Monday, December 14, 2015

Jamaica! No Mistake-ah!

Well, here it is. One month after my Supremely Fancy Jamaica Vacation and I am still so overwhelmed I can't even begin to write about it. I noticed this same phenomenon after last year's Vacation of Awesomeness to the British Virgin Islands.
Maybe it is the beautiful blue ocean. Or the familiar yet foreign accents. Or the miniature water related traumas...


I have been reading over my notes and I am going to give it a go. My posts may be a little erratic. Some may include info and stories from both vacations. I promise you there will be vomiting.

The Supremely Fancy Jamaica Vacation (SFJV) was a year in the making. A year plus five or sixish. You see, this was our first Dinner Club vacation. (Several years ago, a mutual friend thought it would be fun to get together every couple months for dinner as a way to keep in touch. We all had kids at home and it sounded like a good idea. 
Dinner Club - from left to right: Friends since Brownie Scout Leading, Rob and me, Nebraska Fans, Fireman and our Founder!
No one warned me that five years later I would have six very good friends and find myself being served cake by the side of a crystal clear swimming pool while a Romanian Octogenarian modeled the latest in Speedo fashion.)
But I digress.

The SFJV was set for November – nicely cushioned between hurricane season and resort season. The Iberostar Grand Rose Hall resort was chosen for its previous history of impressing two of our dinner club members, their adults only policy and the Dirty Bananas – more on that later. 
Iberostar Grand Rose Hall
(It should be noted that Dinner Club is essentially an empty-nester club now.) The flurry of planning emails makes Hilary's message problems look like grade school note passing. Suffice it to say, it is not easy coordinating four couples, all of whom work, even though some of them are retired, causing a question of mental stability by some of the other members of the club. But thanks to the perseverance of our founding member, a kindly travel agent and approximately 100 overtime shifts, I found myself standing at the Southwest Airline check in at 0530 on a November Saturday.

Let it be noted that there is NO ONE at the Southwest Airline check in at 0530. No one except other Midwest travelers praying to get the heck out of the first wave of cold arctic air. The first guy to arrive was a TSA agent, who promptly set off the security alarms. Using his embarrassment to our advantage we made it through the gates in time to grab primo spots at the Dunkin'Donut shop inside the terminal. (At one time Lambert Field in St. Louis was a busy hub airport. Now it is sadly quiet and even though there are numerous food service spots, it seems that at 05:50, Dunkin'Donut is the only one to still care about the nutritional requirements of their travelers.)

Now, a few thoughts on air travel:
Can anyone tell me what Southwest has against assigning seats?
Maybe it's the German in me but come on! It is just plain old laziness on the airline's part for using that ridiculous A-B-C nonsense. Oh sure, it works great when your travel agent comes through and gets you in the A group of single digits. But when the same travel agent gets you in the triple digit D group...well, lets just say there is now a new travel game called – Let's Get the Flight Attendent to Pass Various Magazines, Earbuds and Pre-purchased Snacks to the Man in Row 43B. I mean 42B. Sorry...

I will NEVER travel without my newly purchased neck pillow with removable, washable cover because that thing touched EVERYTHING on the return trip.
And along those lines:
Sleeping passengers DO NOT NEED peanuts. Neither does that poor guy in Row 43B.
Evian Pure Mineral Water Facial Spray really is refreshing. And a super fun way to spritz your travel companions in the face with a fine water mist.

The lack of non-stop flights seems to be fueled by a secret agreement with Starbucks, who conveniently has it's kiosk set up as the first stop outside the air-bridge, just past the bathroom.

And finally, I don't really have to sit in the window seat. But I am going to lean across your lap to stare out the window when there are interesting sites to be seen – such as the Seven Mile Bridge and Cuba.
See that dark line, just at the horizon between the blue sky and clouds? That's Cuba!
Sorry Rob.
Not sorry.

Our flights were actually quite nice and we arrived in Montego Bay to this beautiful sight.
Makes getting up before you go to bed completely worth it!
Immigration was another story.
The Montego Bay airport has these super effecient auto-immigration machines which require you to slide your passport into a slot and stand back while the machine takes your photo and compares it to the passport pic. Naturally, being the current owner of the World's Worse Passport Picture, I managed to break the machine and immediately got the message 'PLEASE SEE AN AGENT' which is always a little unnerving. Those immigration people have NO sense of humor. Of course my heinous picture was enough distraction to allow our other travelers to immigrate through unscathed. 

Montego Bay offers the 'MoBay Club' for air travelers. This service is available on arrival as well as departure and allows you access to a quiet, well air-conditioned place to relax, get some complimentary snacks and slide through immigration quickly. We opted to only use this service on departure as we knew we would be waiting several hours for our flight home. The cost was around $30 per person and well worth the price. (The cost for arrival and departure was around $75 per person. Depending on your arrival time it might be worth it to line jump in immigration. But we made it through without in about 30-45 minutes.)

Our bus ride to the hotel was pleasant, if you can get past the fact that the steering wheel is on the WRONG side. The gear shift is on the WRONG side. And all the cars are on the WRONG side. Every time we turned into oncoming traffic my foot went through the floor and I waited for my life to pass before my eyes. Instead, I saw a panoramic view of the ocean on my left and the hills of Jamaica on my right.
These terraced gardens great you as you arrive at Iberostar. In the distance is a grand old plantation house.

We arrived at Iberostar around noon.
Bellman met the bus, unloaded our luggage and delivered to our rooms as we checked in and sipped welcome mimosas. This is also where they 'tag' you.
Did I mention this was my first trip to an All-Inclusive resort? I had not considered how they kept track of who was a guest and who wasn't. I just assumed they had a highly evolved facial recognition system.
We received clear bands with stars.
Much fancier than the sister resorts, further down the beach. Sister resorts who were NOT allowed on our much fancier beach, yet had to endure our considerable strutting as we hiked down the lesser beaches to the scuba shop. 
Just one view of our exclusive fancy beach. (photo by our Fireman)
(Truthfully, the only difference was the fact that our resort was adults only. Which meant that our pool was crystal clear while the other pools were a little more...sandy...)

And speaking of Scuba shops...
Set your alarms and come back next week for:
Laura vs King Neptune or Why Does the Ocean Hate me So!
Because I had to set MY alarm, while ON VACATION, in order to experience this...experience.

Upcoming posts will include:
 I Get a BUTLER with that?
 Coffee, it's calling me home.
Catamaran, Shmatamaran!
 As always – these are not  sponsored posts. The opinions are strictly mine. This is not to say I couldn't be persuaded to make an all expenses paid, return trip for actual promotion purposes.
Please click on this link: for more information on the fabulous Iberostar Resort.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

HO Ho Ho....I need some help

Well, eventually.
Okay. By Monday. I promise.

sorry for the shouting. i was hoping it would be a little more festive

imagine Harvey Flamingo singing 'I really can't stay' while Moe Cabeaza replies 'Baby it's cold outside'.

Here's to a Safe and Happy
Holiday season.
We may have differing beliefs
But Peace and Goodwill
Should be Universal! 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Three Little Birds...and a squirrel, if you look real close

It is early on Thanksgiving morning. Just me and the cat...and a 13 pound turkey which is just beginning to sizzle in the oven. Nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like sticking your hand up the freezing cold body cavity of a 13 pound semi-flightless fowl. 

Not quite done yet...

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite of the winter holidays. And Thanksgiving morning is one of my favorite mornings. I am usually the only human up early, the rest taking a few extra hours to rest up for the big food and Home Alone marathon.
The quiet gives me a chance to reflect on all those things I have to be thankful for: home, health, family.
Yada Yada Yada

This year, however, while still thankful for these things, recent events have put a new spin on them, at least in my head.

My 'home' has always been the Midwest. I grew up in a farming community surrounded by men in overalls and feed caps and women who simultaneously baked pies and crocheted tablecloths. These men and women also called the Midwest home. But for many of their parents Cornfield, Illinois was not the first 'home' they knew. In my case, Germany and France and England's Ireland were home. Those people made the decision to leave lands where their families remained, where the language was familiar, to make the difficult crossing by sea, some with infants and small children, to an unknown country with only the promises made on a copper and iron statue.
I do not know if they left because they were under persecution, feared for the lives of their children. I can only assume that they took that frightening voyage after much deliberation in hopes of providing a better life.
They came here, worked hard, settled into and became part of permanent communities and now their descendants call this land home.
Thank you, not only to those who took that brave step, but to those who welcomed them.
These guys are not all that Thankful. In fact, they are rethinking the whole immigration policy.

I work in healthcare. So in a way, I have to feel thankful for everyone's health...or lack thereof. Every day I work, I care for people experiencing health events which I mentally add to the list of things I NEVER want to experience myself.
Thank you?
This motivation to avoid tubes sticking out of natural and man made orifices has led me, most days, to eat better and exercise.
Not today of course.
But tomorrow...

Today my immediate family will be gathering at our house for dinner. We are missing a few very loved members, who thankfully are safe and sound with family elsewhere. But this is not the family I am speaking of today.
Today I am speaking to my work family – you know who you are. If you break it down, some weeks we spend more time with work people than with blood relations. And just like blood relations, work people are fun, annoying, aggravating and wonderful. They can be broken down into little brother, big sister, weird aunt and creepy uncle status.
We have differing opinions and different working styles.
But when things go south we are there for one another. And over the nearly 10 years I have worked with this family things have gone south, really south quite a few times.

And things went south one morning this past week. Like nearly South Pole South. I can't really go into the actual event except to say that at present everyone is okay and this is one of those things that is HIGH on my list of THINGS I NEVER WANT TO HAPPEN TO ME.
And as often happens, it is when things are truly bad that you see the best in people. The outpouring of support for my work family has been overwhelming.
We are all guilty of gripping about work, not wanting to go, not wanting to stay, wishing we were anywhere else.
But damn it.
Now I don't think I could go anywhere else.

Thank you. 
One of my peaceful places. Sure, there are actually four little birds here, but there is also a squirrel. It is really difficult to rhyme anything with 'squirrel' which is why Mr. Marley most likely stuck with the simpler 'three little birds' concept.

I chose to call this post Three Little Birds. It is one of my favorite songs and even though it is a simple concept, it is a powerful one.
From the Coast of Illinois
Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. 

Come back next week for a new installment of

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pssst, Buddy! Got Any of those ADHD Pills?

International symbol for National Write a Novel in a Month

Welcome to November.
The month when aspiring novelists torture themselves by attempting to write 50,000 words. In 30 days.
I don't know whose bright idea it was to do this during one of the four months with 30 days. Does no one understand that this is only one quarter of the available months? Why not just choose February? Especially when you figure in Thanksgiving - which in my house encompasses three days: cooking day, eating day, recovery day.
I have attempted this craziness a couple of times, once with a writing group in January, because we were rebels. The January attempt actually did yield 50,000 of the most syrupy ridiculous words ever. But I have to admit, the sense of accomplishment was great.
This year I am passing on the panic and trying a new route. I have always wanted to take a writing seminar, but short of setting up a GoFundMe to cover the tuition, I chose to purchase $15 book on plotting.
(I must note that the real genius, as pointed out by my husband, is the person who writes a book on 'how to write a book'.) My goal is to work at least 30 minutes a day on this, using it as a lesson plan with the hope of getting some kinks worked out of at least one novel idea that has been simmering in my head, my computer and various notebooks for several years.
Which leads me to the original idea for this post: My Notes app on my phone.
Here is a list of my notes:
Tom Huck
43792 backstory jacket
Things I did in August
Movies I want to watch
Limelight Hydrangea
Iko Tiko
Baker Creek Heirloom
Viagra and Spanx

It's as if my multiple personalities got together and wrote a demented sonnet. It took me a while, but I did decipher most of these. 
Tom Huck - is a super cool wood block artist. We met his rep at the Tiki Bar one evening. You can check out his work at - an address for sailing apps.
Ipsy- had the tag Birchbox under it. I believe this, and the jacket note are gift ideas. for someone....
43792 - no idea. none.
Things I did in August - I guess was my way to ward off Alzheimers. However, the info under the tab made about as much sense. At least Movies I want to watch is self explanatory.
Limelight Hydrangea, as well as the Baker Creek are gardening ideas.
Iko Tiko is an awesome song we heard performed by Sarah Jane and the Blue Notes, when we attended their super cook rooftop concert in August. 
Check out their website:!
And Viagra and Spanx....crime fighting duo? Combo pharmacy/lingerie shop?
I'll let you know...

It is now even later in the morning than I had anticipated. I have a ridiculous to-do list, plus my November writing lesson and no real end to this blog entry. With that and the rather flight of ideas going on here, I leave you with a video clip of my brother and his band performing an original song. If you are ever in Berlin, Germany please check them out! (He also plays amazing jazz.)

Karl Schloz and the Basement Band

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! This One's Going to the Dogs...

I get a real kick out of Halloween. There is something about a holiday that allows, ney, encourages adults and children to explore their wildest, grossest, princessy-est dreams. In our house, even Otter gets in on the celebration.
Princess Wild Bill Otter
Otter VonSchtupt
Chef Otter Ramsey
Victim of Otter-napping
Che Gau-va-Otter
Beats by Dre-Otter

And finally:    
Mike-Otter Meyers
Hope your Halloween is everything you dream of and may all your candy bars be full size!
Frank Sin-Otter says 'Do it Yourrrrr Way'!

AND NOW: a little scare. 
I had a request to post one more scary story, in honor of the season. This one first appeared in the now out of print Vicious Dead anthology and later in the on-line magazine 69 Flavors of Paranoia, a publication which sadly, is now only a memory. Please enjoy...with the lights one.....


My Dad said that once an animal gets a taste for blood its all over. I consider this as I watch the dog padding towards me on the other side of the street. We had an old farm dog once, killed a calf by running it down. The calf was only a day old and the dog was fast. I remember seeing the calf’s blood matted in the dog’s muzzle and the wild look in his eye as he watched Dad walk towards him.

That wild look is in the stray dog’s eye as well. Blood is matted in his muzzle. He is not moving slowly but rather walking with an almost deliberate gait. He swings his head back and forth independent of the swing of his tail, which he is holding at a neutral level to his body--not friendly but not afraid. It is the same way our old dog held his tail as he stood and walked toward my dad.

Dad shot him with a 0.22.

Memory over. I watch the real live dog as he pads to the curb. He sits and fixes his stare on me. I sink back into the shadow as recognition makes a brief appearance.

His name is Bink, the old man’s dog from down the hall. The old guy walked bent over like so many old people do. Bink and the old man were there for as long as I stayed in the building, which would have been two years next week had the old man lived.

But, he didn't live. He died alone in his apartment, alone save for Bink. The howling started on a Tuesday. I couldn’t get the super to let me in. He had disappeared.

I finally broke the door open with a tire iron. Bink barked as the wood split but ran when I pushed the remainder of the frame and shattered door aside. He stood in the dining room, hair standing in a stripe down his back, his tail tucked tightly between his legs. I could see the old man’s head and shoulders lying on the floor behind the dog.

Thinking back, I should have known. The smell should have given something away. Actually, it was a lack of smell. The air in the apartment was stagnant and heavy and in my heart I knew I should be smelling a rotten odor like bad lunch meat or at least the foul smell of dog shit. But there was no odor.

I called to Bink, not the old man. I called him quietly, waving my fingers in a "come on" gesture. The dog responded without hesitation, moving from stock still to full speed and nearly knocking me over as he barreled into my open arms. His rough tongue ran the length of my arm and up to my face before he turned and made a break for the open door.

My fingers looped around his collar as he began to make a sound, though I couldn’t call it a whine or a growl. It was somewhere in between those things and whatever the noise would be called, it made the hair on my arms and on the back of my neck stand as stiff and straight as the hair down Bink’s back. I had little time to qualify the sound with anymore specifics, since the old man was moving.

He staggered from the dining room hunched over and dragging his left leg. His skin was transparent and yellow like an old photograph. There were places on his arms where the skin curled from the bone just like the edges of the photo would curl from a page. I could see areas of decay at his elbows and knees. It looked to me as though he had been leaning on all four bony prominence for a very long time.

Bink snarled and bared his teeth and the old man raised his head. Hollow eyes stared our way, hollow yet aware. Cold nerves ran through my body and I stood, releasing my grasp on Bink’s collar. The dog ran into the hall.

I did not have time to brace for the assault, never anticipating the old man could move so quickly. His fragile body landed on me and knocked me to the floor.

I felt the crunch of his wrist as the bones crushed on impact with the floor. I pressed up with both arms in an attempt to throw him off of me but he opened his mouth and bit down. His teeth sank into the fleshy part of my inner arm as his hollow staring eyes looked somewhere far away.

Taste for blood…” repeats as a chorus in my head.

Expletives born of shock and pain flooded the room as I ripped my arm from the old man’s mouth. Only, I couldn’t pull free. His jaw was locked down and he continued twisting and tearing at the flesh, finally succeeding in securing a mouthful of skin and muscle.
Bile rose in my throat as I watched the old man chew and swallow the better part of my right arm. His knees pinned my thighs and his hands held my shoulders. Blood fell in one artistic drop onto my forehead as the old man watched carefully for intruders to his feast.

I can see that farm dog ripping at the calf’s hide.

The old man was strong. But he was still 80 years old and I was much younger and stronger. I took a second to calm my stomach; there would be time to vomit later. As he lowered his head to take another bite, I raised mine. Our skulls cracked together with a dull thud and I used the surprise to press up once more and throw the old man off. A hideous whine echoed through the rooms of the apartment.

That farm dog’s name was Rex.

In response, Bink appeared at the open door. He coiled and sprang past me and onto his owner. The old man growled, grabbing for the dog as the animal crashed into him. His hands gripped Bink by the throat and I could see the light in Bink’s eyes begin to fade.

My arm throbbed and blood dripped from my fingertips as I moved towards the man and his dog. I swung my left fist at the old man’s head but not before he bit into the dog’s leg. I am wholly right handed and the southpaw swing was laughable at best. It only seemed to irritate the man and did nothing to prevent him from biting deeper. Afraid he would succeed in simultaneously strangling the dog and ripping its leg off, I let instinct take over and I lunged forward again.

This time, I attacked in kind and let my teeth sink into the old man’s shoulder. Immediately a bitter decaying taste filled my mouth. Inhaling, my nostrils filled with an acrid, earthy smell.

Taste for blood…”

The old man howled and released his hold of Bink. The dog landed in a scurrying heap. He twisted and turned as his feet slid in the pool of blood accumulating on the floor. When he at last gained his footing he ran from the apartment his tail tucked neatly between his legs.

The old man lay in a daze, his breath puffing, his left hip loose from its socket.

I too ran from the room, across the hall and into my own home. My arm throbbed with each heartbeat and I sat on the edge of my couch, watching in fascination as my blood and my life splattered rhythmically to the floor. I counted three thousand and forty six drops before it went dark...

I hear the explosion of the gun and see Rex recoil--his blood splattered outward, a sanguine firework.

I did not see Bink again. Until now.

Now. It is dusk and the streets are wet so I guess it has rained. Time seems to have progressed but I do not know where in the minutes and hours of a day I belong. Bink sits across the street and chews his back. To relieve an itch, I suppose. When he is satisfied he looks back in my direction and snarls. His teeth are yellowed and even in the poor light of early evening I can see saliva drip from the sharp edge of the incisors.

Show no fear. The words echo through my head and are gone. The sudden clarity startles me and as I gasp in surprise I catch a deep breath.

The sulfur smell of exhaust permeates the air but there are more subtle scents as well. I inhale again, nose raised to the sky and catch the musky smell of the dog across the street and the sweet earthy odor of blood. I raise my mangled arm and sniff then return to smell in Bink’s direction--the same blood smell, fainter but present.

Clarity of thought. I don’t feel as though I am actually thinking. My brain is bombarded with smells that signal a response. I feel the pupils in my eyes constrict as they focus on movement to my left. I turn slowly. A street light has begun to glow and its rays reveal a figure in the window by which I stand.

Vacant eyes, yellow, peeling image of the old man...but he is gone and this man moves as I do. I snarl and bare my teeth and he does the same but he does not move closer. Gingerly I raise my nose to the glass and sniff. There is no unfamiliar odor and as I move closer the intruder disappears.

From across the street there is a single, questioning bark. The dog is standing, sighting farther down the street.

I ease my head out from around the corner of the building. Parking meters line the street, several still occupied with deserted cars. The rain has formed puddles near the curb. I hear a lapping noise and catch a glimpse of the dog as he drinks. My mouth is suddenly, noticeably dry.

I drop to the curb and drink as well. The water is cool and bitter. I can taste bits of oil and grit but it quenches. At least for now. I stand and wipe my mouth with my damaged arm. Fresh blood smears across my face and my tongue flicks out and licks it off my lips. This is fresh and sweet. My gut rumbles in response. I am starved.

A distant sound catches my attention and I cock my head as Bink does the same. We both cease movement and I listen intently. My ears pick up a thin high whimper. Inhaling in the direction of the noise yields a floral scent. The smell is light, chemical and mixed with a baser musky smell.


I feel a twinge of anticipation as the hair on the back of my neck and on my arms and legs ripples to attention. My muscles tense and I breathe deeply. Bink snorts and I look his way.

The dog is coiled back on his haunches ready to run and I squat in a runners mark. We both scent the air once more as the woman breaks from her hiding place behind the dumpster. I feel instinct rising up with a rumbling growl in answer to the essence of what I am. What we all are...

When an animal gets the taste of blood...well, that’s the end...”

No Dad, it's just the beginning…

(Laura.Ehlers. This is my story. Please don't steal it. If you are interested in publication or better yet, screenplay-ing check out my Call Me page.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Don't Be Afraid. Be VERY Afraid

I have just a few rules in life.
Be nice.
Try not to be terribly wasteful.
Don't antagonize the bucket of baby-dolls in the basement.

Oh you laugh.
But I am saving humanity.

You see, I found these awesome candle holders at Old Time Pottery.
Please meet Skell and Tor.

I was lamenting the fact that I have had trouble finding candles which fit the shape of the holders. Regular tealights are too small to be seen. Tapers are too narrow. Pillars are too large.
Being ever helpful, Rob suggested going straight to the creep factor and pop the heads off some of the old dolls in the basement.
He said, and I quote, 'wouldn't it look so cool with tiny heads in their hands!'
(This was ROB. Not me. I am only reporting the facts. That's R-O-B. He's the guy in the house with a mustache. In case anyone needs to know.)

Those 'old dolls' currently and forever will, reside in a large popcorn tin.
They once belonged to my daughter, who has since moved out leaving her horrifying container of torsos behind. They were all loved once. But now, they sit on a shelf in the basement, lid nearly rusted tight, surrounded by two mannequin heads and a styling head.
(The Heads get to come upstairs for Mardi Gras. None of the Heads have bodies, or more importantly, arms with which they could pull the top off that popcorn tin)

I looked at my husband of 30 years as if he were a stranger and gave a resounding NO. Why would you open that can of dolls, pop off the heads of a select few and expect to live through the night?
He knows my feelings about non-living items with eyes.
(Once they have eyes, they have souls. You do not piss off non-living items with souls.)
This is partly why my Barbies live upstairs on a shelf of honor, our family teddy bears are in a basket in the hallway and that china doll which was broken had to leave under suspicious circumstances that I know nothing about.

'Oh, come on,' he countered. 'What do you think will happen? That they will drag their tiny headless bodies up the stairs as we sleep and terrorize us?'

'Of course,' I answer while making a 'keep your voice down' gesture and lean over the back of the couch to watch the landing which leads to the dark basement.

'What makes you think they don't already hop right out of that can at night, have a little dance and then climb back in before morning?'

'Have you heard the cat crying out from the basement some nights? I am quite sure that they do. But at least they have their tiny heads on. There's a fairly well stocked bar down there, they have no reason to come upstairs. But without their heads....' 
Against my better judgement I opened the tin for this photo. Notice how that one nearest the Pretty Pretty Pony is beckoning me to come closer...

Needless to say. I found candles to fit the holders.
And bought a brand new bottle of tequila for the downstairs bar.
I have no idea what happened to the last one.
Fire. So much safer than a handful of heads.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Challenge Extended, Universe...

I am in the habit of saving fortune cookie fortunes.
But until now, I have never called the Universe on one.

I initially miss-read this and thought it said BIG things. All I could envision was an ACME Anvil...
This one has been hanging around since July 5.
It didn't get lost.
Or forgotten.
(Okay, my husband found it by accident yesterday on my clip of things I want to remember and hung it on the calendar.)
But still.

'Good Things'

Let's think about this.

Are we talking really good things?
Like One Million Dollars? A random contact from a publisher actually paying me to simultaneously write that novel and a travel show? A sudden painless fifteen pound weight-loss with subsequent toning? No traffic on the way to work and a nausea-producing smell free train ride?

Or are we talking more mundane 'Good Things'
Things like a phone call from my best friend from high school? Surprise flowers? A random compliment? An endearing exchange with a stranger? A chance meeting with one of my kids? 

Maybe the fact that I got up this morning is my Good Thing. 
Which means I have already peaked...although the text is in the plural... 

I feel as though I should only expect the typical good things. Those things that we tend to take for granted. Perhaps this is the Universe's way of reminding me to be grateful for what I have and perhaps be happy going to bed tonight with the knowledge that I got one more day...

I don't want to sound ungrateful, Universe, but I could really that million bucks.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Autumnal Aquanet

There is no messing with Mother Nature.

After what has felt like a ridiculously short summer, autumn has arrived.
The air is beginning to have a twinge of coolness in its breeze.
Pots of chili are popping up on Facebook and Instagram.
Catalogs feed our dreams of cozy, cushy sweaters.
Birds are beginning their migrations.
Summer flowers are bursting forth with their final bright blooms as reds and rusts and yellows begin to dominate the autumn palate.

Oh wait.
I mean the Summer Hairnets are bursting forth their final bright blooms...
It is a little known fashion rule. No red Nets after Labor Day.

And are slowly going to seed....
A rare Heirloom Black-Eyed Suzanne Net. Remarkable staying power. This one has been waving for 4 weeks solid. Look out when it finally lets go.

Wave on little Hairnet!
We'll see you in the Spring!

(Thank you to astute reader Liz for the rare red net photo!)

And - a big Coast of Illinois hug goes out to Laurie at  A Square of Chocolate she gave me the blogging equivalent with a Blogger Recognition Award! Please check out her site for some delish recipes and a laugh or two!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Just Nurses

Yet another celebrity has put her foot in her mouth and peeved off an entire profession.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to let this go.

First a Miss America contestant stands up on stage and gives a monologue about being a nurse as her 'talent' portion of the program.
I didn't see this. I did see the posts on Facebook but didn't bother watching it. Seemed like a whole lot of blah blah – how sweet – blah blah. (I did finally watch this, before writing this essay which is why I am posting the link.)

Next some women on a daytime talk show attack said contestant, questioning her performance of a monologue as an actual talent, questioning her profession as an actual talent, commenting on her 'costume'.
I didn't see this either. In fact, I had no idea what was going on until I got to work this morning and was shown the subsequent Facebook page in support of said profession.(I did finally watch this. Although it wasn't easy, without morning coffee and a gun to my head. Which is why I am NOT posting the link to that site. Outside of the Today show, I have no use for morning talk shows.)

Then I got tagged in numerous posts regarding this incident and suddenly found myself defending the supporters in the midst of a discussion over being overly sensitive and too easily offended.

And last, as expected, the talk show mouths put forth something they called an apology but really sounded more like a slap in the face and an accusation of inability to take a joke.
I DID see this little gem.
And then I spent three hours reading posts on the supportive Facebook page.

Because I am a nurse.
I am not a nurse who considers her profession a 'talent'. Although I have worked with many nurses who truly could make this claim.
I do know a little bit about writing and performing my work in public. THAT is a real talent and the Miss America candidate should be congratulated for not only giving a unique performance but doing so on a beauty pageant – but we are really a scholarship program – stage.

It seems that the women on The View questioned why the contestant was wearing a 'doctor stethoscope' on her 'costume' and was simply reading emails.
These comments sent the nursing world into a frenzy.

Which is why it was suggested to me that maybe we as a profession was being too sensitive.
Well, world, let me explain.

That 'doctor stethoscope' probably cost the nurse wearing it at least half a 12 hour shift's wages. Stethoscopes are not provided. We have to purchase them and good ones cost a lot of money. We buy good ones because the patient and the doctor are counting on us to really HEAR what is going on in heart, lungs, grafts, bowels. Many times we are the first to hear changes and report our findings to doctors who are trusting us to do just this very thing.

That 'costume' is called scrubs. And guess what – they are usually not provided either. And, shocker, they are not very cheap. We have worked hard to wear those navy blue pajamas. (Some of us worked really hard to wear those white dresses with matching hose and caps!) But in a way, those scrubs are a costume. Because when we put those clothes on we leave behind our families and our friends and for 8-10-12+ hours we do things we never imagined: hold pressure to stop bleeding, insert hoses in orifices that should never have hoses inserted into, compress hearts to make them start beating again. And again.
That 'costume' gives me the strength to NOT cry as I listen to a woman my age lament the fact that she has been told she won't live another year, leaving behind her children, who are the same age as mine. That 'costume' gives me the strength to understand it's out of fear that an irate family member gets in my face and curses me because they do not like the outcome of their loved ones diagnosis.
But shedding that 'costume' does not mean I leave those things behind at the end of my day. Everything I experience in my scrubs becomes another stitch in the fabric of me. Some days those stitches begin to unravel and I wonder if I am just going to fall apart. Yet in the morning I get up and pull my scrubs on and those stitches pull tight for another day.

Miss Colorado, Kelly Johnson, performed a monologue about her experiences as a nurse. Her monologue was not 'emails'. Click here to watch. It was an essay. And my guess is, it was written as part of a professional nurse development program at her place of employment.
What's this?
A professional nurse development program is just what it sounds like. It is a way for nurses to develop themselves as professionals. At my hospital that program requires at least one essay be written a year. The theme of those essays revolves around what the nurse has done to improve a patient's experience through care they have provided. This is only a portion of the program.
I have watched many nurses who participate in this program take real ownership of their careers.

The women on The View touched a nerve by singling out these things in an attempt to be topical and funny.
It backfired.

This is a Facebook page which, in less than 24 hours, has gained over half a million members. Not just nurses, but doctors, EMT, paramedics, respiratory therapists, students and all the other members of the healthcare team.
All in support of nurses.

Which leads me to the folks who suggested that nurses were being too sensitive; that perhaps why is it worse to insult a nurse?

It is not any worse to insult a nurse than to insult a politician or a sports figure or a television talk show host. Taken at face value, the comments made on the View were just silly, poorly crafted attempts to be topical and cutting edge.
Why has the nursing community reacted so strongly?

There is the real question.

I can only speak for myself here.
I did not become a nurse as part of a calling. I became a nurse because I knew it was a dependable job which paid well. There have been many days, especially after 30 years, that I wonder if I had been 'called' then maybe these days would be easier somehow.
I am proud of what I have done as a nurse. But not because I AM a nurse. I am proud of the strength I have found within myself to do things I never thought possible; see things which are un-see-able; connect with people whom I would never have met in any other life. I have learned as much about myself as I have learned about medicine.   
The nursing profession has changed in so many ways, for better and for worse. We have more responsibility than ever before. We care for sicker patients. We work longer hours. We are active participants in meeting the ever more difficult criteria for financial reimbursement to hospitals: keeping readmission rates down, keeping infection rates down, keeping patient satisfaction up.

I feel nurses and the nursing profession are hitting a critical point.
And the women on the View made a fatal error in attacking one of our own.
We have allowed society to make jokes at our expense for years – the nurse on the soap opera who is scheming to catch a doctor, the 'sexy' nurse costumes at Halloween, the vindictive Nurse Diesel and Nurse Ratchet. Not to mention the millions of raunchy 'head nurse' jokes out there.

But we know those things are just in fun because we know that those things are not completely real. Of course there are nurses who marry doctors, there are nurses who are 'sexy', although none of them wear ridiculously short skirts with crinolines, and as tempting as it might be, we do not act vindictively.
And we probably tell way dirtier jokes than the general public can imagine.

But, women of the View, you attacked our realities.

So we are going to post photos of ourselves proudly wearing our stethoscopes. We are going to post silly memes. We are going to dissect every word that has been said. When you need medical care we will provide it to you, reprimand free. Although we may make a joke and ask you how to use our stethoscopes.
And tomorrow we will return to work a little stronger and a little prouder.
Because we are more than just Nurses. 
Thirty years ago

and today.

For more thoughts on nursing click HERE or on the It's a Living link above.