Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Through Other Eyes

After twenty something years in psychiatry, it has become like that line from the Pina Colada song, “the same old dull routine.” I do my job and then I go home, usually leaving it behind. But when it was all new, and for years after, I was totally fascinated. The first patient room I entered as a graduate nurse was that of a catatonic black female. I had never seen catatonia before; what could I do for her? Then it was trauma and dissociation, eating disorders, and the list goes straight through the various versions of the DSM. Eventually I came to wonder if I had seen it all, but in fact, new and awful stories present themselves daily, and there is no way I could possibly ever see it all. At this point I am occasionally privy to seeing the work of psychiatry through a new pair of eyes that remind me of my own before it all became commonplace. Yesterday a resident was excitedly telling a story of how an elderly female was handling her dementia. He doesn’t yet see the pattern but he soon will. And in another situation a security guard remarked, “Wow!” after a wildly psychotic young person did some really bizarre talking. “I am so glad I got to see that.” Their interest and fascination refreshes my own. I realize that my work is anything but a dull routine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compost Happens

I am such a simple person. Nothing makes me happier than to compost! I don't have one of those fancy tumbling things but still use the wire cage that Ned built for me one Mother's Day. Eventually everything that's tossed in returns to the earth but not as fast. No need to hurry Mother Nature. Today was such a beautiful between seasons day, nice for hanging around outside. In the compost pile I noticed watermelons sprouting, probably progeny from Bogue Sound. But they won't make it too far along in life. The first frost will come along and get 'em.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Handwashing is a big deal. When I was in nursing school twenty-five or so years ago, we were taught how to wash our hands properly, but it is oh so much more than that now. We are still inserviced about it yearly, have the potential to receive an award if we demonstrate good handwashing, and constantly use pumps on the wall that conveniently administer a puff or glob of an alcohol based rub. Outside of the medical world bottles of hand sanitizers are in every woman’s purse, and canisters with hand wipes are offered when we enter a grocery store. I wonder if it is too much sometimes, and then I remember Dr. Semmelweis, a young Hungarian physician who was the first to link handwashing and disease. It seems that the practice during the mid 1800s when he was delivering babies was for the doctors to go from cadavers to one laboring mother to the next without washing their hands, and the women were dying at an alarming rate. There is an interesting story, maybe legend, about all this, but the sad part is his discovery was so ridiculed by his peers that he eventually went “mad” and was hospitalized in an asylum where he later died. It seems absurd that this was a new idea at one time. If Dr. Semmelweis could see how obsessed we are with clean hands now!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pretty Puddles

The rain fell so hard most of the day resulting not only in some puddling but also some minor flooding. I think the amazing thing about weather, especially when you think of this globe we live on that spins in space, is how consistent it is. Soon the water will be absorbed and the lakes will be filled, the drought once again over.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Time was

and not so long ago, that I was scribbling down whatever I was seeing or experiencing, whether it was a detail in a person's expression, the way a fan ruffled my hair, or the essence of a moment. Time was I couldn't wait to get home to record my latest thoughts before they took flight and were no more. Time was I would sit in front of the monitor and wonder where my fingers would take me, what stories or insights might come through them. It has been a gradual change but I fell less and less into writing. (You may have noticed.) I miss it really.

My one comment for today is how education is changing and how new courses are being offered to keep up with the culture. My co-worker this evening is taking a course on the psychology of terrorism and also doing a research project on how the mentally ill should get the same treatment as "normal" people when disaster strikes. The topics seem a little chilling, but I suppose they are a product of our difficult age.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How nice to have some rain

This summer was one of the driest on record for my part of the country, but we were blessed with several days of slow drenching rains over the past week, and life outdoors has resumed. I am always amazed at the resilience in the plant kingdom. Dandelions are popping up in the grass that will soon need cutting again, and the wilted leaves of the fall blooming flowers stand happily. The fall gardenias are blossoming, and the green is back in Greenville. Hallelujah!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Senator Says:

Today I had an opportunity to hear our Senator, Jim DeMint speak. He spoke directly and clearly and I was more impressed with his knowledge and insight than I even thought I would be. I am going to try to decipher some of the notes I took and pass them along.

- "Appropriators" are running Congress.
- For less debt, have less government takeovers.
- The level of spending over the past six months has never been seen before and is unsustainable. We are at the edge of the cliff.
- The principles of freedom come from a desire to be free from the oppression of big government.
- Freedom demands that individuals can succeed in a free society.
- We know how to trade wealth but have forgotten how to create it. Remember the story of the goose that laid the golden egg.
- Every government dime came from successful business. Capitalism is the key to America.
- The healthcare bill is a Waterloo.
- The healthcare bill means that the federal government wants to interfere in the most private areas of our lives.
- If citizens watch only ABC, NBC, etc, they do not know what the issues are.
- It is OK to have a secular government but not a secular country.
- America is no longer a stabilizing force in the world.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good Bye Old Car

Over nine years ago I fell in love with a new Impala. The moment my eyes met its smooth camel colored leather I was a goner. The decision to "sleep on it" was not a good one. Would someone more impulsive beat me to it? It was there the next morning, destined to be mine. My other cars had been of the four cylinder economical type, and I was in for a learning experience. Though I proudly zipped onto the interstate, I was not too pleased with the speeding tickets I got during the first three years of our relationship. So I learned not only to love but to respect it, this beauty of mine. I took care of my Impala and it took care of me, but things weren't always perfect. We had our crazy times like when the water pump went out and I had to leave it in the shop. And it had its flaws like the air bag light that always left me wondering, but I learned to overlook them. But we can't hold onto anything forever, and I knew the day would come when we would have to part. Yesterday another family paid a pittance of its worth to make it theirs. I had hoped to have it until the end but it was not to be. So I must let go gracefully and remember the good times we shared. So long. There will never be another like you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bead Therapy

I can't remember what inspired me, but several years ago I started bringing beads and string to work on the weekends to give the patients something to do. I mostly brought in the colorful pony beads, the kind kids use at camp, and a sturdy elastic cord so they could easily make their projects - mostly bracelets. I found pretty beads at Michael's and on line and probably had more fun choosing them than my patients had making things. Now a variety of beads are provided by other staff, and what I call "bead therapy" has become a regular and favorite activity. I think that focusing on something besides their problems, working with their fingers, making decisions, and completing small projects has been healing. Besides, there is something really soothing about running your fingers through a big pile of smooth plastic beads. One of our patients was discharged today, recovered from her depression. In her chart was a quote from her that said, "The beads helped me the most." I liked that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It has been nice to have a day off, but even when I am not working for a living, I am living to work - around the house that is. Isn't that what we women do! I gave the kitchen floor a rare good cleaning this afternoon. If it were not one of those floors that camouflages dirt so well, it wouldn't have needed it so badly. I remember "back in the good old days" my mother would mop the floor once a week, then she lay newspapers down on it until it was dry. We weren't allowed to walk into the kitchen until they were picked up. I wonder if the newspaper trick was the trend back then. I didn't use newspapers today, but I did insist my dog be outside during the whole procedure. . . . Sometimes it is a slow news day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finding the Right Fit

One of my students today commented, "I just want to let you know this isn't my thing," referring to being in a psych/substance abuse facility. "What is your thing?" I asked. She answered, "Pus and blood. I love it." I am used to hearing the students say they love labor and delivery or the ER or want to be a flight nurse. But pus? There is always a first for everything! But that is one of the cool things about nursing, the diversity. There is something for everyone. One of my other students said she will be looking for an "easy job" when she gets her license. I wanted to offer a sarcastic good luck. Easy and nursing are two words that don't go together. But as we talked, we decided that what she is looking for is hours that suit her family, and maybe being a school nurse is the answer. I hope they can all find jobs somewhere that they love, whether it is birthing babies, cleaning playground scrapes or lancing boils.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Tradition

Shocking even me, I recently realized I could be the oldest person in the church we have been members of for about three years. Maybe it was the praise songs ala rock style with zinging guitar and heavy drums that kept the grown ups away. Whatever...I have enjoyed it, but I have also missed the traditions. So today I decided to try to find a service where hymnals are used and the preacher shows up live, and where I am not referred to as a "guy." I went to the eleven o'clock service at a small Presbyterian church that I have driven by at least twice a week for the past twelve years. I always enjoyed reading the messages on the sign in the front and saw that the pastor's name was Stuart. I figured I couldn't go wrong. It was quite lovely and comfortable inside and had a huge vase of sunflowers. The older pastor was folksy enough and also delivered a good sermon on a verse from the 23rd Psalm. We sang two grand old songs, "Praise Him, Praise Him" and "When I survey the Wondrous Cross" and it was a nice hour, reminiscent of old times.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Invasion of the Small Screens

The ubiquitous television. It seems that it is hard to go to dinner, the bank, the dentist's office or anywhere without the noise from at least one TV. Does the person who chooses the channel decide that out of the hundreds of channels available that all of their customers have the same taste? Once I was standing in line of diverse, serious people in the post office, all on a mission to reach the desk with their packages, and in an upper corner a steamy bedroom scene from a soap opera was playing. Along with the others I tried to ignore it. And there was the time I was having some work done on my car and was in the waiting area with a young fella of about ten. The Animal Planet was on, seemingly harmless, but in a matter of minutes, it was showing how a male animal in the wild (can't remember what kind) mounted the female as the hushed voice of the witness graphically described the situation. "So what grade are you in? Where do you go to school?" I started with a barrage of questions. I guess TV is so ingrained in our culture, and many people have lost a sense of propriety, that it will sadly remain in inappropriate public places.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Big Box Problem

Yesterday I made a trip to Sam's to look at tires, which I wanted for my newish car but really did not need. While there I decided not to purchase any, but I did wander around the store for a while to see if there was anything I couldn't live without. The fruit seemed to be a good price, and I bought raspberries and blueberries, both in cartons that held more than two of us could quickly consume. That is what happens at those places! I washed some blueberries, took them to work, and offered them to co-workers. This morning I made some blueberry muffins that were less than perfect even though I tried following a Sara Moulton recipe to a T. So much for recipes. Maybe tomorrow morning I will fix some dependable ol' blueberry pancakes. The sweet raspberries are more delicate and must be enjoyed without anything but a quick rinse. They are both delicious, but I need to buy in smaller quantities.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Not leftover food but leftover pictures. Chili relleno and shrimp stuffed with jalapeno and wrapped with bacon. I love a spicy Mexican meal.

Counting Sheep

People with ADDled brains such as mine often have trouble falling asleep, especially at the end of an overstimulating day. Our minds do not switch to the down mode easily; our thoughts, plans and ideas keep rolling along, often in fragments, preventing the pleasant drifting off into the Land of Nod.

Back when we moved to Lexington, to the new house that I often described as a box surrounded by sand, the job of transforming the barren outdoors to something resembling a yard fell on me. So I challenged myself to learn as much as I could about gardening, flowers, grasses and plants, and before long, among that mountain of info I acquired, I had many botanical names both common and scientific down pat. I loved the sound as I rolled them off my tongue. And I began to use them in a non-gardening way.

Back then if I was having trouble falling asleep, I went through the alphabet naming flowers - Ageratum, Black eyed Susan, Coneflower, Dahlia. Sometimes I would go through the alphabetic list three or four times as there are so many flowers with interesting names, and that would excite me. Purpose defeated. Eventually I found the more specific I made it, the more focused I got . . . and sleepier, too. Lately I have been thinking of Bible verses or attributes of God that begin with each letter. I find that to be peaceful and reassuring, and I fall asleep early, before I get to Eternal for example. Last night I tried naming places I want to go, but got stuck and realized I am geographically challenged or at least do not care about going everywhere. Of course it doesn't work all the time, but occasionally I snooze off between letters. I know because I have waked up thinking Tuscany.

I suppose it is a way of counting sheep for us wordies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One of my faves

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Studio

A photography magazine I was reading said to think of your yard or garden as your studio. Though I had not used those words, that's exactly how I have thought of it for the past couple of years. Though I often come back inside having been bitten by some unphotogenic bugs, I enjoy watching how nature changes in my little earthly spot. It is different every day. Various plants sprout, grow, flower and wither and different types of insects come to do to what Nature has intended. Sunlight and dew, rain and wind play their roles in the changing scene. Now that we are into September, the spent tomato plants are dry and scraggly and need to be tossed into the compost, their usefulness past. But it is time for the sedum to bloom, for the morning glories to color the faded fence, and new bugs to photograph. Nature gives us many lessons and delights.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thank you

Thank you, Rob and Susan, for a lovely birthday celebration.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is what clinicals are for

I have started back with my teaching duties and though it can be exhausting, it is also rewarding. My students this week were six women of ages twenty to fifty. It is rare to have a student without some anxiety as they start their first day in a psychiatric hospital. (Anxiety in this situation is in fact a good thing as long as it doesn't get the upper hand. It can keep us watchful and on our toes.) The cute twenty year old student visibly and admittedly had the most, so I assigned her to a patient I knew would be cooperative and talkative. After a good chat with him the first day she said, "I feel like I have run a marathon." She was pumped. All the students went on to interact with other patients and attend activities with them. On the start of second day she appeared as if her fears were behind her, and by the end she had some positive words to say. Though I can't quote verbatim, the essence was that she had learned to look at patients in a whole new way. Not just as a body part that needed fixing, but as a whole human being with a life story and feelings. That is what I hope students will learn in this rotation, especially the young ones. I praised her for her insight and developing maturity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beautiful eggs!

One of my students brought me these eggs today. They are from her farm and she hand feeds the chickens herself. I was so glad to get them.