Monday, August 27, 2007
Patchwork Soldiers
Several things I am eager to tell you are coming together like God must have intended, but He hasn't completed them yet, so I'll wait to tell you about them, til He has.

In the meantime I'm so short of interesting things going on, that when a son asked me to drive him home after medical tests are done, I went with him to the V. A. hospital.

Hadn't driven in that part of town for years. My son said we'd be going, and coming back in between rush hours. Roads I called my own long ago were so packed Cars crawled from one traffic light to another, and then had to wait all over again.

We found the hospital parking area, and circled round and round, then claimed an empty slot. But considering we didn't have to pay for it, that part of the trip wasn't so bad.

As we navagated to the elevators, I noticed how packed they were. One short little woman, using all the muscles in herself, pushed a heavy man in a wheel chair that seemed to strain from the weight of him. To free up both her hands so she could, she cleverly thought to hang her purse on the hook of his IV pole attached to his chair.

While I'm admiring her thinking of that, I'm noticing other patients. Most seem intent on getting to their appointed part of this place. But some take time to visit a snack bar, and check out goods displayed for sale, all of which look like some thing veterans would wear.

We check on my son's appointment, where a clerk makes certain someone will drive him home. I notic how helpful the hospital staff are, how they take time to laugh and to smile with the patients, and when others arrive, do the same with them. A man who looks old enough to be retired from service, makes a joke of everything he says, and when a nurse appears to accompany him for whatever he's there for, he gives her a charming smile and says to her: "Take me away from here." That's about when I notice his washed out coloring, and probably why the woman who appeared to be his wife, understood his flirty attempt to camouflage a fear as real as that on the battlefield.

I don't see V A patients wearing uniforms or medals, but one clear thing I see again and again. The cut of their jaw, or maybe it's the way they hold them, and how they carry themselves with a strictly to the point tunneled out no nonsense.

The tests or procedures for my son drone on into a couple of hours. I close the book I was trying to read, and lean back my head, and wake up a half hour later.

The clerk tells me he will soon be out, and he is, walking like his every step is bathed in ginger. I was going to get him some food, since he hadn't eaten since yesterday, but he can't, so we head home.

Up the road ahead I see lights from police cars, and then spot an ambulance. Huge chunks of someone's car are tangled on the meridian, and then I see more smaller pieces. I drive around the metal chard, and keep on heading home. A few miles later another wreck decorates the edge of a golf course and I still can't figure out how that truck got where it did.

I'm so glad my son is not trying to tell me how to drive. He could, and he'd be right, since he's a driving instructor, but not today, please. Today, I just want to get home. But before we're even close, a funeral procession descends upon the road ahead, and finishes with a motorcycle cop yelling at whoever can hear him, to not cross on reds.

On a street that will lead to my son's place I've slowed because it's a different route than I usually take, and as I ask him left or right, a parked motorcycle revs up right at the side of my car. We manage not to hit, and I thank God out loud for keeping us safe, on this home town trip that feels like it's being led by the guy who said "Do you want to race, or do you want to RACE!" Maybe it's true that not all battles are fought on Flanders' field.

  posted at 9:23 PM  

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Gray's Anatomy Revisited.
A longer than usual staff training meeting rolled up part of our nursing shift, and made us two hours late before we started. We did a quick report on the residents, and counted the narcotics, and after I checked with the aides about our work plan, I stocked the medicine cart with cups and things, and started pushing it down the long hall.

At the nursing station, doctors or their assistants filled what space was there while reviewing charts, while I silently hoped they wouldn't need to write many new orders. When one of them whose handwriting is hard to read began gathering up his things, I parked the cart, and hurried to where he was, so he could explain what he'd written. Because he's more approachable than some, we bantered a moment, and I was relieved not to have to guess at what he wanted for his patients.

When the nursing station cleared, seven overstuffed charts waited for time I was already short on. I checked the new orders, and thankful none of them required immediate action, kept giving pills and other medicines, and pushed the cart farther down the hall.

On almost any nursing home unit the people there have varying needs I'm not completely convinced can be found in the medical book, Gray's Anatomy. A lady pedals her wheelchair always quite slowly, looking here and there it seems, for nothing in particular, or does she go at that snaily pace only to use up time that seems to her to only grow. I realize she needs someone, almost any willing soul, to talk to.

But I'm so far behind, and don't want to work overtime to get it done. The winding drive from here is scarey enough if I leave before midnight. But when the shift grows to one o'clock in the morning, the roads are dark, and I'm about the only driver on them.

The lady keeps finding something, anything, to create conversation. I'm a little irritated, not with her; because I'm so so stretched. She disappears down a hall for a moment, then before I can give meds to another patient, is at my side again. To be polite, I ask how she is, and she kind of mumbles, "Oh, I'm all right", but her ruffledvoice is not convincing.

Besides feeling crunched from the work load, my brain needs peaceful relief, or at least a short break once in a while. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be here. But I am, and the work must be done.

I look at her again, and realize this is how it's been for this lady who for years had a life, and now she doesn't, and almost nobody takes time to let her tell them about it. Many times CNA's, the nurses aides, have confided that for a while they wanted to become nurses, but after seeing how little time nurses spend with the patients, they decided not to.

Making sure it's locked, I set the the med cart brake, and turn to her."Tell me again how you are tonight." I nod my head, as in "yes", and wait. She replies that a son of hers is on a long trip, and she's worried about him. That he's almost sixty years old and has traveled a lot doesn't matter. When you're as lonely as she is, even a concern is some kind of comfort. I let her tell me how she wishes she could call him, and not knowing what to say after that, I grasp the obvious, and ask if she's made many trips.

That tiny gleam in her eyes I had noticed days ago trys to shine a little. "Oh yes, my husband and I used to go lots of places, but not any more." "He died" At that, I am thinking If I'm to help her feel better, I can't let her drift off into regret, so I quickly say, "Where, where did you go ?" She smiles a little at the question, and almost whispers, "Hawaii, ut it was long ago." And true to people rooted in the Depression era, she begins telling me how expensive it was, even back then.

For a moment her memory was of happier times, and I can't let her bog into sadness again. I ask her anything I can think of about the islands, and suddenly she's describing what must be a memorial for the start of World War II.

She describes rows and rows of crosses. "Our Sailors died deep down in their ships. They never could get their bodies out." "That's why they put up those crosses, to remember them." As she trys to explain and describe every detail of this well known start of World War II, in her long and drawn out way, I see a reflection of myself. and understand what a son once tried to tell me: "Get to the point Mom, or you'll run off whose listening."

"Have you been to Hawaii?" Her question brings me out of myself. No, I haven't", I admit, and realize I am whispering, like she's doing. "You should go sometime." Her eyes don't look so sad now. And though I'll be catching up on the work later, I don't mind, as before. I make a promise to myself: Until my boss insists otherwise, from now on I am sqeezing out some time for my patients to talk.

Another one, a feisty charmer, projects an image that reflects hard living. She has mentioned that her people came from a far away place, ending up in some rusty dust filled mining town. But until tonight I've not taken time to hear even five minutes of what's important to her, recounting a history of a glorious time she lived in.

These people's lives only sample the mine of living that my patients experienced. But it's not their histories alone that matter. They need to know someone cares enough to hear them tell it.

  posted at 1:08 AM  

Friday, August 17, 2007
The Sounds of Silence
Since my last post, where I shared doing the interviews, but not getting any of the jobs, I've done a lot of thinking, and hope to have learned from it.

The employee recruiter at the Mental Health Center tells me more interviews soon will be done, and she'll be calling to schedule some. In the meantime I'm reading books about how to interview better, and notice that talking less is highly recommended, as well as shaking hands correctly, and making good eye contact.

This book, "How To Gain The Professional Edge", by Susan Moreum, emphasizes we should look at the other person long enough to know the color of their eyes, but to not stare at them. Doing hand shakes gets into several parts; how to grasp theirs, how strong and long to hold it, and says to make sure it doesn't feel like you're giving somebody a limp, dead fish.

After reading more one night, I'm sitting at home feeling downhearted and not much confident, but this self indulgent funk feels worse than not getting one of the jobs. Next morning I go looking for candidates who'll let me practice on them, and stop at a nursing home.

In the front lobby a tiny lady who looks older than myself, is pushing a food/snack cart around. She guides it slowly, and stops now and then, to rearrange its cargo so none falls off. Her waistline which is very trim, and the old fashioned apron she's wearing like it's her uniform, remind me of my own grandmother.

Weiners and buns are on the cart, and I ask her if they're selling hotdogs to help the Alzheimer fund raiser. "No", she says, "We just do this every week", as if she's been there years, as she keeps navigating the stacked up cart. Intending to remember it, I ask her name, but my personal thoughts and concerns don't let it stay in my head.

At my next stop, a thrift store, where I get in line to pay for some books, a new clerk seems intent with details of ringing up sales. I smile, and assume a patient pose, but am eager to leave, and not very interested in the little speech she gives about our spare change keeping kids in school. My usual patience is nowhere around. I am in a rush to find someone else to practice people skills on. I don't even think to leave a few coins.

I set the books I couldn't resist buying in my car, and get in, then pull into traffic. I recount in my head the things I'd set out to remember today when connecting with other human beings, and don't want to admit that so far I've failed almost completely.

The books I got that day sounded so helpful. Wayne W. Dyer's "Wisdom of the Ages", is almost an encyclopedia of what the title implies, and Anna Quindlen's "One True Thing", if that book cannot teach you how to interact with another human, not much can.

I stop at a convenience store. Behind the counter a man I've bought lottery tickets from many times, is as usual polite, but today he's having a hard time ignoring something on a small TV screen. He starts to get the ticket I want, but stops and stares at the screen again. Already he's done that twice, and now three times, and still glancing at it, makes himself stand still, and explains. It is some program in his native language that sounds oriental, but until today I didn't know, or ever think to ask where he's from.

"Laos," he says, and points to the screen again. In English that still doesn't come out smoothly, he apologizes for taking so long. When I stopped here, all I wanted was a lottery ticket, but now I am trying to remember what little I know about this place he calls Laos. I recall that when Vietnam was going, hordes of their own in a Civil War died there.

"Where I from, he says louder, and I realize I haven't been listening. "Where I born, I born there." and as he returns in his mind, his dark brown eyes I finally remember to look at, mist over enough so that they almost seem to float.

Again he turns toward the TV, and not knowing what else to do, I ask a question, to fill the time hanging between us. What he says then almost makes me forget an important appointment I need to go to. He and his family lived wherever they could hide, in jungles. "I born in Jungle" He said, like it was an accomplishment. "Ten year old, I ten year when we come, he said, as softly as the sound of the almost empty store. He explained that men in his family fought against communists, and if they'd been found, they all would have been killed. I ask if he has brothers and sisters, and did his Mom and Dad make it here. He became quiet, and looked away, so I didn't ask again. The TV program he was so intent with was made where he lived there.

I tuck my lottery ticket in my purse. "Must seem you come to a whole new world." Realizing I'm almost picking up his enunciating, I stop talking. "Very big world, he says; only the way he says it sounds like it starts with an R. "America has freedom too", he adds. As I'm walking away his smile returns. "And we have rottery here, but I already rucky." I paused a moment, then went out the door. Next time I go there I'll ask his name. Walking to the car I realize I'm feeling good that I looked into his eyes long enough to know their color.

In my apartment as I check phone messages, it rings. A friend whose little girl started kindergarten this morning, wants to know if I'm coming over to celebrate with them, before she has to return to where she lives with her father. This friend has tromped through some deadly jungles of her own, but with God's Holy help she's made it through a very long haul, and makes herself and all who know her grateful and proud.

Celebrating starting school included letting the special little person choose where we'd dine, within limts, of course."Country Buffet." she said, dragging the last syllable of it almost all the way across the coffee table. "I like their macaroni, and the spaghetti, and their ice cream is very delicious." At five years old, she still speaks sincerely. Everything is very this, or very that. How I hope she never learns to squelch it. I know the color of her eyes, and they gleam with the awe of it. She shows me a picture she drew for her teacher, and it's very clear she's already claimed this special person as her own. I love the way she smiles as she pronounces her name, and I wonder how a granddaughter who is in teaching feels, when she's adored like that.

After we are more than full from the buffet's many choices, the mood of the occasion slows, and seems too quiet. "I don't want to go", she suddenly announces. We're on a busy road now, and I sense her mother's hands press hard into the steering wheel. "Let's have some happy music, the mom says, as she trys to keep smiling, and slips a sing-along CD in. We all join in, and once in awhile deliberately sing off key. After all, this is suppose to be a fun time party.

In the back where she sits in her car seat, her little voice trys again. "Some day! No! some night when everyone's asleep I will get out of my bed, and bring my clothes, and walk and walk to where you are". The sing-along fades as if it slowed itself. My friend guides the car safely, even though her hands have become part of the steering wheel. "Some day", she begins, and says it again, then her voice trails into silence. Out of respect I don't look into her eyes for a while.

Tomorrow I will find more people to practice interviewing skills with, but tonight I set that aside. I am thinking of a tiny aproned lady pushing a cart, whose wrinkled skin could qualify as a badge, and I'd still like to learn her name. I wish I had been more patient with the thrift store clerk, but she will do her job just fine. I know I'll return to the convenience store, and hope the man with misty eyes feels like smiling, and my friend's young daughter, I plan to help with learning her numbers.

If I get the chance to interview again, I will try it, and if offered the mental health position, will consider that. But if I don't, it is alright. Nursing offers almost countless times to connect with a person and their heart, and already I am wondering what the next one will be like.

  posted at 12:29 AM  

Friday, August 10, 2007
Business 101
I've been wanting to let you know how my job search is going. So even though it's after two a.m. because I worked late again tonight, and I'm still trying to understand about it more, here goes.

After what seemed a long wait, openings at the State mental health center were posted for two weeks, and after that applying time ended, a month went by, while applicants' scoring and ranking was done. Official letters informed me I'm eligible to be hired for the position; that I've met all the requirements, for it. My scoring is 100, and I am ranked number 1.

The HR person explained the 100 is how my experience is measured, and the number 1 is where I am on the hiring roster. A day or so later the recruiting office emailed me to contact them if I wanted to be interviewed.

I got in touch and interviews for openings on three psychiatric units were scheduled, each an hour long and one right after the other, and I did them all last Friday.

Had they offered me either of the first two positions, I would have accepted it. The third one I would have declined, because that unit is for grown young men who were already in trouble with the law, for physical and sexual assaults, among other things. While I would have been very interested in working with other age groups, and their various psychiatric conditions, I clearly understood that younger and stronger staff persons are needed on the other unit.

But because I didn't know if refusing a particular unit would affect my hiring status, and I surely didn't want to lose the advantage of my scoring being a hundred, and my rank as first in line, by the time I did the third interview, I was quite worn out. I knew I didn't want it, so I'm sure I didn't make a great impression there.

So this is where I'm at with all of it, and if you'd like to, I would appreciate input about it from all of you.

The State of Colorado wouldn't score and rank me as they did, if my work history and experience and college degrees didn't merit them, and the HR person and the recruiting person wouldn't be so helpful if they didn't think I was employable. And at least two of the units I interviewed on were clearly dealing with ongoing staffing shortage. All this tells me I am a pretty good candidate for the work, but perhaps I should look closer at myself.

In all my employment history, I have never done an interview as extensive as those. To be hired as a nurse, if your nursing license is free of problems or complaints, and your work record is alright, you are almost guaranteed a job. Once I got one simply by phoning a place. This last job I'm in, as soon as they looked at my application, and did a drug test, they asked me when I wanted to start work.

I would be very good at working with mental patients. I've done it before, and have quite a bit of experience on locked units, and even caring for some who aren't kept locked up. You wouldn't believe stories I could tell you! What I think I am not good at yet though, is the interviewing. I think I did not sell myself well when I was being grilled last week. And I probably didn't radiate enough self-confidence either.

Do you remember "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" scene, where she needed a job so bad, and didn't have much going for her to get one? She saw some guy beat out tunes on the old piano in the back woods saloon. When you don't have much, there's not a lot to lose, so she sat down in front of those pitiful ivories, and hammered some kind of sounds out loud enough, that they let her stick around to do more.

It's not that I'm as desperate as Molly was. I just so need to let go of nursing. And I really understand how much psychiatric care is needed. As soon as I learned I wasn't offered any of the three jobs, I asked myself a gut twisting question; what can I do so this doesn't happen again? And then drove straight to the nearest library, and this is what I found:

"The Complete Q & A Job Interview Book, by Jeffrey G Allen, J.D., C P.C.

"The Interview Kit, (How to answer over 500 tough interview questions), by Richard H. Beatty

I especially like this: "How to Gain The Professional Edge, by Susan Morem.

And "Winning With the Boss From Hell", A guide to life in the trenches, by Shaun Belding, just because it makes me feel so great, imagining dealing with a boss like that on my terms, not his or hers.

Now, let's see, when the hiring recruiter called the other day, she said she would be in touch again in about two weeks, to schedule more interviews. The library books are about 200 pages each, and if short on time, I could wait til later to enjoy the one about the you know,..... what kind of boss. Starting in the morning I will seriously study those helpful little texts, and before many more weeks pass, who knows! If you're still reading this, thank you so much. Please let me know your thoughts about it all.

  posted at 2:38 AM  

Thursday, August 02, 2007
Acts of Faith
For days I've wanted to write this out, but more keeps happening that almost says out loud, this is about more than only changing jobs. Oh, it's much bigger than that. When I finally figured that out, my head wanted to swirl, and my voice which my daughter will tell you shouldn't be heard trying to sing, broke into happy old tunes, and if I could tell my feet how to dance, they would do more than only a simple shuffle.

I so don't want to bore you about me, me me, or my job situation. This is more wonderful, I promise it is, so come go with me while I show you how I am changing my life!

For as long as I remember I have wanted to learn more, do more, and, tucked way back somewhere with my opinion of myself, I just had to find out if I can.

As a very young wife, and then a mom, I studied books I got from the children's school. As they grew I wanted them to not be ignorant, so I squeezed ten dollars a month out of an already skimpy grocery budget, to pay for a set of encyclopedias, and I have no doubt I read them more than they did.

Things I didn't understand long ago are so much clearer. The Bible tells about God giving people particular talents. But I thought that was only something grand, and very special. I never considered back then, that my wanting to write corny poems would lead to what's happening now. Of course I was immensely proud that I sold one as a filler, and got two dollars for it. With my quite inadequate and misspelled writings, I somehow connected with a group of writers, and the only thing that saved my face from turning red, was that I didn't know that I did not know how to arrange some letters into words. And thank the Lord a wise old lady in the group never once pointed out my errors. I think she knew I had enough to deal with in trying to educate myself, and maybe along the way my poor spelling would improve.

That same wise lady helped me get approved to attend her creative writing class at the local college, and though I didn't know it then, started me believing that maybe there was a story in myself, and that thin glimmer of encouragement that she gave is really where todays story began.

Years later, I would try to do more college classes, and I did. But because I at least realized how little education I had, I avoided science classes, as if they could infect the entire world. However, subjects like history and art, and even psychology, I figured if I could read those books, I could learn., and if science and even more formiable subjects like math were required, well, I'd deal with those when I finally had to.

That's how I met up with psychology, but not before I ended up single, and without good job skills. Someone I worked with told me about a school in Denver that especially helps adults educate themselves. I say "themselves" because that's how much you need to want nurses' training to survive the classes. No one was more surprised than me when I completed it, but I did. And this is where the past connects with now.

Throughout those lean years I kept taking classes. Nursing work brought me survival pay, but deep inside, like a crystal surrounded by the ugly rock and mud of a geod, I think now I always knew how important psychology is, how exactly our brains record everything that we are, and do, a long, long time before computers came to be, we humans already walked around with individual ones in our heads.

There are many good things about doing nursing, but it it has a built in toll booth, and what it didn't demand from me, my several really stupid choices of men in relationships helped keep my self regard, and belief in myself right about down at my shoes, and after doing nursing more than twenty years, I finally realize I need to leave it. I do understand that one can't be a part of something that demands so much of you, for so long, and it not leave indelible marks all over your heart, and maybe I wouldn't even want to leave unmarked. Perhaps it is alright to savor the many memories I helped make. But it is time to move onward.

I believe if we don't keep our heart's wings folded, they can carry us even to almost buried dreams, for that's where my love of psychology lay until recently.

Way last winter when I returned to Denver, and was trying to decide where to go to work, it was convenient to cut through the grounds of the State mental facility, and one day, which could only have been God giving me a tender shove, I decided to see if my previous work there could possibly still be in my favor, and God not only shoved me a short little ways, He answered a quickly said prayer as I rode in the elevator, something like: "Lord, if this is where I am suppose to be, please send someone to help me open the doors I'll need to go through." and He did! He did all that, and more.

I applied for a position there, and the hiring process seems very long, and sometimes I've felt discouraged, but I've learned enough psychology to know not to mix or tangle feelings with facts. God promised if we trust Him enough to have our best interest at heart, He will take care of the rest. I've gone through the hiring process up to interviews. and in the morning am scheduled to do three of them, on different psychiatric units. No one has offered me a job there yet, but I'm feeling confident they may just need my skills.

And talk about being in the right places! Baby boomers are retiring there, now, just when I need a slot for another career. If you've read this far, I so appreciate your looking at this with me. It's a little like my grand daughter, Mandy felt, when she just had to share the big secret of her becoming engaged.

And now, let's see.......I must hurry to my nursing job I'm not quite done with. Nursing uniforms soon won't be appropriate any more. Thank goodness I got a very good hair cut yesterday, and you should see the neat outfits I got to wear when I'm taking care of my new charges. Where's the best place to apply for the next college degree I should get. Etc.etc.etc.

When I first began blogging I pointed out how much I so love new beginnings "Becoming", is what my daughter called it. I can hardly wait to see what God has in mind for me for this time.

  posted at 10:55 AM  

About Me
Name: Judith

Location: Colorado

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