Sunday, November 30, 2003

Well, Thanksgiving was great, as usual, food was splendid. The pumpkin pie went over really well. Big looked adorable in his shirt, tie and sweater, and everyone in my fam thinks he is "really nice." On Friday it was back to work, but our census went through the roof- 40 patients! Just ten more and we can hire more full-time people. Much to the relief of the full-time people, who have worked their hineys off.

Big and I hit the road at about five, and so it was pretty dark when we crossed into N.C. As we were on one of the roads, a doe ran out in front of us, nearly missing being hit by the Nissan. Big's parents would later tell us that road was really dangerous at night because of all the deer.

Big's parents are really nice people. His mom is a retired sixth grade science teacher, and she is highly intelligent. Her main passion is foods and nutrition, and her cooking is divine. His dad is a retired accountant who spends his days hunting and fishing. He really liked my pumpkin pie.

During the car trip, we listened to the bestseller, The DaVinci Codes, which was a facinating roller coaster of a novel.

It was all really nice, but I missed Fee terribly, and I was ready to see her. Now we are playing with her stuffed deer, Bambi.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Reasons I love Thanksgiving:

1) Parade

2) Eat all day

3) No gifts required

4) Get to see Big in a shirt and tie

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Tonight I actually finished at a decent hour, and came home early enough to take Fee for a walk before it got dark. She usually walks with my Mom during lunch time.

Not much else going on; work has not allowed me to have much a life recently. Been really busy with referrals. Today was good, because I got my box of business cards (finally).

Tonight just plan to be on call, work on my afghan and watch whatever is on Cable.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Tonight I am pissed. Apparently, CVS photo cannot produce a negative from a digital camera. Meaning that, FiFi's Christmas Photos are not going to be on our Christmas/Holiday cards this year. I am tired of trying to pull this off. There will be other Christmases.

Tonight is the Democratic debate, so Big and I are going to eat fat-free brownies and tune in.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Thanksgiving season is once again upon us. I am going to celebrate by baking a pumpkin pie for our family's Thanksgiving dinner. Also, I am stoked because of the Macy's Parade and NBC Dog Show that always runs Thanksgiving. Also it's nice because I get the day off. Big is supping with us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Domestic bliss.

Big and I debated and decided to stay in last night, fixing Weight Watchers and Pizza Roll microwave dinners, playing with Fee, and baking cookies.

Along with some more milk, and a roll of slice-n-bake cookies, Big delivered some old time baby knitting patterns, care of his mother.

"Look honey! Here's one for an owl pot holder! And one for a pair of baby booties!"

I guess you had to be there, but it was really cute.

Basically, Big is a welcome change in my track record of boyfriends. So far, I've dated a couple of freaks, a slacker, a few commitment-phobes, and a pseudo-enlightened male who thought he understood women, but really didn't. Big is very much a man's man, prone to grunts and guy stuff. He looks out of place at frou-frou restaurants. He's a bit confused when I sigh over figure skating or cry at sad Disney movies. The Queer Eye Guys would love to experiment. But underneath it all, he's a huge teddy bear with a big heart and unconditional love directed to everyone who he likes and respects. It's a nice uncomplicated equation.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Master and Commander Review:
Russell Crowe is without a doubt the single most talented man on the planet. Yum yum good, five stars, fine holiday fun.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I have Friday off.

Kick ass.

Monday, November 10, 2003

To celebrate Big's new job, I took him out to Brio Tuscan Grill at Stony Point. It was without a doubt one of the best meals I've ever eaten. We started off with bruchetta. I had the black bean and tomato soup and the mahi-mahi, while Big had a ceasar salad and the lasagne. It was incredible. We waddled to the car and now we are watching the CBS Monday line-up.

I love my life.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Several weeks ago, the ex left a bag of stuff at my gate, including the mixed hue blue and green afghan I had knitted. I made it for us, to have something that was just ours, something that we could carry on trips and such and have adequate blanketage. I had an image of a happy couple snuggling under it. I remember knitting it in strips, then sewing them together. The yarn, a tweed mix, has a distinct smell of wool that I find very soothing. I recall I worked on that blanket for a few months, including knitting during chemo classes, end-of-life care classes, and during X-Files on Sunday nights, and I was proud when it finally was finished.

The afghan makes a great comforter. I remember snuggling under it when I got fired from the dermatologists office in an attempt to heal a crushed self-esteem. His parents marveled at it when they visited. For a while, it sat on his couch, and the cat would nestle under it at times. The only person who really didn't like it was him. He would never snuggle underneath it despite my invitation, proclaiming the 100% wool blend "too itchy." He never really could understand why I would prefer to sit long periods of time and knit, anyway, when I could go outside, work out, etc. When the engagement was over, I walked out of his house most of my clothing, but not the afghan. I missed it after a couple of weeks, along with my deck chairs from Target, and asked for them back. It took him a while, but he finally delivered.

It made me think, seeing the afghan, shoved in a Ukrops bag, a light drizzle in the air, what a power symbol it was. It was the telling factor, that he wanted a separate life from me. That somehow, he found a blanket better for him. Something that didn't itch so bad. Something softer, maybe? Something storebought. Manufactured rather than crafted. Something that didn't have the flaws that the hand-knit afghan had. Something, in my opinion, that he thought he could just throw in the washer/dryer, and toss it aside to use only when he needed it...

"Boy. This is a nice blanket. Nice and warm. Is this the one you made?"

Big snaps me out of my reverie. I look, and he's stretched out on my bed, the afghan wrapped around his bare skin. I notice he tolerates it well. FiFi has snuggled up next to him, on top of the afghan. I notice she too she doesn't appear uncomfotable or itching. Something about the scene makes me smile at them. After a few minutes, Fee gets up and whines to go out. I open the door, and the cold air rushes in.

"Ooh, move over!" I tell Big as he lifts up an edge of the blanket for me to crawl underneath and to combat the chill I caught. He puts his arms around me, hugs me close, and kisses the back of my head. (Last night, Marian and I banded together and insisted the four of us watch a snippet of an old figure skating video- Torvell and Dean's Bolero. It was a hard sell on Big and Heath, but they indulged us without a whole lot of whining.)

Big's already leafed through the Stitch n Bitch knitting handbook. He's found a pattern he likes for a black sweater with skulls on the sleeves. I told him I could make it into a hoodie, with a pouch, just like his favorite GWAR sweatshirt. That made him happy.

As I snuggle under my afghan, one-half of a happy couple, I continue smiling. I realize the problem wasn't with my afghan. All I needed to do was find another person who liked wool.

This weekend has been rather delightful. Last night was in the company of my great friends, good beer and good conversation. So much fun was had that we stayed up til 4 in the morning. I slept in, played with Fee, saw my patient, and now Big and I are going to Nanny's for dinner. Tonight is also the season premiere of the Simpsons. Kick ass.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

I am very glad that Fall is back. It went away for a little while, so much so that for two nights, I had to sleep with the AC on. Now I have to close the windows and turn the heat on.

Happy to get a break from work. I requested next Friday off. My bosses said they'd "take care of me" if I did 2 visits this weekend, at the hospital. So I am hoping their standard of "care" jives with mine.

As far as choosing a candidate, I stumbled across the website for Howard Dean. He's the candidate I've heard the most about. Basically, he's the only candidate so far that has addressed nursing as a separate entity in his campaign, which obviously scores Brownie Points with me. But does he have enough gusto to be a strong commander-in-chief?

The other two candidates I am eyeing are Wes Clark and Joe Libermann. Libermann, of course, was the vice presidential candidate in 2000, and I have a feeling he might be the one who will finally get the big nod by the Dems to get on the ballot. I haven't done a whole lot of research on them yet.

Knitting is coming along nicely. Slowly, but nicely. I am still working on these afghans. I am hoping my cousin and sister have alternate blanketing for football games. I will have to make haste and finish them soon, because a bumper crop of friends and coworkers are pregnant, and there are going to be a slew of booties and blankets and onesies to knit.

Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Kick ass. Today as I was sitting at my desk, I was offered a chance to go to a pain management seminar tomorrow morning. Basically, a nice break from the nine and ten hour days.

I've been thinking for a little while now on who I am going to vote for in the upcoming Presidential election. It's no big secret (at least, not to me) that I am a flaming moderate. I voted for Dole because I didn't like Clinton. I voted for Gore because I didn't like Bush. Now most likely I will not vote for Bush again. But I can't really get into the Democratic Party because they kissed Clinton's butt for so long, and I really think Clinton is a sleaze ball. Also because they all decided to attend that sham of a debate known as Rock The Vote on MTV. I heard snippits, but basically it was the lowest common denominator (aka the typical MTV viewer) asking the candidates such enlightining questions as "Which Dem would you party with?" and "Have you ever toked a fat one?" Sometimes I'd wish I'd have the cojones to vote for an independent...a Nader or a McCain, if I thought they'd had a chance.

So I've decided to do some research on the candidates online, in hopes that someone appeals to my ideals, values, etc. and I can walk into the voting booth next November and feel good about the choice I am making. Anyone who'd like to endorse their candidate to me, I'll listen. Heck, if you wanna email FiFi with your argument, I'll post it and respond.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Today was a nice day. Nice day outside, nice day for the patients, so an extra nice day for me. I picked up a copy of Finding Nemo at Target, along with some new shampoo. Also, I rented the DVD of Legally Blonde 2, known around the Corner as Bruiser Movie 2, and Feefer is very happy. In fact, she growled as I paused it on a still of Sally Field's face while I took a call (so that, to me, means that she really likes the movie, or finds Sally Field rather intimdating). Legally Blonde 2 is rather cute, obviously not as good as it's prequel, but still very light and fun. Highlights include a Million Dog March to protest animal testing, and a gay dog outing at a Doggy Day Spa. Fifi has enjoyed it very much.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

New links. Check them out, yo.

Today has been very nice. Nice weather, nice pace. GOt up, visited a patient, went to Mass, came home, sat outside with FiFi, reading Cosmo and eating lunch from Moe's (I am making it a point to eat better).

Tonight I am attending a class with my cousin, Brendan. He's at the age where he undergoes the Sacrament of Confirmation. I am his Confirmation Sponsor. According to Father John's Card Carrying Catholic Checklist, you're supposed to serve as a Confirmation Sponsor at least once in your life.
This will be my third time, so I guess I am especially holy.

Now it's off to Target. I need more shampoo. Fifi needs more Nylabones. So I'm off.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Today kicks off National Hospice Month. So, in honor, I'll share a story with you about a special lady named Jo-Jo:

It was last May, and I was on my second week in Hospice. Part of my orientation involved riding around with our then director, LaDonn, visiting patients. She briefed me on the story of Jo-Jo.

"Jo-Jo is 56, she was admitted in April. She originally had breast cancer, and it's spread to her brain. Big thing with her is pain control. We've tried everything...she's been on Oxycontin for about a week now, and it seems to be working. You should have seen her- restless, up and down, like a hyperactive kid. We've bonded over the fact that we both love Avon Products. She's special."

We drove for what seemed like hours, east bound, near the airport. We pulled up to a small townhouse, got out of the car, and knocked on the door. "Dale Earnhart Fan Lives Here" read the novelity sign at the door. A bespecled man smoking a Marlboro opened the door. His eyes immediately went to me, sizing me up.

"Buddy, this is Jenn, our new nurse. Jenn, this is Buddy, Jo-Jo's husband." As we entered the dimly lit house, I noticed the patient sitting on the hospital bed that now occupied a huge amount of space in the living room (typically hospice patients have their equipment in a certain converted open room in their house, so the medical team, and later on, the funeral mortician, can have easy access to them). She stared out at me with large eyes framed by big bifocals. Her speech was slurred. A baseball cap covered her head, left bald from a failed chemotherapy attempt a few months back. LaDonn spread some newspaper over one of the living room chairs and placed her bag on the newspaper, to keep it clean.

LaDonn assessed Jo-Jo, showed me how to do the paperwork, and reviewed Jo-Jo's many medications with Buddy, who was Jo-Jo's primary caregiver in the home. LaDonn applied Bag Balm to Jo-Jo's reddened backside, as well as talked with her about her recurrent shoulder pain, all the while chatting about Avon products to Jo-Jo. Jo-Jo didn't seem very happy to me. She made no bones about the fact that she was pissed off at the fact that she was dying, in pain, and couldn't move as well as she used to. When LaDonn finished the visit, Jo-Jo growled, "Get that shit (the bag and the newspaper) off of my chair."

LaDonn laughed it off, but I was intimidated.

After LaDonn stepped down as director, I assumed care of Jo-Jo as case manager. Usually we met twice a week. Every visit was pretty much the same. I'd get out of the car, and Ruby Dee, the couple's spaniel, would bark and bark as I knocked on the door. Buddy would answer with his trademark "How're we doin?" Jo-Jo was always sitting in her wheelchair, watching the Morning Drama Marathon on TNT (I usually made it around the time ER was on. We'd watch a bit before I had to go onto another patient). Most of my attention however, I focused on Jo-Jo's needs and wants, making sure she always had enough medicine and supplies. Buddy would hand off back issues of Entertainment Weekly to take back to the office, and would walk me to the door with the following message: "Be careful out there, and stay out of trouble."

As the months rolled by, I almost seemed to forget that Jo-Jo was a hospice patient, with a terminal illness, and whom, one day, I would help transition into the afterlife. Her visits became commonplace, almost routine. Buddy almost never called into the office with problems. Jo-Jo's dark hair began to grow in soft tufts on her head, much to the joy of everyone on the hospice team that worked with her- Othelia the aide, Georgia the LPN, me and Tim, our chaplain. Although she hated it, I would jokingly rub her head and coo over it's softness. On her birthday, I stopped off at Stony Point and bought her a costume ring that was identical to the one I wear on my left hand. I presented it to her and pronounced us as "The Bling Bling Sisters." When she immediately put it on, I knew then and there that Jo-Jo and I were bonded.

Two weeks ago, I got a call from Georgia, who had made a visit to Jo-Jo that day. "Jenn, there's been a definate change. I don't think we have much longer." Othelia had called the office with the concern that she could not get a pulse on Jo-Jo when she came to bathe her. Also, Jo-Jo had become more lethargic, had basically stopped talking. That week, we made several visits in the middle of the night, as Jo-Jo's lungs had started to fill up with fluid, and breathing had become almost impossible. By that Friday, we put Jo-Jo on our special level of care, convinced she only had hours to live. That Saturday, she sat up, asked for her dose of Oxycontin, and ate some oatmeal (Sometimes, right before they die, patients experience a surge of energy, which in hospice is called a "rally"). Her family came in to say good-bye. Coworkers prepared for the loss. I braced myself to receive The Call.

On Wednesday morning, I was sitting at my desk, preparing for team meeting, when our acting director, Leslie, came and stood in the door.
"Jenn, you'll be glad you're here. Ms. Jo-Jo just died." I stopped what I was doing, stood up, papers scattered all over, picked up my purse, and walked out the door. I drove the familiar route to the little townhouse. I realized that would probably be the last time I'd ever drive that route again.

Buddy met me at the door, his eyes reddened. He had been turning her, attempting to change her diaper, and was holding her as she drew her last breath.

"Where is my friend?" I asked him, fighting back the incrediblely strong urge to cry uncontrollably.
"She's right here." He stepped back, letting me pass over the threshold. Jo-Jo was lying in her bed. I went to her, put my arms around my neck, and embraced her lifeless body. "I'm so sorry, Sweetie." I said aloud.

When a patient dies, I usually like to give them one last bath. I consider it my final gift to them. I try to use perfumed water, preferably perfume that belonged to the patient, so that it's a natural smell. I filled up Jo-Jo's basin with warm water, and spritzed some perfume that Buddy had given to me in the water. I made it a point to wash very slowly. It still hadn't sunk in that she was gone. By washing her, drying her, and sprinkling powder on her, I was able to touch her, to allow myself to realize she was dead. I realize how powerful denial can be.

By the time I was ready to dress her, Jo-Jo's daughter and son-in-law, as well as Tim, our chaplain, had arrived. I dressed Jo-Jo in her strawberry print nightgown, I folded the bedsheets down, and folded her arms on top of the sheets. Usually, I put a flower in the patient's hands. I've found it's a nice surprise for the family when they see their loved one like this. I usually search for roses. I found a synthetic one in one of the many vases near Jo-Jo's bed. I noticed it was a novelty flower, with a little green button on it's stem that said "PRESS ME." When I pressed it, it played, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." I smiled and placed it in Jo-Jo's hands. Tim said, "that flower. It's a little bit silly, but beautiful."

"It's so Jo-Jo." I said. We all agreed.

Tim suggested we say a prayer, and we gathered around Jo-Jo. I stood at the head of the bed, and like I had many times before, I found myself stroking her peach fuzz hair on her head throughout the entire prayer. Tim said some very nice words about how bravely Jo-Jo had fought, and now that God had taken her, she was in a better place, but there was a hole in our lives now because she was no longer with us. The funeral home arrived and removed her body. I made up the empty bed, and did the last phase of my usual ritual. I took a picture of Jo-Jo that everyone liked- pre-cancer, her head full of dark curly hair. I took the Sweethart rose, and Jo-Jo's glasses, and propped all of these things against the pillow. Jo-Jo's daughter brought a vase of red carnations in a vase and laid them against the pillow as well. I gave Buddy a big bear hug, and stepped out of the little townhouse into the sunshine.

"Stay out of trouble, and be careful out there," he called to me.

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