Baby Steps

It started with a chubby baby hand holding fast to a cabinet door. I was in the kitchen, making dinner for the family. I wasn’t watching when that hand let go. I was too focused on dicing. And seasoning. And out of the corner of my eye, just in the periphery of my vision, I saw the honey-blonde top of his head. Rounding the corner from the kitchen to the dining room. And into the living room. He left in his wake a brown and russet colored sock, long removed from his foot. I abandoned the knife and chili powder to peek in and have a little glimpse, expecting him to have moved his grasp onto the cart next to the kitchen doorway. Instead, my heart took a leap into my throat.

Outstretched arms. Lilting back and forth. Chubby feet navigating the floor underneath him. He let go. And he found his footing. Sparkling blue-green eyes. The brightest smile I have ever seen. Pudgy baby toes gripping tufts of carpet as he went.

“He’s WALKING!”, John shouted.

“I know!”, I replied.

I know. He did it. He walked. Not a few steps. But through 2 rooms and part of the third before he noticed our excitement and stopped to clap and cheer with us. Complete with baby giggles. And he lost his balance, plopping to the carpeted floor beneath him on his diapered butt. I was here to see it all. I didn’t miss it in the throes of work and school.

He did it. Finally. He walked. He let go.

Now I wonder if I will be able to?

Mommy Secrets

My mom made these meatballs when I was growing up, and they were fricken awesome. As a matter of fact, I was reduced to tears by the craving for Mom’s meatballs during each of my pregnancies. They weren’t of the Swedish or Italian varieties. They were in this rich tomato sauce. As in orange, not red. And had bread crumbs. And enough onion to barely taste. And she would make them in this huge crockpot. Nobody can do it. I’ve tried. I can’t either. Becuase there was a secret involved. I wasn’t permitted behind the curtain of the secret, but rather stumbled and landed behind it as I overheard Mom on the phone one day.

Mom’s meatballs? Fuckin’ meatloaf. Rolled into balls. And called meatballs. Because her “girls” wouldn’t eat meatloaf, but would eat “meatballs”. Meaning me and my equally bitchy sisters. We were duped. Clever, clever woman she was.

I thought of that day when I learned her secret today, as I was getting some ground meat out of the freezer to thaw for dinner. We switched to ground turkey in place of ground beef a long time ago. I use it for tacos, enchiladas, pasta sauces, and more. Evan insists he doesn’t like turkey, so I mainly am limited to using it in dishes where he can’t tell the difference. But John and his big mouth! Mentioned getting turkey out of the freeer, and Evan’s ears pricked up and he insisted that he isn’t going to eat dinner. I had to fake swapping out the turkey for beef in order to make him think it is now safe for him to eat dinner. This was relatively easy, since I transfer all of the meat into portions for meals in separate freezer bags upon returning from the grocery store. But that’s not all I have to do. Since I am making enchiladas for dinner tonight, and Evan insists he doesn’t like them, I will take the same exact mixture of enchilada innards and bake it on a flat tortilla and call it a “quesadilla” for Evan so he will eat the same thing we will for dinner and I won’t have to make something special for him. (I know, I know…What I make should be what he eats and that is that! But as a side effect of his ADHD meds, he has a very limited appetite, and so I do what he can to get him to eat and not lose weight.)

I have other secrets, too.

Ev loves penne and rigotoni, but claims he hates lasagna. Despite my protesting that they are the same friggin’ thing, he won’t eat lasagna. So I make a lasagna by layering a pasta he will eat like I do lasagna. Every once in a while, I’ll make it with traditional lasagna noodles and just boil a serving of the other stuff to top with sauce for him. He hasn’t figured out my trick.

While I can make awesome homemade mac & cheese, I don’t do it often. Instead, I use Kraft Deluxe Reduced Fat. But I throw it in a pan and bake it like it’s mine, and we tell Evan it is homemade because he insists he doesn’t like boxed mac & cheese.

Those muffins I bake from time to time? Ground up squash and zucchini in them. Shhhh.

The apple juice he loves? Well, I really buy the kind with veggie juice added. When I get home, I pour it into a washed-out bottle with the plain apple juice label. Otherwise, the kid would never eat any veggies at all.

Those orange fries? They aren’t “seasoned” like curly fries. They’re strips of sweet potato baked in the oven.

Yeah, I have my own tricks up my sleeve.

Somebody out there is going to shake their head that I lie to my kid. That honesty is the best policy. Bullshit. They haven’t juggled career and family and education while trying to ensure that their kid gets nutritious meals.

And I will lie my head off in order to get Evan to go along with what I think is best for him, so long as it will work.

Except we are choosing to not  call them lies. They’re Mommy Secrets.

Schnozz Wangler

You know who I wanna be right now? That bitch Samantha from Bewitched. The nose-twitching floozy. With just a twitch, my desk would be cleaned off, fresh coffee would be brewed, and my paper would be written. Wait–if the paper is written for me, then cleaning off the desk isn’t that much of a priority. How about the dishes? Or the laundry?

How fricken awesome would that be? I wouldn’t get the crap kicked out of my when changing Zach, Evan would be perfectly behaved in public, and my house would be clean, like, allthefuckingtime. Just by a little schnozz-wiggling. The. Perfect. Life.

I have more to say, but first comes schoolwork. Fuck.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things

We cannot fix everything. People have asked me what I thought was the most difficult aspect of my career in healthcare. It isn’t the 12-hour shifts anything else about my work hours. Yes, I work a lot, but my family understands that when I am not here, I am taking care of sick people, and that someone has to do the job. It isn’t that I have yet to find a good, comfortable pair of shoes that can hold up to what it is I do to them all night. It isn’t the blips on monitors or the screeching alarms of a ventilator.

It is simply this: We cannot fix everything. And sometimes, the things we cannot fix are the ones that will completely rip my heart out. I cannot cure cancer. I cannot take home an abused baby. I cannot expain why it is that a loved one has to die outside of the realm of the logistics of science and pathophysiology. And it sucks. And so, while not all of us do, most of us focus our working hours on what it is that we can do. Sometimes, that just isn’t much. It may mean I can hold a hand. Or tell you I understand. Or get you a warm blanket when you’re cold, or ice water when you are thirsty. I always ask when I leave a patient’s room if there is anything I can do to make them and their loved ones more comfortable. Most of the time there is nothing, and this just makes them smile to know someone cares enough to ask. Sometimes they come up with something frivolous. Sometimes I don’t get an answer and I make it my job to anticipate. Little things.

It was a standard night in the emergency room. I was at the more urban campus in a poor neighborhood instead of the large suburban campus where the median income in the area is well into the six figures. No. The majority of the patients that night were on Medicaid. And drugs. They were inmates arrested and awaiting jail clearance to be taken off in handcuffs. They were young girls in with STD’s or pregnancy tests. They were drunkards found in a parking lot, completely passed out. And you would think all of this would break my heart, but you really do grow cold to this stuff. You can tell the people who are having a rough time from the people who are in that situation by dumbass choices.

Here came this patient one night. He appeared to be no different than the others at first. We was downtrodden and dirt-caked. He was wheeling a grungy suitcase like he expected to be admitted. I heard a nurse ask what was up with the suitcase as he was escorted from the waiting room to his room in the back, to which he weakly smiled through grimy, decaying teeth and replied that he takes it everywhere. He was assigned to Craig, a tough-talking RN who really can be an asshole if the situation calls for it. In fact, Craig is the one we intentionally put with the assholes. The beligerent drunks who curse and yell at us. The idots who tried to get high and overdosed to a point that they have depleted their respiratory drive, then get angry at us for giving them a reversing agent because we ruined their high. Those are the ones for Craig simply because he will respond to their abuse by getting back in their faces and speaking to them in the same way they talk to us. And I heard this patient from my desk. He was out of his anxiety medication and wanted more. A refill on one of the most comonly abused drugs. Yeah. Like we haven’t seen that one before.

But the night wore on. The board went from being filled with drug seekers wanting prescriptions to get their weekend started right, to twenty-somethings who had sore throats and wouldn’t go to a family doctor like a normal person would, to the wee hours where the ones who come in are the drug overdoses, the arrests, the beligerent drunks with head lacerations from bar fights. And this man was still there. I heard a young guy yell and curse because he had been there a long time for his earache because we were treating true emergencies before we would get to his non-urgent complaint. I heard a drunk guy in one of the psych rooms yell at the doctor because he would give him narcotics. I heard laughter from a group of 14-year-old girls who all came  in for an STD check, as if this was a social function. I never heard a peep from this man. And Craig seldom had to go into the room.

Finally, at around 3 AM, the great asshole Craig had the papers to discharge the man. The man who looked like so many of the others, but behaved so differently. Polite, quiet, respectful, appreciative…Craig went into the room, discharge papers in hand. And I heard him ask the guy if he had somewhere to go for the rest of the night, to which the man replied that he did not. And Craig told him that, so long as he continued behaving the way he was, he could have the room for the night. The tough-talking nurse emerged from behind the curtain and promptly went to the fridge to take the man a boxed lunch. It wasn’t much: a ham sandwhich, chips, and an apple. But Craig showed his soft side. He gave the man a bed for the night and a meal to fill his belly. Without being asked, he sensed this from the patient. That he needed this, and Craig responded without request to do so. As the night faded to dawn, and the clock ticked closer to dayshift, the man had to go. Craig went in and woke him. Escorted him to the restroom with soap, a washcloth, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, clean socks. Allowed him to clean himself up. Gave him numbers to local shelters and other social service organization in the area who may be able to provide more long-term assistance. And as the man left, he smiled and thanked us all with eyes glistened with tears.

It really is the little things we can do that matter. The tasks may be tiny to us, anyway. I go into a patient’s room in the ICU to withdraw care and allow the patient to die. I am no-nonsense. I perform the taks as if I am doing something menial like folding laundry. One would think, from my demeanor, that I do not care. It isn’t that. I do it because this keeps me from being sucked in. From crying. But if you watch closely, it is there. It’s there in the way I smooth the patient’s hair when I am finished. Or the way I tuck the blankets up around them in the bed as if I am home and tucking in my young child for his nightly slumber. Or the way I place a cool washcloth on thier face. Not much. Little things. Because that is all I can do. I can make them a teensy bit more comfortable as they slip from this world.

But sometimes, I think it can be the little things that mean the most to the patient. And just when I start to have my doubts in humanity after caring for some of the scourge of society in that urban ER, I see what it means to be human. Not in the patients, but in the staff. The people with whom I work day in and day out can do some things that touch me deep into my core. You don’t see it at first, because we have all been doing this long enough to allow ourselves to be encased by this hardened shell. The years add the layers onto this shell to where the softer side of us gets deeper and deeper down. But it is still there. And that night with the homeless man, Craig showed me that.

I love my coworkers. When the world shows me all that is wrong with it, the people with whom I spend my nights come through to show me the very best of humanity.

 

(Please note, as I have stated before, that I abide by all rules governing a patient’s right to privacy. I will NEVER reveal any characteristics that can identify any patient. NEVER! I extend the same courtesy to my coworkers, because, hey, I wouldn’t want stories about me to pop up randomly on the internet. Quite simply, if you are reading this and it sounds familiar, I can assure you it isn’t. You don’t know the patient. You are NOT the patient. Nor are you the nurse. ALL IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR CHANGED. For all you know, I may have just completely made this shit up. So…Peace Out, Homies.)

Grandma’s Mission

While we were at John’s mom’s house in Madisonville,Kentucky last week, she deemed it her mission in life to get Zachary to a point where he was walking consistently before we left. She tried. She tried and tried and tried. She held both hands, one hand, positioned him in front of cabinet doors to motivate him to take a step or two. She enticed him with snacks. She got down to his level.

All of it—every single bit of it—had the same exact result: Zach would take a couple of steps, and then sit down. We all enjoyed the sight of him walking while holding her one hand. It was adorable and I wish I would have gotten a photo. Chubby, still-bow-legged Zachy holding Grandma’s hand and walking by her side. I wish he would take off. I know he can. I’ve seen the balance he exhibits when he sits down in a very controlled manner when he decides he doesn’t want to take anymore steps. But on the other hand, he looked so grown when he was walking and my heart broke just a little bit. His baby days are behind us.

Zach will walk. As always, he will do it in his own time. Just like everything else. Yeah, Evan walked at 9 months. Zach isn’t Evan and Evan isn’t Zach. Evan also didn’t talk until he was two, and Zach is already saying many words.

Grandma’s mission wasn’t accomplished on that visit, but I think she really had fun trying, and that is what matters.

 

What I Read: The Almost Moon

” ‘Mom’s different, right?’ I asked.

I couldn’t see my father’s face clearly in the dark, so I watched the tops of the fir trees, which were outlined by the blue night.

‘I like to think that your mother is almost whole,’ he said. ‘So much in life is about almosts, not quites.’

‘Like the moon,’ I said.

There it hung, a thin slice still low in the sky.

‘Right’, he said. ‘The moon is whole all of the time, but we can’t always see it. What we see is an almost moon or a not-quite moon. The rest is hiding just out of view, but there’s only one moon, so we follow it in the sky. We plan our lives based on its rhythms and tides.’

‘Right.’

I knew I was supposed to understand something from my father’s explanation, but what I came away with was that, just as we were stuck with the moon, so too were we stuck with my mother. Wherever I’d travel, there she’d be.”

(Excert from The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.)

And so this is where the title of the book came. I always wonder about that until I find the spot in the story where the explanation lives.

I had a hard time with this one. The story starts when Helen, the main character, kills her mother. Yeah, just like that. She is caring for the aged and ailing Clair and she just suffocates her with a hand towel. No premeditation. No understanding of motive. And then the story unfolds from there. Clair’s history of mental illness as Helen grows up. The toll that takes on the family. The way in which the neighbors react. Most importantly, the love/hate relationship between Helen and her mother.

If you don’t know the name, Sebold is the author of The Lovely Bones. I devoured that one when it came out. I love her writing. The flow of it, the colors and tone with which she writes just speak to me. And The Lovely Bones had that haunting quality that just sucked me in. It’s not the The Almost Moon wasn’t excellent. I just had a struggle with the story. I could understand the story, but I never quite identified with the main character. I’ve never had any desire to kill anyone. And while I resented my mother’s illness and deterioration from lung disease, I never could have killed her. I loved her fiercely. I still do. I cannot identify with Helen.

All of this has precipitated the ponderance of those figures in our culture that we hold sacred. The Mother among them. We refer to this all of the time. When Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her own toddler, it was said numerous times that people just could not wrap their heads around the concept that a mother could be anything but the image of love and nurturing. Mothers are not supposed to be human. Are perfect. Show no sense of self and no weakness, save for their children. I can remember fighting with my own mother like you could not believe. We were so much alike, though I didn’t realize it then, but the problem is that two people like me usually do not get along with one another. But since she’s been gone, I cannot find a single fault with her. It’s like I’ve blocked it out. Because she was a mother. Because she was my mother. Is this why I cannot identify with Helen?

I don’t know. I need to think on this one some more. In the meantime, check out this book. The writing is great, even if the story is baffling to me.

Not One, But TWO Pianos? Holy Crap!

Ach Bozhanov, you have no shame  I am crying here now You are the master, and thank God you are like you are!!! I would like to play with you two pianos someday!!!

As found in my spam inbox here on WordPress. Fucktards. Sounds sincere, right? Well, no, considering the link associated with it is probably linked to a virus that will associate my little blog with the arming of nuclear missiles in some unknown land. Instead, I’ll just expose doucher.