Furnishing a House And Keeping My Parents Living There With Me Through Memories and Decorative Items

The past few weeks since dad died have been the days I’ve been most dreading for quite a while (starting in earnest last summer when he was too tired to go on a private yacht for a week.  He claimed seasickness- that didn’t fly as he’d been in the navy and had a sailboat with two other couples.  Then it was too much fatigue- which was a huge change; this guy ran around ALL the time.   He was changing, and his mortality slapped me upside the head.  With both parents gone, I feel like I’m about 12 years old some days (and younger on other days, for bits of time) when nothing seems like it’s going to be OK, even though I know eventually the pain dulls, and the memories of good times will again get brighter.  Right now, it’s just a rat maze going through the paperwork things, keeping up with two ‘abodes’, and working to get the decisions made for what I want changed in the house without removing either of my folks from it.   I miss my daddy… haven’t called him that since about first grade.   Tonight I asked my uncle Russ if here was still a pair of shoes (or something ) that I could put with mom’s on a Welcome Mat inside the door.  I’ve got a pair of mom’s (with San Diego animal park shoelaces) that will work well- and Russ has a pair at the house in mind for dad’s.  ❤

My dad designed that house with his cousin (who is an amazing architect), and put a lot of time into it. I want to keep those special touches that remind me of him.  There are bricks from the streets of Chicago from the time of the Great Fire that make up the living room fireplace – 14 feet tall on one half of the ‘Great Room’ (remember Mrs.  O’Leary’s agitated cow?), a custom stained glass window in the gable of the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen, and an acre in the back of the house, with partially wild grass and trees- very private, and beautiful during seasonal changes- snow is gorgeous back there.  There are a lot of birds, squirrels, sometimes deer, wild turkeys, and other critters, which I love.

It was all put together by a family friend who is a great contractor (still in business), which has been HUGE in helping me get through the various updates I want to get done- the guy who built it has been out measuring, and his son and project manager have been walking me through all of it; they’ve been wonderful.  What they don’t do, they know someone who does that works with them often.   The carpet is the original stuff from 1976.  It’s gotta go- it’s got green tints where there were no drapes (on purpose).  Window treatments must be changed- the drapes are ‘nice’, and in good condition, but not my thing- I MUST have something that directs light away from me because of the dysautonomia and temperature regulation in my body.  The windows face east-west on either side of the house, so sauna material if I’m not careful.  The bathroom wallpaper is “disco era”, with foil.  It’s in outstanding condition, so for now, it stays.  I can live with that.

Dad and I had talked about things I liked and others I’d probably change long before he died.  His taste was “House Beautiful” (with antiques and high end collectibles- that  are  now at an auction house)… I’m more “House Standing”, with comfortable furniture and a casual vibe that I hope is inviting, as well as a place I’ll stay in as long as I’m still breathing air.  There were a couple of things that I hadn’t anticipated (isn’t that how it always goes?) that ate about a third of my original ‘goal’ budget… but I want to get it all done right, so it seemed like a no-brainer.  I found an alternate for a pantry that will work well, and saved me a few thousand bucks.

After getting a check from the first auction of dad’s belongings that I didn’t keep, I set off to a local mom and pop furniture store that has been in town for  a LONG time.  They’re having their grand opening of a store closer to me, which I hadn’t realized was still going on, so that was a nice surprise to know I’d get %20 off (roughly).   I’d set out for 2 green recliners  (only) that felt like sitting in a cloud, but had to swivel to either talk with guests or watch show falling/thunderstorms from the windows in the living room. If I can get the gas fireplace going, that’s another form of live entertainment.  Anyway, the chairs will be made to my preferences.   I hadn’t expected to be able to get a couch in a custom fabric for what I could afford, a beautiful Amish (simple design, well made) BED- the whole thing, headboard, frame, and foot board, and a great  buffet – all in my taste.  Very simple designs, sturdy, and fit into a contemporary house in the main part, with the Amish bed working with my quilt and a bit more retro/mild country vibe in there.  The kitchen will be a bit of an eclectic bouquet- but still keep the colors dad worked so hard to pick out for the counter overlay and bigger items.  There are a few cosmetic cabinet things that I need to get done – but all in due time.

This might not sound like an earth shattering event to a lot of people, but it’s the first  time I’ve been able to pick out everything I like !  I’m not refurnishing the whole place- I still have some nice pieces here, as well as some things I’m keeping at the house that dad had.  When dad found out that the reason I didn’t have much furniture in Texas (and nothing new) because of financial constraints, he sent me money if I’d find a second hand item in good condition.  He did buy me a new dinette set (was eating at a card table for over 20 years), as well as a group of end tables and coffee table, and a 32 inch TV when my 13 inch set that I got  in late high school  had lost so much horizontal hold that I got audio and about an inch of the “picture”, but it had lasted for about  20 years ! .   The ‘new’ TV even made it back to my hometown when I moved 1250 miles back to help take care of my mom (she died in 2003, which was unexpected), and was then graduated to the flat screen.   Now, I have at least 4 other TVs (dad had one in his bedroom, my old bedroom (his self-proclaimed den),  living room, and kitchen… I forget if one was in the downstairs living area  or not- it’s designed for visitors for the most part).

The dining room table was made for the house, and is a big, solid piece of table, covered in formica- doesn’t sound that exciting, but in the “Great Room”, it works very well.  Chairs from an old opera house from somewhere around here surround it.  Those stay.  🙂   Living in apartments for  30 years has been great in a lot of ways; I’ve moved a lot, maintenance was a phone call or e-mail away, etc.  But white walls (I will have those at the house  mostly,  except for the  wood paneling walls that are painted a shade of almond, and the disco wallpaper, which is fine- outstanding installation), the less expensive carpet in apartments, dinky refrigerators, some seriously funky linoleum over the years, and NO ‘right’ to do my own thing has been annoying.  Then there are the views.  One takes what one wants if the price, neighborhood, and location work.   For the last 13 years, I’ve had a nice apartment, but my view is of a parking lot and a tree. My second apartment in Austin,TX overlooked a relic car part lot… never saw so many Corsairs in various stages of decomposition.    I do have nice neighbors here at the apartment now- and I will miss them.  I spent time growing up at the “new” neighborhood, but don’t recognize the vast majority of the folks there.

It is fun to pick out new things, but it’s also really important to me to keep my parents’ presence in that house.  They are what made it a home.  The scuff marks at the top of the stairs from dad’s shoes will stay.  Mom’s wheelchair marks on the bedroom door will also be untouched.  There are some things that nobody but me will appreciate, and that’s fine. Dad left me a wonderful home and “yard” (more than an acre, WITH his lawn guy staying on for the weekly trims).  It gets harder to know he won’t be coming back.. it’s only been  a month and a half since he died (time gets so warped).  I was pretty sick with bronchitis for a couple of weeks after going gangbusters with “getting it done” (I’d ‘house sat’ for dad whenever he was out of town, so knew what as in the house, and what I didn’t want to keep).    I’ve slowed down a bit, but still moving forward.

But I really miss him.  Fifty-two years, I was blessed enough to call that man my dad. ❤

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Open Letter to Rape Survivors

On the Texas Hill Country Facebook page, a flyer of a serial rape suspect in Austin, TX was shared.  This young man is wanted for questioning in EIGHT sexual assaults in Austin.  Those are the survivors who have come forward.  There is no word as to the possibility of any more women who haven’t come forward.  He happens to be Hispanic, is of relatively small stature for a man, and thin.  That became the focus of some comments.  If he’s so small, why didn’t the women just fight him off.   It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, depending on how an attack starts, a survivor does have more options- but that’s not how it goes for everyone.

Nobody knows when someone is going to attack another person.  Otherwise, they’d be called appointments!!.  In my situation (he’s a scrawny white guy), I was targeted specifically, and an elaborate lie was fed to me, and being a naive 23 year old in 1987, I fell for it.   He had access to me and my apartment for the entire six hours he raped, sodomized, beat me, and used wine cooler bottles to penetrate me vaginally and rectally.  For six hours.  During that time, he had a knife to my neck or next to his hand the entire time- even when he had to go to the bathroom (he made me get down on all fours and traced the knife along my spine).  If I had to go to the bathroom, he kept the knife in the doorway of the bathroom .  This was long before cell phones.  I didn’t have a weapon.  And, he was dazed but just kept going, as if on drugs and had the stamina and force sufficient enough to let me know I’d die if I didn’t do what he said.  As the day went on, I knew I’d be murdered anyway- he couldn’t leave someone behind who knew his name, address, and family contact.  He traced the knife under my breast a few times and asked what I thought I’d look like if he cut it off…  At one point, after repeated insertion of the wine cooler bottle, he withdrew both of his arms from me, and they were covered with blood to his mid-forearm.

I babysat this guy’s infant nephew. He made up a story about me needing to come and get the baby as the baby’s dad had been in a car accident, and they needed me to watch the infant so they could deal with things at the hospital.  He called from a corner 7-11; I knew the sister with whom  he was staying didn’t have a phone.  NO red flags there.  I loved that baby, and immediately went to go get him.  More lies- but at the time I didn’t know that, and he had my weakness figured out- I would do anything to help the baby.  I had been raised to ‘help my neighbors’ and didn’t feel a ‘right’ to listen to my gut about not really knowing him.  I fell for his story hook, line, and sinker.  They’d bring the baby to my apartment later; they needed to hurry to the hospital, and wanted to know if he could wait for word on his sister’s boyfriend at my place. They’d pick him up there.

Long story short, after 6 hours, he passed out in my bed, and I had a way to escape; I grabbed a towel and ran after going to the bathroom, and walking back to the bedroom to be sure he was asleep. At that point, it was die then, die later, or actually escape. Minimal risk (that’s what you aim for- but sometimes you have to take more risk to stay alive).  Neighbors let me in to call 911, and then the police cars, helicopters (news and hospital), news station vans, radio stations, and neighbors showed up in force.  I was in the neighbors’ apartment by then (I’d only lived there for ten days- and met them the day before), and didn’t hear much after that. I was exhausted, and filing details away to be able to tell the detectives.  I never heard the shots fired by police, shooting him in my bedroom (had to clean up the blood later).  He didn’t die, so I had to get ready to go through the legal system.  The officers, detectives, and District Attorney’s office folks were all very nice to me.  Brenda Kennedy is now a Judge; she was the Assistant DA who handled ‘my’ case (I was a witness for the state of Texas).

Here’s what I want people to know.  If you are attacked, do what you have to do in order to get out alive.  In my case, that meant going through a LOT.  Torn uterine ligaments, a dislocated jaw, concussion, teeth through my bottom lip, pregnancy and miscarriage (I was a virgin; it was his kid), and emotional battering.  But I made it.  I made a conscious effort to keep track of details. I gave myself a job during the attack.  If you survive, you didn’t do anything ‘wrong’.  One thing I’ve heard several times and through several sources- never let someone take you to a secondary location. If you’re going to fight to the death, do it to avoid being moved. Look up some of these ‘attack survival tips’ online to be sure you have the information you need.

If you have access to a weapon and can get to it once the attack starts, use it.  Be careful when you go for a weapon if there’s a chance he could beat you to it.   Try to keep HIM calm, and do what you can to make yourself human to him (at the trial, my attacker listened to my testimony for 2 1/2 hours and changed his plea to guilty, saying he had no reason to believe I was lying; he got a 60 year sentence- I wouldn’t take less at the plea bargain since I knew it was the same as ‘life’ in terms of parole eligibility at that time- he’d be in for 1/3 before he’d be eligible for parole. He’ll be on parole or in prison until 2047).  He’s been out, and now back in… the woman who MARRIED him while he was serving the sentence for my rape got beat up by him. EVERY time he’s been out on parole he reoffends (since at least age 18, when the records show up; his sister said he’d been in trouble as a kid).  Hello?  The next mandatory release date is in 2033, I think. I’ve got a notebook full of paperwork on this mess.

If the guy who attacks you tells you to shut up, then shut up. Just get through it. You can second guess yourself for the rest of your life- but buy yourself another day however you need to do so.  If you’re dead, nothing will matter.

If it’s a ‘quick’ attack, call 911 as soon as you can, but do NOT take a shower- you NEED to have a rape kit exam done for evidence (don’t shower no matter how long it takes- I had to fake washing myself to preserve evidence when he forced me to shower with him- and evidence was still there in abundance).  It’s not a particularly painful exam- but it does make that feeling of being so vulnerable kick in.  It will be worth it in the end to have solid evidence to help the case, especially if police don’t have the ‘luxury’ of finding him in your bed, as in my case.  Don’t brush your teeth before going to the ER.  Save all clothing and panty liners or pads.  Yes- you will feel gross, and the exam is more emotionally invasive than physically painful.  But let the investigators get what they need to nail the bastard.  You may not be the first, and probably won’t be the last; help get him off the streets.

A violent rapist doesn’t have to be physically imposing.  A wimpy-looking twit can become very violent, and with that comes strength that doesn’t seem to match what you see.  That doesn’t mean you are pathetic for not flattening the guy- threats of death and visual or implied weapons are very powerful.  I had a 12 inch knife to my neck- I believed he’d kill me. He’d already slugged me a few times.  Listen to your gut.  Just get through it.

Take advantage of any counseling groups or services offered.  At first you might be sort of in shock or dazed. Or you may be fuming.  There’s no ‘right’ way to begin healing, but it is important that you don’t let the guy define who you are.  He took enough. YES, your life has to find a new normal.  Your friends, family, and co-workers who you decide to tell will be a bit weird around you- that’s not about you, it’s because they don’t want to upset you by asking the ‘wrong’ questions.  You can tell them what is OK to talk about.

You might not want to talk about it, but from my experience, making it something that was ‘out there’ took away a lot of its power over me. And nobody who is raped ‘asked for it’ or did anything wrong to get raped.  It’s about the defective thinking of the rapist.  You will have ups and downs.  That doesn’t mean your life will always be like that.  I was a mess in the beginning, and when the first parole hearing came up 22 years after sentencing (he had to finish serving out his time for a crime before mine that I hadn’t known the full details of, and since I was always willing to help the baby, I don’t know if my 23 year old brain would have done anything differently).  But, the more I can ‘get it out’, the less power it has.  Blogging has been very helpful- and people find this when they’re needing to read something from someone who has been there.

If people ask questions that imply that you didn’t do ‘enough’ to get out of the situation, blow them off- if you survived, you have done well.   Do what you need to do to feel as safe as you can- and if you feel like you’re getting to a really dark place, please reach out to someone (a crisis hotline, therapist, friend- someone).  It does get better.

If you read this before anything happens, and you live in a state with good self-protection gun laws, consider having one. Practice with it, and make it something you are comfortable using. Keep it somewhere safe, but accessible.  If you don’t have a weapon, consider self-protection classes.  Find other weapons (the leftover ends of sliding glass door tract rods that prevent it from being opened can be useful and easy to hide).  If tasers are legal, check those out.  Do whatever you can- but don’t beat yourself up if you ‘just’ survive by getting through it by having to put up with it.  If you’re alive, you did well.  YOU have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you want to leave comments, I will answer you- they will likely not show up until I read them unless you have a Word Press account…. but I will read and respond to comments…. this is a safe place; disrespect won’t be tolerated towards anybody who needs some support ❤

In Memory of Madeline Spenrath, R.N.

I just found out on Thursday, April 25, 2013 that one of my favorite nursing supervisors had died.  I’d talked to her several times over the last few years when we were both going through various cancer diagnoses, but hadn’t talked to her in a while.  She had been through breast cancer, and thought she was doing well when she discovered she had bone cancer in her thigh and had to have an amputation at the hip (around 2010).  She went through that with a great deal of grace and dignity.  I’m told that she had recurrence of cancer in her lung and spine.  I can’t imagine what that was like for her. Getting used to her leg prosthesis and wheel chair were hard enough; the leg prosthesis drove her nuts.  She was incredibly independent, and needing help didn’t make her smile.  I can just hear her saying “when I go, just toss me out into the pasture with the horses”.  Down to earth, no frills, and knew SO much about nursing.  I will always have a great deal of respect for her.

Madeline  was a no- nonsense supervisor, but also had a heart of gold. I first met her in in  1991, and while there are many people who knew her much better than I did, she left a definite impact on me, for the better.  I worked at Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital in Kerrville, TX on and off for over 10 years.  Madeline had been there much, much longer, and was a ‘staple’ supervisor on the night shift.   She had her own way of getting report on every patient in the hospital for the next shift’s supervisor (or ‘Number 9’, as they were called at Sid Pete, at least at that time). Some supervisors wanted report from each nurse- Madeline wanted the charge nurse to give the run-down.  SO, I talked to her a lot.  She wanted ‘just the facts’, but also had a really good sense of humor, and if a patient needed something, and she could do it, she’d give it her all.

Madeline could get IVs in just about anybody.  Generally, if someone needed an IV started or restarted, the direct care nurse or charge nurses would get them in.  If that didn’t work- or if someone’s veins were just too puny to go poking around when it didn’t make sense, the charge nurses would call Madeline (or whoever was the supervisor that night).  Madeline could get an IV in the butt vein of a grasshopper. In motion.  She was just that experienced and had all of the tricks down pat.

Madeline used to have incredible BBQs for the night shift staff. They were annual and legendary.  I got to go to one in 1991. She had them in the summer, and would have one of her horses saddled up for anybody who wanted to go for a ride around the farm in Comfort.  I still have a photo of me on one of her palomino horses, in my tennis shoes and t-shirt…. I looked SO not ‘Texas’.  But it was fun 🙂

When Coca-Cola changed their formula back in the 80s, Madeline rode her horse to the town store, and brought home as much of the original formula as she could secure to that horse!  I never heard that she ever smoked or had other vices- but don’t mess with her classic Coke !! 🙂

One night, Madeline called me about a predicament with staffing on the telemetry floor.  Uh oh.  Madeline could get me to agree to a lot of things that I’d normally freak out about (like charging two floors on nights when there were simply no other nurses to cover one of the floors- they were back to back units – 4A and 4B- so I just ran between the two that night; one was my usual floor, and I knew the other staff well enough).  The regular charge nurse on the telly floor had some emergent health situation happen, and they really needed a charge nurse.  I really didn’t read telemetry strips !  I knew ‘OK, looks survivable’ and ‘uh oh’. She reassured me that the monitor techs knew the rhythms and there were standing medication orders that the nurses knew about- I’d be fine. They just needed an RN body to check off orders and be physically present.  Scared the snot out of me, but I went.  Everybody survived the shift 🙂

She hated taking bodies to the morgue in the basement of the old hospital. Madeline would do anything she could for anybody in the hospital, but once she was notified of a death, she’d show up like the wind and drop off the keys to the morgue.  She wasn’t a fearful person but that morgue gave her the willies. I have to admit, it was creepy- it was a ‘one occupant’ room, with shelves along all available wall space that had the specimens from various surgeries… there were gallbladders, appendixes, lungs, and just about anything that could be removed from a body bobbing along in preservative liquid in semi-opaque plastic buckets. You could still tell they were guts.  Named, dated, and labelled.  The first time I went down there, I was very distraught.  I was still shaking the next day, and actually had to leave when I got to work (major chicken-poo reaction). Madeline was on that night, and while she wasn’t amused at me falling apart, she never made me feel ashamed of my reaction. Once I knew what I’d be seeing, I was able to go if I had to help take a body there.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995, I had just started working at SPMH again (and was diagnosed with diabetes through general pre-employment screenings)… one night I said I felt a little funny, and Madeline went bounding off to the cafeteria to get me a pimento cheese sandwich, in case my blood sugar was getting too low; I was still very early on in being treated, and could sometimes have symptoms even when numbers were decent- my body was just used to having much higher blood sugars.  Being diabetic wasn’t seen as a liability, and I had a great deal of support from Madeline and others there at SPMH.

When Madeline brought a meal for a patient admitted later in the evening or night, she’d bring back  a tray full of food fit for a football player…. her theory- never trust a skinny chef, and make sure they get enough food if they’re hungry.  Never knew when someone sick would either lose their appetite, or have the need for some energy stores.

Madeline loved her horses and cats.  She retired from nursing several years ago, and while she was dealing with a lot of health issues, she always talked about how she was doing with taking care of the horses and cats on her farm. She was deeply saddened when that palomino died… it was one of her favorite horses.  She also volunteered at the local VA hospital, and loved going out there.  She had passion about many things, and when Madeline took to something, she did it with a great deal of satisfaction- and she was good at it.

Madeline was a ‘giver’. I never heard her ask for anything for herself, even when she was going through so many life changes with her health.  When she’d call me, she’d sound upbeat- and she had so many reasons to be bummed.  She’d send funny e-mails, and periodic notes- and never complained.

When Madeline would hear of something just not sounding fair in regards to how someone was being treated after some management changes at the hospital, she felt so badly for them.  Madeline believed in people being accountable- but she also knew that sometimes people got a really raw deal… and it hurt her when they hurt.  One other supervisor comes to mind in regards to that.  We both deeply respected that other person.  Madeline didn’t always wear her emotions on her sleeve, but she was an incredibly caring person who wanted the best for those around her.   Sometimes there might be someone (usually someone who didn’t last long) who drove her a little nuts- but she was always fair if anything came up that involved her input with that person.

I’ve worked with some great people in the years I worked as an RN.  Madeline Spenrath is someone who I will never forget, and am forever grateful for things she taught me.  I became a better nurse and person for having known her.

For those who knew Madeline, and would like to leave a comment about your memories of her, please feel free to do so, and I’ll get them added to the comment section 🙂

Freak Magnet

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’ve got a sign on my forehead that screams “ALL FREAKS, C’mon over” !  I’m sure that everybody has experienced the same sorts of people in different ways…and some days I’m not so sure.  Maybe some of it has to do with being a nurse. People see nurses as helpful and nurturing, when we’re just as weird as everybody else- we just get paid to take care of the lost and vulnerable. And then there are the folks who would fit nicely  on the side of ‘Criminal Minds’ that either gets shot or lengthy prison sentences. The spooky people.  Not all are dangerous to others, but the danger to self thing eeks in there. Regardless, they don’t fit well into a ‘normal’ life.

Let me start with a director of nurses (DON) who had been one in a line of them at a very nice nursing home after the ‘good’ DON had gone on maternity leave. He happened to come along during a time when a new administrator was also getting used to all of us.  Initially, he seemed a bit intense, but not pathological.  One of my duties when I was working on the weekends as the RN Supervisor was to log in the discontinued medications that did little but take up room in the storage cabinets in locked medication rooms. I counted each pill on each card of pills (packaged at the pharmacy for nursing home med carts), bottle of loose pills, or made sure injectable medication vials had a reasonable amount left for what the sign-out sheet said it should have.  Narcotics (or ‘scheduled’ drugs) had to be accounted for separately and documented on specific forms.  It was mundane, but necessary. At one point, the DON asked me for the keys to the file cabinet  in his office where we kept the ‘logged’ drugs.  He was the boss, so I handed them over- no problem.

A few weeks went by, and the nurses on the floors said that nobody had picked up the growing piles of discontinued cards and bottles of medication for a while; they wanted them out of the way. I asked the DON if he wanted me to log the meds in that coming weekend ( I think this was either a Thursday or Friday). He looked at me and closed the door behind me in his office.  Gulp.  He then pulled out a .44 semi-automatic handgun out of the desk. That alone was a huge, HUGE problem. Texas was pretty gun-friendly, but in 1994, guns and old folks weren’t a good pairing.  He pointed the barrel at me as I sat down (which I decided to do before I keeled over), and asked me if I was going to tell anybody about our little talk.  Nope. My lips were sealed. Everything was very cool (as I’m imagining my body being found after the weekend, ripe and smelling up the place).  He handed me the keys and told me to go ahead and log in the meds that were piling up.  NO problem. Happy to do so.  Can’t wait to get started. Did he want coffee with that?

But that weekend, I noticed that every last narcotic form I’d filled out had been rewritten in his handwriting, with no way to figure out what had been removed from the lists I’d been keeping. I had a very specific way of tying the bags when I was done, and how I kept the narcotic sheets separate.  It was a federal law that this all be done according to the rules. I liked following the rules 🙂   I didn’t like having my work screwed with by a gun-weilding nutjob of a boss.

I  didn’t like even knowing about the gun. But I was also initially scared enough that he would shoot me, run off with piles of drugs, and nobody know why I was found belly up until they start looking at the paperwork. By then, he’d be on some uncharted island in the South Pacific, in some hut powered by a bamboo bicycle generator and drinking coconut drinks. The new administrator didn’t know any of us that well, and I wasn’t super tight with the assistant DON, but I had to tell someone. The ADON ‘G’ was outside smoking late that next Monday afternoon after nearly everyone had gone home. I told her about the gun.   She knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t come up with some sordid story about someone.  We agreed that we’d both go to the new administrator in the morning, before the gunslinger got to work.  We did, and told the newbie administrator. By that time, the DON had turned in his resignation, and it was decided he need not complete the two-week notice. He was free as a bird.  I have no idea what else was done about reporting him to the board of nurses (not sure if mandatory reporting was in place at that time), but I was told (after he left)  that before he left, he’d taken it upon himself to just stop some lady’s order for morphine- pills and injectable- and they were never seen again.  That created a HUGE mess with calling the doctor and getting the stuff reordered from the pharmacy for the poor little lady who still needed the stuff. The floor nurses were going nuts counting everything that wasn’t nailed down, and making sure their names were clear (they were).  I’ll never forget the business end of that .44 charcoal gray gun ‘looking’ at me.  “Two in the chamber, ten in the clip”…. whatever that means, it didn’t sound good.

Another time at this same facility, there was a sweet certified nurses assistant who was noticeably quiet, but she got her work done and wasn’t an attendance issue. Those sorts tended to fly under the radar. She was probably in her early 20s, and a member of the ‘fashion isn’t my thing’ club (I also belonged to that club- no judgement from me). We all worse scrubs while working, so looked pretty much the same (in different colors and prints, depending on the department), but when she came to get her paycheck, she dressed ‘depressed’. That was my first clue. I’d talked to her several times, and we had a decent rapport. I could tell there were things going on, but didn’t have any reason to pry. Her work was acceptable. I was part of the nursing management bunch, but did patient assessments and staff training/infection control- not the hiring/firing/counseling stuff.  Anyway, I kept an eye on her.

One afternoon, I got a call from the next door emergency room. They had the CNA there. Her friend wanted to talk to me.  Seems this CNA had slit her wrists. I wasn’t sure why I was being called, but the friend asked if I could talk to the staffing nurse (ADON) and let her know that ‘L’ wasn’t going to be there for her next shift; ‘L’ didn’t want to talk to anybody. I asked where she was going when she was done at the ER (as in what psych facility is going to evaluate her?). She was being discharged home.  With sharp things. By herself.  I didn’t like that at all. I knew ‘L’ lived alone. She never mentioned any family or support system.  OK, not good.   When they left there, I needed to see ‘L’ with my own eyes, so asked them to come over to work, and I’d talk to her.  She agreed via her friend.

In the meantime, I tracked down the social worker (from hell, normally) who was still there; I needed help with this one. And she got nice about it all, which I was thankful for. She got on the phone and started making calls re: acute psychiatric facilities who would do an impromptu assessment as soon as we got ‘L’ over to their facility.  I don’t remember who the DON was at that time, but I think she was gone for the day (it wasn’t gun-boy).  ‘L’ got over to the nursing home in a little while (wrists wrapped in gauze), and agreed to go with the social worker and me to the psych hospital, just to see ‘what her options were’.  I was hoping they’d keep her for a few days, so she’d be safe.  She was worried about losing her job if she checked in to a psych facility, but I told her that being checked out, and getting help was going to help her keep her job. Our administrator (before the one with gun-boy) was very compassionate.  ‘L’  agreed, and the psych facility did decide to admit her. She was in and out of there over the next few months (once after I sent the police looking for her as she had uncharacteristically not shown up for work), and ended up getting shock treatments.  She came back to work eventually, and while a bit subdued, she was doing better.  I learned more about her past, and she had reason to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.  Everybody has a history…

Another coworker (an LVN at an acute care hospital working on the neuro floor) had some ‘issues’.  At work, she was fine.  Not employee-of-the-month, but she did OK when she was there. We were both fairly ‘young’ nurses- as far as time out of school, and also just plain young, in our early 20s.  ‘A’ had all sorts of respiratory problems- mostly asthma. She had some attendance issues as a result, and the hospital had a ruthless attendance policy. She could be admitted in the hospital on oxygen, and it counted against her attendance record.  Anyway, a few months after I’d been raped and beaten in a very publicized case, ‘A’ calls me and says she had been attacked overnight by a former boyfriend, and needed help getting her dog to the vet. Fido had been cut by the boyfriend’s knife per her report.  I immediately agreed and went to pick them up.  Something seemed ‘off’.  Fido was frisky and happy to see me (his  usual goofy, non-traumatized behavior). There was a tiny cut  on his paw (more worthy of a bandaid than a trip to the vet), and ‘A’ had some odd looking cuts on her neck…the depth wasn’t something I’d expect from someone who had been seriously sliced by a rabid ex-boyfriend, and the way it went from deeper to more shallow from left to right looked kinda self-inflicted to me (she was right handed). But I didn’t want to believe that.

‘A’ told me she’d been whacked in the head, and felt horrible, but after going to the vet, how about we go get some lunch and maybe do some shopping.  😮 Everyone deals with stress differently…but another piece of the puzzle wasn’t fitting well. But, I agreed.  We spent most of the day together, and during that time she told me that the police had asked her for this guy’s photo- but she didn’t feel like getting it for them. WHAT? Not helping to apprehend this guy?  I had no ability to understand that ‘reasoning’ at all.  I’d been held in my apartment for 6 hours, finally escaped and called 911, and police ended up shooting the guy in my bedroom when I’d been attacked less than 7 months earlier. Why was she doing this?

I decided I needed to get home, and she suddenly begins to have symptoms of a concussion.  Puking, head pounding, vision a bit blurry…. so she now needs a ride to the ER for a CT scan and neuro evaluation.  The day was getting so very long (and more and more weird). She ended up being cleared for any sort of head injury, and told that basically she was fine.  I dropped her off at her apartment, drove like a bat out of hell to get home, and turned my answering machine off when I got there. She could dial 911 in a real emergency when she was going to cooperate with an investigation.  I was done.  I was no longer working at the same hospital by that time, so rarely saw her… I’ll never think that she was telling me the whole story- OR stop wondering if the police had ever actually been notified of the ‘attack’.  What made me even more mad was that the dog had been involved.

I got much more jaded when crises came up with some coworkers.  I had my own stuff to deal with, and had also become much better at sorting through when someone needed  help that was appropriate for a friend or coworker to handle.  I had times when coworkers helped me through some lousy times, and most of that was when they offered; I didn’t seek them out.  I was always very thankful for their time.  But,  I got careful about that as well, as crises junkies also like to be on the ‘helper’ end, not just the ‘helpee’.  One in particular had been a huge support system during some eating disorder stuff that was pretty serious, but when I got better, she wanted nothing to do with me. That hurt a lot.  There are a lot of people out there who are taking care of people who need keepers themselves.  Or who help to fulfill their own self worth needs.  There’s nothing wrong with finding satisfaction with helping people (professionally or on a friendship level), as long as the needs of  those being helped are the first consideration- not some twisted need for being needed.  Sometimes it’s a fine line.

I can think of others… these just stood out tonight.  Stay tuned for the continued saga of the  wacky side of nursing, and whacked nurses. :/

More Reasons Why I Blog….

Some of this may be repetitive…I’ve written over 80 posts, so I may have forgotten some of this. Bottom line: I have nobody who will be here after I’m gone to ever let anybody know I was here.  I don’t have kids, and while I’ve got some great cousins, they’ve got their own families who will carry on their legacies.  I don’t really have a ‘legacy’ per se… but more of a collection of things that make me who I am.  I want to leave something behind.

I also want to be of some sort of use to people now.  Being an RN, I’m partial to nursing students, new nurses, and folks with medical/emotional/addiction issues.  I’ve either had disorders or worked with various patients to cover most bodily systems in some way !  Since being disabled, I feel rather useless, and with no coworkers who I actually see in person and talk to, I get lonely for ‘shop talk’.  I miss grossing people out at lunch.  I long for the gooey wound care patients who had holes the size of dinner plates on their butts (from previous facilities). I miss the teenagers who survived horrible car wrecks that annoyed the other nurses because they were ‘irritable’ (uh, they saw their friend’s head lopped off by a tree while sitting in the front seat with them in the now topless car; I’d be a bit grumpy as well).  I miss the concentration camp survivor with the gentle spirit of an angel and wit of a seasoned comedienne …dying of colon cancer.  They were privledges to have known.

I also feel really misunderstood a lot.  I look fine.  Except for the gimpy walk, knobs on my scalp, assorted scars, and personal experience with a lot of medical junk.  I feel isolated in my own head, because nobody really wants to listen to someone who is a train wreck. While I’m a lot more than the sum of my broken parts, sometimes I need to vent.  In the past year, I’ve seen my 80-year old dad and doctors.  I have computer contact with my friends in Texas and assorted cousins who I have fun childhood memories with- and have been working on seeing an actual local friend in person.  I did go to a memorial service- and stayed for a couple of hours- it was nice to be there, yet it was also difficult physically. But I did it.  Aside from my dad and birth mom, I may not speak to anybody on the phone for weeks at a time.  So I write.  If nobody wants to read what I churn out, that’s fine- but at least there’s a bit of me stripped down to as real as I can be.  I don’t like that I’ve felt I’ve had to hide a lot. I don’t like feeling invisible.

I’ve had stuff go on that people aren’t comfortable with. I get that. They don’t have to read my stuff.  I’ve worked through eating disorders, a lot of medical stuff including cancer, and the loss of my identity as a working nurse. But I’m also thankful for a lot.  I survived a brutal rape, and have to deal with parole protests periodically; those take a lot out of me.  I’m not much fun to interact with during those times.

I hope people don’t take for granted the contact they have with other people. I live in Illinois, and people here aren’t that friendly for the most part. Not a single coworker from before I ended on disability has bothered to have contact or return calls (I stopped long ago- I’m not a fool, but I had been hopeful).  People here dodge ‘defectives’ when they see them in the grocery store.  I know she saw me.  I’m sure the boss had instructed her minions that they weren’t to speak to me- I’d been given the same instructions when other people left.  I got sick…how is that something to be afraid of?  It wasn’t a workman’s comp case. I have NO friends here since moving back in December 2002.  I’ve got a couple of people around who I knew before moving to Texas in 1985.  I’m in Facebook contact- and trying to figure out a time to get together with one of them.

Don’t blow off people just because they’re not in your immediate sites all of the time.  ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ seems to be the Yankee way. I’ve got so many friends from Texas that I’m still in contact with on Facebook; people are different there.  I’m working on some way to get to church with my ice vest and ice bandanas, so maybe I can meet some people, but I must say I’m guarded. When someone sees someone with medical equipment, it draws out the drama junkies who want to save everyone. I can’t be fixed.  I get around, however gimpy.  I don’t want a drama junkie. I want a friend.  In the meantime, I have a blog.

Numbnuts’ Revocation Information

I recently sent for and received the packet of information surrounding the parole revocation of the man who raped me in 1987.  I knew it had to involve some sort of assault/battery, or at least some sort of ‘physical’ crime.  I ended up getting more information than I thought I would.  It’s taken a couple of days to be able to write about it.  Even 25 years after the rape, I still have physical reactions to most things that involve him, and at the same time, I need to be informed of what is going on so I can do the best I can to protest any and all future parole eligibility reviews.  No matter where he happens to be (in or out of prison), he will be serving the sentence for raping me until the year 2047.  Thirty-five more years.

The first thing that hit me when I read the information about why he is back in custody is that a woman actually married this guy while he was in prison for a rape conviction. I knew about that when he was first released on parole, but it still blows my mind. Granted, he can lie very well; it’s how he got to me.  But what makes a woman even consider marrying someone who has a criminal history, is STILL in prison, and will be in prison or on parole until 2047?  That’s not a  good background check.  How can someone trust a man who has only known her from the other side of bars?

Numbnuts is 53 years old now, and his first adult conviction in December 1976 was when he was 18 years old, for forgery. He was given a 5 year sentence, and at some point was put on parole- which was revoked when he was convicted of burglary (while on parole).  He then got a 12 year sentence for kidnapping, and was released on parole in 1985. In April of 1986, he was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was released on parole in December of 1986; on January 10, 1987, he raped, sodomized, and beat me for six hours- and changed his plea to guilty part way through the trial. He got a 60 year sentence (in a plea bargain) for aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon. During the arrest for my rape, he was also shot by police, and had assaulted one of the officers who was first on the scene.  Then, he gets out in January 2010, on parole again. In the summer of 2011 he assaulted a man (a misdemeanor in Texas; a felony if against a woman), but was able to stay out of prison. In January of 2012, he was being considered for a lesser degree of supervision…within days of being notified about this (and protesting the idea), he had a warrant issued for what I now know was a domestic violence charge against his wife (I was initially told it was a ‘parole violation’).  He plead no contest.  He didn’t try to stay out of prison.  At least three times, he’s committed crimes while ON parole.  Twice, he did not fight the charges.

I had originally been introduced to Numbnuts by his sister, whose baby I took care of 5-6 days a week while she worked.  The introduction was brief, and very generic. I’d gone to see her about cleaning my apartment as I’d just been released from the hospital where I’d been for 10 days for a back injury.  I’d been moved to a new apartment by coworkers while I was in the hospital  ( the move had been planned before the hospitalization, and I was ‘stuck’ with needing to move out), and needed help getting the ‘old’ place cleaned.  She agreed, and Numbnuts first got a look at me. During the time right after the rape, and during the trial, his sister helped the prosecution.  In the packet of information, it says that he was again living with her, and was actually arrested in her home in January 2012.  While she hasn’t been a part of my life since 1987, it still stung that she’d house this monster.  She knew what he’d done to me. She was a part of the trial, testifying against her brother. I nearly lost my life going to get her son (part of the lie he told me needed me to go get the baby because of an emergency). Blood is thick, blah, blah, blah… Career criminal is a deal breaker in my book, even with family.

He also has step-grandsons. As a registered sex offender, I’m not sure how he’s able to have contact with those kids, unless the restrictions depend on the age of the victim he’s convicted of assaulting.  Maybe he’s not a risk to kids; I wouldn’t let my kids near a convicted sex offender, regardless of the age of the victim.  Would. Not. Happen.  But his brilliant wife, with her outstanding judgement and decision making, allowed the relationship with the kids. The two grandsons wrote notes to the Pardons and Paroles Board asking for their ‘grandpa’ to be allowed to come home because he was a ‘good man’…(where they could witness more domestic violence against their grandmother; no word on how often they’re with her- or where their parents are). The notes were very ‘scripted’, and I’d doubt the kids came up with the content…even if the notes were in their writing.

Mrs. Numbnuts also has a letter in the packet of information, saying that the neighbors must have called and they’ve got it out for Numbnuts.  It’s all someone else’s fault.  I wonder about her police record.  I have no information that she even has any record whatsoever, but the lack of personal responsibility sounds pretty sociopathic to me. Just sayin’.

The next time Numbnuts is eligible for a parole review is in three years.  There is no ‘mandatory’ release date for about 18 more years. He’d be 71 years old. He won’t be off of parole (or out of prison – whichever happens) until he’s 88 years old.  And I still don’t think he could make it. If he’s too gimpy to hurt someone else, he’d be a suicide candidate.  He gets ‘good time’ shaved off of his sentences- he is successful as a prisoner. He craps out in society. He’s a danger, and I would be horribly saddened, but not shocked, to hear that he murdered someone. That was the ‘end’  planned the day I was raped, but I got away after 6 hours when he passed out in my bed.  I’ve blogged more about the details, so will leave it at that for now.  But it was life-altering hell.

I’m still mulling all of this around in my head.  The level of dysfunction that results in a  Numbnuts ( or a  Mrs. Numbnuts, for that matter) is incomprehensible.  What horrible chain of events and circumstances makes someone like Numbnuts?  Nothing takes away his responsibility for his actions, but the reasons for why he’s like he is just don’t come together in my head.  I’ve worked with adolescent psych patients, and adults with trauma issues, and while they had dysfunctional coping skills,  they weren’t a risk to anybody.  I guess that’s good I don’t ‘get it’, and I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about why he’s a violent sociopath, but when I get stuff regarding parole issues, I do think about it.  What makes a monster?   I remember his sister as being sweet and young (she was 19 when I babysat her son). I’d heard she had some minor drug busts with minimal amounts of pot, but nothing dangerous, and I never saw her wasted.  She was a hard worker as a department store housekeeper. She did the best she could for the baby.  She and Numbnuts were raised in the same house.  She did say that he’d always been the ‘black sheep’ of the family, and I got the idea that he had a sizable juvenile record before hitting the adult prison system. As an adult, his crimes got more ‘personal’ and more violent; I’m glad that his wife- bizarre as she is for marrying him- didn’t get visibly damaged (sounds like her psyche is already trashed). Or worse.  He was picked up before he left a body behind.

He may have gotten a 60-year sentence for raping and beating me…but I also got a life sentence that day he assaulted me.  It’s not over after the courts get done. It goes on and on, and every time something comes up about parole, or a violation of parole (arrest warrants issued), I am notified.  That’s how I want it for my own protection. But it does take a toll.  I’m reminded of everything he did to me during those six hours.  Speaking out helps me, and I hope in some way it helps others.  I survived that day for a reason.  I believe that things happen for a reason (Romans 8:28).  Maybe I can at least let someone else know they’re not alone.

Numbnuts Had Parole Denied

I got a bit of good news this morning. Actually, it’s a lot of good news. The man who raped me was denied parole by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles yesterday. The next parole review will be August 2015 and I’ll be notified about 4 months before that so I can send my stack of reasons why he shouldn’t be let loose on a civilized society (well those of us who are civilized anyway). Again. I can ask friends and family to send another bunch of their reasons to keeping Carl Edward Chambers locked up. The next mandatory release date is in 20 years. He got a 60 year sentence, and because of the laws at the time of his sentencing, he has these ‘mandatory’ release dates. Until then, he gets ‘reviewed’ every three years.  I just get back into a routine of not thinking about him roaming the streets, and that possibility comes into play again.  He had to serve the first 20 years without any chance of parole, but after that it’s been a roller coaster.

I was a very young 23 year old in 1987 when the rape happened. I didn’t have a clue about evil people- or about people who were so damaged that they committed crimes like Chambers did.  There was little doubt among the officers who investigated the rape that murder was the goal that day.  I knew who he was, where he lived, and that he’d been in prison (the naive part of me didn’t have a clue why he’d been in prison, or what ‘Huntsville’ Texas prison really was- a farm for the worst of the worst). With me dead, he would have had access to everything in my apartment and my car. He would have been long gone by the time I’d been noticed missing. I was still off of work from a back injury, so it could have been a week or more.  Probably when I started to stink up the place, bothering the neighbors.

I fight to keep him locked up because of what he did to me (other blog posts go into more detail, and there are more details to come, in due time). But I also feel he should serve as much as he agreed to when he plead guilty part way through the trial. He heard me testify, and whoops- time to change his plea from not guilty to guilty.  How often does that  happen?  Then he agreed to the equivalent of a life sentence, or 60 years (I wouldn’t accept less than that in the plea bargain, and was ready to let the judge have at it). To me that either shows that he’s incredibly stupid, or there’s a shred of conscience in there somewhere.  His sister (mom of the baby I took care of, and how I was introduced to the monster) even testified on the side of the prosecution; she had told me that he’d always been the ‘black sheep’ of the family.  I’m thinking more along the lines of black heart. Cold. Hard.  She was a sweet kid with a baby.  She knew nothing about what he was capable of; his prior offenses were violent, but not to the point of actually physically hurting someone. He tore me up.

And yet, there’s also part of me that wonders what in the world happened to him to make him the way he turned out.  That’s not in any way condoning what he did, or making him less responsible. But I do wonder. The other siblings weren’t felons (at least then; no clue now- but the sister I knew was a sweet kid struggling to make a life for her baby).  I’ve forgiven him- again, that doesn’t erase culpability. It just keeps my life from being all about him, and how to get even.  There is no way for him to give me that day back, or undo what he did to me.  It’s in God’s hands…He’s got MUCH more at His disposal for punishment than I do.  Frees up my head not to be mad all the time.  Did Chambers alter my life forever? Yep.  But he can’t do anything to take it back.  An apology would be nice, but I don’t think I’d ever trust that it was genuine, so why bother?

I do wish I’d been taught that I had the right not to help someone who seemed potentially harmful, or gave me knots in my stomach.  I didn’t feel that I had that right- I was taught to help my neighbors, and ‘neighbors’ meant everyone.  I wasn’t taught to think through what I knew about someone (no matter how minimal) and base a safe decision on that.  That was a very hard lesson to learn- and it didn’t have to be that way.  Christian parents and youth leaders need to be teaching their charges that it’s OK to stay safe; it’s not a sin to avoid being assaulted or murdered. They need to know how  to identify potentially harmful situations.  God gave us brains; they need to be used.

Well, now I’m off the hook for another 31 months, until I get the next letter telling me the next review is coming.  And I’ll cry, and relive parts of the rape that get shelved periodically.  I’ll talk to another lead voter on the parole board (this one was very kind; I can’t imagine having that job). But I’m never really ‘done’ with the rape, or Chambers.  I never forget.  I never had the life I thought I’d have (married, kids, house with a dog… I did get the dog).  I never let anybody touch me after that, and was a virgin before (my beliefs are that sex comes after the wedding).  My life became abnormal.  I don’t think I’ve been all that abnormal, but  I missed a lot.  As I get older, that sinks in more.

But I still believe that it happened for a reason. I don’t believe God ‘made’ it happen, but it can be used for good.  I’m still figuring all of that out (so I’m a bit slow).  If it can’t be used to help someone else, then it’s for nothing. I can’t allow that- so I still muddle around in my own head, searching for ways to be of use through this. Chambers can’t win this one.  I can’t let him. He took enough without my permission…this is on me.