Monday, October 23, 2006

It Happened

So, it happened. My grandma passed away today, peacefully and without a struggle. I'll be in TN from Tuesday about 2:40pm to Monday 8:00am. Thanks for all your prayers and kind thoughts for me and my family!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

In Celebration of My Grandma

I’m starting to write this in anticipation of my grandmother’s passing. She is 91 years old as of this past September, and her life looks to be nearing a close. But who really knows? She has fooled us several times before. But this time seems more real. I’m writing this before she passes, because I want it to be ready when the event does occur. I also know I’m not going to want or have time to write when it happens. I make no apologies for this being long or overly sentimental.

I’m glad I’m not in TN for these last few, trying months. That seems pretty selfish of me, but I wish to hold my current vision of my active, spry little grandma, not the lethargic, sickly woman I know she has become recently. I do wish I was there to talk with her and hold her hand and watch her eyes light up when I walk in the room, though she can’t quite verbalize who I am.

Most people hold a vision of what an ideal grandma should be like. The grandma of storybooks, who spoils her grandchildren mercilessly and is actively involved in their lives. My grandmother was one of these. You could always count on the bowl of M&Ms on the end table and her willingness to read from any of the Golden Books stacked up in the back bedroom. She’d let me put sugar in my cereal, something contraband at my own house. Even in her seventies, she was always up for a game of “Red light, green light” in the driveway. She taught me the ins-and-outs of solitaire and Old Maid. She had this drawer of tiny toys and dishes in the coffee table that never ceased to amaze me.

I remember her traveling a lot when I was really little. She seemed to go everywhere: Hawaii, the Bahamas, sometimes more than once. She’d always bring stuff back for her grandchildren, like the big shells you can hear the ocean in or a little brown shell with Hawaii and a little beach scene painted on it. I still have them.

Nothing in her house every changed. Ever. I’m pretty sure the house looked almost exactly the same from the sixties when they moved there to when she sold it to her grandson a couple of years ago. A coconut from some tropical place served as a doorstop for as long as I can remember. I’m glad no one ever cut it open. The same giant television, the same sunburst clock, the same furniture that seemed to be built for short people. The same map of TN on the fridge so she would see where the weather alerts were. The same Christmas decorations hidden in the back corner of the attic up the scary pull-down ladder.

She was pretty predicable as a person too, in some ways. She had a glass of buttermilk and a half a grapefruit with breakfast. She snored when she slept. If she was going to eat breakfast out, McDonald’s pancakes were her favorite. It was usually strawberry milkshakes from Snow White. If she was cooking, it was probably roast, with carrots and potatoes. How I tired of roast! She never was that great of a cook, but she did ok. She could make some killer sweet tea though, stored in reused glass Tropicana juice bottles. She loved to watch “her stories,” the cheesy soap operas she taped every weekday afternoon so she could go back and watch it if we kids distracted her. I was pretty into “Days of our Lives” for one summer thanks to her influence. Just one summer.

She taught me other things besides how to have a sweet tooth and how to play card games with the best of them. I remember the annual corn parties, where the women of the family would come together and shuck, boil, cool, and cream corn to be stored in a variety of zip-lock bag sizes. Sometimes it was at our house, sometimes at hers. It was an all-day event. We did the same thing with beans and peas. We would sit in front of the tv and shell peas till our hands were raw or stained purple from purple hull peas.

My grandmother was always a very active person. She awoke at 5:45 am every morning to go for a 3-mile walk with some ladies from her neighborhood. She was involved in MMM, LLL, and a few other three repetitive letter organizations. I never could keep straight what the letters stood for. I just knew she did a lot with them and would sometimes bring back good things to eat or homemade crafts from the meetings. She would go play in the rock garden with us grandkids, which is this area of large, limestone rocks at the back of her property. It was huge when we were kids! Now it seems so small. But many hours were spent hopping from one rock to other, avoiding the ground, or examining the countless crevices and interesting facets of the giant rocks.

My grandmother adored flowers and birds. She usually had this large row of tube roses on the edge of her garden that the strongest smell ever. She raised many different varieties of flowers, and she knew the name of each specie. She’d raise these big, impressive looking flowers and let me enter them in the county fair every year. Somehow I got credit for watering them once or twice. It was a major part of the day to water all the flowers because there were so many. She would work the rose exhibit at the county fair every year, saving these tiny little vases all year round to prepare for the big event. People expected her to be there. Even when her mind started to slip, she was still able to tell you the names of flowers long after she started forgetting people’s names.

My grandmother was a very impressive seamstress, and always had a project going on. She served as seamstress for Castle Heights Military Academy for years. She made quilts for each of her grandchildren. I’m her favorite, of course, so she made me two. The most beautiful one I think she ever made now decorates my bed and is one of my prized possessions.

She was always healthy up into her eighties. I don’t remember her ever being sick, but maybe it was overshadowed by my grandfather being really sick for so long before he passed. It all started with a scary incident where she “passed out” and fell while walking with some friends. Within a few days, my active, healthy grandmother went from being perfectly normal to being very strange. She couldn’t talk right, she dressed up in the most ridiculous outfits, and she didn’t know my name. I remember being in the back bedroom at her house that first time she didn’t know my name. I was stunned. Long story short, she had to have emergency brain surgery for a bleed on her brain. It didn’t look good.

I guess you could say I pulled my first night shift when she had that surgery. The hospital asked us to have a family member with her twenty-four hours a day. One night it was my turn, and I hardly remember a time when I have been more frustrated. She was up constantly, moving around, pulling on tubes, and unable to communicate. She had her head wrapped up like a mummy, and her speech was just moaning. I had not slept in preparation for the battle, and was delusional myself by the time the night was over.

She made a near-full recovery. She moved into a wonderful assisted living apartment. She made me laugh when she said she didn’t want to sit in the common room “with the old ladies who just watch people coming in and out and talk about people.” Things were good for a while, then the last few years have been a series of ups and downs.

Some things she does in her dementia are funny. One time at a family party we had chips and cheese dip as an appetizer. She took a big dollop of cheese and stirred it into her water glass. And drank it! She seemed to like it, but we just laughed at her and gave her a new glass. She pulled out her PICC line (a big IV that’s threaded through your arm to your heart) three times. I laughed. She tells me I’m her favorite grandchild, and whispers to me secretly not to tell the others. When we look through my scrapbooks, she point me out in pictures, saying “I know who that is!” but is unable to recall my name. She’d see my sister and just say “Ooo!” She knew us, she just didn’t know our names. Her speech is garbled now, but I can still make out “ I wub ooo!”

She has seen a lot: the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, two sons in the service, the loss of an adult daughter, the loss of her husband. Five children, ten grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and one on the way. She’s had a good life. She’s got a ton of friends, most with names like Mildred and Ida, many who have passed on. Nothing spectacular about her, and yet she’s been life-changing at the same time. I can’t imagine life without her, but she’s ready to go now. I’m ok with that because I know where her trust lies, but I’ll miss her. All four foot, nine inches of her.

I love you, Grandma!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I stole this idea from Kate's, thanks, Kate!

Top things I love about Minnesota

-The abundance of things to do outside and the fact that people actually do them
-The diversity of race, religions, backgrounds
-Bike trails and sidewalks
-"Ooftah!" (possibily spelled "uff-da", I'm not sure)
-The realization that most people think my Southern accent is cute
-Their Minnesotan accent
-Seemingly high standards of education
-Chipmunks, black squirrels, and shrews
-The friendliness of people
-The nearness of the Mall of America
-The uniqueness of the Mayo Clinic
-Caribou Coffee
-Walk-up Dairy Queens (that is, from March-October)

Things I miss from Tennessee/Arkansas
-Good barbeque and cornbread
-Really knowing people
-being with my grandma as she prepares to go home
-singing with fellow believers
-Pryor 109 and all associated
-Knowing exactly how to get places when I'm driving
-People knowing who I am
-Being in closer proximity with the rest of the U.S.
-Dropping in to Johnny's office

Friday, October 06, 2006

What are you thinking right NOW?

I'm thinking I'm incredibly tired from work, and there is NO way I could do this for years on end. At least not on my unit. I hurt. I'm achy. I know what did it today.....a 6'5", 280 lb quadriplegic who messed his bed and another nurse who left me there holding him from the side by myself. Shouldn't have done that one. Should have popped some ibuprofen. But alas, I didn't.

I had a really good day at work. It was so busy because all of my patients had major changes going on as far as their treatments and meds and such. I was just keeping pace. If something adverse would have happened, such as another messed bed or an overbearing family member, I probably would have been very behind. I felt like a switchboard operator, talking to this team, then this one, then putting this one on hold while I deal with another one. It was fun....I love dealing with the different teams of people who come to see my patients. I think I like it because I'm the only one who REALLY knows what's going on. I like knowing stuff. You know that. :-)

I'm thinking about how I volunteered with a tutoring program called Friendship Place last night for a little bit. I had a lot of fun! I worked with a 7th grade Somalian boy named Najib. He was SO cute and I just wanted to take him home and teach him social studies forever (that's what he was working on last night). After we were done and still waiting for his ride, we played Sorry, and he had the cutest smile. I'm going to try to go there fairly often.

I'm thinking maybe we should think about Somalia. They are beautiful people, and have AMAZING dress sometimes. Almost exclusively Muslim. Oh, yeah, and a war going on right now. One of the other Somalian girls was studying something social studies, and it had content about some other religion. She said, "Oh, that's about another religion. I can't read that." Hmm. I don't know the story behind that.

My grandmother has pneumonia now and is not moving herself at all. I bet I'll have to go home in the next few weeks.

I am taking two classes. One is Psychosocial Interventions Family Nursing. We talk about people's psychosocial responses to illness, crisis, etc and what we can do for them as advanced practice nurses. We deal with therapy, therapeutic techniques, working with families, and the like. I'm doing a presentation about adaptation to chronic pain and fibromyalgia. VERY interesting. Lots going on in the psychosocial realm with that. My other class is Advanced Roles Seminar, where we learn about and discuss all the advanced roles of nursing (nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, nurse educator, nurse anesthetist, nurse administrator). Also VERY interesting. We cover the basics of what each does, licensure, regulation, plus deeper things such as role socialization, upcoming changes in practice, and lots more. There is so much out there that I know very little about. It is almost overwhelming thinking out it.

I'm applying for a few different nurse practitioner programs in January and should know by February if i am accepted. If I am, it will take 3 years to finish. If I get Mayo to pay for it, I owe them one year service after school (this is a new change I just found out about last week). So....if I get in, I'm looking at four years here. I don't' mind that, but there's always that question of....what if?

Amy and I think and talk about working with something like Doctors without Borders or Mercy Ships and doing that for a year or two. It would be awesome, but so would being a nurse practitioner.....

So, as of right now, I am very open to staying here 4 years. I kind of like the sound of it. (That is, until someone around me starts talking about other opportunities, I starting dreaming, and then I'm very unsure.) After moving and setting up house here, the thought of moving again just makes me.....tired. It's a lot of work. So I think I'm going to apply for these programs, and if I get in, I'll do it. I'll stay. If I don't, then I'll probably start looking at other opportunities, which probably involve living in a third world country. Hmmm.

I'm also thinking how I can run into that resident again that rotated off my unit last week. Hmm.

That's what I'm thinking right now. And sleep. I'm thinking about sleep. And how much I like the Bebo Norman song "My Eyes Have Seen Holy."

"Am I unfit for You?
Remember me, the one who turned from You.
I come in rags tattered by the Fall,
And all the earth, a witness to my crime.

Mercy, weep over me.
Let Your tears wash me clean.
Majesty, be merciful with me,
For my eyes have seen Holy.

Hear my prayer at night.
Let the morning find me alive.
For I am tired and weakened by the Fall.
Let all the earth bear witness to my cry.

Let the Amen sound from Heaven as You lift my soul,
Let the Amen sound from Heaven as You lift my soul,
Let the Angels sound from Heaven, Holy is the Lord."