Interesting Conversations with Eccentric Little Postmasters

I walked into the local post office to mail wedding invitations. I spotted the stocky, little man with a snowy beard and twinkly eyes. That was the beginning of another day-brightening interaction at the post office. I had been in to mail my graduation invitations three months ago and had met this little man for the first time then. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I remember you!

Postmaster: You dooo?! Nah…you couldn’t. I have an alibi.

Me: And it’s just because of comments like that that I remember you!

Postmaster: Well…what can I do for you?

Me: I’m getting married and need to mail all these invitations. [as I plop my box of invitations, my wallet, my phone on the counter and settle in for the long haul]

Postmaster: Why are you doing that?

Me: Because I’m in love and I like him.

Postmaster: Do you have a dog? [leans in closer and says confidentially to me] You should get a dog. [presumably the assumption is then I wouldn’t want a husband]

Me: No, I don’t have a dog. I don’t really like animals.

Postmaster: Well, I figure if you’re gonna have to pick up after somebody, it may as well be someone you like.

Me: Well, I do like him. And he’s lived on his own for 11 years so he’s used to picking up after himself.

Postmaster: [with a new enlightenment] Oh, so he’s already stuck in his own rut?!

Me: Well….maybe a little.

Me: So are you married?

Postmaster: Thirty-seven years. We don’t talk anymore. We don’t have anything in common. She goes on vacation. I go on vacation. After the kids left, we didn’t have nothin’ in common anymore. We say hi to each other occasionally. Yeah…it’s alright. [referring to marriage]

Me: So do you have any roses or hearts stamps?

Postmaster: I got flowers [pulls out ugly, gaudy flower stamps]. Or I got cowboys.

Me: No!!! I do not want cowboys on my wedding invitations.

Postmaster: Well…why not? Maybe he does. Is he paying for these? He should be paying for these.

Me: No, I want roses, or hearts, or something romantic.

Postmaster: Oooohhh…something romantic. [rummages around in his folders of stamps] Well, I don’t have hearts.

Postmaster: [cheerfully] But I have ravens!! [and he hands me the ugliest, black raven stamps]

Me: No, no! I don’t want ravens either.

I finally settled on some multi-colored, sparkly circle with the word celebrate stamps. It would have to do. He didn’t have hearts, or roses, or anything romantic. But we do plan to celebrate on October 9, so I figured they would do.

I stood there for quite a while slowly unsticking stamps and sticking them to envelopes and he said, “See! It’s already a lot of work!”

Me: I know! And I’m not even married yet.

Postmaster: Exactly! That’s what I mean.

By now, I was standing there getting organized and other customers were now waiting in line behind me.

Postmaster: Isn’t somebody gonna talk this girl out of getting married? [no comment from working people in a hurry to get there package mailed and move on]

At this point, eccentric little postmaster A turned me over to little postmaster B and left. For lunch, presumably. I stood there and stuck 177 stamps on 177 envelopes. It took awhile. As I stood there, postmaster B helped other customers and we chatted in between.

A lady came in and mailed a book. He offered her to mail it book rate. It saved her $8. After she left, I asked postmaster B what book rate is. He explained how if you are mailing books, instructional DVDs, sheet music, etc. you can mail it much cheaper than regular priority mail because it’s educational and tends to be really heavy. I learned something new. How nice of the postal service system.

Then postmaster B began to talk about how bad last holiday season was and we discussed what priority mail is, and how tracking a package works. He told me he’s worked at the post office for 35 years but things have gotten so bad he might leave. Then he commented on how much work it was just to get the invitations done.

Me: Yup. But it’s fun work. And I’m sure marriage will be yucky work sometimes too. But that’s life.

Postmaster B: Yup. But some hard work makes life good. That’s just how it is.

Partway through, a Hispanic gentleman who didn’t know much English came in and bought a few stamps. He looked at me stamping my huge stack of envelopes and sympathetically made a motion with his hand demonstrating a big stack. I agreed and told him, “Yeah…it’s a lot…but hey! It means we have a lot of friends. So that’s good.” He nodded pleasantly in agreement.

I finally finished stamping all my envelopes.

Postmaster B: [as he takes all my freshly stamped envelopes and I wrap up to leave] I can see your husband is gonna be a happy man.

Me: Well, thanks!

And I bounced out of the post office with a big smile on my face. I just love old-fashioned things like going to the post office, and finding the perfect stamp, and chatting with eccentric little postmasters.

The Princess and The Frog Chronicles: An Introduction

“Now and then, in this workaday world, things do happen in the most delightful storybook fashion, and what a comfort it is.”

Louisa May Alcott

Sometimes things happen that are so delightful, so precious, or simply so funny they ought to be shared. Welcome to a new blog series. It follows no pattern, it has no deadline, and it has no script. A post will appear whenever it pleases. I make no promises. You can draw your own conclusions as to the interpretation of the stories.


She wore her favorite navy bridesmaid dress. Her hair was bleached from a long summer of sun. She wore her white sandals with heels that made her feel awkwardly taller than the Frog. Regardless, she felt quite beautiful and princess-y. To top it all off, her neighbor girl pinned a lovely corsage of yellow and peach mini roses on her shoulder–a gift from the Frog, of course.

The fall air was crispy and clear. The early evening sun danced over their glowing faces as the neighbor girl performed due documentation of the pair with flaming falls colors in the background. The Princess took his arm for the first time for the picture. She wasn’t sure what he would think and doesn’t to this day, so I guess I can’t tell you either.

The two of them were mildly psyched about the evening. The Princess had no idea where he was taking her, but she knew it was a restaurant, a really nice one 50 minutes away. Congenial conversation flowed.

The couple arrived at a lovely restaurant. The Princess felt rather conspicuous and out of her league but reveled in the moment. The hostess asked if they were both over 21. “Yes, yes! Quite!” They replied. The hostess sat them at a booth in the cozy, softly lit dining room. The Princess spotted the patio about then and was dying to sit out there instead, but when questioned, insisted the booth was fine. She didn’t want to be so high-maintenance. The Frog knew she really wanted to sit outside. Since the Frog lacked a fear of what others think, he asked the waitress if they could be seated on the patio instead.

“Of course!” She replied. So the Princess and the Frog followed her past the other diners sipping from delicate glasses and wielding cutlery expertly. Her long skirt swirled around her and she stepped out on the patio completely enraptured. The evening was cool but not so cold it was uncomfortable to be outside. Twinkle lights strung over the open patio lit the dining area providing perfect ambience. A little patio table and two chairs sat next to a lovely fire pit. No other diners were present. It was perfect! The Princess thanked the Frog profusely and delighted in the setting.

The happy pair smiled, chattered, laughed, dined, and relished each other’s presence. As they finished up their meal, the waitress appeared and awkwardly stammered around. “Ummm….I don’t want to be rude and I’m not sure how to ask this. But…the other guests inside are wondering if you guys just got married? They just thought you looked so happy and they want to buy you guys a dessert.” The Princess and the Frog looked at each other and giggled with merriment. It was only their 6th date. They assured the waitress they indeed were only dating, but she gave them a free dessert on the house anyway. They didn’t decline and it was quite scrumptious.

When she had gone, the Princess turned to the Frog and said, “It’s the dress! These guests aren’t used to anyone wearing a dress unless it’s a very special occasion, like a wedding!” He replied, “No. It’s because you’re stunning!”

As the sun faded and they squeezed a few last bites of dessert into already stuffed stomachs, the Princess slipped off her sandals so she could warm her toes by the fire. Darkness fell enhancing the flickering firelight and twinkle lights above. The Princess noticed how the fire light danced in the Frog’s warm, hazel eyes. The light conversation of the evening slowed and deepened. The Princess tucked her chin on her knees as she soaked up the fire’s warmth and started asking the Frog questions–one of her favorite things to do. What was discussed will forever remain a mystery to you.

Finally, the waitress, who had long ago taken check and tip, returned apologetically stating she needed to turn off the fire pit because they were closing. “But,” she assured them, “you guys can stay as long as you want!”

The two rose to leave. It was time to go anyway. The Princess thought to herself that she had not expected dating to be such fun. The Frog cracked jokes forever after that the two should always carry pictures of themselves together to hand out to people who stared at them a little longer than necessary (and maybe for people who thought they were married when they weren’t).

To be continued…

“Romantic Love Is The Strongest Addiction”

Disclaimer: The rough draft of this post was originally written on 10/26/18, over two years ago. Keep that in mind. I was riffling through my computer archives and came across it today and decided to brush it up and post for the kicks and cheerios of it. Enjoy and let me know below why you think you fell in love with your spouse if you’re married. If you’re single, give me your opinions. 😊


Since we all know that I am the most qualified to speak about romantic love (wink, wink), I’d like to share a few thoughts today that were inspired by watching this TEDtalk by Helen Fisher. She is also who I quote for my title. In this speech she presents the research she conducted on what goes on in the human brain when someone is β€œin love.” Her research is fascinating and enlightening. However, I have a few comments on her conclusions.

The Fascinating Facts According to Fisher

  • β€œRomantic love is one of the most addictive substances on earth” (Fisher, 2008).
  • It gives a person the same rush that one gets from a dose of cocaine.
  • The more elusive the prize (returned love) the stronger the attraction, and there are things happening in the brain biologically that drives this.
  • Physically, you can have the same brain activity going on 25 years later when you are still in love as you did at 21 and head-over-heels in love.
  • Love is a need, a drive.

The Continuing Research

  • What causes you to fall in love with one person over another? As she said, when you walk into a room, why are you attracted to this one person very strongly, and not to everyone. [It is a given that they are all equally intelligent, of equal socioeconomic status, and similar religious beliefs.]

Helen Fisher is now working on this question. She has even developed a dating site of her own to help her collect data for her research. It’s called Chemistry.com. She believes there are not only psychological reasons that determine who we fall in love with, but that there are biological determiners. She believes there are four major personality types based on four major chemicals in our bodies: testosterone, estrogen, dopamine (the addicting chemical), and serotonin. With the questionnaire on her dating site, she measures users’ levels of expression of these four chemicals. She believes this data will help explain why we are attracted to this or that specific person.

Fisher goes on to say that while she hopes to shed more light on this question β€œthere will always be a little magic to love.” She’s right.

My Take on It

This woman, who is far more intelligent and educated than I, does not believe in God. Therefore, her entire picture is somewhat skewed. However, I think she does make some fascinating points. I do think there are psychological and perhaps even biological reasons for why we fall in love with this or that person. Butβ€”there is God. He is the Grand Orchestrator. This research does not take Him into account.

Sometimes I too look around me and wonder, why in the world of all the 6 billion people on earth did my brother-in-law decided that my sister was so special? Why? If you start comparing people to each other and thinking about these things (which isn’t really a good idea anyhow, but if you do), it truly is a very unexplainable and completely arbitrary phenomenon.

My Three Closing Opinions

  • God leads people together for His own special reasons and purpose.
  • I don’t believe there is ONLY ONE person for me or you and that if that person misses the memo we’re both sunk. If this was true, the entire network would be hopelessly off-whack by now. 😊
  • I think there will always be something mysterious about romantic love, and I think God intended it to be this way. We don’t really want to understand it anyway. That would take the fun out of it!

Source: Fisher, H. (2008, February). Fisher: The brain in love [Video file]. Retrieved from    https://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_the_brain_in_love?language=en#t-934035

He Asked Me For A Few Minutes of My Time

It was about 4:30 pm. I walked purposefully into his room, a tiny plastic cup containing his afternoon medications in hand. Maybe it was an antidepressant and a stool softener; I don’t know for sure. The day was splendid; the sun shone gloriously through the window at his back. He sat in his wheelchair and looked up as I strode in.

I was in good spirits, my shift was going well, and my afternoon med pass was going just according to plan. I was relaxed and confident I would get everything done on time before supper–with time to spare.

I smiled at him and handed him his cup of meds and his Styrofoam water cup to wash them down. I waited to make sure he took them. Just as I prepared to leave the room–mind probably already thinking about the next person whose meds I would give–he spoke.

“Do you have a few minutes?” I stopped, surprised at his sweet, honest request for a few minutes of my time. I turned and replied, “Absolutely! I do. What would you like to talk about?” Then I sat down on the bed beside him. I was thrilled that today of all days when someone asked me this, I actually had time that I could sit and chat awhile.

He replied, “I don’t know. What do you want to talk about?” Nothing particular was on his mind. He just wanted a little companionship on a lovely Sunday afternoon. We sat there side by side in that nursing home room, and chatted–the lonely resident and the insecure, new nurse.

He asked me if I was married, if I had a boyfriend, and how old I was. He expressed to me his opinion that at 25 one should have one because that is old enough one ought to have one. We discussed tea and coffee and which of them each of us prefers. He likes tea. I like coffee. We watched the TV together in silence, and commented on the age of the actor and what was happening in the scene at the moment.

It was common-place chatter. But we sat there that Sunday afternoon in that splendid early fall sunlight and shared genuine, human companionship. We shared presence. He asked, and I was delighted to have time to fulfill this most basic of human needs.

We built mutual trust and rapport as resident and nurse. Five or ten minutes later, I rose to continue my afternoon med pass. “It’s been a pleasure chatting with you,” I said, and genuinely meant it.

It is moments like these that make my job worth it.

An Edited Journal Entry

I’m back friends. Three months ago, almost to the day, I posted last. So much has transpired in the last three months. My precious neighbor girl and tea-sipping, porch-lounging-on-balmy-summer-eve buddy and I, have been lamenting recently that those late spring/early summer days post-COVID are past. We have both gotten so busy, and don’t see each other hardly some weeks–though we live a couple hundred yards apart. Much less do we have time to sip tea and chat as the sun fades.

However, life is good. Since it’s been 3 months, I am going to make this post primarily a life update.

Warning: This will probably be a long and potentially boring post because it is going to be kind of like an edited journal entry–me rambling about my life minus the stuff you shouldn’t know. πŸ™‚

By now, if you’ve been following my blog, you probably now that I have a compulsion with beginning my posts with a description of my setting as I write. It’s just a thing with me–I think it’s because I’m all about the “ambiance” of an experience, and I enjoy it even more when I detail it in words to you.

Here goes. I am currently sitting in a little coffee shop tucked along the street in the “cute” part of a pretty boring local town. I love their lattes and the baristas are always the sweetest around. I come here a lot now that I work up in this neck of the woods. I am facing the street, fellow students and coffee-shop sitters litter the room, earbuds in. I have mine in too. I’m listening to some of my favorite piano music by Mark Dotterer. I began with my favorite song, “Longing for the Homeland.” It’s a tune that takes me back to subconscious childhood and gives me all the feels. I like listening to it and staring off into the distance and just “feeling.” I am living my best “basic white girl” life–sipping my small, extra hot, coconut latte, only one shot of syrup, with whipped cream.

What has happened since I last wrote?

I was studying for my NCLEX-PN boards back in June. I didn’t study very much and when July 17, 2020 dawned, I was freaked out that I would fail them and look very stupid indeed. I knew I’d have no excuse for failing them and that is what scared me. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of that week I made valiant, though distracted, attempts at studying and then gave up. I didn’t crack a book or open a browser the day before I took the test. I had arrived at a fairly fatalistic mentality about it by that point. After all, what was the worst that could happen? I’d fail and study and retake it in a couple months and move on.

I drove myself to a city about an hour away. I was in good spirits. My first stop was LabCorp to get a COVID antibody test. I was sure I had had it, and wanted proof so I could donate plasma for a little extra $$, you know? πŸ˜‰ [Speaking of which, I only ever paid $10 for that lab draw, and I fully expected it would cost another $50 or more. I still haven’t gotten a bill, come to think of it. Oh well. Cool.] Considering the fact that I tested negative and couldn’t make those $$$, it’s probably good I haven’t.

That test took three shakes of a lamb’s tail, and I was done much sooner than expected. I was starving, so next I stopped at Panera and got some food. It was still too early to go in for my test. I drove to the PearsonVue testing center, parked in the shade, and reclined in my car. For about 2 hours I finished up the last of a delightful audiobook I was listening to at the time, When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. At 1:15 pm, I brushed myself off and walked into that testing center, armed with only my ID and prayer. I was oddly very relaxed. My mentality at that point was, “It is what it is. I’m going to do my best, say a prayer, and not stress about it.”

I sat down at that computer, bowed my head for a quick prayer, as is my habit before every single exam I take. I put those bulky earphones on and clicked start. My heart rate and breathing were pretty much normal. I have taken exams that were much lower pressure than this one, and had to stop myself from hyperventilating by consciously controlling my breathing rate and exercising a little mental self-control and pep-talking. I really didn’t have to do any of that. I clicked through the questions taking my time, but not over thinking them, just kind of going with my gut feeling. As I approached the 60th question, my nerves did tighten a bit. Because of COVID, the minimum number of questions you can get is 60 and the max is 120. I was hoping that by 60 questions the computer would be confident enough in my knowledge to pass me at 60. I did question 60, and my screen blanked. I was thrilled! I was done! Even though there were tons of questions I didn’t know, and I got what felt like 40% SATA questions, I was again oddly peaceful.

When I got to my car, I did the PearsonVue registration trick. I won’t bother explaining it, but basically there is a good pop up and a bad pop up. If you get the good one, you most likely passed. I did it 15 minutes after my test and got the good one. I, of course, stopped for a celebratory Starbucks on the way home. I also ate ice cream and like 5 monster cookies (half of them baked, half unbaked) over the course of that evening. Don’t judge.

Fourty-eight hours later, after my Sunday nap, I paid $8 and got my unofficial results–I HAD PASSED!!! The next day my license was posted on the state board of nursing website. I was officially an LPN.

On August 6, I went into a local long-term care facility expecting to meet with the director of nursing to gather more information. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to work there. I had wanted to just work as a CNA for the practical experience of direct patient care, but without the responsibility of being the nurse. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t hire me in that way. I was told I could hire in as an LPN and pick up CNA shifts sometimes, but I’d have to hire as an LPN. I took the plunge! Turns out that appointment was actually a job interview. I left that afternoon–hired for my first job as a nurse!! I was thrilled and terrified. That was Thursday. I started the following Monday. It’s probably good I didn’t have much time to stress out.

I’ve been working as an LPN now at this facility for a month and a half. I worked pretty much my whole three week break between summer and fall semesters–getting in my three weeks of orientation before fall semester started August 31. I’ve worked 4 shifts on my own now. It is crazy to be the nurse. Who knew that scared little April would now be the nurse standing at the little cart in the hall–passing meds and being responsible for a hall of precious, elderly folks? I cannot express enough how incredible my weeks of orientation and my first four shifts by myself have gone!! Honestly, it is the grace of God that they all far exceeded my expectations and went so much better and were so much less stressful than I ever imagined. God is good. I have nothing more to say.

As I mentioned, this past summer has been very busy and full of changes. But it has been so RICH–in relationships, in wonderful experiences, in personal growth, in good (although sometimes stressful) changes, and in new things. I am so incredibly blessed, and in so many ways “living the dream.” And I don’t say that lightly.

June 15 marked the beginning of my RN year of nursing school. It’s hard to believe I’m in my second to last semester of nursing school. Everyone says nursing school flies, and they couldn’t be more right. It is so encouraging to look back at this time last year and see how much I’ve changed, grown, and learned. How one year can change a person!

Tomorrow marks the last day of week 3/16 of this semester. One more week and I’ll be 1/4 of the way through. Sometimes I just can’t keep up!

My two classes this semester are Mental Health Nursing and Complex Medical Surgical Nursing. It is lovely to have only two classes to focus on, although I think they are harder and I’m going to have to step up my studying game a bit. No more of this cramming several hours before the test bit, fly by the seat of my pants bit like I did this past summer.

I am particularly enjoying what we are learning in mental health right now about therapeutic communication and active listening techniques. I have been reading about it in my textbook and thinking about the use of these techniques in my personal relationships and picking out ones I use or should be using. [And ones other people should be using but aren’t. ;)] In fact, just tonight, I sat across from my brother at supper and consciously noted when I employed certain techniques. Truly fascinating. I think everyone, especially those interested in developing really good relationships, should read the chapter on therapeutic communication techniques. In any relationship, listening well, knowing how to ask specific questions, seek clarification, be nonjudgmental, express openness and attention with appropriate body language, encourage description of perceptions, encourage expression of how a situation made the person feel, and so much more would be helpful.

My mental health class has also been teaching me so much about empathy–feeling WITH others vs. sympathy–feeling sorry FOR others. The first focuses on understanding the feelings of the other person and expressing your understanding, the latter focuses on my feelings about you, which isn’t as therapeutic. Sympathy brings the focus back to me.

We did the most incredible empathy exercise in class. We sat in the theatre where we have class. The instructor gave each of us four sets of five slips of paper. Then she dimmed the lights, and put on some peaceful, soft background music. The vibe was perfect. First, we wrote down our five favorite foods, our five favorite people, our five favorite activities, and our five favorite places to go.

Then she displayed a story on the screen. It was written as if we were the main character in the story unfolding before us slide by slide. It felt very personal. In the story, we had cancer and our life was slipping away. As the story unfolded, we had to give up one or two of the things we had written down. The slide would read something like this, “You are getting weaker and weaker as the days go by. You see the exhaustion on the face of the loved ones caring for you. You wish they did not have to work so hard to care for you. *Crumple up one of the slips with one of your favorite people. Think about how much you love this person and say goodbye.”

We kept slowly giving up one thing after another, until we were on our deathbed and had only the person we loved the most left. Then we had to crumple up that last slip and say goodbye. I’m telling you! It sounds silly maybe, but I got tears in my eyes numerous times. I wasn’t the only one. It just made me stop and think about the things I hold precious and how sad I would be to lose them. It made me grateful for what I have, and for the people I have to love and who love me.

Life is so short. There’s so much pain and suffering in the world. So many people crying inside and you wouldn’t know it. Treasure your mom. Give her a kiss next time you see her. Stay a few minutes longer at the supper table and ask your sibling how they’re really doing and specific questions about their job. Ask your classmate how their weekend was instead of sitting on your phone during break. Pay for the person behind you in the drive thru. Complement a stranger. Genuinely tell a friend why you like them.

Peace,

A. Friesen, LPN (been waiting to use those letters πŸ˜‰)

Couchsurfing Escapades: A Proposal of Marriage, A Solar Eclipse, and A Couple of Menno Youth

Good evening friends! Before we get into this fantastic topic, let me give you a little life update. In my last post, I had just finished LPN school. That was five lovely weeks ago. Today was my second day of RN school. Thus far, I’m loving it! My lecture/lab instructor is extremely organized, puts much effort into his PowerPoints and class content, and LOVES teaching. All of this combines to me knowing I am going to love his class. Yesterday, I had a four hour lecture which included general semester introductions, advanced physical assessment, and the beginning of lecture on starting IVs. It was positively lovely to see all my dear classmates again. Unfortunately, we could not see each others’ smiles because we all have to wear masks. 😦 But I am more than okay with that since I am just glad to actually be on campus and not trying to do this class online.

Today, I had a 3-hour lab. We watched our instructor do a complete head-to-toe assessment on the mannequin and then we paired off and did one on our classmates. I got paired off with one of my favorite classmates so I was fairly relaxed. After we finished and were back at our desks and finishing up our narrative charting of the assessment, the instructor had soft, classical music playing. The music combined with having just been assessed was literally putting me to sleep. πŸ™‚ Our instructor asked us which we preferred–being the person assessing or the “patient” being assessed. We said we like being assessed much better. He was not expecting that answer. I think it is just because we are pretty comfortable and know each other well enough that it’s kind of like getting a mini massage. πŸ™‚

I came home from class today and got right to work outside at my desk in the sun. I studied 7.5 hours today. I am now relaxing here in “my” spot on the hammock under the deck, listening to my “Emotional Favorites” YouTube playlist and listening to the birds tweeting out the day as the sky pinks and the air cools. It is my second favorite part of the day (coffee here in the morning being my favorite). Tomorrow I work at the office. It will be a nice break from studying.

Just in case you are interested in what I’ve been listening to lately, I will link them here. I am currently obsessed with “Will There Really Be A Morning?” by Conspirare and “Crown Him With Many Crowns” by Oasis Chorale [go to 12:07 because it is a very long video of the whole concert]. Very different from each other, but both give me all the feels in very different ways. The first affects my soul in a way hard to explain, just fills me with wistfulness and longing that is hard to put into words. The latter fills my soul and spirit with awe and drives me to tears of worship. I simply cannot imagine how marvelous worshiping the King of Kings will be when we are actually in His very presence!

“Rich wounds, yet visible above,
  In beauty glorified:
No angel in the sky
  Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye

  At mysteries so bright!” -Matthew Bridges

It just thrills me to no end, that even the angels–holy and great though they be–retreat in reverence and awe at the mystery of salvation. It’s so incredible!!

Okay, this life update is getting far too long. On to the topic at hand.


I have been thinking for a while about writing about Couchsurfing and my interesting experiences with it. And no, I’m not talking about sitting on the couch and surfing the internet.

Couchsurfing is a hospitality website that is similar to AirBnB but it is free and the emphasis is on getting to know your hosts and actually hanging out with them. The hope is that you give some and take some. There is no money exchanged, although it is expected that you not take advantage of your host and it is a nice gesture to bring some kind of gift for your host. The theory is that sometimes you host and other times you will be hosted.

I came across this fascinating website several years ago while reading a book called, How To Travel the World on $50 a Day. This book intrigued me because I absolutely love traveling, but the coins sometimes be few. However, I am all about cheap adventure and fun and seeing what adventure can be had for less. So I was reading about this Couchsurfing thing. I promptly put down the book, downloaded the app, and set up a Couchsurfer profile. That was the beginning of some very unique experiences.

You upload a picture of yourself, put in your values, interests, likes, places you’ve lived and visited, what kind of accommodations you have to offer, etc. You can also become “verified” by payment, phone, and address. Of course, I did all three, because that’s how I roll. πŸ™‚ Being verified makes you look more official, trustworthy, and serious about it.

So shortly after, I got a splendid opportunity to try it out. The total solar eclipse of 2017 was on its way and I was determined to be in the path of totality. Not sure why exactly, but I settled on Clarksville, TN. I found an elementary school teacher, middle-aged, nice and safe looking. πŸ˜‰ I asked to stay with her for one night over the time of the eclipse.

Wonder of wonders, she accepted. So Marlee, Justin, and Daniel and I drove all the way to TN one fine Sunday. We pulled up to the gated community at dark and were met by our pleasant hostess. She showed us into her home, gave us the key to her apartment, the code to her community, told us there were drinks for us in the fridge, and left to spend the night with her friend. Yes, we literally had just met, chatted a little, and were left to our lovely selves in her cute, tiny apartment. Crazy!

We thought the entire adventure exhilarating! We slept there that night, bought snacks and watched the eclipse the next day, and when the giant light of day returned, packed up and drove home again. It took hours longer than it should have because of all the eclipse traffic, but it was worth every drop to me. That was the beginning. I was totally hooked on this Couchsurfing bit.

My first surfer was an older lady from Michigan who periodically visits my hometown and wanted to stay with us for the cultural experience. πŸ˜› She loved it and even got to attend our school picnic, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Later that same summer, I hosted a dear girl from Michigan who is originally from Vietnam. She just wanted to do a week-end getaway and make new friends so she came and visited us for the week end. We had a lovely time!

Still later that summer, I hosted a well-seasoned photo-journalist from Chicago. She has done freelance photojournalism in Jordan, Afghanistan, etc and was taking a break from the trauma of those countries by working for a news company in Chicago. She rode her bicycle all the way from Chicago to my house over the course of a week. After staying two days with me, I dropped her off at the train station and she took it back home. She was a very interesting, sweet, considerate guest who did her own thing in town during the day. She went to our youth activity with me in the evening the Friday night she was here. She even got to here some of my ex-Amish church people sing her the “Loblied” (however that is spelled) for a little cultural education. πŸ™‚ She seemed to really enjoy our time together.

Last summer, I got a request from a man in Belgium who was sailing [yes! I said sailing!] to America. He believes in not just the destination, but the journey, and he does not like air travel due to its effects on environment, etc. I very clearly annotate in my profile that I only host ladies. However, when I get requests like his, I refer them to my married sister and her husband, who are also on Couchsurfing. So last August he arrived, and my sister and her husband and he came over for supper and the evening. He made us some amazing curry to eat over rice and we introduced him to “Haystacks.” πŸ™‚ He was a fascinating person: from his French accent and little “aye”s instead of yes, his old-world linen shirt and sailing, to his shock at my brother’s home-made explosive fun in the swamp which he found shocking considering we are “non-violent” people. πŸ™‚

(Chris, if you read this, feel free to correct my assessment of your reasons for sailing in the comments. πŸ˜„)

After our Belgium friend, I hosted 3 elderly ladies from Traverse City, MI who came on the pretext of visiting my touristy hometown, but who actually just wanted to come visit my family and experience our culture. πŸ™‚ They loved to talk, and thoroughly enjoyed attending church with us on Sunday–even witnessing the baptism we had that Sunday. They still write us letters and wanted us to come visit them sometime. Maybe someday.

Last fall, I had another most interesting group of couchsurfers–I got a most cryptic request from a group of “Menno” young people from Ohio. I thought this would be very interesting–and it was. They were on a week-end challenge with their youth group to travel and do as much as they could within a limited time frame and do it as cheaply as possible. Courchsurfing at my house one night was part of their genius money-saving plans–and I was thrilled to help. They were fabulous to host, joined right in with our church family night, and just generally made themselves at home at my house, which makes me happy. πŸ™‚

They have been my most recent surfers. A man from Brazil had reached out to me and was planning to come in April of this year to fulfill some life-long travel goals. He was going to stay with my sister and her husband. His goals were to go to Disney, visit New York City, and visit an Amish community. πŸ™‚ Coronavirus cancelled all his plans so he may come later this year.

I have yet to use CS as a surfer myself since that first time when we went to the eclipse. I am itching to try it again! The network is world wide and there are hosts on CS all over the world. I just think it is simply the coolest thing ever to make random friends from other lands and cultures who may give you an excellent opportunity to visit. Regardless, each person enriches in one way or another.

And now–I know you all want to know about the marriage proposal. That story is the best of all because it is so outlandish. I sometimes do things that are perhaps not the sanest or the wisest–but regardless–after the fact, they produce interesting stories.

One day as I surfed Couchsurfing profiles, I was friended by a young man from Egypt. I read his profile which completely intrigued me–not because I had any interest in what it sought–but because his idea completely fascinated me. Here is where most people would probably have moved on–and wisely so–but instead I friended him back because I was curious about his far flung proposition.

He was looking for an American wife. He planned to become a doctor and wanted to complete his training in America where the programs are better. But he needed a way to gain residency/visa/entrance whatever. He was looking for a girl on Courchsurfing who would agree to marry him as his ticket to America. Of course, when he saw I had friended him back, he messaged me. I will insert the screenshots of our entire conversation below for it tells the story better than I. Enjoy! πŸ˜›

Apparently, he was not to be easily deterred. πŸ™‚ Um…nope. Not even then friend.
And then he disappeared off of Courchsurfing and that was that.

So long friends! Go have yourself an adventure for me!

April

My 1st Year of Nursing School in Numbers

Today I took my final final–it was a Med-Surg exam. It went smashingly (the only final that did). I am so grateful to have this semester done, even though it feels rather anticlimactic for being the end of my first year of nursing school. My life is sans all the fun and festivities of on-campus end-of-year reality. I am not too disappointed though, because I am not done for good. I start RN school in a couple weeks anyway.

But, now that I have all this free time πŸ˜‰ on my hands, I decided to tally up my last two semesters by the numbers. While my LPN year also includes the 8 week summer semester of 2019, these numbers do not include it because back then I wasn’t keeping track of my study hours.


What It’s Like To Be a Nursing Student

  • Medical Surgical Nursing Class I&II
    • Hours spent sitting in class and in lab: 156.25 hours
    • Hours spent studying on my own: 365.75 hours
      • (This is equivalent to spending 9 weeks at a regular 8 hr/day, 5 day/week job doing nothing but studying Med-Surg)
  • Pediatric Nursing
    • Hours spent in class: 42 hours
    • Hours spent studying on my own: 82.75 hours
  • Maternity Nursing
    • Hours spent in class: 24 hours
    • Hours spent studying on my own: 78 hours
  • Pharmacology I&II
    • Hours spent in class: 42 hours
    • Hours spent studying on my own: 160 hours
  • Kaplan Practice Tests
    • 9 hours+
  • Clinical
    • Clinical paperwork and preparation: 17 hours
    • Clinical hours at the hospital: 270 hours
    • Driving to and from clinical sites: 33.5 hours
  • Hours driving to and from college: 59 hours
  • Minimum amount of coffee consumed throughout these two semesters: 35 gallons
  • Total number of hours spent in personal study: 1,425
  • Total hours at clinical: 270
  • Total hours in class: 264
  • Total number of hours of everything [personal study/class/clinical for three letters: 1,959 hours
    • These hours were spent over approximately 32.5 weeks of time
    • 1,959 hours/32.5 weeks = 60.2 hours/week
    • Hours worked at my PRN job during these 32.5 weeks: 175
    • 175 hours/32.5 weeks = 5.4 hours/week
    • 60.2 hr + 5.4 hr = 65.6 hr/week

So on average, I put in 65.6 hours per week as a nursing student.

This does not count driving time to and from school and clinical, packing lunches, ironing scrubs, going to church on Sunday and Wednesday, marrying off my sister and cousins :), etc.

This is was my life this past year. This is why nursing students don’t have time for social activities. I don’t have proof, but I’m pretty sure some nursing students spend waaaaay more time studying and/or working than I did.

Besides all this, there is the constant stress of deadlines after deadline–quizzes, exams, presentations, practice tests, signing up for this, paying for that, clinical paperwork, evaluations; the constant barrage of new things–new skills, new knowledge, new terms, new environments, new expectations; and the nagging thoughts–fear of not being good enough, fears that I could have or should have done better, doubts of “do I have what it takes?”

But by the grace of God and the wonderful friends and mentors He has put in my life, I am here. I am finished with LPN school. I have officially been in school for 2 years. It doesn’t seem that long.

Bring on RN school!

April Friesen, SN

P.S. I applied for my temporary LPN license on Saturday and today I went and got my finger printing done for the criminal background check that the state requires. Because of corona virus, the state of MI is waiving the NCLEX-PN exam and allowing student nurses who have finished their school year successfully to apply for temporary licenses. They are valid for one year. By the end of the year, I will be ready to take my NCLEX-RN anyway. It works out perfect for me.

If you are a nursing student or were one? How many hours a week do you think you spent a week on personal study? I am curious what other students’ lives look like.

5 Things I Love About This Pandemic-Induced Quarantine

It is difficult to believe I have been “home” for 3 weeks now. Three weeks ago is when all the COVID-19 stuff really got real around here. I am once again amazed at how fast this home-based life has become the new normal. The adaptability of the human being is truly a marvel.

I know there are a lot of very negative and scary things that have come and will yet come out of this world grinding to a creaking halt. That is one reason I have been pretty much not following the pandemic after the first week–I get the information that affects my life from others around me and live with my head under a rock. (It’s warm and cozy here, I have no shortage of schoolwork to occupy my time, and the coffee flows freely. What more can I ask?)

I’d like to renumerate for you 5 unexpected blessings that have sprung from this unusual time. These are a few of the gems of these weeks that I will look back on and treasure after it’s all over.


1) Reading Books I have always been a bookworm. But as the years go by, I read less and less. I blame it on two things–adult life and my phone. Nursing school doesn’t make it any easier. Getting into a book takes a bit longer often, than getting into a YouTube video. It’s easy to fill my minutes with things that are instantly gratifying. But, I am happy to say, in the last three days–Friday, Saturday, Sunday–I have read the three great books pictured below.

From the transformation of a skeptical tramp in a bustling American mining city, to an inside look at the life of a KGB officer in the USSR, to a delightful Scottish fisherman who turns out to be a gentleman’s son.

2) REAL Mail I have received so much mail in the last 3 weeks. People actually have time to slow down long enough to write letters and cards. Add to this the fact that we miss each other, but can’t go hang out. It is bringing out such a lovely wave of old-fashioned snail mail. I now check with greater expectation than ever the daily “post.” I have received so much it seemed a shame not to hang it up where I could see it often and revel in the warmth.

I strung up a little twine line on my bedroom wall beside my desk. It makes my heart happy. If you spy your card–thank you!!

3) Studying at Home I have been doing it now for 3 weeks and will complete my LPN year of nursing school here at home. All quizzes, exams, clinical, finals, Kaplan testing, and even the Level II entrance exam we have to take before starting our RN year of school are online. I had been studying at the kitchen table. Today, I moved everything downstairs to my room and created my new study space.

My little study space. I cannot wait till these study years give way to traveling the world. πŸ˜‰

4) Having Time To Cook and Bake Saturday night, I made supper for Mom–the traditional pizza. I enjoyed the kitchen again. I spent so many happy hours there in years past when the fam was all around. Sunday, along with my family and cousins next door, I made a huge batch of donuts! Twenty-four hours later, all 20 cups of flour were gone. πŸ™‚ I have also told mom I will make supper Saturday and Monday nights. Tonight we had fried chicken, rice, beans, and cabbage salad. Comment great supper suggestions please.

5) Coffee Breaks in the Afternoon I always have my morning coffee, of course. But since I am home so often, what is there to stop me from having another steaming cup in the drowsy afternoon. Normally, I watch my caffeine intake after lunch because I want to get to bed early. Let’s just say these days, I keep rather odder hours.

It will always be coffee o’clock at April’s house.

There are many other blessings I am loving about being home so much these days! Perhaps, I will share some more later.

What are you guys doing during these history-making times? I’d love to compare notes. I’m also taking book recommendations. πŸ™‚

Peace,

April

A Day in the Life of a Nursing Student during “Quarantine” and an Exam Rant

I was irrate. I stood in the middle of the kitchen with a blanket around my shoulders, messy hair, and a bowl of frosted flakes for comfort. It was approximatly 11:30 pm.

“I am so mad! It’s not right! I worked my [tail] off the entire day! For what????!!!!” My voice was too loud for 11:30 pm, and the tears in it showed even me how upset I was. I instantly had all three of my brothers’ attention. The looks on their faces….they were sure my ire and frustration was directed at them. I quickly added, “It’s not about you.” Whew! You could see the look of relief wash over their faces. It would have been funny if I hadn’t been so upset.

I continued my rant. I had to get it out to someone. I was bursting at the seams. Talking with someone who actually understood my frustration would have been much more therapuetic, but they were all I had.

“I spent 10 hours yesterday, and more hours in the days before!!! Studied and studied for this test! For an 84?!! Really? I should have gotten a 110%!!! It was such a ridiculous test! With absolutely ridiculous questions!”

I should have gone to bed, but sleep was fairly far from me in the mood I was in. I asked them to find someone funny on YouTube for us to watch because I couldn’t get my mind off my recent test, or calm down enough to relax and go to sleep. So we watched TwoSet Violin–two hilarious classical musicians who make videos about how annoying people with perfect pitch can be, and other music/violin oriented content.

Even after a couple of their videos for comic relief–I went to bed and all I could think about was that ridiculous test. My heart rate was elevated–I could feel it thumping extra hard–and I was getting particularly hot under the covers–anger and frustration really warm a person up. πŸ™‚

Eventually, I feel asleep. And here we are today, I’m here drinking coffee and still getting mad as I write.


That was a sorry end to a long day in this nursing student’s life. Unless you’ve experienced it, it will be hard for you to understand the particular frustration of this scenario:

  • Your Powerpoints are riddled with misspellings and typos.
  • Your instructor repeatedly misprounces clinical terms in his own PP, or uses the completely wrong word without even noticing and correcting himself. (for example: using “compromised” when he means “comprised”)
  • Your instructor repeatedly reads off his notes that are written disjointedly, and you don’t even know what he is trying to say. [Notes are always written abbreviated and slightly disjointed because when you actually deliver the speech from you notes, you add words and information to make coherent sentences so the listener understands.] Not so with my instructor. He reads off his notes, sometimes not even sure what he meant when he wrote them, in such a disjointed manner that the string of words he just said literally are NOT even logical or a coherent thought. I literally have to go read in the textbook to understand what he meant by what he just said.
  • You are listening to the pre-recorded lecture [because you know–coronavirus] and adding notes to your PP dutifully studying. And various times throughout the lecture what your instructor just said is flat out wrong–you know, because you have your text-book open right next to you as you are studying. Grrrr…
  • So, inspite of all the aforementioned things that drive this somewhat perfectionistic, thorough, detail/correctness-oriented student INSANE–I studied hard. Seven and one half hours in earlier days, and 10 hours yesterday.
  • I slaved away over chronic kidney disease (which took up a LARGE portion of one of the PP, which is usually a sign that there will be quite a few questions about it on the test), end-stage kidney disease, acute kidney injury, acute and chronic glomerulonephritis, pyelonephritis, cystitis, kidney transplant, dialyis, what BUN and creatinine lab values are and what they mean.
  • I studied my brains out, and finally I sat down at 9:30 pm to take this exam. 68 questions. 78 minutes to do it. I had my steaming cup of tea and was tucked up against soft pillows in bed (one of the extremely rare luxuries of coronavirus–taking nursing school exams in bed). This exam couldn’t be that hard.
  • Enter another ridiculous med-surg exam. There was ONE question on chronic kidney disease–ONE QUESTION!!!!!!!!!!!!! The test was full of off-the-wall questions, questions he never covered in the powerpoint (like what is the average urine output of an adult?) There were other super off-the-wall questions on obscure things he either never mentioned at all or barely touched on. And then the topics that took up half an entire PP just got one question.
  • Before you start judging me for being one of those “but-it-wasn’t-on-the-powerpoint” nursing students, HE EXPLICITLY SAID IN HIS LECTURE: “Remember, if it’s not on the PP, don’t worry about it.”
  • I felt like I was not really tested on the content of the powerpoints–I studied my head off on all those 4 chapters of renal/kidney disease, ACTUAL stuff it is probably good to know–to practically not even get tested on it. But instead, get a low grade on a test full of what feels like pretty irrelevant stuff.

End of very long rant. You may be bored to tears, but it has been therapeutic to write this all out. I might seem disproportionately upset about this exam, but it is a culmination of the frustration that has been mounting for months.

Scenarios like this are what make me {almost} want to get my master’s degree and become a nursing instructor (even though I hate teaching)–just so I could be the instructor I wish I had had in nursing school.

Also, here is my official plea–we need nursing instructors that actually KNOW HOW to teach, not just read off PowerPoints. We need instructors who actually UNDERSTAND the anatomy and physiology behind the disease processes they are supposed to be teaching. It is hard to memorize disjointed facts, understanding why is KEY to long-term remembering. We need instructors who are competent and professional, who actually know how to pronounce the terms of their own profession, who can correctly pronounce the name of the exam that gave them their license (the NCLEX).


I’m done ranting. I prayed God would help me accept however the test grade falls. This instructor is usually pretty good about giving points back if we can show proof to him or if most people got it wrong. I know he will give some points back because the test was computer graded and it will count any minute difference wrong when actually the typed in answer might be acceptable also.

So long friends. I have a pharmacology exam due at 11:59 pm tonight that I must spend another 7-10 hours studying for today. (Plus I need to write up my email to previously mentioned instructor about why my answers were correct or his questions were too ambiguous). πŸ™‚

A. Friesen, SN

P.S. If you are a teacher of any kind, any thoughts on this from your perspective?

My Life as a Second Semester Nursing Student

You know those unexpected moments in life where two things coincide and create a magical moment in the midst of everyday life? I had one of those this morning. Last night my instructor called and canceled today’s clinical at the hospital due to sickness. Since we can’t just stay at home–my clinical group had to report to the college library today at 0800. I was thrilled at the prospect of sleeping in and having only an 8-hour day and extra time to study. This differs from a regular Monday where I get up at 0500 and spend a 12-hour day at the hospital.

I sat there in that slightly outdated, floral print library chair, next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, facing the east. YouTube providing ambiance. The sun was still making its burning ascent. I was working on Kaplan review questions when I looked up. The golden, rising sun streamed through the glass as Lux Aeterna flooded my ears. I reveled in the magic of the moment and thought to myself how lucky I am to be living this life.


Reflecting on the Past

My last post was July 11, 2019. I called it “Thoughts on First Semester Clinical.” At the time, I was doing clinical at a long-term care facility. Looking back now, I remember how scared I was. It seemed so intimidating. If April now could talk to April then, I would say, “Oh sweets! You have no idea how much worse, how much more terrifying and intimidating it can get!” Then, I had two days of nursing home clinical under my belt. I could giggle now. TWO DAYS!! I was a wee baby nursing student back then.

Picture taken after first day of clinical that first semester.

Experiencing the Present

Today, I am half-way through my last semester of LPN school. When I finish this semester in May, I will have been in school for two years solid. The longest break I have had between any two semesters was 5 weeks. The thought of graduating with my LPN certificate this May thrills and energizes me!

So much has happened since that post last July. I finished that first semester; I thought nursing school wasn’t so bad. That was before fall semester 2019. But now, even that too is history. Halfway through last semester after my mid-term clinical evaluation with my instructor, I walked dejectedly, holding back the tears until I could sob out my frustration in the car. I was doubting if I was meant to be a nurse, doubting my ability, doubting my call to this profession. God was gracious and time heals. I pulled through and I am here today.

Today marks the beginning of the 9th week of my last LPN semester. This semester is galloping along and I am atop it–hair flying, brisk breeze making me gasp for breath and my eyes water, but eagerly fixed on the goal on the horizon. Halfway through this semester after my mid-term evaluation with my instructor, I strode confidently to my car. I felt elated, sure of my path, and excited about my life.

We need both of these times in our lives. They say, “the bumps are what you climb on” and I think it’s true. Nursing school has humbled me, shown me how God can produce strength through my weakness, and pushed me to do things I did not think I was capable of. Those depressing, frustrating times have forced me to work harder, learn better how to accept criticism graciously, learn from my mistakes, and become more able to relate to others in their moments of “slump.”

Looking Ahead

  • I look forward to finishing this semester strong and graduating this May with my LPN certificate.
  • Besides the standard graduation ceremony that I will be a part of along with all the other graduating students of my college, I will also be “pinned” an LPN in a special pinning ceremony that involves only the nursing students.
  • Sometime this summer, I will take my NCLEX-PN exam to receive my nursing license from the state board of nursing.
  • And just like that: I will officially be April Friesen, LPN. (Providing I pass, of course.)

Yesterday in church, the words of one of my favorite hymns really struck a cord with me. Let the truth of these words encourage you this week.

Show me Thy face, the heaviest cross

will then seem light to bear,

There will be gain with every loss,

And peace with every care…

Hymn Show Me Thy Face –Author Unknown

What is one thing you have learned from one of those “slumps” in your life? I’d love to hear your words of wisdom in the comments. As always, thanks for stopping by. Live with purpose!

April

P.S. This post is especially dedicated to you, Vivian. πŸ™‚