Monday, December 25, 2006

Do You Hear What I Hear? Probably not...

I have a theory that some people who have a severe and chronic psychiatric illness or addiction cease to mature emotionally at the onset of the illness. It's true that people with severe psychiatric illnesses tend to be very concrete in their thinking, unable to grasp even the simple metaphors we use in proverbs; often have trouble making decisions using good judgement; often tend to have magical thinking; and often revert to childhood behaviors when they are frightened or stressed. While some of these behaviors may be true for all of us at times, for people who are severely emotionally ill, these can be a way of life.

That's one reason why I like to work Christmas Eve night on the psych ward. Those who have trouble sleeping all the rest of the year will often go to bed willingly, as though this is their last chance to be good before Christmas. Not only that, but it's rare to get admissions then.

This year, though, when I arrived at the unit, I was afraid it was going to be much different than I expected.

On entering the unit, I was accosted by a diminutive white haired lady, who walked right up to me, pointed her finger at me and (in a broad twang) said accusingly, "I know who YOU are!"

"Oh?" I said.

"You're the one who's been ropin' cattle with Big Hoss down at the ranch. That's who YOU are!"

She glared at me for a moment, then turned and stalked down the hall to her room.

The next patient to talk to me, a distinguished looking man, glared at me and then proclaimed (in the best booming TV preacher voice I've ever heard), "I SEE it! I see SIN written all over you! SIN! In BIG RED LETTERS!" And then HE turned around and stomped down the hall to his room.

And it was STILL the quietest night I've had on the adult unit in months. We didn't have to give a single medication, no one got out of bed, and the only incident was the woman who faked a seizure (trust me that a person who is jiggling her legs under the blanket and calmly telling you she's having a seizure, is NOT having a seizure). Even she wouldn't have been awake, though if it wasn't for the order to wake her up and give her a snack.

I think the "preacher", though, must have had some inside information, because it was painfully obvious that once again, Santa had not shown up to shower me with expensive presents (Gavin made out like a bandit, though). At least I got to eat the cookies and drink the milk. Take that, Santa!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

HUHO -- Traps for Fruit Flies & Fleas, No Poison Necessary!

Lauren at Faux Real has started a carnival of Help Us Help Ourselves, for those of us who have struggled through life and found some nontraditional and cheap solutions for our problems.

As a pet owner and banana lover, I've had the occasion to rid the house of fruit flies and fleas at various times, and have managed to do so without poisons or exterminators. Sure, it takes a little longer, but these solutions are practically free and even better, they work.

First the fruit flies:

Materials needed:
Clear glass jar or drinking glass that you don't mind throwing away
Sheet of paper
Lots of clear tape
A few banana or apple slices, the riper the better

Curl the paper into a cone with a tiny hole at the bottom and tape the side, leaving the hole open.

Put the fruit slices into the bottom of the glass (I am currently out of bananas so my picture doesn't show any fruit in there).

Put it point down into your clear glass receptacle but don't allow the paper to touch the bottom or the fruit.

Use lots of tape to fix in place and completely shut off any way out of the receptacle except for that tiny hole (if you don't have the wider tape, plastic wrap can be used in a pinch).

Set it out on your counter. The fruit flies will be attracted to the fruit, they'll fly in through the tiny hole and then try to get out through the clear glass sides.

When you don't see any fruit flies outside the glass, put the glass in your trash outside. If you want to keep the glass, you can open it up -- but make sure you do it outside.

Now the fleas:

Materials you will need:

Small sturdy lamp or nightlight with a bulb of at least 20w (use the nightlight if you think your pets will knock over a lamp)
Large bowl or Rubbermaid type container

Fill the bowl with soapy water. Turn on the light and position it over the bowl (if you are using a nightlight, then position the bowl under the nightlight). Put one of these in every room in which you have fleas.

The fleas will be attracted to the warmth of the light. They will jump to it and then fall into the bowl. The soapy water keeps the surface tension high enough to prevent them jumping or swimming out.

This takes a week or so but works very well with very little mess. Just be sure to put out plenty of clean water so your pets won't be tempted to drink the soapy stuff.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

50th Birthday Blues

Now, most people would think that title means that being 50 is hard, and that I don't like getting older.

On the contrary, as a dear friend used to say, "Every day above ground is a good one!" I was excited about this birthday, a watermark day, a half a century achieved, happy with myself and my life. I've been practicing for 50 since I was 45 (you know, you tell people you're 50, and by the time you get there, it's old hat. In another couple of years, I'll be practicing for 60).

On my 40th birthday, when I woke up I wished for something different. I was not happy. I did get my something different; I got a divorce (look in the archives if you're curious; I have a better divorce story than anyone else I know), I enrolled in nursing school while working full time (and graduated, and passed the NCLEX in 30 minutes), I had full responsibility for two preteen kids, dated a lot, and finally moved back to Oklahoma. It was a roller coaster ride of a decade.

I am still happy. But I am also very sad.

When I got my divorce, my ex-in-laws told me that I would forever remain an honorary member of the family, and even if I wanted to leave, it was NOT allowed. Instead of in-laws, I have out-laws, and one of them, Deborah, even loaned me the money to divorce her brother.

So yes, I love them, and my life remains entwined with them to some degree, but I am most fond of Deborah; she even considers herself my daughter's second mother.

Deborah's husband Robert went to the doctor the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with headaches.

The doc was smart enough to order an MRI, which revealed a brain mass, and surgery was scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It was a malignant tumor, and they took it out.

After the surgery, he was on my sister's ICU unit and when I asked her, she fixed it so Deborah could stay with him instead of only staying for visiting hours. Such a small thing, but the only thing I could do.

By Sunday, he was in a coma and on life support. By Thursday, he had died; 36 years old, leaving behind a wife who adored him and two small children. He was the funniest and most open minded of all my out-laws and I will miss him.

My 50th birthday was Wednesday. Yes indeed, every day above ground IS a good one. Every day is a gift and a treasure. I only wish Robert could have many more of them.