Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A night in the emergency shelter

I have just completed a 20 hour stint at the emergency shelter. Yes, twenty straight hours with no sleep and not much time sitting down. We had pizza for lunch AND dinner yesterday and cereal this morning. I do not like pizza or cereal.

I don't know when I have felt more humbled in my life. We housed and fed 60 people, most of whom had only the clothes on their backs. Many were soaked to the skin, and we had no dry clothes for them. We had the aforementioned pizza and bottled water and not much else in the way of nutrition. We had flimsy (and not very comfortable) folding cots and scratchy, ugly gray blankets. My mousepad is bigger than the pillow supplied in each "linen pack." Most of these people were pathetically grateful and thanked us over and over. Some people treated it as an adventure; for others, it seemed an improvement over their "regular" lives. One couple decided to air their marital discord in the gymnasium in front of 60+ total strangers, and the "F" bomb was liberally deployed.

Many of these people lived in one of those extended stay motels. Have you ever considered how difficult it might be to live in a motel room with a tiny kitchenette? With one or more kids? Several lived in an apartment complex that was destroyed by the flood. I don't know if I have what it takes to survive that kind of life. Does that make me sound spoiled?

We had someone who suffered from schizophrenia, a child with H1N1 flu, two insulin-dependent diabetics (poorly controlled), four people with asthma, and a host of mental health issues. At one point I was convinced that only the "crazies" had been evacuated. I know, I know, that was neither kind nor Christian of me. Just remember, I had been without sleep for 32 1/2 hours.

As I got ready to end my shift, I realized that the only thing I miss about hospital nursing is the almost immediate intimacy you develop with your patients. No, I'm not talking about intimacy in the Biblical sense. And these were not my patients. But I was responsible for them for a time, and we developed a bond. When they realized that I was leaving, many of them came up to me and hugged me. Some lamented the fact that they had no money to give me. None of them realized that I came away much richer than when I arrived.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm sorry. I really, really wanted to blog tonight, but I'm just too tired. Maybe another time I will blog about the vampires, the car repair blues, or precepting a student at the public health department.

I greatly admire Pioneer Womand and Bragger, but I simply am not in your league!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yesterday I spent the day in my hometown visiting Mater, Tink, Katydid, and Chico (Katydid's absolutely adorable Chihuahua). Mater returned there recently after living in our state's largest port city and then our state's absolute hinterland. Tink attends the university there, and Katydid lives within a reasonable distance. I had not visited Mater since she moved back, and Tink left for college a couple of weeks ago so I decided I needed to make a trip "home;" Katydid was a bonus. Personally I think Katydid was afraid I might make "brownie points" with Mater so she was willing to give up sleep and her Saturday to make sure the points were shared.

I live in a bedroom community of a metropolitan area, and my hometown is a well-known university town approximately 65 miles away (Mater would know the distance to a tenth of a mile). On a good day the trip takes an hour and a half; on a not-so-good day it can take two hours or more. A good day means one leaves home at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, and a not-so-good day is any other time on any other day. I absolutely HATE the drive. There is no good way to get there from here. There is a state road that connects the interstate with my hometown, and it is named "University Parkway." It would be more aptly named "University Parking Lot." It is my personal belief that traffic engineers spent months timing the traffic lights along this stretch of highway to ensure that traffic is ALWAYS snarled and that all drivers must stop at all traffic lights.

Anyway, Mater, Katydid, Tink and I went to lunch at my all-time favorite Mexican restaurant where they serve the world's best guacamole. The owner recognized Mater (she was a regular patron before she moved away) and sent two ginormous desserts to our table. We had already eaten ourselves senseless, but being the troopers we are we managed to polish off both. I cannot possibly convey how absolutely miserable I was for the rest of the day.

We then went "shopping." It isn't really shopping when you go with Mater and me. For us it is a mission: You find what you are seeking, you pay for it, and you leave. Katydid and Tink could spend hours (if not days) looking at everything and never buying anything. They discuss the pros and cons of each item (if only with themselves), place it in the cart or basket, wander to the next aisle/next item where the ritual is repeated, and then usually return most, if not all, of the items to the shelves before leaving the store. Mater and I enter a store, swoop down on whatever item is desired, present it to the person desiring it, and are then ready to move on. I guess you could say we are "minimalists" when it comes to shopping. My apologies to Tink and Katydid.

I spent the balance of the afternoon with Tink, trying to convince her that I can't quit my job, sell the house, and move to my hometown for the next two years while she finishes her degree at the university. We spent a couple of hours at Starbucks, and it was good to be able to just talk about anything, everything, and nothing.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and I had to face that horrendous drive home. I seriously considered faking a heart attack on the side of the road so that I could be airlifted by helicopter to a hospital nearer my home. But then...what would I do about my car? Would it be towed? Stripped? Vandalized? Even if I found it where I left it and it worked, I would STILL have to drive it home. In the final analysis (which took all of 30 seconds), I decided to "put on my big girl panties and deal with it." I drove home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

All bark...

We have had the same termite inspector for the 16 years we have lived in this house, and we have had Tawnie for the last 10 of those years. Chris has never seen Tawnie because she always hides whenever someone new male (or one unrelated to us) comes into the house. I guess she is slipping because today she actually came into the room while Chris was standing there. Naturally she beat a hasty retreat up the stairs to the master bedroom and under the rocking chair! Try as he might, Chris was unable to coax her to him. I explained that she was a "rescue" dog and we think she might have been abused by a male before she ended up in the shelter. I reassured him that she treats most people this way. Chris thought for a minute, scratched his head, and asked, "Is this the dog that is always barking in the back yard when I drive up? I figured it was some huge, ferocious dog!"

I hope I have not issued an open invitation to burglars. If they are not deterred by her barking, they will have free rein in our house since Tawnie will be cowering under the rocking chair!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I am blessed with two sisters--both of them younger. One does not feel blessed by one's siblings until one is older and can appreciate them. I always felt inferior to them because they were 1) pretty, 2) smarter than I, 3) socially adept, and 4) fearless.

Both my sisters ride bicycles over long distances. They each take a week's vacation and ride BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) every year. That means they voluntarily subject themselves to sore fannies, aching muscles, horrendous heat, torrential rains, bugs, dogs, maniacal drivers, etc. They have ridden individually and on a tandem bike. They used to sleep on air mattresses in tents until they regained their sanity and began camping in the nearest motel. They are my heroes!

I went to the bank last Friday to cash a check for our Sisters' Saturday excursion. I mentioned to the teller why I was getting the money, and she looked so wistful. She said, "I wish I had sisters. You are so lucky. That sounds like so much fun." She was right. I am. It was.

To my sisters: I love you. To Starry Wonder: welcome!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Okay, okay...just so you know...I WILL make up words and use punctuation as I please. So sue me. My-sister-the-English-teacher-with-her-doctorate will probably love me anyway (but she WILL think snarky comments in her head!).

I didn't blog yesterday because I had a wonderful Sisters' Saturday that took up most of the day, but I was sinking fast by the time I arrived home. I have felt crummy ever since.

Okay, Bragger and Katydid, let's plan another one soon!

Friday, August 14, 2009

AT&T Customer No-Service

I am so angry and frustrated that I may not be coherent. If you find that to be the case, just move on to something more interesting and worthwhile.

On August 6th I ordered DSL service for Tink. It is absolutely necessary for college students these days to have internet access. Their assignments, discussions, and grades are all posted on the Web. Anyway, I ordered the service and was told that the service would be activated on that Saturday (August 8th) and the DSL modem kit would arrive on Monday, August 10th. Neither thing happened.

I called AT&T on Tuesday, August 11th and spent what seemed like hours on the phone giving all the details and on hold while the representative checked the veracity of my statements. I was told that he/she would "check into it and get back" to me. Never heard another word.

I called this AM at 8:35 and went through the whole thing again. I told the rep (Warren? His accent was so thick I wasn't absolutely sure of his name) that if he could not resolve my problem satisfactorily, I wanted to speak to a supervisor. Warren (or not) said that service was due to be activated September 4th. I told him emphatically that this simply was not acceptable and that I had been promised earlier service and shipment of the modem kit. Warren (or not) said he would "check into it and get back" to me with an answer. At 4:35 pm I still not heard from him. I called AT&T again at 4:35 pm and went through the entire saga again. This time I talked to Raymond who repeated that service would be activated September 4th. I also told him that this was not acceptable and that AT&T had not had a problem in billing me on Tuesday for this new service that I don't yet have. I also told him I was not at all happy about having been the subject of a credit check (and I had to unfreeze my credit for them to do it--at a charge to me of $3.00) since I had been a loyal customer with a great payment history. I spoke in very clipped words and spent what seemed a lifetime on hold. Finally Raymond figured that I was not going to go quietly and offered to transfer me to another department to see if my order could be expedited (this order that was supposed to have been placed on August 6th and shipped on August 7th). Nikki was the next rep to whom I spoke. When I finally managed to convince her that September 4th was in no way acceptable, she offered to try to expedite matters for me. I spent another lifetime on hold. Nikki came back on the line and told me that she was able to move up the date to August 19th. I said,"Absolutely not. I was promised blah, blah, blah...." Nikki put me on hold again, went away for another lifetime, and finally returned to the line to say that service would be activated on Monday, August 17th and the DSL modem kit would arrive on Tuesday, August 18th.

By the time I finished with these customer no-service reps, I had a pounding migraine and was practically foaming at the mouth. Do they go to some kind of school or training for incompetent customer service? Does AT&T just not care? If I have a stroke, we will know where to place the blame. Wonder if they can be held legally liable?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

10 good things about Tink being away at college

1. I can sing at the top of my lungs or whistle at 4 am
2. I can bound up and down the stairs without fearing her wrath
3. I can unload the dishwasher (she calls it "throwing the dishes") in the early AM
4. I don't have to buy 3 gallons of milk each week
5. I can park my car at the end of the day witout having to worry about her parking behind me (which necessitates early morning switching fo cars before I can go to work)
6. Her father and I can eat meat without suffering her dirty looks or lectures
7. Her bathroom stays clean (once I've bulldozed it out)
8. I can dress as I please without hearing sotto voce mutterings about a "makeover"
9. I can relax in my own home without hearing interior decorating/furniture replacement recommendations
10. I can walk around braless in my own home without feeling guilty

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I have lived a (long) life of feeling that I had to meet everyone else's expectations. I don't know why, but I always felt that I could not do what I wanted to do if it interfered with anyone else's needs/wants/desires or inconvenienced anyone in any way. I don't consciously remember being taught that; maybe it was just some sort of subliminal message. Maybe I had a screw loose at birth; I just don't know. All I do know is that for all of my life (so far) I have felt the need to please everyone. This was an impossible task, true, but one which I kept trying to accomplish.

Yesterday I gave myself permission to stop trying to be all things to all people. I gave myself permission to fail, if necessary (dancing, for instance). I don't have to know how to do everything or have all the answers. I don't have to be perfect (or even close) in my punctuation in my blog. I don't have to look like a model, swim like a fish, or find a cure for cancer or diabetes. I don't have to be a Hemingway, Picasso, or Ginger Rogers. I don't need the approbation of every single person in the world. It is such a liberating feeling! I am free to say "No," "I can't," and "I won't."

I hope this doesn't offend anyone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Addictions are never planned--they just happen. No one wakes up one morning and says, "I think I'll become addicted to....." Addictions are as varied as the people that make up this world, and we all have one (or more!). Some people are addicted to food, some to sex, some to shopping, some to sports, well, you get the picture.

I am addicted to Crocs. I never planned it; I never wanted it to happen. The first time I saw a pair of Crocs I thought they were the second ugliest shoes in the world (eclipsed only by bicycling sandals). I made many disparaging remarks, not only about the shoes but about the people who wore them.

My addiction began innocently enough when my son and his family gave me a pair of Crocs in celebration of my graduation from nursing school. Of course I could not return them; I don't believe in returning gifts. I think gifts should be valued because the giver has spent a certain amount of time and effort in selecting just the right gift. And all nurses wear Crocs, right?

I put those Crocs on over 2 years ago, and I don't think there has been one day since that I haven't worn Crocs at least part of the day. They are wonderful! Yes, they are ugly, but THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE. I've reached the age where I can say "to heck with fashion" and focus on comfort.

Friday I bought my 8th pair. I have the original pair (pearl), two black pair (one with holes and one without), a navy pair, a brown pair, a white pair, an electric blue pair (I have scrubs that match exactly), and a purple pair (yes, bright purple). That's a lot of Crocs!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Today Tink will leave for college (again), and she will leave while we are away at work. We said our goodbyes at bedtime last night. I kept a "stiff upper lip" and then I went to my room and sobbed.

I don't know why I cried; we have fought most of the summer. We have fought about the mobile pig sty that passes for her car. We have fought about how little time she was spending at home. We have fought about the way some of her friends take advantage of her. We have fought about the condition of her room, the way she spends money, and her desire for a new laptop. Her father (the most wonderful man in the world) and I have suffered her withering looks, the rolling of the eyes, her scornful tone, and her indifference. Why did I cry?

Today she will leave. She will leave behind a room that by all rights should be declared a hazardous area. She will take her bed but not the stuff that was under it. She will take her treasures but not her trash. She will leave the remnants of her childhood scattered about the house. She will leave behind memories of the not-so-distant past when we were "best friends."

Today she will leave. And I will miss her terribly.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Friends (not the TV show)

Yesterday I had breakfast with two really, really good friends from nursing school. The three of us worked on group projects (whenever we were allowed to form our own groups), held study/cram sessions together, shared notes and audio tapes, and talked each other down from the ledge when things just got to be too much. Fortunately we did not all three melt down at the same time. I always knew they had my back, and it was such a liberating feeling (even for such a control freak as I). We swore on graduation day that we would keep in touch, and for over two years we have. I know the day is coming when JW will move to Seattle and BP will move back to Chicago, and our face-to-face time will be severely curtailed. I am confident, however, that with all the communication options available to us we WILL remain in touch and involved with each other.

Both women are considerably younger than I--as in, young enough to be my daughters. But they never made me feel old or different; they simply took me in and loved me (warts and all).

JW approached me in my very first nursing class and asked if I would be her partner. We were required to establish "partnerships" in several of our classes, and those partnerships were to last the entire semester (unless you had a psycho partner and could prove it). Now this does not sound like a big thing to you unless you know what happened in one of my prerequisite courses. I was in an anatomy and physiology lab course, and the professor instructed us to form partnerships of two. Well, I guess his area of interest was NOT math because there were 23 of us in the class. Guess who was "odd man out?" I didn't know anyone, and whenever I approached one of the already-estabished partnerships, everyone looked away as if looking me in the eye would commit them to some long-term relationship. Anyway, after about a lifetime of this (probably five minutes), the prof instructed one of the partnerships to take me in. This particular partnership was composed of a very strikingly beautiful young woman of about 19 and a young man about the same age who obviously wanted to get to know the young woman much better and who obviously was the victim of poor upbringing. He actually said, within my hearing, that he did not want to be in a group with the "old lady." He thought I might bring down his grade or that of the partnership. I stood there with my face burning, knowing that I HAD to have this course before I could enter nursing school. I could not walk out or drop the class. The prof finally assigned me to another partnership. Both of these "partners" droppped out of class within a couple of weeks, and I completed the semester as a partnership of one. Now you see why it was such a big deal to me for JW to voluntarily ask me to be her course partner?

BP is a delightful, I'm-not-gonna-take-any-s***, kind of person. She finds the funny in everything. She has absolutely NO FEAR about saying what she thinks; she just says it. Needless to say, BP was not raised in the Deep South as I was. I think she is the most psychologically fearless person I know (the most physically fearless person I know is my younger sister). She discovered her spouse was cheating on her the day of our pathophysiology final exam, and still managed to pass the exam! She divorced him, refinanced her house, made some severe budgeting decisions that summer and returned to school in the fall with never a whimper or whisper of self pity. BP, you're my hero.

Both of these women served as my lifeline throughout nursing school. We took turns keeping each other afloat in the tossing, churning, treacherous sea that is nursing school. They were both great study partners and always did their share. Words fail me when I try to convey how important they were in school and remain today. I KNOW I can email, text, or phone either of them if I need anything, and they will be there.

Remember the young man from my A&P course? He flunked out before mid-term! :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I have a co-worker who is also a part-time Zumba instructor. She is so physically fit and so lean and toned...I hate her. Just kidding. Maria is a wonderful person with a delightful sense of humor and a great work ethic. She has more energy than any 3 people I know. Anyway, Maria has nagged me for months to come to one of her classes. I am convinced that she just wanted me there for comic relief. Finally, yesterday, she held a class just for co-workers at a facility across the street from our clinic. Because I think so highly of her and wanted to be supportive, I agreed to go.

The 20 or so of us gathered in clothing of varying levels of hilarity. Maria led us in a warm up session, described the upcoming dance moves, and then began a Zumba session. I lasted exactly 4 minutes and 12 seconds. The problem was not the cardio portion. I didn't have a problem with the flexibility requirements; I do pretty well for an old broad. The problem was that I am, and always have been, rhythmically challenged. When everyone else was moving left, I was moving right. When the group clapped their hands, I was always clapping half to a full beat later (did you ever see Jane Fonda do the "tomahawk chop" at a Braves game? If not, ask someone older to describe it to you).

I have heard that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same actions expecting a different result. If that's true, I am truly insane. To wit, I took tap dance lessons with my two sisters thinking it would be fun. I was (am) so uncoordinated that I had to move out of state so I could leave the class without losing face. Same thing for the disco lessons in Texas. See? I keep hoping that with age I will improve. So far not so much.

After almost breaking a sweat I gathered my (unused) towel, my (unused) water bottle, my car keys and what was left of my dignity. I went to Captain D's where I drowned (no pun intended) my sorrow in a fish and shrimp platter. I don't know why I can't lose weight. Heavy sigh.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Teeth, titmice, and tomatoes

Our youngest child (the one who is university-bound on Monday) had all four wisdom teeth surgically removed yesterday, and it was a semi-traumatic event for her. She does not remember the 3 or 4 other times she's had general anesthesia because they all happened before she was 5 years old. When she came out of anesthesia she was shaking uncontrollably, and she was very weepy. The slightest thing set her off, and I had to remind her often not to cry because she is not allowed to blow her nose yet. Only the prospect of appearing gross prevented her from giving in to a huge boo-hoo session. She seemed much better when I tucked her in last night, and I am hoping she will return to her own rare form soon.

The tufted titmouse looks like a small, gray version of the blue jay, and it has the temperment of a jay, too. It is quarrelsome and aggressive, even with other titmice. It does not like to share, and it does not appear to play well with others. I enjoy watching their antics in the early morning as one titmouse after another tries to play "King of the Birdfeeder." The titmouse does remind me of human behavior, though. Even though there is plenty of bird feed for them all, they appear to be avaricious, territorial, and totally self-centered.

Twenty years ago, the world's most wonderful man and I planted a small plot of tomatoes. We cleared the land, fertilized it, bought tomato plants, insect repellent, tomato cages, blossom-end rot preventive, blah, blah, blah. We babied those tomato plants as if they were our children (we didn't have a child at the time so we had the energy, money, and the time to expend). When the painful season had finally ended, we had enjoyed exactly ONE tomato. I still refer to it as our "four hundred dollar tomato." This year I decided to be adventuresome, and I bought one of those little bag thingies where the tomato plant hangs upside down. I guess I'm just a slow learner. This year we have enjoyed six $5.00 tomatoes. Heavy sigh.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Ugly Betty"

My husband gave me this really neat bird feeder as a gift in May. He gave it to me on Mother's Day but said it was NOT a Mother's Day gift. Whatever. Anyway, this is a squirrel-proof feeder, and it really IS squirrel-proof.

The more intelligent of the many squirrels in and around our yard finally gave up after about three tries. Those with fewer intellectual gifts gave it a go for about ten tries. Now these furry little rodent creatures have a symbiotic relationship with the birds. They feed off the nuts and seeds that fall from the feeder as the birds are deciding on just which delicacies they prefer. I also occasionally scatter almonds and peanuts on the ground for the squirrels. Please don't tell anyone; I don't want to be thought of as a "softie."

I am very new to bird-watching but am enjoying it tremendously. The bird feeder is just outside our breakfast room window so that I can enjoy watching the birds while having my morning tea. I become rediculously excited whenever I see a new or less common bird. For example, I became positively giddy the first time I saw an indigo bunting in the yard. I keep a bird identification book on the breakfast room table so that I can identify our visitors. I know, I know...I need a life!

I noticed one bird that frequently visits the feeder. I noticed her because she is...well, homely. She is the size and coloration of a female cardinal, but she has this very small head that does not appear to have feathers but more of a leathery look. It is also blue-gray in color. Her beak appears to be abnormally large and thick, but maybe this is an illusion caused by her disportionate head. At any rate, I identified with her immediately, and I named her Ugly Betty. She visited us daily for several weeks, and then she didn't come no matter what type of feed I put out to entice her. I felt bereft and feared that she had been killed (maybe by vicious bully birds?). I wondered about her: Did she know she was different? Did she ever attract a mate, or was she a spinster bird? I know, I know...I need a life!

Today, Ugly Betty returned after an absence of several weeks, and I am pathetically relieved. It feels good to have her back home. I know, I know...I need a life!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I decided to begin blogging as a form of therapy. You see, I have always HATED writing. For me it is a process worse than giving birth. I have never had an original thought, and I seem to dwell in the land of cliches. I am a person of few words (usually), and I write much the same way. I am so eager to reach the ending that I often leave out most of the middle...you know, the salient points, the ones that impart meaning to the whole. I'm afraid that I often tell my husband to "give me the Reader's Digest verson," meaning "just give me the bottom line." I don't know why he doesn't divorce me.

Anyway, back to the therapeutic value of blogging. I am trying to overcome my great aversion just in case I decide to go to grad school September 2010. In graduate school there is a ton of writing (most of it quite academic and boring). Perhaps blogging will relieve the constipation of my brain, and I can begin to have creative, interesting thoughts; however, there is a better chance of my becoming sickened by my drivel and quietly pulling the plug on blogging.