Saturday, February 27, 2010

War Stories

Before I finished nursing school, I had a job waiting for me at Baptist Hospital in Columbia on a nice, new psych unit. I had only about three days in psych clinicals before I started to work so I didn't really know what to expect. A couple of nurses at Baptist had worked in psych before, and I watched them to see how they handled the patients, but others were as green as I was. On my first day, another new nurse and I were called to go to a patient's room. The middle aged black female patient was sitting - motionless, staring, catatonic. We looked at each other in ignorance. Neither of us knew what to do. I had never seen catatonia before, and it is not something we see often, but now we know how to treat it. The patients and the learning experiences from that first year are the ones that are most imprinted on my mind. I saw dementia and psychosis for the first time, incest, mania and despair. I learned about medications and ECT and how to accept my co-workers. It was my intern year.

Probably out of eagerness to learn as much as I could, I left that great job (I always questioned my judgment about that decision) and went to another hospital where the patients seemed more damaged by life experiences and needed to process. There I responded to a call bell one day, and found the young woman in the bathroom, ribbons of blood dripping down her arm, saying, "Help me. I can't stop." She had been cutting herself with a broken mirror. Cutting is an interesting phenomena that we see often and somehow helps relieve stress in those who practice it. Once I found a razor hidden in a stick of deodorant that a female patient brought in. In case of an emergency I suppose.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An unusual day

Win a few. Lose a few. Life is full of surprises. Just when I was pondering the need for some outside cleaning to enhance the curb appeal of my house and also dreading giving a room a much needed coat of paint, the doorbell rings, and it's a guy and his son handing me a flyer and looking for work. They power wash driveways, porches, and decks, and also paint. "Was this a joke?" I asked my husband. Nope. Just one of those "uncanny" things. "You're hired," I told them. They started the cleaning right away and went til dusk.

While this was more helpful than unusual, I used to free myself of some no longer needed stuff. Today some bags of seashells, a manger scene, dishes, old 33 1/3 albums, and an Elvis clock were gladly picked up by different people who saw them as treasures. For me it means less that will have to be moved or thrown in a landfill.

The oddest event was waking at 0500 - truly disgustingly and uncharacteristically early - waiting for the sun to come up, ready to take on the day. I hope that was a signal of changes to come. I always wanted to be an early riser.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

back to the drawing board

When something seems to good to be true, sometimes it is. In the midst of my glee, I received a call from the prospective buyers that they are not going to buy the house. darn . . . I have discussed this with them and that is their final decision. Now, because I am so determined to get to Wilmington, I must revert to Plan A, listing it with a realtor and having all manner of strangers traipse through my living quarters inspecting every little nook and cranny, book and wardrobe item. What an unpleasant experience. But one thing about reaching this wonderful age is that I have learned to deal with what life throws at me with some level of understanding and move along. God is still "intimately acquainted with all my ways," April 15th will be here in about six weeks, the sun will come up tomorrow, and things will work out as they should.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Making Plans

The events of the past couple of weeks have been nothing short of amazing. It is as if God said, “This girl needs my help” and started making things happen.

One evening at work about the first of February, we had a nice female security guard watching an unpredictable young female patient. I complimented the guard on the way she was handling the patient and then, as women do, we got into a conversation with one thing quickly leading to another. She told me that almost a year ago, she and her husband had moved here from Tampa and now they are ready to get out of their apartment. I told her I was planning on retiring this spring, that we would be moving to Wilmington, and my home would be for sale. She talked about what they wanted in a house and as it turned out, mine had all those qualities. I gave her my address and phone number and suggested they ride by, and if they liked the location and the exterior look, we could go on from there.

Long story short, they love the house, as I have, and came by yesterday with papers showing they have been approved for the loan. They took pictures and talked about what they plan for certain areas. I saw that in their minds, it is theirs already.

The timing is working out perfectly. I had wanted to be in Wilmington around May and so far it is looking as if that will happen. On our trip this weekend, as I rode along the riverfront, passed the downtown churches that still look like they did when I was a child and the old houses one of which was my great-great-great grandparents, and saw the swaying Spanish moss on the pines, and felt the Wilmington air, my heart felt right at home. I know being there is the right thing.

We met with a realtor, one whom I had selected on the internet but didn’t want to bother too soon, and of all the realtors in town, is the one I was “randomly” assigned to when I hurriedly called Prudential, a familiar agency. Still we have not found a house. Choosing one is the next big thing, and I believe it is there, still undiscovered.

There is much ahead of us, but the transition is starting perfectly with God’s blessing and leadership. I look expectantly to life in the lovely Port City.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

...and further

As I think over stories I can tell about my hospital experiences, they all seem to sound gruesome, like psychological dramas, murder and mayhem that are on A&E that I click quickly past. About ten years ago, I typed twelve pages of my work memories and mailed them to my mother to read. She was aghast at what I was around in my daily work. Everyone who works in a hospital sees people at their worst and also sometimes at their best. We see life as it begins with hope and ends in suffering. We see families torn by opinion and shame and individuals who struggle with how to cope with the most difficult of situations. We do not have the time to give the attention we desire to give, and we are faced daily with ethical dilemmas. It has been the most interesting of professions. I have learned to see work as an honorable word and not something demeaning born from necessity. It has caused me to grow up and learn to adjust and adapt and to expand my capacity for love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's been good

For a year or so I have been thinking mostly of my retirement. What the word actually will mean for me will unfold. It is a thrilling time, like being a senior in high school facing graduation, but doubly so because I have worked as a nurse much longer than those twelve growing up years. Like that though, it means closing one chapter and opening another one, yet unwritten with only an outline.

I have been mentally reviewing my career while looking forward to the changes that are to come. In the beginning, if someone had told me that I would have lasted this long in nursing, I would have laughed in disbelief. With all the fear and queasiness I had, I felt that I barely made it out of nursing school, and since I really didn’t want to be a nurse, I sometimes felt like a fraud. I was more comfortable with guys and was concerned how I could survive in a workplace with all women, but it worked out. God placed me in my niche, gave me the strength I needed, and I have remained to serve, with RN proudly behind my name.

Over the years each time I reached what I thought was the end of my rope, something, usually some kind words or a new perspective, called me back. I wondered how I would know when it would be time to leave for good. Would it be a slip knot in the rope and no new perspective? Would it be a big, scary event? It has been none of the above thankfully. It is simply time to hang it up. The government gives us that option.

I have measured the last quarter century by where I was working, and work I did. I think I was in the hospital when many big things happened in my life. It was where I got the calls about my children’s engagements or listened to happy news of expectant babies. I cried on the shoulder of another nurse when Peter called to tell me he was going in the Navy. And when he was in an accident and airlifted to a trauma center, there I was in the nurses station. Maybe it was all for a reason as I immediately had someone to share the good and the bad news.

For a while I may write some of my stories here in my little blog.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Comin fo to carry me

Languages are always changing. Each year old words are deleted from the dictionary and new ones are added. Sometimes cultures unofficially adopt phrases and words from other groups because they seem to work. Here in my part of the South many of us white folks now regularly use some expressions we picked up from our black neighbors such as the word “passed” when someone has died. Some of us used to say “pass away” but not just plain “pass.” I suppose when we die we do pass from one life to another. Another word I have heard often is “blessed” as in “Have a blessed day,” which is a sweet phrase. As a result of liking it, I now tend to think of my blessings and use the word more often. Years ago we picked up “Ain’t no big thing” from music and are used to hearing “dawg” thanks to Randy Jackson. “Dis” is a simple word for talking trash about somebody else. (Talking trash?) And I have started referring to my ex-husband as my "baby daddy.” What a rich collection of words we share.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Greatest of These

I love Valentine’s Day. After all, is there anything worth celebrating more than love? Out of God’s “great love for us” we, who are created in His image, can love one another. That is something to celebrate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Work vs Life

Sometimes I wonder . . . is work easier than life? It can be. Work, at least when we are doing it for someone else like a hospital in my case, has certain parameters. I am expected to do specific things in specific ways in a specific amount of time. Sports is the same way except perhaps more so. The rules are more stringent and the competitors become more skilled, the youngest and poorest dropping out along the way. We marvel at the fine athletes who have perfected the particulars of the expectations of their sport as we will be doing in the Olympics.

But once we leave the workplace or the sports arena, more choices open up to us, how we spend our time and money, what to eat, who to see, what to do. It is all up to us then. There are no outside forces telling us to live our lives in a certain way so it becomes easy to get lax and mediocre. We can postpone a duty that if a boss or coach told us to do, we would do. We have no human referees in our private lives. If athletes fail to play or participate within the rules or are not fit enough, out they go. If we workers do not perform as expected, arriving late and doing our work carelessly, we have the same fate. Life isn't like that. So which is easier?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Moving on . . .

I am glad I wasn’t here to see it go. Yesterday when I got home there was a void in the house, a bare spot against the wall where the piano once stood. Though I had this piano only about fifteen years it had several reasons to be special, and last week, knowing I would never be playing it again, let my fingers stumble across the keys once more as I made my way through some old sheet music most signed on top with my maiden name. The piano has sat unused for several years now, being played only when the grandchildren came. Jacob learned to play Heart and Soul on it, and the girls bunched together on the bench making lovely tinkly sounds. No more. I always thought every home needed a piano, that like books, they add warmth, character and stability to a home’s environment. But at this stage of our lives, we plan to pare down, move to a smaller place, and for me, a piano is not a necessity. Character will have to express itself in another way. It is one more thing I have let go of. I hope it will be loved and used in the little church that will be its new home.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Surviving Winter

Another soppy, dreary, freezing day. Will this winter never end! Only a couple of years ago I felt that winter had hardly made its rounds to Greenville. I remember balmy evenings, and days when the sun’s energy filled my car with warmth, and when I hoped the ground would have enough of a freeze to kill the bugs. (It’s a SC thing.) No worry this year. We have fully experienced Old Man Winter.

During this cold and messy season, I have not been keen on doing much besides staying in - except when I go to work of course - and have begun the habit of enjoying supper in the evening while watching Cash Cab. I think the show is quite popular, and I like it not just for the questions but because the show seems to treat the viewer with some respect. (Think about it.) A bowl of vegetable soup while watching something fun on television - how cozy and American is that. If the weather weren’t so nasty, I wouldn’t take the time to engage in this pleasant, comforting ritual. So it’s not all bad.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good Sayings

"If you nurse your troubles, they will grow."

"If you want to change your world, start changing your words."

"Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. At some time in your life you have been or will be all of these."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

I must brag about myself a little bit though with some humility because everyone can do something well, and this is my something. Over the past few years I have become quite the pizza maker. It started from my love of playing with bread dough, adding, shaping, copying what I had seen and tasted. Though I really haven't spent much time baking since I became a nurse, it is like riding a bicycle and I can jump right back in when I have the time and desire.

I think making pizza started because the dough is the easiest to make. With some bread flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, hot tap water, a little beating and kneading and a warm place to rise, you can do anything! This morning I made enough dough for a couple of them, and while knoshing on the first realized if I had eaten it in a pizza joint, I would definitely have to come back for more. The second was just as good. It had only a faint smear of homemade tomato sauce, baby portobello mushrooms, fresh spinach, red onion, light mozzarella and romano cheeses, goat cheese and some of the dried oregano from Stu and Paige's garden. Heavenly.

I just kept at it, one pizza after another, until I became good at it. Two of my sons are also making delicious pizzas, learned from their mom. The down side is that restaurant pizza is no longer appealing. I guess I will have to stick with ordering Mexican. I am not going to learn to make chili rellenos, chimichangas or margaritas, letting the preparation remain a mystery.