Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In my work at the maternity home, every day I'm presented with any number of things that were definitely not in my job description. Most days are exhausting, and in retrospect, hilarious, so I thought I would walk you through my work day.
2:30 pm - Last glance around the house. Did I forget everything? Survey says yes. I find my cell phone in the closet and my glasses on the floor by the bed (Kina thinks the nightstand is hers, and uses her tail to knock off any invaders). Feed the cats, lock the door, and I'm on my way.
2:56 pm - Pull in the gate. I find my keys as I park, run in the door, clock in and sign in, and try to make it upstairs without any interceptions by needy clients.
3:00 pm - Meet in the rec room for clinical. In my experience, these weekly meetings are as much for staff morale as they are for staff members to communicate about the different aspects of our residents' treatment goals. We discuss each resident - her school attendance, her clinic appointments, her participation level in activities/classes, her plans after delivery, and any issues she's presented since the last meeting. We do a lot of problem solving and story telling; usually also a lot of laughing. It lasts an hour.
4:00 pm - Someone needs to use the phone, someone needs their medication, and someone wants to talk about the sterile mask she got from the clinic today - she is serious when she says she is going to wear it to the NA meeting she's required to attend this evening. "They be in there coughing like they're about to die. I don't want to catch TB from them." Partly relieved she's talking about attending at all, I listen, and realize I was supposed to do a transport fifteen minutes ago. A little help, over here? I give the medication, stall about the phone, and duck out the door to pick up a resident from the hospitality class she's taking at Goodwill Industries. I relish the peace and quiet in the van on the way.
4:25 pm - I'm back, and just in time to deal with the fall-out from another crisis. Someone just returned from the clinic, cursing and carrying on. I've heard this same complaint from this same resident for months. For some reason the clinic hasn't been able to determine her due date. It looks to me like she could deliver any second. But am I a doctor? That is not my job. She says that if they don't give her an ultrasound, she's leaving the program. I try to call and alert her social worker. There is no answer.
4:45 pm - One of my residents with an adoption plan just had her baby - two weeks early. This means that nothing was actually in place, so I've been frantically trying to reach her social worker with Children's Home Society (the one coordinating the adoption), but she's out this week. I leave another message.
5:00 pm - Dinner is paged over the intercom. I lock the phone, the files, and all the paperwork I've been working on in the office, and go downstairs to the dining hall. Dinner is weird, and I slept in this morning instead of getting up to cook. I get coffee and take my seat at the staff table. Everyone is feeling pretty low since the pay cut last week, so there's not a lot of conversation over dinner. At one point, two residents get loud, talking about what the other told someone else about them. I cut in as the younger one says "you don't know who you're f---ing with." Shortly afterward, she leaves the dining room, and I resume breathing. I hate breaking up fights, because all of the residents are taller than me, and most outweigh me by at least 30 pounds. Also, I'm afraid they will break my glasses. (If they wanted a bouncer, they should have hired this guy.)
5:45 pm - All the residents have finished eating, and I'm on my way back upstairs. I page chores, but I'm mostly ignored - a few residents have gone to the computer lab, one went to her room, and the rest are outside (we make them leave campus if they want to smoke). As soon as I sit down, someone approaches my desk. She needs to go to the hospital (I am lucky this time - I'm used to over-disclosure about things like "leaking fluid" and "spotting," but the case manager who works in the mornings once had a resident bring her mucus plug in a tissue when she came to request a ride to the hospital. That is really not my job!). So it's back downstairs to sign out of the building, check out a van, and drive the five minutes to the ER. Of course in the parking lot, the resident I was supposed to take to a 7 pm NA meeting seizes the opportunity to tell me she also needs to go to the hospital, because she suddenly has a migraine. Never one to deny medical care, I drive both residents to the ER. When one complains about how long they'll have to wait, I resist the urge to offer my health insurance in exchange for hers (Medicaid). No one I know outside of NYM Maternity Home can walk out of the ER without a bill. Starving, I take the long way and stop at Trader Joe's. I get a hummus/veggie wrap and a tiny coffee sample.
6:05 pm - I am now late for my own activity. I haul boxes of trial size toiletries to the multi-purpose room, and then page for residents. Before too long, I have a small group from the minor hall helping me organize the toiletries and stuff bags. Each bag needs 2 shampoos, 2 soaps, a lotion, and a conditioner. Tomorrow morning, a few of the residents will be going with our Volunteer Coordinator to take the bags to "Stuff the Bus" (a donations drive for some of the homeless shelters in the area). Some of the shampoo bottles have leaked; by the end I have suds everywhere. The girls seem to be enjoying themselves, though. I don't spend much time with the residents who are under 18; they live on a different hall, and I work primarily with the adults. I notice how giggly they are. They ask about my tattoo and my husband.
7:10 pm - By the time I get upstairs, the volunteers who host a Bible study every week have already arrived. A few residents have gathered in the multipurpose room. I page the group, and check my work email. Updates on all the recent groups and classes, information on SC medicaid, and a few emails addressing issues with residents. I reply and discard.
7:57 - Snack is paged for the residents. I try to ignore it - usually evening snack is something sugary, like honeybuns or oreos. I eat my hummus wrap, and I'm grateful when one resident (who knows about my popcorn habit) brings me a packet of microwave popcorn. I put it in my drawer for later. A coworker who deal with agency records has asked me to help her with a project, so I spend the next hour going through the computer making a list of all the deliveries we've had since December 2007, complete with the babies' APGAR scores. (Don't worry, I didn't understand that, either.) I am interrupted about every seven minutes by someone with some need to be met. I also eat the popcorn.
9:00 - Back to the hospital to pick up resident number one. (They all think they are number one.) She is in a terrible mood, which means that after a minor outburst as she gets in the van, she hardly speaks the rest of the way back. It may be smoldering, but at least it's silence. She goes straight to her room. Back at my desk, I hear: staff laughing down on the minor's hall, some reality show on television in the lounge, a resident on her cell phone, the treadmill (a young lady in the rec room, who thinks that she can walk herself into labor today after lazing around for nine months), the ancient central air system cycling off and on.
9:30 pm - I spend a few minutes talking to the resident involved in the tiff at dinner. I thank her for maintaining her composure, and encourage her to be purposeful in choosing who she "associates" with. That is how I talk at work; I've picked up a whole new vocabulary here. (I talk about "baby daddies" like a professional) The phone rings, and it's resident number two, ready to come back from the hospital. I feel like a poorly paid cab driver, as I head downstairs one more time, check out the keys, sign myself out, and drive to the ER.
9:50 pm - A few residents have gone to their rooms, leaving me with hopefully enough quiet to complete my notes. My work computer is older than me, so it takes some time to pull up each resident's records. It takes most of the next hour to complete the notes. I write about everything from moodiness to hygiene to meal attendance to medical complaints, one client at a time.
10:45 - IT IS ALMOST 11:00. I try not to look at the clock, so that the time will go by faster. I'm exhausted. My shift partner shuts down her hall, and comes to wait on the hall with me for our relief. Every day about this time we log into the email to check the schedule - after 7 months, I still can't remember who comes in for the overnight shift when. Seven months have taught me which staff to dread - some relief staff come in at quarter til every night, and others keep us waiting here until 11:30 pm. Our shift is definitely supposed to end at 11:00, and I hate staying late. Covering an extra (unpaid) half hour for someone who can't get themself to work on time is not my job.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Not long ago, I traveled to a familiar city with two social workers. The first night we went out to dinner, and on the way we saw a pile of blankets heaped in a doorway, and a dog. As we passed, the blankets moved; the man sleeping there had stirred in his sleep. I can't forget how my companions jumped, and quickly walked to the other side of the sidewalk. At the restaurant, after they blessed their food, they laughed at how startled they had been, and at him, and what he was doing with a dog, sleeping on the street. They told me I should protect them and watch their pocketbooks on the way back. I can't forget how uncomfortable I was, as I explained to them that we were in a city known for its homeless population and for the resources it provides for them. I explained that a lot of the city's homeless have animals for protection and companionship. I tried to explain that no one was going to steal their pocketbooks. The next night, it happened again - this time, it was young kids sitting under an overhang on the sidewalk, again with a dog. They asked for a cigarette, and my companions gripped their purses tightly, averted their eyes, hurried past. And again the next day - a scruffy man crossing the street in a torn coat, asking for our spare change.
I almost missed it. That couple, that song - that homeless man and woman - they were God's provision for me when the weight of compassion was too heavy.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I would like to tell you that I bought this at a store where they use only fair wage labor and organic materials to produce their stainless steel garbage cans, but I am not (usually) a liar. The truth is, I bought this at Walmart (with my 10% pay cut, I may have to lose 10% of my principles.), who in addition to underemploying their workers in order to avoid providing them with benefits, and using child slaves, comes up with 574 results when you search for "step can" on their website, making it impossible to show you my current project without taking my own picture.
In my defense, it was completely impossible in this case to get by with what we had. What we had was one of those $1 trash cans that has no lid, and that Abe had decorated in high school with a sticker that said "all things must pass" and had a drawing of a dog going number 2. (It may sound hilarious in tiny font - which I say because I know my sister is cracking up laughing right now - but I assure you that in person it was in very poor taste). For almost a year, I put up with that trash can, but it was very inconvenient for kitty litter disposal. And in very poor taste.
So I finally bought the cheapest trash-with-a-lid can that I could find, and it was a pleasant turquoise that clashed unpleasantly with the browns and reddish oranges of our shower curtain. Spray paint is always the answer, and I chose "saddle tan," which turns out to be a nice dark khaki in addition to a good description of what's leftover of the sunburn I got on our backpacking trip. Today I sanded it, and almost left for work before I realized my legs were covered in turquoise dust (which is what would result if Cookie Monster had a Tinker Bell). And Sunday I paint! We'll be in Waxhaw for some Father's Day celebratin', so I can take advantage of my Father's garage and expertise at doing everything.
P.S. The bad news of having a blog is that it encourages you to think crazy things like: People care about the color I am painting my trash can! I should take a picture in front of the shower curtain! Let me google cartoons of the Cookie Monster!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
After the meeting, I was talking to one of my coworkers. "I could stop getting my nails done, or cancel my cable. Or doggy day care - I guess that's not necessary." (First of all, how do I sign up to get 10% of her salary?!) I don't buy nail polish, much less have regular manicures. We can't cancel our cable, because we already don't have it. (And don't get me started on doggy day care.)
So I guess I can just pray.
"Dear Jesus, please make everything 10% off."
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
- Cook pasta (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti).
- In a skillet, let the onion cook with the garlic until it's soft and yellow. (You can use olive oil or butter to do this. Obviously, it will be tastier with butter. Also, if you're using a red onion, it will never turn yellow). Add the halved cherry tomatoes. When their color brightens, add the tomatoes/onion/garlic to the pasta -- which, by the way, you should have drained.
- In your now-empty skillet, melt a little butter,* and then saute the chard stalks until they soften. Add the leaves; cook until wilted. Dump the chard into your pasta.
- With your skillet empty again, melt another bit of butter (I know. This has to be delicious.) Toss in a few handfuls of pine nuts, and then a few handfuls of bread crumbs. Let everything get toasty while you add a little salt and pepper. Mix the pine nuts/bread crumbs into the pasta.
- Eat! For breakfast, if you have to, or lunch or dinner.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
[To get to the garden, you walk through the woods and hope to avoid any poison ivy. When you get to the creek, you can cross by:
a) the rocks: which are loose, wobbly, and home to copperheads - so you may twist an ankle, slip in to the water or die by snake bite
b) the pipe that crosses the river - which is long and narrow, and bounces some as you go ... and which my dad fell off of, into the stinky water
c) wading through the water, which would come up past my knees if I got in it, and which stinks (Can I get a witness? Oh yes, I can. Thanks, Dad).
This creek obstacle is meant to serve as a deterrent to people who might happen by and be tempted by a defenseless tomato or watermelon. (Can I get a witness? Oh no, I can't. No one has been there.) It is very effective except against brave ladies like Millie, who chose (b)]
--- high quality conversation, and celebrating the baptisms of two of Abe's siblings on Sunday. We had so much fun that going into work on Monday was exceptionally painful. So at the end of the day, I was tired, and I drove home imagining all kinds of peace and quiet. Abe was in Asheville on his own fishing/camping adventures, so I could be selfish.
Would I ...
a) watch a ridiculous girly movie online.
b) enjoy a glass of wine and read my book for a while on the porch.
c) take the cats to bed in order to rise and shine early on Tuesday.
I opted for a little of (b) and a little of (c). I had a sip of wine and ten minutes of quiet before my adventure turned into a night of babysitting a ridiculously sweet and adorable five year old girl.
The thing is, I don't think we really do always choose our own adventures. Sometimes, God picks the adventure, and our only choice is how we respond. So last night, I responded to a distraught neighbor I had never met before who was attacked by her boyfriend in the middle of the night. I helped her clean the broken glass and the beer spilled all over the carpet. I played Candy Land, horses (ironic, yes?), and dolls with a vengeance until 5 am when the woman let her boyfriend back into her apartment, and they fought while I tried to distract her daughter from the cursing and the yelling.
And I thought about all the other neighbors, who I know heard what was happening. I thought about them listening, and I thought about their choices:
a) ignore the noise - "it's not my business, so I should leave it alone."
b) come outside to see, or peek through the blinds - feeling a little curious and a little concerned.
c) care enough to get involved.
Getting involved is messy and uncomfortable. You might color pictures of puppies with a beautiful little girl. You might get cussed out by a drunk boyfriend. You might hear a woman tell a story that churns your stomach and makes you teary-eyed. You might make a world of difference, or none at all - or maybe a difference will be made in you.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I've been wanting lamps for our nightstands - cool ones, maybe that almost match. I've even sort of looked at some (should I tell you it was at Family Dollar?). But I keep coming back to this: I'm not sure you need bedside lamps in an earthship.
How much do I live for now, when my short-term goal is a homey apartment where I can feel settled and half grown-up, and how much do I grit my teeth and look at a longer term, earthship goal?
(Also, should I turn on the a/c, or try to find another cheap fan? No way Millie will ever come back if I don't do one or the other. The cats will be so sad when we close the windows, and I think I'll miss the night noises. On the other hand, if I try to vacuum without the air on, I might spend Millie's visit in the hospital with heat exhaustion. Is this a better argument to use the A/C, or to skip the vacuuming?)
PS) The recession hits again! On Thursday we had a staff meeting right before our resident "summer kick-off" cookout. In the meeting, our executive director reminded us of 40% cuts from United Way funding, cuts in state maternity funding, cuts in donations, and told us that after next week's board meeting, we can expect cuts in staff. "But enjoy the cookout!" (Seriously?! I told one of my coworkers we should eat our fill while we can.)
Friday, June 12, 2009
Part One: A Whale of a TaleLast night I was online when Abe came in. "Go to youtube!" he said. "I want to show you something I saw tonight on Sports Center," he said. Seeing as I'm very clever, and about as interested in watching Sports Center as I am in being subjected to any other form of torture, to be funny, I went to the address bar and typed www.notyoutube.com." And hit enter.
People, I am here to warn you: that is an actual website, and it is most definitely not youtube.
Part Two: My Plastic Fantastic LoverPlastic is everywhere! If you give up plastic for a month in America, here are things you may suffer without:
- dish soap
- Trader Joe's, where they specialize in things that are delicious and sold in non-recyclable plastic packaging
- soy milk
- laundry detergent
- frozen vegetables in the winter time
- toilet paper. Even brands that are supposed to be eco-friendly are sold in plastic packaging!
- the dollar store. You can't begin to imagine the looks you get when you tell them no thanks, you brought your own bag.
Here are a few things that you can do to use less plastic, most of which I have no experience with:
- Try soap nuts. I haven't, actually, but they sound cool. I'm hoping to start making our own detergent once we run out of the bottle we have now, with soap, washing soda, borax, and water, but I think I'll have to buy a plastic container to store it in.
- Take reusable cloth bags to the grocery store, and pass on the little plastic produce bags. Your produce will probably get home safely even without using a bag - or you can take your bags (ziplocs, which you can wash and reuse, or even better, cotton!)
- Find a store that sells things in bulk bins. Take reusable containers to stock up on all kinds of things: granola, mixed nuts, pasta, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and sometimes even baking mixes.
- Think about the waste! Whenever you buy a box of cereal, it comes packaged in cardboard and a plastic bag. That's a lot of trash. Look for more packaging-efficient solutions.
- I hear you can refill bottles of Dr. Bronners at some health stores - which would mean I could reuse the plastic bottles I already have.
- Buy the soap for your dishwasher in powder form (sold in cardboard boxes!). Seventh Generation makes one, or I found a cheaper version called "Earth" at Harris Teeter.
- Switch to a solid shampoo. Lush makes delicious (more expensive) products, but recently I bought at least a year's supply of shampoo from Just Soap, which may be the coolest company ever. They make all-natural soaps and solid shampoos using bicycle power, and even re-used shipping materials to send my order (which arrived in a box that previously carried GORP - which I imagine you could eat a lot of, if you were stirring soap by bicycle all day). They also charge less if you opt to have your soaps shipped without labels.
Part 3: Maybe I'm the Schizophrenic One
Right now I have a client who is paranoid schizophrenic. She dresses, shall we say, like a crazy person, in a jumper (when she has to dress up) or a top like this (which to me is a night dress) over sweatpants over leggings. She does laundry all the time, because whenever we've tried to get her to accept other clothing, she says "that's beautiful!" and then gives it back the next day.
Not that long ago, a staff person took her to Walmart so she could buy some things. One of the things she purchased was another top like this, and she was very excited to put it on with her sweatpants and her leggings to show everyone. I saw her, and wanted to compliment her on her new outfit. I said, "Wow, you got a new... shirt," not knowing what else to call it (since it clearly wasn't pajamas to her).
She looked at me, and said, "Miss! This is a night dress!"
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In our new apartment, Abe and I have made a few lifestyle changes that are a little friendlier and a little frugaler. Some of them are tiny, but Jesus teaches that even the little things matter.
- We bucket shower. We don't actually heat the water with the sun, although we maybe should. But it guarantees we use less than 5 gallons for our shower, and we reuse the water.
- We use our shower water to flush the toilet. This is sort of inconvenient, but you get used to it when your water bill comes and the billing fee ($2.75 every month? Seriously?) is more than the charge for your water usage.
- Abe uses soda cups, old tin cans, and plastic bottles to grow seedlings.
- Right now, you'd think we were drunks if you could see our porch. Abe and Josh are saving all their beer bottles and cans, because they're building a tiny house in the woods (a secret house! to match the secret garden!) out of "trash." They salvaged some old tires that they found in the creek, and they've started on the foundation.
- We take reusable cloth bags to the store -- when we remember -- and when we don't, we use the plastic bags to line our bathroom garbage can. When we get paper grocery bags, I turn them inside out and use them to wrap gifts. (I am secretly obsessed with wrapping gifts. I might even be happy to wrap your gifts this holiday season, provided one of them is for me and/or you pay me off in baked goods.)
- As I mentioned in my backpacking post, I use a diva cup. I know we may be in mixed company who may not appreciate the discussion, but I have to mention it because it is AWESOME after a little adjusting, and I hope to convert all of you. If you want to know more, leave me a message! If more than one person is interested, maybe I can politely ask any male visitors (males? are you visiting?) to go away so that we can have a nice chat with just us ladies.
- I charge my cell phone as little as possible, not every night. This may or may not also be good for the battery.
- We replaced all the lightbulbs that we could with compact fluorescent bulbs. Living in an apartment, all of our non-lamp light fixtures were chosen for us, and not all of them are cf-compatible.
- When we do laundry, we try to dry as much as we can on our tiny clothesline and on our fold-out dryer racks. I admit - the tiny clothesline worked a lot better before we moved and got downstairs neighbors whose cigarette smoke rises up to our apartment.
- In spite of the 92 degree weather, we have yet to turn on our a/c. It is hot as blazes in our apartment, so I'm grumpier than Franc at fat camp, but we're making it with the help of our highly technological fan. It has a remote! And an auto timer! (This means you can program it to turn off in 1-2 hours - and we used it all the time before it was 90 degrees at night. I guess we still use it, but now it just means we wake up every 1-2 hours and 5 minutes to start the timer again.) And we do other things to beat the heat - like wear as little as clothing as possible, now that we live on the third floor. We'll cave any day now (I'm thinking Friday) and turn on the air, but when we do, we'll still use it as little as possible, and supplement with fans that we can turn off when we're not home.
*I don't get into recycling so much, because I have the feeling that nothing in the "recycling" bins at our apartment complex gets recycled anyway. Also, reducing and reusing are more convenient and challenging to me creatively.
Monday, June 8, 2009
A pregnant pony
Not nearly as aggressive
That I almost liked.
My pack was way too heavy.
A good night of hammock rest
First things first: instant coffee.
Hiked up a huge hill.
Goodbye, Old Orchard.
Nice camping, but your trails suck.
One dude in spandex.
Ate lunch in a field.
Hammocked in the shade of trees
Sausage, cheese, crackers.
Used my diva cup.
Dad "swam" in freezing water.
You go, diva cup!
Hello, you sunrise!
Woke up to your oranges.
Ate granola bars.
Packed up camp early.
Felt sad to leave the vistas.
Met a copperhead.
With sticks Abe and Dad
harrassed it while Mom freaked out.
Then we had to walk.
Ouch, feet! You sure hurt.
So does going back to work.
So do you, sunburn.
Friday, June 5, 2009
So while I should be putting the final things in my pack for our trip to Grayson Highlands (tiny containers of peanut butter! toilet paper, long sleeved shirt, and Dr. Bronners), I am here instead. (Still highly motivated by meals, I have to be practical. It is much easier to eat hummus and crackers while blogging than while pouring liquid soap into a tiny bottle.)
The last time I went to Grayson Highlands, it was just my dad and I. We were nearly back to the car, when suddenly a very horny man pony (is it still a "stallion" if it's a pony?) came rushing toward us, chasing a somewhat less enthusiastic lady pony. My Dad, who is a quick thinker in emergencies, dove (and yes, I mean dove) to take cover behind a tree (and by tree, I mean sappling). Since I am apparently not such a quick thinker, I just stood there, and the wild ponies rushed by me, so close that I think I got pony tail caught in my teeth. Actually, the pony tail was probably mine, since I had hair then, and the real effect of the ponies' passing was a huge rush of wind as they went by (and obviously, subsequent pony-related trauma). Then I think the ponies ran into the bushes and mated, which also happened to be a little traumatic.
So if I'm more excited about the 30% chance of rain and the possibility of getting poison ivy than I am about seeing the wild ponies, surely you can understand.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Actually, I am just kidding. (Except about the card. That was seriously traumatic.) But you believed me, didn't you? And that is so sad that I am here to reassure you it will NOT happen (despite any evidence to the contrary). I may be crazy and have cats, but I refuse to be the crazy cat lady. (Is it too late? Please don't say it's too late!) To prove to you that I am committed to a wide variety of activities and intellectual pursuits outside of my pets, I will be writing the rest of this post in haiku.
This weekend I hike
In Grayson Highlands State Park!
Dad, Mom, Abe and I
With plenty of GORP
And my brand new birthday pack
We'll tackle the trails.
Wild ponies, watch out!
You tried to kill me last time.
(I see you hiding!)
Blooming fully - beautiful!
Hope the weather's nice.