Saturday, October 25, 2008

The new job

Five weeks on the new job now and I'm just getting the courage up to form an opinion on it. I'm afraid to say I really like it. Afraid only because I don't want to jinx myself. Two and a half years on a cardiac floor will really get you superstitious.

Cory says I sleep better at night. I no longer feel nauseated each morning before work. Oh, and I get up at 6:40 instead of 5:15 - that's a reason to like the new job no matter the other details. I don't worry constantly about killing someone, even when I'm at home. I actually get to eat lunch when I want, and use the bathroom more than once in 12 hours if I need to. No more "code browns" (if you don't know what that is, just guess), shift changes, nasty on-call docs, incessant charting, isolation gowns, or safety officers pop-quizzing me with stupid questions like "how many seconds can this cleaning wipe be out of its package and still retain its antimicrobial properties?" instead of allowing me to answer the call lights (usually all four at once) going off in my patient rooms. I didn't realize how burned out I was until now. I haven't even worked up the courage to go back to clean out my locker.

I'm a tough person. I can handle the harsh realities that a nurse in the hospital must face, and I did it so well for so long that management was genuinely shocked when I handed in my resignation. I am a knowledgable and confident nurse, but the overwhelming patient load and acuity I was facing was too much, and I didn't realize how it was chewing away at me until I stepped away. I could handle the pressure, but couldn't handle feeling like I wasn't doing a good job. No matter how hard I tried, I was failing my patients, one after another.

I'm not sure what the future will bring with this new job, but I'm glad to have my life back.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Our final day on the road...

The next morning we arose early, planning to return to Niagara Falls State Park for a little more sightseeing before hitting the road for home. Our agenda for the day included a ride on the Maid of the Mist, a fleet of tour boats that sail upriver past the American Falls and right into the whirlpool beneath the monstrous Horseshoe Falls. Boy, were we in for a treat.

The Maid of the Mist has been in operation since 1846. It has hosted such distinguished passengers as Teddy Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, and Mikhail Gorbechev, to name a few. We also learned that in 1960, a crew on board a Maid of the Mist boat actually plucked a young boy from the water who had survived an accidental plunge over the falls.

The Maid of the Mist docked underneath the giant Observation Tower that reached out over the river on the American side. We were hearded like cattle through the admission line and down the elevators into the gorge, handed a protective poncho (blue, this time), and quickly boarded our boat. I chose a secure spot in the back corner of the boat, and soon we were headed upriver.

At first, we stayed dry. Very soon afterward, we experienced the attraction's namesake and felt ourselves getting sprayed with a fine mist from the American Falls as we sailed by. The falls were beautiful from this perspective, quite different from the vantage point we had the day before.

After we emerged from the gale that enveloped us while we passed the first set of falls, we could see the Horseshoe Falls directly ahead. The wind was quiet and dry again, for a short time at least. The boat just kept going until we were virtually surrounded by the falls on three sides. There was roaring water everywhere. It was absolutely fantastic. Probably one of the highlights of our trip, to be honest, even though it felt like there was someone standing nearby, gleefully tossing large buckets of water at us. By the end of the ride, we were both soaked. Cory even had to wring out his socks once we returned to the shore.

We took in the views at the top of the Observation Tower for quite some time, both reluctant to leave and admit that our long-awaited vacation had come to an end. I'm so glad we decided to come to Niagara Falls on our way home from Cooperstown. Definitely a hokey, touristy spot, but one still steeped in history and natural beauty. Finally, the time had come to head back to Indiana, and back to reality.

I'm already busy dreaming up our next road trip...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Niagara Falls: The First Day

We arose on Friday in Coopers-
town, refreshed after retiring early and getting a good night's sleep the night before. Once again, we were greeted with an amazing breakfast in the Landmark Inn's dining room, this one even better than the first. Thanks to my proton pump inhibitor, I was able to enjoy a cup of coffee for the second day in a row. By this time in our little road trip, I had officially fallen off of the ex-coffee-drinking wagon.

Our last stop on our week-long foray through New York State would be Niagara Falls, just north of Buffalo on the far west border of the state. The four-hour drive was uneventful and straightforward (no mountain-top detours involved); we arrived in the mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel on the American side, the Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel. Our room on the 23rd floor looked out over the Niagara River and toward Canada, but from that vantage point we couldn't see what all the fuss was about, this ancient, legendary and colossal force of nature called Niagara Falls. All we could see in the mid-afternoon glare was a diminutive, billowing cloud of mist rolling above the gorge. I knew this was the Falls, but I wasn't impressed at that point. Quite soon, I would be.

Ask anyone and they will tell you that the only way to see Niagara Falls is from the Canadian side. That wasn't an option for us. We hadn't taken the time to secure our passports in order to cross the border, now required by anti-terrorist legislation. I carefully researched the attractions on the internet ahead of time to make sure we made the most of our short stay.

Most of the notable sights on the American side were contained in Niagara Falls State Park. So, after dumping our gear at the hotel room and having a bite to eat, we headed there. Our first visit would be to the Cave of the Winds, a vintage attraction where sightseers don a yellow souvenir poncho and disposable sandals, descend an elevator deep into the gorge, then climb a series of redwood steps and decks right beneath Bridal Veil Falls. Once upon a time, the tour actually took tourists behind the falls where a natural cave existed; the cave is long gone after collapsing in the 1920s, but the attraction still bears its name.

We donned the requisite gear and headed down into the gorge. Emerging from the tunnel and walking along the boardwalk at the edge of the Niagara River, we still did not grasp the grandeur of the spectacle we were about to behold. Only once we reached the bottom of the platforms and gazed up to the roaring water overhead did we really comprehend how incredible this place really is. The only way to describe what we saw is through pictures, which still don't do it justice.

I was the only one to endure the "hurricane deck", so-named for the rushing water and swirling gusts that enveloped those tourists brave (or foolish?) enough to tred upon it. Cory took a pass on this feature, choosing instead to protect our cameras which, by this time, contained all of the memories of our vacation so far (almost 1000 images). OK, so I didn't really "brave" it - one little taste of the cold showering Bridal Veil Falls and I had had enough. Slightly sodden, we headed back up the elevator, and set out to explore the falls from above.

From the top of the American Falls, we were able to look down upon the decks of the Cave of the Winds and across the river to Canada. The observation areas were literally three or four feet from the edge of the rushing waters in some places, and we couldn't help but be morbidly fascinated with the power of the Falls and their close proximity: a pair of aluminum guard rails were the only things standing in the way of certain death. Yes, the Canadian side of the Falls might have the best panoramic view, but one could only truly experience the energy of the falls while standing on American soil.

After our close-up observation of the American Falls, we walked to the other side of Goat Island to check out Horseshoe Falls. And we thought the American Falls were spectacular (no photos of Horseshoe Falls here because our view the next day was even more magnificent, see my next post). The Horseshoe Falls were colossal and mesmerizing, even from our limited vantage point on Terrapin Point. We had heard that the Falls were illuminated at night, so we settled down on a bench and waited for dusk. After a few hours of relaxing beside the rushing water, we abandoned our wait for the lights, deciding that the Falls were amazing enough in the daylight. Cold, tired, and elated that we had chosen to stop here on our way home from Cooperstown, we headed back to the hotel and casino to donate some of our remaining cash to the roulette tables.
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