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. ❤

2015… Another Parole Hearing for Numbnuts

Here we go again.  The numbnuts (does he deserve a human term?) who raped, sodomized, and beat me for 6 hours in 1987 is up for parole… again.  The same numbnuts who has been on parole at least 5 times since he was 18 years old, and NEVER got off parole before offending again, with increasingly more violent crimes.  He’d been out for less than 40 days when he raped me.  SO what other reasons could I have that I haven’t  stated before, for keeping him behind bars for at least another few years?

Carl Edward Chambers TDCJ # 453210 Convicted rapist

Carl Edward Chambers
TDCJ # 453210
Convicted rapist

I want him in prison for my own peace of mind.  There.  I said it.  Maybe it’s selfish, but that Saturday morning in January 1987 changed my life forever.    I don’t want revenge- I want the sentence he agreed to when HE changed his plea mid-trial, and said he was guilty.  He agreed to a 60 year sentence, and he’s proven repeatedly that he can’t function on parole.  He does something to get back ‘in’. Every. Single. Time.   I realize that there are mandatory release dates- and he’s already blown through one of those.  He will reoffend eventually if he’s let out- and at what cost?

I protest his release because of what he’s capable of doing to someone else.   He’s 56 years old now, and I have no doubt that he still  has the strength to repeat what he did to me, and possibly ‘finish’ what he started, and actually kill someone.   I have no doubt that he would have killed me had I not escaped.  He’d talked about it, and ‘acted out’ dismembering me.  I knew his name, where he was staying, his sister’s name (it was her baby I was taking care of that even put me on his radar- before he stole my address and phone number from her purse, and hunted me specifically- I looked like his first wife). He couldn’t leave me alive.  He plans and carries out his crimes.  His last victim before he attacked me (for whose crime he was on parole) said she would have fought harder for a better sentence if she’d known what he could do (he put a screwdriver to her neck at an Austin bus stop). That means he wouldn’t have been out of prison that Saturday morning, and I wouldn’t be writing this.  I do know what he can do, and I won’t just sit back and let him slink around the justice system without my presence ( if only on paper) being known.

I had always dreamed of having a husband and a bunch of kids.  January 10, 1987 changed all of that.  My first experience with sex was being brutally raped at 23 years old.  And it was my last.  I don’t want anybody that close to me.  I don’t want to smell someone’s breath in my face, or feel their sweat against my body.   I don’t want to be a body orifice for someone else’s ‘amusement’.  I don’t ever want to feel that pain again.  Numbnuts impregnated me. I had his offspring inside of me- but evidently it was defective, because after a lot of cramping one morning,  it fell out into the toilet about 10-12 weeks after the rape.  That’s a visual I can’t unsee… the tiny placenta and jagged edges of tissue sitting in the toilet.  I didn’t want that baby, but it was still a baby.  The only one I’d ever carry.  It was a blessing to lose it, since I couldn’t imagine any of the other alternatives.  But it added to the pain of the entire situation.

If he got out because I didn’t remind the parole board what he’d done to even BE in prison, and did something to someone else, I couldn’t live with myself.  I have to be active in this process, and yet I hate it.  I hate knowing that the date/year is coming up AGAIN, and I’ll have to think even more about that morning, and put something into words that will make some sort of impact on those who decide MY fate with his freedom… or hopefully, continued incarceration.  I shouldn’t even know about the parole process.  Nobody should.

I hate the word ‘victim’.  I was a victim while he was hovering over me, beating me, fucking me (it wasn’t  sex;  it was a brutal, vulgar act- I don’t use that word lightly), sodomizing me, and holding a knife to my neck.  Or spine.  He had me get on my hands and knees when he peed, and used one hand to trace the knife along my spine.  But when I got away from him and got to the phone in my neighbor’s apartment to call 911, I became a survivor.  Or at least I had the chance to be a survivor.  It took a while to actually morph into someone who wasn’t defined by what happened that day.  It took a lot of work.   When the parole reviews come up, I feel that ‘victim’ thing all over again, and that makes me feel like I’ve failed at surviving.  But in the end, he doesn’t define me.  He changed a LOT in my life that day, and in many ways my future was murdered.  At least the one I’d dreamed about.  But Carl Edward Chambers, career criminal, doesn’t. Define. Me.

I was able to have a good nursing career until 2004 (and very briefly in 2005) when I became permanently, physically disabled. Twenty years. Too short, but it still mattered.   That was what defined me.  It still does, even this many years after having to stop work.  I will always be an RN, and even though I’ll never use it again, I keep my license active.  I don’t want to say I was an RN.   I AM an RN.  I was raped, but I am a nurse.  I’m a daughter, cousin, niece, and friend.   I was never a wife, mother, or grandmother.   He took that.  But he didn’t take the things that really made my life mean something.  I was able to help people, and show some compassion.  I have been able to answer questions for family and friends who were facing medical challenges or terminal illnesses, and needed someone who they felt was a reliable resource during those chaotic and painful  times in their lives.  That is what defines me.  My mission has been, since the decision to go to nursing school, to be useful to others.  He didn’t change that.

I believe that things happen for a reason.   I also believe that I don’t always have to make sense of the reason… that God has it figured out.  But just maybe He allowed me to be raped because I won’t sit back and do nothing about his parole reviews. Maybe I can help keep someone else from knowing what this is like.  Maybe that is my purpose in this.  The rest is up to those who vote on numbnuts’ parole  status.   At least I know I did what I could.  Sometimes, that has to be enough, but I hope with all I am that his parole is denied.

Blowing Away Runners’ Legs…. For What?

The Boston Marathon- April 15, 2013 has been bombed.  Cowards targeted an international gathering and celebration of runners.  There is no logical explanation.  This isn’t political. It’s not religious.  It’s a sport,  way to stay healthy, or hobby.  It’s non-threatening from any angle I look at it.

It’s all that’s on regular TV right now, and as with many past horrific events, I am drawn to the news to hear if anything else has either happened or been discovered. And I am horribly saddened by this.  It’s becoming so common for humans to attack other humans for whatever cause- religious and political seem to be the biggies for larger area and well known venue tragedies… nut jobs seem to target single, smaller venues.  It really doesn’t matter; the outcome is the same. People’s lives are extinguished or permanently altered.

It’s clear what happens to those who die. But when there are injuries, we never know exactly how severely injured the victims are, whether it’s a car wreck, or something covered by hours of news. Will they get bandaged up and sent home?  Will they spend some time in the hospital, maybe do some time in a physical rehab center, and then be pretty much back to normal physically? Or are their injuries going to cost their limbs, requiring major rehab and learning to either use a wheelchair or prosthetic limbs? Or will they be brain damaged to the point of never being aware of the world around them again?  Some of those outcomes are worse than death.

One photo I saw had two versions. There was one ‘general publication’ shot that was cropped to show a seemingly fit man in a wheelchair with obviously devastating leg injuries. His skin was a disturbing gray tone. And he was still conscious- though undoubtedly in considerable shock- and he was holding one knee. The uncropped  version of the photo showed that both of his lower legs were essentially gone. There was one bone still attached to one leg, but muscle and tissue were stripped away, leaving a large blood vessel and what appeared to be either a large nerve or tendon just dangling below the stripped bone, along with some remaining shreds of skin. He had a tourniquet on. The other leg was gone, and just a bloody nub- but it was almost unnoticeable because of the horrific image of the other leg.  I’m an RN. I’ve seen terrible injuries, as well as textbook images of injuries.  This beat them all.  In part that’s due to the disturbing level of awareness on this guy’s face. My prayer is that he was more numb than aware.  I wanted to holler ‘get his head down (to get blood shunted back to his brain)’ but they were obviously doing the best they could to get him to help.  There were three people with him, doing all they could. They will never be the same  either.  PTSD happens to responders as well as victims.

After hearing about how many lower leg injuries and amputations there were, it struck me as being even more cruel. It’s dreadful when that happens to anybody, but these are runners.  There’s an even greater level of evil that targets people who are peacefully gathering from around the world to engage in a sport or hobby.  This wasn’t a political or religious event.  It was a premier gathering of the world’s best runners.  For some, it may have been the first time out of their home countries.

One of the dead is an 8 year old boy.  There have been reports that eight children have been taken to hospitals with injuries.  The youngest I’ve heard of so far is three years old.  There are many who still have a very good risk of dying.  And, there are countless people who are not residents of Boston, who are now either trying to see about their friends and family in one of the 9 hospitals that have taken most of the injured, or trying to get out of there and back home- to whatever countries they’ve come from.

The winners may be forgotten on tomorrow’s front page.  Lelisa Desisa Benti- 23 years old from Ethiopa won the men’s division.  Rita Jeptoo, a 32 year old mother from Kenya, won the women’s division.  I hope they are able to appreciate their accomplishments in some way in spite of this tragedy.  They did something very few have done- they won.  Many go just to finish- and that is also an amazing accomplishment- but face it.  It’s a race. There are winners.  Maybe this year, another level of accomplishment is to have finished unscathed by either seeing the carnage, or being hit by shrapnel.

Then there are the conspiracy theorists who think that the government did this.  If I actually believed that my home government was responsible for the things they blame on it, I’d be long gone… according to them, Sandy Hook, 9/11, and other high profile tragedies are nothing more than the government doing horrendous things just because they can.  Maybe that’s how some people cope with the fact that ‘regular’ human beings are capable of such devastation.  They are just another flavor of nut job in my book.

For now, I just wait to hear of any news that someone has been caught and is being held accountable for this terror attack.  If it’s domestic (mad about Tax Day), or international (who knows what they’re pissed about now) doesn’t really matter. I don’t even care about their names.  I just want them taken care of.  Get the proof, be damn sure, and eliminate them.

How is it possible to even relate the concept of feeling safe in this world to a generation who is growing up with such regular occurrences of the senseless waste of human beings?  How is it possible to let them know that there really was a time when things like this were pretty rare- most people had only heard of a few things- the Kennedy assassination, the University of Texas at Austin Tower shootings, the Jim Jones cult suicide… and those were years apart.  Sure, there have always been local murders that become legends in their home cities.  Some other crimes may be brought up in criminology classes.  But it’s not one thing after another nearly on a monthly basis on the nightly news.  It’s ‘now’… not history.  It’s wasn’t part of ‘the norm’ to hear of these types of things when I was young.  Now it is.  I’m not sure this type of decline in humanity can be reversed.  Especially with 24/7 news and the sidewalk reporter with a cellphone.

Tonight, my prayers go out to the victims and their friends and family.  I pray for the people who travelled to Boston from around the globe, that they understand that in the US, we like events like the Marathon that bring the world here for something that is generally a celebration and source of accomplishment.  I also pray for the government and law enforcement personnel (and the K-9 dogs) who are trying to figure out what (and who) did this.  And I pray that whoever did this is ‘dealt with’ in whatever way necessary to hold him/her/them accountable.

And for the rest of us, God help us all.

UPDATE: As of 4/16/13, the man who was photographed in the wheelchair, with both legs left in shreds has survived two surgeries, and is in critical condition, but doing better.  His name is Jeff Bauman Jr.   The man in the cowboy hat who is helping him in the photo has a sad story as well. Mr. Arredondo lost one son in the war in Iraq, and another son to suicide following the death of his brother.  He was there to support veterans who were running.

Parking Lot Death Zone and Other Traffic Obscenities

What is it with people speeding through parking lots perpendicular to the actual lanes? It’s horrifying to be leaving the grocery store parking lot only to have someone come barreling out of my right peripheral vision with no intention of stopping, and there’s no way they DON’T see me.  What makes people feel so ‘special’ that the rules don’t apply to them?  I’m sure it will be SO much faster to t-bone a car and mess with the police and accident reports (and increased insurance premiums) when they actually connect with someone one day.  And, they won’t care.

I’ve wondered if people no longer know where turn signals are in their vehicles, or if it wouldn’t be a good idea to let the person behind them know they are about to slam on the brakes and make a sharp left turn.  Common sense?  Does the school for the blind now teach drivers’ ed?  (No offense to blind folks at all- just so obvious that a lot of drivers don’t bother using their eyes….or heads).

What happened to people being even remotely considerate when in their vehicles?  Is their life so much more important that putting someone else’s at risk means nothing?

I took care of a LOT of accident survivors when I was working as a nurse- both in a regular hospital and a head injury/coma stimulation unit at a head injury rehab facility. It’s no joke. Those folks would never be the same.  Kinda like seeing that there are worse things than dying.  But there’s no need to add to those lists of folks who are permanently disabled by morons behind the wheel !

Slow down!  Use your turn signals !  Remember that other people get to use the same road, and for God’s sake, don’t plow against the lanes in parking lots at warp speed (or snails’ pace).  Drive like you have some sense!  GROW UP….

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. :/

America’s Shameful Truth

To other countries, especially those we send financial aid to, it may seem unbelievable that ANY American lives in poverty, or has any problem getting enough food.  Looking at our obesity rates, it looks like we need to be sending more food overseas, and subsidizing treadmills here.  But it’s much more complex and complicated than what the surface image shows.  Malnutrition isn’t just about inadequate food, it’s also about inferior and altered foods.  Poverty isn’t just about living in recessed or depressed areas, but a result of the trashed economy.

Per the 2011 statistics from a hunger statistic website, 15% of Americans were living at or below the poverty limits.  (Roughly one in six Americans is poor). Those limits are low enough to make basic expenses impossible to meet. Poverty limits are, however, above minimum wage if someone has one full-time job. (Our minimum wage supports poverty).  The standard set by the government to define poverty is ridiculously low. And people are out there living below that limit.  I’ve visited areas in this country, with our tourist brochures of amazingly beautiful parks and tourist sites, and maps of the movie stars’ homes  in Hollywood, that consider a cinder block house with a tin roof to be a sturdy- and enviable – home.  I’ve seen them.  I’ve seen the barefoot kids with the hollow eyes. I was only 16 myself at the time, and it’s an image I won’t forget.

According to those same statistics, 50+million people in America don’t have enough food.  Often the foods that are affordable are nutritionally bankrupt. Fresh produce is a luxury and at the bottom of the grocery list, as it’s more important to get calorically dense items for each dollar spent. Much of that is junk food, so it’s very  possible to have someone who is visibly obese, yet deficient in many nutrients.  Over 16 million children in this country know hunger as a daily part of their existence.  How that will affect their physical development and well-being is better known than how it will affect the country as a whole, as their generation will be compromised in their ability to learn. That will result in kids who never fill their potential, or maximize their earning potential- and ability to get out of the cycle of poverty and hunger.

Americans are often portrayed as relatively wealthy and lacking nothing. When it comes to food, our obesity rates are horrible and getting worse.  With the economy being as bad as it’s been in the last several years, the effects of ‘not enough’ are hitting socioeconomic groups that had been very comfortable and stable.  Homeless shelters are getting more families with educated parents who simply can’t get work, and who have lost their homes.  Americans need help here ‘at home’, and all of the financial aid sent to other countries is frustrating when the statistics here are so unacceptable.  There are many who are very hesitant to ‘give handouts’ as it perpetuates a cycle of dependency in those of a mindset of entitlement.  That is different than people who legitimately can’t get adequate nutritious food.  Yes, there are Americans whose greed and inability to deny themselves nearly everything they want makes them look rich (but in debt up to their eyeballs). There are those who are successful, and doing well.  But there are far too many who actually have very basic needs that aren’t met. 

There are wonderful private charities that do what they can. There are rescue and homeless shelters. There are food banks and soup kitchens run by non-profit organizations. There are thrift stores that benefit programs for the homeless and poor. They all work very hard, and do a wonderful job- but the job is too big. Our own citizens are still in a world of hurt.  NO child in this country should leave home for school without a nutritious breakfast. No child should come home after school to the bleak fact that they won’t have anything for dinner.  More than sixteen million kids live in that pain. They don’t just have poor quality food, there isn’t enough of it.

I think it’s great that we help other countries. I think it’s important that we continue to do so- and yet we need to get our own house in order.  We need to walk the walk, and quit with the cheap talk.  If other countries sent people to document areas in the Appalachian mountains,  depressed rural communities, inner city school kids who are falling asleep because they don’t have the energy to stay awake,  or the people who would do anything for a job, but can’t find one- and see the reality of this country right now, they’d be sending us aid.

The quality of American crops/food products is also an issue. GMOs- or genetically modified organisms- are what make up the vast majority of corn, soy, and canola crops in the US.  Few processed foods don’t include one or more of those crops. A lot of rice is also genetically modified. This is done to increase the yield per acre, so for financial gain, even though the studies on rats have shown tumor growth and organ failure, and human studies were never done. Monsanto (a pesticide corporation) is the manufacturer of these seeds used in our food supply. A bug killer company makes  the building blocks of our food.  Any product made from their corn, soy, or canola crops are also genetically modified, so high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, soybean oil, soy protein, etc are also ‘contaminated’ by the GMO process.  Many countries will not let GMO products into their borders, or ban the growth of them there.  The US government doesn’t care about the human effects of GMOs.  Bovine growth hormones, used to increase milk production in dairy cows, is also of questionable safety.  Artificial sweeteners also have links to Monsanto.  There are ‘organic’ options- but unless a product is labelled ‘USDA Certified Organic’, it’s possible that a GMO seed was used, but grown without added chemicals.

So, we continue to send billions of dollars to countries that aren’t solid allies. We cut back on nutrition programs here. People (and the politicians) fight about ‘handouts’ while kids go to school hungry, and don’t see dinner. Our obesity rates soar, partly because of disordered relationships with food – but also because nutritious food can be inaccessible financially. Junk is cheap.  Families are in shelters because jobs aren’t there to make rent or mortgage payments possible. It’s sad.  The ‘new’ American dream has been greatly altered from the post-WWII dreams of owning a home and living with minimal debt (and that debt was for needs– not wants).  It’s a new definition of survival.  Yes- the vast majority of people in the US are making it- however well or poorly. But there are millions…MILLIONS… of US citizens who are malnourished from hunger.  I don’t have any solid answers…but I do think that our priorities need to shift from such a ‘fix your neighbor’ mentality, to ‘save our skin’ outlook.  Maybe not permanently, but until we get a handle on our own horrible social and economic issues here.

America is hurting. Add to that the divisiveness of our politicians,  the more extreme members of political parties (to the point of hatred and absolute repulsion for the other ‘side’), and the relationships between ordinary citizens based on the same hatred, and the idea that anything will be solved seems unreachable.  I know that people from 23 countries have read my blog posts.  I wonder how many of those countries know how crazy things are here, and how many of OUR citizens are in need of help.