Monday, October 17, 2005

The Second Oldest Profession

My friend Bev likes to say that nursing is the second oldest profession. She's probably right.

Saturday night, I worked adult psych, 11-7. The unit's lost a couple of full time nurses, so instead of working child psych these days, I usually wind up with the grownups.

The moon was full, or almost full, and while research studies seem to indicate that the full moon has nothing to do with weirdness, I'm not sure I believe it.

We had a lot of people who couldn't sleep, who were up and down and pacing and talking. Nice group, though; everyone was polite and friendly.

Mary, the nurse I worked with, is an attractive older lady, late 50s, elegantly (if casually) dressed (if you work psych, you can wear street clothes if you want), with lovely jewelry, manicured nails, nicely coiffed hair...and like me, she has a "fluffy" body shape (as in, we used to have hourglass figures but they sunk to the bottom). She has a kind and caring grandmotherly air about her, and most of the patients love her.

So here we are, sitting in the day room, working on our paperwork, every now and then redirecting someone who's up and a little loud, when a very psychotic female patient touches a male patient (whom she had just met that day) VERY inappropriately. When Mary redirected her, the patient said, "You hussy! If you'd just quit your nude dancing, my husband here would come home to me!"

She sent both patients off to their (own) beds, then sat down and looked at me with a mischievous air.

"You do know that I'd probably make a lot more money nude dancing, don't you?" she asked.

I think, O-KAY! It IS a full moon...

And then she continued, grinning, "Because they'd pay a lot of money to see me keep my clothes ON!"

Monday, October 10, 2005

If Your Opportunity Alarm Clock is Ringing, Don't Hit the Snooze Button!

"Does the Pope have more than one hat? If the Pope tells a monk to do pushups, does the monk have to do it? When the Pope dies, what happens to his hat? Does the Pope have a mechanic whose only job is to service the Popemobile? When the Popemobile is worn out, can someone buy the old one? If the Pope wanted to sing karaoke, could he?

"My history teacher says Walmart is run by Satan!"

"I bet if Harriet Meiers gets to be a Supreme Court Justice, she probably won't get invited to all the cool Supreme Court parties, just the boring ones, probably because she won't know how to hold the gavel, so all the other Justices will make fun of her."

There was more, much more...

Gavin spent the day listening to a motivational speaker at school (because of his schedule, he had to listen to it TWICE), and when I got home he started off by telling me how bad the speaker was (see title example) and then giving me examples of how he could do it better, complete with hand motions, body language, inane examples, and special voice effects.

Then, once he'd got started talking, he couldn't stop; probably because he hasn't had much to say for awhile. Between his school-work and my work-work, we've been pretty quiet here for a few weeks.

I've been working on an IND for a new study that one of the docs wrote. An IND, or "Investigational New Drug" is what has to be approved by the FDA everytime a new drug (or a new use for an old drug) is studied.

When I do a pharmaceutical trial, all this is done by the pharma company. But when I do this for the doc, I get to do all that lovely (ugh) paperwork, which is written in government speak. I think I wound up with 150 pages, and my brain feels soggy. Plus now I have to make up some data capture forms and make sure the doc and the residents fill them out each time, because when an IND is done by a site, then the investigator is ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING connected with it. So I have to make sure all our ducks are in a row...and then there's another study (written by the same guy, if he ever leaves I won't have anything to do) that I have to see if I can get donations of 7 different products (enough for 100 people), write a questionnaire covering all the data the doc wants to know, write a budget (with things like 800 spray bottles), and I had to have it all done, along with applications to 3 different on-campus entities, at 5 o'clock today...I did it with 5 minutes to spare...

I've worked late every night for 3 weeks and I feel like my brain has run a marathon.

So tonight was a treat. And yeah, I hope the Pope DOES get to sing karaoke if he wants.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

She Wore a Raspberry....Guillotine?

Why are adolescents so crazy-making to their parents?

Gavin and I just came off a week and half of the silent treatment...all because Evil Overlord Mom insisted that the lawn had to be mowed, and when it wasn't, draconian measures were instituted (gasp! no computer games for a week! oh, the horror of it all!).

Anyway, on the drive to school this morning, glaciers thawed, and Gavin informed me that one of his friends feels compelled to write the complete history of Candyland.

Candyland (for those of you who have successfully avoided or blocked out any memory or connection to toddlers) is a very simple board game which has been around for at least 40 years. Players roll dice and draw cards and move a gingerbread-man-shaped token through various kingdoms of candy, ruled over by monarchs such as Mr. Mint, King Kandy, and Queen Frostine.

Both my kids were fascinated by Candyland until they were about four. I finally got smart and started stacking the deck so that a) the child could win the game quickly (but not too quickly, otherwise we'd have to play again) and b) so that I wouldn't draw either Queen Frostine or Princess Lolly too early in the game, because either of those is pretty much a guaranteed win...and an early win is OK if it's the KID winning; if it's the parent's early win, then you may have to play it 2 or 3 MORE times.

OK, I thought; so he's interested in the history of board games and that one's been around awhile.

But no. No, this is a history of CANDYLAND, in which civil war erupts between Princess Lolly and Queen Frostine, Lord Licorice attempts to infiltrate King Kandy's domain by employing Mr. Mint as a spy, Grandma Nutt is consumed by Gloppy, the Chocolate Swamp Monster, and then the peasants revolt, kill all the heads of state with the Raspberry Guillotine...and eventually Candyland is subsumed into the Hapsburg Empire, sometime around 1600.

Maybe "The Candyman" was their national anthem?

I have to admit, it makes those seemingly endless games of Candyland much better in retrospect...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday Self Portrait -- Gemini


Robyn and I have been friends since the 5th grade. Although she's lived in California for a very long time (while I'm here in Oklahoma), whenever we get to see each other, it's as though no time has passed inbetween. We considered each other's parents our own, never bothered to knock when entering the other's house, and traded clothes, notes, books, letters, and artwork. She's the most creative and artistic person I think I've ever met; especially when it comes to fabric arts (Rog comes close, though, and has the upper hand when it comes to pencil portraits).

We are twins of the heart.

I got to spend a few days with her when I went to Dana Point for the research meeting; I took her a suitcase loaded with fabric, and she took me to the beach.

Back in junior high, in the 70s, we were tan fanatics. This time, while sitting in the sand side by side, I was thinking about all the times we'd lie in the sun in our bikinis...that wonderful sensation as the sunshine lies heavy on your body and you just exist and soak up the rays...and she looked at my legs and said, "Jodie! Your legs are so white!" I think, OK, I know I look like a zombie, but do you have to rub it in? And then Robyn continues, "They are SOOOO BEAUTIFUL! I wish my legs were that white!"

You can know someone for all your life, and they can STILL surprise you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Nurse: Superhero, Villain...or Vampire?

Yesterday evening, after putting in a full day at my research job, I had to go to CAPE class for my second (psych) job.

Like many caregiver classes offered through the hospital, it was mandatory so we all get paid to take it, which is a good thing since it ate up six hours of my limited free time.

CAPE, or "Creating a Positive Environment", is more or less a method for deflating aggression, and if that doesn't work, using some skills to A) escape from a violent patient or B) help someone else escape from a violent patient. Unfortunately, it doesn't involve anything cool like kung fu moves or 007 style equipment.

First we got to practice using all the restraints in our arsenal, from the 5 point leathers (wrists, ankles, and waist) to the fabric restraints which are really more to help very old, ill, or confused patients from falling out of bed or a chair, to the restraints which are considered to be "medical immobilization" (such as restraining an arm for a minute or so while you put in an IV). The big difference between "restraints" and "medical immobilization" is that the nurse has to have an MD's order for a restraint, it has to be charted on frequently (depending on the type), and the patient has to be checked continuously for some and frequently for the others...while for a "medical immobilization", none of that has to occur.

We had to practice tying each other up in this stuff and then undoing it. Since you have to assume your patient doesn't want to have restraints, you have to realize you'll be trying to put these unwieldy things onto someone who's flailing and angry, so practice is good. It was a little spooky when my partner put leathers on me and I realized that even though the wrist restraint was on the smallest hole, I could STILL pull my hand out...which means a patient could, too. And we got to hear all the horror stories about patients who were put into the fabric restraints the wrong way and managed to suffocate themselves, which was NOT a cheery experience.

Then we got to practice our moves...what to do if someone grabs your arm, your clothes, your hair, bites you, grabs you in a bearhug, tries to choke you, puts you in a full nelson, tries to hit you with something, how to block a punch or a kick, how to hold a patient so they can't hurt you, how to trade off with another caregiver when you get tired, and how to hold someone really large with multiple staff members...and how to do all those things with the least harm to yourself or the patient.

We have to learn all this, but in the 15 years I've worked in mental health, I've never had to use it; and really, I've only had two patients who had difficult moments when I thought there might be trouble, but there wasn't. So I suppose I'm either lucky or doing something right.

Anyway when I got home, I was pretty tired. Gavin asked me how CAPE training went...and then asked "What level did you make, Mom?"

"Level?" I asked.

"Yeah, you know, like Superhero!" And he expansively waved his arms to indicate a graceful billowing cape as he leaped across the room while singing "Here I come to save the day!"...

...only to turn, his nose in the crook of his elbow, imaginary cape swirling around his feet, and his eyes narrowed, staring piercingly..."Or Vampire!" and immediately switching to a heavy Transylvanian accent, "I don't drink....vine..."

...then, in a half crouch, still with his nose in the crook of his arm, imaginary cape hiding half his face, twirling an imaginary handlebar mustache, with shifty gaze and deep commanding voice, "Or Villain! I'll tie you to the railroad tracks if you don't pay your rent, BWAA HAA HAA!!"

I'd MUCH rather have done that kind of "CAPE" training...and who knows, some of the patients might prefer that, too.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Flying Zlorbian

After being shanghaied by pirate ninjas (or was it ninja pirates?) for two weeks (one of which the villains stood over me and MADE ME GET ALL MY WORK DONE, made me wrap and ship 30-some-odd Ebay packages, and clean my house because my Mom was coming to stay with Gavin...and even pirate/ninjas respect the fact that the house MUST be clean for Mom. Especially since I have yet to live down the incident years ago of the moldy bread that somehow got pushed to the back of the cabinet...which Mom found, of course...I don't think penicillin factories have any more mold. At least it was still in the wrapper. Green fuzzy bread, anyone?). I left for California on Sunday after working 11-7 Saturday, arrived home on Friday and worked ANOTHER 11-7. I'm "too pooped to pop" as Dad always said. I still don't know what that means, but I love to say it.

I have a lot to say about my time in California (Hi Dave & Dorian, Alex, and Robyn!!!) but right now I want to talk about last night.

I worked Adult Psych, which is a whole different world than child psych. And adult psych at night can be even stranger...and a night with a full moon...well...

Now, I know that there have been studies (or so I have been told; I haven't read 'em) that purport to debunk the full moon weirdness factor. However, in this instance, Nurse Lore trumps PhD studies (especially as it is backed up by Police Lore, EMT Lore, ER Lore, and Night Convenience Store Clerk Lore), and besides, we all know that PhD really means "Pizza Hut Delivery". (Remember, this is NOT a slam at PhDs. I expect my brother to be one any time now, and I have to keep up, don't I?)

Anyway, Nurse Lore states that people and situations get stranger during the full moon, and it's not just psych.

Evening shift report indicated that everyone had had a good day, which is a tremendously wonderful thing on a psych unit, so the Charge Nurse (I've never had this term explained to me; while I assume it means "In Charge" maybe it really involves credit cards and Nordstrom's sales after one gets off work...wow, did she have nice clothes) and I hoped for the best and started our paperwork.

We had a steady procession all night of agreeable, pleasant, and polite, but extraordinarily psychotic patients who "just couldn't sleep" -- more than half of them were awake at one time or another. Of course, this had nothing to do with the loud buzzing noise the air conditioner made every time it went on, and nothing to do with the extremely loud and deep voice of our Mental Health Tech who has a BA in psychology and wanted to "do therapy" with the patients and kept cornering them; Charge and I kept redirecting him AND the patients in an effort to get everyone (well, everyone except us) some sleep. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing sometimes.

When I got back in this morning, Gavin asked me about my night. He's been fascinated by psychoses ever since I had a patient who'd found out my number and would call me EVERY NIGHT at 10 pm and tell me (or whoever answered, sometimes one of the kids) what the "angels" had said to her that day (almost always something bright and happy). I told him one patient told me he was possessed by aliens (I have to be careful about what I say because I cannot give out any identifying information...and trust me, this is a very, very small part of this patient's delusionary system).

Gavin immediately assumed this meant "alien ghosts" since possession must be a supernatural phenomenon...and aliens probably would be natural, not supernatural...except that Gavin was not allowing for the lack of reasoning ability in someone who is acutely psychotic. Since it wasn't alien ghosts, he decided that the patient must be possessed by some alien thing which skirts the realm of the natural and the supernatural...like the Flying Dutchman...Yes! It must be the Flying Zlorbian, forced to wander the universe and possess the minds of unwitting humans...

Oh dear. I don't know whether to worry about him or tell him to write a book.

Monday, September 05, 2005

For anyone who wants to send a care package to an evacuee, the address here in Oklahoma is:

Any Evacuee c/o Camp Gruber
100 Highway 10
Braggs, OK 74423

I'm thinking about things to help stay busy, cards, games, craft kits, stamps, envelopes, paper, notebooks, writing utensils, small toys, books...as well as things people have to be asking for all the time...toiletries, treats, makeup, hair bands...I know there are some other things, I just can't think of them offhand. If you can think of anything I left off, please post in the comments!

I've sent them to soldiers and now I'll send them to evacuees, too. I'm sending at least one on Tuesday.

I just can't IMAGINE having everything swept away and having to rely totally on strangers.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Disaster Planning

Last night I worked phone banks for 5 hours as a part of my state's medical reserve corps, which started after the Murrah Building bombing. I and my telefellows took calls from medical professionals who were interested in working with disaster victims.

The calls were interesting; we had a sprinkling of medical personnel, every type from embalmers and medical examiners to urologists and respiratory therapists, with the majority being nurses. These folks mostly stated they were ready to go with an hour's notice, and go where ever needed, in state or out of state, and at their own expense if necessary.

We also had a number of calls of people who had loaded vans ready to go to Mississippi or Louisiana and were calling us for what? The blessing of the state, I suppose, but bureaucracies don't tend to condone that sort of thing.

I enjoyed being a part of the process and seeing plans made and discarded and remade; frantic searches for safe places for large numbers of people to stay; calls from various city and state officials; calls to hospital administrators to find open hospital beds; and even the beginnings of long term planning.

With all the action, though, there were stretches where we waited, and then we talked.

It was surprising, the amount of "blame the victim" that went on. "I don't understand why everyone didn't leave." "I'd never let my kids go hungry." "Looters should all be shot. And we'll have to have people guarded while they're here because a lot of them will be looters."

I understand WHY people blame the victims -- it's fear. They cannot acknowledge the fear that bad things can happen to anyone. So "those people" must be different; not too bright, not able to solve problems, criminals, junkies...when the truth is that we could easily be in their shoes if something tremendous and horrible had happened here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The news from New Orleans is just awful. I've donated everything I can right now and it doesn't feel like it's nearly enough.

This evening I am working phone banks for the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps -- we are trying to set up teams of nurses and physicians to help in the area.

For those still trapped in the area, it is a nightmare, and I hope they will all be rescued soon. But even for those who evacuated early, or who escaped later, it is still awful -- everything just gone.

How do you put your life back together after something like that? I can't imagine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Ebay Queens Ride Again

I discovered Ebay in 99, when I was halfway through nursing school, a year and a half out from the divorce and my finances were at an all time low.

At first I started buying things the kids and I needed; at that time it was like a big free for all garage sale that you could see from your living room.

Then I started dating someone who had a digital camera, and it transformed my Ebay experience.

I started out selling my jewelry and graduated to selling some of the old junk I'd bought at thrift stores over the years, and made enough money at it that it soon became a second income.

My friend Bev, who is the only person I've ever known who has reformatted a hard drive by accident, was intrigued...and eventually brave enough to buy a computer and a digital camera, just so she could try out ebay.

We've gone to estate sales, garage sales, snatched goodies out of each other hands, sold everything from rubber swim caps (who knew that THOSE were collectible?) to car parts.

It's only fair -- I wouldn't be a nurse if it weren't for Bev, and she wouldn't be selling on Ebay if it weren't for me.

A year ago, Bev slowed down and I stopped; a combination of boredom, whiny buyers, and people pricing garage sale stuff for the same price it would sell on Ebay. And it wasn't until a few weeks ago that we both started up again.

Maybe it was just in the air, but Bev and I decided to go to some estate sales...and one of the four we decided on advertised fabric, $1 a piece. Bev put that one last on the list and away we went...

Those of us who sew know the ultimate truth, that "She who has the most fabric, wins." And this lady had to have been one of the front runners -- I have never seen so much fabric inside someone's house. It was piled 3-4 feet deep in every room of the home, and dated from the 50s to the 90s.

Bev doesn't sew, and doesn't know much about fabric...so I told her what to buy, and how to describe it, and she made $200 from her $30 fabric investment. And after all these years of selling on Ebay, she finally figured out why I like to sell fabric -- it's easy to store, easy to ship, it doesn't cost much for the buyer or the seller, and it's fun to look at and handle.

Last weekend, I was too busy to go out with her, and she found ANOTHER house full of fabric. And this time, she offered them $400 for all of it, and they took it...and the entire second story of her home is now full of fabric...so Bev wins, and she doesn't even sew!

Monday, August 29, 2005

My Affirmation for the Day

Picture this: I'm at the post office with 19 packages from the Ebay stuff I sold last week. It's late afternoon, and there's one not-quite-civil servant working the desk. I'm the last one in line for a good 15 minutes. Finally, I'm at the head of the line and waiting my turn, and an elderly gentleman, dapper in a bright yellow zoot-style suit with brown stripes and matching hat, strolls up. Somehow, he's debonair enough to pull off this amazing outfit; the only other person who could have managed it would be Cab Calloway.

I'm clutching my armful of packages, well aware that I haven't filled out my customs forms for the foreign ones yet, and he has three letters...so of course I say, "Please go ahead of me."

In a mild southern accent, he says "Are you sure?"

How often do you have to persuade someone who wants only stamps to go ahead of you?

After a little persuasion, he finally acquiesces, and then turns to ask me, "What do you think of Nawlins and the hurricane? Don't you think that's going to cost us a lot of money?"

I say, "Well, if it were a tornado or an earthquake here, we'd be costing THEM a lot of money. I'd rather be warm and dry and pay to help them."

He looks me in the eye, grins, and says, "Miss, I LIKE the way you think."

I MUST be Really Wicked...

because I'm not getting much rest these days!

I had a monitoring visit last week for my device study (the one I can't talk about due to HIPPA laws and industry privacy laws), but there's nothing that says I can't talk about the monitoring visits.

For a monitoring visit, the company sends someone out (this time, a young guy from Saskatchewan) who looks over my books, compares my stuff to the hospital and clinic chart, finds all the inconsistencies and errors, and also looks over the "critical documents" binder (already 6 inches thick) to make sure I have everything I'm supposed to have.

This sound complex, and harrowing, and a lot of work...but "harrowing" is a function of how easygoing the monitor is, and this guy was delightful, so it wasn't bad. The biggest problem was accessing all the charts.

Our campus is huge. A friend and I were trying to figure out the other day how big it is and I think we finally decided on 20 city blocks...when I worked in Kansas, the University was actually bigger as far as number of rooms and size of hospitals, but was crammed into about 6 city blocks. Which I think is the biggest culture shock people have when they visit -- everything is so spread out here.

Anyway, the hospitals and clinics no longer allow charts leave their premises (once upon a time you could check them out to anyplace on campus)...so we had to travel to 4 different buildings (none close to each other) because the patient had records at all four of those places.

Since I couldn't really just turn this poor guy out into the campus wilderness where there are no signs to tell you where you are going, and no way an employee can park anywhere other than assigned without getting a $20 ticket, we walked. And walked. And walked some more. Since I haven't been able to walk much this year with all the problems, I can't tell you how TIRED and sore I felt until today.

The monitoring went all right, though, and the next patient will be easier.

My other good news is that my daughter is visiting from San Diego and will be here for another few days!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tuesday Self Portrait -- Nose to Fingertip


Did you know that if you stretch a piece of fabric from one fingertip to your nose (turned away from said fingertip) that it's so close to a yard measure that you don't need a real measure? It's true -- Mom taught me that. And here I am in my kitchen, measuring vintage fabric...and if you click on the picture to make it bigger, you can see the dust on top of my cabinets. :D

Monday, August 22, 2005

Night of the Zombies

Lately, hospitals here in town have been frenzied in their efforts to improve employee health. We have walking initiatives, weight loss groups, stress reduction classes, and of course (as of July), no one can smoke on hospital grounds -- not doctors, not nurses, not patients, not family members -- which has not added any joy to adult psych, I might add.

I don't know if last Saturday night had anything to do with health initiatives...I hope not, because it can only lead to millions of night-shift nurses on the march, waving bedpans threateningly...

I don't work night shift all the time, but I find I can manage it -- barely -- with a steady dose of caffeine up until about 4:30 am. However, on Saturday night, when I went to make my first pot of coffee right after report, I found two cases of decaf and NOT EVEN ONE package of caf. Luckily, there's a coke machine on the same floor...but when I punched the "Coke" button..."Caffeine Free Coke" rolled out...and with my final dollar bill, I tried Dr. Pepper...only to get another "Caffeine Free Coke".

It was NOT good. By 4 o'clock, I felt I really needed those cartoon toothpicks that hold your eyelids open. By 5 o'clock, I was drinking ice water so that shivering would keep me awake, and by 6 o'clock, I was actually thankful when one of the difficult kids got up early in a bad mood...but even that lasted only 10 minutes and didn't wake anyone else up.

After a cat nap in the car, I drove home. I don't know if the lack of caffeinated beverages was planned, or if it was a comedy of errors...but if caffeine-freeness is the next step in the health arsenal...well...I'll be smuggling it into the hospital. Now I know how the smokers feel.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Back to School Again

Back to school again
He just can't wait for back to school again
The life he loves is high school with his friends
He can't wait to get back to school again...


For some reason, Gavin did NOT enjoy my version of classic Willie Nelson on the way to the first day of school (although I did eventually make him laugh).

Poor dear, I probably shouldn't have been so evil; this first semester he has computer programming, US history, trigonometry, and physics. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

Oh, the Tragedy!

"The School killed it. School killed Summer. School killed Summer with a knife. School killed Summer with a knife bought from the wallet it stole from Summer." -- A partial excerpt from Gavin's rant on school starting this Thursday.

Rants don't always have to make sense, do they?

And speaking of things that don't make sense...yes, I'm thrilled, but WHY?

Perchance to Dream

I rarely remember my dreams. I must have them, because (at least some people think) I'm fairly sane, rarely irritable, and have as much energy as a single mom approaching 50 ought to have. Since I have so few, the ones I do have are usually heavy with meaning.

At some early point in my life, I learned that if I had a problem, I could think about it, examine it from all angles, put it away, and then -- almost magically -- I'd wake up and there would be my solution, fully formed and ready to be utilized.

I don't know WHY it works that way. All I know is that it's saved me a lot of worry over the years; why obsess over something when the answer will arrive?

Anyway, my highschool reunion has been on my mind (in a good way!) and I wanted to blog about it, but the words just weren't there...and then Tim posted his thoughts
here, and said many of the things I'd been thinking but couldn't articulate.

Last night I dreamed. I was in a flower garden. In my dreamstate, I knew that it had once been a pretty but pedestrian formal garden with tightly budded plants (a few already promising beauty) carefully put in their own sections, pruned and trimmed and all conforming to a rigid plan. The once tidy garden had become overgrown, though, with formerly tiny or stunted plants growing large and bushy, sending out runners and twining stems and vines -- showing up in unexpected places or overrunning other areas so that the finely drawn lines were gone. And the blooms which were only hinted at in the early stages were full blown, a surprising wild riot of exotic colors and complex scents.

Mrs. Kleinsteiber (3rd? 4th? grade teacher) would be so proud. I woke up with a metaphor for our reunion. And yes, I really enjoy seeing how we're all blooming.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

At my second job, where I work psych, I'm a "floater" -- while this always makes me think of swimming pools, what it really means is that I work wherever I am needed.

Almost always, I'm needed in child psych. There are several reasons for this; one is that there are quite a few child psych units (segregated by age and whether or not the illness is acute or longterm) and only one adult unit. In addition, unlike the child units, the adult unit has a full complement of nurses.

Someone wanted to take some vacation, though, so last weekend I worked adult psych.

It's a lot different on the adult unit than it used to be, even 5 years ago. Then, patients stayed for a week, or two weeks, or a month...sometimes months. Now it's 3 days for many, and rarely longer than a week.

While I'm sure that someone, somewhere has a reason for this (and it probably has a lot to do with costs and insurance), from my end it doesn't appear to be working well. Just as someone is starting to feel stable again, s/he is sent home; maybe to return again in a week, or two weeks, or a month.

I do understand that our adult unit is for "acute" cases and people who need very long-term care can go to the state hospital or a group home, and there are home health nurses for those who need help with medications. But I still think that most people would benefit more from a week or 10 days.

Emotional or mental illnesses aren't like cancer, or wounds, or any of a number of illnesses or disorders in which progress can be quantitatively measured -- lab values, size, redness, swelling, color, quantity, reflexes -- which is what makes psychiatry difficult. There are outside observations (which may differ with the person observing) and patient report.

What we nurses look for are hygiene, appropriate interactions, appropriate emotional responses, full facial responses (for example, when you smile do your eyes crinkle up too?), appropriate gestures, appropriate conversations...in addition to what the patient says and what the patient DOESN'T say.

Not only that, but since there is no particular "normal average person" to base appropriateness on, it can be difficult to say, "Yes, that's abnormal" because "normal" emcompasses a wide range of behaviours.

So when you only have someone for 3 days, how do you know what's normal for that person? Swearing like a sailor (do sailors swear all that much? I've always wondered) is normal for my friend Bev, but if it were me, you'd know something was really wrong.

The other thing I want to say about adult psych? The only real difference between me and you and almost all of my patients is that I have keys.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I Killed Another One...

Yes! I finally had a patient enroll in my alternative surgery study for head and neck cancer (that's about all I can say about the project since I had to swear a blood oath in which I agreed to sell my children into slavery at the device company if I leaked any information).

People often ask if my job is exciting. Well, it can be -- once I was stalked by an apparently very lonely male research patient (whose mom took away the car so he couldn't do it any more) -- and another time, a patient actually picked up my fishbowl (with fish and plant in it) and DRANK out of it, and then there was the time the electricity went out in my building at 5pm while I was interviewing a double amputee and we were on the second floor with no ramp...Oh, and don't forget the needle stick injury (of course, from the bisexual IV drug user...who luckily tested negative for EVERYTHING, as did I).

Oh wait.

Maybe it's "exciting" as in cutting edge, new treatments, late nights at the lab pioneering new fields, scientists poised at the threshold of arcane knowledge? Oh, well, maybe tiny bits of that here and there.

Mostly, though, research is waiting. And paper. Lots and lots and lots of paper.

I have a new study patient. And yes, part of this has been very exciting -- I got to sit in on a 13-hour surgery, a delicate, difficult surgery; too far back in the oral cavity (or "mouth", for non-medical people -- hehe) to go in that way. So the only other way to get at the area while still preserving as much function as possible is to go up from the neck, peel back the side of the face, and cut the jawbone.

One of the reasons I had to be present for the surgery is to write down everyone who worked on the patient, the amount of time each person spent, the medications given the patient...for the entire time. Even though all that will be in the medical record, I've learned through years of doing this that you just don't rely on anyone else to gather data unless they are being paid to gather data.

It's amazing, really, how many people you can fit in a surgery suite, and how many of them come and go, especially nurses and surgical techs. But I did get to watch the attending anesthesiologist do odd tricks (apparently he wasn't getting enough attention) and listen to the docs sing along with 70s tunes. Plus my docs are cool enough that they didn't mind my frequent and sometimes goofy questions...what can I say, I'm a total nerd.

At week 2 of the study, I have already filled 50 some odd pages of data, PLUS pages my own notes and observations, PLUS physician notes, PLUS copies of previous and current tests and history. The file is already pretty thick, and this is a two year study.

Everything went beautifully, my patient is recovering nicely and is in good spirits.

And that headline? It's a tree. All that paper...I killed another tree.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back Tack

I previously blogged about BackTack, an online craft swap in which one person sends fabric and trims and a second person makes up a notions holder who then sends it to yet a third person. There are a lot of links here, but you'll find some very creative people on the other end.

I know, it sounds complicated, but it was a heck of a lot of fun. First I got to go through my fabric stash for the perfect thing to send to my first BackTack Buddy (who, BTW, made this for HER buddy)...then I waited patiently to receive the totally gorgeous fabric my second BackTack buddy sent me...in the meantime reading the blog of my third BackTack buddy so I'd know what to send in her package to make her day...then trying to figure out what I was going to do with the gorgeous yet (to me) angst-producing slippery, hard to sew with fabric that I'd heard my mother complain about for YEARS.

Mom made most of my clothes, through high school in the 70s...and the 70s was one of the few decades that you could wear polyester and satin and panne velvet and all those other slippery fabrics and be right in style. And every fabric I wanted was a slippery one...and with every one, Mom would turn out something beautiful, but would complain frequently (OK, constantly, but I feel vaguely guilty now when I think about all the times I bought yet more slippery fabrics) about how hard it was to sew. So of course, I was terrified of the oriental brocade my buddy sent me. Although I haven't totally overcome my traumatic experiences with slippery fabric, I think eventually I could learn to like sewing with it.

My fourth BackTack buddy is absolutely awesome. Not only did she make me the coolest notions basket, but she also made a journal cover, a scissors holder, a nifty thread holder AND a pincushion...she also sent notions, and tiny canvases (for painting) AND chocolate (the chocolate is loooong gone).


All I can say is "Wow!" and "When can we play again?"

A Cautionary Tale






Deprived of its domicilic prey, the green menace lies in wait as a hapless car inadvertently strays into its lair.






As the doomed car patiently awaits its driver, the creeping vegetation begins to sneak up on its unsuspecting victim.



The predator pounces and engulfs the car, ingesting it slowly over the next few days, when it will begin the quest for another victim.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I have so much to blog about, and I've been too busy to do any of it, partly because of the neighbors.

My neighbors to the west are awful people. They appear to be a nice elderly couple, but like many minions of evil, appearances are deceiving. He is as mean as a snake, once threatened Gavin (peaceably mowing the lawn) with a golf club (he bullies other neighborhood kids as well), knows (and uses) every epithet in the book for no reason I can see, throws trash over my fence, and calls the city for the tiniest infraction -- he measures people's grass lengths, makes sure everyone's fences are far enough from the street, cars are not parked too far from the curb or (in a driveway) not too close to the street. He even called the city on the neighbor who didn't get a garage sale permit .His wife is probably a nice lady, but she has Alzheimer's and is paranoid; she likes to send registered letters to people about their tree limbs (which are still attached to the trees, but what if they fell off?). I try to ignore them, but since the golf club incident, there is a strip of grass between our houses which is No Man's Land. I'm kind of surprised he hasn't called the city yet...my excuse will be that it's "decorative".

The people who lived in my house before I bought it were very fond of ornamental shrubbery. Unfortunately, they bought the wrong kind, and despite my best efforts, the 10 bushes/trees/shrubs morphed into a sort of gigantic house-eating vegetative mass which towered over the house and crammed into the eaves and soffits. I've been trying to figure out how the heck I was going to afford a tree trimming service since I'm not really sure I want to find out if I can use a chainsaw without cutting off any body parts (I'm afraid the answer to that would be "no").

Little did I know that the neighbors to the east of me were angels in disguise. I was mowing my lawn Saturday, and the older gentleman and his wife (in their 70s) were out walking around the block and stopped to ask very gently if I needed help with my shrubs. I said that I could use all the help I could get and before I knew it, he and his wife were hauling over ladders and a chainsaw and all kinds of nippers and trimmers and clippers...and then Rog came over to help as well.

And we nipped and trimmed and clipped and sawed for DAYS until at last my house has been saved from ingestion by mutant greenery. The shrubs, now chainsawed into submission, cower beneath the eaves and tremble at the sight of the daily parade of walkers around our neighborhood.

Since the neighbors from Hell are west of me, and the neighbors from Heaven are east of me...that must mean I'm living in Limbo. Which explains a lot.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

Those Final Preparations

I like to know we're all on the same page, just in case.

My kids already know I want to be cremated when the time comes, and that's what my daughter wanted the last time I asked her (although now it's her husband's responsibility).

I didn't know, though, what my son wanted, so I asked him...and you can read below, in his own words (as best I remember them)...

Gavin: "In my coffin, I want a cassette recorder that plays, "braaaaiinnnssss.....braaaaiinnssss..." over and over. And I want to be wrapped up like a mummy, only not really mummified, just look like one. Oh wait! No, I want an actor in the coffin, who'll occasionally jump out and yell 'Boo!' at people.

"Oh, yeah, and I want to be buried under a pyramid with boulder traps and jewels and stuff, on top of Mt. Everest. And there'll have to be solid gold statues of me, at least two of them, and if you touch them, you're electrocuted. No, wait...if you touch them, you fall into a pit of piranhas. And it'll have to be guarded by ninjas."

Me: "Won't the ninjas get bored?"

Gavin: "No, they can feed the piranhas and do ninja stuff. Like ninja training.

"And I want a plaque...a plaque with something on it."

Me: "Like a quote? What quote?"

Gavin: "It'll have to be something by a famous poet. And original...and let's see...oh, I know, you can get a bunch of scientists to clone Robert Frost, and after he's written something, then they can wall him up in the tomb with me.

"Oh, and I'll have to have an eternal flame that can be seen from outer space.

"And if you can't do all that, just have me stuffed and put me in front of my computer for all time."

O-Kay!

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's Almost Here...

...my 30 year class reunion! Before next weekend, I really ought to lose (unspecified but large number of) lbs, become a CEO of a major corporation, land a starring movie role, have a complete face and body lift, buy a brand new Lexus, and sell a book for several million dollars (guaranteeing bestsellerdom).

Heh.

These are people I rarely see now, but many of whom I've known since I was 8 years old.

Only they share my memories of the teacher who tied a rowdy student into a chair with a jump rope, the principal who purportedly had a paddle with nails for the truly bad kids (none of whom, of course, were in OUR grade), who saw me win a track ribbon in 5th grade (trust me that no one would believe that now), who experienced the weirdness of the biology teacher who cried in class, the band leader who threw his baton at the tuba players, the strangeness of marching band practice in early morning frost, Secret Solarians, Tri-State festival, shooting pop bottle rockets into the lake (it's really cool when they explode underwater), the main drag (always ending in Sonic)...and so much, much more.

It's been a long time.

And my classmates will like me anyway, even though I'm no longer thin, haven't changed the world in any significant way, and still can't dance worth a darn. And I like them too; I only wish more of them would come.

So, Luke Roberts and Andy Haynes, it's about time you showed up to one of these. Robyn Stonehill and Mike Johnston, you're welcome to attend, even if you DID wind up graduating from some other high school. Scott Wilson, you came to the first one; why not come back? I miss all of you. And this time, Scott, I PROMISE to stay in touch.

And I know at least one classmate who doesn't come because of an old grudge from high school -- or so I've been told -- isn't it about time to come and see how we've all changed? I wish you would.

Not for the Faint of Heart or Weak of Stomach...

It's probably best not to read this unless you're a health professional or have a strong stomach.

Last Saturday night, I worked an inpatient psych shift. This time, I had the teeny kids (5-12); I rarely work on that floor because with little kids, the less change they have, the less angst they feel. Little kids like and need consistency.

Most of the kids were in the 5-8 range, and were LITTLE, about the size of kindergartners. A lot of kids in this age group haven't even gone to sleep-away camp, yet some of these children will be here for weeks or months without going home. It's a small unit, too, so it only requires one nurse and one tech.

The first 10 to 15 minutes of the shift are given over to report -- the outgoing nurse gives a brief overview of each child, so that the incoming staff members know what to expect. Along with all the usual stuff (early risers, potentially violent, potentially difficult if awakened), there was a report of a child who had painted a wall with feces. Unusual (though not unheard of).

The tech I worked with is a big and tough person who mainly works as a security guard, and has a hard time morphing from guarding to guiding. Why this person was assigned to this unit is beyond me, but mine is not to reason why...

The first half of the night was uneventful; we got our paper work done. The tech wanted to watch a movie (which really isn't permitted) and was a little irritated that I said no. Then the fun started.

One kid got up and asked if she could move her mattress out to the hall because her roommate was "stinky"...and since I had been smelling the flatulence from the nurses' station, that was OK by me, so I helped her move her bed. About that time, another kid, a tiny blond touseled hair boy (who weighed maybe 40 pounds), came up and told the tech his stomach hurt. His pants were soiled, and he admitted he'd had an "accident" in his bathroom...then clutched his stomach and ran to another bathroom and had another "accident" on the floor. The tech was irritated, with raised voice and angry face -- probably thinking of the feces painting kid from report.

Of course the kid was terrified. He was wearing the hospital supplied pajamas, which were way too big, and he hadn't been able to get them off, so the poo had just kind of gone done the pant leg and puddled on the floor. The tech didn't realize this and I finally just sent her off so I could help the kid.

I have to say that I have never seen so much poo out of one person in my whole life. The two piles together looked about the size of the kid, not to mention the stuff on the pajamas. Plus it was horribly stinky (worse than the flatulent kid) and yellowy green (see, told you not to read this) and not quite liquid but not really solid either (and yet you decided to continue reading! No lunch for you!).

Between this and the flatulent kid, my guess is there's a viral something or other on the unit. I hope the MD read my note the next day.

Trying to get the kid undressed, get him showered and still preserve some of his modesty was well nigh impossible, but I did the best I could. THEN, the only pajamas I could find to put him in were the adult sized pajamas (why were they even ON this floor??), but they were better than nothing...and he said his stomach felt better (why shouldn't it? There was nothing left in any of his digestive tract!) and he went back to bed.

The tech did not want to clean up either bathroom and I couldn't see waiting for housekeeping because the smell was so intense that the entire unit was already permeated with it. So I put on some gloves, got towels and cleaned both bathrooms.

Oh, it was AWFUL. Worse than anything in or out of nursing school, even the repiratory stuff I hated. I could not keep from gagging, and my eyes were watering. The poor kiddo got out of bed and watched me unnoticed and then tentatively asked, "Are you OK?" I looked at him and he had that bigeyed, scared look on his face that my kids always had when they accidently broke or spilled something and (mistakenly) thought they'd be in trouble. I suppose he thought I was angry with him, but I just said, "Sometimes bad smells make me a little sick." And he thought about that, and then relaxed and nodded. And went back to bed, and slept.

Some parents (and I hope they are the minority) act just like the tech-- things that aren't the child's fault are treated as punishable offenses. Little kids have dignity, too, and are ultra sensitive to the adults around them -- they have to be, because they are dependent on adults for everything -- their food, clothing, emotional needs, shelter...

To be fair, the tech is youngish, has no children or SO, and is well suited to the security guard job. Unless some changes take place, though, I hope that tech doesn't work on that floor again. That attitude may be tolerated by adults or older teens, but it does not work with little kids. They really don't understand the irritation or frustration of adults and are really much better off with firmness and loving kindness.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Meepers tagged me some time ago for the Book Meme:

Total books owned, ever: I have no idea. It's a lot. I have boxes upon boxes of books in my attic, I give boxes of books away every year, and I have them stacked up all over my house and stuffed into every bare spot in my three big bookcases. I'd guess I've gone through enough books to have endowed a library by now. A really big one.

Last book I bought: 1602 (Marvel, Neil Gaiman). Imagine Marvel comic book characters in Queen Elizabeth I's reign. Now add in a dash of dark and inscrutable Neil Gaiman and incredible artwork. And then go read it.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

1. The Watchers at the Pond.
This was the first "adult" book I ever read, and I read it when I was in the second grade. It was a Reader's Digest Condensed book, and Mom gave it to me when I told her I had read everything I had and wanted something new to read. (After that, I plowed through every condensed book we had...we had a lot...and sometimes I'd even hide the new one from her so I could read it FIRST.) Having read it, that gave me the courage to approach the scary looking lady at the library desk to ask if I could look at the adult books -- which were in a different part of the library than the children's books (and seemed prohibited for that reason)...and not only did she turn out to be absolutely lovely, but she took me by the hand and gave me a tour of the nonfiction and fiction sections, and even helped me choose my first ever "adult" selections. Thank you Mom, and thank you Mrs. Dixon...and thank you to the author of Watchers at the Pond, whoever that may be.

2. My Father's Dragon.
I love the luminous pictures. I love the adventure. I love the way seemingly insoluble problems were solved and seemingly endless cruelty rectified by a very young child and a cat. If a child and a cat can do it, so can I.

3. A Dram of Poison.
Actually, this is a novella, and I read it during a very difficult part of my adolescence. It helped me to believe that no matter how bad things were, maybe it was enough to simply be able to sit in the sun. An "Aha!" moment for me -- yes, it's dated, but worth reading.

4. Alice in Wonderland/Pride and Prejudice.
I have read each of these books in excess of 20 times (probably a low estimate). If I were stranded on a desert island and only allowed one book, I would find it very hard to choose between these two. I often feel like Alice -- wandering in a strange and incomprehensible place which is constantly changing (although not particularly scary); I often also feel like Elizabeth Bennet, finding fun in everything, yet often have to examine my prejudices and really look beyond the surface (I get better at this all the time). Besides the wonderful writing, it is probably the identification with the protagonists which really adds to my enjoyment.

5. Les Jeux Sont Faits.
Another "Aha!" moment. I read this in college (in French), years ago. My entire class loved it so much that if the instructor didn't show up for class, we'd hunt him down and make him come in (any other class and we'd have left after the obligatory 10 minute wait). What this book said to me was that sometimes people will just do what they're going to do, mistake or no, and nothing one can do will change that. Basically, we are powerless to change someone else; only they can change themselves. Seems easy now, but it was a revelation then...and it has saved me from much guilt. I have no clue if that's what Sartre wanted his readers to get, but that's what I got.

Wow -- 2 posts in one day. And probably two tomorrow as well. I'm tagging Glod here -- and Anonymous, my backtacker friend...

Twilight Zoned

I really didn't mean to be gone so long. Unbeknownst to me, I inadvertently moved to the Land of Adverse Events.

After my last procedure, the doc prescribed medication for chronic pain. Those words, "chronic pain" are frightening if you work in a health profession, because for too many people, "chronic pain" sometimes translates into "permanent and intractable pain".

The medication given to me is not really a pain reliever. And no one really knows WHY it works. The theory seems to be that in some types of nerve pain, the pain transmitters become irritable and transmit the pain sensations too quickly and too often, so that one feels more pain than there actually is...or may even be feeling pain that no longer exists. Theoretically, it slows the pain transmitters and eventually calms them. The medication is slowly increased to a high level, and then slowly decreased until the pain returns or the medication is discontinued. I am now in the decreasing stage.

Whatever the mechanism is, I can say that I experience little to no pain. However, I experienced some unusual adverse events (also known as "side effects"). The first one was sedation; the medication made me sleepy. In fact, it made it almost impossible to get up in the morning, even after I instituted a second alarm. And by the time dinner was over, I was so tired that I had trouble even reading more than a few pages before falling asleep.

I have always been the type of person who awakens before the alarm goes off (if I even bother to set one), springs out of bed in a happy mood, and sometimes, if I'm especially sunny, I even sing to awaken other people who have to get up. I know that this is extremely annoying to people who don't awaken easily, but it's irrepressible. (Really. And you should see the look on Gavin's face when I wake him up this way...heh.) So the sedation was problematical, but I could live with that as long as there was no pain. Especially since my workplace is flexible...to the point that I'm not entirely sure anyone would notice if I didn't show up. Luckily for them, I have a pretty good work ethic.

The second adverse event is rare enough that it doesn't show up in the PDR. I felt foggy all the time, like my thoughts were trying to swim through sludge. I would sometimes find myself spending several hours moving paper from one spot to another, without having actually done anything with it. I started projects only to be distracted into working on something else, sometimes even repeating something I'd already done because I'd forgotten I'd done it. I walked across campus several times (hurray for walking!) only to find I had forgotten why I went. I didn't really notice the cognitive deficit until after it started getting better (which is maybe the scariest part). I knew I wasn't getting anything done, but I couldn't figure out why I wasn't. And I couldn't figure out where all my time was going.

The time loss is compounded by feeling physically better and getting some housework done (despite starting something and being distracted and starting something else), Mom's birthday, trips to see Mom (yes, I was driving throughout this, also scary now that I think about it), starting my tile floor (pictures to come), working extra at the second job to pay for the healthcare bills, time with Rog, time with Betty (ex mom-in-law), and time with friends.

And then Buddy, cat extraordinare, leader of the neighborhood cat gang, able to swagger past snarling dogs with a bare twitch of his Manx stub to show his indifference, twiner of legs, lord of my keyboard, my lovely cat rescued from a life at the shelter...died. He was suddenly having trouble eating and breathing; when I took him to the vet, the vet didn't think he could save him, so Buddy had to be euthanized. The vet was curious, though, and did an autopsy...Mr. Bud had a tumor the size of a child's fist in his chest cavity. Yet he never acted like there was anything painful or wrong, until the day before I took him to the vet.

I do hope the first half of this year was the difficult half. I have high hopes for the second half.

I'm much less foggy now. If the pain comes back, it will be a tough choice between my physical well being or my intellectual well being. I hope it will not come back.

Thank you all for letting me know you missed me. I missed me too. And I missed you. And yes, Anonymous, mi hermano es muy loco.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

It's Always Something

Sometimes I forget that nonmedical people often are not aware of potential health disasters.

My ex-mom-in-law has diabetes. She's had it for years, and it's never under good control. She lives with one of her children (not the one I was married to, but uncomfortably similar), and he has a hard time denying her the high fat, high sugar foods she craves. And will then forget to check her blood sugar or give her insulin.

I don't see her often, although I am fond of her. I visited for a while after the divorce, but my exhusband used that as an excuse to not see her -- which upset her -- so I drive my son to see her, but I don't visit unless she's ill. And the ex STILL isn't seeing her, but now he has to think up other excuses.

She's gossipy, bossy, opinionated, barely literate, and believes everything the TV preachers and The National Enquirer tell her. She tries to do the right thing, though, and actually trusts me enough to sometimes take my advice -- amazingly, because in the beginning, she was very much against educated women; she changed her mind on that -- and other things -- over the last 28 years.

I have talked to her kids about diabetes. I have told them to check her feet every day. Her circulation is poor, and her feet are always purple, and sometimes blue.

Her daughter tries as best she can. But her sons just don't get it; they can't seem to understand that they can't wait and see if things get better when her health is so fragile.

A week ago, she complained to one of her kids that her foot hurt. Her daughter checked it, and there was a tiny sore. No one checked it again FOR A WEEK...mainly because the daughter was out of town...and only when she was unable to walk, did they check it again.

The 1.5 inch wide, .5 inch deep tunneling wound on her heel was enough for the kids to realize she needed to go to the hospital. Which is a good thing, because if they'd waited even a day longer, she probably would have lost her foot or her leg -- and she may yet, if the debridement doesn't heal well.

And finally, FINALLY, the kids agree that she really needs to be in a nursing home, because they themselves have not been able to give her the care she needs.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Adventures in Housekeeping

The pain got worse. So much so, that the doc found time in his busy schedule to perform another procedure last Monday.

It seems to have worked, although I have to say that the side effects of the conscious sedation lasted a lot longer this time. I managed to make it to work a couple of days last week, but that was about it...all I could manage was sleep.

Today I am almost pain free, for the first time in months. And this weekend, also for the first time in months, I CLEANED. I cleaned because I could walk, and bend, and move, and it didn't hurt. Of course, the crowd of people standing in the front yard with torches and pitchforks yelling "UNCLEAN! MONSTER! UNCLEAN!" had nothing to do with it.

There are plenty of people who could tell you what a lax housekeeper I am. This came to fruition about my second year of being married when I realized that he was never going to pick up his own dirty socks -- and I detest dirty socks -- so my philosophy became "if there aren't any bugs, and it's not a fire hazard, then it's OK". Then I had another 18 years or so in which I perfected this way of living...although, any time anyone else (like, gee, that guy I was married to who was the father of these kids and who insisted I work fulltime, cook all the meals and do all the laundry) was willing to help clean, I was all over it. But if no one else was willing, why should I do it all?

Once I had my own space, though, it was better; but it was also worse. Better, because my attitude was better, but worse because I now had two children, two dogs, and a cat. And the kids were slightly worse at cleaning than the cat, and only slightly better than the dogs.

Throughout this whole leg pain affair, it's been Gavin, the dogs, the cat, and me. I couldn't do much, and if you've ever had teenagers, you'll know that in order to get them to do housework, they require either a) a lot of nagging or b) the ability on the part of the parent to enforce draconian measures.

I'm not good at either of those. While (mostly) the trash got carried out, and (mostly) the dishes got done, and (mostly) the height of the grass in the yard did not exceed 6 inches...well...nothing else was done except for the odd loads of laundry.

And just to set the record straight, Gavin's sister Alex was much, MUCH worse before she married. So I have to believe, for his future wife's sake, that it is strictly a teenager thing.

Both dogs have been shedding, and once I was finally able to vacuum, I think I acquired enough hair to make 5 more dogs about the size of Labradors. This is really impressive, because both of them still appear to have as much as they started with. In a couple of hidden corners, I found spiders had made homes and had started substantial graveyards of discarded insect parts. The patio was still covered in the last of the winter leaves, books covered every available surface (you can also substitute "dust" for "books")...and, well, you get the picture.

Plus my piles of tile are still waiting to be laid...and if I'm still feeling well in a week or two, that's next (I really don't want to get that started and have to quit in the middle).

There are a couple of really good things that happened because of this. One is that I really, really enjoyed cleaning over the weekend -- and it's been a long time since that was the case. The other thing is that Rog did not run away screaming...and over the past month has spent time with me in my house, despite the fact that he has allergies and drifts of dog hair were thick on the floor. He must be as smitten as I am.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Evil Bees

I have just been treated to what may be the most creative World Domination Scheme I have ever heard.

Gavin tells me that if he were to learn interpretive dance, he's sure he could use that to communicate with bees -- Africanized Killer Bees -- which would then become his willing slaves.

With these diminutive yet powerful minions, it would be "a piece of cake" to take power -- after all, the bees could be loaded up on trucks in order to infiltrate the Entire Free World.

He thought up and rejected several Evil Nemesis names (The Bee Keeper, Hive Master) until he decided on "Dr. B Evil", which he states, "works well on SEVERAL levels".

After some thought, though, he demonstrated " interpretive dance" for me and then said, "You know, it would be very hard for people to take you seriously if you have to be doing this sort of thing all the time" while leaping across the living room, drooping like a dying swan, and fluttering like autumn leaves.

Maybe Barysnikov could have pulled it off, but Gavin...yeah, he'd have to have whole countries jailed for laughing-- not just chuckling -- but loud, snorting, Coke-blowing-out-the-nose hilarity.

It's just as well, because I don't believe he thought through the whole winter/hibernating bees thing...

Balm of Sleep

I spent the holiday weekend working at my other job (hey, gotta pay for all this health care stuff!), 11-7 at the psych hospital. And you can't beat time and a half for holiday pay, especially when the regular pay seems just short of exorbitant.

Both times I was assigned to a kids' unit. Unlike adult psych units, the child units are usually uneventful at night. The units are kept a little bit too cold, so the kids snuggle into their blankets and avoid getting out of bed.

About half the kids sleep in their rooms. The rest "sleep out"; that is, they drag their mattresses into the hall and sleep so that they are watched all night long by staff.

Sleep outs for are actively suicidal or self-harmful children. Also, children who are at risk of sexually abusing others. Sometimes kids who are afraid of the dark sleep out. And sometimes there's a sleep out whose roommate is so flatulent that even the nurses hold their breath just passing by in the hall.

Every once in a while, though, you get a child who can't sleep. And even more rarely, you get a child who won't sleep.

This time, I had a sleep out child who said he couldn't sleep...but he did everything he could to keep from falling asleep. He was so tired that his eyes kept closing on their own; he'd jerk himself awake, complain loudly; when that didn't work so well, he'd sit up; when he begin falling asleep sitting up, then he'd get up and shuffle around, get a drink, go to the bathroom...I'd finally persuade him to lie down and then he'd start all over again.

Some of you probably understand what this is all about, and why, if these hospitalized kids are going to go over the edge, it's usually at bedtime.

Bedtime or nighttime, those are the times abusers often choose to torment their victims. So the time that most of us use to recover from the day and recharge for the day to come is the time that abused children dread the most. So they are afraid to sleep. And after all, if home was never safe, and your parents didn't love you enough to keep you safe, then it's easy for a child to believe that there are no safe places, and that no one will ever love them enough.

I finally persuaded this kid to lie down and imagine what it would be like if he were a student at Hogwarts...and he added "Fighting Voldemort?"..."Of course," I replied...and asked him to start with the Sorting Hat assigning him to a group...and he fell asleep within minutes.

It's a little scary to me that a world with Voldemort feels safer to someone than sleeping under the watchful gaze of two caring adults.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


These are the beautiful fabrics I received from my backtack buddy; now I get to create a notions holder and send it to my OTHER backtack buddy! Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The It Girl

I've been tagged by the Pufferfish, so for your reading delight, I present the "Three" meme...

Three screen names that you have had:
Researchrabbit, Flyinfur -- those are really the only two I've used. Flyinfur happened when I was trying to find a screen name...but everything I tried was taken, and the kids were fighting, and the dogs were barking, and...well...the fur was really flyin' (as we say here in Okieland). Researchrabbit is for what I do and one of my favorite characters -- the White Rabbit -- who shares with me the inability to be on time for anything.

Three things you like about yourself:
I can solve problems, grasp concepts quickly, and I have an infectious smile. Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine for the smile thing, but researchers are working feverishly.

Three things you don't like about yourself:
I like chocolate more than I like being thin, I like starting (but not finishing) projects, and I am an expert in the art of procrastination. "Not liking" is perhaps too strong a phrase here, but "things I probably ought to change but am just too lazy and comfortable to actually do so" is more like it.

Three parts of your heritage:
Cherokee, German, and I have the Weird Ward genes. My bother, er brother (Steve, did you see that? I make that typo EVERY SINGLE TIME. Freudian slip or TRUTH?) got a lot more of the Weird Ward genes than I did. Which is probably why he is soooo cool. Even if he doesn't have a blog yet.

Three things that scare you:
Something bad happening to one of my kids. Something bad happening to any other kid. Ever sitting in another interminable class with Mrs. Carlock, my evil 5th grade teacher.

Three of your everyday essentials:
Hot showers, newspaper comics and my own little squishy pillow to sleep on at night...which goes with me on every trip I take.

Three things you are wearing right now:
Wild Hawaiian print scrub top, scrub pants, and nurse name tag with my last name blacked out...something I've done ever since one of my psych patients in KS decided to start phoning me every night at 1 am.

Three of your favorite songs:
Think (Aretha Franklin); The No No Song (Ringo Starr); Sail Away/Orinoco Flow (Enya) ...or really, anything that I can belt out while I'm driving.

Three new things you want to try in the next 12 months:
Enamelling, teaching my kid to drive, and surviving teaching my kid to drive.

Three things I want in a relationship:
Right now, I have everything I want and more. :)

Two truths and a lie:
I'm tall, slender, and blonde. Um. OK, so two definite lies and one self delusion which is probably also a lie. Sue me. :D

Three things you can't do without:
The people I love, chocolate, and books.

Three places you want to go on vacation:
The next three places I am planning to go are my hometown, San Diego and Scotland, in that order. But this list is, apparently, endless. I want to go everywhere and see everything. Well, see everything except #2 on the "just can't do" portion just below this.

Three things you just can't do:
Be mean to animals or children, look at what comes up when one removes a nasogastric tube, or iceskate without falling.

Three kids' names:
Furry or non-furry? I only have two non-furry, so furry it is: Pixie the Wonderdog, Evil Wiley, and Buddy.

Three things you want to do before you die:
I've already done them. :) Anything extra is a gift.

Three Celeb crushes:
Alan Rickman, Cary Grant, Paul Newman.

Three people you want to know these things about: I don't want to tag anyone who doesn't want to play, but I haven't seen Meeps, 3rd Degree Nurse, or Rhodester do one of these...so I invite you to play if you wish to, or not if you don't. :)

Sunny and Clear

The weather today was warm and sunny, and so was my state of mind.

Gavin actually mowed the lawn. And I didn't have to tell him to do it more than 20 or 30 times. He even applied for a job (although it's so close to summer vacation that he may be out of luck. We'll see). But he's still spending lots and lots of time playing Worlds of Warcraft...ah, to be a teenager with summer vacation on the way...

Rog and I went to a neighborhood arts festival this afternoon (Gavin was invited, but WOW was much more exciting than boring old art and boring old mom). It's an older area of town, and parts of it are very rundown, but the houses and business are charming, with many reflecting a 20s art deco style.

We parked what seemed like a bazillion miles away, but Rog was delighted to push my chair. He is much more careful than I, and didn't bark any shins or run over any toes...which I am afraid I have done more than once since I started wheeling around.

The art was OK, and so was the live music, but the people watching was superb -- and the beauty of the wheelchair is that most people don't look at you, so you can really, really look at them...and they never notice. So I got to check out cool tattoos/odd piercings on the Goth Kids, stare at some very strange Rich Lady hairdos, smile at the Avant Garde Artists clothing, and make funny faces at the kids in strollers (ok, that last one I do whether people notice me doing it or not).

I had to tease Rog a little, and said "I'm going to tell Mom that you've been pushing me around." But he's awfully quick -- he said, "Well, then, I'll have to tell her that I'm a dope pusher."

Heh. I have to admit, he's got me there -- can't have Mom thinking I'm Dopey, especially since, this time of year, Sneezy probably fits me better.

Oh, I know. That was terrible. But it's the middle of the night, and I'm working inpatient psych. That's the only time I'm ever up this late, and it makes me even goofier than I am normally.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

My New Wheels

My arms are tired...but it's really, really nice to be mobile again, and since I'm not walking much, my hip hurts less.

I figure if I do this long enough, at least I'll have very toned arms.

At some point I suppose I'll learn to gauge where the wheels are on the chair so I don't run into/over things. Or maybe not; I'm still running over curbs in my car (and I've been driving for 30 years now). People on campus better watch their toes.

There is no place on a wheelchair to hang a purse or a bag so that it doesn't bump against the wheels, unless it has straps long enough to span both handles. It's awkward to hold it on my lap; it keeps sliding off when I try to open doors. I am very thankful for my chair, but it could have been designed better for independent users. So I suppose I'm going to break out the sewing machine tonight (I have to start work on my backtack project too -- more on that later) and see what I can devise, since I have documents that have to be hauled all over campus that have been piling up. I can just see trying to balance a 10 inch stack of paper on my lap -- what a potential disaster! I have sent some things through campus mail -- which isn't terribly reliable -- but the big stacks of paper have to be hand carried.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bugs and Barriers

Alas, the pain relief from the procedure lasted two days...and I graduated to a wheelchair today. I am pleased, though, that my next appointment is next Wednesday, which is three weeks sooner than originally planned (but I had to be a very squeaky wheel to get that). And I guess surgery is the next option.

I do not know how people with chronic pain learn to live with it. The pain colors everything I do; dulls my thoughts, damps my enthusiasm, and makes me cranky (not that anyone really notices that I'm cranky, but I FEEL cranky). Not only is it difficult to find a comfortable position no matter what I do, but it's difficult to get from one place to another. Despite the handicapped access laws, there are still barriers that I never noticed before.

Our parking garage is shared by two buildings. Handicapped parking spaces for employees are situated next to the old building; I work in the new building. To get to my building, I have to use an elevator and then a glassed-in walkway which goes from the 2nd floor of the old building to the 4th floor of the new building...so the walkway is an incline, and not a gentle one. And there's a corner to get round right in the middle.

It's a workout to go up it in a wheelchair, especially since the glass double doors at either end are stiff and were hard to open when I could walk. What is really going to be fun, though, is getting back to my car. I can just see me splatted against the glass doors like a bug on a windshield...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Will Appear

I have been lucky in life to have been open enough to learn much from many.

Rog and I are "going steady" for want of a better term -- neither of us want to see anyone else. He asked me last night if I were "good at picking men"...really asking me (I think) if I were sure about my choice this time.

I woke up this morning and realized that the previous two times I'd made a commitment, I'd done so out of fear.

When I found the man I would marry, I wanted a protector. I felt battered by life events beyond my control, and I found a controller. I KNEW he was not a kind person, but I thought he'd be different with me (mistake number one) and I married him. Didn't work.

When I found the man I later lived with, I wanted faithfulness, honesty, and freedom. I felt betrayed and controlled by my exhusband, and I found an honest man. I KNEW he was irresponsible, I KNEW he needed to move constantly, and I KNEW he had an anger problem -- because he told me all these things himself -- and I thought I could change (mistake number two). We lived together. Didn't work.

I wrote this last June. I knew I didn't want someone I had to change and I knew I didn't want someone who had to change me.

Then I met Lynn, when I bought a really cool painting from her on Ebay (see her current listings here). Since I was born in November (and therefore Sagittarius) and have always been fascinated by mythology, moonlight, and luna moths, I had to buy it...and for whatever reason, no one was willing to bid very high, and I was able to afford it.

Later, she posted another lovely and mysterious painting which bore a strong resemblance to my daughter, Alex -- who loves Jack Russell terriers...see the closeup here. Once again, it was affordable, although her works are usually more than I can manage. Alex LOVES it...although if she hadn't, I'd have been VERY happy to have kept it myself.

Since I'd bought a second painting from Lynn, this time we emailed back and forth a few times, and found we are about the same age and had some similar early experiences. But of all the things we wrote about, one stayed with me: she'd had a poor first marriage as well, and is (she states) deliriously happy this time around. She told me, "The first time I picked what I thought I wanted. The second time, I asked God to choose for me."

And this January, after that exchange with Lynn, that's just what I did.

Sometimes we never know the powerful influence that we have on those around us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Site Visitors

There are different types of research studies. There are nonfunded studies, federally funded studies, not-for-profit or nonprofit funded studies, and industry sponsored (both investigator initiated and company initiated) studies. I'm sure there are other types as well, but I haven't done those.

At this job, I work mostly with nonfunded studies, but we do have a few industry sponsored studies...and I am actually most familiar with those, since that's all I did for the 12 years I did psychiatric research.

When we do an industry sponsored study, the pharmaceutical or device company has to send out a couple of people to look us over and make sure we have what it takes to do the study. It's always seemed a little silly to me -- after all, this is a university medical center -- but I suppose they want to be certain that we really, really do have access to a lab, and ECG machines, and MRIs, and surgery suites, and a centrifuge, and surgery imaging...you get the picture. Before they give us any money, they have to be sure that we can do the study.

They also ask about a million questions about the credentials of the people who will work on the trial, the Institutional Review Board, the Scientific Committee screening process, how we plan to find people to participate, how many similar trials we've done...and on...and on.

That's what I did last Wednesday -- some folks from a Canadian company came and looked us over. And I got to give 'em the tour...which explains a lot about why my leg got so much worse last Thursday.

Usually they give us a list of what they want to see -- and often a peek through the door is sufficient -- but these folks wanted a thorough, indepth tour of several facilities, none of which they'd asked for in advance. They even OPENED the lab freezers to make sure there would be space for their stuff, noted the last inspection dates on the MRI machines, and asked for the imaging equipment to be demonstrated. I had to make some frantic phone calls, call in some favors, and eventually they did see most of what they wanted, although the ECG people did NOT allow us to tour. Which is typical for cardiology...they need to get over themselves, really.

At any rate, we're approved for this study now -- which means we have something else to offer our terminal head and neck cancer patients. This treatment won't cure them, but might make those last months easier...and doesn't look like it'll detract from quality of life...and might help someone else down the line if it works.

Not only that, but I get to take a trip to Toronto in early July for the start up meeting.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

She's Baa-aack!

The procedure went well, although (as usual) the surgery rooms were way behind so everything was delayed. My 1:30 procedure finally happened around 4, so I was home by 7. The doc used conscious sedation, which is better than a general anesthetic, but did leave me with a terrific headache for most of today. The good news, though, is that I'm walking with very little pain.

The bad news is that it STILL hurts to sit...I don't know why I thought sitting would be pain-free when the procedure consisted of a huge needle piercing my posterior...not once, but twice. But at least it's DIFFERENT pain and should go away. And I've vacuumed, and picked up, and done laundry and dishes...all the things that didn't get done last month without lots of nagging Gavin. Which means mostly they weren't done at all, because nagging makes me crazy.

The doc also tells me that the pain relief is almost certainly temporary, and really more of a diagnostic tool. Since the pain was relieved, that gives him a better idea of exactly what is wrong, and what he can do for a permanent fix.

But heck, I feel GOOD. So I'm happy.

Friday, May 13, 2005

If there's a silver lining, I'll find it...

I can't walk now and it's too painful even to sit. So I'm going to lie in bed, listen to the rain and read books...lots and lots of books.

But I'll be back (hopefully) Tuesday, after the procedure on Monday.

Monday, May 09, 2005


Here's Dad! -- Roger's sketch. Posted by Hello

Meet the Mom

I worked long-term adolescent psych Saturday night, 11pm to 7am. Kind of a strange prelude to Mother's Day as most of these kids don't have a mom (or dad, for that matter) who cares or is involved. The few that did were getting passes off the floor to visit a mom or a grandmother on Sunday; I can only imagine how the ones left behind felt about that.

A few of the kids have discovered that if they make abuse allegations about the people who work on the unit, that all kinds of havoc and trouble ensue...and since they mostly long for attention, good or bad, it's become a popular pastime. So none of us made rounds by ourselves; always two or more at a time -- one nurse in the hall watching another nurse with a flashlight make sure that all kids are breathing, in no distress, and in the correct beds.

The Plan for Sunday was that my brother, sister, and I would all go to Mom's for Mother's Day; it's been a tough year for all of us, but particularly for her, and we wanted to make it special.

I asked Rog to go with me...it's only been a month, but he's become a very important person in my life already. It's a little scary, but mostly it's wonderful and amazing, and I feel very lucky...in fact, I feel like I won the life lottery.

Rog agreed to go with me to meet my entire family...and then he also drove both ways (about 5 hours total)...since I was tired from working and my hip is still painful. And then he made Mom (and me) cry. He had drawn a pencil sketch of Dad, framed the original for me, and gave Mom a copy. Mom loves it. And it is wonderful; Dad gazes serenely out of the paper and right into your eyes, a bit of a smile on his face, as though to say, "It's going to be all right."

I'm crying again as I write this. But it's a good thing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Anal Sphincter Reconstruction

Today I had to walk to the Department Chair's office. It's not all that far away, but I'm moving awfully slowly. Which makes it MUCH easier to eavesdrop on hallway conversations. I admit it; I'm nosy.

Nosiness is what got me into research in the first place; I was offered a job in a research psychiatry group in which the shrink in charge stated "If you'll come work for us, you can do anything you want." So...there I was, a very temporary secretary, trained to teach French and Spanish, but this psychiatrist is willing to let me -- with no psychiatric training -- interview psychiatric patients of assorted disorders by asking for social, medical, and indepth symptom histories...and take as much time as I needed and ask any questions necessary...how could I say no?

Sometimes the Powers-That-Be move in mysterious ways. That offer and my acceptance shaped my life into something completely different than it would have been if I'd followed my plan to teach that fall.

Anyway, on my way to the Chair's office, I shared a long hallway with two youngish MDs who were discussing sphincter reconstructions in detail. Since I walk so slowly, and they were standing and talking, I didn't even have to loiter to hear almost all of the conversation, the pros and cons of this type of procedure for this or that patient.

They honored the intent, if not the spirit, of the new HIPAA laws; no names, but "the patient with the hair", "that tall guy", "you know, that woman we saw last Wednesday". Funny how we watch what we say these days.

And then, when I got to the door I needed, not one, but BOTH MDs came over and held it open. I was shocked, not because they were MDs (because the younger ones, even the surgeons, tend to be less Godlike these days), but because they'd been so deep in conversation, I didn't think they were aware of anything but what they were going to do for their patients.

Thank goodness all I have to do is get my hip fixed...and my only interactions with THAT group will be hallway listening.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Real Reality TV

Every morning, I drive Gavin to school. It's a whole lot easier than making him walk two blocks at 10 minutes till seven am and then riding the bus for 40 minutes. Plus (if he's not too sleepy) we have some interesting conversations in the car.

This morning we were discussing ways to pay teachers more, since Gavin is currently incensed that football players make millions while teachers have barely enough to live on. Gavin immediately turned to TV...

REALITY TV -- IT'S REAL, IT'S NEW, THE HEIGHT OF DRAMA AND SUSPENSE!

Thirty students. One teacher. And NONE of them may leave the room until they have LEARNED CALCULUS!

What the teacher DOESN'T know is that ALL of the students have ADHD*.

What the students DON'T know is that the teacher is an EX-MARINE.

How many will SURVIVE this harrowing experience? Tune in NOW!

*Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
...

I have only myself to blame for Gavin's skewedness -- he learned to read with The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I'll Take a Little Cheese with my Whine

Warning: Whine ahead. You've been warned.

Most of the nurses I know do not go to see the doctor unless they are in dire straits, and I am no exception. In addition, I have a streak of stoicness (is that a word?) and stubbornness when it comes to pain. But I have finally come to the point where I can barely function.

I would have thought that either natural childbirth or the impaired dentist who drilled my tooth with fake Novocaine (who has since been jailed and lost his licence) would have qualified for the "10" rating on the pain scale. My hip, though, is much, much worse. Two days ago, I stepped wrong and almost passed out (luckily I was with Rog and he was quick enough on the uptake to catch me before I fell. Thank God). I'm still going to work but once I get to my office, it's difficult just to get to the copier down the hall. Walking in from handicapped parking takes forever, and sometimes I can't help crying as I hobble because the pain is so severe.

Even with all this, the soonest the MD can do anything for me is the 16th of May. And that may not work. It's all very distressing, and I can't understand WHY it takes so long when I hurt this much.

It's harder every day to be positive, optimistic, and upbeat. But I'm trying.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Scrabble Fodder, Part Deux

The Scrabble tournament was fiercely fought, but alas; victory was not to be mine or Rog's. After being plied with wine (probably the first strategic move), we began to play. I held the lead briefly, but Don pulled ahead to bring off #1, Bev beat me by 2 points, and poor Rog trailed the pack by about 20. Afterwards, Don told me that in his free time, he often reads the Scrabble dictionary "for fun". Heh. They've turned into Scrabble sharks.

Then the pictures began...Bev made signs a la the olympics for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and then presented Rog with a "Fodder" sign...she intends to blow that picture up to 8x10 and display it next Saturday, when we meet for a rematch.

Rog has plans, though, to raid his own Scrabble game and smuggle some tiles over in his sleeve.

Bev's hair not only stayed down, but Rog earned a 2 thumbs up. WOO HOO!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Scrabble Fodder

My best friend has invited Rog and me to her house for Scrabble this weekend.

Scrabble has much less to do with how many words you know and much more to do with strategy, placement, and doing your best to deny your opponent a good opening.

I know lots of words. But Bev and Don (her companion) must channel Alexander the Great as they are masters at strategy. And I value the times I've managed to win, because I've really had to work for it.

So Rog and I will, more than likely, be mere fodder for the Scrabble masters.

The real point of all this, though (besides having a tremendously good time) is Bev's Hair Test.

If Rog doesn't make Bev's hair go up, then he's probably safe to keep dating...Bev's ability to pick out scary weirdnesses in people is amazing (my guess is that Rog will pass with flying colors). When I was married, she figured out my husband was having an affair without even having met him. When she DID meet him, her hair went up (at the time, I wasn't a true believer, and brushed it off...but I shouldn't have). She's not infallible -- but she's damn good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Initiation

Much to my son's dismay, there was no wine to be drunk out of skulls. No pentagrams, arcane knowledge, or mysterious handshakes were shared.

Instead, there was a speech by a gentleman who had participated in the Ironman Triathlon. I have yet to figure out exactly HOW that connects to the National Honor Society (the group he'd been asked to join). But it does illustrate the power of sports here in Boomer Sooner Land.

Even the cake afterwards did not make up for the lack of ritual, mystery, or scholar-related activities...

Monday, April 25, 2005

That (not so) Invisible Touch

I've always touched people. My kids, relatives, friends, strangers, co-workers. Sometimes it's a simple "I'm here for you" touch on the hand. Or an "I need your attention" finger on the wrist. A "gee, I like you" or "thanks, you're wonderful" hug (reserved for people I know well). A "what a cool fabric" touch of a sleeve or maybe even a tie, if the guy is approachable and it's really nifty.

I never thought twice about any of these being inappropriate.

However, in the initial flurry of dating, it came up over and over again.

As I've said before, people tell me things, sometimes things they've never told anyone else. And each and every guy I dated did the disclosure thing, and each and every one of them got a hand touch.

And with a few exceptions, they were discombobulated by it (oh, how I love that word!).

I even had one email in which the guy wrote, "we were having such a nice lunch and things were going well, even though I knew I was talking too much. And then you touched my hand. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to think? What did you mean by that?"

All but 2 of the people I dated commented on it, indicating that they didn't know what to make of a simple touch to the hand.

So tell me: did they think this was an invitation of some sort? Why? Are men so hungry for touch that my fingers on the back of a hand was crazy-making? I might have suspected that of teenagers, but guys over 50? Or was it me, and I inadvertently crossed some invisible boundary?

Oh, and BTW: the only two who weren't strange about it were Rog and Harley Guy. When I touched their hands, each put his other hand briefly on top of mine in a way that said: "I'm glad you understand." At least I think that's what they were saying.

Middle Aged Women

Rog and I went to see Kung Fu Hustle last night. It's funny (sometimes extremely funny) in a weird, sly, and goofy way. The film takes those kung fu movie stereotypes and turns them on their heads. If you're open to a little weirdness (okay, maybe a lot of weirdness), you should see this one.

One of the characters is a cranky, middle-aged woman with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, who mostly appears wearing curlers, robe, and houseshoes. She terrifies the people around her but at the same time apparently cares deeply for them while rarely ever showing any softer side.

She is a tiger.

I like that. I would like to have that kind of inner strength. But I suppose there is strength in gentleness, too.