Hi, We’re the New People in the Building

Don’t let this face fool you.

This cat is an asshole. She derives some sort of feline pleasure from occasionally tormenting our dog Petra … she will threaten her by not allowing her to pass by or walk through a door or she will latch on to the back of Petra’s neck or nip her ears. It’s not something I condone or allow, but I don’t always catch it before it happens. When it does happen … everyone, but everyone, knows. Because Petra screams at the top of her little Chihuahua lungs just as if someone were trying to murder her. Now you might say, of course she does! I would too!  But the thing is, Shaylee doesn’t always actually make contact, and when she does, it’s not as horrific as it sounds.  Shaylee’s intent is not to hurt so much as to amuse herself. Remember, I did say she was an asshole.

The key thing here to remember is, Shaylee doesn’t always make contact. Sometimes she just gives Petra the ol’ cat stink-eye. However, if she’s stalking Petra and Petra knows it, Petra will scream … figuring the best offense is a good defense, I guess. Scare ‘em off with crazy.

This sibling intimidation hasn’t happened in a while and I can only assume that rather than the fulfillment of my hope for a peaceful, harmonious familial unit, it was instead simply because Shaylee was a little rattled after the move to the condo we now call home. (I will digress here a moment just to mention that unlike the noise dampening construction you might expect in privately owned condos, ours is more like your standard apartment building … we’re all well aware of what everyone else is doing at any point in time.)

At any rate, round about midnight last night, I’m pretty sure the neighbors think I killed my dog.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Nurse’s Week: A Little Fun with Nurses

Let me start by saying that nurses are some of the hardest working people on the planet.  The garbage you all see and put up with is a constant source of amazement to me.  I’d like to wish each nurse and med tech out there, Happy Nurse’s Week; you all deserve some recognition.

I’d like to give a special nod to one particular nurse who cared for my father after his recent back surgery (a big middle finger to cancer, by the way).  Her bedside manner was quite appropriate … if we were all three-year olds.  Picture yourself talking to a puppy or kitten; this is a good approximation of how she acted around us, or I should say, around my dad.  To the rest of us, she was just “normal.” She was trying to be nice, I get that, she had an awesome bedside manner, but she came off as just a wee bit condescending … or sarcastic which is even better. Now, she was dealing with my dad so she should probably be forgiven, but I will say this: it was hilarious to the rest of us.

In the recovery room where he had to lay flat for like a gazillion hours straight, my father told her his back hurt, and she nodded in rapt understanding.  “Do you know why that is?” she asked.  We all leaned in, holding our collective breath, waiting for the medical pearls of wisdom we were sure she was about to share with us.  She touched my dad’s hand ever so comfortingly and looked so wise, and then she told him, “Because you had that procedure on your back this morning.” And then she nodded sagely with the sweetest smile on her face. At that moment I realized:  I, too, could be a nurse … I’ve got the sarcastic bedside manner down pat if not any form of medical training whatsoever.  I wonder if she uses that same soothing-seemingly-helpful-yet-in-reality-sarcastic-kindergarten-teacher-type voice with all her patients, and I wonder if she uses it on her coworkers or in general daily interactions.  If so, I like her more and more.

As you all are aware, my mind tends to wander, and we all know how dangerous that can be.  As I watched the nurses scurry back and forth under the crushing demands of patients and doctors, I thought of ways I could brighten their day.  Or, drive them crazy.  Here is a short list of fun ideas I had.

Page fictional nurses and doctors:  Nurse Ratchet, Dr. Who, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Doolittle…you get the idea.

Bring empty beer cans and stash them all over the room:  Look innocent when the staff questions you.

Start doing a stand-up comedy routine on the overhead system:  “What’s the deal with hospital food?”

Grab a set of scrubs and a clipboard and wander the hallway looking concerned:  Added plus for muttering phrases like “That leech treatment sure didn’t work, I’m not sure what could’ve went wrong, they were fresh leeches” or “We never covered vampire bites in medical school.”  Even more points if you tell a nurse to order a “Wingdang KPT frontal scan of the terrapin flimflam on Mrs. Smith.  STAT!”  Extra extra points if you stop a visitor, make up a disease and ask them what they think of your treatment plan for your patient.

Call fictional codes in areas of the hospital that don’t exist:  Code purple pinstripe, rumpus room.  Repeat, code purple pinstripe, rumpus room.

Clip a positive pregnancy test to a male patient’s chart:  Yeah, this one’s just fun across the board.

Attach a page of Egyptian hieroglyphics to charts:  It actually may be easier for them to read than the doctor’s hand writing.

Every time the overhead speaker is used, run to the nurse’s station: “Was that for me!?  I missed it.”

Or, whenever the overhead speaker is used, act terrified: “The voices!  They told me I wouldn’t hear the voices anymore!”  or “God?  Is that you?”

Stand backwards in the elevator:  Loudly proclaim to all who enter that it is the longest elevator ride you have ever been on and you’ve been waiting for the doors to open for an hour.

Secretly replace all the names on the white board with celebrity names: The nurses get to take care of Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Beyoncé all in the same shift!  OR, better yet, Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po.

Attach sheets together to make a rope, put one end in the toilet, and hide under the bed:  Listen to your nurse try to explain what happened to you to Security.

In all seriousness, though, I have this to say to all the nurses out there: YOU ALL ROCK! It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. I sure don’t envy you your jobs, BUT I do appreciate that you are there, helping people. Every. Damn. Day. From the family members sitting next to our loved ones, anxious and afraid, Thank You for all you do.  We need you, and we love you all.

Happy Nurse’s Week!

Dear Mom – Things They Don’t Teach in School

Yesterday. Whew. What a long day, for all of us.

Dad had the biopsy on his lungs yesterday.  To say I was nervous and afraid is an understatement.

I decided to tag along to keep you company.  You’re my mom, but you’re so much more.  My friend, my confidant, my rock.  And dad?  He has always, always been there for me, no matter what. So of course, I was going to be there for him.

While thinking of you both last night, after all was said and done, I took a moment to reflect on the differences that separate us, and also those that connect us, as they do in any family.  Politics?  Please.  Social issues?  Ugh, no way. I have no doubt that you feel the same. I mean, I got my attitude from somewhere, right? Yet, through it all, I love you.  More than you will ever know.  You’ve done so much over the years for me; I want to be there for you like you are always there for me.

This is not to toot my horn, so to speak. Instead, it’s meant to offer up a heartfelt apology.

Yeah, I choked.  Sure, I’m great at the lighthearted stuff.  I can gossip about the mailman and tell terrible jokes with the best of them in an attempt – perhaps, a misguided attempt – to keep your mind off things.  I can distract you from the bigger picture, if only for a little while, with any number of sarcastic and witty (in my own eyes, at least) observances. I can get super-charged and angry on your behalf; whether it’s at people or situations, I’ll gladly take it on to save you the stress or heartache.  But the serious stuff?  I’m at a loss.

They never taught this stuff in school.

Mom and dad, I wanted to say the right things.  I wanted to do the right things, to offer comfort, hope, and a bit of light in the darkness.  I just am so ridiculously backwards and awkward in serious situations that I don’t know what to say or do. It’s almost funny. Except, it’s not.

I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk or knowing what to say in a painful, frighteningly serious situation.  And I was scared.  Just like you were.  I’m sorry I’m not better at comforting you; I truly wish I knew how.

I hope you both know that I love you more than anything in this world.  I will always be there for you, no matter how awkward or backward I may be at the reassurances and encouragements and comforting phrases.

My heart feels it, oh boy does my heart feel it; if only my mouth could say it.

 

Home is Where the Heart is

I’ve heard so many people repeat the old adage, “Home is where the heart is.”  Home is also where my Oreo cookies and Doritos are, along with my collection of dust bunnies and dirty laundry.  But what exactly do people mean when they say, “Home is where the heart is?”

I feel a sense of home in places where I’ve never actually lived.  To me, West Virginia is home because of all the fond memories I have of spending summers there with my family.  My grandparents just felt like home. Going off the main road and into the holler, I was home. As strange as it might sound, I also feel a sense of kinship and nostalgia for places I’ve never even visited, like Ireland.  Perhaps more moving (for me at least), I feel a strong sense of calm and peace when my kids are both home for dinner or a holiday celebration. They are home to me. I feel that at that time, my home is heaven on earth; I feel that the world could collapse outside the four walls of my physical house and the three of us would be just fine.

The other day I was out with my daughter, and she started feeling sick.  She wanted to go home.  Now home wasn’t going to be a magical place where she would immediately start feeling better, and she knew that.   She just needed to be in her own space, her own place, and the one spot in the world where she felt comfortable.  It isn’t the brick and mortar home that she needed, it was the feeling that she needed.  At that point, she needed to be on her couch, surrounded by cats, and the things she knows and loves.  This house, or rather, the feeling that it evokes, is our home. My daughter doesn’t much care for our current house.  Neither do I, if I’m being honest. We don’t like the location and we feel we have never truly belonged here.  Even though we are moving in the somewhat near future, this is still our spot on the map, our space, our home.

I remember on 9/11, my now-ex-husband and I were out and about (trying to find a computer repair shop, actually) … I think most adults remember where they were that day.  As the tragedy unfolded, all I wanted was to be home. It just so happened that home was my parents.  Never mind that I was married with kids and a house of my own, I needed to be with my family.  My husband never understood that, and in fact, he even got angry with me for wanting us to be with my folks and not just “depending” on him.  His sense of home never included extended family (mine or his); he always viewed extended family as “outsiders.” On the long list of reasons we are no longer married, this one is certainly in the top five.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. “Home,” not 9/11. What makes a home a home?  Home is where …

  • The pajamas are: If you can roll out of bed without brushing your hair and lay on that couch with the lump in the one cushion and the mystery stain on the armrest without giving a darn, you are home.  Or Wal-Mart, but most likely, home.
  • The laughter is: Your walls hold the keys to your happiness.  Every good thing that has happened is memorialized in the kitchen, the living room, or the bedroom.  You share the gift of laughter freely in the rooms of your home.
  • The tears are: Where were you when the phone rang with some piece of unbelievable, heartbreaking news?  When you hung up the phone, you collapsed on your couch or bed and just cried.  Your home heard your tears and surrounded you with comfort in the face of unbelievable heartache.
  • Your family is: No matter how old you get, you’re never too old to need your family.  Home follows you from house to house.  It’s transient.  Home is where your parents are, your friends are, or your kids are, and yes, where your cats (and all critters!) are.  Home is where you are surrounded by love.
  • Your snacks are: No matter where you roam, there is only one place with the stockpile of snacks that you truly love.  No need to look around to see who is watching you either, just gorge yourself on those jelly beans.
  • Your stuff is: The finest five-star resort has got nothing on your own bed, couch, or desk.  I suppose the view and the fact that people wait on you might be a bit better at a luxury resort … but there is a level of comfort in your own home that cannot be matched by any high-dollar hotel in the world.  No matter how fun your vacation is, when it’s over, you just want to be back home, surrounded by your duct-taped kitchen faucet and the toilet that doesn’t run right unless you jiggle the handle.
  • Your door is opened, or closed: You can be as welcoming as you’d like, or turn off your lights and hide like it’s Halloween and you just gave out your last Snickers bar.  It’s the freedom to be who you like, when you like, that makes home

I’m not sure that “Home is where the heart is” means the same to everyone.  To some, it is the feeling of the actual house, welcoming and warm through its doors.  To others, it’s family and friends, or pets, and a favorite old movie you’ve seen hundreds of times.  It’s a feeling of nostalgia, of calm, of peace, and of knowing that no matter how rotten you feel physically or mentally, there is a space where you can be free to feel however you are feeling.

To me, it’s a combination of all these things that make me feel like I am home now, and I will be home wherever I wander next.

Signs

In route between my little town and the next biggest town – keeping in mind, over here, these size estimations are all relative – is a billboard advertising a casino located one state over. The message on this billboard changes monthly and often depends on who the headlining entertainer is or what the latest “jackpot” includes, such as $3 million and an SUV, or some such thing.  Anyway, this month’s message is “My casino is my family…” and it had a woman surrounded by happy, smiling, hugging people – presumably casino employees.

On our first drive by this new sign, without missing a beat, my daughter, ever the smart-ass intelligent woman stated “If your casino is your family, then you have a problem. Cause that sounds like an addiction. That’s not a billboard for a casino, that’s a cry for help right there.” Then, having voiced this sage observation, she went back to looking at her phone without another word.

Although her perfect, deadpan delivery doesn’t translate well to the written word, I’m telling you, this girl has a serious shot at a successful stand-up career.

While we wait for my daughter’s future to manifest, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the queen of deadpan herself, Margaret Smith.