Monday, March 16, 2009


I'm 43 today. It's not really a classic milestone of a birthday, but I'm feeling kind of stock-takey nonetheless. Part of it is that I've had these questions milling around in my head in a disorderly way over the past couple months, like volunteers for a charity event that is late to get started. There they are, the grand and burning issues, wandering glumly among the folding chairs and the coffee urn set up inside my cranium, killing time and really starting to wonder whether they should have turned up in somebody else's head instead.

But I've taken the day off of work, and there is a little time before I have to go pick up the little beastie (the Monday system: Pete picks Cassie up at school around 4 and takes her to dance; I get to wait until 5:45 to pick up Emerson). And I told myself I would write a post. It's been months, after all.

Temperamentally, I'm toward the spacey-dreamy-stare-at-an-ant-for-90-minutes end of the spectrum, but now there's also this cross-current. The combination of being a mother of young children* and a nurse has forced me toward an emphasis on the brisk, the efficient--get the blood pressure, chart the breath sounds, wipe down the pulse oximeter, where's your backpack, do you want to wear your shoes or your boots, oh no is your diaper stinky?--that is fundamentally uncomfortable but patently necessary. And I think that being so naturally bad at efficiency, I've developed mental habits that are my attempt to compensate, to push myself with gritted teeth into a range of minimal adequacy in the quotidian tasks of my life.

And one of those mental habits is a continual assessment of the utility of a thing. Any thing. Any thing that takes time or space, at least. And as time has gone on, even the definition of utility has become a shrunken and wizened stub of its former self. "Does it contribute to my work or childrearing?" is about all that remains. In my push just to be Enough, all kinds of other goals and aims and conceptions of The Good have dried up in my mind. Friendship, kinship, art, thought, decent shoes. No room, no room. NOT USEFUL.

And really, how f**ked up is that? And yet how true. It's how I live. How can that be? I mean, hell, my stove top isn't even clean. The dining room table is full of junk. Again. I forget Emerson's mittens at school as often as not. How can I be so hapless that even given such restricted horizon, I still fall short?

I seem to remember reading that whatsisname, the poet, the daffodils guy--Wordsworth! (Yeah, I had to Google it.) had two female relatives running every detail of his household. He never lifted a finger in any way. His meals, his clothes, his everything. Just there. And off he could go, wand'ring lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills. And I wonder--if I really had that option--if I could choose right now to be a coddled poet waited on hand and foot-- lying on my couch in vacant or in pensive mood--would I want that? Would that suit me better?

And no, no I don't think it would. I think I'd be restive and miserable and aching to be useful. (And of course dying to be a mom.)

Ah, I don't know. It seems the Big Questions are going to have to keep milling around in there a while longer. I just don't know.

And, well, on that note, I have to get ready to go pick up the toddler.

*(I initially wrote "small children," but if you know Cassie and Emerson, you know that's not quite right.)

Friday, November 14, 2008


Emerson's favorite toys are cars and trucks, but he is also pretty fond of stuffed animals. He has only recently started naming them.

The black dog's name is Charlie. The white cat's name is... Charlie. The black and white cat's name? Miss Charlie.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sleep Used to Be My Friend

My brain was busy last night while I was sleeping. Around 3am, I was transferred from my interesting job in an academic medical department to a data entry position, and subsequently fired a day later for my "cavalier attitude." Then around 5:30 or 6, I discovered a long, jagged scratch down the inside of my whole right leg--inflamed, with ugly yellow-white open areas especially down near my heel. It turned out to be a MRSA infection.

Okay, thanks, Morpheus. I'll take it from here. I've rarely been so pleased to be awake.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The evening of my last post, the moral punishment for my griping about my kids was visited upon me in the form of a virus bearing body aches and temperatures in the 101s. I spent a few days on the couch being useless, stewing in the same stinky pajamas for more than 48 hours of it.

This morning I had no fever, and I was supposed to teach, so I decided to venture in to work for a few hours, a little pasty and bedraggled but functional. Cassie, meanwhile, can't seem to figure out whether she's about to throw up or not, and we kept her home today. (The vomiting never materialized, and I'm wondering whether we might have been playing it a bit cautious. One of the interns was telling me that her mother's rule was, "I don't care if I just watched you throw up--if you don't have a fever, you're going to school.")

Pete was at home with Cassie in the morning, and so I dropped Emerson off at day care on my way in to my office. As I was walking out the preschool door, I ran into one of Emerson's classmates being carried in by her daddy. She recognized me immediately. "Thass Em'son's Dad, too!" she exclaimed.

Yeah. Thanks, kid.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Motherhood, Joys of

Tomorrow is Columbus Day (a holiday of almost unmitigated bogusness, if you ask me, but of course nobody did). This means one long day of non-stop parenting. (It's sort of a trade, because Cassie had Friday off too, for some Teachers' Professional Day whatsihoosie, and Pete did the honors that day because I had to teach. But as you might notice if you look closely, that was just the 6-year-old, which is significantly different from the 2-year-old and the 6-year-old. And plus? She spent a big chunk of the day with the 8-year-old who lives next door doing some fabulous activity supervised by the 8-year-old's dad. I don't even remember what that activity was, because all I keep hearing from Cassie is how he got them slushees afterwards, which was apparently just about the high point of Cassie's life up till now. Anyway, I am hereby putting in for extra parent points. Thank you.)

Now, you know by now that I am very into the progeny of me. I think that Cassie and Emerson totally rock, and sometimes I just look at them and think how ridiculously lucky I am. They are just exactly what I wanted for Christmas, and motherhood is all I wanted it to be. Okay. So that.

But a whole day--a whole day. Oof.

Emerson! EMERSON!! NO THROWING DIRT! Cassie, would you please... yes, that's really nice, sweetheart, but what I'm trying to... Emerson! NOT IN THE STREET! Cassie, if you walk ahead, I think that Emerson will want to catch up with... Carry you? Okay, Em, for a little while, I can carry you... THANK YOU CASSIE, THAT'S GREAT. YOU CAN STOP NOW! Yes, sweetie, we are going home. We're going home now. Yes, you can play with your trucks at home. That's a good idea. Sure, the yellow one. Absolutely. No, Cassie, I think that this is less than a mile. I'm sorry that you're exhausted. Maybe you'll want a nap this afternoon? Cassie, I can't hear you when you talk while you're walking away from me. No, sweetie, I didn't really think that you wanted a nap. It was kind of a joke.

I mean, it's kind of great. It is. But also? It totally fries every nerve ending I have. By the end of a day, my mouth is a little line, and I can't seem to focus my eyes, and no amount of Prozac seems that it could ever be enough. I am so, so, so not built to be a full-time mom. It saps my strength, it saps my sanity, it saps my will to live.

There are people who can do it. There are people who like doing it. And I wish them godspeed, bless their green-blooded little alien hearts. But what I have to say? Thank all that is good and wholesome for my own gainful employment. If I were a housewife in the 50s, I would definitely have ended up either addicted to mother's-little-helpers or hospitalized in a facility with "Lawn" in the name after being found curled in a fetal position in the linen closet whimpering.

Friday, October 03, 2008


So you know how I'm now the teacher of a nice little group of 6 new graduate nurse interns? I have them in "class" 2 or 3 days a week, and they're out seeing patients with their very own preceptor the rest of the time. We're (=I'm) going to be tracking a variety of outcome measures for the program, and today I gave them the Casey-Fink Graduate Nurse Experience survey. (Yeah, I know, whatever--but it's quite well validated!) And it turned out that they're a half-dozen happy little clams, those new grads of mine. I'm so pleased. They love their preceptors and feel all supported and glad they chose to go into home care and stuff. And it so happened that we had our class session on "Interpersonal Issues in the Workplace" today, and when I mentioned in part of my preamble the old saw that "nurses eat their young," (gruesome saying, isn't it?), most of them said they had experienced that kind of thing (i.e., hostility from experienced nurses) as nursing students during their clinical experiences in the hospital, but not one of them has experienced a single speck of it at Our Home Care Agency.

So my heart is full, and my face is all beam-y. I'm just so, so pleased.

You know, quite near the root of the reason I went into nursing originally, there is the experience that I had of a decade of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome during my early 20s-early 30s. The few times that I had an interaction with a really human, empathetic health professional during that time were tremendously important to me. Alongside those experiences were the less positive ones (though thankfully nobody ever went so far as to tell me it was all in my head, or some of the other things that many people with CFS have heard). The combination of the two made me want to do it right, to give the kind of health care that I wanted to get. It somehow made it feel like it could make up the difference, that in doing for others, I'd be doing for myself. It doesn't make a whole lot of rational sense, I admit, but for some reason the emotional calculus is very solid in my head.

And that's similar to how I feel about this program. I want to make it right for a little group of new nurses--to have their entry into the profession be welcoming, well supported, with reasonable and realistic expectations and a thoughtful, stepwise initiation to the necessary skills and knowledge. Nursing is both important and (if you do it right) incredibly complex. It seems worth, to me, the very best introduction you can provide. So how cool is it that I get to make that happen? That it's actually working?

Um, okay, I'll tell you. It's cool. It's very, very cool.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Funny Historical

It’s an odd moment, isn’t it? I heard on the radio in the car yesterday afternoon, on my way to pick Cassie up and shuttle her to her dance lesson, that the House voted down the economic bailout. All while the experts (such as they are) talked fiscal apocalypse. And the yellow leaves out the window on the right fluttered down, dislodged by a gust of late September wind. And the red pickup entered the traffic circle despite its not really being his turn. And when I got to the school, the after school program kids were out on the playground, and Cassie’s braids were flopping as she bounced a yellow ball with two hands.

It reminds me a little of one of those dreams I sometimes have in which the end of the world has somehow been announced, but for the moment all is eerie, sunny normalcy.

What does it even mean? How real is it? It’s not that I disbelieve what we hear, but it’s all so abstract. Pete points out that as a professor and a nurse, we’re both in fairly recession-proof lines of work, and I do think that’s probably contributing to my weird, muffled feeling as I listen to the news.

During Cassie’s dance lesson, I sat in the basement of the local arts facility while our sprightly little girls in black tights and leotards apparently conducted some kind of thundering elephants-vs.-water buffalo battle overhead. I watched the toddler little brothers and sisters running around the posts and thumping on the soda machine. The mothers sat mostly in twos and threes, talking about kids, and about somebody’s sister who was going out with a real loser.

I remember reading the Diary of Anne Frank in fifth grade (doesn’t that seem kind of young to read the Diary? were fifth graders older in the 70s than they are now?), and being terribly impressed with the momentousness of it all. I sporadically wrote little diary entries for the next few years--aimless noodlings, mostly--hoping that something Historical would happen at any moment. Then I could write about the Historical Times I was living in, and it would be all very important, somehow.

So are we here? Is it really 1929? (I picture us in a couple years, all getting our hair marcelled and making our own sauerkraut and playing cards around the radio.) Are we well on our way to Living in Interesting Times?