Friday, February 25, 2011

Had a crushing last few weeks. Finished my Pediatrics rotation, which was very productive. I've begun my second Med-Surg rotation. Since I got a very low lottery number in registration, I was able to get the instructor I wanted, Ms. B., a very funny, strong-willed French lady who is one of the best teachers of any subject I've had in my life. As I'm fond of saying that she rides you like a five dollar burro, but you learn a ton. She understands that time management is going to be one of our big issues when we're nurses, but also wants to make sure we can think critically.

Last weekend, Kim and Mel went out of town, and it was just Adam and I. I took a rare Saturday night off-- an expensive proposition, but needed, I thought, to spend some time with him. He's missed the most time with me of everybody. Last Saturday, we hung out together, and my best friend Jim came by. We watched an old movie, "Start The Revolution Without Me," which I used to watch with my father whenever it was on television. Neither Jim nor Adam had ever seen it, so it was really fun to watch it with them.

My son and I got to talk a lot. I'd been concerned about him. At the end of last summer, his cousin, my ex's nephew, died at the age of 28. He was more like a brother to my son-- a really nice kid. I came to the conclusion, at the end of the weekend, that he's dealing with it as well as one could expect.

Over the weekend, we had a bunch of great talks. He amazes me sometimes. He's dealt with so much-- he has to deal with my ex- way more than I have to. And yet, he thrives-- he's just unbelievably smart. He talks about history, economics, philosophy and understands Game Theory way better than I ever did when I studied it in Grad school. He's got an incredible intellectual curiousity; we walked over to our local little bookstore and I gave him some money to buy any book he wanted. He chose a book about the famine in China that was caused by Chairman Mao's disastrous policies. How may sixteen year olds do you know who would choose to read about this? He's fascinated by economics and government policy. But above all of that stuff, he is just a genuinely nice person. I couldn't be prouder of him.

In less than two weeks, he turns 17. I'm having trouble getting my head around that. There are times where I feel like it's been only six months since I was holding him on my lap feeding him. I know that he is going to love college, but I can't believe he's almost there.

In other news, my daughter's school basketball team went to the playoffs. They won the first round, but were knocked out in the next round, in a game this evening. I was really proud of my daughter; she played aggressively and well. I hope that this summer we can find some time to play together.

I spent some time tonight doing some online case studies for the Pediatrics HESI test (a preparation for the nursing boards) that I'm taking Monday morning. It's a little staggering to know that I'm so close to finishing this all-- ten weeks left. I'm amazed at how much I have learned, and I'm amazed at how much I have to learn. I've come to the realization that I'm entering a field that I can spend a lifetime learning in. And I'm pretty damned good with that.

1. The Times They Are A'Changin'- Bob Dylan
2. Queen Jane Approximately- Bob Dylan
3. Will The Circle Be Unbroken- Asleep At The Wheel
4. To Be Young- Ryan Adams
5. Car Jamming- The Clash
6. Don't Take Your Guns To Town- Johnny Cash
7. Dock Of the Bay- Otis Redding
8. I Think It Was the Wine- Corky Seigel
9. The Needle And The Spoon- Lynnrd Skynnrd
10. Blues With A Feeling- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

1. One of the hallmark songs of the sixties. Also at the beginning of the movie "Watchmen," which I got for Christmas.
2. From "Highway 61 Revisited," one of my "desert island" albums.
3. A great old standard served up by Asleep At the Wheel on the great album "Served Live."
4. Love this song. If you've ever seen "Old School," it's the song played at the beginning of the movie.
5. From "Combat Rock," and album that came out 29 years ago. Can you believe it?
6. Some classic Cash
7. I never, ever get tired of hearing this song, or singing it and playing it on guitar. A post-humous number 1 for the immensely talented Mr. Redding.
8. I friggin' love this song, which sums up a lot of my younger years. My parents used to see Seigel at Big John's, a club in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighorhood back in the late sixties.
9. Skynnrd warning about dope.
10. Another band my folks used to see at Big John's in the sixties.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things: My Toronto Blue Jays Mug

I had a twelve hour clinical shift today. I've adapted to the twelve hour days pretty well-- that's the kind of shift I'll be working in nursing, in all likelihood-- but I had to work last night, so ended up getting less than four hours of sleep. This is my last long clinical of the semester, indeed of nursing school. Life goes on.

I'd been promising (or threatening) a new feature, "A Few Of My Favorite Things." I haven't been blogging nearly enough, and since I crashed for a couple of hours after coming home from clinicals and having dinner, I've got a little energy to blog.

With full time school, full time work and parenting two teenagers, coffee has become the elixir of life to me. I tend to drink coffee in the late afternoon and early evening to extend a day that by then has become long, and frequently after a nap. I acquired the treasured Toronto Blue Jays cup through a job. Larry T. a guy I have worked for on and off over the years is one of the more remarkable people I've ever known. I first worked for him in the late eighties in a deli he co-owned. I continued to work for him at a barbecue joint he owned.

Larry, an African-American guy from the south side of Chicago, is intelligent, funny and gregarious. On a trip to Toronto, a city he loves as much as I do, he met a couple of other restauranteurs, who sent him home with a bunch of little gifts, including a Toronto Blue Jays coffee cup-- the one pictured above.

The 1993 World Series, between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays, was one of my favorites. One of my favorite-ever baseball players, Joe Carter, who had at one time played for my beloved Cubs, was the hero of that series, a moment I recounted in this post a couple of years ago. In fact, I was working at Larry's barbecue joint watching it on television.

The mug sat around the restaurant for ages before I realized that it was eventually just going to get broken or lost. I took it home to make sure it had a good home.

In my post about the Joe Carter World Series game, I recounted how at the time of that game, I was awaiting the birth of my son and an uncertain fate, and that how that moment was my favorite moment in a World Series until seeing that son pitch in a little league world series over a decade later. When I have a simple cup of coffee (always black, no sugar) from that cup, it's a reminder of my son, a reminder of my friend Larry, whom I'm still friends with, and a reminder of how great a game baseball can be.

Last week I got on Ebay to get one more thing to go along with the mug: a 1993 Joe Carter Toronto Blue Jays baseball card, which I will frame and put in a place of honor.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The "Three Months To Go" Friday Random Ten

Today marks three months to go to two milestones: graduation from nursing school and my 50th birthday. Today I thought a lot back to a time two years ago when I was waiting to find out whether I got into Truman College's nursing program. Lots of things seemed a long time away-- hearing about nursing school, my 50th birthday and my son's 18th birthday. Now the first two are a quarter of a year away, and the last one is just a little over a year away. The last one means that my son--and I-- no longer have to deal with the decisions of an angry, capricious and emotionally stunted person, my ex.

In the meantime, I had my first test of my final semester on Monday. I was nervous as hell about it, but it turned out well-- after thinking it was going to be a "throwaway" test that I'd have to do better on another test to make up for, I got an "A." It was the lowest possible A, but an A nonetheless.

I had another good moment in school last Sunday. For all the things I've done in this life, I had zero experience in the medical field. Everything I've done, from cleaning up an adult to giving a shot (or 60 or 70 one day when I gave a bunch of people flu shots), to giving a heparin shot with a tiny needle or an Accucheck blood sugar test, it's all been outside of my comfort zone. I've taken some pride in being able to do that, to step outside of my comfort zone, but often found myself relieved when I was able to avoid some new skill for a while. This last Sunday, during clinical, our patient (we had a low "census" so my partner and I had to "share" a patient) was being discharged, and so we had to discontinue the IV on our patient, a 42 day old baby. I jumped at the chance to do it. It was one more skill I could add to my bag of tricks. My instructor supervised, and I removed the IV. For the first time, I wasn't nervous at all. I'd come to the realization that with the right instruction and instructor, I can master each skill. It was a nice moment.

I've got a couple more weeks in my Pediatric rotation, and one more test. I'm looking forward to my next one, my second Med-Surg rotation, with one of my favorite clinical instructors, a crazy French lady who is rigorous, humorous and inspiring.

In one of my favorite movies-- a mini-series, actually, "From the Earth to the Moon," there is a scene in which the crew of Apollo 9, a mission that was to test the Lunar Module, a piece of equipment that had huge difficulties in the development, rattled off all the "firsts" that their mission would have. They would have difficulty finishing half of the things, let alone all of them. Yet, the commander of the mission enthusiastically says "I can't wait!"

These last two clinical days, I came to a several realizations. One was that the nurses who were actually responsible for the patients we were working with had complete confidence in us. We checked in with them, told them what we were doing, asked them relevant questions and all, but in the end, we went in and gave care to those patients. Secondly, the patients' parents had complete confidence in us. They asked us questions, and when we told them things-- things to watch for after discharge, etc.-- they listened and took note.

The last was that I have confidence in myself. Nearly five years ago, I was told that I was not going to be retained in the teaching job I loved and thought I'd work until I retired. My confidence was shaken to the core. I felt pretty shitty about it. Now, five years later, I'm feeling pretty damned good. The asshole in me wants to send a card to my old principal, the one who made the decision not to retain me, when I graduate.

1. Funky Kingston- Toots and the Maytalls
2. Find Somebody- The Rascals
3. Dancing in Heaven- Q-Feel
4. Just a Closer Walk With Thee- Joan Baez
5. Everything Is Beautiful- Ray Stevens
6. I Believe- Don Williams
7. School Days- Chuck Berry
8. What's On My Mind- Kansas
9. I'm Gonna Make Me Love You- Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations
10. Five Feet High and Rising- Johnny Cash

1. I find this song hard not to dance around to. Infectious.
2. Not one of their better-known songs, but a great one. Discovered it through Little Steven's Underground Garage.
3. An eighties one-hit wonder
4. Joan taking a walk down the gospel lane
5. Mr. Stevens was known for his humorous song, but his one was serious and with a lovely message.
6. Mr. Williams wrote hits for other, including Eric Clapton's "Living On Tulsa Time," but this beauty was a hit for him.
7. A solid classic from Chuck.
8. First heard this one when I started listening to FM radio in high school in the mid seventies. Still a favorite.
9. The Supremes with the Temptations? There was no way they were gonna miss!
10. Johnny Cash singing about a flood or train crash or prison? Go figure.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The "Snow Up The Yin-Yang" Friday Random Ten

Sorry for the long absence from posting; I've been keeping up with my favorite bloggers, but haven't had the energy, given the circumstances, to post much.

As most people know, we got socked by a blizzard here in Chicago. It's made life a little more crazy than normal. I'm sore head to toe-- not only from shoveling snow, but from a spill I took down the back porch steps-- ironically while going to the basement to get a bottle of wine.

I am partaking in the infamous Chicago "dibsing;" the placing of lawn chairs, brooms, garbage cans, etc. to stake out a space you spent hours digging out for you car, and in my case, my wife's car as well. Above is my neighbor's "dibs," which scores high in every area of classic dibs: variety of material, ugliness and overkill. He also scored points for clearly being drunk when I saw him with his nephews digging out the space at 11:30 in the morning.

Tonight is a night in with my kids and two of their friends. My wife and her friend (the mother of one of the kids) are going to a meet and greet with Rahm Emanuel, who's the likely next mayor of Chicago (she just posted this picture of herself with him on Facebook). Besides spending time with the kids, I'll also been hitting the books; I'm assuming that although my school was closed on Wednesday that our test will go as planned on Monday, since the material on Wednesday wasn't going to be on the test. I've realized lately how bloody exhausted I am, but keep reminding myself that there's only about three months left to this journey. Plus, I got a little added incentive. This week they announced graduation day: May 11. It happens to be my 50th birthday. Finishing this program would be the best 50th birthday present I could give myself.

1. Real Man- Todd Rundgren
2. Beautiful Brother of Mind- Curtis Mayfield
3. Silver, Blue and Gold- Bad Company
4. Joker Went Wild- Bryan Hyland
5. Valley of the Dolls- Dionne Warwick
6. I Can't Tell You Why- The Eagles
7. Sean Flynn- The Clash
8. Mississippi- Bob Dylan
9. Talkin' About You- The Rolling Stones
10. Lady Madonna- The Beatles

1. First heard this one on WXRT, our local "Prog Rock" station in the late seventies. Still one of my favorites.
2. This guy, who grew up in the projects here in Chicago was amazing. His son roomed with a friend of mine at Eastern Illinois University.
3. A guilty seventies pleasure; I love these guys. They wrote a ton of great songs.
4. One of many hits Mr. Hyland had.
5. Love Ms. Warwick's voice, especially when she's singing the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
6. The one hit of theirs sung by newcomer Timothy B. Schmidt.
7. About the combat photographer Sean Flynn, who happened to be the son of the actor Errol Flynn. He disappeared with another photographer near the Cambodian border while covering the Vietnam War, and is widely assumed to have been murdered by the Khmer Rouge. I read a New York Times article about a year ago about a friend of his, a fellow combat photographer, who is still trying to solve the mystery of his disappearance.
8. From the great "Love & Theft" album.
9. From "December's Children."
10; One of the songs Paul penned. A few years back, I saw Yoko refered to Paul as "Solieri to John's Mozart." Not only was this an ungracious thing to say, it's wrong. Paul is a phenomenal songwriter.