Sunday, December 25, 2011

christmas marathon...

For weeks you plan, and purchase, and wrap.

And then your 11-year-old turns into a strung-out junkie screaming for your stash.

I couldn't sleep last night, for 1000 reasons, but the one I'll tell you about is CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Not mine (which has been severely lacking for obvious reasons) but the ethos of the season. I could feel the energy of the children trying desperately to sleep, dreaming of gifts and frenzy.

In my younger years, my sister and I could literally make ourselves hallucinate on Christmas Eve. We were sofuckingexcited we saw little bunnies dressed in suit jackets running around our room opening their little bunny presents.

My son, as an only child, doesn't have a sibling to feed off of, but he manages to find that sweet psychosis just fine. He is such a wonderful guy, and even though the gifts were modest this year he was nothing but smiles and hugs all day. Even running around from family to friends was easy. He joked with his cousins, helped me clean and cook and sang carols all the while. As he was going to sleep he told me that he felt "blissful" and that it had be an amazing day.

He reminds me every day how grateful I am to be his mom...and I hope everyone out there found a reason to smile today :)

And now I am going to be a bad santa and steal from his stocking...muah ha ha!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

seven years...

It doesn't feel like it has been seven years since my father died.

Christmas Eve. Seven year prior.

He died about 2 in the morning. I took the call from the nurse. I told my mother that her husband of 52 years was gone. And we drove to the hospital so she could see his body.

My son was 4 years old...and didn't have much clue what was happening. That Christmas Eve I had a grieving mother and a four-year-old who was convinced Santa wouldn't be able to find us at my parents' house. He was partly right, since his gifts were back in Tallahassee - and all the adults around him were falling apart.

We left my mother in the care of my brother and scurried home to Tallahassee. I stayed up all night putting together his toys, wrapping his gifts, and stuffing his stocking. It was so surreal.

I know my Dad didn't want to ruin Christmas. Or maybe he did ;) He never really liked family gatherings all that much. Especially Christmas. He was the guy who would have all the discarded wrapping paper cleaned up and in the garbage by 7:45 AM and then promptly ignore the rest of us with whatever he could find on TV. But that was only in his later years, after decades of drinking had taken away his good heart.

My childhood Christmas' were a different story...he would sing carols, decorate with near recklessness, cleverly hide our presents or pretend he had lost them altogether, and saved his change all year to make sure our faces exploded with smiles when we unwrapped just what we wanted. The Christmas after I graduated from acupuncture school with my doctorate of oriental medicine, he got me a placard for my desk. One side (which would face my clients) read: "Dr. Karen Stump" and the other side, facing me, read: "Dr. Binky". That was his nickname for me, Binky. He said he wanted something on my desk that reminded me how proud he was of me. He had gotten it made at the local flea market. And still to this day it is one of my most favorite gifts of all time.

As much as I hated watching my mother say goodbye to her husband, I hated that first Christmas without my father even more...

And each Christmas Eve I miss him.

So this evening I light a candle for my dad, and for those I love that are far away. Thinking about the family we are born into and the family we choose...and sending big hugs and best wishes for a merry christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

god bless...

I hear that quite a bit. Not just when I sneeze either.

My patients seem to show their gratitude by blessing me, praying with me, some even saying they feel that God sent me to be their nurse. Funny how no one minds I am a lesbian as long as they don't actually know about it.

Just the other day I was heading into Publix behind a woman who dropped a $20 bill without noticing. I scooped it up and ran to return it to her. She told me thankyouthankyou and "LordJesus sent me an angel today!"

I'm sure most people would have done the same...though it is strange how often I have the opportunity to help strangers. The person in the wheel chair who can't reach the can of soup they want, the comcast repair guy who's truck needs a jump, the lost old man who can't remember where he parked his car. And maybe it isn't all that special, maybe lots of folks are helping out strangers every day and just not talking about it.

But these days, when my heart is sooooooo darn heavy, the temptation is to drive on by the broken down comcast guy and pretend I don't notice. But I don't drive by. I stop. I help. And the stranger usually references God working through me.

Interesting God would tell all his followers to hate it when I fall in love, but still send me on all these errands.

The drama from my recent breakup continues...and I come home and can still smell her in my house. I've been too sad to even VACUUM (which has never happened in my LIFE) but I don't think it's my lack of housecleaning that keeps her smell lingering. I think our bodies hold on to memories. Sights and sounds and smells and feelings. It takes a long time to move away from our memories - and you have to want to. Which I don't.

I know a big reason my love left was her faith. So each time someone tells me how much God loves me I think about her. She was torn apart trying to reconcile her feelings for me with what her church had taught her. And I lost.

Tonight was a night spent listening to songs of an effortless love.

And then seriously regretting that choice.

Want me to share?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

dating fun part 3,429

This is an old post that I never shared because I was too embarrassed. But hey, at least it isn't about my recent breakup! Right? So enjoy an old but true tale...


somehow I just don't give up.

Even though I have less free time than a sitting president and am picky and mean.

Why then, do I keep trying?

Ahhhhhh - I think it is that pesky feeling of HOPE. The hope that I'll remember what it feels like to come home from work with someone waiting, someone who is happy to see me and wants to hear about my boring day. Someone who'll see a movie they think is lame just because they KNOW I would love it :)

So the online presence continues...

And finally I run across someone who doesn't disgust me with the first email! WOW! Look! They know how to use punctuation! But not gratuitously!!!!!!!!!!! THEY DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! And they ask me questions about my life while also sharing stories about themselves! Giddy with expectation, we begin to online chat (this is known as second-base in the online dating world).

Chatting is going well too...she doesn't care that I am unemployed. In fact, she is super impressed that I am in nursing school. She adores children and has a fancy degree that she uses in a field I find INTERESTING! HOLY EFFING CRAP! It is like a fairy tale! She asks for my phone number (third base) and I throw caution to the wind and instead ask her out. I am tired of the protracted "hi" and "where are you from" and blah blah blah from too many years in this ritual and decide to jump right into a face-to-face interaction. She is young (too young, according to my sister) but I don't care. After all, I am far too immature to date someone my own age.

So we decided to meet.

She explained that she has a driving phobia and would I mind picking her up...

Hmmmmmm. "Driving phobia??" What could that mean? Did driving phobia = DUI? Or maybe she was raised in NYC and never learned to drive? I was scared/interested and tried to ask her a bit about it, but she laughed it off as just something that she was "working through". But hey, I can handle phobias, right? Hell I have a few myself! So off I went.

I pulled into her driveway and saw her standing there waiting. I could tell right away she was different. Not different in that fairy-tale-outta-a-dream kind of way. But different as in, neurologically speaking. My student nurse brain quickly ran through the possibilities...cerebral palsy? Spinal cord injury? Wow. The girl had a walker. That was a lot of information to process in the moment it took to pull into her driveway...Funny she had mentioned that she had recently lost her dog, 3 computers, a gas fireplace and a yoga mat...but not a WALKER. I mean, I have dated a girl in a wheelchair before AND HAD EVEN MENTIONED THAT TO HER - so you think she would have felt OK bringing it up. Nonetheless, I scooped her up and we went out to eat.

At the restaurant I remembered why it is so very very very important to talk on the phone with someone before agreeing to meet in person. This girl talked over me, told 20 minute long stories about her cousins and neighbors and favorite episodes of Law and Order and described in detail her gun collection. She told me over and over what a good listener I was as she detailed how Jimmy (not sure who he was) once got mad at Susan (maybe Susan was her sister?) but really he should have been mad at Christine because the trouble really started back in 1997 when they moved out of that crap-hole apartment into the city for a fresh start and...well I couldn't keep up and was silently imagining how I really had broken the cardinal rule of online dating. Do NOT agree to meet someone until you have heard the sound of their voice, their cadence when telling a story and the subtle back and forth of the conversational rhythm. But I had broken the rule and so now I had to sit and listen to poor Jimmy's woes (maybe Jimmy was her ex husband?! I thought I heard the word fiance a few minutes back).

After dinner I took her home and walked her inside... into her house...don't ask me why because I don't have an answer for you. Her home was of course covered in dog fur (though her dog had been dead for 3 months). There were literally 25 empty coke cans lining every horizontal surface of the if they were trophies earned over the years. Both sectional couches were piled high with (what I hope was) clean laundry and the dust bunnies across the baseboards were plentiful enough to start a union and demand better living conditions.

Oh Hope, how you make me do things that defy all reason! Hope can make me throw caution to the wind and try over and over to find a human connection. Hope allows me to dream of walking hand in hand along the beach at sunset. But the reality of the world sits across from you at dinner and says "I just don't get how fat people aren't too embarrassed to eat in public" (yes she actually said that).

And somewhere in the universe Hope is giving a high-five to Bitterness and saying "OK, she's all yours now!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

moving boulders

As a parent you try really hard to be strong for your little one. But today was so damn hard that I wasn't successful at that. I had to go to school to do some requisite paperwork for graduation...and despite my very best planning...the former girlfriend was there.

Ahhhhhh and she was beautiful with her hair all fixed and her clothes all perfect and she did NOT look like she had just been crying at Publix (as I had been) just because a damn Indigo Girls song had been playing. It was devastating to be so close to her and be so unwanted. So I returned home and sat in front of my house trying to stop crying before I came back to my little man. But I couldn't.

I came inside and he wanted to know what had happened. So I told him I had seen our recently lost friend and that I missed her very much. I told him that I thought she probably didn't want to talk to me anymore...that she and I had hurt each others feelings really bad and she didn't want to be friends with me.

He was really quiet for a long time and then told me I should learn to be better at letting things go. He said that he pictures himself sitting at a really pretty table. And sometimes people throw things on his table that he doesn't want there. Some of the things are easy to knock off, like scraps of paper, but other things are big and heavy like rocks or rare earth magnets. You can't move those things off your table by yourself, that's when you ask for help. So my 11-year old son explains that you can ask God to help, or a good friend you trust, and sometimes it takes a long time to get your table clean again. He says the tricky part is not adding your own garbage to the table...because that makes cleaning it off way harder.

So he gives me a hug and laughs and says "I guess that's a metaphor!"

Holy shit my boy is brilliant.

Tonight I will that are cluttering up my table. And I honestly hope my former lover is doing as well as she seems...because there is absolutely no need for both of us to be hurting this badly.

Here's to the next 24 hours...may it pass more quickly than the last.

and it goes something like this

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

bad first dates...

I have been on LOTS of dates. Especially first dates ;)

Once upon a time I was trolling and I struck up an email connection with a young lovely lady. After a few correspondences we decided to meet.

At the time I was VERY physically active (this is before nursing school had worn me down to a pale weakling) so we decided to go off-road biking for our first date. She picked me up in her sporty little car and we were off.

Now this woman had been a competitive athlete of sorts in her time, and she was gliding through the bike trails like her bike had an electric motor. I was doing my best to keep up, look cool, and still maintain enough oxygen in my bloodstream to have witty banter.

It wasn't working.

The miles stretched on and I as I furiously tried to keep pace I veered just a bit off track and a wayward branch reached out and jammed itself into my spokes! My bike and I flipped in midair and I landed squarely on the frame...catching the full force of the metal with the most delicate part of my womanly self.


She was so far ahead she didn't even NOTICE (which I thought was a bad sign in a future wife to be honest) and I tried my best to get back on the bike and continue on. But wow was I hurting.

After our ride she wanted to have some lunch...and I was torn between the excitement of continuing the date and the fear that I had split my pelvic girdle into fragments. I mean, she was cute and smart and fun to be with...but I was pretty sure I was going to need major surgery to fix my hoohaa. Of course I continued on to lunch and never mentioned the little accident.

It is so hard trying to be cool.

I spent the next two days with ice in my nether regions and wondering why they don't make women's mountain bikes...but at least I got a second date out of it ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

sometimes spared...


driving around feeling like a woman who hasn't slept or eaten or had ANY CAFFEINE for days and days and days...

A poor, pitiful woman in the horrible limbo after discovering it is time for a referral to a specialist but before the cardiologist has an opening...

going through the motions and being pretty proud of myself for doing that. Being brave for my kid and my family and my friends.

so basically today was a lot like yesterday :)

I pulled up to a stop light and waited patiently for my turn. I closed my eyes just for a second - really just a blink - and saw (in my mind) a little Honda rush across the cross street and nearly run off the road in front of me. It was as clear as if it had been real.

But when I opened my eyes I was alone at the stop light.

So when the light turned green I was scared to go. I slowly edged into the intersection as I saw a little Honda barreling up the road. I stopped immediately as the careless dude nearly smashed into my car, screeching his tires and swerving up onto the sidewalk.

I pulled into a nearby parking lot, kind of overcome by what had just happened.

Honestly my first thought was "God saved me!!". And my second thought was "just to make sure I stay good and heartbroken". I laughed to myself thinking that all the evangelical Christians were right and God was keeping the gays and lesbians around just to make them miserable. Which I admit is an absurd thought...right?

Mellow-dramatic? hyperbole? Same difference.

Tomorrow I will work on being grateful for the warning today. I will pick up my son from school and hug him mighty tight and then get a kitten. Or a tattoo. Or both.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

ready for fun?

Alrighty folks - cardiac telemetry is on! The doc wants me to recreate a typical "bad" day. Which is not going to be hard at all...

Step one - get the holter:

Step two - have some diet coke (obviously the best step):

Step three - dip into some memories and take a good stiff drink:

Then I'll go out and take a long bike ride - get my heart rate up! I've been scared to work out at all these days until I figure out what is going on. There have been a few moments recently when I have had to go down on my knees to keep from passing out - so I have been worried that popping in a P90X DVD might not be conducive to staying conscious ;)

Wish me luck my's hoping the monitor gets a clear record of my precious little busted up heart and I start to get some answers.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Tomorrow I get to strap on some electrodes and hopefully get a little closer to figuring out what in the ever-loving-heck is happening with my heart. Physiologically speaking of course. It seems I am having some funky heart rhythms of late.

Interesting enough - my spiritual heart has also recently been torn up. Is it possible that all this cardiac trouble is rooted in love lost? I am the first to admit that your mind is mighty. Mighty enough to cause physical symptoms, and mighty enough help with healing.

The dysrhythmia started before I even knew my girlfriend was planning on leaving town, leaving me. Did my intuition pick up on her secret plans days before she told me? Because I would put money on the timing. I think she moment she gave up on us is the moment everything went to shit with my myocardium.

My doctor says things like "premature ventricular contractions" and "dysrhythmia" and "ectopic beats"...he says give up caffeine and get back on the treadmill. He throws meds at me and I dutifully give them a try. And it is getting incrementally better. Teeny, tiny little increments. But hey, I have been feeling so crappy I will take even teeny, tiny little bits of better.

The other day in the hospital I had a combative, confused, elderly woman as a patient. She punched me, bit me, and fought with every single staff member. I was tasked with keeping her in bed and trying my best to keep her safe. You'd be surprised how strong a demented 80-year old can be. Just a few hours into her care I was already exhausted. She couldn't communicate her needs at all, prior strokes had jumbled her brain. She spoke in angry, nonsensical phrases...words thrown together in ways only she understood.

I kept trying to reassure her. I spoke softly. Then was quiet. I even tried singing old songs she might remember from her childhood...nothing calmed her down. Then out of my mouth I started calling her "nanna". I have no idea why, it just seemed like the thing to do. She made eye contact with me for the first time all day and responded by calling me "grandpa". She became a different person from that moment on - calm, at peace, and a pleasure to be around. The nurses and support staff were shocked by the transition and I was very very very very happy we could remove the restraints.

Her daughter arrived from out-of-town much later that evening and when I retold the story she explained that all the grandchildren had always called her Nanna, and the patient's husband had been Grandpa. The daughter was overjoyed that I had made a connection with her mom...and didn't seem creeped out even though her mom continued to talk to me as if I was her long-dead husband ;)

So was I intuitive enough to find the one word that could pull my patient out of her panic? Or was "nanna" just a lucky guess? I don't know...but either way the result was the same. My patient was finally able to rest.

So maybe I am that sensitive. Because my suspicion about the cardiac monitor is that the physician will discover that I have lost the love of my life. And just as a first kiss will give your chest that wonderful flutter of hope - a broken heart can cause it to beat irregularly, without rhythm, and without purpose. If you are lucky enough to be as sensitive as me.

Which honestly I don't recommend.

On the plus side, if you tune in tomorrow I might just include a picture of my sexy self all wired up and transmitting live ;)

Friday, December 02, 2011

no explanation...

you never get to know the answers to so many questions...

One of the reasons I have always been drawn to hard sciences is because I had this illusion that you got to know the why's. And there are some absolutes out there. A low serum potassium will send a patient into a heart dysrhythmia...but give 'em a big old horse pill of K and sure enough they get better! Yay science!

But mostly even doctors and nurses rely on best guesses, trial and error and intuition. Sure we sound confident when we talk about things - because that's our job. We are trained to be the calm in the storm - the buoy in the rough waters. And truth be told, you'll have two patients with identical symptoms, give them the same treatments, and one gets better and goes home to enjoy their family while the other guy crashes and dies.

What's the difference between those two patients? The doctors don't know. Ask too many questions and they'll fall back on statistics or empirical anecdotes but they don't *really* know. So what if the difference is hope? Or love? Or faith? Well the scientific method can't prove it - but we nurses have a hunch that hope matters. And though our job means telling the hard truth - we can also provide hope.

Tonight I came home from a 12-hour shift and was tucking my son into bed. He started crying. He was missing a close family friend who left town suddenly. Here I was listening to my 11-year-old ask some hard questions...none of which I had the answer to. Why did she leave? When would she come back? I could see his little broken heart pouring out in his tears and I wanted to comfort him, to fix it. But I couldn't explain away her absence...losing someone you love hurts like hell...even when you're 11. Or maybe even more so...

So my job was to be that calm in the storm for him. To lay down next to him and just be there while he wrestled with the very grown up reality of losing love. And I was mindful of that wondrous little piece of Pandora's box hiding in the corner after all the ills of the world spilled out...hope. I couldn't give him hope she would return to us - but hope for the future, and faith that more fun and frolic was awaiting him.

I am so grateful to have the chance to be strong for my son...and I desperately hope he is crafting some tools to weather life's storms. On a good day, I think I do a pretty decent job ;)

But then he escapes to dreams and I wish like hell I had someone looking out for me when my tears come.

Too bad you can't order hope on Amazon. Cause I would pay for some next-day shipping!!