Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who is JAN?

As of today, May 25, 2010, all the beds in my house have clean sheets. Who knows when such a flurry of domestic activity will happen again, so I thought I ought to make a note of the date.

I haven't been writing much because I haven't been doing much. I could tell you about the entire weekend I spent searching for Mr. McP's bass bow, which we never found, by the way. The bass is still here, so where did the bow go? An entire effing weekend. Do you know how many places a bass bow can hide in. I cleaned under all the beds. I moved the piano. I moved the fridge. I moved the G. D. washer and dryer. What would a bass bow be doing under-or-behind the washing machine? I don't know. What was the pair of pointe shoes doing in the mitten basket? The stethoscope diaphragm with the breakfast cereal. The phone number of one JAN B in the medicine cabinet. The scrap of paper under my dresser that says, in my handwriting, in red ink: CHELSEA HOTEL. SLOWEST ELEVATORS IN THE WORLD. NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. Why is there a bottle of yellow acrylic paint with the cooking oil? Why has the random basket on the dryer become the official storage space for library cards and those horrid 1-800-THELOST ID cards our school district insists on making for my children each year. Why is Miss G's Christmas stocking in my desk drawer? We couldn't find it at Christmas, despite searching everywhere and she had to have a makeshift stocking--a plastic Food Lion bag or something of that nature.

I am a single mother for ten days because Jon went off to Santa Fe to sit in a Buddhist monastery and work on mindfulness. I should probably keep my nasty cynical thoughts to myself, but why set a precedent now? I wouldn't mind spending ten days in silence, with thrice-daily food offerings from Martha Stewart's former chef, but I am already So Fucking Mindful, I guess I don't need this training. Right now I am mindful of the fact that my house smells like dogs and feet. I am so mindful of it that it is difficult to think about anything else. Jon, on the other hand, can plop himself down on a couch that smells like newspapers that have been left in a garage for fifty years, peel his socks off and toss them out into the room, put his feet on the coffee table that is cluttered with detritus that is apparently invisible to him, call for a beer and watch infuriating TV shows like "House" or "Law & Order: SVU."

I am reading Herodotus' Histories, which is not as boring as it sounds. Oh, there are dry passages, but Herodotus has a casual, gossipy writing style and he likes to insert his little joke here and there. Actually, there are probably lots more jokes that go over my head, but I did get the one about the Spartans being the equivalent of the Vermonters of the classical world.

*Update: we actually found the missing bass bow behind the piano, four years later.  The odd thing is, that during our original search, we definitely looked behind the piano.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Schmonion

New Orleans—A BP spokesperson announced yesterday that the oil company is turning to the works of L. Frank Baum for inspiration in containing the oil spewing from an undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico. "We've found some great ideas in Glinda of Oz," says Chris P. Lettuce of BP. In that story, an impregnable glass dome can be raised and lowered from the bottom of a lake. BP is attempting to construct a similar dome that could contain the oil. Another Baum tale with possibilities is Tik Tok of Oz. The chapter titled "A Terrible Tumble Through a Tube" describes a magic tube that transports people and objects from one side of the earth to the other. "BP could make use of that technology," says Lettuce. "The oil could be swiftly and harmlessly deposited on the other side of the earth for some other nation to deal with." A final inspiration comes from Ozma of Oz in which the girl ruler of Oz steals a magic belt from the wicked Nome King which gives her the ability to make all her wishes come true. "Our engineers are working on it, " says Lettuce.

Most recently, BP announced plans to suck the oil out of the well using a mile-long tube. "That was my eight-year old son's idea," admits Lettuce. In its quest to contain the leak, BP is mining other works of fantasy and science fiction for ideas and, according to their spokesperson, has staff members reading the works of J. R. R. Tolkein, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey and the Brothers Grimm. When asked what would happen if the fairy tales produced no useful ideas, Lettuce said simply, "We're fucked."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just things

Ever since I went off orientation, at the beginning of January, I've been anticipating caring for an unstable patient . Not that I want an unstable patient, but I knew it was inevitable and the longer my stretch of stable patients lasted, the more I felt like the specter of a truly sick patient was my Sword of Damocles. Oh, I've had patients with issues, chest pain that turned out to be nothing, low blood pressure, although asymptomatic and with a normal heart rate, people who were violent or going through DTs, etc, but other than one incident when I was still on orientation, no patient who suddenly became critically ill.

Monday, my patient had been fine all night. I took his vital signs myself at 04:00 and they were normal. He said he felt OK and declined an offer of pain medication. At 06:00 I spoke to the patient and he was fine and by 06:20 he was having severe breathing difficulty. I did what I could for him in the room and then I paged the doctor who came up shortly and ordered a chest x-ray, labs, lasix. Luckily, we have a roaming team of critical care nurses that we can page who will assist in cases like this. I don't know what I would have done without that critical care nurse, who brought a monitor (we don't have cardiac monitors on my floor), got respiratory therapy in the room with a bipap machine, and had the confidence to handle a situation that was beyond my experience. Before long, general medicine doctors were in the room, and anesthesia, and the patient was intubated. The anesthesiologist handed the critical care nurse some IV pushes of sedation drugs, for the elevator ride to the ICU, in case he started to wake up, and then she was gone. This represented a level of nursing far above mine: pushing anesthesia drugs in an elevator. That's why I'm an acute care nurse and not a critical care nurse. I would like to do critical care, but not until I have more experience.

After the arrival of the critical care nurse, I did feel somewhat separated from the patient's care. I pushed a few drugs, I got an EKG, I tried to provide emotional support to the patient, but in general I felt like my function was reduced to errand running. (And I still had four other patients to care for.) But that was OK, I definitely learned a lot from the whole experience and I will feel more confident the next time I have a respiratory emergency.

Another career advance: I've been accepted at the University of Virginia and will be continuing my nursing education. I have mixed feelings about it. I'm glad to have been accepted, but I don't know if I can handle more school. Even now, with just a job to worry about, I am exhausted all the time. I can't sit in a comfortable chair for more than ten minutes without falling asleep. I am stiff and sore all over, all the time. And there's my family to consider. Mr. McP cried when he heard I'd been accepted at UVA and the other kids aren't happy about it either.

In other news, Drama Queen was accepted into the Governor's School summer residency program. This is the thing for which she interviewed in January, when we had to do an emergency repair to her sculpture with dental floss because that's all I had in my purse. It means an entire month away from home, and we are not allowed to visit and she will not be allowed a cell phone. The only way we will be able to communicate with her is in writing. Letters, that is, not email.

And Mad Scientist is definitely going away to New York for college. He had a phone interview with his adviser and is registered for classes, and we're awaiting his dorm assignment. He's supposed to be there on August 25th, although how we will manage that when my school starts August 21, is beyond me.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


The other day, Mr. McP sent a mass email to all his teachers letting them know he had been sick, and asking for makeup work. The letter, which contained no gross spelling or grammar errors was nonetheless written by a fifth grader and read like it was written by a fifth grader. But here's the thing: all his teachers assumed the letter had been written by me, despite the fact that Mr. McP used his personal email account with his own name as the email address. They all replied to "Mrs. Crabstick." I'm not sure which is best: to respond to the teachers' emails and casually let them know that it was Mr. McP who had written them, or just let them think I have the writing style of a ten year old. I'm leaning toward doing nothing. The school year is almost over anyway.

In a similar vein, I caught Mr. McP teaching himself to forge my initials, so that he could sign off his weekly practice sessions in his orchestra practice record. I signed the form for him, but he was dissatisfied with my messy handwriting and erased all my initials and substituted them with his forged version. It was just one year ago that he called me, tearful, when I was at school, because I'd forgotten to sign his math test and I had to beg him to just forge my name, that it would be OK, that his teacher wouldn't know the difference, that, Christ, I was authorizing him to sign my name for me.

Last summer, Jon sold my old Volvo wagon without consulting me. We had taken it off the road but I'd had plans to fix it up for Mad Scientist and Drama Queen. Two random guys who were walking by offered cash on the spot and said they'd come back later to collect the car. The whole transaction occurred while I was in the shower. I was a little nonplussed, mainly because Jon had sold the car for about 1/8 of what it was worth and it was my car, after all. My. Fucking. Car. Later, one evening when he'd been drinking, he allowed a neighbor to freely help himself to parts from the car he had just sold to someone else—my car, if I may remind you—and the value of these parts was far more than what he'd accepted for the entire car which no longer belonged to us, anyway. I was more than nonplussed, I was pissed. Two months later, the guys who had bought the car came by to collect it. I was glad they didn't seem to notice the missing rear seat, which is probably worth $300, and the missing glove compartment, and the missing struts that held up the tailgate, which were new, by the way since I'd had them replaced shortly before abandoning the Volvo for my new car. I signed over the title, and Jon told the guys to please take it to the DMV and get the car titled in their own names. The only advantage in selling the car was to not have to pay personal property tax on it anymore, and to allow the unfettered growth of our brush pile. I was ready to forget the whole incident until yesterday when I got a bill from the City of Charlottesville for personal property tax for that G.D. car. The amount of the tax is about 2/3 of the amount Jon sold the car for. I was no longer nonplussed or pissed, I was a full-on raging harridan. Jon simply couldn't see what the problem was. "Just call the DMV." he said. "I'm sure this happens all the time." What is more infuriating than calm reasonableness in the face of fury? Whether or not this happens all the time isn't the point. The point was that why should I have to spend the day on hold and then deal with the DMV. Who "just" calls the DMV? I couldn't even remember the name of the guy who'd bought the car. It was something like Ron Jackson or Don Johnson or John Wilson. It occurred to me that "he sold my car without my consent" could be refigured as, "He stole my car," and while I wouldn't actually press charges against my husband for theft, the thought of doing just that was a satisfying daydream for about ten minutes.

Jon, in order to make restitution, called the DMV for me. They needed to speak to me personally, but at least he was the one who had to wait on hold for half an hour. The DMV was surprisingly obliging. I guess this sort of thing does happen all the time. Within two hours, we had an official "sale date" and then Jon called the City of Charlottesville and they are sending me a form to sign in which I swear on my mother's grave and the health of my children that I did, in fact, sell the car and am not trying to weasel my way out of paying property tax.