Sunday, November 30, 2008


I meant to spend Thanksgiving weekend touching up my resume and applying for nursing jobs. Because now is the time to do this, if you are graduating in May. So I brought up the resume I created last fall, with intent to dust it off and add in my clinical experience, and I realized that my resume is really, really pathetic. Pitiful, really. Pitiful and pathetic.

How did I get to the age of 40 without ever having made a meaningful contribution to society? Unless you consider writing book reviews for the now-defunct East/West Books newsletter in Buffalo, NY to be a meaningful contribution. No? What about spending four years earning a degree with which I have done nothing other than select excellent books for myself at the library? Up to now, my life experience, as presented on my current resume is as inappropriate to a nursing job as if I had listed the following skills: Can parallel park a minivan in downtown Charlottesville. Can use 'milieu' in a sentence. Has well over 100 friends on Facebook.

Seriously, my resume is a catalog of what an insubstantial piece of fluff I have been my entire life.

But that sounds so self-pitying! With the nursing shortage I can probably get some sort of job so don't worry about me, but I do wish there was a less stark method than the resume of selling oneself to a future employer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Protect us from science fair

It's that time of year again: Science Fair time. I remember my consternation when I discovered, when Mad Scientist was in 7th grade and had to do his first science fair project, that science fair is a yearly event, starting in 7th grade and lasting through 12th, and that all four of my children would have to participate. That's twenty-four science fair projects, folks. These are the things you don't think about when you're young and want lots of babies.

The completed project is due in January, or possibly February, but now is the time that the children declare their project and fill out the necessary forms. Miss G, who is in 7th grade, needed more security clearance for her science fair project, than she did to get her US passport. Safety is, of course, a big concern. We don't want our budding scientist to build a particle accelerator that will accelerate his personal particles, or his family's, or possibly his next-door neighbor's, into oblivion. Miss G's forms were particularly focused experimentation on humans or "other vertebrates." Apparently, it is acceptable to torture frogs and other non-vertebrates. Actually, I think the species most likely to suffer torture from the science fair are parents, but there is no special form to protect us.

I know, some parents lovingly help their children create electric dog food dispensers or teach mice to blow on a tiny flute in response to a fluttering red ribbon or whatever. And there's nothing wrong with that. If you are that type of parent, fair play to you and no hard feelings. I, (obviously) am not that sort of parent.

Except for once, when Drama Queen was in 2nd grade and had a teacher who was fond of projects. For the first project, on Egypt, Drama Queen sculpted a replica of the Sphinx from paper clay. It was a good effort, for a seven year old, and she did it all by herself. I helped her bring the Sphinx into school on the day it was due, and saw an array of parent-made projects--I swear there was a freaking life-sized replica of King Tut's tomb. DQ's little Sphinx made a poor showing, and the teacher was enthusiastically gushing over all the projects that the parents had done and ignored DQ's. This led to the awkward (for the teacher) incident in which the principal came to survey the projects and witnessed DQ quietly sneak out of her chair and steal her project from the table and sneak it to the cloakroom where she hid it in her backpack. Apparently, the teacher may have been reprimmanded for not noticing DQ's actions. At least that's what was implied later when I was told about the incident at a "child study" meeting involving the teacher, principal, a social worker and child psychologist because the teacher was concerned about DQ's self-esteem.

Anyway, the second project came along, this one on China. I had decided that if this teacher wanted a parent-made project, she was going to get a parent-made project. DQ's topic was silk worms. At the best fine fabrics shop in town, I bought traditional Chinese silk and a silk of narrow pink & white stripes. From the Chinese silk, I made a doll-sized traditional Chinese native costume. From the striped silk, I made a doll-sized replica regency gown, with train and hand embroidery--this to represent the historical era in which Americans were importing silk from China. I lent DQ my antique dolls to model the clothes and set up a miniature loom in order to demonstrate the weaving process. We brought all these things to school and the teacher went ga-ga over it. At a later conference, she mentioned how great "her"--meaning Drama Queen's-- China project had been. I would have been happier if she'd told me she was disappointed that Drama Queen hadn't made a project by herself, as she had when they'd studied Egypt.

Since then, we've had teachers who do insist that children do their own work on projects. There have even been a few--may they be canonized--who set aside class time for project completion so the parents need never be involved at all.

So the silk project was the only time I was ever a successful parent project facilitator. Well, there was the time I took pity on Mad Scientist and helped him recreate a model of an animal cell. I thought I was so clever for using clear jello for the protoplasm, and blue jello for the nucleus and strips of gum for the endoplastic reticulum, only I was sadly unaware of the ban on food in projects and mice got into the classroom and ate Mad Scientist's cell and the teacher was not impressed at all.

Where was I? Right, Science Fair. With Mad Scientist in college, and Drama Queen in 10th grade, I now have just fifteen Science Fair projects to go.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

paper mache as a weapon of mass destruction

Who knew paper mache could be a weapon of mass-destruction? Or at least, the weapon that mass-destructed my dining room. I was writing my nursing care plan, as I do every Thursday, and suddenly there were gobs of rock-hard flour and water paste on the dining room table and one of my forks was indelibly coated with a rock-hard paper mache veneer, and on the table--a gen-u-wine antique farmhouse table-- a mass of soggy cardboard, shredded newspaper and flour-and-water paste in various stages of hardness.

And I wondered, how did this happen? I remembered hours ago, hearing my nine year old, Mr. McP ask, "Where is the stapler?" I remembered Mr. McP showing up at my elbow every few minutes displaying a somewhat tubular object made of cereal box cardboard, cut into strips and stapled. I remembered that the tubular object had eventually taken the form of some sort of giraffe puppet, but I was so engrossed in my care plan that I did not heed what otherwise would have been clear warning signs that a major mess was about to happen. Mr. McP, bless his little heart, mixed his own flour and water to a consistency satisfactory to him, shredded a large pile of newspaper, and coated his giraffe puppet with it.

Actually, this isn't such a great story. It's just that when I saw the mess, I thought, "here is an example of how paper mache could be used as a weapon of mass destruction" and I liked the phrase so much, I had to use it in a blog entry, which I have, three times, including the title.

The point is, when I am writing a care plan, I can't pay attention to anything else, and when my children ask me questions, such as, for example, "Are you planning to cook dinner tonight?" I will say, "Are you kidding me? It's Thursday." Maybe they ate paper mache for dinner. I don't know, or care. Actually, I think they ate pop tarts.

The other point is that I just finished writing my last nursing care plan of the semester: five pathophysiology papers, one pathopysiology synthesis, analysis of all meds (tommorrow's patient is taking twenty-six different medications), a list of nursing diagnoses--11 diagnoses for this patient, plus an organized schedule of what my nursing interventions will be, covering every hour from 08:00 to 14:00. These will help me attain my goals for my patient, of where there are 11, to match her diagnoses. She will maintain an optimal cardiac output and optimal gas exchange! She will maintain an optimal fluid balance! She will not fall and hit her head and die of a massive head bleed! She will maintain optimal tissue perfusion to her perphery and to her myocardium! She will commit to quit smoking and she will state two strategies for weight loss! She doesn't know it, but I have a very busy day planned for her tomorrow. As one of my instructors says, "You don't go to the hospital to rest."

I will not have to do this again until the end of January, so I am quite giddy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Times have changed

I stole this picture from my high school alumnae group at facebook. (We were taught to say "alumnae" because it's a girls' school.) Anyway, this picture is from the mother-daughter senior breakfast. I think this was the class of '85's breakfast, which was not my class, but close enough.

Check the moms smoking in the school cafeteria! Also, the groovy '80s rainbow painting on the pillars. I remember when they redecorated the cafeteria, which was in the basement. It was a big deal and the new paint was thought to be very modern and up-and-coming.

*Apology to people who may sub to me through google or bloglines. I keep reposting this entry because it's not showing up on C'ville blogs. This has been happening a lot lately. I always have to repost an entry three or four times in order for it to show up. :(

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Psych nursing

Yesterday was my penultimate psych clinical day at Western State Hospital. It was really the last "real" clinical day because next week, we will leave the hospital at noon and go out to lunch with our instructor, which is the tradition for the final clinical day in every class.

The whole experience of clinicals at Western State was a lot more rewarding than I expected it to be. The first day the mental hospital setting seemed mysterious and scary. Would one of us be assaulted? Yelled at? I didn't know what to expect. I had no idea how I was supposed to interact with the patients or what to say. I imagined making an innocent comment that would send a patient off on a tirade.

I worked on a locked, all-male unit of about twenty patients. The staff have been unvariably friendly and helpful. Although I was assigned to one particular patient, I've gotten to know the other men on the unit. They are a group of men who are funny, intelligent and caring. There is a camaraderie among them and sometimes I felt like I was at a boys' boarding school rather than a mental hospital.

There is a cafe at Western State, in the "mall" where many of the patients go for their group therapy classes. The cafe is staffed by, and patronized by patients. My patient works there every morning before group, so it has become my habit to hang around in the cafe in the mornings. It has a sort of groovy retro atmosphere--totally by accident and not by design. Yesterday I sat at the counter on one of the vintage bar stools. The cafe was crowded. Next to me was a patient I recognized from one of my patient's classes. Next to her was a guy who introduced himself to me as "Ed." I knew the people working behind the counter and I recognized many of the other people in the cafe. I drank my coffee and watched my patient make fried egg sandwichs and listened while a patient told me about her grandchildren. I realized I was the only person in the room who wasn't psychotic, but I felt totally comfortable.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Seen in Charlottesville

Isn't it a beautiful day in C'ville today? I saw two things of interest while running errands after class this afternoon. First of all, the city posted a sign at the intersection of Market St. & 9th, reminding drivers that they must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. I think this sign is aimed at people on Market St. who are trying to turn right onto 9th. Yes, drivers, you have a green light, but so do the pedestrians crossing 9th St. at the same time. I'm glad the city is addressing the problem of drivers turning into crosswalks. Nothing pisses me off more than people who think that just because they are behind the wheel of a car, they are entitled to plow past pedestrians. For God's sakes, people: THE PEDESTRIAN HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY. In the last week at two separate times, I saw two women, one with small children, who were menaced by drivers while trying to cross streets downtown. Both these women were crossing the streets correctly and following rules related to pedestrian crossings. I'll say it again: THE PEDESTRIAN HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY, GODDAMMIT. I don't care how much you want to save Tibet or visualize whirled peas or love Mother Earth--if you ram your car at pedestrians, you are an asshole.

The other thing I saw is related to that obnoxious 1-800-GOTJUNK company. The signs they post all over town sure are obnoxious. I'm wondering if they have been cited for posting illegal signs, because it appears their new advertising ploy is to dress a guy in a jacket that advertises the company and have him stand at a busy street corner holding up a sign that says "GOT JUNK?" At least, that is what I saw at the corner of Market St. & Ridge/McIntire today.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


The whole notion of "weekend" is somewhat angst-ified. At least, it is if you read certain periodicals, such as I do, that tell you that on the weekend you must pursue fun and relaxation with the same industry with which you pursue your paycheck during the week. If, by the end of Saturday, you haven't visited the farmer's market, browsed an antique shop, taken a long hike or bike ride, handcrafted a birdhouse or a decorative wreathe, and lovingly prepared a hot stew and homemade cupcakes then what the hell is the matter with you? Sundays are supposed to be for sleeping in or lazing around with the newspaper, but I've noticed an awful lot of bustle in the streets on Sundays, long before I have managed to change out of my pajamas. If you haven't braved the line at the bagel shop by 11:00am then you are a Loser. Our chief entertainment on Sunday mornings is to watch the men who've just been released from the drunk tank struggle up the hill back into town.

Actually, I did make it to Bodo's Bagels this morning, by 9:30, even, when the line, while long, doesn't extend out the door. Usually, I don't mind standing in line at Bodo's because it is always a good opportunity for people watching, and everybody is cheerful because they know they're about to get bagels. Today, however I stood directly behind a woman with two small children, which ordinarily would not be a problem, except that every time the woman moved up in line, she wouldn't check to see that her children were following her, and the fact is, they weren't following her, so there was often a long gap, at the beginning of which was the woman, and at the end, her children with me standing directly behind them trying to assume an unconcerned facial expression when in acuality I was really irritated with this woman for not paying attention. I worried that the people behind me expected me to do something about the situation (like what? give the kids a gentle shove?) or even worse, that the people behind me thought that these two children were mine and that I was at fault for the long line gap. In the end, the older kid, who was all of three, would notice periodically that his mother was far ahead of him and remind his little brother, who was probably two, to catch up, and the line would once again move forward, and the mother was completely oblivious the entire time.

Anyway. For us this weekend, the weather was fine and my children spent much of their time engaged in wholesome outdoor activity with other kids in the neighborhood--they took our rakes to the little park across the street and raked up the mother of all leaf piles to jump in. It was unfortunate that Jon had to work this weekend but I am used to that.

How was everybody's weekend?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day jitters

The last Obama worker to stop at my house cautioned me to expect a two-hour wait in line to vote. Seriously? In my neighborhood precinct in a city of barely 40,000 people? Since I pass close to my polling place on my morning run, my plan is to run a bit earlier tomorrow and stop there on my way back home, right at 6:00am when they open.

Last night, I actually had a nightmare about voting. This year in Charlottesville, we are offered the choice of voting electronically or using a paper ballot. I can't decide which to chose, although I'm leaning toward paper, since I've heard that it is easier to tamper with electronic votes. Since paper hasn't been used here since 2000, there will be special instructions available for the people who chose paper. A friend of mine volunteers at my voting precicnt, something she has always done with great cheerfulness and competance, but last night, in my dream, she presented me with an L.L. Bean Christmas catalog and told me the instructions for paper voting would be found therein. I flipped through pages of dog beds and balsam wreaths, but found no voting instructions, until my friend impatiently took the catalog from me and pulled from it a tiny piece of purple paper she had inserted in it. The tiny piece of purple paper directed me to a "voting class" for which there was a long, disorganized line--the type of line in which it's difficult to tell whose turn is next, the type of line that causes me the most anxiety.

I never did manage to vote in that dream, but awoke soaked in sweat and with a vague sense of terror. I was awake for several minutes before I realized that my anxiety was related to the dream, and that election day hadn't happened yet.

Is anyone else subliminally worried about election day chaos this year?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hair before and after

So people want before/after pics. I'm kind of shy about posting pictures of myself here.

Hair before.

Hair after, although this picture doesn't do justice to it. The stylist must have removed five pounds of hair.

Here's Mr. McP on Halloween. This costume was a big hit wherever we went. Nearly everybody guessed (correctly) that he was Ben Franklin, although a few guessed George Washington, and two people wondered if he was Beethoven.