Thursday, November 23, 2006

Oyster Stuffing and Holy Pie: Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but since we're on the diet this year, and since last year we ate so much we couldn't go to sleep that night with all the discomfort, we decided that, our first year as a married couple, we'd form our own Thanksgiving traditions- Get up a little later, have small breakfast, Jenn goes to Mass, then back home watch Macy's Parade and American Dog Show, then off to our "big" meal, (this year at John's cousins' Florence and Clyde's house), then home for a bit, where we relax and watch Alice's Restaurant, then bed. Also, we plan to go over to John's brother's house to have a bit of snack.

Cathedral's Thanksgiving Day Mass is always a hoot. More so this year, since I signed up to greet. Basically, I say hi to people, and if they have to pee, I tell them where the bathrooms are. Program handing-out and additional hard stuff are reserved for the ushers. It was nice because I had a couple of really nice homeless gentlemen hanging out at the front door who also were greeting people as well, so it was fun. I sat in the back, and that immediately qualified me for "extra gift bearer." On Thanksgiving, the communion proceeds up the aisle toward the alter, as usual, except it's followed by a few items that parishners have brought to hand out to the poor in Monroe Park (apparently all the churches in the area pow-wow and do this. I was handed an apple pie with a Kroger label, and since the other folks were a bit shy, I proceeded down right behind the body and blood of Christ with my soon-to-be holy pie. It wasn't until I made it back to my seat that I started thinking about how our very pious monsignor would have to alter the Prayer of Thanksgiving in order to include it:

"Oh Lord, we bless this tasty pie, in it's eternal and everlasting apple-ly yumminess, and we also take time to bless the Kroger from which it came, in Your name, Amen."

And it made me giggle the rest of the Mass.

The amount of food at Florence and Clyde's was staggering. Butterball turkey, Smithfield ham, two types of cornbread stuffing- one plain, one with oysters, two types of green beans, sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread, and two types of pumpkin pie and one cherry cheesecake, courtesy of John's dad's friend Candy. We managed to behave, keep our portions small, but still left feeling a bit heavy, simply because it was a rather heavy meal. But otherwise a great holiday.

(Mostly because I didn't have to be on-call. Finally! )

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I thought those Dilbert cartoons were of a juvenalian satire, not fact

Sigh. One more week, then I'm free! I'm so ready to flush my pager down the toilet. Yesterday, after our chaplain was fired on the spot (no big surprise), I was asked to come and meet with the administrator and the director of professional services (Adm and DPS, for short). The Adm started out by saying, "I know that there are times when people are leaving, they..."

"Slack off?" I offered, genially.

"Yes. Do you think that is what is happening with you?"

Honestly, I do. I have been slacking off. I slack off because I hate my job and I want to go home the second I get there.

I didn't say that though.

I did admit that I was slacking off, and told them this next week and a half will be about me transitioning my caseload, and that I wouldn't slack off anymore. Also, apparently I have to watch how I say things, since I said something to a coworker that she took the wrong way. We were trying to figure out how we were going to set up a situation involving crisis care for a patient she was case managing. There was also an admission to be done. She said that she would rather be doing crisis care, and I agreed, intending to imply that the case managers do get a lot emotionally out of caring for a person who is actively dying in a one-to-one setting. She took it to mean that, comparing the two, hers was the "easier" job. (I've never ever thought crisis care was easy, BTW). I apologized to her today (my boss never said I had to) and she said that comment really "struck" her, and thanked me. I just wished she would have come to me first. I felt kinda mean.

Anyhoo, fast forward to this morning. An orientee bounces up to me, and asks "What are we doing today?"

I was told the orientee would start with me on Friday. She was told Wednesday. During the day I got a call from ANOTHER orientee, asking if she also could ride with me today. This girl was hired by the home health side of our company, and will be performing both hospice and home health visits. Home health is responsible for her orientation, and at no time did they come to me and ask me about this person riding along with me today. I'm starting to wonder if I work with chimps.

On top of that, the DPS comes up to me, and says,

"I need you to see and admit this patient today. He's 49, and he's being followed by the home health now. He needs hospice. He was at a nursing home, but left AMA. His oldest daughter called adult protective services because she feels he's incompetent to make decisions. He has a trachiostomy, and a feeding tube. The primary caregiver is his fourteen-year-old daughter."

Fourteen-year-old daughter? APS? WHAAA?

This is what you give the nurse who comes to you and says, "Hey, I'm really burned out. I don't like this job anymore. I want to leave?"

It's final: I work with chimps. (And on a sidenote, the adm who accused me of slacking left today for her Thanksgiving holiday. She won't be back for the rest of the week. Folks, she just got back from a week in Hawaii on November 6. We slackers can smell our own, and this one stinks to high heaven!!!)

To make a long story short, I trudged through the day, dreading the admission. Hospice is simply not an appropriate place to handle situations like this. I sighed, and rang the doorbell of the small cruddy Church Hill townhouse. A petite teen answered the door. Her name was Sabrina. She was absolutely gorgeous. She had an exam glove on, as if she was just finishing helping her father perform a procedure. She showed me the upstairs, where a emaciated, short man hobbled around, his breathing loud and gargled from the tube in his throat. I launched into my schpiel about Hospice, and mentioned him staying in the home, when Sabrina interrupted,

"I'm not staying her anymore. The social worker from..." she struggled to remember, as if she was trying to remember a tricky word in a spelling bee, "Um, Child Protective Services came today. She said I needed to live somewhere else, and so my cousin's coming to get me later on this afternoon. And another social worker from Adult Services is coming now. They are saying he can't stay here by himself anymore. They say he has to go back to the nursing home. But he doesn't want to go."

I felt like I was sucker punched in the gut.

"Sweetie, the social worker needs to examine the situation, and needs to do the right thing. I'm going to go ahead and leave now, and let her do her job, okay? And when that's done, you guys can call us. I'm going to give you my number, and you can call us. Okay?"

"Okay!" She led me down the stairs. I wished her luck in her new home.

I literally smacked into the APS social worker on my way out. I told her what I told Sabrina, and then I left. I got into the car, and called the DPS to let them know the situation. The child was being removed from the home, and most likely, the patient was too. It was no situation for hospice to be involved in at this point. She responded cheerfully. I asked to speak to our social worker, Amanda, who I've really grown close to and admired. She had met the patient previously, and deemed the situation to be a safe one. She was flabbergasted when I told her the outcome.

"Jenn, I could never do CPS. They let kids stay with the parents who molested them, so long as the parent is "receiving treatment." I would have to leave kids behind in dangerous situations, and then see families get torn apart in non-dangerous situations. This situation is not ideal, and he's making the wrong choices, but he's competent and it's his choice to make. The daughter said to me 'if my dad stays, I stay with him.' She was never in any danger, in my opinion. It's a shitty system. But it would have been a real hard thing for our staff to handle this family. I'm sort of glad it happened, for our sake."

"Amanda, If I'm a heartless bitch for feeling relieved, then call me a hearless bitch."

"Happy Thanksgiving, Jenn."

"Happy Thanksgiving."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dr. Stan's book

DISCLAIMER: (I do these a lot- I'd like to think I'm so controversial!)

The following is a perspective of me, myself and I. If you have succeeded in the 12 Step Program, I applaud you, because you've done an incredible job. But don't send any debating comments or hatemail if you disagree with my post. Everyone has a bellybutton, and everyone has an opinion. I'll respect yours if you respect mine. Thanks!

One of the guilty pleasures I had, until it's unfortunate cancellation, was a little show that came on every weekday at 10:00AM that was called Starting Over. Starting Over featured 6 women who came to a L.A. house for a complete life transition. They suffered from a variety of crises- Christina was an ex-stripper and compulsive con artist, Jessica lost her mother during the attacks on 9/11, T.J. was a manic intrusive who just wanted to be loved, and so forth and so on. They come to the house and are paired with 2 life coaches, the awesome Iyanla Vanzant and the sassy and beautiful Rhonda Britten, as well as a resident attending psychologist, Dr. Stan Katz, known to the girls as Dr. Stan. I was searching Amazon for resources the other day, and found that Dr. Stan has a book out about codependency. But, unlike most of the resources I've discovered, Dr. Stan rebukes the 12 Step Program, with claims that it can actually foster dependency in a new form and create victim roles. I ordered it for an alternative perspective. (I found it used for 4 bucks, so not much lost)

Although I consider myself of average spirituality (I believe in God, and I try to go to Mass regularly, and like the idea of a Baby Jesus surrounded by lambs and cute fuzzy baby animals on Christmas), I've never really been able to really get into the 12 Steps. I've been exposed to them professionally as a psychiatric nurse dealing with substance abusers, but in the long run, they never really seemed to work- a lot of our frequent flyers worked the program, and most of them came back again and again. I learned through training that alcoholics were guilty, manipulative, but also powerless and pitiful. A lot of the people I met through work were nice enough, and if they could stop drinking so much, they'd be set. I've been reading a lot about 12 Steps for codependency recently, but have not yet attended a 12 Step Meeting. And I am not sure that if that is something that will help me.

I'm not really sure that I can get into something that paints me as having a lifelong struggle with this need to control. I'd like to think that adjusting my thinking, my habits, and my perspective could be effective in the long run, and that my codependency will fade and eventually evaporate. I think the 12 Steps, if followed liberally, could provide some guidance, but to follow them to the core is a different scenario. I'd have to call myself a recovering codependent for the rest of my life. It's kind of like saying that those people on the Biggest Loser are still fat- even though they've changed their habits, their thinking and their lifestyle, and have been successful at it. I do not think I am this way because my grandparent drank or because my mom spoiled me or because corporations are evil, I think I got to this place because, like almost everything in life, you really don't know how it's going to end up. People change. I consider it a good thing. And now my intuition is telling me it's time to move on- not because I am a victim, but because the schedule, the demands, and the lack of boundaries are not to my liking, and in order to stay I have to behave a certain way (lots of attempting to control others and outcomes of problems) that I do not like to behave- and not because it brings out the worst in me, so much so that I need to ask a Higher Power to remove my flaws. I want to someday say that my life works the way I want it to work, and that I am powerful and wise, and that there are many reasons, including spiritual beliefs, that help me be that person, but, I want to be able to say that I did it my way (like Frank Sinatra, who was not a codependent, but still a helluva cool dude). In the meantime, I'll still look to the 12 Steps for some ideas, but I can't really say if I'll stay with them til the end (Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening, carry the message to other codependents).

Friday, November 10, 2006

Celebrities- They menstruate, get constipated, and have diamond spew- just like us!!!

Remember when there was a certain decorum between celebrity press and celebrities? Remember old stock footage of Sinatra, Dean Martin, Crawford, Lawford, Garbo? Stars that actually posed graciously, giving the press all the fodder that they needed so that they could graciously back off?

Nowadays, celebrities are so spoiled and so overexposed. There is one section of one of the rag mags that proclaims, "Celebrities, they are just like us!" whilst taking hidden camera photos of celebrities buying Ex-lax and Playtex at the Walgreens, just as we common folk are able to do. The next page of the rag mag was a report on a celebrity spa where all the big playas go, and they feature such fare as the "65 karat diamond facial." This is a facial treatment featuring, and I am not making this up, crushed diamonds. The rather valuable diamond spew is then spread on the surgically enhanced mug of said celebrity, then wiped off, and 65 K of diamonds, enough to feed a third world village until the Second Coming, is dumped into a Beverly Hills trashcan.

I have gotten to the point now where I've gotten a sick pleasure of watching celebrities squirm, and apparently, so does the majority of the public. We've caught on to the fact that they get up in the morning, wipe their bottoms with $100 bills, and most likely are nothing like us. Unfortunately, this morning I had an epiphany, and couldn't stand another tidbit of celeb dish when I heard the latest story of actress Denise Richards.

Denise Richards, who has admitted to the public that she has actually experienced the diamond facial (and I believe her reaction was "It's so great- EVERYONE should try it!") got up the other morning, and like most celebs she wiped her bottom with my yearly salary, then proceeded to heave two laptop computers off a hotel balcony where she was temporarily residing, because a unauthorized photographer was trying to take her picture. The laptops hit two elderly ladies in the hotel lobby, resulting in minor injuries.

I am trying to be less vengeful and overreacting in my thought processes nowadays, but I hope these two old geezers sue the Armani pants off of Richards. And although it will be like dispensing a penny to the blind guy who sells pencils outside of Macy's, Richards will be forced to think about her actions and her need for self-control. Until then, I turned off the morning news, and flipped to PBS. Sesame Street was on. There was a dancing sandwich, and Cookie Monster won cookies on a Name The Letter game show. It made me happy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yesterday I Cried

I've always loved this poem by Iyanla Vanzant:

Yesterday I Cried

Yesterday I Cried
I came home, went straight to my room,
sat on the edge of my bed,
kicked off my shoes,
unhooked my bra,
and I had myself a good cry.
I'm telling you,
I cried until my nose was running all over
the silk blouse I got on sale.
I cried until my ears were hot.
I cried until my head was hurting so bad
that I could hardly see the pile of
soiled tissues lying on the floor at my feet.

I want you to understand,
I had myself a really good cry yesterday.

Yesterday, I cried,
for all the days that I was too busy,
or too tired,
or too mad to cry.

I cried for all the days, and all the ways,
and all the times I had dishonored,
disrespected, and
disconnected my Self from myself,
only to have it reflected back to me
in the ways others did to me
the same things I had already done to myself.

I cried for all the things I had given,
only to have them stolen;
for all the things I had asked for that
had yet to show up;
for all the things I had accomplished,
only to give them away,
to people in circumstances,
which left me feeling empty,
and battered and plain old used.

I cried because there really does
come a time when the only thing left
for you to do is cry.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because little boys get
left by their daddies;
and little girls get forgotten by their mommies;
and daddies don't know what to do, so they leave;
and mommies get left, so they get mad.

I cried because I had a little boy,
and because I was a little girl,
and because I was a mommy
who didn't know what to do,
and because I wanted my daddy to be there
for me so badly until I ached.

Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt.
I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because hurt has no place to go
except deeper into the pain that
caused it in the first place,
and when it gets there,
the hurt wakes you up.

I cried because it was too late.
I cried because it was time.

I cried because my soul knew that I didn't know
that my soul knew everything I needed to know.

I cried a soulful cry yesterday,
and it felt so good.

It felt so very, very bad.

In the midst of my crying,
I felt my freedom coming,
Because Yesterday,
I cried with an agenda.

You say "control" like it's a good thing

I am really tired of being so controlled.

I learned early on, through a variety of environmental stimuli, that being in control is good. I grew up with a lot of guilt, shame, and stuff going on that no one really talked about nor talks about to this day. Apparently, it had something to do with a grandparent who had a problem with alcohol, but details are sketchy, and I don't want to condemn or falsify.

So, my life was about control. I learned early on that I was good at control. I could control anyone (being the oldest grandchild in an Italian Catholic family is a HUGE deal)and everyone. When people caught on and found that my control was a manipulative type of control and avoided me, I got friends I could control. Bring me your mousy, your shy, your nerdy, your weird. I could be friends with them. Or so many thought. I found out I had nothing in common with a lot of these people- I just liked being the alpha dog. I still like being the alpha dog. I like it when people can't fix their problems and they come to me for help, and I can "fix" them. I like it when someone's broken and I can "fix" them. I like it when caos and drama reign surpreme, so I can sit there like a brave little soldier, and when people see me, I want them to think, "wow. She is so strong. So in control. I want to be just like her!"

But, the control comes with a price. The inability to feel feelings. The inability to release control. The fear of appearing weak in the face of a huge enemy. My strategy to combat everything was with unflinching, stoic control. When my grandmother died from a cancer that rotted away her lungs, her brain, and her liver, I stayed in control. When a nursing classmate, a beautiful spirit with a young son passed away after a painful bout with sarcoid, I stayed in control and when another classmate lost her son and most of her home in a fire, I stayed in control (wasn't alone there- nursing students are notorious at keeping control this way too). When agitated psychiatric patients frightened me, when oncologists lost their temper (many doctors are good about control too- but they exude a kind of control that is perceived as powerful- they yell, scream, insult, and that's seen as okay. That's power, baby!), when unit crises occured, when dermatological crises occured, when I got fired, when my ex-fiancee decided to jump in the back of his truck with a 20-year-old tramp, when I lost patient after patient after patient, I stayed in control. When my childhood friend, Matt Fleck, sat down on his couch one night, went to sleep, and never woke up, I stayed in control. I feared even thinking about the severity of my job working hand in hand with death, and it's emotional toll- I was convinced my head would explode. My wedding became a controlling contest between various members of the family, who have passed on their skills to me. It became so much about control, I was blinded by the fact that I had no control until one day, reality swung a nerf bat at my stomach and knocked me for a loop. I wasn't in control anymore, and worse yet, I was never in control.

Wow. Oops.

A few weeks ago, a coworker learned her young husband had kidney cancer. They took the steps to seek aggressive treatment. But it was never a good prognosis. The doctors admitted him to the hospital last night in order to use a big needle and a big tube to take some of the fluid that the cancer caused to form and sit around his lungs away, to help him from suffocating.

About five hours ago, he died in his hospital bed. No one saw it coming.

For the first time in a very long time, this morning I let tears run down my face. I let my heart ache for her. I felt very sad for her, and I still feel very sad for her. It is all I can give to her, and it feels good to give her this part of myself, that so many others were deprived of. I used to think I gave to others via my control. But when I send this part of myself out to them, it feels so much better.

Life is too short to be this miserable.

I've found that, when I really sit down, and think about it (and lately, that seems to be a lot of the time), I realize, I don't like being in control. I don't like controlling, manipulating others. I don't like manipulating situations to my liking. I don't like and don't want to be around people who do that, nor do I want to be around people who encourage that behavior in me. I don't like telling people what to do. I don't like that I've confused the need to control with wisdom, responsibility, love, and self-love. I don't like to put parameters on my need to express, to think, to love, because I am afraid of being out of control. When I tell people this, it's amazing to see their reaction: I thought I'd be ridiculed, mocked, and proclaimed that I was weak. Instead, I am loved, and supported. I am so grateful for all of that, and for all of you sending me that love and support.

So, if you see me acting differently, know it's not about you. I want to be able to cry, to feel, to think, to go inward. In the past, this would have been my way of telling you something is wrong with you and something you've done to me. I would have used silence and guilt as a weapon. I'd like to stop that now. I'll tell you now that there really is nothing wrong with you. You are awesome.

It's just me, being here, again, and it feels good to be here again. :D

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I have a big problem.

The problem has become so big, it's made my life unmanagable. The problem is like a big amoeba, and it consists of a bunch of little problems that have morphed together into one big blob of a problem.

I have allowed myself to be used. I have allowed myself to become addicted to drama. I have spent many days and many nights going out, tending to someone elses needs, coming home exhilerated, like a junkie going out to get their fix. I've done this again and again, and have allowed myself to think that I was being helpful. I have done this to fill a void in my life that has been there for a long time. I have been living for others for so long, I've lost myself. Honestly, I sit down and try to identify myself. I come up blank. I cannot remember who I was. It was as if one day, I woke up, and realized, I was married, I was someone who had stuff to do. I had a life. And that life is amazing, and my husband is amazing, but there was too much other stuff for so long that made its way into our lives. Dysfunctional people, dysfunctional systems, dysfunctional past lives, have come in and sat their fat arses down in between us, on top of us, behind us poking us in the back, and demanded our attention.

These past few weeks, I have looked around at all the stuff. I've taken steps to elimate the dysfunction. It's not easy, because dysfunction doesn't seem to take a hint really well. It doesn't listen to you. It's not one that you can necessarily be nice to. You have to treat it like you treat the drunk obnoxious guy with the mullet who won't leave your bar at last call. Sometimes you have to grab dysfunction by said mullet and toss dysfunction out the door. You have to get mad, get sad, cry, shout, and stand up to dysfunction. You have to stay one step ahead of dysfunction in order to cut it off at the pass- keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, as one may say. Dysfunction is a real big beatch.

So, that's what I'm trying to do. And boy, I can't believe all the stuff I found when I started telling dysfunction to take a hike. I found out:

I have allowed myself to gain 60 pounds in two years.

I am cheating myself by using guilt and shame as my only motivators.

I have not listened to my gut and my heart for so long, I forgot they existed.

I am lying to myself that everything is fine.

I wear masks to hide the pain, the frustration, the emotions.

I have allowed myself to influence others looking to me for guidance to perhaps do the same, using the same hazardous behaviors.

I have a big problem that I need to solve.

I have a beautiful, wonderful, special life that has a special purpose.

I want to stop worrying, controlling, abusing, harping, neglecting, hating, hurting, sniping, grumping, crying, yelling, kicking, screaming, existing, fearing, cursing, wasting, lying and dying and start loving, caring, playing, focusing, dancing, sleeping, running, laughing, nourishing, enriching, skipping, hopping, jumping, expressing, meditating, concentrating, pontificating, and living.

I leave this ugly place today. I start now. I go forward. I seek the help I need and deserve in various obvious and not-so-obvious forms. I give to myself the best gift I can. I give myself everything I deserve. I give myself back to myself.

My name is Jenn, and I am a codependent.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Adventures...

As many of you know, I have seriously considered changing jobs. The constant turnover, the anxiety over on-call, and the day-to-day emotional roller coaster of taking care of dying people has taken it's toll. I have a lot of symptoms of burnout, and there have been many times where, when it came down to the needs of the company vs. the needs of myself and my husband, the company won. Unfortunately, all of this devotion feels like a one-way street. I have been actively searching for a new job ever since I started crying in the parking lot of one of the area nursing homes, feeling like a lunatic. I realize that it wasn't me who was crazy, but the situation that I was in. Once I realized that, I became peaceful. Something inside me said "Enough." For the past four years, this job has affected so much of me: I've been unable to attend Mass on a regular basis when on-call, as you must respond to the pager immediately. I cannot take my allergy medicine the nights I am on-call, in case I have to go out, and run the risk of drowsiness. I've worked with no sleep, and have been expected to work the next day, a full caseload. The final straw came last night.

I had planned, with my supervisor's awareness, to be done by 4:15. Cathedral was doing a presentation on The Miracle of Fatima, and had a special guest speaker, a woman who had worked side-by-side with Sister Lucia, who was one of the children who had witnessed the miracle. I was all set to go, when my supervisor, who had been visiting patients out in the field, told me I needed to run a contract over to a nursing home. We had to admit the patient TODAY, I was told. This was at 3:20PM. My supervisor said she was about 30 minutes away, would come in, sign the paperwork, so that I could take it over.

At 4:20, she walked through the door. The contract needed to be retrieved, copied, and then she needed to fill it out and sign it. I tried to tell her as she was walking through the door that I needed to leave, as it was 4:20, and the event I wanted to go to was to start at 5, in downtown Richmond. I would need to leave now, and would not have time to run the contract by, and that I was sorry. I was told, "the nursing home is just around the corner." My stomach sunk. I was being ignored, as was the case a thousand other times before in the last 4 years. A wise person once said, insanity is the repetition of behaviors with the expectation that the outcome will be different.

At 4:40, I was livid. I knew I wasn't going to make it.

"Well, LaDonn, take your time. I'm not going to make it to my event."

"I'm sorry. That's life. I wanted to go to something at 2 today that I missed," was her reply.

The thing that sucks the most was, after arriving to the destinated nursing home, the administrator, the only person who could sign the contract, had left for the day. I went over there for nothing. I left it with the secretary, called my supervisor and told her what happened.

"Crap. Well, again, sorry. But, that's life."

"Yeah, well. It's time for me to go."

I went home and wrote my resignation letter. My last day will be December 1st.

One could say that there will be other lectures on Fatima, but that's not the point.

I'm tired of other people's stuff coming before my own. I'm tired of being the only person who "can do" this stuff, since people don't tend to stick around for long. I'm tired of corporate mundane bullshit. And I am tired of telling my husband "no" and everyone else "yes."

I start my new job December 11th. Home health nursing. Not as much drama, less time on-call, new experiences, new skills, and all the freedom of toddling around the city (well, mainly the city of Ashland, but...). Wish me luck.

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