Saturday, January 31, 2009

too tired to come up with a cute title

We got our asses handed to us at work today.

From the names I personally got called ("child molester"," murderer", "smelly bitch"), to the patients themselves (drama with a capital D), to the number of cops on the unit, to something a patient said to me that is so unbearably filthy and gross that I may still be washing my ears out in 2016, to a level of absurdity that even I couldn't make was a cluster. From the word go.

Two of my own cried before noon. Do you know what it takes to make an ER nurse cry? One of the docs wasn't far behind. By three we all were laughing hysterically, because by then the choice was clear. Laugh or cry. Survive or die.

We chose survival. Proved again that when the chips are down we protect each other with a white hot passion. And we laughed our way through the rest of the shift. Sticks and stones...

Back tomorrow...for more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the 32 hour day

There's the two letters in my gmail account - one from a long-time reader and one from someone brand new to this blog. Both of them wonderful, personal, touching messages. Both written unprompted by someone who wanted to do something nice. Both of which I want to sit down and write something equally wonderful in return to.


One of my best friends finally tracked me down on the phone today after we'd been missing each other for days. Then there's the friend I saw at school pick-up today, but didn't have time to stay and chat. Another friend and I have started communicating mostly on Facebook, since it's so easy. The major reason I joined was to make it easier to stay in touch with people - far and near - since we all know how I am with that.

Ah, yes. Facebook. There's the message that was sent to me in reply to a question of mine, from a regular reader of this blog. A fascinating, thought-provoking letter that really deserves some reply from me.


The phone call to my mother that never got made. The reply to an email from my step-father that I just got, even though he sent it days ago. It went to my spam, but he doesn't know that. I'm sure he's wondering what the hell is going on. Hopefully, my mother will read this and tell him.

There have been some bright spots. I just got off the phone from a really nice catch-up session with someone very dear to me that I've reconnected with. A long phone call over the weekend with one of my bestest friends in California. (Of course, she sent me an email not long after the phone call and I still haven't responded to that).

I just can't seem to keep up. Why is this so hard for me? I had the entire day today to do what I wanted to do and I still feel like I didn't get anything done. I did, though. I went to the gym and three grocery stores (shopping the sales). Baked six pans of cinnamon rolls. Did three loads of laundry. Helped Surfer Dude with his science fair project. Worked out kid scheduling with the FX. Did all the things I normally do before a long work run. While the kids were in school, I laid down to shut my eyes for ten minutes and woke up two hours later. Bam. The day is gone. And all my good intentions are gone with it.

I need some good techniques to stay in touch better. Any ideas?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

analyze this

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Aricept moment, I'm solidly in the middle of a Gemini moment. Remember Gemini? The Twins? Like the Good Gemini/Bad Gemini graphics above demonstrates so well, we can cover a lot of territory in a very short period of time. Sometimes that's good. Today is not one of those days. I'm having myself a little crisis, and it all boils down to this:

I don't know what I'm doing, people. I am a woman without a clue.

Contradictions in my thoughts processes are not unknown to me, but usually I can untangle them if I give myself enough time. At the moment, every knot I unravel turns into another snag almost immediately. Consider the spaghetti pile of dilemmas in my head -

I am shocked (amazed, befuddled, bewildered, gratified) by how much I like not being married. And this only happened because the FX upset the apple cart, pulling the plug on something that I personally had never had the balls to walk away from. In a weird way, I should send him a Thank You card. But yet...

I'm still really angry at him.

Or how about this one -

Neither of my two date proposals seem to understand the word no. Or maybe I didn't put it right. Or maybe (god forbid), my stupid act isn't as good as I think it is. (Any bets on what Willowtree is going to do with that statement??) Whatever the reason, they're both still persuing their cause. And I'm still playing stupid. I have absolutely no intention of caving in and saying yes, and think it would be nice if they could just forget this all ever happened. But yet...

I'm kind of enjoying it. In a purely scientific, collecting research for my book sort of way, of course.

Third one's the charm -

I know that it's a cold and lonely world out there in the romance department, with perfectly lovely people struggling to find a partner, no matter how badly they want one. I know that the longer it takes me to dip back into the dating game, the higher the probability that I'll end up without a mate. I also know that I don't want one. Not now, anyway. But yet...

I'm almost having fun with this. I had honestly forgotten what it felt like to get this kind of attention. And at an age where I'm smart enough to see it for the bullshit it is, and not fall into a trap like a wide eyed twenty year old. I've got nothing to lose.

Is it the Gemini pull? Or am I finally going round the bend?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

yeah, but first I have to find it

One of the most widely used drugs on the market for dementia is called Aricept. So, with our typically black humor, a lot of medical types call a monumental memory lapse an "Aricept moment". It's just one in a string of little shorthand phrases we use, but it's one of the most understood. It's our way of saying we had a brain fart, or totally lost track of what we were saying or doing, or that we've really, totally jacked something up beyond repair.

This is the story of my own Aricept moment.

We picked our Bunco secret pals in December, as I've written about before. I was very excited about who I picked, as I consider her one of my closest friends in the group. (And no, she doesn't read this blog, so hopefully she won't even know about this until I fess up in December). For the sake of the story let's call her Rebecca, since that's her name.

Before our first Bunco of the year I went out and bought her a really nice bottle of red wine, which she loves. I wasn't going for anything particularly memorable, just a start of the year kick-off gift. The day of Bunco, my phone rang. It was my friend Laurie, and she was worried. She had drawn the name of the newest member and she had a nagging feeling that this gal's birthday was in January. She didn't want to miss her birthday, but she wasn't quite sure of when it was. I've known this new person longer than Laurie and I said I was almost positive her birthday was in the Spring, so it would be fine to just bring her a little token gift. I said that there were only two people in the group who had January birthdays and her gal wasn't one of them. We went around and around on this, but finally I convinced her and she went off to buy something small, yet meaningful.

That night, I didn't see Rebecca get her bottle of wine in the gift exchange since I was a) on the other side of the room and b) on the happy side of the hangover from hell, but I was absolutely confident in my choice of gift. It was simple, it was was perfect.

Cut forward a week. I'm at the rummage sale for the elementary school that several of the Bunco Babe's kids attend, and I see Rebecca taking money at the cashier. As Surfer Dude and I get to the front, I reached across the table and gave her a big hug.

Happy Birthday, I said, A day late. I hope you had a great day.

You're so sweet, she replied, You always remember my birthday.

And we left.

I was halfway home when what I had done finally hit me. I had totally blown off my secret pal's birthday. That was bad enough, but how I did it took the prize. I completely remembered that Rebecca had a January birthday. I think I even mentioned it to Laurie during that conversation the day of. But somehow the parallel train tracks of a) Rebecca is my secret pal and b) Rebecca has a January birthday never crossed over. This is doubly (triply, quadruply) galling because this has happened to her before with this inconvenient January birthday, and I know for a fact she was really hurt by it. Mentally, I rewrote what she had said to me minutes earlier

You're so sweet, she replied, You always remember my birthday - unlike that no good slacker of a secret pal I've got.

I was horrified, and started running through damage control options. Shop extravagantly and leave it on her doorstep? Call her on the phone and fess up to the whole mess, blowing my cover that isn't supposed to be "unveiled" until the end of the year? Send her an anonymous apology in the mail? What to do, what to do?

Finally, I hit on this. I'm pushing her birthday back a month. With the cooperation of the February hostess, I'm going to throw a "surprise" birthday bash. If I think really fast on my feet between now and then, maybe I can even make her think I planned it this way the whole time. It's worth a shot. It's the only shot I've got.

Because, oh my god, do I feel terrible.

And speaking of Aricept moments, when I posted the awards I'd recently received, I completely forgot to pass one along. (Is anybody but me sensing a theme here?) So, without further ado, I'm giving the Proximity Award to these very deserving bloggers who make my own world a lot nicer.

Rudee at A Knitting Nurse is proximity personified. She may live a few states away, but every time I put on the unbelievable wool socks she knit for me I feel like she's right next to me. And I know I'm not the only recipient of her generosity, either. So, Rudee...this one's for you. You wear it well.

Then there's Laurie at Three Dog Blog. I think this is tailor made for her because, well, Laurie is everywhere. I don't know how she finds the time to read all the blogs she does - much less comment on them - but somehow she does. They're even succinct, well-thought out comments, that lead you to believe she actually read the whole post before she commented. That's gotta deserve an award.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

fair trade

I'm really curious about this whole practice of bartering. It seems to be a hot topic at the moment, not that it ever really disappeared. It just feels like it's on a huge upswing right now. Surely the god-awful economy has a lot to do with it, but it seems like there are a lot of other factors in play, too, like being environmentally friendly. It used to be that it took place between people who knew each other, but there are on-line bartering sites all over the place in recent years. What started out with a sense of community has gone very global.

If you aren't familiar with the practice, it's basically trading something you do for something someone else does. Say you're a really good tree trimmer and your neighbor is an ace plumber. You cut down dead branches in return for getting that leaky bathroom sink fixed. It's an investment of time and skill rather than money, and the possibilities are virtually endless. This is really bartering in its simplest form, since you can, in theory anyway, barter anything anywhere. Some people barter for everything from airplane tickets to cemetery plots, but that's just too over my head to even contemplate.

I have friends who barter regularly and always have. I love the idea, and would like to start doing it, but I immediately run into a roadblock. I don't think I have many skills I could trade that people would want. It seems to me that the people who would be able to put this to good use have specific marketable skills. Take photography. I would think if you can take a good picture, you can swap that talent. How about other artists? Or any kind of household handiwork. Auto mechanics. Hair cutting. Graphic design. Massage therapists. These are all highly tradeable skills.

It's a little humbling to realize that you have no real skills when it comes to what you can trade. I've put time and thought into this, and here's what I came up with.

I bake really good bread, and make a mean homemade pizza crust.

And I think that's it. In a town loaded with fabulous bakeries and pizza places, those aren't going to take me far. I don't sew. I knit - badly. I'm totally crafts challenged, to my enormous chagrin.

I can always babysit. Or cook. But those skills are a dime a dozen. There is the nursing aspect, but I don't really see that as barterable. I'm always happy to be a Dial A Nurse for my friends, but that's different. I could come over to your house and take out stitches, but any moron with nail clippers can do that. It's too bad, really, because there are so many things I'd like to get from bartering. I just don't seem to be in a position to pull it off.

What about the rest of you? What are some skills you have that you could trade off for things you can't do? And what would you most like to trade for?

Monday, January 26, 2009

farting dogs and lost weekends

Well, it's been a long time since we've done an awards show, and just this week two of them have come this way. Perfect timing too, since I'm trying like the devil to divert everyone's attention from yesterday's post and the sheist storm that ensued. So...away we go...

I'll start off with the one from Willowtree at A Dingo's Got My Barbie, because if he doesn't get to be first he'll whine. This is an award theoretically just because he felt like giving out awards, but in actuality it's just another one of his sick little games. He just wants to see how many hoops we're all willing to jump through for one of his famous awards. (If you don't believe me, go to the Dingo and read the list of requirements. Make sure you pee first, since you won't be getting up any time soon).

WT is my late-night on-line chat buddy, when he can fit me into his busy social schedule. Between teaching his dogs to fart on cue and devising contests built around obscure puns that no one gets but him, he's a busy guy. He's like the Outback's answer to Rodney Dangerfield. Minus the respect. Double the shock value.

In his usual backhanded way, he explained why each of us got the award, and for the most part none of it was particularly complimentary. As far as I could tell, mine boiled down to the fact that a) I'm not nice and b) he wanted to see me naked. Alright, Peter, just for you...

If I were a nice person I would have warned you that that was coming.

The other one is from Iota at Not wrong, just different. It's a Proximity Award, which sounds kind of odd until you read the explanation:

This award focuses not on the glory and fanfare of blogging, but in the PROXIMITY to one another through this online-world. This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY--nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement!

Now I don't normally lift things verbatim from other people's blogs, but she put this so absolutely perfectly that I just have to quote her. This was her response:

This is obviously hogwash as I am totally interested in both prizes and self-aggrandizement (although I'd rather it was spelt with an 's' - aggrandizement that is, not prizes). And as for 'the glory and fanfare of blogging', well, I'd definitely be going for a slice of that, if only I knew where to find it.

That makes two of us. Just for the record.

She gave me this for an interesting reason. See, we both live in the same state, although neither of us is from here. Our cities are not close to each other, but last Fall she ended up spending a weekend in my town, a fact which came out in an email exchange we had a couple of weeks ago. And across the cyber miles, we both said some version of Oh! If only we'd known. We could have actually met in person. Wouldn't that be cool?

I've never met another blogger in person, although there are quite a few I would like to. There are actually several I feel like I have met, even though I really haven't. But this almost chance encounter brought the whole Small World theory close to home. And that's what this award is about. It's about making a great big world seem a lot closer through blogging.

Whether you have clothes on or not.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

saturday night's alright for fightin'

I'm sitting in my dark dining room, in my pitch black (except for the computer screen) downstairs dodging Nerf bullets as I write this. Four boys - fully armed with Nerf guns and survival gear infrared lights - are having a two on two battle that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to turn ugly at any second. Surfer Dude is having a sleepover and I will be the first casualty. What else is new?

Lots of interesting things going on in RCville, but they'll have to wait. I can't possibly compete with four armed boys on a sugar high.

But just as a little preview...I got asked out for the first time since the divorce. By a 28 year old. And kind of hunky, now that I really think about it. WTF? Then, not 48 hours later, it happened someone far more age appropriate. WTF squared. Is it a full moon? A leap year?

Or is it my new Nerf perfume?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

not far off...except for the tighty whiteys

I was going to write something amazing tonight. Something funny and profound and deeply intelligent - nothing like what you're used to reading on this blog. I had high hopes, I had motivation, I had good intentions. I had it all.

Right up until I decided to lay down on the sofa with Surfer Dude for "just a few minutes" after work. Three hours later, I've woken up to a house full of teenage boys that weren't here earlier and a shocking lack of any motivation whatsoever. Plus a really snuggly eleven year old who is snoring softly at my side, looking like he needs another hug or two.

Hmm. Snuggly eleven year old or overheating laptop?

It's not even close, is it?

Friday, January 23, 2009

a list for the ages

One of my friends sent this out as an email last week, and even though I've seen it before (just like 30. I've seen that before, too), it really caught my attention. I'm not entirely sure why, except that it's a list about taking stock of your life, and as we all know, there's a lot of that going around these days.

Some of these things are timeless, applicable to any age. Others are more specific to a younger time in life. The first thing I had to do, of course, was go through and check off what I do and don't have. The second thing I thought was how interesting it would be to do this list for 40 and 50 and so on. Because if 40 really is the new 30 I think we need our own list. By 40, you should have: Your Own List. And by 50, you should have your own list. And 60. And 70. Even if 40 isn't the new 30, I still think we need our own list. But even so, this is interesting.

By 30, you should have:

One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.

A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.

Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.

A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.

A youth you’re content to move beyond.

A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.

The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.

An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.

A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.

One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.

A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra.

Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.

The belief that you deserve it.

A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.

A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better.

By 30, you should know:

How to fall in love without losing yourself.

How you feel about having kids.

How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.

When to try harder and when to walk away.

How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.

The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town.

How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.

How to take control of your own birthday.

That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents.

That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.

What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.

That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long.

Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally.

Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.

Why they say life begins at 30.

I'm actually doing better than I would have thought. I didn't have a lot of these things when I was 30, but I sure am racking them up now. Some faster than others.

How about you? What would you put on your list for the ages?

P.S. For some reason this is often attributed to Maya Angelou as a "poem". It was actually written by Pamela Redmond Satran for Glamour Magazine in 1997. As a list. Need I say more?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This is MY opinion, okay? I'm not putting any words in YOUR mouth. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME??

Sasquatch and I have had a day.

From the moment he bellowed in my still sleeping ear this morning that he was running really late for the bus and would I drive him until ten minutes ago when he shrieked at me that he couldn't possibly turn off all the lights downstairs before he came up because that would leave him down there... alone, in the dark, we've gone round and round. It's all been stupid stuff, but there's been a lot of it, and it seems like it has gone on for hours, even though I know it hasn't. Today, we've simply been on different planets.

Once again, he's ducking and dodging, diverting any responsibility or blame onto someone other than himself (aka Me), while skating blithely through the mess he's just created almost single-handedly. He's left a string of unanswered questions in his wake. Why is it that he manages to make the bus just fine on the mornings I work and can't possibly drive him? Why is it that he can walk home in the dark from downtown - past a big shadowy park - but can't turn off all the lights downstairs because "then it will be dark"?? Why does he not understand that two t-shirts and a sock is not a full load of laundry? And that if you climb in the shower while your "load" of laundry is going, the water temperature is going to fluctuate big time.

Was that a scream I just heard from the bathroom?

And here's the really weird part. I'm kind of out of practice with this, because he's been a lot better about stuff lately. He's trying - in his half-assed teenaged way - to be more responsible and reliable, and for the most part it's working. I have to try - in my half-assed motherly way - to avoid some of the landmines that I know are there. The personal responsibility issue is enormous for me, and unfortunately for the poor kid, genetics were not kind to him in that respect. His instinctive response is to deny, and if that doesn't work, move on to deflect.

Case in point: Right before Christmas, he threw a "load" of laundry into the washer and then went to school. After I had moved everything into the dryer, there was an awful noise coming from the laundry room...clunk clunk WHAM clunk clunk WHAM. The answer to the noise was found in the pocket of a pair of his cargo pants - a great big silver serving spoon...that wasn't mine. I asked him about it when he got home. Oh, he said, I must've gotten that when I spent the night at Evan's house. But why, I asked, is there a serving spoon in your pocket? And he said (wait for it) I don't know. I didn't put it there. I pursued it, since I was frankly baffled. (Not as baffled as my friend Stacey, Evan's mom, who said Am I going to have to check your son's pockets for valuables when he leaves my house?) He thought about it for a minute and then remembered some dorky game they had been playing that somehow involved the spoon. But why, I pressed, did you bring it home in your pocket?

And, the denial avenue being closed, he went straight for his number two weapon and said Evan must've put it in there.

Let's just go with that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

a three hanky day

I should've just bypassed the mascara this morning. But I didn't, and my penance was that I looked like a red-eyed raccoon for a good part of the day. If you want to be absolutely truthful, it wasn't my penance at all, since I couldn't see myself, but a punishment for all the people who had to look at me, people who may or may not have prepared ahead and forgone their own mascara in anticipation of a weepy day.

Well, of course I'm talking about the inauguration. What else would I be talking about? What else is anyone talking about today?

It was a very interesting day all around. The state I live in is deep Red, but the town I live in is pretty noticeably split. There's a large Red faction, but a good part of it is a defiant little blob of big mouthed Blue. And the demographics of my town are unique as well. We have tattooed students with dreadlocks sharing downtown shopping space with homeschooling Mennonites. Sunburned farmers in dark denim overalls idle their Ford trucks at red lights next to Middle Eastern exchange students in full head dress and small sports cars. The impeccably groomed country club set push their carts down the aisles of the local natural foods co-op next to the militant lesbians sporting underarm hair and t-shirts proclaiming The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own. Just about any faction you can think of is well represented.

And we see all of them at the hospital, emergencies being pretty much an equal opportunity kind of thing. In the days and months leading up to the election, there were some tense moments as paths collided. Our department was sharply divided. Our patients were sharply divided. Words were exchanged more than once, as November got closer and closer. It seemed difficult to imagine that, come January 20th, people could band together behind a matter who won.

But that simply wasn't the case today. TV's were on throughout the entire hospital, and there were little clusters of people in front of each of them. In the waiting rooms, people watched in absolute silence as the day progressed. I saw elderly ladies high fiving each other outside of radiology, and older men who I would bet my life voted for the candidate who was not taking an oath today...and they were smiling. One of our doctors - who loathes Obama - put it quite simply. "No matter what I think of him, " he said, "he's my president now. And I'd be a fool to want him to fail."

It's not a bad way to start.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the comfort zone

When I was in college, living low and stringing together a bunch of part-time jobs, as long as I had enough extra money in my pocket for a tank of gas or an all-you-can-eat happy hour, I was content.

When I was working full-time at Paramount, my pay went up, but of course so did my expenses. That was about the time I started socking money away, knowing that the whole kid issue was about to raise its expensive head. As long as I could take part of my paycheck - no matter how small - and put it in a savings account, I was okay.

When I was a stay-at-home mom and going back to the days of stringing together jobs for a little extra money to supplement the FX's freelance income, as long as I could pay most of the bills each month, I was alright. Those were the years of paying bills on alternate months, so that everything was always a month behind, but not far enough that they'd turn you off. Those were the years of buying food with credit cards and making minimum payments on the balance. Those were the years that the only entertainment we could afford was putting the baby in the stroller and walking for eight hours.

Those were the years that formed money personality I am now.

Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that I grew up with money. I lived with my mom and my step-dad and we were pretty darn comfortable. There were lean years for quite a while when we first moved to California, but by the time I was a teenager and had bought a clue as to what was going on, we were looking good. My step-father was a touring musician making an excellent income, and my mom had a very successful business of her own. My father was, to be perfectly blunt about it, a very rich man, handing out hundred dollar bills like candy. (Given the choice of spending time with his children or throwing money their way, he chose the money. A hundred times out of a hundred). I lacked for nothing money-wise when I was a teenager,and in the typical way of teenagers, didn't even realize how good I had it.

But. You knew there was going to be a but in here, didn't you? My mom and my step-father divorced and her financial situation changed drastically. My father, through his own (to be perfectly blunt again) stupidity, was on the verge of bankruptcy. My college fund was piled high on the Vegas craps tables. So halfway through my first year of college, for the very first time, I experienced what it was like to literally not have any money. To say I was ill-prepared is mild. But I was young and adaptable and, lets face it, kind of stupid, so it all turned out okay. I worked my way through an inexpensive state college (all six years of it) and looked at the entire time as the biggest learning experience of my life, in ways that had nothing to do with exams and term papers.

All that penny pinching and denial came back in full force when I was staying home with my kids. It had to. Our survival depended on it. My being able to stay home depended on it. I didn't want to work at that time, so the deal we made was that the FX would make as much money as he possibly could and I would figure out a way for us to spend as little of it as possible. If I had to label that period, it would be as The Years Without A Safety Net. Sure we had parents who didn't want us out on the street and we had credit cards, but we lived very close to the edge. A freelance income is a scary thing. Sometimes it's there and isn't.

This has been something I've been thinking about a lot lately, because my comfort level has changed so much in the past year. For several years pre-divorce, we had achieved a nice life, although there still seemed to be money leaks that made me crazy. The FX not only had his regular job, but a decent freelance income to boot. I was working. We had reasonably good health insurance. We may not have had a ton of extras, but we were safe. If a huge expense came up, he could just go out and pick up another project. And if he couldn't do it right then, we could wing it until he did. That's the magic of freelance. Every phone call, every rattle of the mailbox, is fraught with anticipation. Something lucrative could always be on the other end. And very often was.

That's not a factor in my life anymore. There are no unexpected checks in my mailbox, and the phone calls are mostly people who want to sell me time shares in Pittsburgh. I have my nursing income and my child support, and it's enough to get by comfortably on, but my comfort zone has diminished to almost nothing. I feel like a woman without a safety net, even though that's not the case at all. I've become compulsive again, and although that's a darn smart way to be in this horrendous economy, it's stil freaking me out. If I dip below a certain amount in the bank, even when my bills are all paid, I panic. Ten years ago I would have thrown a party over the same amount. An unexpected expense makes me crazy. I just keep thinking that my child support will be gone in seven years. I have children. They used to be tiny and now they're not. I know how fast seven years goes by.

I have seven years to come up with Plan B. I need a safety net.

Does our financial comfort zone change by our circumstances? By our life experiences? Or is it the age factor, that feeling that time is running out to "prepare for the future"? Perhaps some combination of all of these?

Whatever the reason...why does comfort always seem just one step away?

Monday, January 19, 2009

power players

During a conversation today with an old friend, the topic turned to money and power - specifically how money and power affect the way people deal with and treat others. This is something I see occasionally with a few of the older doctors, this power that they feel is due to them. Most of the younger ones don't have that bent, thank goodness, so it's not usually a factor. Some nurses make it their business to straighten that bent out of any uppity docs, and I say more power to them. I work in a department where it isn't a factor, bless the stars. But I sure do remember what it's like.

If you want to see firsthand how absolute power corrupts absolutely - go work in television or film. I've got a million stories and they all send my blood pressure skyrocketing. But it can happen anywhere and in tons of different ways. I'll never forget one regular customer we had when I was a waitress. I worked in an affluent town and she was a trust fund babe. She came in regularly with her husband and she always spoke through him. I'd go to take the order and she'd tell him what to tell me. If I'd ask her a direct question ("blue cheese or ranch?"), she'd look at him and say, "Tell her I'll have the oil and vinegar". Every time she did that it would make my eyeballs burn, but she never deviated from her pattern. We were simply beneath her. A totally different class. And she had no qualms about letting us know about it.

But my classic story about this sort of behavior comes from my Paramount days. The artist still being known as Prince was scheduled to appear on The Arsenio Hall Show, and the day before his appearance, his people sent out a memo to all of us who would typically be on the stage before and during the show. The memo was short and to the point. No one was allowed to look at Prince, and it was expressly forbidden that he would be looked in the eye. Anyone within a certain range (I can't remember exactly what) was instructed to look at the ground until he passed by. Violators would run the risk of termination.

My boss read the memo with trepidation in his voice. And when he was done he told me and my office mate, my best friend there, that we wouldn't be going up to the stage that particular day. He said we could go home early with pay and then he delegated our jobs to two more sedate people in the department. When asked why, all he would say is that he knew us both far too well. We argued strenuously, to no avail. We promised that of course we'd follow the rules. I never even mentioned the line that popped into my head immediately, attributed to Roseanne Arnold during a recent feud with The Purple One, when she said he looked exactly like he'd been dipped in pubic hair. Our restraint went unheeded and my boss had the last word.

So I never got to see Prince in person.

But I did get to keep my job.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

my I don't have to run day

I love Sundays. I love them even more when I'm not working. And more still when they're smack in the middle of a three (or in my case four) day weekend. I like to lounge around with the newspaper and my very own pot of coffee, after I've slept as late as my little heart desires. I love sleeping in even more than I love Sundays. I love sleeping in more than just about anything, including peanut butter. (And by the way, why did my already insatiable craving for PB get even worse the second I heard they were recalling it? This recall better be quick).

The pace of the day always seems a little slower, at least at first. Toward the afternoon it's easy to shift into workweek prep mode, but since that isn't the case tomorrow it just sweetens the pot. A whole day free. The only thing I absolutely plan on doing is a couple loads of laundry. Other than that...the day is ours.

What's one thing you plan on doing today? Big, small or otherwise.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

deep fried couch potato

Ah, yes. It's that self-improvement time of year. Soon it will be February and we can forget all about it, but right now most of the people I know are trying to "be good". Great. Like January's not dreary enough.

So I'm also trying to "be good". Sigh. This is not a "resolution". It's more an incentive to be able to start running again when my ankle agrees. For the most part it's okay, but I do have certain triggers that tend to set me off. Peanut butter is one. As much as I love it, I'm better off avoiding it completely right now, since one bite typically leads to a full-out assault on the jar with a spoon. I don't seem to have a stop button with peanut butter. Potatoes are another one. I don't believe there's a single combination of potatoes, grease and salt that I don't absolutely love. And once again, my stop button seems to have gone AWOL.

Why do some foods just strip us of our self-control? Or am I the only one without a stop button?

Friday, January 16, 2009

a good egg

A co-worker used an expression the other day that I haven't heard in a long time. She called someone "a good egg", and then, because it was the end of the shift and we were all punchy, she went around and told us all exactly what kind of egg we were. Some were hard boiled, some were cracked, a few were scrambled. When she came to me she said, "You're all gooey in the middle." Then she paused for a second and added, "But you're getting harder all the time."

This is someone I adore, someone who played (and still plays) a huge part in my ER education, one of the people who trained me, and a person whom I totally depend on to tell it like it is. My initial thought was WTF?, but I realized instantly that she was not only very perceptive, but dead right. I am getting harder. And while on one hand this makes me kind of sad, on the other hand I understand that it is absolutely inevitable.

One day at my old job in the trauma ICU, I got floated down to the ER for a shift. There was a patient who came in for some reason I've totally forgotten, and the triage nurse said (rolling her eyes), "This one's going to need a little TLC". The charge nurse made an awful face, looked at me and said "You're up, kid. We don't do compassion down here. That's for you ICU nurses." I was horrified and angry all at the same time. You don't do compassion? Are you not a nurse? Is that not a major job requirement? I didn't say any of this, because the charge nurse scared the living daylights out of me, but I thought it. There was another thought in there too. The day I don't want to comfort my patients will be the day I should find another line of work.

I get it now. I absolutely and totally get it. But here's the thing. It has nothing to do with compassion. It's not easy to nail down what it does have to do with, since it's such a loaded subject. Some things though are easy to identify.

It has to do with respect. I would say a good quarter of our patients have no respect for what we do unless there's a narcotic involved somewhere. I'm really tired of playing Drug Seeker Monopoly where we go around and around an imaginary board pretending to buy property when I know all along that every word out of their mouth is manipulative. Sometimes I think I would almost respect a person who came in and said, "I'm not in any pain at all, but I want 10 milligrams of morphine IV. I'll even show you the veins I have that you can still use, but you need to be careful because I'm Hepatitis C positive and oh, by the way, I stopped on the way in and drank a pint of (fill in the blank) because I'm going to go into withdrawal seizures in the next ten minutes. As soon as you give me the drugs, I'm going to throw a hissy fit about an imaginary issue and insist on leaving against medical advice, because I don't need your stinkin' advice. I only want your narcs." We could bypass the whole writhing on the floor screaming business until I leave the room and then they pull out a bag of chips and reach for the TV remote. We could eliminate the whole drama where they rip out their own IV, leaving a trail of blood behind them as they stagger down the hall toward the exit, because I didn't do it fast enough for them, refusing to screw with blood without gloving up. We could, simply put, cut to the chase. How refreshing would that be?

It has to do with resources. If it's noon and you woke up at 11:30 with a minor sore throat...this is not an emergency. Not in any universe. This is why god invented the salt water gargle. And Tylenol. Or cough lozenges. Or, to be really wild and wacky, the primary care physician. This little ER trip for a sore throat? Is going to run you a thousand bucks. Oh, wait. You're not planning on paying for any of this, are you? Never mind. The nurse is just a little slow. You're the third sore throat she's triaged this morning.

I guess it has to do with feeling used and abused. In my experience, really sick people don't often use and abuse. They tend to be a little more appreciative for what they get. But if you have someone who isn't truly sick, and then you stick them in a waiting room and then poke them with needles and then, on top of all that, start them off with non-narcotic pain meds,'re going to have a problem.

Give me someone who is really sick and I'm fine. Someone legitimately in pain and I'm all over it. I can't push the narcs fast enough. Show me a freaked out family member who needs someone to vent to, and I'm there. This is why I love what I do. This is how I feel like I'm doing something productive and good. Give me a task, a medical puzzle, a complicated procedure and I'm a relatively content human being. Give me a code - especially a code where we get them back - and I'm heading straight toward happy.

I always thought that it would be the pain and suffering and death that would wipe me out. But I've built a much better protective wall than I'd realized, and I'm able to stay more objective about those things than I ever would have thought. But the other stuff - what I call "the stupids"- doesn't roll off of me that well. I'm trying, but I seem to have less patience for it by the day. There are the stupids in every profession, I'm well aware. How does a journalist write a straight faced story about a burglar who gets stuck in the Taco Bell drive-through window? What about the bartender who watches the same guy with the same tired pick-up line night after night? Seriously. At what point can you not keep a straight face?

I'm just as compassionate with my real patients as I ever was. The problem is that I see fewer and fewer of them all the time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

secret pals

A new year of Bunco is starting and that means new Secret Pals. Every year at our December get together, we exchange gifts and try to guess who our Secret Pal was that year. Some years you have a hunch and others you get totally taken by surprise. Right after, a hat gets passed around and you draw the name of the person you will have for the next year. This can be fraught with peril, as some people are trickier to buy for than others. It's always a moment to cross your fingers and think positive thoughts. (Barring that you can throw a name back in under the guise of "just having had them this year", not that I've ever done that.)

We'd been playing a year or so before we started doing Secret Pals. The original idea was just to do little gifts that you would bring with you when we played. It didn't have to be every month - the big thing was that you gave a birthday and Christmas gift over the course of the year. Since we were all mothers of young kids at that point, money was an issue for most of us, so the things we got and gave tended to be small, thoughtful, quirky gifts. If your kids had the flu you might very well find a casserole from your SP on your front porch with a bow on it. Fight with your husband? Wow. There's a bottle of wine on the front seat of the car. Need some slipcovers? Your SP may just have traded babysitting with the seamstress in the group to come and whip some up for you.

It was fun. It was personal. It was low pressure.

It still is, but there's an element of danger in it that wasn't there before. With some changes in the line-up, we've been together as a group for nine years this month. We've gone on trips together. We've gone through childbirth, divorces, death, affairs, surgery, illness, members moving away, advanced degrees, children trying to kill us and so much more. We haven't taken vows of secrecy although god knows we probably should. We know a lot about each other for the most part. That's what makes it hard. We know too much. And sometimes that puts a lot of pressure on to find the perfect gift. Twelve times a year.

I'm really excited about who I drew. She's got a lot of changes going on in her life, and I'm having fun trying to figure out how to make her life easier. Or at least more fun during the stress. I'm sure I'll get more creative as the year goes on, but for this month I'm going with the tried and true - a nice bottle of California Syrah. It may not take the stress away, but hopefully it will dull it down briefly.

Because, really, isn't that what friends are for?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

thighmaster payback

In hindsight, I guess if you're going to inadvertently tumble into bed with a filthy, stinking, drunken homeless guy you really shouldn't do it right before you have three days off. Because, let me tell you, I am the Thighmaster of the week. If there's a soul on our unit (and beyond) who hasn't heard about it, they haven't made themselves known to me. On the negative side I still feel like I need a shower. On the positive side its taken everyone's mind off of how bad a triage run I'm on.

When I walked in on my boss re-enacting it for a paramedic, I had to laugh. She added some moves to the mix that, thank god in heaven, weren't in the original version. When the cop said, "Babe, that's a heck of a way to get back into dating", I had to laugh again. And when my very favorite doc plopped down next to me and said, "We really need to talk about your self-esteem issues", I cracked up. Because, seriously, what else can you do?

The major problem is that my new boyfriend is a frequent flier, so it's just a matter of time before he shows up again in the same nauseating condition. I can almost hear my co-workers salivating at the thought.

I can only hope that someone else in the department does something really stupid before then.

Monday, January 12, 2009

oh, but it's hard to live by the rules

My iHome was on shuffle while I was making dinner, as it usually is. I tend to have music on in the kitchen, and although sometimes I'll be in the mood for a specific artist or type of music, for some reason I tend to shuffle when I cook. I have a lot of varied stuff on my iPod, so it's always a crapshoot as to what's going to come on next. As usual, it was loud, the better to cancel out the blare of video games emanating from the living room.

The song stopped me in my tracks when it came on, like it does every time I hear it. And for the next four minutes or so, I experienced the same split reality I always do when I'm listening to it.

My current reality faded. I wasn't a forty seven year old woman with three kids, standing in my ludicrously spacious kitchen, lines around my eyes and gray hairs trying to give my Miss Clairol a run for her money. There were no dogs running underfoot trying to catch scraps as they fell, no bickering from the next room. The warm and spicy smells of my home disappeared, as my mind went where it always goes.

I was twenty years old and deeply, desperately, obsessively in love with a man who was giving me a serious run for my sanity, a man who was like no other man I had ever known. My entire life was in upheaval. My mom had moved away following an acrimonious split from my step-father, I had just finished my first year of college (having taken off a year after high school to work), and for the first time in my life I was living alone. I hated it. I was surviving on instant pancake mix out of a box and the generosity of friends who would occasionally feed me. Money was tight. I was living in a four room back house that would have tucked easily into my current kitchen. It was dark and dank, and even came with the requisite derelict landlord, but it was cheap and it was moderately safe.

All the details paled next to the man issues, however. I didn't know at the time that this would be the man that every prospect in my life would be measured up against, the man I didn't know that I would still carry such a soft spot for all these years later. All I knew was that I was miserable. I was reeling from the magnitude of my emotions and so was he. He was a genuinely nice guy who didn't know what the hell he had gotten himself into. It was harder and harder to keep my cool, my objectivity, my pride. My entire being boiled down to being with him. I was obsessed. And it wasn't pretty for anyone involved.

Needless to say, it didn't work out. We went out for a couple of years and after we broke up we still stayed in touch. We weren't enemies, but we weren't friends either. One day six months or so later, after the FX and I had been going out for a short time, he showed back up on my doorstep with an olive branch extended for a reconciliation. We had both grown up a lot, both learned a lot, both had a better understanding of who we were. The offer was on the table.

And I turned it down. Because I still loved him too much. Still cared too much. Still would have moved heaven and earth just to touch his skin. I was afraid I wouldn't survive another breakup, wouldn't be able to deal with the shocking depths of my feelings. He wasn't safe for me and never would be. I chose safety. With both eyes wide open I chose safety.

It's amazing what can run through your mind in four minutes.

I think most people have a song like that. This is mine. It was all over the radio at the time, by my very favorite band, and summed up my situation perfectly.

What's yours?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

the shortest post I've ever written

This is pretty much what I've been doing for the last two days.

And I plan on doing a lot more of it today.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

apples and trees

No one can convince me that the procrastination gene isn't dominant. Two of my kids have inherited it and it drives me absolutely out of my mind. It has made me crazy for twenty plus years, and I don't see it changing anytime in my future. For what it's worth, I'd like to go on record that they didn't get it from me. I'm anal. You can't be anal and a procrastinator at the same time. It's impossible.

We've spent the evening getting Gumby ready for an all-day school competition tomorrow. Until late afternoon I was under the impression that he was completely ready for it, but six hours, feverish running around and the decimation of a brand new $30 printer cartridge later, I stand corrected.

At one point I looked at him and said, "You do realize, don't you, that you don't have to leave everything until the last minute, right? You really can do things ahead of time. And it makes your life a lot easier. Honest."

I don't think he's convinced. Why am I not surprised?

Friday, January 9, 2009

and I'm not even religous

Holy Mary, Mother of God.

It's been a week.

I've been playing catch up from my six days off at Christmas, and since I didn't want to take any vacation time, I've ended up working six of the last eight days. Three on, two off, three on. Tiring enough under normal circumstances, doubly difficult with a diva ankle. We've been out of town, had my folks in town, had a major "first divorce" holiday and the entry of my middlest into teenager-hood. I'm normally moderately high energy, but I have to admit that this week I've been dragging my derriere. I'm tired. And I'm going to admit something here that I will not cop to at work. I really hurt. You can stabilize my ankle all day long, but if I still feel it shooting to my knee every time I put my foot down in a twelve hour shift, it makes for a long day. Or three.

But today was my last day before three days off. Before my schedule opened back up again into the lovely schedule I'm used to. Before I rejoined the Land of the Living - doing something more than eating, sleeping and working. I breezed into work this morning groggy, but already looking twelve hours into the future. I could do this. Right? How bad could it be?

Holy Mary, Mother of God. It was insanity.

And as usual for me lately, it started with triage.

I talk about triage a lot, but am not sure I've ever really explained it to the non-nursing types. The triage nurse is the one you see as soon as you hit the ER, the one who decides how urgent your state is, and how quickly you need to be seen. This initial assessment, and the priority assigned to it, dictates your entire ER visit. Triage can be tricky. You're expected to be able to decide in about thirty seconds if someone needs to go back to a room immediately (chest pain, can't breathe, suicidal/homicidal, overdoses) or if they need to go back fast (severe abdominal pain, kidney stones, allergic reactions, open fractures) or if they can wait a while (back pain,sprained ankles, headache, nausea/vomiting) or if they can wait forever (drug seeking, dental pain, ingrown toenails, big zits).

Triage is intense. Patients get all pissy with you, you have to drag unconscious people out of cars, and most of all, you never ever EVER know what is going to walk in the door in the next blink of an eye. Triage is so stressful that the day is broken into three four hour blocks. Four hours is about all you can stand. Even that is pushing it some days.

I triage a lot. Call it what you will, but I've ticked someone off enough that they keep sticking me out there. And I've been on a hell of a run. I'm not exaggerating. When I go out to triage lately, there is a collective intake of breath among my co-workers. I can take a unit that is running quite smoothly and turn it into a screaming, overhead code blaring mess in about four minutes flat. I can go from a peaceful, calm day to every bed filled and helicopters landing in no time. Want eight year olds brought in by the cops in handcuffs and car engines exploding in people's faces? Put me in triage. There's a phrase for this.

Hi. My name is RC and I'm a Shit Magnet.

And this is my tally today.

Eleven - yes, eleven - chest pains in a twenty minute period. I'm expected to deal with chest pain ASAP - get them to a room, on the monitor, EKG, IV, register them in the computer, blah blah blah - this takes about ten minutes per patient in a best case scenario. Can I just tell you that this wasn't a best case scenario?

The patient we had to pull out of a car who proceeded to have one seizure after another on my feet. It's very hard to hold someone upright when they're having a grand mal seizure. And it's impossible to move when they're seizing on your ankle immobilizer.

The trauma victim who wandered in with his severed finger in a soft drink cup, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

The drunken, homeless patient who appeared as I was getting a chest pain settled in a room. Our tech called my charge nurse, who was in the cafeteria getting her lunch, and told her someone was unresponsive in the driveway. She threw her food and some money to a co-worker and bolted for the parking lot. Imagine her dismay when her "unresponsive" patient turned out to be one of our nastiest, foulest frequent fliers, with routine blood alcohol levels that would be lethal in a mere mortal, and a disgusting mouth to match. That, compounded with my staggering number of chest pain admits, had her threatening me with an intimate acquaintance of her shoe - as it met my intestinal tract.

But even so, the day was still salvageable. Hell, for that matter so was the week. I could forget the flesh eating bacteria wound that I had had to culture - before we knew what it was. I could forget the homicidal nine year old who made me go in the break room and cry. I could forget the blatant drug seeking drama queen from the day before who made me seriously consider a change in careers. I could even forget my charge nurse, since she's one of my better friends at work and I knew she didn't really want to put her foot in my ass. It's her own fault, truly. She keeps putting me in triage, even knowing what has been happening when she does.

No, this all changed when I took our foul smelling drunken frequent flier to his room. This is where the fun really started. We were wicked busy, and normally I would have had someone with me to get him from the wheelchair to the bed. But there was no one to get. They were all dealing with my chest pains and so forth. For better or worse, I was on my own.

And this guy was big. And really, really gross. Smelly and filthy and drunk off his ass. A mouth full of half-rotted teeth. Clothes that may or may not have been changed in the last calendar year. Prince Charming - not.

I got him out of his wheelchair and went to help him into the bed. As I was doing this he stumbled. I was expecting this, and braced myself for it, but then he twisted sideways and I had to make a grab for him to keep him from hitting the floor. He knocked me off balance, and I fell across the bed in the room.

The thought crossed my mind - oh, for the love of god. Could this get any worse?

And then he fell across me. And pinned me on the bed. Underneath him. Yes. Yes, it could get worse. And it did. In a big way.

I'm at home now, and have had a seven hour shower. I've gargled with bleach and scrubbed my entire body with a Brillo pad. I wasn't sure if he actually touched my head, so I just shaved it to be safe. I've reflected on the comments of my co-workers, ranging from "well, hell, if you needed some action..." (males) to "oh, my god, I think I'm going to be sick". (females)

I know just how they feel. I don't feel so good myself.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Natural

While Dee Dee the Wonder Dog could keep a full-time publicist busy doing damage control, she's inadvertently stumbled into a pot of gold. Movie gold. Also known as Marley and Me. All of a sudden, it's become quite chic to have a completely out of control 500 pound Lab. Trust me on this. I'm living proof.

I think it's fair to say that there are a lot of people going to see the movie who didn't read the book. I'm the opposite, although I'd like to see the movie at some point. And I don't know if they cleaned up Marley's behavior in the film, but in the book he was a real piece of work. In the book he listened to no one and took no prisoners. In the book...he reminded me a lot of Dee Dee. A four legged shark who chewed, inhaled and destroyed everything in his path.

Up until the movie came out, most people had the same response when they heard how my ankle got broken, and it was usually some variation on what did I do to the dog afterwards? Now the questioners look at me with this goofy expression on their faces and say, "Oh! Was it a Lab?"and when I allow that yes, it was, they invariably say, "Oh! How cute."

Cute, my ankle. And other parts of my body, too. Tonight as I crawled up the stairs after work (two days down, one to go. Friday I rejoin the land of the living), I noticed that she had made giant strides on her favorite chew toy - the upstairs sofa. Then I walked into my bedroom to find that someone who shall remain nameless dragged all the blankets off my bed onto the floor and then kicked a tear in my California King fitted sheet (ka-ching!!) from the head of the bed to the foot. I'll let you imagine the next five minutes in your heads. Can we just say that it wasn't pretty?

But I suppose if there was hope for Marley, there's hope for Dee Dee. Maybe I could hire her out to the movies. I hear they're in production for Jaws 17 now.

She'd be a natural.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

T-H-A-N-K- Y-O-U

Before I get on to the rant of the day, I have two things to say.

Number One - I heard you all loud and clear on yesterday's post. And to pull out my oft-used When Harry Met Sally line

You're right. You're right. I know you're right.

So now I've revised my New Year's Resolutions to these:

Don't worry.

Be Happy.

Practice Reciprocal Commenting.

Find out what the hell a Show Pony is.

I don't promise that you'll all notice the difference overnight, but you will notice it. I love the give and take aspect of blogging, and I think that I'm ready to stop using my last year's upheaval as an excuse to not take part in both.

Oh, and also? Thank you. I appreciate the honesty, even when it was a little rough to read. I'm being absolutely truthful when I say that there are days lately where I feel like a big, huge, grumpy whiner. And I need to know that if I do it too often here, someone will slap me. I guess I can take it if people think I'm a comment whore. But I sure would hate to be boring.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

I hesitate to start throwing the F-word around, but I'm going to have to. Facebook. There. I've done it. One of the (far too many) things I'm really enjoying about Facebook is the word games that you can play. I like the solo ones well enough, but the best games are the Scrabble games I play on-line with people. I love Scrabble, you see. And, if I do say so myself, I'm not a bad Scrabble player. At least I never have been before. I can't seem to beat my mother, but I hold my own with everyone else.

But something very strange has been happening. One of my co-workers challenged me to a game and then proceeded to hand me my shorts. I mean he destroyed me. At the same time, he and I were involved in a three person game with yet another co-worker. He killed both of us. (I finished second - I lost by a lot - but I beat out the person in the number three slot by a nice spread). At the same time still, this third person and I were involved in a two person game and I beat her quite handily. Still with me?

When all three games were over, we started rematches. And before I knew it, after just two moves, this damn guy had me down 100 points. In two moves. To add insult to injury, the third person all of a sudden had a dramatic improvement in her game and was beating me as well.


Today at work I cattily asked him if he played the game with a dictionary on his lap. He said, "Here. I'm going to show you a little secret." Then he pulled up some website called something like (or close. I blocked it out on principle). Well, you put in the letters you have tiles for and it makes words for you. IT MAKES THE WORDS FOR YOU. Then he tried to tell me that it was still a skill game because you still had to find a place to put the words. Evidently, the third player in our trio had been filled in on his little secret right before our rematch, which explained why she was all of a sudden stomping on me. And then he said

"I thought everybody played that way."

Not me, brother. I'm a purist. So then I challenged him to play me with no dictionary and no website - the old-fashioned way. Think of it as Missionary Scrabble, I suggested. And to prove he could beat me anyway, he took me up on it.

We'll just see about that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

confessions of a confused correspondent

I have just two things to say today.

Number One - This is my 600th post.

Number Two - I'm pretty sure I've lost my mojo.

Do you suppose there's any connection?

The honest truth is that lately I feel like I'm struggling with this blog. It isn't that I don't have ideas on what to write about. Oh, god, do I have ideas. I'm blessed (cursed?) with the ability to run at the mouth on most any subject. It's just that I worry that it's too insular, too whiny, too self-absorbed recently. Yes, I'm aware that blogs are, virtually by definition, self-absorbed. I get that, but still can't help worrying that I'm becoming a little stale.

Certainly, there are other factors as well. Time is always an issue, and lately it seems even more so. I've held onto the blogging because, in a life that seems to always be taking care of other people, this is something that's for me. Something I love, and receive enormous satisfaction from. I may begrudge the time I spend cleaning, or driving to and fro, or hounding kids to take showers, but I never ever begrudge the time I spend blogging. It's a pleasure. I climb into bed, wrap up in a fleecy blanket and type away. It's for me, and it's something I genuinely look forward to. Better than late night television and cheaper than therapy.

But I'd be lying through my teeth if I said that I didn't love all the reader feedback. And this is where the waters get murky. I fully understand that you must make comments on other blogs to receive comments on your own. It's like the cardinal blogging commenting rule. This past year or so I've been really bad about doing it. (Hint: Notice title of blog. Did you think I was kidding?). And even though I know you have to write a blog for yourself first, it's still been a little humbling to see my comment count fall by two thirds - and still dropping.

So I've been pondering the chicken and egg dilemma. Is this happening because I'm a rotten commenter or because I've run out of interesting things to say? This is not a plea for more comments on a daily basis. I know I have to earn those. It's more a request for some honest feedback. I really want to keep doing this blog, but there's a part of me that is afraid it may have run its course. I'd like to think that one of you would tell me if I was full of crap, self-centered or worse yet, boring.

You would, wouldn't you?

Monday, January 5, 2009

the organization wars - phase two

It's been a long process, but I think I'm finally getting ahead in the organization game. Not that you'd notice looking around my house (or my life), but I feel like I'm getting there - slowly but surely. I always find it interesting how the smallest changes can make it seem like you're more on top of things.

I've finally gotten around to doing a master shopping list on the computer that I can just print out and take to the store. If I happened to be really efficient I'd make one for each of the stores I go to, but there's a fine line between organized and compulsive and I'm trying not to fall in the chasm.

The wheels are in motion to make all of my bills payable on-line through my bank. For free. Enter the info once, pick a date and they automatically pay them for you. No stamps, no time spent, no late payments. Nada. I already pay a lot of stuff on-line, but to do it I have to go to several sites and put in a whole slew of passwords. This is the bill paying version of one-stop shopping.

Then there's always the food and eating situation. It's a mess. One carnivore, two won't eat red meat, one won't eat meat at all. I love to cook when I want to cook, but I've finally gotten to the point where it's a chore more than anything else. I sit down each week to plan menus and feel defeated before I start. The idea bank is closed. So this is what I've hit on - each week I'll try one new recipe. If we like it, it'll go in the rotation. In my household notebook, I'll start keeping all of our weekly menus so I can recycle stuff we like. If anything major gets cooked (casseroles, soup, marinated chicken), I'll automatically double the recipe and freeze half of it for a work day meal. We'll see how this goes, but it has promise. I sleep better knowing I have meals stashed in the freezer.

One of my very favorite magazines is Real Simple. You have to look past anything having to do with clothes (anyone else not in the market for a $400 casual cashmere hoodie?), but everything else is fabulous. It's practical, it's creative, it's soothing. The issue on the newstands now is an entire magazine full of lists of all sorts, and mine is already dogeared and tattered. It's a keeper if for no other reason than the recipe for super speedy lasagne made with frozen cheese ravioli. (This may not excite you, but it's been a manna from heaven for me - cheese ravioli and lasagne being two of the very few things that everyone in my family likes).

Some people use being organized as a control tool, I'm well aware. That's not my purpose. It's a time thing. I'd like to be as efficient as I can in as little time as possible. I'd like to start using my time off for things I want to do instead of things I have to do.

It's worth a shot.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I went to college for this??

I looked up from my chair first thing this morning at work to see a half naked man standing behind a glass door. It was the frequent flier on the involuntary psych hold, and he was pointing at me with some agitation.

"There," he shouted to the doc. "There's RC. She was my nurse last week when I came in. You've got no reason to keep me. Ask her. I was way drunker last time I was here."

It was the perfect beginning to the third day of three in a row. I slowly ducked down under the counter and made my way to a chair out of his eyesight. I clearly remembered the last time he had been in and it wasn't pretty. Peeling the lid off of my coffee, I wondered if this was some sort of omen for my day.

The doc came out of the room and winked at me. "He says he had a great time out drinking with you last night and wants to know if you know where his underwear is."

Clearly it was.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

don't ask don't tell

The walking boot will be with me for another four weeks or so.

But wait. There's more.

One of our nurses broke her ankle in exactly the same place. And is in the same boot.

And so did one of the unit secretaries. Now it's a boot trio.

And we have a radiology tech who is in a full leg brace from an accident.

And a doc who is in a sling from a torn rotator cuff.

And another nurse in a splint for an elbow injury.

As one of our staff members observed, the ortho device is the fashion accessory of the moment in the ER. Stethoscopes are so last year.

We inspire confidence, let me tell you, as we hobble into rooms to tend to the injured. Their confidence starts to slip when they inevitably ask us what we've done to ourselves. I'm a little weary - after answering the question a hundred thousand times - of explaining about Labs who don't understand either personal space or steep stairs. And I think the fact that I can be a smart mouth has been established. So when I reflexively answered the "how did you do it?" question yesterday with "oh, I was running across a field trying to get away from the cops and I stepped in a hole", the look on the patients face was priceless. Bless their hearts.

When their doc came in with a sling, I could see their wheels spinning. But they never asked what happened. Not a word.

Too bad. I could've made up something really good.