryville, Indiana, especially hard hit by the storm, were out this morning surveying the wreckage, and here is the thing: to the man (or woman) those interviewed were out, regardless of their losses, looking to help their neighbors. Speaking of rebuilding, of pulling together, of helping each other. Of being thankful to be alive, and for the smaller things in the face of such a huge task ahead. All while their town lay in complete ruin.

So maybe that is the message we must take away when this kind of tragedy happens. We may ask “why”, and I believe God understands that as human beings, it is a question on all our minds. But this is the time, more than any other, that we must trust in HIM, and maybe He wants us to do just that. In doing so, more hearts will draw closer to Him. More people will have faith in Him. More people will reach out to their brothers to help, and after all, isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Love one another.

To all those affected by these powerful storms, I offer prayers. I also offer thanks to God, because yesterday, my daddy, attending a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, spent the afternoon in the basement of the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville, while 20 miles away, Henryville, Indiana was leveled. He is safe this morning. Maybe instead of questioning “why”, I should just be grateful. Instead of asking “why”, I should just know that God is good, He has a plan, and in everything, we must remember and trust in that. No matter how hard it is. No matter how little we understand.

Be blessed, Crystal

I’m sure you have heard the expression “rank has its privileges”. As an Army veteran, I can assure you I have heard that expression more times than I can count. And for the most part it is true. But what about for the “other” part? I had a chance to ponder that question last Friday afternoon, in the midst of all we had going on. While preparing for my father in law’s memorial service, I heard on the news that His Royal Highness Prince Johan Friso had been buried in an avalanche while on a skiing vacation in Austria. Now before you start to think that Crystal (who wouldn’t even know how to wear a tiara, much less be comfortable in one) has lost her mind to even be thinking about that, let me elaborate on what to me is the obvious message in this tragedy.

Friso, as he prefers to be called, is the middle son of the Queen of the Netherlands, brought up in palaces and raised in “privilege”.  According to reports, Friso was buried under at least a foot of snow for at least 15 and possibly 20 minutes. He had to be resuscitated after being dug from the snow, and airlifted to a hospital at least 30 minutes away, where he is in a coma to this day. The news reports also say “the Queen and the Princess are by his side”. What is painfully obvious to me is that the Queen (his MOTHER) and the Princess (his WIFE) are as utterly helpless to do anything for him as you or I would be under similar circumstances. The Queen of the Netherlands is a rich, powerful, and privileged woman, but with everything she has, she can not help her son. And I am sure her pain, as well as the Princess’s pain is as unbearable as any common persons would be. Friso also has 2 young daughters, who I’m sure are wondering “what happened to my daddy”.

My point in this is that we are all children of a mighty God. No one understands why a mighty and loving God allows tragedy to happen to His children. I do understand that God, as much as He loves us, allows us to make choices, and thereby to make mistakes. At the time of his accident, Friso was skiing “off piste” (which if you don’t know means skiing outside of the marked and groomed trails) in a 4 out of 5 avalanche condition. He made that choice, and now there are consequences. God loved him even as he allowed him to go down that mountain. God loves his mother, his wife, and his 2 little girls, and surely God’s heart is broken for them. I believe it does break God’s heart when His children suffer. And it breaks His heart when we make the wrong choices in life, but He allows us to do so.

I pray each day that I will make good choices in all I do. And it is by my faith that I go through each day, knowing I am a child of God. And when I say my prayers, I will lift up all who are sick and suffer, including my brother and sisters in Christ: the Prince, the Princess, and the Queen. We are all precious and equal in HIS eyes.

Be blessed, Crystal

Each year on February 14th, florists business across the globe are booming. Roses by the thousands are delivered, and in any given store there are more cards and candy than one can count. For retailers, it is a very sweet holiday. Red and pink and tiny cupids shooting arrows abound. Everywhere you go, you can’t help but know it is Valentine’s Day. Even on Facebook, pictures were being posted in the early hours of bouquets and candy received.

In our home, Steve is under very strict instructions NOT to send me roses on Valentine’s Day, and he never has. He has surprised me with my favorite pink or lavender roses on other days, when it was totally unexpected, and to me, a truly sweet gesture out of the blue. He knows it would throw me into a fit if he spent upwards of $75 or more on a dozen red roses because it is traditionally expected.  And Steve does NOT want to throw me into a fit! 🙂  Our tradition is a card (but this year I am not expecting a card at all because Steve’s mind has been in Oklahoma with his daddy and he probably doesn’t even realise it’s Feb 14th) and a kiss and a Happy Valentine’s Day “I love you”. I did remember to get Steve’s card a while back, and I put a big old Kit Kat bar in the envelope. It’s his favorite candy bar. And it is enough. For us, every day is Valentine’s Day. We completely love each other, and for me, when Steve takes out the trash, washes the dishes, or runs the vacuum cleaner, or just wraps me in a big hug, those things are “roses” enough, and they are completely free and given in love.

Since Steve’s father passed away Saturday, I too have had the opportunity to give him “roses”. I have held his hand and sat quietly while he talked about his memories of his father. I have hugged him close as he wept.  I have patted his shoulder as I walked by. I fixed him a favorite meal, and made him iced coffee. Little everyday “roses” that speak quietly to him “I love you, I am here for you”.

The point is, true love really doesn’t need a commercialized holiday. True love is how you act every single day, in good times and bad. True love is the everyday “roses”. Yes, red roses are beautiful, one of God’s amazing creations. But I wouldn’t trade my everyday “roses” for a whole field. Delivered in a semi-truck!

Be blessed, Crystal