Thursday, September 24, 2015

It's not about the chicken - my tribute to nurses.

I have not written here in a while, because I've been very busy. Whenever a writer doesn't really write much for a while, it always takes something that urgently needs to be said to put 'em back in the saddle, so to speak.  That time is now.

Recently, hosts of the View made a mockery of Miss Colorado, who is a nurse. This of course prompted the #NursesUnite trend on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites.  It also caused The View to lose a couple of it's financial sponsors and then the hosts of the show to issue a very bad apology.  Nurses everywhere were fired up, and rightly so.

I work with ER nurses, lots of them, and I have for nearly 8 years continuously. These women and men are among the hardest working people in America, and I'd bet nurses in the rest of the world would agree that they work very hard too.  Many of them are young when they enter the field, and I am sure they do not anticipate all that they will be confronted with throughout their careers.

How many of you go to work each day knowing that today you could experience something so haltingly awful that you'll never forget "the scene" for as long as you live? How many of you ever burst into tears weeks after an event has occurred because it took your brain that long to process the trauma and feel safe enough to really react to it?

Every single day that a nurse's feet hit the floor in her work place, she (or he) knows that there is no way to predict how that day will turn out.  What they'll see, who they'll meet, if anyone they're trying desperately to save will make it, or if the least sick patient will be the one who needs the most love and kindness.  Nurses see some of the most god-awful things and situations possible, and when they're in the midst of hurting or freaking out inside themselves, they still have to remain calm enough to soothe the family members, the patient, or each other.  Often times they go home to spouses, family or friends who don't get it either, so they must silently deal with what they've gone through as witness and care-giver mostly alone.  And even if they find someone who could possibly understand the story they need to tell, a federal law called HIPAA prevents them from discussing it.  They must lean on each other.  That's why it took mere hours for #NursesUnite to spread like wildfire.  They all have each others backs, and I do too.

I'd be willing to bet that any nurse who's worked in the field for long has something akin to a bit of PTSD for all she's seen and lived through.  Not all of the patients die, not all of them are critical, but all of them have a story, and nurses hear those stories, one by one, over and over. Sometimes patients are a real pleasure, but sometimes patients abuse nurses too.  Nurses experience the full range of human emotions, the highs and the lows, sometimes in just a 12 hour span. If you ever are in the care of a nurse, you can bet that you are not her only patient either.  Nurses work their tails off, day in and day out, not only to put food on their tables at home, but because of a higher calling that they felt obligated to perhaps from childhood on.  They care.  They love their fellow man.  They want the best for  you.

Most of the nurses I know are very intelligent people also and they have to be for what they do.  They must make split second decisions, and even perform instant calculations in their heads because their hands are full of medications, wires, tubing, supplies, or even the patient. Most of them also have legitimate hobbies which could also be alternative careers - they have to because they need an outlet to detract from the stress in their real jobs. Miss Colorado's monologue about being a nurse should never have been mocked.  Nursing in and of itself is a real talent.  Not everyone who tries can actually BE a nurse.  

What follows is a FICTIONAL story that I wrote last week as part of a basic fiction class I took through the  UCLA Writer's Program.  My instructor thought it was "amazing." It's my short nod to nurses, and I hope it gives you insight into what nurses do and who they are.  Maybe it'll even make it to someone at The View.


It's not about the chicken.

Clark could hear the sobs coming from the kitchen as soon as he approached the front door. He fumbled to get his keys right in his hands and dropped his work bag at the door. Loran was in the kitchen, sitting cross legged in the floor like a child, like she used to sit in the floor with their daughter who had moved out last year. There were pots and pans scattered, somewhere in between clean and dirty, along with sponges, the bar towels, a few forks, and there shining in her hands, a glimmering and silvery knife.
"Loran, honey what's the matter?"
When she looked up, he could see her blue eyes were swollen and red from an obvious fit of crying and hysterics. He'd only seen her this way a handful of times in their long years together. She was known for her even keel nature, and frankly, it had made her a good wife.
"Lucille Ball Featherpants is dead!" With that, she went right back to squalling.  Big heaving sobs that raked her body from her toes on up. Everything tense and tight and angry and full.
She'd had Lucille for three years, a good long time for a yard chicken, and Lucille had earned her name by having mostly black and white feathers.  Loran had loved watching the real Lucille Ball on her black and white television as a small child, and to this day replayed the shows on DVD whenever she needed to just relax and get into what she called her "blank stare" mode.
Then, with gritted teeth, "I told you to fix the damn hole!"
Clark felt his body recoil in a hot flash of surprise and defense.
"Loran what on Earth came through that hole! Where's Lucille? Where's the hen?"
Then sobs again, and "Who's going to have my coffee with me? Who's gonna chirp and talk to me in the mornings when I get home?"
She'd asked him to fix a tiny hole in their backyard fence a few weeks ago, but his back was still dreadfully sore and his doctor had told him to take it easy. "No unnecessary strain," he'd said with a grin, knowing he and Loran still had a very active sex life.
"Dammit why couldn't you fix the fence? Lucille never hurt anybody!"
Clark made himself sit on the floor with her and he straddled her from behind, wrapping his legs around her and curving himself around her to hold her, to let her feel him.
"I'm so sorry babe. How long have you been like this? How long have you been here on the floor?"
He knew she'd worked the night shift and gotten off somewhere around 7 if she was lucky.  But now it was nearly 1, and Loran wasn't asleep.  His plan to come home and crawl in bed with her for a quick lovemaking session had gone out the window now, but still, he was glad he'd come home.
As her body shook she just kept repeating over and over, "Lucille Ball Featherpants, I'm so sorry I love you."
Clark knew she was exhausted, and could only imagine how her shift must have gone the night before.  She had nearly 30 years in as an ER nurse and though she was tough as nails, everyone broke from it once and a while.
"Baby, what happened? You've been crying for hours! You need sleep, and water, and something to eat probably."
"I needed you to fix the damn fence Clark! Lucille needed you to fix the fence! It was a snake. A snake got her!"
Clark bear hugged her from behind. He grabbed her arms and her legs and he held her tight against him. "Loran this is not about the chicken!"
"This cannot possibly be about the chicken! What is it Loran? What is it that you've been holding inside for so long? What did you see? Who did you try to help? Did a child die in your arms? Did you see someone who was murdered or raped or abused? What Loran? What?"
She felt the urgency in his voice and whether he knew it or not he was yelling at her, right in her ear, yet suddenly she felt the sobbing stop, felt her mind return to present time and place. She felt the numbness in her behind from sitting on the hard floor. Her knees ached too, and her back was on fire from being hunched over for so long. She knew now that he was right. That it wasn't about the chicken. That it was about the skinny long legged 22 year old kid who'd been shot right in the heart only hours before, whom she couldn't save no matter how many bags of blood she'd poured into him. She knew too, that it was about the 4 year old little girl from last week who'd been raped since the age of 2 by her scumbag grandfather, now locked behind bars. But the little girl still couldn't get over bouts of severe constipation and urinary tract infections because she didn't want to pull her pants down even to use the bathroom. It probably too was about the homeless man who was so brilliant and confused that he was unable to function in life and came in the ER almost daily begging for food.
It was about all of these, and more.
Loran turned her body into his and whispered, "I know. I know."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Things I have way too many of...

  • Lip Balms (Chapsticks, lip glosses, etc.  I have 16 of these things piled on my bed right now. Don't even try to steal any from me...)
  • Socks (If I could only find the matches I could either A) wear them again, or B) donate them.  Therefore, I'll keep looking.)
  • Books (I still can't really read e-books.  Must be able to smell the pages of the book.  This definitely adds something to the reading experience.  Once I've smelled your crack, we're bonded, therefore I cannot give you up or share you with others.)
  • TShirts (Kooky 80's tees are the best, and they make me feel mature because I experienced these things first hand.  NKOTB, Pac-Man, the McDonalds Fry Guys, Smurfs...need I say more?)
  •  Jeans (One day soon I will fit back into my favorite jeans, and find my other favorite pair, and I will wear my new favorite pair tomorrow.  Size 8-14 anyone?)

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to deal with Grief during the holidays.

Grief, in short, is the process of how we deal with loss. Loss of a person when they die, loss of a job when we get fired, loss of our self esteem when we are dumped by a romantic partner, even loss of our faith when tragedy happens and we can't make heads or tails of why it had to happen.  I've learned a lot about this process in my 4o years, and in my experiences working in the Emergency Room.  Here's a list of how to get through it during the holidays (or any day of the year).  These are just a few of my opinions - feel free to give other suggestions that have worked for you!

  • Find Fred Flintstone: That's right.  Eat your vitamins.  Your body's response to extreme stress can be at best just getting by to a full on depression, infection, rejection state of being.  As cortisol levels rise, you may gain or lose weight, and you are much more susceptible to real illness or all over body pain.  Each day you might feel like you got hit by a different Mack truck than the day before.  Same pain, different day.  Combat this by eating healthfully, limiting sugar, getting enough sleep, and drinking enough water.  
  • Where's Waldo?  Feel like you're searching for something, only you really don't know what that something is?  Answers to life's big questions? Where is God? Why did this have to happen?  Will the mean person who did the mean thing get punished, ever?  When you cannot find yourself, you definitely can't figure out those higher order questions.  So get away, preferably by yourself so you have ample time to think and reflect, cry and throw things, or indulge in a tiny bit of retail therapy.  Meditate, go for long walks, find a cabin in the woods, or let the highway be your guide and your favorite music be your companion.  Don't try to figure everything out all at once, but trust that you will figure it out in it's own time.  
  • Get your face licked:  Yup.  Go where you can find some furry friends.  A petting zoo? Your grandmother's cat? The pet store? Let them crawl all over you.  Watch their tails wag.  Contemplate what they are thinking! Let them lick your face and know you won't die from it!  There's something incredibly healing in developing a relationship with an animal companion.  While you're at it, give yourself a point for every time you notice a baby's laugh.  When you get five points, go get an ice cream! This is to remind you that LIFE goes FORWARD.  You have to hop back in and jump some more rope!
  •  Give a gift.  To someone else.  Not that there isn't value in treating yourself with something special when you are being hit by a proverbial asteroid! But giving to others leaves a longer lasting feel good type of high, and it reminds you that you still have something to give, even if you aren't in the same role, relationship, or job that you used to be.  Bake the mailman some cookies, go volunteer at a local hospital, or make something for a friend that you know she'll love.  Do that thing you've always wanted to do for so-in-so!  You will feel better at the end of the day.  Trust me, you will. 
  • Refocus your Life Lens: This is the one, huge, overarching lesson from my years working with aggrieved, homeless, and hurting people in the emergency room.  Although this may sound harsh at first, consider it.  Your life can always be worse.  Read that again.  Your-life-can-always-be-worse.  And believe me, it can.  Your entire house could have just burned down with all your pets and family inside.  Your company could have handed you a pink slip, and you totaled your new car.  Your child could have just been diagnosed with a fatal disease.  You might have just caught your partner cheating with your best friend.  Your best friend might have just died leaving her three kids to you.  All sorts of horribleness can happen out there.  Try to be thankful for the things that didn't happen, the people you have left, for the one person you can trust night and day, 24/7, or for the disease you don't have.  Someone else always has it worse.  Or equally as bad in a different way that you wouldn't want even more than you don't want what's happening to you now.  Widen your lens.  See all the horrible that could have happened so you can appreciate what you still have going.  

Anyone need a (really) old car?

This is a 1928 Overland Whippet.  Other than a little TLC, it only needs points and a 6-volt battery.  I've ridden in it myself and it's very taking a walk back in time.  We are taking serious bids over $6,000.  Thanks!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Blower's Daugther

There's nothing quite like a song you have never heard that strikes such an emotional chord that you know you've just been hit by a freight train, only you have no idea where it came from and why it's here.

And there is nothing quite like a song that can bring to the front of the stage in your head one of the most dramatic moments you lived and re-examine it in such a way that you hear, see, feel, touch, and taste it all again, like a bruised piece of fruit.  The thing is though, reliving these utterly devastating moments helps us heal.  Reliving them from an older and wiser perspective also helps us empathize and forgive.  It helps us unpackage the tender glass shards our hearts are ultimately made of and oh so gently place them back together in a way that feels a bit more whole and that doesn't prick us so painfully again.

It took me two full days but now I get why this song claimed such a giant space in my head.

When I was fourteen, for a moment, my father got really upset with me, and he sent me packing to live with my mother in Jacksonville.  The leaving was bitter, and nearly ripped my heart to shreds, but the thought of finally getting to know my mother and exploring thoughts of new experiences for myself kept me treading water, kept me wanting to engage, and ultimately to stay here and live my life.  Teenage angst can make you want to jump off a bridge.  The hope of having my mother kept my heart beating.

That hope slowly lost steam when, even as young and as naive as I was, I figured out she was a drug addict.  These were the days before she loved prescription pain medications.  Yes, these were the days of coke, and pot, and booze.  Only God knows what else.

Two weeks in, she left the small two bedroom apartment that we shared with her boyfriend Darrell and his brother (I had the couch), and she never came home.  At some point, Darrell shook me awake and took me to the hospital to see her.  She was hooked up to all sorts of monitors and wires and she was flat out unconscious.  She'd overdosed on cocaine.  Darrell left me there with her because he had to go to work.

Now I know what the medical staff was probably thinking.  "That poor girl. Who's going to take care of her now?" I remember the psychiatrist coming in to talk to me, and asking me questions about my mother that I clearly didn't know the answers to.  I remember when the line that showed how her heart was beating fell flat.  I remember them all running in and slapping my mama in the face to try to wake her.  Ushering me out, then back in again when they'd revived her.  For hours and hours I watched her as if she were lying there a superstar in a movie about some poor woman who'd gotten overwhelmed and overdosed.  Surely this was all an act.

For many, many years the feelings I have had that are associated with those six weeks I spent in Florida in 1989 have been buried very deep.  I went through therapy.  I dealt with the angst, the grief, and the loss of so much of my innocence, of my hope in better days for my mother.  I know now that those fear-filled days in that hospital in Jacksonville, and many of the strange days afterwards have helped me form my own understanding of my mother that I could never have had otherwise.  Some experiences just must happen.

I hope not to sound preachy here, but in the end, our love and understanding of one another is quite simply, all we have.  This song takes me back to those visions of her, the different times I tried to understand and feel things with and for her so that she could take a bigger space in a heart filled with only the ghosts of all the lost days and nights in between.  I get why she couldn't be there for me.  I get it and I understand it and I accept it, but unfortunately and quite fortunately at the same time, I can still feel the loss, the frustration, the anger, and the fear.

Never ever let yourself close up so tight that you cannot feel the emotions you need to keep feeling to consider yourself alive.  The heart will not stay hurt forever.  Use this song, or any that strikes your own emotional chords, to help yourself remember those painful experiences and continue to heal from all you have learned and been able to do since.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The newest Bruin.

I finally did something for me! As you know, if you read this blog, I've always wanted to be a "real" writer.  Believe it or not though, I've never had any real training in writing beyond the undergraduate english courses I took at UGA (the first of which I was able to skip by advanced placement testing). I did get A's in all my English classes but never took the creative writing classes I wanted to take.  I tried once when I was in grad school - to add the class and make it work - but had zero time for it and eventually withdrew.  Now, at nearly 40 years old, I'm going to study and practice the art of writing for real from one of the best writing programs in the nation.  I'm so lucky too, because I get to do all of this online.  I get to become a real card carrying UCLA student, and I get to earn the Writer's Certificate and even become a Bruin alumni when I finish my coursework.

Awesome! I cannot wait to get started.  For fun, I may post some of the writing I do here on my blog.  My first class starts August 6th!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Getting serious about vacation planning!

Some of you know that I started working with Academy Travel in the fall of 2012 as an Independent Contractor selling & helping people plan their Disney vacations.  Going to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL (actually Lake Buena Vista) was always a happy and positive experience for me growing up.  Crossing the Florida line meant visits with my mother and family in Jacksonville and sometimes meant a very fun and exciting trip to Disney! When I arrived home from taking my daughter on a very special Disney trip and was continually raving about how much I loved the Walt Disney company in general, a co-worker of mine suggested I look into becoming a Vacation Planner.  She said it would be perfect for a Disney freak like me!  She was right.  Every time I quote a vacation, I have fun!  Actual fun!  I love answering questions about all things Disney, and I'm well read on Disney travel, corporate news, and all things Disney vacations!  Most people don't realize that Disney also can take you on special guided trips around the world! There's more to Disney than the giant paradise dubbed The Happiest Place on Earth.  This fall I hope to go on a Disney Cruise for my 40th birthday celebration, and no I don't get discounts!

The Disney company is very smart.  Their prices are their prices.  I can sell trips to you for the exact price Disney sells it for and no less.  The advantage of using my services is that I help you PLAN your trip.  You can do Disney on a budget and cut costs at every corner or you can go all out and have the most amazing five star trip of your dreams. There are more than 25 Disney resorts on property in Florida alone, along with 4 theme parks and 2 water parks.  If you haven't been to Disney in a while, since you were a kid, or maybe you've never been at all...then I'm your girl!  Hit me up.  My services are 100% FREE! No kidding. 

I'm currently setting up my Disney home office, and I'm even re-painting the walls with Glidden Disney paint in a color called "pawprint" from the Winnie the Pooh colors! I also received my box of goodies for Authorized Disney Vacation Planners today that assists me in advertising and answering clients questions.  I'm so pumped.  Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you as you plan your DREAM vacation!