Thursday, March 21, 2013


I don't know how to title this ending. Hello goodbye? Never say never, because I might be back? So long and thanks for all the fish? I must admit that I haven't read Douglas Adams or seen Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy but when my kids explained what this meant I loved it. I don't really have it in my heart to blog anymore. I haven't for a while. I still want to write, really want to write about the things that matter to me, issues in healthcare and trying to make sense of how I've gotten to where I am being paramount. I just don't think I do so well trying to search for the answers to these issues, or even just talking out loud (in a virtual sense) here anymore. I want to push out of my box more. Have actual conversations, get feedback, make changes, learn, grow and then go back to people again. I do plan to continue and expand on my boo and the bean blog though so please, if you like my jewelry or just want to connect with me virtually, please keep checking back with me there.

I feel like I've lived so many lives since I first started this blog, way back when Oona was one and my Grandmother had just moved to Pittsburgh. Now I've been nursing over a year and am due to start school again, online through Drexel (I will hold back on the profanity laced vitriol directed against drexelone, their web portal) in April. I'm going to get a master's in nursing innovation, who knows what that will bring. I get so panicky just before starting big stuff like this because I feel like it's such a huge commitment (it is also huge financially when things are frequently stretched a bit thin). I always do an initial freak out once I choose a path, thinking I can't turn back or try a different path. It's never true. My body just overreacts to these things and I'm trying to be kinder to myself.

I am so thankful for the virtual space this provided me to grow and tentatively reach out to a new me really, that was stronger than I realized and who, for the most part, always kept her sense of humor. I have so much hope for the future. There is a man I met recently who, well to give you a wacky analogy, when my daughter woke up last Christmas she was so excited she was shaking, and my mom said 'Get her some orange juice'.  Perhaps using the Dr. Mom logic that she might be so excited that she was hypoglycemic and could very well go into a Christmas morning induced coma? I don't know. I know Oona survived Christmas 2012. And I know, regardless of what the future holds with this man, I'll survive too. It is just really, really nice at forty-four (at any age really?) to feel so happy and excited you're fit to burst. I don't know what will happen in my future (thank God for that!) but I know that walking into the world with my heart open and always hoping that I can make things a little better is the only way that I can really be me.

Thank you so much to all who visited, to those who commented and, especially, to those who commented regularly (you know the two or three of you that I'm talking about). You virtually talked me off the ledge more times than you know, so thank you!

I want to bookend this with the first post so I leave you with Oona and monkey passed out in my bed.   How can I argue with a seven year old that takes such comfort just by falling asleep in my bed?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

happy new year

Yes I realize that wish for a happy 2013 is about 31 days late but damn, it's hard to commit to much of anything in the bowels of winter when all I want to do is burrow under my blankets until the crocuses come up. So it's a month late but it's meant most sincerely. I hope everyone survived the holidays with a minimal amount of stress and a maximal amount of good food and fun.

I think January and February are the two months I hate the most, followed closely by December but I can't completely hate on that month since my birthday and Christmas happen then. But it's so much anticipation and excitement which, it just seems like it can never live up to the hype, especially when I'm not able to even muster enough energy for the annual Christmas card. I promise one for next year, although sometimes I think it would be fun just to send out cards on some other random holiday 'Happy Tax Day from my family to yours, let's hope for a BIG return'.

I started the weekend program, which means I only work two days a week and get full time pay and benefits. I can't be thankful enough to my boss for making this happen, because I can now consider going back to school. Of course, I'm now panic stricken that I'm going to lose my job over a facebook post. Okay, I stress out a lot about work and I didn't name specific people or where I work and my facebook rant was really more of a frustration with the whole nursing culture in our country, which is incredibly stressful and masochistic. I was never in a sorority but it seems like a totally dysfunctional sorority and/or high school. I was pulled from my floor on Sunday to float on another floor that I've never been to before. I was terrified and overwhelmed. I  had six patients, I'm used to 3 - 4 tops. I'm used to patients I know, like I know their first and last names, their spouses names, whether they have leukemia or lymphoma, where their central line is located. It's one of the things I love the most about my job, seeing the same patients. It's awful the circumstances under which I see them so frequently, but I truly feel I can help better people the better I know them. I'm a creature of habit, who isn't? I'm used to the standard med regimens for my heme/onc patient population, the hanging of blood, platelets, chemo, the daily stresses and issues that arise on my floor, they are trying but nothing compared to being on an unknown floor. This floor I went to was a disaster. Disorganized and dirty! Oh my word, I couldn't take the dirtiness. And two patients per room! So I quadruple checked meds because two people per room seems to increase the rate of med errors exponentially in my mind. I am going to loooose my shit with all the things I see in healthcare that seem so inefficient, that seem designed to frustrate and increase the time it takes nurses to carry out their tasks and that puts the safety of patients at risk. I am anal and look at the world in terms of how I can fix it, this isn't a winning trait to have, it's most likely disastrous from an intimate relationship perspective, but, it allows me to see a lot of things that people might not notice, the things people overlook or become inured to I can't help but see and get ready to hop up on a soapbox about. Because, when it all comes down to it, I want to help people. I want to make a difference. And after work on Sunday I was ready to weep but I was too tired from the day I had.

I am one of those nurses that sweats the small stuff. I am rule based and try to follow the rules I learned in school to the best of my ability. But I wound up in a room where I almost gave a patient the wrong med. I was in an unfamiliar environment. There was a therapist ready to take the patient for rehab, I was already over two and a half hours late getting them their morning meds so I'm rushing to get the medications ready and give a shot when I just felt something wasn't right. I looked at the patient's wristband and saw I had the wrong person. I was in the wrong room. I was so rushed I wound up in the wrong room. I can't tell you the depths of how ashamed I was, my face was so hot and red. I wanted to die. Thank God I caught myself in time but this was too terrifyingly close for me. I'm a checker, I am anal and fastidious and every other adjective you can use for being a pain in the ass perfectionist and I almost made a huge fucking error, which I blame on being placed in a situation that wasn't comfortable or safe. I talked to nurses from my floor at the end of the day and this whole floating/being pulled thing, it's almost like bullying the responses you get for not feeling comfortable about doing it. One nurse told me that she when she questioned being pulled to other floors she was told, 'It's within your job description. You're more than capable of doing this and if you don't feel able to do it than you need to speak up.' I get that this sounds relatively benign but it's like a pervasive, perverse culture of healthcare where you're indoctrinated to 'suck it up and do what you're told and don't be a baby about it' but then, if you mess up, it's all 'well why would you do that?! you should have said something if you didn't feel you could handle that?' Does anyone else think it sounds like a recipe for disaster?

Nurses and aides are placed in impossible situations almost daily. W'ere expected to take care of too many, that are too ill and all the while chart on everything we're doing and you can't do everything and chart and eat and pee, something has to give, which is why so many nurses are familiar with 30 minute lunch shifts that they skip or going 12 hours without using the bathroom (when, ironically, we're to call an MD if patient has urine output less than 30 cc's an hour). And you'll hear nurses swap war stories like it's a badge of honor, who had the sickest patient, the most grueling conditions, and I'm thinking, we're supposed to be considered professionals but we're going shifts without peeing? Haven't companies been sued for women going all day without using the bathroom at work? Why is our profession so intent on suffering in silence? Am I a wimp to think we should be in an environment that treats nurses better? If our critical thinking, moral and ethical code of conduct is so valued why are we swiping in and out, our minutes clocked and if too long they must be accounted for? It seems to devalue our profession.

And I've seen what happens when people feel undervalued and unappreciated. I've seen aides and nurses say woefully inappropriate things, to patients and coworkers. On this floor I was pulled to, there was a patient I had a soft spot for. He reminded me of David Straithairn, the same sort of rumpled good looks. The patient had left sided hemiplegia and needed two people to help reposition him in bed. I called for assistance from one of the aides and she's started muttering under her breath. She came into help me, all the while she's complaining, to the patient, about how he's continually slinking to the bottom of the bed and that he has to stop doing that. That she can't be in his room all the time, she's got a bad back. I was speechless, until the patient replied, 'Wow, I'm really sorry about your back problems' to which I stifled a laugh. Oh my I wanted to hug him for being so funny in spite of her.

I laughed but stuff like that makes me want to cry. Because I don't believe that aide is a bad person, or an unfeeling one. I think she's overworked, underpaid and maxed out on her stress level. At the end of the day a different aide was saying that another patient I had was lazy and that she could get up and use the bathroom perfectly fine on her own but chooses to pee in her brief. This patient had a midline abdominal wound about ten inches long. It was stapled at the bottom and top but the middle five inches were open. No sutures, the wound got packed with saline soaked gauze. Call me crazy but if you've had your rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis sliced through and not stitched back fully something tells me that you probably will need assistance going to the bathroom. I see the best and worst of humanity at work. I'd like to do what I can to help bring forth more of the best of humanity at work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

the twilight series as interpreted by Oona bean

Back in September I wrote about my bipolar prednisone experience and my thoroughly bad decision to let Oona watch all the Twilight movies through Breaking Dawn Part 1. Hell, my decision was so bad we now own all the movies except the last one. Well, horrific Rosemary's Baby/Alien birthing scene be damned, Oona is hooked on the Twilight series. So much so that I bought her the boxed set for Christmas. And yes, I realize she's seven but she is a pretty precocious reader and with her Twilight passion I assume that might be even more of a reading impetus. Now I've read that Stephanie Meyer is a mormon so, I realize that I might be making a huge generalization, but I'm assuming there isn't a lot of sex in the writing. I haven't read these books so someone please correct me if I'm wrong in this thinking. And even if Oona is a good reader these are really fat books so I figure she won't get to Breaking Dawn until she's older, hopefully ten?

Anyhoo, I came across Oona's notebook, it's her diary of sorts where she writes all these brilliant stream of seven year old consciousness things that are really poetic, funny and lovely to come across. So I flipped open the book while cleaning her room the other day and came across her illustrative interpretation of the Twilight series and I couldn't stop laughing. I absolutely love these pictures and sort of stepping inside her mind and seeing what was salient about the films to her, apparently New Moon and Eclipse didn't register at all, not real surprising given that she's more into the romantic storyline than all the fighting
The first film Oona watched, yes we did do things in order, and where her love for
Edward & Bella began. To be fair, Oona also loves Alice, I think because
she embraces all things girly, which is what Oona does too.
She's really got Kristen Stewart's acting down here
Probably my favorite, Bella attacks mountain loin, she's vamped her up with the red eyes.
Although her thinking the daughter's name is Ranasberry is pretty great too.

Monday, November 05, 2012

dry spell

Last night I dreamt that I was on The Late Late show with Craig Ferguson and it was very very casual, even for that show. I was half lying on the ground with Craig half lying in front of me and during a commercial break he turned around, lay on top of me and started passionately kissing me. The crowd somehow seemed unaware in the logical fallacy that is dreamland. The dream cut to me at home, opening the door to let Craig Ferguson in. I said to him, did you come because you couldn't resist me or because you knew you could have me? He replied, the latter. My heart sank momentarily, he was a really good kisser in my dream, but I said, oh no, you've got to go and showed him to the door and my kids suddenly appeared behind me. God knows what the fuck that means aside from, it's been a looong time since I've kissed someone, aside from my kids and that's obviously very different. I'm just glad I didn't have a dream about work last night. 
Craig, how could you not find me irresistible?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

happy fall

I love love love fall. My favorite season by far, too bad it's gone by in a blur, how did it get to be October 17th all of a sudden? There's a lot I want to write about; venting about work, the failings of our current healthcare system, my hiatus on looking for love (I'm just happy that my kids are so great and love me, it's enough for me right now), women in binders, you name it, my mind is always going, although most of the time I just feel like I'm cerebrally spinning my wheels. But right now I'm way too tired because I stayed up late watching the debate and then the post debate debriefing (I feel tight with Gwen Ifill and the PBS gang having watched them so much this season), Charlie Rose and Co.'s take on the debate and then a little Craig Ferguson to lighten things up. So yes, I did drop my kids off at school wearing the clothes I slept in sticking a winter cap on my head to hide how bad my behead looked, I was only partially successful in this. Then I ran over to the grocery store and who should I see strolling out, looking delectable with an ice coffee in his hand, but the hot guy from the gym. Note to self, make a concerted effort to wake up at least fifteen minutes earlier so you can look at least reasonably presentable and age appropriate.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


My daughter never ceases to make me smile. I know everyone with children is charmed by the things they do, well most of the things they do, I just love how creative and happy and industrious Oona is. She's very good at playing by herself, without a TV or other friends. She's one of those children with a great imagination who really sees things through. Last Thanksgiving she decided to have a pet show, after watching the Westminster Dog Show, so she roped the man I was seeing into being a handler for her menagerie of stuffed animals. It was quite adorable to watch him carrying a pink guinea pig (named Jellybean) around the dining room while she sat in a chair with paper and pen in hand judging them.

During my back pain debacle of August my judgement was rather impaired, I blame the steroids. Oona watched the first two Twilights (I own them because I think I got them super cheap at the grocery store) and she really enjoyed them so I decided to go out and buy the other two on DVD (at Barnes and Noble so they were like four times what I paid for the first two) then we watched them together. Now I'm one of the few woman that hasn't read any of the twilight series so I had no idea that part 1 of Breaking Dawn 1. contained very suggestive sex scenes for a 6 year old (I later learned some people jokingly called the film breaking headboards) it was much more than I was expecting from a Twilight film and 2. that the birthing scene was like Rosemary's Baby meets Alien? I was traumatized watching it and I kept having to stress to Oona that the film was nothing like what happens when you actually give birth to children. Holy shit it was awful.

Well, apparently I was the only one who was traumatized because I picked the kids up from school yesterday and Oona was begging me to make a count down poster to the opening of Breaking Dawn part 2 and that the two of us go on opening night. Oona is seven going on seventeen, wanting the older girls to like her, she is positively enthralled with older girls/women, especially if you have long, pretty hair. She gets upset at the farmhouse when the fifth graders snub her and my friend Kathleen is like 'If they only knew, Oona can talk Twilight with the best of them.' So I was straightening papers on my coffee table last night after the kids were in bed - my living room is a tornado of homework, mail and such, when I found a little booklet Oona made, she was imitating the camp flyers I get in the mail. Her booklet was 'Camps Magisene' I wish I could scan this 'camp' below, which was my favorite, because it had a cute red mouth with fangs on it, plus her fancy g's, her penmanship at 7 is better than I think Owen can ever hope his to be, alas my latest version of photoshop is snubbing my scanner.

Vampire Club!

Ragh! If you're scared, it's okay. 
We're hunting for Vamps and even the Jersey Devil! 
Sent by $1 This is scary!

Sign up.

I just love her so much. I think it's adorable. All her enthusiasm expressed in exclamation points and her writing that it's okay to be scared. Here she is below modeling at the farmhouse last month. Mind you, this porch tends to reek of urine in certain areas during the warmer months so as soon as this pic was snapped I told her to get her head off the floor. Nursing has made me even more neurotic with germs. I wish I had my daughter's indefatigable energy and enthusiasm - the world could use more people like her. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

happy birthday oona bean!

I can't believe my little Beanie is seven. It seems like just yesterday she was in her crib scrunching her legs up and arching her back as she wiggled around while sleeping so that she looked like a little bean and thus her nickname was established. I frequently call her Bean, Beanie or Oona Bean, never Oona Beanie for some reason, it just sounds like heresy to me. She asked to sleep in my bed last night so she could be with like she was on the night she was born, bright and early at 3:16 am. We celebrated her birthday before school with a donut lit with seven slender pink candles on it.
Since Oona isn't with me tonight so I made her a celebratory breakfast with a birthday donut
I stopped by her school to serve brownies and cookies to her class. This serving the kids treats for her birthday didn't go off as seemlessly as last year. I let the secretary know my plan and asked her to check with Oona's main teacher, I heard nothing until I was called at quarter past two when the secretary called and asked if I could come in tomorrow. Um no because I'm working and it also won't be my daughter's birthday then. So then the she asked if I lived close by and would be able to come over now. So I drive over only to find Oona in art class and the teacher less than welcoming of me, the brownies, and cookies. Oona's music teacher took me down to Oona's main teacher to see if we could serve them down there. No go. Back upstairs and the art teacher said the children could get some treats right before class ended and they had to go to gym.
Oona shows  off her first present
So I took out my Christmas napkins (sad I know but for whatever reason I have an abundance of Christmas napkins) and started doling out brownies and chocolate chip cookies. The cookies looked awful, they were flat but they tasted good. I lost half of my second batch of brownies to a fracture, it was like the San Andreas fault of baking, when I turned over the pan they were in. I don't know that that batch was thoroughly cooked anyway so I guess it was no great loss- especially since I can quickly envision worst case scenarios, I saw myself having to explain how a class had succumbed to salmonella due to my not thoroughly cooked brownies. What would the headline be? Mom Sickens School would probably be sensational enough for TV. I was silently lamenting how pitiful my birthday treats for Oona's class looked when I heard the music teacher walking behind me with an older student, 'Look at that. She is on top of it. Supermom.' Perspective changes everything. They weren't aesthetically pleasing, but the kids ate everything I gave them and quite a few wanted seconds. I didn't have enough for everyone so I said we couldn't do that. As far as I know at 9:18 pm, no one got sick. I let all the kids choose what they wanted and it was pretty much a fifty fifty split with the cookies and brownies, and then I brought the leftovers to my neighbors house with the caveat that the 7 brownies on the last layer closest to the plate might be a wee bit underdone. To which my neighbor replied, It's never good when somebody brings you food over and they're apologizing. Mom Sickens Neighbors! story on eleven at eleven. I might not be the best cook but I don't think that makes me a bad Mom, although with the pervasive foodie culture, I sometimes feel scrutinized as though I'm feeding my kids a steady diet of ho-ho's, coke and cheetos (for the record, no) because my culinary skills are, shall we say, lacking.
Owen deciding whether he's interested in Oona's present
I love Oona Bean for her endless enthusiasm, for her love of everything girly (she got a fancy leopard dress and black patent little heels with her birthday gift card to The Children's Place from Grandma Cat and she's dying to wear this ensemble to dress down day tomorrow at her school), for all the delightful drawings she makes, for her singing all the time, for her missing Grandpa Boo, Lily and Frodo, for how much she loves her brother and most of all, for her just being her lovely, slightly wild, self.
Rock & Runway was a hit with Oona, and surprisingly, Owen as well

Saturday, September 08, 2012

while you weren't sleeping

The you being me and that will be the extent of my writing in the second person, which I think is one of the harder literary feats to pull off. So the steroids, specifically prednisone, don't think I'll be able to take that any more. I didn't put two and two together, shameful given that I'm a nurse, regarding my mood and lack of sleep until I'd already finished my course of steroids yet I was still staying up waaay too late and crying uncontrollably. And when I say uncontrollably it was about a half a dozen times a day, coming out of nowhere and it wasn't polite little tears but huge gut wrenching sobs. The final straw was when I woke up from a nightmare at 5:00 in the morning sobbing and Oona (the cunning devil that she is, she's been exploiting my ability to sleep like the dead when I do finally fall asleep, Vicodin will do that to you, and sneak into my bed) was like 'It's okay mommy. Don't be sad.' I called the doctor's office, in tears, yet again, and was told yes what you're experiencing is definitely related to the steroids and I saw the doctor the next day and was excused for yet another week of work, 'It's too bad, a lot of people get happy and have a lot of energy from steroids.' she told me. I had a lot of energy, at night, but I was in no way happy. I bought this amazing CD of Lianne La Havas and listened to it nonstop (except track 3 which would make me cry as soon as I heard the first few notes) during my Prednisone haze. The album is amazing, but now that I'm finally clear of the medication induced craziness I can't listen to the CD, as good as it is, it's marked from that time, like when you get food poisoning and have a natural aversion to that food for however long. Hopefully I'll be able to play it again in a couple of months because it really is phenomenal.

Isn't she stunning?! And then you listen to her voice, it's as beautiful as she is and the lyrics are great, can't say enough good things about her (& she's only 23!)
Plus she includes a goofy picture like this on her website, I think she's adorable.

So the kids are back in school and I'm doing a round robin between the gym, physical therapy and the chiropractor's office in order to strengthen my core and hips and avoid my back going out like it did. Because god help me if it does since steroids are now off the list of meds to help cure my back pain. I still have pain, thus the occasional Vicodin at night. The pain in the ass is that it's literally that, a pain in my ass, wrapping around my left hip and making an insidious path down my leg. I'm sitting on a balance ball now, trying to get my ten minutes a day in, trying to engage my transversus abdominis muscle, where are you? I seem to be woefully out of touch with most of the muscles that make up my core.

But back/hip/leg pain and steroid insanity aside, I did actually manage to do something productive during my time off. I started working on a second website for the jewelry that I make. I've only been planning on doing this for over three years now. Oh well, I've got the ball rolling now, so please visit boo and the bean and let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Well my vacation went up with the spitting remains of Isaac which caused my flight into Ft Lauderdale to be canceled yesterday, even though it seems the storm is gunning for Tampa and the RNC. Now this vacation was going to be 5 days in Florida when it's hotter than hell, my Mom was asking ahead of time about DVDs to rent for the kids so we could keep cool during the middle of the day. It was going to be me and my children in my Mom's two bedroom condo a block away from the beach and even if the median age in Lauderdale by the Sea is well, up there, it was going to be a break for me. From my fucking back pain that caused me to bloat 6 pounds of steroid water weight, and the pain pills and other stuff (read benzodiazapines) that make me feel entirely unmotivated for anything other than crying. And crying is a lot of what I've done the past two days. That six months of working to earn my 29.7 hours of vacation time - poof! and it's gone while I schlep around my house and try to find something useful to do. And my 30.1 hours of sick time for my back - poof! that's gone too. My back is still sore but it is worlds better than before, like I might be able to consider rehab next week. But this weepy, pill haze, maybe it's protective, to keep me from screaming.

I have not had a vacation since 1997. How do I know? I arrived home early from a writing trip to Italy, it was beautiful in Spoleto but I had night fevers that wouldn't go away, with weird rashes that would cover my body at night but disappear by morning. And then I started limping. Fortunately one of the poets on the trip was also an ER doctor who told me I needed to get back home right away. So I switched my flight around to leave early, no chance to visit Rome or Venice, awkwardly slinging my backpack across me because by now the ache in my hip had traveled to my shoulder. I had Lyme disease. Something else too, on top of the Lyme, those tics are promiscuous. And that was my last vacation. What I remember most vividly one late night out, once my Doxycycline had kicked in, and I was taking a taxi home (what a splurge for me) and the cabbie said that Princess Di was dead. This was big news to me because that Monday I started work at a new photo archive and we were inundated with requests for any and all images of the peoples princess. From a vacation cut short by illness to a new job where I was up and running before I finished taking all my Doxycycline. And I haven't had a true vacation since.

Sure I've been to Iowa for a friend's wedding and I went to Kennet Square, PA for my fortieth birthday.  But that birthday celebration wound up making me feel bad; three friends and their spouses came and I learned from one of them that there was basically no way she was going to make the trip out to Pittsburgh for my fortieth being that it's in the middle of the Christmas season. It made me feel really shitty and I hated to feel not worth it due to where my birthday falls on the lunar calendar. I separated from my husband a few months later, and it's hard not to look back on times like that and wonder what I didn't see clearly or what I could have handled differently. In my heart I don't think anything could have been changed but it's hard to see so much anguish for naught.

I broke down when my Mom told me it didn't look good for us coming on Sunday, the gale force winds (60 mph) and that she already had all her patio furniture inside and did we really want to fly in weather like that. Well, hell no. But I want someone to take care of me. Just for a little bit. Occasionally. Like when I'm blitzed on steroids, vicodin and all the pain pills I'd like someone to do my laundry or just offer to carry the basket to the goddamn basement. For now, I'll settle on it being my Mom on annual trips to Florida if that's all I can muster.

There's so much I want to see Maine again, and Iceland, England, Scotland, France, Spain, more of Italy, and India too. So many places, too many to list, but I don't want to do it all alone. Or, if I have to do it all alone, I don't want to be at a point where I'm fucking worrying about eating into my vacation hours that don't amount to all that much in terms of my hourly rate. It can be very demoralizing.

But I can't end on a downer even if that's all I feel right now. So let me include this quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I never saw but I love the quote and got it from my favorite feed that sybaritic need site

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

what a difference a week makes

I've gone from my endorphin saturated high of having completed the triathlon to the low of not being able to do anything without pain. A paranoid me could start ruminating about who stabbed the effigy of me in the back and leg. I hope I haven't pissed anyone off to such an extent they're reveling in the schadenfreude of my setback. I went with the kids this morning to get them school shoes and I was catching my breath from the pain in my back sitting up in bed, getting on and off the toilet, trying to put my clothes on (it was less painful to lie on my bed and get my pants on that way). I was hovering at a 4-5 out of 10 when I was standing or lopsidedly sitting, I couldn't put weight down on my left side. But if I bent in any direction the littlest bit it spiked to a gasp worthy high.  The same goes for trying to lower myself and get my left leg into and out of the car, entering and exiting the car was my fucking cruciatus curse for the day. And then I would make some infinitesimal twitch in my body while driving and the knife in my lower back would twist to take my breath away. I probably sounded like I was in a porn film except my gasps were from the agony of my back spasming, knotting my muscles so much my left leg felt like a barbie doll leg that had been snapped on the wrong way. The pain ripped across my ass (I know I'm a nurse and should use proper terminology but I can't write buttock or say it for that matter, it just sounds long-winded and false to me) around my hip and down the front of my thigh.

This pain started Friday when my night rotation started. I don't think it was work related because there was no one heavy that I had to move that shift. I called my doctor Saturday morning to get an order for flexeril, so I could sleep Saturday, hopefully relax my muscles, and work that night. I slept without a problem but was still really sore that night at work and getting sorer by Sunday morning. I was due to work Sunday night too but told them that morning I didn't think I'd be able to because doing any bending was really bothering me, but that I'd come in if they couldn't find a replacement for me, fortunately they did. I slept close to twenty four hours hoping the pain would go away but by Monday morning it was worse. I called the doctor again for Vicodin, they didn't get back to me until Tuesday but finally called it in and I had a couple that day and it did nothing. The flexeril, vicodin, ibuprofen, heating pad, bio freeze, heating patches on my back and thigh - nothing helped even a little bit. So this morning I called and got an appointment for another doctor in the practice at 2:15. So we got school shoes and picked up school pants for Owen, who could wear size 8 waist but needs size 12 legs, my son with the model body. I tried to take it easy with myself getting into and out of car, so I resembled someone twice my age in desperate need of a orthopedic surgery, but there was no way to avoid pain. I figured walking should help out even if it hurt, I favored my right side because  putting weight on my left side wasn't working for me, but all the studies say that you shouldn't lie in bed, that you should work through back pain. Fucking studies. Then I was waiting in the doctors office and Dr. D came in and shook my hand, said she'd reviewed my file and then asked 'why aren't you sitting on your left side?' 'I can't really, it hurts when I sit properly.' That's when I knew I probably had waited too long with toughing out this back pain. She asked me to lie back on the examining table and I couldn't lay back without starting to cry. Raising my legs while lying wasn't much better. It seemed so cruel to go from an event where I was really proud of what my body accomplished to being hampered to the point where I couldn't do basic activities without an awful lot of pain.

So I got a shot of depomedrol in my left hip and an order for prednisone and klonipin to add to my vicodin and flexeril alleviate my back pain cocktail (the doctor said there's another med much more effective than flexeril as a muscle relaxant but that most insurance companies won't cover it). Ahh the tangled web that is American healthcare. Here's hoping that my pain is gone before I'm due to go to Florida Sunday morning. Although the way tropical storm Isaac is developing it looks like my trip to Florida might be canceled even if my back makes a miraculous recovery in the next four days. Although it's almost worth the canceled trip to Florida if Isaac dampens the Republican National Convention. A little schadenfreude on my part but can you blame me with the dynamically out of touch duo that is Romney & Ryan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

try hard

Well, even though I had my period, could we pick a more inopportune time, and a belly full of dread about this triathlon, I went over Saturday afternoon to get myself bodymarked for the event. I figured going over a day early would give me a chance to finally survey the course and that there would be people to answer my myriad questions about the event. One remarkably good stroke of luck was that I got someone to work my Sunday night shift, and I'm eternally grateful to Kimberly for this (especially helpful given that my heat didn't start until 10). So I drove around North Park until I found the pool (could really use GPS), signed my waiver against injury and then waited my turn to get my shoulders marked with my race number (416) whilst my calves were marked with my age as of December 31st of this year. Yes, I was slightly chagrined to have 44 on my calves when I'm only 43 but I better get over it being that in four months I will be that age. So I was magic marked up and felt a little dismayed that I'd have to forego my nightly shower, I like to be squeaky clean before going to bed. I said that I had a lot of questions about the triathlon, this being my first time and was directed to speak to an extremely tan, blonde and fit woman around my age. She was very patient and super helpful in answering my questions, the best advice she gave me was to show up early so I could see how the earlier heats handled transitions between the events. This woman would be in the first heat and judging by her less than 10% body fat I assumed she'd probably fare very well. I checked out the pool and drove around the bike part of the course then went home and posted on Facebook to get as much virtual support as I possibly could given that no one would actually be cheering me on the day of this event. I don't know if anyone has read The Atlantic cover story about Facebook but I always half dread putting a post up there, it's like waiting to be picked last for kickball. It's an awful feeling to be ignored while reading others enviously rich lives, even if that's a lot of artifice or it's a richness that I in actuality wouldn't crave, it's just far too easy for the grass to always look greener in the world of facebook. But, lo and behold, I actually had a lot of people write back support, which really bolstered me. My summer has been looong. I promise myself I'll put my house in some semblance of order once the kids are back in school. My intelligence seems to have an inverse relationship with the heat and humidity.  I've had one person call wanting to do something with me, basically my phone does not ring unless it's my ex husband calling for the kids. I'm either working or with my children and I love my children dearly but when they're your only source of social interaction, well, for example, Oona has an imaginary twin that's close to two years younger than her that she calls Melon, real name Melissa, clearly your perspective can get skewed if you're hanging out with Oona, Melon, the two invisible dogs, and my son who wants to recount every page in the many books he's reading, how to say I love that you read so voraciously but I don't need a line by line retelling of Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

I digress, maybe that two year long gestation of Oona and Melon has affected my attention span. I had all my stuff packed and ready for the morning. My bike had a last minute trip to Performance bikes when the chain came off and something weird happened to a piece I can't identify to save my life. Suffice it to say the bike guy fixed it and just shook his head 'don't worry about it' when I asked how much I owed him (I think he was trying to cut me a break given I was doing my triathlon on a twenty year old mountain bike). I went to bed early and woke up at 6:30, picked up coffee (since caffeine can enhance performance- yee haw) and a bagel and made it to the pool in a far more direct route this time. I got there just as the second heat was in the pool. Having the time to curb my butterflies watching the earlier heats compete was invaluable. It was also inspiring to see a man in his sixties, one of the first ones out of the pool, unzip his wetsuit and take a hit off his inhaler before heading to his bike. And he wasn't the oldest competitor. There were people in their seventies competing. A lot of people wrote to me about how they could never fathom doing a triathlon but there were people of all shapes, sizes and ages doing it and it's was truly incredible. There was a woman in my heat, the last one because I had no idea what time I'd come in at. I could tell she was 60 (or 59) by the number on her calves. She was slender but had very soft, dimply legs and a cute black and hot pink swimsuit with jolly rogers all over it. She was one of the first people out of the pool when my heat went, when I was literally sucking chlorinated water and still had 3 more laps to go.

So my performance. It wasn't pretty. I did finish, although when I was in the pool I wasn't sure that I would. Seven hundred fucking meters swimming. I swallowed and snarfed so much chlorinated water I fear my lungs may resemble someone rescued from a near drowning. The swimming was, without a doubt the hardest event for me, and I was a water rat as a kid, you had to drag me out of the pool, but I guess summers filled with Marco Polo don't qualify for triathlon training. I've since read that swimming should be the relaxing leg of the triathlon where you go at a steady pace, conserving your energy for the cycling and running portions of the triathlon. I was very scared about the swim because 1. It was outside and it was cooler this past weekend (in the seventies) and all my training has been at my gym and the pool water is the equivalent of bathwater. 2. I have raynaud's and was concerned my fingers and toes would flip out on me, especially since it can be painful in my fingers when they react to the cold so my hands would be like inert clubs. But here's where adrenaline was my friend. I jumped in the pool 30 seconds before the horn went off and lifted the left side of my bathing cap, I couldn't hear jack out the right side because I had a earplug in my breathing side. As soon as the horn sounded I took off swimming way too hard, just like I anticipated that I would. The pool was twice as long as the one I trained in and the sun was breaking through clouds and directly in my line of vision every time I lifted my head to take a breath. Ten feet into that first lap my goggles filled with water but I waited till I reached the end of the lap to adjust them. I think I did two laps freestyle, then switched to backstroke, whacked my head against the side of the wall doing backstroke on my fourth lap. Changed to side crawl for a couple laps and then half  freestyle and then back to the backstroke and I finished the last lap freestyle. I wasn't the first one out of the pool but I wasn't the last either. I was right in the middle for my heat, which was fine with me. Honestly I just didn't want to get the shoulder tap that I was a 'slow swimmer' and had to move to the slow lane so the last heat (there were two last/untimed heats) could go. I ran along the pool corner (right where it screams in all caps, NO RUNNING) around the cone, down the stairs, across the parking lot (barefoot the whole time, just waiting to stub my toes) and over to my bike.
Yes I had goggle marks around my eyes two and a half hours after the swim and I won't be winning any awards for best hairstyle after a triathlon (or before one for that matter since I slather my hair in Kiehls silk groom prior to swimming and look like I haven't washed my hair in months)
Now the night before I packed a nightgown, underwear and a sports bra to change into because I was sure I wouldn't be able to tolerate the last two legs in a wet swimsuit (I'm tactilely challenged) but everyone was doing it and, once again, the benefits of adrenaline, I just dealt with it, put bike pants and a top over my wet swimsuit, got my socks, sneakers and helmet on and ran towards the marker for the next leg. I had a chip around my ankle that went off when I entered certain zones of the event. I hopped on my bike and was just starting to peddle when a couple yelled at me 'your helmet's on backwards'. Truth be told I never used to wear a helmet biking back in college, twenty years ago when it seemed that no one did. But it was my nerves that made me put it on backwards, I honestly don't know how I got it on that way so quickly, but I straightened it out, the man shouted, 'Bet that feels a lot better' I smiled an okay I'm embarrassed enough smile and headed out on the course. Four and three quarters laps around half uphill and half down. This was the easiest leg for me aside from adjusting to the wee small bike seat that's nothing like the cushy seats on the stationary bikes at the gym and the ache in my lower back (this fall is core strengthening season for me). Oh yeah and that this was the first time I actually did the full twelve miles cycling, training I always stopped after a half hour, or about an eight mile ride. But another wonderful thing about doing this triathlon was that it made me realize how much more enjoyable it is to exercise outside where I can marvel over the simple beauty of sunlight filtering through the trees, where I don't need to hold my breath when someone squirts cleaner all over their stationary bike and half my face. Alas, hot Eddie Munster/Tim Roth man won't be there on the trip but that man is married, maybe I'll bike into a single Hugh Laurie doppelgänger on some lovely Pittsburgh trail. It was also fun from a competition standpoint when 49 year old male passes me on the downhill clip but then I pass him on the uphill portion. Or passing people in their twenties and thirties, although I had no clue what lap they were on. So all in all the bike portion went well. I just got a wee bit nervous about wiping out and losing my teeth on the steep downhill portion where you had to cut a sharp turn and then start cycling uphill. I have this same losing teeth fear watching my children cycle down softest of inclines.

For the running portion I grabbed my shuffle and my son's baseball hat from The Children's Place, because it's mesh in back so I figured I wouldn't get overheated in it and I didn't have a hat of my own, never mind that it's for a size 4-7 child's head (which makes me truly reflect on the size of my adult head) or that it has a skull and crossbones on the front. My triathlon style was ghetto fabulous, well more like phantasmagoric, it was a pastiche of whatever I could find or make do with. Running was yet another, ahem, adjustment for me since I'd trained on a treadmill (which has a lovely spring to it) at zero incline with a built in fan fanning me in the air conditioned gym. Triathlon reality, it was a trail that went up and down slight hills, very slight except for two portions of the run that were considerably steeper, but when you've done all your running on a flat surface that's more than enough for you to hit a wall, the steep grades were the two portions of the run where I walked. The real wall I hit was forgetting to take a drink of water when dropping off my bike and getting my son's hat. All I had had to drink was coffee and chlorinated water. I was parched. I was lucky to have two other women running with me (19 & 49) and we kept pace with one another which made the running portion a lot easier for me. There were a couple water stations set up and I took full advantage of them, but I would stop and drink the water then put the cup in the trash bin. The second cup I took with me but I couldn't just chuck it on the ground, even if I knew the volunteers would clean it up, I had it crumpled in one hand and my sunglasses in the other hand. The hardest part of the run for me, aside from being very thirsty and, at that point, slightly nauseous, was that I had no idea how far into the run I was or where the finish line for the run was. I didn't have a watch on for pacing myself, I just tried to gauge the distance based on the amount of songs I listened to - Snow Patrol, Beck, Moby, Eminem (the song where he disses Moby), Doves, Foo Fighters and I finished right when Lily Allen was starting to sing.
I WILL find a hat that fits and doesn't look this ridiculous for the next triathlon.
I finished! I might have looked like an absolute disaster in sneakers but I did it, I could 't train the way I wanted but I made it across the last chip marker. BEEP! I was shaking taking the velcroed chip off my ankle to put in the chip bucket. I went to the post race station to get a slice of orange and I cannot tell you how good that piece of fruit tasted or the bottle of water I had afterwards. I think the triathlon really helped me appreciate the challenge I gave myself, how totally inspiring older generations are to participate in this (there were older people totally kicking it time-wise in this triathlon, a fifty four year old finished in 1:03 while the winner, 18, did it in 57:56) and just being mindful of my body, what I do to it and what it's capable of. I didn't find out my time in the race until Monday afternoon, a volunteer had given me the wrong website to check my time on. I had wanted to do it under two hours, secretly wished I could do it under 1:45. And my time was 1:43:48. I did it, with one minute and twelve seconds to spare. Never mind that I finished in the bottom quarter I made my secret goal time and it's given me a shorter secret goal time to aim for next year. But I'm going to find someone who can help me with my swimming technique, the only part of me that ached the next day was my neck from swimming, I gotta fix the whiplash swim.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


My triathlon is this Sunday and as the date draws near this goal of mine is looking more and more like an impulsive and regrettable decision on my part to. I haven't had enough training, if I'm not working I have my children with me and I started out strong but I've sort of lost steam because I feel guilty having them in the care center at the gym while I do exercise, even if it's only for an hour or so. I can't pace myself to save my life with swimming. I always start out way too fast and by the sixth lap my lungs are ready to explode. They say that swimming is an excellent sport for asthmatics because it helps them with breathing. I think I sound like an asthmatic when I swim, I seriously sound like I'm wheezing or dying I'm swimming so hard. And then yesterday I switched to backstroke, to catch my breath, and my head was somewhere else while swimming (actually, I was ruminating over why they put me on to work Sunday night when this was the one and only weekend I requested off because my fucking triathlon is Sunday morning, which means I'll go from a triathlon, to bed, to working 12 hours overnight, incentive to do it in a good time at least) well I backstroked the back of my head right into the pool wall, fortunately I wasn't all that quick so it didn't hurt too bad. I've got my twenty year old mountain bike for the cycling part and my flat feet for the 5k which involves trail running (harder than pavement, infinitely harder than the treadmill) I haven't been able to train anywhere but inside the gym, since when I don't have my children I'm working and exercise is the last thing I want to do after 12 hours of work, sit in front of the tv and watch Monk or House while stuffing my face (drowning my emotional/physical/psychological stressors of the day) is what I'm more inclined towards. So if you read this before Sunday morning EST please send good thoughts my way that I make it through this triathlon and fingers crossed that I get downstaffed that night so I needn't go to work.

good stick

picture from
This is a picture that I've had on my desktop for ages. I've been wanting to write about it, there's so much I'm always wanting to write about, a constant dialogue I want to type out when I'm near a computer but creating time to do this is hard for me right now. Excuses excuses, from the little I've read of Outliers Malcolm Gladwell would tell me that I need to find the time, like 10,000 hours of time and then I will have mastered it. Ah, life gets in my way. But this picture I got from a site that I look at pretty much daily. I love to check in and see the pretty pictures, which seem to be anglophile heavy landscape wise, gorgeous pictures of green green mountains with lovely little cottages tucked into between them. Maybe I thought they're anglophile heavy because during the summer they were posting so many pics of women in hunter boots, looking impossibly stylish in rubber boots. They have great pictures of beaches, thoughtful quotes, stylish white kitchens, slender woman looking impossibly chic, it's an envy/inspiration heavy site for me. Except for pictures of England and Scotland's cliffs, which make my heart beat faster just looking at them online, because I fear my children leaping like lemmings off of them. Not because my children have no sense so much as my brain likes to torture me. Now this photo above showed up about a month or so ago and when I saw it I thought - 1. cute top, because I'm a sucker for heathered grey anything 2. interesting jewelry because that's a rather uncrunchy take on crystal jewelry, I like the simplicity of it 3. she has nice clavicles and what appears to be nice hair (the hair envy never ends for me) and 4. and what I really honed in on, she would be a good stick. I don't have to do many peripheral sticks on my patients because most of them have PICC lines or central lines but occasionally I do have to and I always get a bit nervous unless someone has a vein that is this obvious and easy. She doesn't even have a tourniquet on but you can see the vein clearly in her antecubital space, it would be a ridiculously easy or good stick. Angelina Jolie, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna all three of them are also very good sticks because they've got prominent veins all over their arms and hands. In nursing school a guy in my class that I first auscultated a blood pressure on had antecubital veins so good I could see them pulsate. Young men are in demand for bone marrow donations because it is so easy to harvest peripheral stem cells from their antecubital (a/c for short) veins. But when I clicked on the picture to see it better I saw all these other people that had reposted this picture and I can't tell you how many of them were people, I'm assuming young women, coveting her thinness (thinspiration, ameliaslowlydisappearing, keeplovethin, iwanttobetheskinniest, thinisthenewperfect, gracefullydisappearing) that's just a sampling. I felt sad seeing that, for those girls and for myself because although that wasn't what was entering my mind when I looked at the photo God knows I've been in that place before. And still am whenever I see someone with impossibly slender legs or the tiniest of stomachs. I mean I thought that she had nice clavicles but I didn't covet them, my clavicles are pretty prominent and my chest is pretty bony. If I need anything shot in heart, a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction (which isn't likely given I don't really even drink much anymore) no one would have a problem finding my intercostal spaces). But my chest is thin from age, from the chest up I've lost my youthful plumpness but from the chest down things aren't so bony.  It makes me sad that so many of us women are expending so much fucking energy fighting with our bodies. If I had channeled that energy towards anything else, school, writing, medicine, anything positive, well it would easily exceed ten thousand hours and I'd have something to show for it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

my little songbird

I've got to work tomorrow through Sunday and I've got the familiar pit of dread in my stomach that comes every Thursday evening. I want work to get to a place where I don't get so stressed out about it, but I think that would entail having a different job. Nursing, permanently twisting the knife in my wound that is worry. My stress pit is larger tonight, I imagine it's blossomed beyond the tight fist the usually resides between my umbilicus and xiphoid process because I had to drop Oona off and I really had such a lovely time with her this week. She's such a sweetheart and we really bonded having four days where it was just the two of us. I loved listening to her sing; in the car, at home, in a store, she just sings her little heart out and she really has a beautiful voice. Her repertoire includes Adele, Lily Allen, songs from Mary Poppins and this week she added Juliana Hatfield to the mix. We had such a nice little routine, just the two of us and I let her and her favorite stuffed animal monkey, which is, surprise surprise, a pink knitted monkey, sleep with me. I'm going to miss her because she's off to the ex in-laws to have her own week in the country with them and her cousin, who's the same age. I'm sure Oona will have a blast but I'm going to miss my baby girl. She told me that monkey could sleep in my bed while she's gone, I think she believes we look after each other since will both miss Oona. 

the two of us squeaky clean from a shower after being at the pool