Friday, February 29, 2008

The Long and Short of February

long on history
short on days
long on misery
short on rays

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seeking Balance

I intended only to refer to nursing diagnoses when I did yesterday's blog, but got carried away with memories of Abdellah. My apologies. But in the early eighties under that kitchen light, she managed to tattoo a few words on my brain: "...the balance of rest, sleep and activity." It is when I have gotten myself unbalanced that I think of it. My sleep and activity have been in the normal range lately, but it is rest that I lack. My best rest comes in the morning before I officially get up. It is then, when I am awake and quietly contemplative, that I become refreshed. That trait is in my original blueprint. When I have to get up at the crack of dawn for several days in a row and lose my early morning rest, weariness will soon take over. It is not too hard to get out of balance with sleep or work, too much or too little. That has happened to me, too. But rest is neither sleep nor work. It is a necessary in between state that is good for the mind and body. Balance doesn't come naturally.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Those Darned Care Plans

One would think that when a nurse is caring for a patient, she would think stroke, heart disease, anxiety, or whatever his or her diagnosis is. Not so. That would be too easy in this female dominated profession. Nurses are supposed to operate from their own diagnoses, which are different from the official medical ones yet the same; complementary at best. When I was in nursing school the first time, we chose from Abdellah's list of twenty-one problems to come up with a few nursing diagnoses for our assigned patients. Then we had to develop written care plans to be turned in and graded. I sat under the glare of the light at the kitchen table until the wee small hours, puzzled by the jumble of the limited words to select from, until I became too tired for clinicals the next day. Though I survived, I believe the time wasted and the stress of doing them reduced my learning and negatively impacted my clinical experiences. After I was a nurse for a year or two, it dawned on me. I realized I had overanalyzed the care plans when I should have simplified. Nursing students now have many more than the original twenty-one problems to choose from, and from what I see in the care plans handed in to me, still struggle with these mandatory papers. Apparently the "powers that be" in nursing academia, see them as vital. I understand the importance of gathering information and planning, but much of it seems to be an exercise in silliness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Telling Our Stories

My brother has entrusted me with a copy of his "memoirs," an account the first part of his life as reflected by the diary he started when he was thirteen. He didn't do it out of vanity but from love, wanting to pass his stories down to his as yet unborn grandchildren. He was inspired to do this because he would have liked to have known more about his predecessors, his grandfathers in particular, but he could find only a few word of mouth stories. We may have our lineages recorded, births and deaths, and a few old pictures, but we don't usually know what our ancestors were really like, what their opinions were, what they struggled with, their idiosyncrasies. We don't know the ways in which we are like them. What little behaviors or habits could they and they alone tell us? What would we like to tell succeeding generations about ourselves? I believe we should all record our stories. In a few generations, there will be curious people who want to know about us and the era of which we are a part.

Monday, February 25, 2008

What a way to spend a birthday

The last of my family February birthdays is today, and it is my husband's. Poor guy. He had a back injury a few days ago and has been in severe pain. I feel for him. He was hoping to feel better today and get back to work, but it didn't happen. Instead he had to wincingly walk in to see the doctor and take it very easy after that. But I think his doctor is excellent, and if a seasoned nurse can say that, then you know it must be true. Though as an insider I often rail against the medical system, there are times like today, when having access to it is a major blessing. So on this birthday, maybe his best gifts were being able to go to a doctor when many people across our planet cannot and having a wife who can not only make a really delicious chocolate birthday cake but who can also be around to help. It is good that most people live their lives in pairs. We all need each other.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy John's Birthday

Today John is three. Pound for pound, it would be hard to find anyone to match his zest for life. I wonder if it is because down deep, he has some sort of knowledge of his early days and realizes what a gift life is. It was tough from the onset. First, the doctor didn't think there was a baby in the embryonic sac and encouraged surgical removal. Later, at about eight months gestation, when John's mom went for a prenatal check-up, the doctor found him to be very large and in a fetal position that was going to make for a tough delivery. After unsuccessfully trying to get him to shift, the doctor decided an immediate C-section would be necessary. John was pulled out blue and struggling and was rushed to NICU. He had to have all sorts of tubes and needles in his little body, and he had skin tones that were scary. Undiagnosed gestational diabetes caused the complex problems. Thanks to some fine care, he made a remarkable recovery. When he was almost three weeks old, he came home to be with his family. Then last summer he had another scare, an abscess behind a tonsil. He was hospitalized and had surgery, then another successful recovery. John is now an exuberant little fellow with an infectious joy. Here he is in an unusually still moment. Happy Birthday, my little grandson!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Old Nurses Never Die

I am in the middle of a busy weekend of nursing work. About ten years ago when I was going through one of my I can't take this any longer spells, I posed a couple of burning questions to a nurse educator who was older and wiser than I. Do nurses ever leave nursing? When do nurses quit being nurses? She accurately told me that most nurses just keep right on working. To clarify, I think she meant in the General MacArthur tradition. It wasn't what I wanted to hear and I admit, distressed me. I would have liked to have personally proved her wrong, but haven't been able to. The heart of the work seems to keep calling to me. I just hope I will know when to have the grace call it a career.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Divine Sense of Humor

Today is drizzly, dreary and the type of cold that cuts to the bones. But out in force around here are the heralds of spring, bunches of bright yellow daffodils letting us know that the dismal month of February will soon pass, and that the season of rebirth is on its way.

I have recently received some email forwards that tell how certain vegetables are healing for the parts of the body they resemble. How clever! This may be a better explanation.

"A stupendous insight of civilizations past has now been confirmed by today's investigative, nutritional sciences. They have shown that what was once called 'The Doctrine of Signatures' was astoundingly correct. It now contends that every whole food has a pattern that resembles a body organ or physiological function and that this pattern acts as a signal or sign as to the benefit the food provides the eater."

To find more info and a list of the foods, go to this web address:

As in the case of the healing foods, sometimes we humans figure out some of God's creatively humorous side. (Why not? After all, we are created in his image.) I think happy daffodils, their trumpets clothed in bright yellow raiments, also show his divine wit - dare I hint prankish? - as they announce the upcoming season. Tada!! They are not just a mirthful late winter accident.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Pretty Flower

What is this beguiling little red flower that grows on a bramble bush? I saw these winter blooms yesterday outside of a mall and wondered. They appear as if their images could be painted on a black laquered, oriental piece of art. Whatever...they are a lovely way to brighten February. later... I showed this picture to Casey at work and she said it is a flowering quince.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Other Part of My Work

Another part of my work is with patients who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. For some reason, it doesn't seem as interesting to me as psychiatry, and I fail to mention it or identify myself as a substance abuse nurse. Yet I am. Some hospital units treat alcoholics and addicts along with the psychiatric patients. Some have separate units. Separate is better. Often mentally ill people become drug or alcohol dependent in attempts to self medicate, but some addictions are pure addictions. When I was a new nurse, I observed that no matter their walk in life, the alcoholics stuck together. Many people who work with substance abusers have had addiction problems themselves. Once when I was working on a substance abuse unit, I was asked what my drug of choice was. I had to admit I was an imposter, that I was not in a recovery program. Then I felt invalidated, as if what did I know. However I do know how to recognize withdrawal signs and when to medicate for them. I can encourage patients to attend AA and give positive feedback as they admit their powerlessness over the substance, but otherwise...I haven't been there. It is amazing how much addicts go through before they submit to help. Their denial takes on a life of its own.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

to go on...

Yes, the "danger to others" type of patient frequents psychiatric hospitals, but more commonly we see the "danger to self" patient. What hospitals in general do is to offer treatment for life threatening illnesses. Severe depression - and it can stem from innumerable causes - is a life threatening illness and the most common problem/diagnosis that is treated in a psych facility. Some patients merely have serious thoughts of suiciding. Others transfer in from ICU or a medical floor after they have been successfully treated for overdoses. Amazingly some have been a breath away from death. In these cases, 99% of them are glad to be alive and have a renewed connection with God. Believe it or not...there have been quite a few patients who have arrived bruised, battered and bloodied - and stunned - from running their cars into trees or poles in suicide attempts. Some have jumped off bridges, or cut, shot or stabbed themselves and will be physically impaired for the rest of their lives. A few others have drunk bleach or poison. Some have caused such a ruckus in the community that police were called, and they tried to lure the cops into killing them. Severely despondent people can find creative ways to try to "off" themselves. Some are pitifully humorous. When they survive their attempts, we often get them in the psych setting. They usually get better and find hope for the future. Though some despairing persons struggle with suicidal thoughts much of their lives, for others it is a transient response to an overwhelming life stituation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dangerously Mentally Ill

Last week we heard of another mentally distraught person who killed students on campus in cold blood. Consequently there is once again a focus on the mentally ill and the system that serves them. In my time in psychiatric hospitals, I have seen many like the most recent shooters. There are those we have treated and discharged thinking they have the potential to do terrible things. We cannot keep people institutionalized forever unless they are in jail. And there, they are regularly given their meds, the only thing that really treats that type of crazy thinking. When a hospitalized mental patient is stabilized on their antipsychotic medications, agree to follow up and take the drugs that are essential to keeping their demons at bay, then they may be discharged. The system does not continue to monitor them forever. Overall the system keeps many horrific events from happening, but they cannot stop them all. People, even the viciously deranged, still have a certain amount of freedom here in the USA. However it is clearly evident that the mental health system and the criminal justice system could and should develop a closer network.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Third Baby

Today marks the beginning of a new year in the life of my terrific son Peter. When he was little, he was always outside playing with his friends and continues his outdoorsy ways today. He loves to camp and hike and married a wonderful girl who enjoys it as much as he does. They are teaching their daughter all about the great outdoors and the wonders of Mother Nature, too. Aren't they cute together!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Morning's Snapshot

Two years ago when I learned that Whole Foods Market was coming to Greenville, was I excited. Being somewhat of a foodie, I had delighted in visiting them after my discovery in Tempe, Arizona. Ours has now been open for about a year and a half and I always enjoy the visit. I went primarily for their good eggs this morning, but you know how that goes. I got my cart and took a good whiff of the pleasant mix of smells. Then I passed the flowers and remembered the lucky shots I got in BiLo on Valentine's Day. I took out my little Canon and snapped a picture of some richly hued roses. They made irresistably lovely subjects standing so compliantly in their galvanized containers. The flower girl apparently noticed the flash and made me aware I was breaking one of their rules. No photography allowed in the store. I protested by saying that I had taken several photographs in their flagship store in Austin last year without being arrested, but she just shook her head and, I felt, wagged her finger. "NoNo." In shame, the offending Elph was put away. I am sure they have their reasons. I gathered my free range eggs and a few other items, sampled some orange juice and elderberry tonic and headed to the checkout line. At the cash register, I heard music playing that was not quite good enough for radio. "Is that live music?" The clerk thought so. After paying I headed into the dining area rather than outside and sat and listened to the musicians, a middle-aged couple who looked like the yin and yang of each other. Her raspy but pleasant voice sang "This can't be love" while she strummed her guitar. He played the conga drums and added a vocal that sounded just like a clarinet. It was a few minutes of pleasant entertainment. Now I have shared my little experience and must head off to my work in the hospital. Such is life . . .

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Word About My People

May I put in word for my people. This week the news reported that we non-hispanic whites are to be a minority in America by the year 2050. Immigration was cited as one reason. Nothing is static on planet earth. We were not always the majority here. A few hundred years ago as Europeans arrived, claimed the land, and set up homes, the demographics changed. They will keep changing. But another possible implication in our becoming outnumbered is that many of us have been overly responsible. My generation - the war babies and the older baby boomers - could choose when to have have children. Therefore we didn't reproduce in great numbers because most of us didn't want to have more children than we could properly care for. We wanted to rear them ourselves and when they reached the appropriate age be able to offer them college educations. If we had to depend on the government or any outside "helpers" to meet our family responsibilities, we would have felt like failures. We took being parents seriously and believed we were doing the right thing. We didn't want to overpopulate or take over the world. These children of ours now work and pay taxes, much of which goes to take care of the immigrants, the underprivileged, the minorities, and children born to persons who propogated without thought of the future. Out of the goodness of our hearts, we often continue to generously give above that both monetarily and in acts of service. I won't be around in 2050 and can't guess how it will all pan out. I believe we must help others in this global community. "To whom much is given, much is required," Rose Kennedy was reported to have taught her children. Yet there is also a feeling that what we considered to be socially and morally responsible may come back to haunt us in a few generations.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I fully intended to wax on about love today, and decided to enhance my writing with a photograph of some pretty red roses when they caught my eye in the grocery store. I took out my trusty little Canon, shot the rose bouquet then got carried away. Whoever knew that hothouse flowers could make such nice pictures! As a result, I will let the pictures do the talking just as many husbands do on this special day. Love...the greatest thing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love Quotes from Leo Buscaglia

The warmhearted Living, Loving and Learning is one of my favorite all time books. It's author Leo Buscaglia, a hearty Italian, was a professor at the University of Southern California and often taught about love. Here are some of his quotations just in time for Valentine's Day.

We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.

Man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction, and despair.

Love is spontaneous and craves expression through joy, through beauty, through truth, even through tears. Love lives in the moment; it's neither lost in yesteryear nor does it crave for tomorrow.

When it comes to giving love, the opportunities are unlimited, and we are all gifted. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Special Birthday

This is not only the month of love and presidential birthdays but also the birthday month of many people I love. Today is the third birthday of my grandson Wyatt, here with his daddy a month ago today when we were all together for the wedding.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Night Sky

Years ago I took an astronomy class, and a wonderful, mind expanding experience it was. Though I remember few facts, I somehow grasped the concepts. Tonight the sky is so pretty. There are plenty of stars to be seen in spite of the bright streetlight in the curve of the cul-de-sac. I can identify Orion and The Pleiades. They appear to have moved from one side of my house to the other over the past few days. The waxing crescent moon hangs low and looks like a basket with slight shimmery handles as it highlights the nakedness of the trees. Sadly, I have seen only a few true night skies, one as my son and I were driving through Colorado. The dark almost imperceptibly fell upon us, and we began to realize that above was a jeweled sky that we had never seen before, and I have never seen since. We pulled over, got out of the car and marveled at the Milky Way and its millions of visible, twinkling stars. I find that as I get older and have fewer earthly responsibilities, I look more up into the skies and am awed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Church

I got engrossed in Charles Stanley's, pastor at First Baptist Church Atlanta, straightforward sermon today on television and was almost late to my own church. Besides the focus on salvation, there seems to be a lot of fellowship in Baptist churches. I like that. I also like the studiousness and intellectual pursuits of spiritual matters within the Presbyterian churches I have been a part of. The Book of Common Prayer used in the Episcopal Church as well as their weekly communions can give me joy. I picture Pentecostals as passionate and energetic. Each different denomination, all parts of the body of Christ, have slightly different angles or emphasis on the Christian experience. They appeal to different personalities as well as different sociocultural groups. That is a good thing. Everyone has a place, and anyone can be a part. Just as our physical bodies need all of our parts - feet, hands, ears, eyes - the Christian body also needs and uses all of its parts. As I sat in my church today, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be. Only God knows what part of the body it is, but I am glad to be a tiny cell somewhere in the greater body.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pondering Provence

It is my age, I suppose, that makes me think it is now or never. My co-workers and I have been talking this week about travel and the one place they most want to go before they die. Freddie had her dream trip. She went to Zululand last year. Helen wants to go through the Panama Canal. Jane dreams of a long cruise aboard the Norwegian Star. Me? It began in high school with a marvelous French teacher who worked at inspiring us about the culture as much as teaching the language and who named our French Club Les Provencals. Therefore it has always been the south of France - Provence - that I have lusted for. I looked on line and have dragged out my Provence travel books. Maybe this will be the year.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Perfect Bag

Do women everywhere seek the perfect handbag? Many bags have come close, but the perfect one has eluded me forever. Today I exercised my American right to shop and went in search of my new pocketbook. During the fall I kept my head about me, successfully resisting the temptations of the deep red leather ones. Unable to narrow the choices to just one, I kept my trusty black tote. I would definitely not enter spring with it. Making the right selection is important because a pocketbook is not just something to carry our stuff in; it makes a statement about who we are. Will it say that I am sensible or sophisticated? Bold, proud or carefree? I was not the only purse shopper in TJ Maxx today. I observed other women like me, ogling, feeling and imagining the ways the new bag would be used, lost in a dreamlike state. Oh the places they would go! The enticers were hanging from the racks, dainty patent clutches, large carpetbags and everything in between. They were in neutral shades with large metal clasps, colorful stripes and florals with ribbon straps, and in outer fabrics from soft cowhide to heavy canvas to slick polyester. Last week I passed on a lovely one in my favorite color, a soft buttery yellow. I fondled it for a while sure that it would be going home with me, until I realized I would have to wrestle the slippery, faux leather fabric to keep the strap on my shoulder. Drat. A flaw in an otherwise perfect bag. One of these days I will find my ideal. For starters, I envision it being a medium large, soft leather in a dark camel shade. When I see it, I will throw caution to the wind and it will be mine...forever.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

SC and USA Flags

It has been a lovely day here in the Upstate of South Carolina. These flags were waving gently in the springlike breeze, making me forget for a while that it is still winter.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Can I be honest with you?"

UhOh...Simon is getting ready to insult a contestant who is either giving it his best shot or trying to get on television in the worst way. Poor guy. I see he is in for a shock. Another frequent Simon opinion, "excruciatingly painful" is what I also consider most of the audition segments of American Idol to be, but I watch anyway. Sometimes wannabes who are clearly not right mentally get made fun of under the guise of honesty. I feel bad for them but also hope that a guard is nearby in case the contestant loses it. Maybe that's my psych mind at work. Ryan, who seems to be a real people person, does a great job supporting the contestants and their families whatever humiliation or praise they receive from the judges. It looks like we may have some decent talent this year. Enough to cause me to watch and wait for those two minutes my favorites will sing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Competing for the Toughest Job

Where do those presidential candidates get all that energy? What do they do if they get a cold or stomach ache? Can they whine or take time off? No, they are driven to succeed and they keep on going and going, crisscrossing the land, making speeches and being out there in full view. They must shake a million hands and give even more radiant, positive smiles. That in itself is a character building process, but it takes good acting skills, too. The application process for president is a long one, stretched out for months, actually years, but as some candidates drop out or are weeded out, we are left with only a few to choose from. In August two will remain. In November, one victor. All in all, it is an interesting year for politics, but I still don't know how they do it!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Thrift in the Land of Excess

If there has been one obsession I have ever had, it would be the environment. I admit I am a tree hugger from way back. I know that man's best friend is really the tree. I abhor waste. Every little vegetable peel goes into the compost bin. I don't like cleaning products, the chemicals or the odors that enter the atmosphere, or the containers they come in. I take care not to use more water than is necessary and keep the heat low in winter. Yesterday at work, a patient approached me with the fact that she had been letting the shower run for about ten minutes and it still wasn't hot. I wanted to scream...turn it off!...but I managed to give the message therapeutically. I have a basic desire not to take more from the earth than I give, and each year I try to be less of a consumer. While I was visiting with Stuart last week, he told me about the rampant pollution in China, the land that produces what America buys. I felt foolish that I wasn't aware. China is really paying a terrible price for the manufacturing they do. He told me about that I watched today. It is a pretty clear explanation on where our stuff comes from and where it goes. I feel that all I can do while still enjoying my life as a wasteful American, is to act on a very small scale as I "think globally."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Wasn't that an amazing game! Too bad for me, I was only able to watch the very beginning, Jordin Sparks doing a fine job singing the National Anthem. Aside from checking the live action on the computer I was on at work and hearing the whoops of the patients gathered around the big television in the day area, I wasn't able to keep up, but I did enjoy the highlights on ESPN when I got home. Not that I am a real football fan, but I let myself to get caught up in the hype and the personalities when the Super Bowl rolls around. (I wasn't surprised that the Giants won. Really.) There are many stories that will come from that great game. Of course one will be how the Manning brothers were groomed, prepared and destined to become the football stars they are. They also both look amazingly like their father Archie, here in a college photograph I got from the web.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


These sayings were in a forward I received. On this busy day, I decided to let them be my blog.

1. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
2. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved and were loved.
3. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
4. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
5. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
6. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the
7. Forgive everyone, everything.
8. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
9. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
10. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Another trip to Rocky Top

Here in the Carolinas, people will frequently get into conversations about whether they prefer the mountains or the beach. Why must we choose? The Carolinas have been graced by them both. I marvel at the majestic North Carolina mountains that I can pass through occasionally when I have a good reason. Tonight I am back home from seeing my sweet children in the Rocky Top state. They live up in a small town about thirty minutes from Newport where my son works, and their home has a nice country view. This morning was gray, wet, windy and cold. Paige and I sat for a while at the kitchen table drinking hot tea and talking about nursing school while outside I caught glimpses of bright blue against the somber sky - bluebirds flitting about the sepia colored trees. Soon it was time for me to hit the road. I drove back through some of the Blue Ridge mountains under awesome skies that gradually changed from a threatening gray to a welcoming Carolina blue. On I 40 in Haywood County in western NC, there are tunnels cut intothe mountains that vehicles must pass through. Here is a video that I took the last trip back when my husband was driving. There really is a light at the end!