Monday, March 31, 2008

The Little Things

I was backing out of the driveway today when I spotted this almost ethereal dandelion growing up through a crack in the pavement. Thinking it looked sort of sweet and unusual, I decided to seize the moment and take a quick snapshot before I went on my way. Really there is nothing special about the picture. Just one lonely little dandelion spending its youth in a rift in some asphalt, wanton flower petals for company, a piece of debris for a cap. But it added a bit of pleasant minutiae to my day. Maybe like stopping to smell the flowers, it is important to be observers or appreciators of the little stuff around us. What if a painting were nothing but a canvas of a single color? And what if life were nothing but the glaringly obvious? It is the little things, the depth of shading and texture, the richness of the hues, the shapes of lines that give a painting its meaning and character. And it is in the small things, that life lies.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Go Tar Heels!

Since I am Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred I pretty much have to be a basketball fan. Therefore it is in the blood or at least the culture to get a thrill when March Madness begins. But south of the border, it is not the same. Back in the seventies when we moved from North Carolina to South Carolina, I incredulously witnessed that life didn't stop when the ACC Tournament began. Other people actually scheduled events that conflicted with the games! As a result I have adapted more and more to the point of barely keeping up with basketball though it forever will be my favorite sport. But this has been sort of an exciting season for us fans, old and new. The fine school of Davidson had an outstanding season. In the ACC, my alma mater Clemson did surprisingly well. And now those Heels have made it to the final four as expected, but things don't always go as expected in the world of sports. Stuart has been a Duke fan for a long time, but sorry isn't their year. Go Heels!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Psych Patients Need Music

Tonight I fully realized what has been missing in my hospital work environment the past few years that has caused it to be far less enjoyable. Music. About that time a nurse manager decided that the piano should be removed from the day area, the guitars should not be available for the patients to use, and there would be only battery operated radios allowed, that is if a patient was fortunate enough to have someone to bring one. And so it has been since then. When a patient says, as happened this week, how listening to music would soothe her, I offer a lame excuse how it is no longer "policy" to have radios and try to act somehow as if I get it even though I don't. We do however still have an old, out of tune upright in the hospital gym that patients can play or bang on when they are in there. Tonight we had a male patient who maxed out the abilities of those keys with some early rock and roll songs. His mania inspired some of the others to sing along and everyone had fun. It dawned on is one of the pleasures of work that is now missing. And its healing properties are almost entirely being withheld from the patients.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Guess That's Why They Call It Spring

Three flowering crabapples line one side of my driveway. I hadn't noticed them making the change, but coming home from work this afternoon, as I turned onto my short street I noticed a mass of bright pink and thought - Wow! Where did that come from! It was coming from my yard, my trees! Overnight it seems they have sprung into their seasonal dress. Pretty soon the fat robins that keep hovering around them expectantly will be feasting on their little red berries. I think one of the joys of spring is the surprises. In our area, the second week of April is supposed to be the most beautiful. I look forward to it. That is when the dogwoods and azaleas will be blooming, and the greens of the leaves and grass fresh and new. It will seem that suddenly the whole world will become filled with color. Right now the plants and trees are sitting on go, like a jack in the box wound tightly, ready to pop open and surprise us all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Language of the Locals

I am not a grammarian though I secretly wish I were. I make plenty of mistakes communicating via the Mother Tongue. However...I have been exposed to so much mangling of English here in the upstate of South Carolina that I fear it may infect my speech and that I could be in danger of blurting out, "He has went" or some other atrocity. Granted I don't hang out with the elite. I do spend a good bit of my time with people who are mentally ill, homesless, and drug addicted, and if they are from here, especially the part of the county called the "dark corner" where many of our patients come from, they cannot put two words together without a serious verbal violation. And some of my co-workers, those who are local, do the same. Sadly it seems to be the norm. I was talking with a woman patient last night who was obviously guilty of these transgressions. During our conversation she informed me her sister was an English teacher. Similarly I once had a student who murdered the English language who had an English professor for a mother. I got up the nerve to ask her why in heaven's name did she talk the way she did. In a nutshell, I perceived they do not want to betray their culture. Even the professor/mother talked like a local when she was at home, the student told me. Cringing, I try to block out as much bad grammar as I can. My burning question is this: Is the conjugation of verbs not taught in school anymore? When I have students who use the local lower class dialect, I want to tell them that people outside of their culture will think less of them by the way they speak. Yet I keep quiet for fear of being thought judgmental or insulting or politically incorrect. I could go on. I could rant about the gross yet proudly spoken mispronunciations, but will end my local language observations here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Horton's Wisdom

Last week I went with my son and grandchildren to see the cute movie Horton Hears a Who. Is it a message movie? Possibly. Dr. Seuss could have had several in mind. It did relate to one way I keep myself in perspective. I remind myself that I am only one of six and a half billion people currently alive on our planet, and that Earth really is just a speck spinning in the universe. How can I take myself so seriously when I know that! Yet we are special, too, at least to someone. And though we all have the same type of body parts, the same needs, and experience the same feelings at some time or another, we human beings are all recognizably different by our appearances, voices, our genetic material, no two of us alike. How amazing! Yet in the context of space, we are invisible. A conundrum of sorts. Horton wasn't deeply philosophical either. He just knew that no matter how small, each living thing was important.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Greenville's Park

This is Greenville's main attraction and a pretty cool place. This new curvy single suspension bridge that crosses the Reedy River provides a nice view of the falls. It was busy there today with people walking their dogs, a few photographers, obvious out of town visitors, some who just seemed to like the nice weather, and many kids enjoying spring break. Other times I have seen artists painting at their easels and romantically imagined it to be like the left bank of the Seine. I had not been to this this downtown park lately but must come again soon.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Family Extensions

When our children marry, we gain family members beyond the obvious children-in-law. Yesterday I had a nice Easter dinner at the home of my daughter-in-law's delightful grandmother who has lived to be old enough to tell her age, eighty-two. Sally and her mom helped with the meal for fourteen (lamb, asparagus, roasted garlic potatoes, etc.) but Alice, "Grandma" to Sally, insisted on doing the clean up herself. Since I am from a relatively small family, I especially enjoy having my extended family and getting together with them on special occasions. After all, we all love the same people.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen

He is risen indeed!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Writing vs. Talking

I have missed some days of blogging as my two readers may have noticed. I attributed it to the scarcity of free time. Quiet time has especially been at a premium for the past month. I realized today that my lack of pondering and writing time has an inverse correlation to my talking time. I have engaged in TNTC (that is nursing lingo for too numerous to count) conversations with TNTC people. Writing serves many purposes one of which is expressing an inner voice. My inner voice has been an outer voice for a month.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Garden Legacies

When my friend Nancy was moving from Greenville to Birmingham a few years ago, I asked her if I could dig up some of her flowers for my yard. I couldn't think of a better way to keep her close than something I would see growing and changing through the seasons. I planted the small clump about four years ago and it has flourished and spread. It is really a small plant of about ten inches now and the blooms are tiny, but because of the magic of macro photography, this makes them look unnaturally big. When I was a home health nurse, a patient in the country insisted that I take a bunch of her day lilies. Those day lilies were so prolific, I was able to bequeath them to other gardeners as well. I have pretty obedient plants blooming their blue spikes in late summer and always think of the nurse friend who gave them to me when I admire their beauty and toughness. Though I am not much of a gardener anymore, I still can't think of anything more long lasting than a living plant to pass along as a remembrance.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Camellia or Sasanqua?

Whatever the name, they are always called beautiful.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holy Week Begins

Today is Palm Sunday and so begins Holy Week also called Passion Week, the most significant time in the Christian calendar. At church we were given palm branches to remind us of those that were strewn in Jesus' path as He triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on a colt a week before His death. Only a few days afterward, Jesus, the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, the sacrifice who took on our sins, was nailed to that cross. When He came as a newborn there was celebratory joy; in dying there was fright and unknown. But three days later, just as He said, the glorious resurrection. It is finished. Hallelujah!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Magic Potion

This morning, because I was going to have a busy day and needed to feel good, I had a glass of this golden potion straight from the juicer. Here is a picture of fresh orange and carrot juice before stirring. The juices of living fruits and vegetables are full of living healing enzymes I am told. Most medications treat symptoms and don't heal the problem. Many foods fill us but in the long run don't contribute to our well being. But this glass of juice is a miracle worker for whatever ails me. I can almost feel it going to every cell and working its magic in my body. Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. Hippocrates?

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Good Day to be at Work

Sometimes drug reps come in armed with pens and gadgets, information and nice (free) lunches. It is a treat for me. Today was another treat. A retired employee fed us all with the help of a few others who brought condiments and side dishes. Bob is a hunter and every year is able to use a co-worker's property to shoot up to five wild turkeys. He kills and cleans them and puts them in the freezer for future use. (I didn't want to think about the poor turkey.) Since this year's turkey season starts soon, he cooked the last one and brought it in to share with us at the hospital. Sheltered as I am, I don't think I had ever eaten wild turkey before but it made for a mighty tasty sandwich. Bob said this turkey when alive was about three years old and about 20 pounds. Whatever...It was a good day not to have brought my lunch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Back to the Gym

I have a bit of a love affair with our neighborhood Y. Just pulling in the parking lot after a a long absence gave me a happy feeling. I jokingly think of myself as being in training for this trip to France saying I need to eat less food, drink more wine, and learn to smoke, but I really do want to be able to hike around the villages comfortably since Provence is quite hilly. I have over two months to improve my stamina and strengthen some muscles. No problem. I would also like to lose some weight so I will be more comfortable in the cheap seats on the airplane. Problem. So I am going to the Y for help. Since I was last there, each wall of the exercise room has been painted a different primary color plus green, and it added some energy. I liked it. Mostly I love the machines and feel so much more fit and loose after I have used them and stretched. My favorite piece of equipment is the seated leg press. I have to watch that I don't hog it. Then I went to the nice hot tub/whirlpool. Mmmm. Why have I stayed away so long! It was wonderful. I am glad to have a good reason to be reunited with my Y.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Has America Lost Its Sense of Humor?

With anti-depressants being the most popular drugs on the market, you would think people would be happier. But even here in this nice southern town, there is a lot of grumpiness. And from what I see on the news, the rest of America is pretty grumpy, too. Gee...a person can't even say what's on her mind anymore without some entitled person or organized group demanding an apology for the truth when it is spoken. Can't some statements or opinions be laughed about, taken light-heartedly, or at least agreed with? "Yep! I sure am!" I would like to hear a politician reply. Do any of these entitled humans really think they are so perfect? Why do people take themselves so seriously that they can't take a little ribbing for individual behaviors that makes them unique? I was thinking how my co-worker and friend Michelle good naturedly mimics me at times, speaking in a wispy voice that she thinks sounds like mine. I consider it flattering and find it interesting to see how someone else perceives me. But it made me consider the national news reports of many public figures being up in arms when such a thing is done to them. Maybe that sort of behavior contributes to the heaviness I now feel as an American.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Change Isn't Always Good

After being exposed as a customer of a prostitution service, the governor of New York spoke publicly yesterday about having to win back the trust of his family. Then he said something like he promised "change" in the state and that he would still bring about change. It seems he has already caused enough change by cheapening the office, bringing shame to the state, and jeopardizing his career. I hope he won't bring about any more "change." A charismatic presidential hopeful has been preaching change and apparently appealing to many citizens who have been convinced to be dissatisfied. America had an excellent foundation and continued on the right path for a long time, but many of the changes during my lifetime have not strengthened us as a nation. For example, most thinking people can mark the change that took prayer out of schools as the time public education began to decline. Other changes have resulted in taking away individual initiative and freedom, which are two things that made America a great country. Life moves along and change is often necessary, but it must be done with wisdom and discernment and not by casting aside the things that have served us well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Medical Dilemmas

The fields of medicine and nursing involve complex ethical situations. I believe totally in the sanctity of human life. We were created in the image of God - how special is that! - and He loves us all. That being said...we all know that medical treatments have been used for many years that extend lives far beyond what nature probably intended. When I worked in a newborn ICU, there was one particular baby that haunted me. It was a preemie who had lain in the double layered hard plastic isolette with needles and tubes and casts for several months. He was already blind and his mother had abandoned him. He was severely physically and mentally impaired and kept trying to die, but as soon as one of his monitors went off, a code was called and he was brought back enough to struggle on. A recent story is a young man who came out of a coma he had been in for a year after a car accident. He now can move only one arm and is dangerous with it. He is difficult to care for but he lives on. Another young male, still hostile, who has ruined his brain and body from deliberately and addictively sniffing fumes has bizarre movements, screams out obscenities, and cannot walk. And the endless, speechless, withered old people who lie in beds being turned and medicated. There are millions of stories like these and I am not wise enough to know the answers, but I do know that they suck probably billions from the government till. (Of course that money is dispersed to systems and workers who put it back into the economy so maybe that is the plan.) Doctors start treating and medicating out of hope, but the outcome is often heartbreak. Who can say when to give it up.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

We All Need Each Other

How Important Are You?

More than you think.
A rooster minus a hen equals no baby chicks.
Kellogg minus a farmer equals no corn flakes.
If the nail factory closes,
what good is the hammer factory?
Paderewski's genius wouldn't have amounted to much if the
piano tuner hadn't shown up.
A cracker maker will do better
if there is a cheesemaker.
The most skillful surgeon needs the ambulance driver
who delivers the patient.
Just as Rodgers needed Hammerstein, you need someone
and someone needs you.

I did not write this and could not find the author, but I liked what it said.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Generativity vs. Stagnation

Sometimes my work is being a nurse taking care of patients, communicating and doing the required paperwork. Sometimes I am a clinical instructor and take nursing students to psych/substance abuse facilities. For several years, I have had students who are nearing graduation and often lack enthusiasm because - nursing school being the tough course it is - they just want to get out. For the past three weeks, I have had some students who have been in nursing school for only six months and are as we say "green." They seem to be happy to be there, ask many questions, and get more involved. Each student is assigned a patient and then must gather information and come up with a plan of care for that patient. Part of their assignment is to decide which of Erikson's stages their patient is in, and then, where along the continuum. I feel that when I am working with these students, I am far along on the generativity side. The students are, too, because they are struggling to learn and achieve often in spite of some difficult circumstances. Teachers can make a difference. I often think of the ones I have had in my life and the impacts they had on me. I wonder what of me, what words or behaviors or the ways I made them feel, will be in my students' memory banks.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Life as a Comedian

If a movie were made of your life, what genre would it be? Action or adventure? Drama or romance? For me, it would definitely be a comedy. Maybe it is because my parents were the two funniest people I have ever known that I learned to see almost everything from the funny side. Or maybe it is a survival instinct that causes my mind to respond with a comical take in most situations. Whatever the basis of my funny bone, I usually manage to keep the witty observations and wisecracks to myself so I won't be perceived as more annoying or offensive that I may already be. I realize that not everyone is as entertained with my humor as I am, but it does explain that frequent look of unexplained amusement on my face. If I could say all the funny things that I think, I would be wickedly riotous.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

There Is Always Something to Do. Thankfully.

Though I enjoy all of my work, it is more than nice to have a day away from it such as today, but I will still be busy taking care of myself and my surroundings. If I don't who will? Often that takes more motivation than showing up for my paying, clearly defined jobs. A quotation I think of that presses me forward on such a day as this when perhaps I would rather engage in self indulgence goes something like, "Be thankful each day that you have something to do whether you like doing it or not." Though I think it is harsh sounding, almost punitive, I think of the alternatives and none of which are where or what I want to be. I looked on the www to see if that quote could actually be attributed to someone, and yes it could, Charles Kingsley. There were a few others by him and here is the one I liked best: "We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about." Enough I go.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Great Hot Fudge Sauce

Hot Fudge Sauce

one cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of butter
one small can of evaporated milk

Put dry sugar and cocoa in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly for about two minutes, until it just begins to melt.
Then add the butter and milk stirring constantly.
Turn up the heat and boil about a minute, still stirring.
Turn off/take off heat and stir in a dash of salt and a little vanilla.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Prelude to Spring

A big high five to the windy month of March. I feel it in the air. Birds are chirping in the early morning. The maples are sporting specks of deep red in their new growth. Cheerful daffodils wave as I pull into my driveway. Bright yellow flowers bedeck the graceful branches of the forsythia. The large canister of biscotti that I enjoy with coffee during winter is almost empty. It is sad to leave January but a relief to get past February. The spring it is a comin'.

Monday, March 3, 2008

La Langue Francaise

Now that I have made my airline reservations for Paris, I am beginning to believe I am finally going to this place I have visited only in my dreams. This trip as not optional. It is a must do. I cannot see myself entering old age without the French experience. Some of the words and phrases I learned long ago are seeping back into my vocabulary as old memories do, and tonight I found the word facile rolling off my tongue in conversation. When I was a teenager, ma mere occasionally tired of my overusage of poorly spoken French, but I was in love - with the language. I boasted to my husband how I loved the language and once was in a position to use it. He and I were in northern Vermont already and decided to drive up to Quebec. Why not! I couldn't wait to go into a store and use what I had learned in my favorite high school class. We were in a rural area and it was dark, but we did find one convenience store that was open. I got a couple of French magazines and some cookies with French names on them and went to pay. The clerk quickly spoke something foreign to me that I did not understand, and my mind went blank. Dumbstruck, I could not remember sil vous plait, merci, bon jour. Neither could I remember any English. It was like meeting a celebrity! I held out my hand with my American money in it, she took what she wanted and placed a few coins back in my palm. Poor stupid immigrant, I knew she was thinking. In an instant, I related to everyone I had ever seen in America who struggled with the language and the culture. I am going to try to prepare so that experience won't repeat itself!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Sky

The grand backdrop against which all of life is acted out.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Orange You a Bird Lover?

Pardon the poor photograph. I took it last night close to dark. Several of these clever little bird feeders were hanging from tree limbs outside the adolescent unit where I work, made by the young patients. A week ago, the orange halves were supple and filled with bird seed. Now they have dried but are still quite usable. They are simply halves of oranges that have been scooped out and pieced through with a wooden skewer. A cord for hanging to finish.