Friday, October 22, 2010

The "Eyes On the Prize" Friday Random Ten

Had yet another exhausting week. Have a bunch of stuff to do for school and otherwise today. Keeping my eyes on the prize-- and on the five week Christmas vacation.

1. End of the Night- The Doors
2. Baby That's Me- The Cake
3. Here Comes My Girl- Tom Petty
4. A Sort of Homecoming- U2
5. Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher- Jackie Wilson
6. Radar Love- Golden Earring
7. Thunder On The Mountain- Bob Dylan
8. Mister Malcontent- Lloyd Cole
9. The Ballad of Spider John- Jimmy Buffett
10. Can't Live- Harry Nillsson

1. That first Doors album still sounds great to me. I'm excited to hear that their music is going to be available on the Rock Band game soon.
2. This group was a great anachronism-- a girl group that formed in the sixties when psychedelia, the Beatles and Stones were all the rage.
3. Tom Petty once described his music as "disposible pop crap." Maybe, but it's indispensible to me.
4. From "The Unforgettable Fire," one of my favorite eighties albums.
5. R and B great Wilson has been kind of forgotten these days-- but not by me.
6. One of the greatest driving songs ever.
7. From the great "Modern Times" album.
8. Lloyd Cole without his Commotions
9. Mr. Buffett's cover of Wesley Allan Willis' heartbreaking tale of a bad man who reforms too late to save love. I like this song so much that I can almost forgive Willis for also having written "Muskrat Love." Almost.
10. One of a handful of hits Nillsson, one of John Lennon's drinking buddies, had.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone, Part 2

As I've mentioned before, this year, my second and final year of nursing school, the pedal is to the metal. Lots of work and lots of new things.

We had a test yesterday on pancreatitis, hepatitis and several other subjects. I got news from my friend Ricky that he had not gotten a good grade. I was surprised; I know he'd been struggling, but he'd really been working hard. I went online and checked my grade; I'd gotten the same grade as he did. I was a little shocked-- I thought I'd done well. Tomorrow, we'll go over the test and I'll see what happened.

Today, I had clinical-- the picture at the top of this post is the view from the lobby of the tenth floor, where I work. That's Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. In any event, I had a patient with pancreatitis, which is one of the things we're studying. He had a huge incision in his abdomen from a recent surgery and tubes coming out of everywhere. He's on total parenteral nutrition, has an iv for fluids (he's "NPO"-- nothing per oral-- because of his surgery). He also had two drainage tubes in his abdomen.

I was paired with a classmate I've known since the beginning of the program-- we had 101 together. She had a reputation as being a little prickly, though I'd always been able to get along with her. She demonstrated why she had her reputation; she had a chip on her shoulder big-time. I had a lot to do, so I left her to do her stuff-- nursing assistant stuff-- and I did my stuff. I don't have time to deal with her bullshit, for it is, after all, her bullshit. In the long run, she'll have to deal with it as she discovers that she has to work with other people.

One of the things I've mentioned frequently in this blog is my love of the mini-series "From The Earth To The Moon," about the American Space program. There was an episode called "Spider," about the difficulties in developing the lunar lander. In it, there's a scene in which three astronauts discussed their upcoming mission, in which they were to launch the massive Apollo spacecraft and practice separating the command module and lunar lander, fly the lunar lander around, then dock back together. There was a laundry list of things that were firsts for the space program. I felt that way today. I'd never dealt with iv drug administration, mixing a drug with water, flushing a saline lock or a heparin shot (I'd given a bunch of flu shots, which are intra-muscular, a couple of weeks ago; heparin shots are "subq"-- subcutaneous).

My patient was in a lot of pain from a huge incision, and was quickly coming due for a PRN ("as needed") pain shot, so I had to hurry. I was aggravated when I made a dumb mistake-- I injected water into a vial of mixable med, then tossed the whole rig into the "sharps" container, rather than just the needle. My instructor was okay-- she realized I was nervous and that I had, because of various circumstances, not done any of this before. I grabbed another hypo and needle and filled it up.

I wanted to get my patient's pain meds running so he'd get some relief, so we hurried. In the process, I managed to spill the cup of liquid antibiotic. I got the pain med in, flushed the lock, and got the other meds going. We went back and got another dose of the antibiotic.

I came away liking my clinical instructor a lot. She rides our asses like we're ten dollar burros, but knows when we're scared to death and to back off a little. She understands what it takes to make us good nurses, but is also generous with her praise. I know that she's one of those teachers who I'll always remember. At the end of the day, as we were leaving, she stopped me and told me I did a good job. It was much appreciated.

As I went home, I thought about it all and realized that there was a family history that greatly increased my anxiety when doing something new. Getting past that anxiety was liberating not just academically, but personally.

I came home from clinical, ate a nice lunch and took a badly-needed nap. I woke up feeling really good, looking forward to the next challenge that this program will bring me. I keep thinking about that saying about doing something that scares you to death every day. I did about four of them today. I've come to realize that in order to make the big changes in my life I desire-- a new career, and it's consequent financial security, being able to pay for my kids' college, being able to pursue some other dreams, and maybe someday being able to retire comfortably, I've got to keep stepping outside of my comfort zone. I've got so many things, so many skills to develop ahead of me-- putting in an iv, putting in a catheter, suctioning an airway-- but each time I do it and succeed, I feel a little more alive, a little more happy that I went this route. And I also keep coming back to a line in one of my favorite songs, Bob Dylan's "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding"):

"He who is not busy being born is busy dying."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Transitions Friday Random Ten

I'm actually writing this on Saturday morning; after running my random ten on my Itunes last night, my old friend Jamie called me. His job is probably going to go away, and he wants to be ready for it. He had an idea for the future, and wanted to run the idea by me. My experience in the front-of-the-house in restaurants, including management, would allow me to consult on his project. That's all I can say for now. His idea is, like all great ideas, brilliant and simple.

In the meantime, I've got the place to myself this morning; my son is busy taking the PSAT (I'm running to pick him up at his school in a while) and my daughter is with my wife at a high school open house. Next year at this time, I'll have two kids in high school, one a freshman, the other a senior, I'll hopefully be a nurse-- and I'll be 50 years old. Lots of transitions.

1. The Rain, The Park and Other Things- The Cowsills
2. Traces- Classics IV
3. Walking Slow- Jackson Browne
4. Hey Mr. Tamborine Man- Bob Dylan
5. I'm In A Phone Booth, Baby- Robert Cray
6. Cry Like A Baby- The Boxtops
7. Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions- Graham Parker and Rumor
8. She Is Beyond Good and Evil- The Pop Group
9. Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, David Blue and Me- John Wesley Harding
10. Here Comes the Parade- Phil Ochs


1. I always thought the Cowsills was an invented name; there really was a Cowsill family.
2. These soft-rock guys had a bunch of hits. The singer died just a couple of years ago.
3. From Browne's great, introspective "Late For the Sky" album.
4. The late, great Hunter S. Thompson dedicated his classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in part to Dylan for having written this song.
5. Next time you watch Animal House, see if you can spot Robert Cray; he's the bass player in "Otis Day and the Knights."
6. The singer for the Boxtops was Alex Chilton, who we lost earlier this year.
7. Graham Parker at his best-- and angriest.
8. From the great "No Thanks" collection of '70's punk and new wave.
9. Gotta love a song that mentions two of my favorite singer-songwriters: Steve Goodman and John Prine.
10. IMHO the best anti-war song ever written-- and there have been many good ones. I've thought about this one a lot recently-- it has the line "A few years ago, their guns were only toys..." There are 18 and 19 year olds dying in Afghanistan who were 9 and 10 when that war began.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Johnny Yen's One-Hit Wonders: "Closing Time," by Semisonic

Remember in the movie "The Shining," when Shelley Duvall's character realizes that her husband's fervid typing, hundreds of pages long, consisted solely of him writing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?" Well, I came to the realization that I was feeling that way lately. In an attempt to get caught up financially, I worked 2 doubles this weekend, picked up an extra shift on Friday and of course have been plowing through schoolwork. After coming home from a great, rigorous and productive nursing clincal-- I had 2 patients rather than one for the first time today-- I took a short nap, then spent a couple of hours doing online case studies in the content area for the next test-- pancreatitis, hepatitis, etc., and cooked dinner for my family. Done. I'm sitting down on my back porch on this beautiful October night with a glass of Malbec and blogging, something I really enjoy.

In any event, most of my "one-hit wonders" were older-- sixties and seventies. I thought I'd do one from the last couple of decades, Semisonic's 1998 hit "Closing Time."

Semisonic was formed out of the ashes of the fabled Minneapolis band Trip Shakespeare in 1993. After an indie label release, they put out a record on major label MCA. They found chart success with "Closing Time, from their second major label release, "Feeling Strangely Fine."

I can't tell you how much I love this song. While I was never into picking up people at bars, I did love the social life I had-- great times, great conversations. And I did meet a couple of the great loves of my life in bars. This song brings me back to those times and places-- places that are mostly gone, and some people who are gone. Also, this song holds a special place in my heart for bringing me a moment of much-needed levity the summer of 1998.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Marathon Friday Random Ten

Another grueling week. I'm not complaining. Had a good talk tonight with my old friend Jamie, my friend who I got back in touch with last year after losing track of him for over ten years. He reminded me that going to nursing school was one of the best things I've ever done, and that when it's all done, it'll be pretty satisfying.

Yesterday in clinicals, my patient was a 92 year old woman who had survived the holocaust. She was hard of hearing, and initially not very cooperative. After a little coaxing, she warmed up to my partner and I, and we were able to care for her. I came away from it really realizing I'd made the right decision in going to nursing school. It sure is a good feeling to know that I can help people and make a living with it.

In the meantime, I'm working two doubles this weekend. Since I added a shift a week onto my schedule, I'm hoping that by the end of this month I can be somewhat caught up financially. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

1. Flower Lady- Phil Ochs
2. Burn On- Randy Newman
3. I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night- Billy Bragg
4. You Drive Me Ape- The Dickies
5. I'm Not Angry- Elvis Costello
6. Links On The Chain- Phil Ochs
7. Can't Buy Me Love- The Beatles
8. Tossin' and Turnin'- Bobby Lewis
9. Pusher Man- Pete Shelley
10. La Vie En Rose- Edith Piaf

1. Phil Ochs came out of the early sixties Greenwich Village scene, and stood out among peers who included Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Peter, Paul and Mary, Jose Feliciano and many others.
2. A song about Cleveland's Cuyahoga River burning in the late sixties due to pollution. A true story.
3. Wow-- Billy Bragg's lovely tribute to Phil Ochs, from his great "Internationale" EP. A rewrite of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night."
4. Saw the Dickies in 1988, with Iggy Pop and the Ramones. The Dickies were awesome.
5. From Elvis' first album-- a really angry album. Little known fact: Costello's backup band on this album was Clover-- now known as Huey Lewis' "News."
6. Okay, seriously-- I really did set my Itunes to shuffle. Two songs by Phil Ochs and one about him. Is Itunes trying to tell me something?
7. Tomorrow would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. Can't believe it was nearly 30 years ago that we lost him. Still miss him.
8. Love the scene in "Animal House" where this song is playing-- when they're making the "Deathmobile."
9. From Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley's first solo album, in 1981.
10. An old girlfriend turned me on to Edith Piaf about 20 years ago. Nice to see a renewed interesting in Piaf's work in the last few years.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Long Haul

Once in a blue moon, my best friend Jim likes to tell the story not of when we first met, but his first memory of me. He hated me.

He swears it was the summer of 1983, and I think it was the summer of 1984. Regardless, I do remember the incident. It was at a party thrown by a couple of friends of ours, Kevin and Jim (another Jim, not my best friend Jim), who were both journalism students and were renting a house together. They had a party on a Thursday night; since there were no classes on Fridays in summer school, the party was well-attended.

Now to fully explain what happened, I have to put things in context. In 1984, it seems like just about every third celebrity was "coming out" as gay, whether they were actually gay or not.

In any event, I got up on a chair, made Kevin and Jim shut the music off and told everybody that I had an announcement: that I was straight!

I discovered later that my future best friend Jim turned to his friend Dan, who like Jim is gay, and is also still a close friend now, and said "Who is THAT asshole?"

Not long after that, I met Jim through Dan, who was already a friend, and we've been close friends since then. Jim later realized, when he told me about his memory, that he'd assumed I was making a homophobic statement.

After that, Jim and I were inseparable. We'd go out together, each others' "wingmen;" if there was a woman I wanted to chat up, he'd be the icebreaker, and I did the same with guys he wanted to meet. We roomed together the next summer while I was finishing up my graduate work.

We stayed in touch after college. He lived in Champaign, Illinois for years, and when he decided to move to Chicago, he took me up on my standing offer to stay with me and my now-ex while he was finding a job and an apartment. He witnessed my ex's abuse-- there's a long-standing joke we have about him not having heard her frequent bouts of screaming at me because he slept through it. He's babysat my son, and was the best man at my wedding to Kim. We've counseled one another through relationships, breakups, job losses and just about any other crisis a guy can have.

This last week was slow at work. I went to bed last night worried; I had a tuition autopay that was due to hit Tuesday morning. I was going to come up about $80 short. I'm working tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, but by then, the autopay would hit and cost me money either through an overdraft or a penalty for having the autopay turned away. We are so broke now that even the $28 overdraft fee will cause problems.

Right before I left for class, I texted Jim this morning, asking me to call me. Despite the fact that he works nights, he was up already and called immediately (he likes to run to the gym and work out in the mornings.) I told him my situation and he stopped me; "A hundred dollars? Is that all you're worried about? For you to finish nursing school and you to be able to pay for your kids' college? That's no problem."

Since I had to run off to class and he was going to the gym and then to work, he got my checking account number and put the money into my account.

I thanked him profusely and he pointed out that he hates my ex after having witnessed how abusive she was to me, and how she still never misses a chance to be an asshole. He considered his aid to me to be a big "F*ck You" to her.

But for my part, I feel blessed that I've found some people who are in my life for the long haul. I keep coming back to a line from Elton John's song "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters:"

And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A Quick Breather Friday Random Ten

I've mentioned before a woman I know who was a year ahead of me in the program. Right before I started, she was finishing her first year, and was able to give some good advice as far as instructors and which books to get. It was very helpful.

As my first year wore on, I would run into her. She told me that as much work as the first year was, the second year was even more grueling. I took mental note. It was good advice. The workload is much bigger than last year's. We're moving into specific content area, and it's assumed that you know your stuff from last year.

This week was exhausting, but both productive and full of good news. First, the first exam we had in psychiatric nursing had a change. When we finally had a chance to go over the first test with the instructor, the last question on the exam had the wrong answer. We had talked the entire rotation about therapeutic communication skills, and it was obviously the correct answer to the question of "What is the most important skill a psychiatric nurse can have." It turned out that all but one person had chosen "Therapeutic communication skills" as the answer. The instructor called the textbook publisher and they agreed that we were right. She dropped the question, giving me a 42 out of 49 rather than 50, and I squeaked out a B on that exam.

We had an exam on Monday, the second and last for our psychiatric nursing rotation. I got a 45 out of 50, a high B on our grading scale. On Wednesday, we took the HESI (Health Education Systems, Inc.) for psychiatric nursing. I needed to get an 850 to get all my class points that went along with it. I got an 1120.

My clinical was a lot of work, but good. My instructor is a French lady who is very funny, very thorough and very rigorous. She's the kind of teacher who expects a lot of you, but will help me become a better nurse. It was all good this week.

Tonight, my son is here. I'm whipping up a dinner of chicken and mashed potatoes, and then, I imagine, a game of "Settlers of Cataan" with my kids, and then we're watching "Pirate Radio." My kind of Friday night.

1. Song of the American Consul/Quartermaster Son- Jamie O'Reilly and Michael Smith
2. Brown-Eyed Girl- Van Morrison
3. Early Morning Rain- Peter, Paul and Mary
4. Dead Set On Destruction- Husker Du
5. It's All Right- J.J. Jackson
6. One After 909- The Beatles
7. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys- Willie Nelson
8. I'm Shakin'- The Blasters
9. I Found Out About You- The Gin Blossoms
10. I Zimbra- The Talking Heads

1. I know both of the musicians. Michael wrote one of my favorite songs, "The Dutchman," which Steve Goodman covered wonderfully.
2. I remember hearing this song as a young kid in 1967. I never, ever get tired of it.
3. A Gordon Lightfoot classic covered by the Monkees of the folk world-- a band that was manufactured, but was still great.
4. From "Candy Apple Grey," my favorite Husker Du record.
5. I always wondered if this guy was the same J.J. Jackson who was a VJ on MTV in its first years-- same name and sound a lot alike. He wasn't.
6. From the "Let It Be Naked" record-- the "Let It Be" album with Phil Spector's schlocky orchestration and choruses removed.
7. I love me some Willie Nelson.
8. From the great self-titled first Blasters album that came out 29 years ago.
9. These guys were so awesome-- New Miserable Experience was a great record. Then they threw out the guy who wrote all their best songs because he was a drunk (gee-- a guy in the Gin Blossoms was a drunk?) and he killed himself. They reformed a few years ago, but have never matched their early stuff-- this song, Mrs. Rita, etc.
10. From the great "Fear Of Music" album. All nonsense lyrics.