Saturday, January 30, 2010

They had my back

When my sister-in-law was visiting last month, she asked me about my work, “Don’t you have to deal with some difficult people?”

“Of course. They are all difficult. That’s what makes it fun!” I answered.

And sometimes that is true, but not always. Sometimes the difficult people are really pains in the neck.

We have had one of them in our care, an angry, scared, tormented young man with extremely poor coping skills. Last week he had an episode of aggressively acting out, and thanks to a fine group of security guards, we had plenty of people to help with the situation. Nobody wants to get hurt. Not me. Not the guards. Thankfully they anticipated the need for handcuffs and called the police who are stationed in the ER. When the big, muscular city policeman arrived on the unit and headed toward him, the patient's eyes looked like saucers, and speechless, his bullying ceased. The cop quickly placed the cuffs on him and got him on the floor. I injected his hip with some great medications to calm him while the team of uniformed men held him still. In a few minutes, the handcuffed patient was free to stand, and as he did, he directed some “ugly” words at me. The cops and the guards, who at that time were standing around but behind me, didn’t like it, and they started closing back in and reprimanding him for what he was saying to me. What a comforting feeling. I have heard the expression, “I’ve got your back,” but I didn’t know what it meant before. But those guys had my back, and I think I represented their mothers and sisters and the women they knew and loved, and they wanted to protect me. It was great.

It ended well for the difficult patient and for us. He regained control. Nobody got hurt.
And now if I hear or say "I've got your back" I will have first hand experience what it means.

A good day to hit the keys

Gee . . . almost a week has passed since I have posted to my blog. It hasn't been intentional. I just haven't been able to pull away quietly to get to it. Last night I left work a little early as the winter storm was headed our way and I wanted to avoid icy roads. Not to worry. The sleet and snow waited to fall here during the night as I was snoozing. Today it is quite cold, occasion enough to don my long underwear and my other traveling-to-Germany clothes when we went out. There is just something fun about driving around in even a little bit of snow. Now that I had my daily adventure and am snug and warm at home, maybe I can find some stories from the week to tell.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be psychopaths

I have been concerned by one of the ads on the Internet recently says, “Obama wants moms to go back to school.” I would rather see moms prioritizing something more important that they can never go back and do later, rearing their children. If a woman chooses to become pregnant and has a child, it becomes her responsibility to love, protect and care for the child.

One of my co-workers will soon be presenting an inservice about psychopaths, and we were talking. The word psychopath had fallen into disuse in psychiatry but apparently is being used again to describe and label a particular set of behaviors, more often men, who can be charming predators, seductive, cold, and lacking conscience. With Drew Peterson back in the news, we can see a typical modus operandi, but most do not end up in prison. Instead they leave a trail of perplexed, guilt ridden, angry, financially depleted people whose lives they have messed up.

How does a person get this way? Pam was saying it is believed they miss that important bonding during the first year or two of their lives, and because so many mothers have relinquished the care of their babies to others, the percentage of psychopaths is expected to continue to climb. Not good.

I would like to say, "Moms love your babies. If you need to go back to school, there will be time."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sad Story

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday and perhaps an appropriate time to tell a story from my bag of psych experiences. I suppose the statute of limitations will allow me.

Almost twenty years ago I was was working in a small unit that treated mostly teenagers with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but we had this one time a fifteen year old black female with hyperemesis gravidarium, a term that just means vomiting a whole lot when pregnant, as if it were a psychological problem (not) instead of the body's hormonal reaction to the pregnancy. In nursing we are regularly confronted with ethical issues, and we had one on our hands.

She was still having excessive vomiting well into her second trimester. I knew how she felt! The why was never justified, but some of the staff including the doctor, the social worker, and a nurse co-worker who had previously worked in an abortion clinic wanted her to have an abortion, or in clean, detached lingo to "terminate the pregnancy." The single, young patient and her sweet and supportive grandmother were now in the hands of medical experts and dependent on them to lead them in the right direction. Though she was in good health, was not a drug user, and was not the victim of rape or incest, "termination" was presented as their only option, and in fact encouraged via fear tactics.

I spent some time talking with this pregnant girl who quietly confided, "I want my baby." The grandmother had agreed. Swayed by the dignified psychiatrist and the trust she placed in the black nurse, she went through with it via giving birth. Afterward polaroids were taken of the perfectly formed dead twelve ounce baby boy, one whom she would never know, and I will always remember how she, perplexed and very sad, showed them to me. I thought of all the patients I have had who lived with the guilt and shame of abortion and how this girl one day would be old enough to be angry with a medical system that robbed her of her first born son.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Austria

A photo of the Austrian countryside taken from the train window. Looks like but not the same pic as behind the blog title.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Business of News

The earthquake in Haiti and rescue efforts from most of the world’s countries. The election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat in Massachusetts; the ensuing demise of the controversial health care bill. The Kraft buyout of Cadbury, interesting to me because Kraft also own Milka, the delicious chocolate I had in Germany. Heidi Montag’s plastic surgery obsession. And what’s the deal with NBC and the Tonight Show?

The news used to come to us via reliable newspapers or trustworthy, deep-voiced newsmen in an evening televised time slot, but now it is 24/7 and imparted often by attractive, perfectly dressed and coiffed young women whose uncovered crossed legs can dilute the seriousness of what they’re saying. It is also now delivered with a right or leftward slant that makes us question its credibility, or a teasing sensationalism that is aimed at keeping us coming back for more. We now look beyond the facts, to motives and philosophies. I am not a real newshound as political news seems overwhelming and complicated and can leave me with a sense of powerlessness, but I try to keep up with what’s being dished out the best I can. In addition to all the big networks, there are many websites where we can go to read various takes on what’s going on. Being a Conservative, I occasionally like to check out Michelle Malkin, Right Bias, and Drudge, and I also stumble on sites that attack the Right and find them to be enlightening as to what others think but lacking in insight. On the way to work, I try to tune in to Janet Parshall’s America, which discusses news from a Christian worldview. And in non-political news, there are the ordinary people who for some reason have become celebrities, and whose every little false step becomes news to some. Maybe it acts as a diversion to the disturbing news, crimes, wasteful spending, and hopeless situations.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In their season

There is nothing better to eat than fresh fruits in their season. January is when citrus fruits are plentiful, and I like to have enough grapefruit and tangerines to satisfy me til the next winter rolls around. It isn’t until April or so that other fresh produce starts peaking, asparagus around Easter time, then strawberries in May, peaches in June, and blackberries in July. By August, we have a big range of fresh choices from the garden, melons, beans, peppers, with apple season on its heels. Fall’s colorful best are sweet potatoes, broccoli and cranberries. Isn’t it wonderful that Mother Nature planned something healthy for us to enjoy year round?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Some days are frantic and over stimulating but others - like today - are peaceful and mellow. I like a slow groove every now and then, but at some point during the day, I start to remember…my blog! I must post something! But the day has been quiet and steady and my brain hasn’t been fired up. I think it is probably the same situation Paul McCartney faced when he, apparently struggling for lyrics, wrote “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs…” Highly successful yes, unlike the famous but preoccupied screenwriter around whom the plot of the movie “Nine” centered. He eventually had to admit he hadn't been able to come up with a word for his highly touted next movie.

I like writing my little blog, but I also like a mellow day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


This is probably a funny picture if someone is from Bavaria, like a picture of a bowl of lumpy mashed potatoes may be to an American, but cooking Spätzle was new to me. I did have a bowl of delicious buttered Spätzle on my recent trip and a long time ago had some made from scratch by a German neighbor. When I was there recently, I brought home a bag of the dried noodle kind and and tried them today. (I do like to check out grocery stores in places I have never been.) I may have overcooked them since they were a little gummy, but they were good enough for this American girl.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nine at two

This rainy afternoon, I dragged my hubby to the last movie of my movie watching season, Nine. It had my rapt attention while ol' hubby occasionally snoozed in the dark theatre. I thought he may like the the show biz musical genre; at least he kept me company. It was not given great reviews by the critics, but neither did most of the other movies made from Broadway musicals. Personally I think it was very good, especially the photography, the lines, and the character study played superbly by Daniel Day Lewis. There will be no more big screens for me for a while, until there is a must see out there.

Friday, January 15, 2010

From Another Place

Several of our patients have schizophrenia. It is a big diagnosis that encompasses several types of unusual and disorganized thinking processes, and it has a continuum of severity. These pieces by a male who has the chronic undiffertiated type are pretty good representations of such scattered and disturbed thoughts. The top one is done with a pencil and the blue one on bottom one is with marker on a white board. It is perplexing as to what was going on in his head while he was writing and drawing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Great Find!

I am finding more good stuff doing my January cleaning. Today it was a small vial of White Flower Medicine Oil that I brought back from the Philippines. Maria had said it was widely used for headaches in Asia, and I thought I had bought some. Voila! The box reads White Flower Embrocation. That was a new word for me, but it describes how the oil is used, rubbing it in to promote healing. Even though I felt fine, I put some on my temples and they started warming up. It's also supposed to be good for aches and pains, and the menthol and eucalyptus in it help with colds and stuffiness. Here is one website where you can get it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Weather is the Winter's News

We are welcoming a small break from the freeze today, and I am glad.

It was so cold when I was in Germany and Austria. It was the kind of cold that cuts through and stays in your bones, and I knew when I returned to my Southern home and the usual afternoon warmth my fingers and toes would thaw. It was not to be. South Carolina has been the same. My little corner of the world has missed the snow, but the grass is frozen in shiny little spikes and crinkles underfoot. Will spring ever come?

I have been suspicious of the global warming frenzy, but now it seems that not only could people have been "doctoring the books" but that our planet is actually beginning a period of cooling. My cousin Jim who is good about keeping me informed emailed a website that says just that, and from this years experience, it is believable. Looking further into the all knowing web, it seems that this has been theorized for some time, but whether we are meteorologists, politicians, everyday Josie's, or influenced by every wind that blows, Baby it's still cold outside.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flashback to Provence

As I was going through stuff today, I found an old issue of Bon Appetit whose cover read "Delicious Provence." Wishing I could someday go, I had placed it in a wicker picnic basket for safekeeping. Nine years later to the month my wish came true, and what a delicious experience it was for me. Maybe this issue from May 1999 would have been of more value before I actually went, but it was just great to flip through the pages and read about some of their good restaurants, one of which I remembered photographing, and seeing the pics though slightly faded of their freshly grown and exactingly prepared foods. There were brief articles explaining some of my unanswered questions like 1) what was that marvelous smelling tree whose blossoms were used for tea? and 2) what exactly is aioli? (It is actually spelled with two dots over the first i.) The magazine has about a hundred Provencal recipes and here is one of them. (I am going to try it eventually, and I want to know where to find it.)

Twice baked Almond Cookies (think biscotti)
or Croquants d'amandes

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons of honey
one tablespoon orange flower water
2 1/4 cups of whole almonds

Preheat oven to 425. Butter and flour 13 X 9 X 2 inch metal baking pan.

Sift flour and salt into medium bowl. Whisk sugar, eggs, honey, and orange water in a large bowl to blend well. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring just til blended. Add almonds. Spoon into prepared pan spreading batter so top will be smooth.

Bake til dough puffs and is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Turn onto rack and let cool completely. Keep oven on.

Cut pastry crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips. Cut each strip diagonally into three pieces. Arrange cookies cut side down on two baking sheets. Bake until they are golden, about 14 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let them cool.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On her 88th

My mother who would be an even eighty-eight today was generous in her education of all things female, God bless her. I hate to think of the shock that would be in store for me if I were not privy to her experiences. At this point I am particularly grateful that she taught me what the older years bring with them. We women need to know what to expect. We need not to be alarmed when a stray hair gets on our chin or when laugh lines aren’t so funny anymore.

Mother spent a lot of time grooming shall I say, and when she died she looked lovely and well cared for. Back in her sixties and I was visiting, she would ask me to scrutinize the area above her mouth where men, not us women for Heaven’s sake, get whiskers, and she would ask if I had seen any that her tweezers had missed. Of course I could see fairly well then and was able to tell her, even though she probably never had more than ten flimsy ones her whole life! After she got in her eighties, I once asked her if she still had those pesky, ugly facial hairs and she said not in a while. Well at least that is one thing to look forward to!

Usually I see my own unwelcome physical changes in the spring when the sun begins to shine a little brighter into the bathroom mirror, and the new wrinkle or brown spot, sag or crease on my skin seem to wow! me in a bad way. But at any time I can be taken aback when I see my reflection, like the advancing white hairline that tells me it is time to color. Thankfully I can take at least six months off my age by only a few minutes spent with the Natural Instincts box.

But truly I am grateful for my mommy's random little lessons that helped me to ease into these years, and in return, I try to make younger women aware of what's coming. I hope they appreciate it. Knowing helps. And to quote the ad, “Life comes at us fast.”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanks Elvis

I finally quit my messy piddling and am settling down to watch Elvis. He would have been seventy-five today and the media is remembering him. One of my co-workers knows all there is to know about him and says she likes the "Fat Elvis." I prefer the young Elvis, the one who rocked our world long ago on that Ed Sullivan Show one Sunday evening. I am always glad to be able to listen and remember on January 8.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cranberry Preserves

What to do with some of the Christmas leftovers? hmmm . . . Without checking cyberspace or cookbooks, I decided I could figure out how to make preserves with the half bag of fresh cranberries in the fridge. I washed them and put then in a saucepan with just a tad of water, enough to make them pop open. I added a cinnamon stick, a little grated lemon rind and juice, and the pulp and juice of one orange. When it was hot and the cranberries "popped," I added sugar and cooked and stirred it all over a medium heat til the mixture looked like it was supposed to. Then I poured it in a Bonne Maman jar having just enough of my own creation to fill it. There is also a half a wheel of brie left and I think the cranberry preserves will be a nice topping for it. A little tart, a little sweet. I know I am going to like it.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

As I was leaving Fresh Market this afternoon I realized how much money I have saved the past ten months by staying away. Last March I got carried away in there taking photos of the pretty radishes and practically had to be escorted out. At least it felt that way. Was I humiliated! When it was at the older location and really easy for me to get to, I stopped by at least once a week and bought delicious and/or gorgeous foods that mostly went toward making me feel uncomfortably stuffed. Then it moved to the new spot and its design became like all the other Fresh Markets, predictable and less interesting, except for those aforementioned pastel Easter egg radishes last spring. Today I dared to show my face. I found the sausage to go in the bean soup I am having tonight and then it was like old times. I took a small cup of the sample coffee and wandered around the brightly lit place. I got a tub of the jalapeno pimiento cheese spread, some sesame seeds for bread, baby spinach, more meats, some other small items, and didn't overdo it. Thankfully I left without a bagful of the malted milk balls. Except for the possible hundreds of dollars it has saved me, I sure have been silly to stay away.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The things we do for love

Daphne, the grand dame of my cat family whom I like to describe as a “pastel” calico, will be turning fourteen sometime this month. After much pleading from Jessica on her fifteenth birthday, we agreed to take this soft beautiful kitten into our home, a decision we have never regretted. She was the first cat I have had declawed and for a while felt terrible about it, but it never stopped her from being a hunter, causing my neighbors to call her “The Daphinator.” As she settled into her more mature years with grace and dignity, she left whatever younger cats were around to the adventures. Last week she did the sweetest thing. The new kitty, the one I was not going to keep, sneaked outside when the door was opened and would not come to my calls of “Here, Kitty Kitty.” Daphne quietly went out and led her back in from the winter weather.

This week she was isolating somewhere and I wondered why. I found her in a far corner on a high shelf in my bedroom closet, apparently ill. I stood on a stool to get her, then I offered her some canned milk, but she felt too bad to drink it. Some dark drool was coming from her mouth, her eyes and nose were runny, and she was making some pitiful sneezing, sniffling sounds. Daphne was never sick. I called the vet and took her in. I told him I didn’t know what was wrong. “Did she have an abscessed tooth, was it one of those dreaded cat diseases, or was she was getting old and heaven forbid, d-y-i-n-g?” He did the visual cat scan, checked her mouth, listened to her heart, and diagnosed her with an upper respiratory infection. In other words, Daphne had a cold. He gave her a couple of injections and I gladly paid the exorbitant fee, $93. Now she is back to being her sweet self. Live and learn.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What if?

I stopped on my way to work yesterday to drop my plastics off at the recycling center. There were no other cars, just a lone black man with a gimpy leg. As soon as I opened the door, I heard his loud voice call out, "Can I ask you something? Do you have any money for food?" I told him I needed to get my recyclables in the bin and then I would answer him. I gave it some thought as I unloaded my car, and when I had finished decided I would offer him the swiss on whole wheat I planned to have for supper as well as the biscotti for my afternoon coffee. As he stuffed them in his back pocket, he muttered, "I can't eat that," and then continued to ask for money. "Do you have a dollar? Fifty cents?" I got in my car and drove away. Probably most people who beg for handouts are not asking for what they really want, but I didn't want to take the chance. I would have felt awful if I left a hungry man out in the cold. I figure I have to live with myself.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Fresh Start

Monday January 4, the first day of the new week following the Christmas holidays, vacations, breaks, whatever, and it is time to return to business as usual. Students of all ages are back in school, business is full steam ahead, and we know we won’t be getting another official holiday until sometime in February. Most of the seasonal decorations have been put away until next year or are headed for an overfilled landfill, and the activities of the past few weeks will soon settle into the dusty recesses of our minds. We have looked back over the past year and look unknowingly but expectantly to what may lie ahead. Today is a fresh start and the first day of the rest of our lives. Even though each morning gives us that opportunity, it shines brighter on the first full weekday of the New Year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Movie Time

This is the time of year when the best movies are playing, and if we don’t hurry, we may miss them. I enjoy watching a movie on the big screen if it holds my attention, and that is done by good acting, costumes, dialogue, and scenery. I admit I have never been able to follow a plot very well unless it is strictly a chick flick. Those I get. First we saw a non-chick flick, the dark Sherlock Holmes. Artistically I think it is well done, but I had to shield my eyes and wiggle my fingers in my ears a few times trying to avoid the blood and fighting and the representations of evil. At least it wasn’t punctuated with foul language. Yesterday we saw It’s Complicated. Who doesn’t think Meryl Streep is the finest actress? She and the handsome Alec Baldwin and the great script really carried it through to its conclusion. During this movie, the theatre was packed with people who laughed at all the right times and as the credits rolled were heard discussing the decision Jane (Streep) should have made. Avatar had very long lines so we will have to catch that one later, but still there are other good ones out now not to be missed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Here we are, more than a day into 2010. For me, the ending of the old year with its flurry of activities and the transition into the new one feels satisfying and serene, as in ahhh... Maybe today I will review my year and look at the best and worst of it, the happy and the difficult times, the decisions good and bad. Then I will set my goals and give them a time frame. We in the people business do this with our patients because we know that processing what has happened in our lives, no matter how small it seems to be, and setting goals for the future is a good thing; it helps to keep us mentally healthy. So onward we go, one day after another, one breath, one footstep after another. Onward into twenty-ten.