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.