Redhead, nurse, sister, daughter, aunt, newly-ex-wife, sucker for lost animals, currently owned by Percy the cat and Spencer the dog. In the middle of some major changes–trying to figure out what I want so I can figure out how to get there.

Archive for January, 2011

The one where the Redhead gets all serious

One of the things I feel passionately about is end of life care.  My personal experiences coupled with what I have seen in my work as a nurse have shown me how important it is to consider these things and communicate them in a meaningful way to one’s family.  Mother was “the picture of health” before she died.  She had attended two funerals fairly close together in the months before.  About a month before she died, she drove to a “girls weekend” with her sisters and mother.  During this drive, she thought about what she did not like about the services she had attended, and pondered what she would like hers to be.  She told her family about it when she arrived, and told her children (my brother, my sister, and me) when she returned home.  She was 48 years old and completely unaware of the aneurysm that would kill her so soon after these conversations took place.

I cannot even begin to explain what a gift knowing these wishes was to my family.  Mother and I had spoken often about organ donation.  I had no doubt in my mind what she wanted to be done.  Signing those papers was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I had not one single doubt that I was doing what she wanted.  I wasn’t making a terrible decision; I was carrying out her wishes.  The funeral plans were much the same gift.  As we stumbled through those days feeling numb, dumbfounded, and in shock, many of the choices were already made.  We knew to tell people to wear bright clothes instead of black.  We knew she wanted to be cremated and buried in Jacksonville where she grew up.  We knew she wanted a “biodegradeable urn” (and this was long before  Green funerals were being discussed at all.  We knew she wanted a traditional Catholic funeral, and that we were to focus on celebrating her life rather than mourning her death.  It didn’t make anything easy, but it made many things far less difficult than they would have been.

Interestingly enough, I have not put my health care wishes to paper in a formal manner.  Everyone knows what I want, and I have no doubt that they will do their best to fulfill my wishes.  Putting pen to paper is fairly high on my “To Do” list in the next few months.   I have written out my funeral plans, but it was 2 blog sites ago, and not easily accessible.  I need to correct that.

I know I am the person named as Power of Attorney for Healthcare in my father’s documents, but I know I need to have more conversations with him about the details.    He is a bit resistent to this conversation, but I will pester him until I get what I need.  I know he doesn’t want to be on life support if he is terminal, but there are many questions that might need answering before “terminal” is part of the dialogue.   What things would make life worth living to him?  What exactly does “quality of life” mean to him?  Deciding not to do CPR or put someone on a ventilator is one thing, but deciding to stop tube feedings, IV fluids, or antibiotics is more difficult.

When I talk to patients many of them tell me that their documents (if they have them) are in their vaults, safes, safety deposit box.  I understand why they are there, but I tell them to make a copy and put it in the glovebox of their car.  They often look at me like I’m nuts.  My thought is this:  if their level of health changes quickly, which family member will want to leave the hospital to fetch the papers–much less have easy access to said papers.

Morbid thoughts?  I understand how this may be seen as such.  However, I have seen families suddenly in crisis not having discussed any of these issues appropriately.  Having had the experience of planning an “unplanned” funeral, I can honestly say that knowing what Mother wanted made everything far easier than it would have been.   Give your own families the same gift.

One of the most comprehensive articles I have ever read on the topic is linked below.  It is long, but worth it if you really want to understand the situations people face and the multitude of decisions that must be made.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande

I’ll be back to complaining about some superficial things in my next post, but feel free to email me if you have thoughts, questions, or would like additional information.

 

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On Being a Redhead

Researchers have decided that redheads will go the way of the
dinosaurs in the next 100 years. abc.com had this to say, “According
to renowned geneticist Steven Jones, because of migration and populations
mixing, redheads may be extinct in 100 years.”
This got me
thinking about how I feel about being a redhead. It is certainly a big part of
how I identify myself–and would be a part of how others identify me no matter
how I saw myself.
~~~~~~~”While the rest of the species is descended from
apes, redheads are descended from cats.”-Mark Twain
There are many things
about growing up redhead that make it difficult. Since kids are horrid and will
tease any one for any thing–having a shock of red hair made me an easy target.
(That and the fact I was terribly shy, amazingly dorky, and the second biggest
nerd in the class–which I stayed with from 3rd to 8th grade.) Carrot top, I’d
rather be dead than red in the head, Ronald McDonald are the ones that come to
mind. Adults felt is was acceptable to touch my hair without invitation or
permission. “Where did you get that hair?” seemed appropriate questions
(fostered by the fact that everyone else in my family has brown hair). The
answer is a great aunt I never met and my paternal
Grandmother.
~~~~~~~”You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had
red hair,” said Anne reproachfully. “People who haven’t red hair don’t know what
trouble is.”
-Anne to Marilla in Anne of Green Gables
As I grew older,
I loved the red hair for the same reasons I hated it as a kid. It was different,
it got me noticed. Individuality becomes a plus rather than a minus once you get
past the teasing phase.
~~~~~~~~”I would always hesitate to recommend as
a life’s companion a young lady with quite such a vivid shade of red hair. Red
hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”
-Jeeves in Very Good, Jeeves by P.G.
Wodehouse
I think that most redheads are tough and fiesty. Is this
because we had to endure the childhood taunts, or is it due to the simple fact
that we are red?
I have had doctors tell me that redheads have a higher
pain tolerance than other headed people. I have also been told that we are more
of a risk for invasive procedures because we bleed more.
It is tough for
a redhead to get lost in a crowd. This is both a blessing and a curse. We leave
an impression, and for a chick who has trouble remembering names anyway, that
can create difficulty. I’ll never forget my first day of college. I was standing
in the quad and another freshman ran up to me. “Sophie! How great to see you!”
The girl had short brown hair, and I had no idea who she was. Turned out she was
my best friend in second grade–when she had blonde hair which was always worn
in long braids. I didn’t have a chance, but due to my red locks. she knew me at
age 18 after not having seen me since age 8.
Obviously, as evidenced by
the title of my blog, I completely embrace and LOVE the fact that I am red. I
got my first gray hairs when I was 30 and I was terrified that I wouldn’t be red
any more. At 45, I’m only sporting a small gray streak near the front of my
head that almost everyone thinks is “highlights.” I love that part as well.
So, it seems I will remain red for a few
more years, at least. Good thing I’m okay with that.

Mother would have turned 68 today

My mother was a study in contrasts.  To describe her to anyone who did not meet her is a near impossibilty for me.  She had a hefty dose of “the crazy,” which left quite the mark on me and my siblings.  However, at the same time, she was this vibrant, social, amazing woman who gave us many beautiful gifts as well.  On her birthday,  I will try to convey some of those.

When she turned 40 years old, she gave herself a party and invited “75 of her closest friends.”  There were actually people who got their feeling hurt because they did not make the guest list.  Perhaps you all have a different experience, but I’m not sure I could get 75 folks to show up even if I advertised free beer and strippers.

When she went to a semi-formal event she forgot her dress shoes, so she wore her pink Reeboks with her dress.  People thought it was the new trend, because it simply couldn’t have been screw-up if Anne were the one wearing them.

She sewed like a madwoman to make up for the fact that we had little money for clothes.  She made 2 formal dresses for me that were as gorgeous as any worn those evenings.

She taught me a strong sense of personal responsibility.  The things I do and choose have consequences, and I learned this from her at an early age.

She called me well after midnight one night to complain to her nurse-daughter that her “jaw hurt from crunching on too many root beer barrel candies.”  She got just a tad bent out of shape when I told her to take some advil and use a heating pad…and to show some self restraint next time she broke out the candies.

She claimed that my sister and I had stolen her “olive socks.”  This when we all had socks to match every sweater that we owned.  Turned out she never had any olive socks for us to steal.  When she confessed, she said, “You all will  not let me live this down until the day I die.”  Turns out she was right.

She had at least 4 women who considered her their “best friend.”  She was always available to listen and support those she cared about.

Her funeral took place at a large Catholic Cathedral in Atlanta.  I did not realize this at the time, but it was “standing room only.”  I learned after her death of many lives she had touched that I knew nothing about.

Just before we sold the house that we had grown up in, my sister and I had this crazy idea to have one last party.  The house that had hosted so many parties needed just one more.  We called about 20 of her closest friends, and said, “You may think this is crazy, but we want to say goodbye to the house with one last party.  Can you come tomorrow and bring an hor deouvere?”  They agreed it was a bit odd, but all but one of the people we invited showed up–and it was right.

The good stuff in no way erases the crazy.  She was ill equipped to be a single mom working for minimum wage at age 30.  Some of the things she did and said left me very unprepared for finding healthy relationsips later in life.  Much time and money has been spent in therapy to try to figure out how to rise above the coping skills that worked at the time but serve me poorly as an adult.

All that said, I miss her every single day.  I am past those horrible days that had me waking and then remembering what the new reality is.  I haven’t forgotten that she is dead in many years.  However, when my sister or I have a terrible day and call the other to vent, the litany of troubles is often punctuated by the statement, “and Mother is still dead.”  Time heals, but it is never okay.  I think of the beautiful faces of my nieces and nephews.  I am saddened by the weight of knowing they will never know her–except for the portraits that we continue to paint for them.  I have trouble with the fact that the man I was dating when she died is the last significant other in my life who had a chance of knowing her–good, bad and ugly.  I feel the weight of responsibility to keep her alive for her beautiful grandchildren that she never met.  I feel the years sneaking up on me quietly…but not unnoticed.  I look like her.  I haveSis on the left, Mother in the middle, and me on the rightdifficulty imagining myself being older than she ever was.  It seems impossibly wrong for that to be the reality, but it is less than 2 1/2 years away.

Please forgive the rambliness of this post.  A jumble of thoughts that seem whispy–difficult to catch and put to paper.  She was crazy, yes.  But she was also vibrant, adored, and full of life in a way I may never be.

Which of these things did not happen this weekend?

A twenty-seven year old man/boy sent me a message saying that he thought I was “hot” on a dating site.

My ex-husband  changed his Facebook status to “in a relationship.”

Aforementioned dating site tried to “match” me up with my ex-brother-in-law.

A wittier blogger could actually come up with the “fake” thing, but every single thought I have just doesn’t work. Just for the record, being “matched” with the person who used to be married to my sister was by far the bigger blow than my ex-husband’s status.

So, any surprises in your weekend?

 

 

 

No more negativity

That last post was about as much bitching and moaning as seems possible.  I’m leaving it up, but sorry about the whining rantfest.  I’m feeling much better today, and the sun it out doing a marvelous job of melting the snow.  I am absolutely loving the sound of the dripping from the eaves.  More soon.

Snowpocalypse 2011 Can Kiss My Ass

If I never see another snowflake in my life, I think I will be okay with that.  I had a busy, wonderful weekend last week.  A quick trip to North Carolina, and a night of good music here in Atlanta.  Travel, hotels, airplanes, late nights.  It all sounds good until your boss calls you on your “recovery day.”  And asks that you come into work and spend the night because they are worried that people won’t be able to drive in the next morning due to the weather.  I accept the fact that I have chosen a profession that requires that I work on holidays and snow days.  I have never missed work due to weather.  However, I was agraid that if I did not go in and sleep at work that I would be iced in for the first time ever, and I did not want to be unable to get to the hospital after declining their wonderful offer.  So I went to work and spent the night in the auditorium.  On a cot.  I texted photos to a few people and TWO of them said it looked like a morgue.  One friend with a macabre sense of humor, okay, but if TWO people said it then it really sucked, right?  I worked 12+ hours instead of my usual 8.  They didn’t cancel surgeries, and we were busy because none of the patients ready for discharge could go anywhere because of the freaking snow.  I spent the second night at a co-worker’s condo very close to the hospital.  It was blissful compared to the auditorium, but it still was not home.  When the alarm went off I wanted to cry.  However, I did not cry, I went back to work and put in another 12+ hour day.  At the end of it, I pointed my little car towards my house and drove 20 mph all the way home.  It wasn’t pretty, but I made it.  I was scheduled to be off on Wednesday by the grace of baby jesus or something. (Actually, it was because my 70yo father’s rock band was supposed to have a gig Tuesday night–another story for another day.)  I got to my house about 8:30pm.  I was too revved up to go to sleep until after 1am.  When I finally slept, I did so for nearly 30 hours–waking briefly to pee, eat, and let the dog out.  I was tired and stressed, and not fit for human consumption–or company–or something.

Back to work today, thankfully for just my usual 8 hrs, and the fact that tomorrow is Friday makes me nearly delirious with joy.

Don’t all my damn-yankee friends start with the baloney that we can’t handle snow down here.  The problem is that our cities and counties do not own eleventy-seven (or however many it takes) snowplows, graders, salt/sand trucks–and we shouldn’t.  It would be a waste of an investment for something that would be used every 12-15 years.  Kinda like people up there having cars and homes without air-conditioning and other things we would consider unthinkable down here.

I really am not nearly as bitter as this rant might sound–just tired, tired and more tired.  I really wish I was posting about my friend playing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” at the request of a man in the front row “because his dad passed recently and it was his favorite.”  No pressure, there, huh?  Said musician friend not only played it–but fucking killed it…and later said he hadn’t played it “since the 80’s.”  It was a beautiful thing to witness.  Thinking of that and other moments from the weekend got me through the week.

Off to a good start!

The first day of work in 2011 had me getting a promotion that I was not at all sure I would get (small promotion, but promotion all the same), and leaving work before 4PM for approximately the 3rd time in 5 months (supposed off time is 3:15–I might faint if that ever happened).

Hope you all are starting the New Year off as well.

Resolutions? Good stories from 2011?