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."


Friday, July 15, 2005

It's Almost Here... 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).


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 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.