Monday, March 25, 2013


Time for some lightness of being for a change.  I know I could use it, I bet you could too. 

As I sat trying to think of what I wanted to write, I turned to my Pinterest Pal, Another Pinner for some blog post inspiration.  Another Pinner has always proven to be Genius! Brilliant! Epic! and those other overused Pinterest superlatives.   Forget Wikipedia, I have Another Pinner to guide me through life. Want some proof?  Allow me to copy and paste their pins and my reactions for you:

Another pinner said "AMAZING Homemade Crescent Rolls! I will never make another roll for the Holidays again. AMAZING". Need to try it.  (Please note the  use of double amazing in all caps designed to entice you never to whack that tube of unhomemade crescent rolls on your counter again.)  Which won't happen.  I LOVE whacking that tube.  That sounds dirty.

Another Pinner said "This is how our pit bull, Roxanne was when I was growing up! Dad couldn't spank us around her! Lol"  Hmmm.  Dad's spankings make me and the crescent roll tube feel much better about our relationship.

 Another Pinner said - Did this tonight with a ball between my inner thighs and another one behind my back.. down an inch and up an inch. RESULTS!!!    I suspect you have a visual all made up for this, don't you?  Now you're feeling dirty too. Let's just say that at this point I am totally at peace with the crescent roll tube.

 Another pinner said, "I've made pouches before but this one is just adorable! Perfect for all my scraps!"  (Wow, a pouchmaker.  I missed that one in the "useless degrees you could have had"). 

And let's not forget Another Pinner's Coup de grace, feeding the Churchies.
Another pinner said she made this for a Church event, and people raved! 

Anyhoo, we are back to my regular typing in a normal size font and I am here to tell you that one click of the Pinterest header and Another Pinner was right there for me, ready to dispense inspiration for my boggy writing brain.  Under the pin Journal Prompts to get you writing I found the following gems; which I have answered truthfully for you:

1. What is your favorite color,place, food, song and movie?

Cerulean blue in Key West eating milk chocolate with Prince watching Sixteen Candles.

2. What do you like to do?  How does it make you feel?

 Well, I like to drink.  I like to drink vodka.  It makes me feel 100% better. 

3.  What is something you're good at?  What makes you good at it?

Karaoke.  Vodka.

4.  What keeps you up at night worrying?  Is this realistic?  Can you do something about it? What can you do?

My dancing skills. No. Yes. Vodka.

 Another Pinner, this is not working for me.  This is not journal inspiration, this is more like the questionnaire notes I got passed in tenth grade.  I fully expect to turn around and see Jake Ryan sitting behind me.

So here I am, still fairly uninspired but intent on giving you something light.  

Thank God we need new tires, for now I have my very own journal prompt.

Because we need new tires I "get" to shop for them.  Like any good consumer I called around for prices, and like any good consumer I spoke to a ratio of one normal person to four idiots.  My favorite idiot conversation went down like this:

me:  Hi, I am calling for prices on a set of tires for my 2010 Saturn Outlook.  It's an XE base model (because we're poor) front wheel drive.

Discount Tire Idiot:  OK, well let me just check here (clickity click of the computer keys) uh OH, did you know that they no longer make your vehicle?

me:  Yes, I am aware that they discontinued Saturns.

DTI:  Well, that's a problem.  You're vehicle is no longer being made.

me:  Yes, I believe we have established that.

DTI:  This is a problem.

me:  We've covered that, too. So, you don't have tires for my car?

DTI:  Well, they don't make your car anymore.

me:  Perhaps you're suggesting I trade it for a car that you DO have tires for?

DTI:  (clicking on his computer again)  Are you SURE it's a 2010?  It's not a 2009? 
(and then; the kicker)  "Maybe you'd like to put your husband on the line?"

At this point, I remove the phone from my ear, ready to press the "end call" button and obliterate this imbicile from my day.  Then, mercifully, my inner warrior kicked in.

me:  Why yes, yes sir, let me get my husband on the phone.  That way, you can sit there diddling yourself while he walks out to the car and attempts to figure out what color it is, let alone what size tires we need.  Let me assure you sir, that despite my unfortunate possession of an X chromosome and  functioning uterus, I can identify the year, make and model of my vehicle.  Now sir, I am going to let you go because surely you are late checking on the little lady at home rolling out AMAZING homemade Pinterest Crescent Rolls while barefoot in an apron.  Send her my best wishes and thank her for enabling you to be the condescending turd that you are today.

Disclaimer:  Bill knows what color car we drive (I think).  And he may or may not know what size tires we have.  More than likely, he does not care.

I should wrap up my light hearted, happy post now.  I'm off to Belle Tire where they recognize that in order to get me to buy ridiculously overpriced tires they need to treat me like a chick who knows what P255/65/R18 means.  Even if I don't. Or don't care.  Or both.  Pass the vodka.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fly Me Home.

Memories are funny things.  They can make you suck in your breath with wonder, make your stomach drop like a roller coaster ride, or they can make tears run down your face before you have time to think about swiping them off with your fist. They can be subtle and sweet, or hit you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.

I think about her often. It's been a week now, and she's still an automatic reflex when I do things like turn down the frozen food aisle and stand in front of the Lean Cuisines, habitually ready to pick the requisite five or six boxes she considered "her dinners".  Then I remember, she's gone.  She doesn't have to decide between Sesame Chicken or Stuffed Peppers ever again.  And suddenly, I am the idiot in the frozen food aisle who appears to be crying because Hollywood Market is out of Salisbury steak.

I suppose eventually it will get easier. My friend sent me some words today that I treasure.  We both lost grandmothers that were larger than life and we long ago decided we were friends because we don't feed each other sugar coated cliches in times like this.  His words were perfect.  Here is what he wrote:  "I wish I could tell you that things will be okay, things will be alright, the pain of losing someone special will eventually lessen or that time heals all wounds. All of that is crap and the truth is that when we lose someone that has loved us unconditionally their memories will always make us laugh, make us cry, make us yearn for the days past and make us look forward to the future and seeing them again."

His words make me ponder something I can't always make myself think about.  The "what's next" part of death.  For Nana, and for me, too. During those "what's next" times, I watch as people with strong beliefs take solace in all the things they have been taught, surrounded by their church families and lifted up in their worship.  My non-conforming Catholic childhood is not giving me a lot of assistance at this dark time.  Instead I work to tap into my spiritual side, preferring to cut to the chase and simply talk with Nana, knowing fully well she isn't going to answer. I ask her how things are going in her first week on not-Earth, who she has seen and if she has found my dogs yet.  I tell her about my day and firmly believe I am telling her things she already knows.  I am pretty sure she's watching as I pick my way through this whole grief thing.

After Nana died, a young man came to Hospice House to pick her up.  His name was Levi, and he could not have been much older than my Travis.  He made such an impression on me;  the old, bereavement obsessed nurse who demands her coworkers leave the room if they "can't handle" a grieving family.  Levi asked me if I would like to help get Nana ready for the ride.  Memories of my Gramps getting wheeled out of his bedroom in a bag make my stomach turn even to this day, but I pushed that thought away and told Levi "of course, I wanted to help." Together Levi and I picked up all 85 pounds of Nana and wrapped her in a soft sheet.  I reached for the blanket to put over her and looked for the body bag that I knew had to be hiding discreetly under it.  No body bag.  Levi smiled at me as he said "we don't need one, she will be fine".  Levi gave me space as I pulled the blanket up, kissing Nana one last time and telling her how much I loved her.  Together we clicked the seat belts over her and tightened them up around her little body.  He maneuvered her gently out of the room and out of the tasteful bay-jeh walls of Hospice House.  I spun on my heel and grabbed my things and walked into the bright morning sun to drive home, swiping the tears off my cheeks with my fist.

As I pulled onto the road, I had the wintery waters of the Black River on my left and the memories of three months of long drives, nursing homes and tears on my right.  Neither option appealed to me so I looked ahead.  I sighed, wondering how those three months came spiraling down to end like this; no Nana riding shotgun, no errands left to run, no panicked reminders that the light in front of me "might just turn yellow any second".  The realization that an enormous chunk of my life was now traveling the opposite direction in a hearse hit at the exact time I looked up to see them:  two swans, flying along over my car for five, maybe ten seconds before they broke off for the river.  Two swans who were not the cardinals I always swore represented my Gramps.  Two swans who knew that cardinals would have been too small to see through my tears and who wanted me to know that finally, almost twenty years later, they were together again and would always watch over me. 

I drove home to the people that are my world, ready to continue making memories. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Saying Goodbye.

As it turns out, the laptop is a good investment.  It's 10:30 on a Sunday night.  I woke up this morning planning a lazy day of laundry and being with my people, having celebrated Casey's twelfth birthday the day before.  I planned on driving up to see Nana next weekend.  I planned on a nice glass of red with Bill after dinner.  But then the phone rang and plans be damned. I'm 300 miles from home sitting in a Hospice House with Nana as she fades away from this world.  And all I can think of as I sit here is "write something".  Because I am with Nana.  And there is so much history.  So many laughs and lately, so many tears with no doubt more to come.

When I spoke to Moe earlier, I told her it is oddly peaceful sitting here in this beautiful facility, designed to allow people to die with dignity and free from pain.  Nana does not open her eyes.  She doesn't have a snarky remark or a reprimand for my absence.  She just lies there very still, her purpose now to take the last breaths her body has rationed her for 96 years.  I take her hand and fold her fingers around mine, so they stay locked.  So she knows I am here, despite everything that was designed to keep me at bay.  We are "real good", she would say if she could. We always have been.

Someone had turned on a radio in her room.  Christian music.  For some reason, this doesn't annoy me like it usually would.  I am not sure what I feel about religion, and I certainly don't have any Christian music on my iPod but for some reason, it seems right to have it playing very quietly.  Nana used to sing gospel songs.  I know Nana can't hear it, she doesn't have her hearing aids in and she is quite busy dying, so I suppose this music is meant for my ears instead.   

I take in Nana's room here at Hospice Home. Beige walls.  She would love that.  She pronounced it bay-JEH. Her whole house was beige, and she never understood why I wouldn't want my walls the same french vanilla ice cream color.  "Beige walls look nice and clean, Kimi.  You can never go wrong with beige."  

Beige walls aside, I am going to miss about a million things about this person.  I will never be able to make a kick ass pie crust from scratch without her to help me.  I will never again have a perfectly ironed tablecloth returned to me after Christmas dinner, packed in white tissue paper ready for the next holiday.  I will never eat deviled eggs that compare to hers.  I will (probably) never get told I should "get that weight off so everyone can see your pretty face" again.  I will not get to watch her delight in Halloween as the littlest trick or treaters struggle up to the door.  My life will be so much emptier.  No more hair day.  No more Comerica Bank and fighting over the pneumatic tube that will "steal her money" at the drive through.  No more scrambling to cover her as she lets an insulting remark fly in public.  What will I do now?

A few paragraphs written and ninety minutes later, we're still real good, thank you.  Just breathing and breathing and Christian music and the fan humming white noise.  My fingers tapping on the keyboard as my mind floods with memories.  Scotch and water before Saturday grocery shopping.  Lawrence Welk on the TV and Englebert Humperdink on the hi-fi. My Gramps painting her nails for her and laughing as she waved them in the air like windmills to dry them.  Alfred Dunner slacks in "petique" because they fit just right.  Gold "tongs" from Hawaii that she wore on her feet in the summer.  The bellow: "My kitchen is closed for the night!" as my Gramps and I raided the freezer for ice cream.   Monday was warsh day.  Warsh - not wash.  She was born in Mizz-or-rah.  Her birth certificate says her first name is Lola.  She loved my dogs.  She worshiped my daughter and bragged to everyone about my son.  My husband is "the only one who does right by her".  She was the most meticulous person I ever knew.  Heaven is about to be a hell of a lot cleaner.

It's 3am now. Her legs are cool and mottled. I wonder what is happening in the place she's in right now? Is she seeing the people she loves? Is there really no pain? Is she reliving the moments that made up her life? Her breathing has become more shallow. I catch myself holding my own breath, willing her to go and be at peace.  She looks so tiny in this bed.  The sheets are soft, and for that I am grateful.  No one should have to die on crappy hospital sheets.  I finally put my iPod on so I can hear Roxy Music instead of Adult Christian.  I knew that station would wear out it's welcome eventually.  It's hot in here, and I wish for the millionth time it was spring so I could open a window.  The moon is gorgeous and full, and Beth would be the first to tell me that Mercury is in retrograde.  I didn't even need the website to tell me that.  I will miss sharing our daily horoscope with Nana. I will miss her telling me I was the best birthday present she ever got.  I will miss our wine and wheat thins.  This is a friend that is so hard to let go.  

This is a life well lived.  This is a person well loved.  I will miss her more than she will ever know.  I will treasure this night alone with her for the rest of my days.

I will be real good again someday, because that is how she would want it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Words that suck.

Once a month, I have the honor (privilege, utmost joy, anticipatory glee) of four hours of art with five fabulous women.  Our evenings have been dubbed Luna Night, as we hold our summits on or around the full moon.  It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things in the universe.

We are a diverse group who, without even trying, simply connected.  It's a rare subject that is taboo with the Luna Crew.  It's a given that I will drive home with cheeks that hurt from laughing and a brain full of ideas to pound out on the keyboard.

That's when I thank the stars for Evernote, a snappy little app that allows me to temporarily dump my thoughts into a vault, thus reducing the number of expletives that flow from my mouth when I have forgotten yet another good idea.  On the way home from Luna Night, I babble away into my talk to text and marvel as my words are magically transcribed onto a cyber notebook for lock down until I am ready to write.  Evernote: my little helper, and highly recommended for the "over 40 everyone has sucked my brain cells dry" set.

I'm sure there are women out there whose Evernote is loaded with reminders such as: "Call Bitsy from the Junior League about the Spring Fling" or "Look for Swan's Down flour to make that cake Another Pinner says is genius".  My Evernote, however is streamlined into: write this, hear this, see this, and do this.  I have no patience for cupcakes and The Lunas are my own personal Junior League and in all honesty lately the "to-do" that is peck-peck-pecking at my brain is "go write something".  So, in honor of Evernote and the downward spiral of the Luna's last conversation; let's visit: Words I Despise. 

Have you ever noticed that you have an aversion to certain words?  As the Luna Crew huddled around Moe's fireplace at our last meeting, someone mentioned the word Hubby, then laughed as I cringed.  "What's wrong with Hubby?" I was asked.  And as I stared blankly into the fire, I realized I couldn't even come up with a rational reason.  I just plain hate the word. 

I am pretty sure Facebook sealed the deal for me.  Posts like "Ooooh, love my Hubby, he just ran a bubble bath for baby Everdeenkatniss.  How precious is that?" make me want to barf in technicolor.  People think they're jacking it to hipster level by saying "The Hubs", but that term makes the bile rise for me too.  The only person on Earth I allow to say "Hubby" around me is Nana, and that is only because she has dementia and I love her and she can say whatever she wants.  Please, everyone except Nana, can we just say husband?

Moist. Do I even have to explain? What a vile word.  Anything that can describe a cake and your underpants at the same time is wrong on every level.  The End. Which leads me to:

Panties. Ick ick ick.  I am 100% certain a man invented the word panties.  I am 95% sure he was a pedophile.  When a 60 something year old woman asked me to "help her off with her panties so she could make a potty" I practically peed my own scrubs.  Underpants.  So. Much. Better.  Utilitarian. Practical.  Wear them or not, your call, just don't say panties to me if we are going to take them off and...

Make Love. What is wrong with me?  Isn't that supposed to be a beautiful thing? Yet when I hear the term "make love" all I can think of is being 8 years old and drawing fifty sloppy hearts over a picture of my parents for Valentine's Day.  I titled it:  Make Lots of Love on Valentine's Day.  I could not for the life of me understand why it disappeared from the refrigerator door, never to be seen again.  Scarred for life, I prefer the down and dirty term that starts with F. 

And if I am going to get down and dirty, I refuse to do it with my "soul mate".  Now there's a term coined by a desperate woman if I ever heard one.  In the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw "I don't know if I even believe in soul mates".  Husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover - all encompassing, solid words.  No soul mates allowed in bed taking off my panties and making love to me, please.

Hey!  Let's hit up the Pinterest Pinheads for my next one, which is actually a two-fer. "Upcycle" and "Repurposed".  The red wiggly line underneath these words as I edit is shivering in word-correct fervor, desperate to remind me that THESE ARE NOT REAL WORDS! And I could not agree more.  Throw those two in the compost bin along with the always inane "Mani-Pedi" with your "Bestie".  All I visualize there is a couple washed up giddy cheerleaders annoying the hell out of me while I try to have sixty minutes of peace and a cute set of toes. Have we become so lazy that we cannot even take the time to enunciate an entire word?  I fear we have.  And a nation of grammatically lazy children are coming up fast on our heels. To me, that's a tragedy.

Time to shut it down.  I know there are more words and phrases out there just waiting their turn to make my list, and the play we got from Moist Panty Cakes on Luna Night was well worth the nails on a blackboard effect in my head.  The moral of the story, for me anyway, ended up being "Don't have a Big Hairy Gazebo over Moist Panty Cakes".  But that's another story. 

Long live the Lunas, kicking Junior League Ass from coast to coast.  You girls are my soul mates  besties the bomb.

Monday, January 7, 2013

An Open Letter to My Children...

Dear Travis and Casey,

I am an old mom now.  My facebook walls are loaded with pictures of babies, sometimes ad nauseum, yet I  understand.  I remember back when you were tiny, how I wanted to share you with the whole world. How your blank, milk-drunk stare was different; cuter, better than the other babies. How I used to stare at you and wonder what in the world could be going through your mind?  What were you trying to accomplish? What hurt?  What made you happy?  What the hell was I going to do with you?

I like now.  Now is better for me.  Now, I just look at your face and I know.  I know when you are happy, when you hurt, and what you are trying to accomplish, although I still sometimes question what the hell I am going to do with you.  I know you.  And I like you, which is all I ever really wished for.  Every mom loves their children, but not every mom can say she likes them.

There are different types of moms all around us.  There are Pusher Moms.  They push for achievement. They push for the best grades, the best coaches, the best teams and they put themselves front and center to earn their kids a coveted place in the world they believe their child is entitled to.  There are the Whirly Moms, hovering constantly over their kids. They don't allow them to ride on the scary bus and are involved with every school function, reminding us that they're always there and so in touch with their child.  Let's not forget the Martyr Moms, who complain about the endless driving and fundraising and practices and money that they pour into their kid's activity.  (While their kid confides to friends that they hate the activity but aren't allowed to quit).  There are the Couch Moms, who light another smoke and flip to another channel while their kids wander the neighborhood, eating homemade cookies in the Whirly Mom's spotless kitchen, wondering how they drew the short straw.

So many types of Moms.  Yet you ended up with me.

You tell me I am not like the other moms, and I suppose I take that as a compliment.  I didn't sign up for this to be your pal, or to put us in the poor house attempting to make you the next big thing.  I am willing to take the hit and be the Mean Mom, especially if my actions will ultimately make you a better person.  I have bit my tongue to not swear at the coach who disregarded you in favor of a showboat.  I have sat on my hands to refrain from punching those who made you feel scared instead of welcome.  I already suffered through primary school, so I temper the amount of time I spend there.  It's your school, not mine, and I wonder how will you ever learn to take pride in it while parents are busy posturing there.  I burn stuff.  I oversleep.  I make mistakes.  I watch you fall.  Sometimes I help you up, and sometimes I hold back while you find your own way back to your feet.

I do this because you are my world.  You are my world in a world that I am not sure I like very much, so I look to you to help change it.

I watch you both growing up and walking a path that your dad and I tried to prepare you for.  I beam with pride when you look my friends in the eye and carry on a conversation with them, instead of skulking down the stairs without saying hello.  I marvel at your grades and your commitment to school, something that I never had until I was an adult and my hand was forced. Yes, you make me proud while at the same time I go ballistic over the ridiculous amounts of snack food I vacuum from the couch cushions.  If Dad had a dollar for every time he endured a rant about The Pig People We Made I would be writing this from my palatial estate in Belize. 

So, Travis and Casey, here we are.  One of you in the middle of college, one of you just starting Middle School.  You like each other.  You like us. You like life.  This is more than I ever could have prayed for.  You are what keeps me going when I am exhausted and beaten down by the things around me.  You are what I think of when I put restraints on an angry teenager hammered out of his mind.  You are what I think of when I care for the suicidal 14 year old with cutter lines road mapping her arm.  I don't know how they got to the place they're in, and I am not blind to the fact that it could happen to me, which is why I never stop trying my best for you.  You are my refuge from the sorrow in this world.  If  every kid out there were shown the feelings we have for you, the world might be less despondent. To that end I challenge you to be a friend to someone who may not be a part of your circle.  Show kindness to someone who doesn't normally get to experience it.  You are smart enough to know what works, and we like to think we are smart enough to back your choices.  We made you, and that made the world a better place.  Now it's your turn to pass it on.  Go now, and be amazing.

Love and Snack Food Crumbs,


Disclaimer:  This post does not give you permission to make new people.  New people are costly, stressful and not an option at this juncture.  Also, if either one of you ever show up for an audition of the Bachelor or Bachelorette, I shall cut you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plan B

Do you remember your dream?

You know, the one you had where you went down the aisle, stepped out into the sunshine and began the book of your life?

If that book had a name, what would it be?

When posed that question by a friend yesterday, I barely hesitated. Twenty years ago, I would have named mine "Living the Dream".

  If I were to name my book now, twenty years later, I would call it:        "Living Plan B". 

Plan A was The Dream.  Living the Dream.  The house, some kids, the part-time-just-a-couple-days-a-week job that would keep me on my toes, get me out of the house and keep me in the work force just enough.  The learning to cook and meals on the table when he came home at night to a spotless house, a cocktail and sparkling conversation.  It was all I knew, passed down from generations and watched on TV as my little kid brain was forming big adult plans. June Cleaver, Alice Kramden and Nana; my role models for wifedom.  I could do this, I thought.  I can do anything.  Life is beautiful.

Enter Plan B.

Plan B is where the hours in a day fly by like an F-14 while I scramble to clean up, struggle to maintain a budget, work like a dog just to keep the "starter home" we still occupy two decades later, cook when I feel guilty, and make a valiant attempt at being a decent wife to the man I stepped out into the sunshine with.  The two kids, while desperately wanted and fiercely loved, added lines to my face and pounds to my ass that never appeared in the 1991 version of The Dream.  Also found on the cutting room floor were the parts where I pick a thankless, mentally exhausting career, the economy tanks, I care for a 95 year old with dementia and I spend my days off spinning my wheels in a haze of coffee and sleep deprivation.   Plan B is where I wonder, sometimes hourly, when the hell we are ever going to catch up, let alone get ahead.

Damn you, Plan B.

The honest, kick you in the balls side of me says:  Yep, Princess, not how you planned it, is it?    

Can't handle the curve?  Can't suck it up?  Boo hoo for you. You made your bed, now take a nap in it.   

The Princess side of me doesn't often rear it's whiny little entitled head. But today as the rain falls and I read about people who walked away from their homes getting $3000 checks to "help them start over" I get really, really pissed.   I flame about busting my ass to pay the mortgage, juggling bills like a circus freak to get out of debt, going to work each night to care for the "disabled" 30 year old opening a purse I could never afford to hand me their 'caid card, demanding I get them a prescription for motrin because "it's only a dollar on my insurance."  I field five or ten phone calls a day from Nana, who has spiraled downhill and is now like having a stubborn toddler to care for.  I remind myself that I still have fifty pounds to lose and I should be taking better care of myself.  I tell myself that I can't afford a stroke.  I consider medical marijuana.  I consider non-medical marijuana.  I hug my dog.  I cry a little.

 Then I start writing the Sequel to Plan B, because Whiny Princess is not my idea of a good Leading Lady.

I ponder the people who live on the street, in cars, and under the freeway overpasses. I remember the friends I had that never got the chance to have a Plan B.  I think about single moms who work three jobs and spend every minute fearing that someone is going to hurt their children while they're out trying desperately to support them.  I think of the friends I have who battle with angry children and have gotten crushed by spouses that left them alone and broken.  I feel embarrassed that I even consider that I might have a rough life.

I refill my empathy tank by playing loud music, dancing in my kitchen, and pouring a glass of whatever moves us to share with the man that is also starring in Plan B.  I celebrate years of happy memories.  I look at the things in my home that I worked hard for, things that make me happy.  I sneak to the door and listen through it while my daughter has her vocal lesson, thanking God I can afford her the opportunity to let her beautiful, perfect voice grow and shine.   I hug my dog.  I cry a little.  I look at the one wedding picture I liked in it's frame on the table, and I step out into the sunshine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ode to The Donald. A story for ER nurses.

I revisted some old drafts tonight, and stumbled across this one.  It's way past Nurse's Week, but I guarantee somewhere in the Metro Detroit area, my subject is well into his second or third pint of the day.  Here's to you, Donald.

In my constant attempt to lighten people up on Facebook, I posted a request to send me a smile, a memory or a joyful thought.  What I received was exactly that.  My friends reminded me of some of the funniest moments I witnessed as a nurse, as well as some thoughts that allowed me to reflect on seventeen years in a profession that is NOT for the faint of heart.

With National Nurse's Week approaching, I want to share with you the glue that holds us together; mentally, physically, and emotionally; as we practice the World's Second Oldest Profession.

I have written in the past about Stump Thumper, Groping Dead Man, and a few other memorable clients, but I have never shared with you my all time favorite patient: The Donald.  The Donald  is a professional, much like The Donald that you already have etched in your mind.  He has bad hair, a booming voice, his own sense of style and often holds audiences rapt as he works a room.  My Donald, however is not a wealthy financier. My Donald's home is the street and his prized possessions include empty Mohawk liquor bottles, a collection of hospital slippers, and numerous cast offs from my husband's "I can't wear these anymore" pile.  On any given day, The Donald identifies himself as a Doctor, The President, or Jack Nicholson's Brother.  He has braved the elements for many years now, and as anyone who lives in Michigan knows, being homeless here is no picnic.  He lives daily at an alcohol level that most of us would die from, the kind that college boys lie to their frat brothers about.  The Donald - forever etched in my heart.

It could be the busiest night in the universe at Hospital Z - a nuts to butts night as I used to call it.  People lined up from hell to breakfast in hallways, triage bays, and waiting rooms. As the Triage Coordinator Nurse I was responsible for all of them.  The ambulances were told "traumas, pediatrics and criticals only" but they pretended they never got that dispatch and would whoosh through the ambulance bay with a smug smile, knowing we had no choice but to take their patient, space or no space. Family members would approach me as I held my head in my hands, frantically trying to see if one of my colleagues could take "just one more" and stay within range of keeping their nursing license.  "Oh nurse," they would say,"My father (mother, brother, lesbian lover, baby daddy...) has been here two (three, four, eighty) hours... just when are you going to do something about that?"  Then they would try to stare me down as  I struggled not to make a fist and punch them in the throat.  It always seemed that just when I was at breaking point - ready to throw down my pen, yank off my badge and walk out the door, I would hear him - or more accurately, smell him as he blew through the ambulance bay on his stretcher-throne.  Waving to his public and insisting "I used to be a doctor here." EMS deposits his three garbage bags of crap and  uncerimoniously dumps him onto a gurney.  "He's all yours, Kimi." they would say with a smile.  No report necessary.  It was probably less than a day or two since he had been there last.  I knew more about The Donald's whereabouts than I did my own kids.  This is what happens to homeless alcoholics, people.  They are like a pinball getting bounced from ER to ER to alley to city limit. Never, ever, winning.  No one wants them in their backyard.

The Donald was, in a way, the perfect patient.  Stench aside, he was grateful, happy to be somewhere warm and more than willing to entertain the audience of waiting triage patients.  He was easily pacified by my response of "maybe someday" when he asked when he would get a bed.  He didn't threaten to tell his neighbor "the CEO of the hospital" about the shoddy care he felt was receiving as the true emergencies trumped him.  (Don't even bother with that one, people.  The more name dropping you do, the less we care.)  I loved The Donald because he was happy to just be.  He reminded me of a hyper little preschooler, asking a million questions and parroting everyone around him.  Sometimes, to keep him occupied, we would give him a cell phone, dial up former nurses and let Donald leave messages on their voicemail.  "Hello, Ellie?  It's me Don!  Hello?  Ellie?  Where did she go?" as we laughed hysterically in the background. Just a little voice from nightmare jobs past.

I cannot tell you the number of times I sifted through The Donald's belongings wearing a Hazmat suit, finding citations for public intoxication, napkins from Starbucks, Watchtower magazines, (apparently the Jehovahs will even hit up a cardboard box house) and discharge instructions from the six area hospitals he rotated through.  The discharge instructions would always make me laugh:  YOU ARE BEING TREATED TODAY FOR ALCOHOL INTOXICATION.  YOU MUST STOP DRINKING IMMEDIATELY!!!

As if.

After the securing of Donald's "valuables", I would bribe a couple friends to help me strip him.  On one memorable occasion, layer number nine came off to reveal a slinky purple nightie against his otherwise naked skin.  "Please!" cried Donald, "Don't take the nightie, it's my favorite."   "Donald," I asked, "Where did you get this beautiful nightie?"  Looking at me with a beaming toothless smile, he replied "The Dumpster at Lover's Lane."  And as you may have guessed, I let Donald go back to area C in his purple nightie, fresh slippers over his blackened frostbit toes and Elmer Fudd hunting cap on his head.  It was a beautiful thing.

One night, The Donald came in at 2am on a night that was eerily quiet.  It was a couple days before Christmas, and apparently the public was saving their "emergencies" for later, when they were done with their festivities.  It was well below freezing, and Donald was lacking in clothes.  Someone had robbed him and he had been turned away at the Salvation Army because, well, they don't take drunks. He was a mess.

Maybe it was because it was the holidays, maybe we were bored, but I like to think it's because we ER nurses are like The Grinch - possessing a big heart that is hidden under protective scar tissue.  Whatever the reason, we decided that The Donald was going to have a spa day.  We sprang into action, grabbing toiletries, towels, and basins.  We put Donald in the Decontamination Shower, soaped him up, had him brush his six teeth and wash his dirty hair.  We gave him lotion from our stash and in a short time, had him smelling like Midnight Pomegranate, Sensual Amber or some other restricted hospital fragrance.  Shirley took one for the team and gave him a pedicure while I found some trauma shears and gave him a haircut, "the first he had gotten in years", he said.  Donald smiled and cried and closed his eyes while we fussed over him like a bride, telling him how handsome he looked and that he should shape up and find himself a sugar mama.  When we were done we covered him up with warm blankets and put him in the Psychiatric Seclusion room so he could sleep in peace until he was somewhere close to sober, until we kicked him back to the street again.

But that wasn't all.

While we had been playing Steel Magnolias, other staff had been passing the hat and hitting up the doctors for a shopping spree.  Taking advantage of a 24 hour Meijer, Lizz purchased boots, hunting socks, long underwear, gloves and a new hat for The Donald.  We fished a coat out of the clothing closet (a.k.a. the Bum Bin), and set to work making a Christmas for The Donald.  We wrapped our gifts in Christmas paper and made a card.  The night progressed, and before day shift came in, we woke The Donald and told him that Santa had came.

I will someday be decrepit and demented in my own little world, but I hope I never forget the reaction that Donald had.  The joy on his face when he realized that there were presents  and they were for him!  was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced as a nurse.  He unwrapped his gifts carefully with shaking hands, ooohing and ahhhhing as he put everything on.  We gave him his discharge papers, crossing out "YOU ARE INTOXICATED" and replacing it with "MERRY CHRISTMAS DONALD!"  We loaded him up with Christmas cookies and we sent him on his way, feeling quite full of ourselves and our grand gestures.

I would like to tell you that The Donald went into rehab, became sober and is now an investment banker.

But I won't.

Because the ER isn't Disney World, no matter what administration is trying to sell us.  The ER is real, mean, ungrateful and really ugly at times.  You probably aren't going to get a "WOW" experience when you hit our doors, and for that you can thank your fellow man; who stretches us thin with non-emergencies and abuse of the system. We have been beaten down quite well, thank you very much.  But still we try.  And we never stop laughing.  Especially when The Donald came back two days later, without his new boots and socks.  His response when we asked him where they went? "I traded the boots for some good vodka and boy those socks, they wipe your butt right clean after a good dump".

God bless The Donald, and God Bless ER nurses everywhere.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tri-ing Again - Part Two (as in, read Part One First)

The best part of a triathlon, in my limited experience, is the part where you stand still, and just take it all in.

Every size and shape, the bright colors, the palpable excitement; it's intoxicating.  It doesn't matter if you are there to win it or there to just finish it, at this moment in time you are all the same - you are triathlon participants.

I stood there with my bike, looking over the lake, the cemetery, the flags, the buoys and the transition area.  I took a deep breath and I spent a moment just loving life. The times that I thought I would never be an athlete again got pushed out of my head, and I replaced it with thoughts of being strong, persevering and conquering.  Bill always tells me "Be Here Now".  For a change, I was.

Moe and I unloaded our things in the transition area and headed toward the lake to warm up.  Since the water temp was at 82 degrees, wet suits were declared unnecessary and people wearing them were warned that they would be tolerated but not eligible for awards.  Personally, I would die of heat stroke in a wet suit in 82 degree water but I guess that is just me.

The next best part of a triathlon?  The part where you spot "Your People". Seeing Bill and Casey walking down the hill toward me was calming and exciting at the same time.  The last time I did a triathlon, in 2000, Casey was (unbeknownst to me) growing in my belly.  Now here she was, dancing down the hill wearing the shirt Travis wore that day 12 years ago that said "My Mom Tri's".  Double entendre totally intended.

          She had highjacked my race shirt and created this masterpiece:

   With my crappy Danskin issued latex swim cap and my beautiful shirt, I was ready to roll.

We lined up for the swim, Moe and I in the front with all intentions of heading to the right and staying out of "the Pack".  I am comfortable in one thing - my swimming ability.  I know how to swim in open water and have thousands of hours logged in the pool for the last 35 years.  This was my happy place. I wanted this part. They counted it down, and we were off.  I am the one by the right buoy.

After clearing that buoy people start to find their spot.  I stayed right to make way for stronger swimmers to pass, and as I did, I caught a hefty kick in the ribs from the person in front of me. I sucked in a huge mouthful of water and had I not been panicking about breathing, I would have laughed at the irony that the news report would read "Although a lifelong swimmer, she drowned 3 minutes into the tirathlon".

I had serious regrouping to do, which I attempted by swimming breaststroke until I could take a normal breath again.  My ribs were sore but were taking a back seat to the ragged breaths I was taking.  It took me a quarter mile to recover in time to find that my damn cheap swim cap was coming off.  I had chosen not to wear goggles, not wanting another thing to contend with, and I would stick with that choice in the future, but I will definitely go the two cap route next time around. That way if I lose the race cap, oh well, there is another underneath.  That's about the only significant race advice you're going to get from me, so file it.

I rounded the buoy and headed back, ending up 12th in my age group and visibly pissed off when I hit land.  My happy place had not been at all happy, but I dropped that thought and headed for transition, only to feel a slap on my butt as Moe caught up and said "tag, you're it".  I knew it was the last time I would see her for a couple hours, and I was so proud of how well she swam.  She listened to every bit of advice I offered and put it to use, and then she proceeded to shine.  Like any good swim coach, I was busting with pride.

I had decided a long time ago to take this race and make it my own.  I wanted to take extra time in transition to make sure my feet were dry, my socks were on right and I had everything I needed.  Extra transition time goes against everything a true triathlete does, but it was important to me to not have to stop to adjust things.  And I needed to breathe.

I ran my bike to the start and hopped on.  My past experience proved that you do not take a mountain bike to a triathlon so I had done some homework and visited the local bike shop to get fitted for a decent seat and hybrid tires.  Wow, what a difference that made.  I actually beat my bike time from 12 years ago, even though I was passed by 50+  people who either called out "on your left" or "Go Mom Go", reading the back of my Casey designed shirt.  Of course I preferred the latter.

And because it's me - I am going to go on a little tirade here.  In the bike leg, if there is an ENTIRE road open and I am ALREADY on the right of it, is it really necessary to scream "ON YOUR LEFT" as you pass me?  I suspect not, and I suspect this is some sort of ego boosting, if-you-were-a-guy-you-would-have-a-boner sort of inflation you need to make yourself feel good.  But me?  I think you kind of suck. And I think you truly suck if you were the girls that never, not once, bothered to acknowledge the hundreds of people in bright green t shirts that came out on a Sunday morning to voluntarily cheer for YOU.  I really don't think you lose precious seconds by flashing a smile, and believe me, you missed the whole point if you blew past these amazing fans without a thought.  By the second bike loop, the older couple in their lawn chairs outside  their house pegged me as there's "the girl who always smiles".  I loved those people, and I appreciate everyone who volunteers for these type of things. You rock.

The bike leg included the inevitable hills, and here was where I wished I could have an actual triathlon bike.  Here is where I chatted myself up BIG TIME about how strong I was, how I was going to beat this hill and fly down, alternating with giggling because the "ON YOUR LEFT" screamers were now reduced to breathlessly panting it as they struggled by.

At the bottom of the hill you turned right, and there was a parking lot to your left.  It caught my eye because my favorite coffee shop; Biggby Coffee was there.  As I was going past I saw a girl in red, jumping up and down and yelling "Go Kim, Go!".  On closer inspection I saw that it was Susie, a nurse I worked with who lived in Howell and got up early on her Sunday morning to cheer.  For me.  She came to cheer for me.  How awesome is that?  Awesome enough for me to say it again - if you are ever considering volunteering or cheering someone on who is involved in any sort of big race, you should do it.  You have NO idea how motivating it is to see a familiar face and how it kicks you into the gear you didn't think you had left.  Susie Papson, I will never forget what you did for me.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I finished the bike, thankful for the brick workouts Will had suggested. Previously my Old Lady Hip had been on fire after the bike, but the brick workouts taught me to work with it and move slower while stretching it out. Amazingly, Old Lady Hip was not giving me too much trouble.  Whether adrenaline or intervention of the Gods, I thank her for taking the day off.  I grabbed Moe's Made in Detroit hat (I used  wedding rules for the tri - something borrowed, something blue etc.) and prepared to face my nemesis, The Run.

There are people who catch the virus of running.  It creeps up on them, as viruses do, and before they know it they are attacked and have the magical running virus.  They embrace their new sport, sing it from the rooftops, post their times, and spread their new virus to everyone they know.

Everyone except me, who apparently has been well vaccinated. I am immune to the running virus.  But I press on, hoping that one day my tolerance will be low and I will catch it, thus becoming one of the Greyhound/Gazelle/Jamaican Sprinter runners I visualize as I slog through my miles.  The same ones I am watching now, coming to the finish line as I start the last leg of my tri.

Time to move, time for tunes.  Digging around in the front of my bra I turned on my speaker and hit play.  I am not stupid, I know this will never fly at future races and will never do it again, but today my music was a security blanket that I desperately needed.  I fell into step, fell into breath and headed toward the cemetery with Amy Lee's strong beautiful voice drifting up from my boobs.

I had three goals when I started the race that day. Number one was to finish.  Number two was to smile the whole time and enjoy every moment.  Number three was the most important to me.  It was: never, ever to walk during the run. For me, it would not have seemed like I truly accomplished the tri if I walked the run. I respect that you have to do what you have to do, but this was my promise to myself, the part that made it real and the challenge I put up for the athlete that still resides in my heart.

As I anticipated, Moe lapped me on my first pass through the cemetery.  She warned me of a big hill that was at the end of the first loop and as she went by said "YOU. DO. NOT. WALK. THAT. HILL. Big long powerful strides up the hill.  You Can DO THIS".  And away she went, like a real gazelle.  Long legs flying and looking like the runner she has been since I met her in high school.  How totally appropriate that this was when the "FALK" headstone came into view. It needed to be done. So with the Beastie Boys playing from my boobs and the thought of the big hill ahead, I acknowledged the late Mr. Falk at the top of my lungs.  And I felt pretty damn good about it. Sometimes you just need a good falk to make yourself feel better.

Running, running, running over dirt, wood chips, gravel.  I kept running.  I ran up the big hill and down the big hill and smiled for the man who was wildly cheering for me as I entered the second and final loop. I read tombstones and ran for young people who didn't get the chance to run enough in their life.  I ran for the people in pictures who smiled at me from their marble headstones.  I just ran, and it felt really, really good.

As I approached the road leading to the big hill, I was alone.  A lot of people had passed me, and I wasn't really sad, just reflective about where I had been, and where I was now.  I knew in my heart I could finish this, even if it was going to be alone, and well after the people I came here with.  I looked up and saw a figure running the wrong way down the path, I wondered who would run the wrong way with everyone there to direct you.  And I stopped wondering when I saw that it was Moe.

She had finished.  She had taken off her medal and her timing chip and she had come back to run.  With me.  She came to help me get over that hill, a reality and a metaphor at the same time. She came to be my friend.

Up the hill I went for the last time that day.  Up the hill as she reminded me all the things that hill represented. To the top of the hill as she reminded me that my husband and daughter were waiting for me.  Down the hill as I cried for the first time that day.  Down the path as we headed for the finish line together.

I am crying as I type this.  There are so many things in life that are uncertain, unhappy, emotionally and mentally draining.  But when you know you have people in your corner that will never give up on you; how can you stop trying?  As I ran toward the finish I promised myself to never stop trying.

Our daughters came into view.  Casey and Natalie, three months apart in age, polar opposites in looks, quite alike in whimsy.  Jumping and screaming and waving a sign that as I got closer read "Go Mom Go!" with the appropriate 11 year old girl hearts, music notes and smiley faces plastered all over it.  People on the hill at the finish clapping, cheering, pointing me to the end.  The end, it was right in front of me.  I just had to run a little more.  I was tired, and like every single time I got tired that day, something happened to keep me going.  That something was this:

      The Danskin People let our daughters and my friend help me bring it on home.

So I did.

I got my medal, looked for my husband and let the tears come.  Just for a little bit, because those tears weren't sad ones. I let Bill's words into my head and stored them for future moments when I would need them to lift me up.  I posed for the pictures and found my stuff and declined the invitation to go out to breakfast because at that point, I just wanted to go home and eat bacon there.  Bill made me the best omelette I have ever had after a shower where I discovered the reason I did not run like a gazelle.  A fat leech, stuck to my ankle, full of the amazing running ability that he had spent all morning sucking out of me.

That's the story I'm going with, anyway.

This is the end of my triathlon post.  But it's also another chapter of my journey to being a healthier, happier Kim.  And it very well may be the beginning of the book that's titled "You Too Can Get Your Shit Together at 47".  I am off to start training again.  I have a 10K to run on Thanksgiving, because everyone needs to own a Turkey Bitch. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tri-ing Again, Part One.

Last year at this time I had blown off the second triathlon I had signed up for.

I was angry, dejected and bitter. How dare this surgery not have made me lose everything I wanted?  How dare it be more successful for literally everyone around me that had it?  How dare it be a year later and I am STILL fighting?


It's now two years since my gastric sleeve surgery. I am still fighting. And if you are considering weight loss surgery, you need to know that it WILL NOT do all the work for you.  It will not repair your head or the scabs on your heart.  You will continue to be your own worst enemy unless you embrace that fact.

However, two years later I realize that there is a difference between bitching about it and fighting for it.  I remembered, painfully, that this had to be what I was going to make of it.  Just me.  This is me, evolving very slowly.

Often, I need a major face slap to knock my goals in line and take stock of the important things.  I am fortunate to have some very strong women in my life that aren't afraid to do that for me. (I suspect they rock-paper-scissors with each other for the privilege).  So when Moe sent me an email in the spring inviting me to participate in Danskin's Sprint Triathlon, I put some real thought into it.  Her invitation included options - be the swimmer in a relay team, do the half sprint, do the whole tri, check out the website and decide.  No pressure. This is the gentle version of the face slap, just so you know.

I clicked over to the site and pondered the choices, halting to a stop when I saw the "Athena" category, which I have pasted here for you:

 You WANT to be scored against women who are above 150 lbs (pursuant to USAT Rules for Athena)
You compete on an individual basis within your “age group” BUT you will be scored against all other participants (regardless of age) who checked off ATHENA when entering
You will receive an Official Race time within the Athena category
You will be eligible for Awards (top three) within the Athena category

What.  The. Hell.

150 pounds.  Is fat.  If you are a Danskin Triathlete.  If you are me, it is your god damned goal weight.  It is a size 8.  It is I can buy the thong and walk through the neighborhood in it.  It is my nirvana.  

Then and there, I clicked "Sprint Triathlon Age Group Category", dropped $100 bucks and a large amount of attitude along with it.  Then I called Moe and said, "I am signed up, I am not swimming for anyone, I am not in the half sprint, I am not in the fatties race, I am in the sprint and I am going to OWN THIS BITCH.

Big slap.  BIG SLAP!  Did you hear it?  Because I felt it.

And so it began.  I bought the brightest funnest running shoes I could find.  I found sites like this:  Plus Runner - and read every entry . I stole the good goggles from my daughter.  I built a playlist.  I got new tires on the bike I rode 12 years ago, and thought about it, and got an awesome seat too.  And then, I trained.

I trained as "That Girl".  The girl you see running slowly down the street in her baggy, un-runnerish clothing. The girl in the lane that you didn't think she should be in at lap swim.  (Competitive swimmers get fat - but they don't forget how to swim).  The girl who rode the bike endlessly around the mile track at the park because she wasn't ready for hills.  The girl that you are glad you're not while you are driving by, but you hope she succeeds because at least, she is trying. 

In between trying, I tried to fit life, work, and all the crap that comes with it.  I was not always successful.  I sometimes chose sleep over a run.  I often chose alcohol the night before a training session, because drinks with my husband or friends are things I treasure and won't give up.  I read and cheered as my friend's daughter Alida did a play by play of her own friend competing in (and conquering) his first Ironman.  I was inspired. I decided that while I will never be an Ironman, I could definitely be a Sprint Triathlete again.

The week before the tri was emotionally taxing.  Since this post is not about that, I refer you to my prior one.  The Friday before the race involved me coming off 4 days of work, 3 missed days of training and like a miracle - a morning run that gave me a glimpse of that elusive epiphany that makes people sign up for marathons.  I don't love running.  I never will.  But damn, it works.  Since starting to run I began losing weight again, my pants are looser and I feel my abdominal muscles.   How did I celebrate this?  By staying up with my husband, drinking Johnny Walker Black out of his Bladerunner rocks glass and talking until 3am.  Sometimes the wrong decisions are the right ones in disguise.

Four of us were racing together.  Moe and her two friends Candace and Amy. We picked up our race packets Saturday and reviewed the course.  We swam in the lake so we could get the muck and seaweed factor straight in our head.  We walked the run, which led through a cemetery next to the lake.  I noted that there was a stone that said "Falk" and decided when I was in the pain I  anticipated I would be in at that point, I could yell "FALK" and blame it on reading tombstones if someone had a problem with it.  A half mile down I found another stone that said "Fockstoff" and filed that one, too.  I drove home and hydrated all day, because that is what  iWill - Ironman Rock Star  told me to do when he patiently answered my emails loaded with training questions.  I hydrated a little more, to cover last night's JW Black debacle.  I packed my bag.  And just to calm my fears - I made a decision to stuff a little speaker with my iPod duct taped to it down my bra for the run.  Sometimes you just need to break the rules a little and all the time -  I just plain run better when there is music. The penalty for this infraction? Not being eligible for placement awards.  Yeah, now you see why I wasn't that concerned. 

I spent the night at Moe's, where I dreamed about whales swimming under me while I raced.  She woke me up at 4:30 with coffee (I just love that about her) and said "Let's do this".  I ate my English muffin and canadian bacon and stopped at 2 cups of coffee (sorry, Will this is why you do the Ironman and I do not) and began the hydrating routine again. We took off - more awake than I have ever been at 5:30am.   

I had stuffed all the anger I had built up over the last few days into the back of my head. Slowly, I tried to reprocess it and make it work to my advantage.   I smiled as I read the words Travis sent, sad that he would miss this but happy he had a job to go to.  I thought strong thoughts.  I thought about the people who loved me, who were texting me early on their Sunday morning to wish me luck and I breathed all that love in.   I was as ready as I was going to get.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Velveteen Rabbit

I study myself in the mirror a lot lately.  I haven't written about my weight loss journey in a while, although it is moving along at the slow but steady clip I expected it to. I promise pictures and an update; soon.

I just don't want to write about that tonight, though.  That's another post.

Tonight I want to write about growing up.  Growing old. The other journey I am taking, like it or not.

Last night I took care of a beautiful 87 year old lady.  I triaged her from the stretcher, where the EMS crew had carefully moved her; treating her with the respect and dignity she deserved.  I am passionate about our elderly patients.  They are the ones that have paid into this ridiculous system their entire lives.  Too often they are treated like castaways, and people are too busy to take the time to care about them.  But I do.  My friend Michael says that the elderly are "little pieces of history", which I think is brilliant.  I have a love for old people that keeps me at my job when I would much rather walk out the door and never look back.

As part of my triage, I asked my beautiful patient how tall she was, pen poised to write the standard five foot six or so.  When she replied "I am six feet tall", I paused and looked at her long legs hanging over the end of the stretcher and then looked her up and down.  "I'm 145 pounds" she said, making me cringe at my goal weight number that I often feel I will never see again.  

I stopped writing, put my pen in my pocket and said to her; "Miss P, you are a beautiful woman, have you always been six feet tall, or were you taller in your youth?"  "Oh Baby," she said, "I was a dancer, I was six foot two inches, but age has robbed me of my full height.
Now I am getting shorter every year, and I just hate it."

Age, the great equalizer.  Someone walking by this woman, regarding her as an old lady on a stretcher, would see just that.  But someone that had the pleasure of a conversation received a gift - the vision of a young, graceful dancer with her head held high, legs extended, arms regally moving like water through a stream.  I know this because I could see it in her eyes.  They sparkled.  They danced.  And I fell in love with yet another elderly patient; a little piece of history.  The thing that keeps me in the door of nursing.

My body is changing.  From the surgery, and from the great equalizer of age.  I could be a pessimist and focus on the sags, the etch a sketch screen of stretch marks, the lines on my face, the hair that I cannot bring myself to let go gray.  But I am a more forgiving person now.  I see stretch marks that brought me babies and lessons and skin that survived the period of my life that taught me to keep fighting.  The lines in my face? They came from smiling, definitely from laughing, and from the contentment of the things I love. The ever present coin slot between my eyebrows that presents when I am concentrating, sagging in defeat, darkened by anger or moved to tears by the sound of my daughter's singing.  My scars are art - the composition of everything I am.  And I can live with that.

One of my favorite books is The Velveteen Rabbit.  I believe that from reading it at a young age, I gained an understanding of what beauty really is.  I want to share with you my favorite paragraph, because I believe it epitomizes the path to growing old and the reason you should find some peace in your lines and sags.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Someday when I am old, I hope someone looks into my eyes and can see them dancing.