Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

The Learning Curve and Me

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Why?The other day a friend asked, “What kind of a learner were you?  Slow or fast?”  We had been having one of those rambling, disconnected discussions and her question seemed to come out of the blue.  So did my answer.  “Neither,” I said.  “I think I was sort of a skeptical learner.”

It was hard to explain.  I was a compliant student — always followed directions, completed assignments, did the extra credit stuff.  But I was a questioner.  The “why” of things always troubled me and so it was often what I asked.

Before I began school, and I was asking those unremitting “why” questions of my mother, she would finally answer, “Why’s a hen?”  Early on I understood that this meant that she was exasperated with me, wanted me to go outside and play, and that there was probably no answer to my question, or at least not one that she was ready to impart.  I have no idea of the literal meaning of that expression nor do I know where it originated.

Wound-vac Attached to Patient

Teachers usually don’t avail themselves of those sorts of parental responses and so I probably pushed a lot of buttons during my school years.  I think I still do.  These days it’s the medical profession that is getting the full benefit of my questioning ways.  Take Nyel’s wound-vac, for instance.

The wound-vac is a fancy schmancy pumping device designed to suck out the excess fluids and blood from a “wound” or, in Nyel’s case, from his surgical incision.  The day before Nyel left St. Vincent’s for the Seaside rehab facility, a dressing change and wound examination was scheduled at a time when both his surgeon and I could be present.  At that time, the surgeon removed a few sutures, spread apart a two- or three-inch part of the incision and had me look at the gaping “hole.”

“This goes clear to the bone,” he told me.  “Our hope is that it will heal from the inside out.  The wound vac helps in that process.”  When I asked how long Nyel would be hooked up to the wound-ac, the doctor was vague.  “For some time,” was the answer.  “You will go home with it after rehab and the home health nurses will deal with it.  They do that all the time,” I was told by way of reassurance.

The Professionals

So, day before yesterday — not even a week since Nyel had been in rehab — when the Seaside wound care nurse and doctor-on-duty made the decision to not replace the wound-vac after a dressing change, you can bet I had more than one “why” question.  The ‘answer’ I was given: “The wound-care nurse and the doctor are the professionals.”  End of discussion.

Fortunately, next Tuesday is the first follow-up appointment scheduled at St. Vincents with the surgeon.  I imagine that it could go in one of several directions:  Maybe the doctor will find that the rehab people made the right call and we will proceed without the wound vac;  or maybe he will see to it that it is replaced and give them specific orders regarding how long it is to stay there; or… worst case scenario, he doesn’t like what is happening and Nyel is readmitted to St. Vincent’s…  I hope that whatever transpires isn’t a part of some corporate protocol.  The Seaside Hospital is, after all, a part of the Providence Medical Group.

Meanwhile, we wait and I bite my tongue.  That’s how is when you are a skeptic and you’ve been summarily notified that you are dealing with professionals…

“They told me to take off my wedding ring…”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Wedding Ring Amongst The Miscellany

Day 26 — During the time that I was in Oysterville, “they” adjusted Nyel’s pain meds once again.  He had been in misery on Day 24 mostly, we think, because the the nurses are SO inconsistent about giving him his meds on time.  If they are late and he experiences break-through pain, it takes several (on-time) dosages to get him normalized.  Some nurses are timely.  Some are not.

The ones that are not always have excuses — “I was busy with another patient” is the most common and hard to argue with.  My personal favorite (NOT!) is the “He didn’t ask for it so I didn’t think he needed it.”  I think I might have raised my voice just a tad:  “He’s on a scheduled dosage!!!”


In response to that particular go-round, “they” added yet another pain med.  Sometimes the two were being given together.  “No, no, no” said yesterday’s nurse.  You have to wait at least a half hour.  Those drugs are not good together.  Why is he on THAT schedule?”  I think her question was rhetoricaL… but it’s hard to tell with these Providence nurses.

When I walked in this morning Nyel said, “Those people are talking to me again.”  The “people” come to him when he is dozing.  He knows they are not real but, apparently, that doesn’t help matters.  “They told me to take off my wedding ring.”  And so he did.  “It’s right here on the table by my glasses.”  After I retrieved it and put it safely in my purse I asked, “And if they asked you to pull out your IVs, would you??”  “Probably,” was the answer.  YIKES!

Nyel’s White Board

So I ratted him out to Jon, his new nurse-of-the-day.  “He shouldn’t be given these pain two meds together — not even if they are given a half hour or hour separately.  One or the other.  Not both!” and Jon has crossed off one of the pain meds completely.  I didn’t know he could do that without a doctor’s order.  But I actually know very little…

The Tall and The Short Of It

The last time Nyel hallucinated it was in the ICU after his big “clean out the hardware” surgery early this month.  On that occasion he was an amoeba with millions of other amoebae.  They were racing for their lives in a game for which there were no rules.  Nyel said he lost and was then going down a ramp to the next game, also with no rules.  When he told the ICU nurse about it, she said, “Oh yes!  That’s called an ICU delirium and often happens after you’ve had anesthesia.  There have been a lot of studies about them.”  I looked online…  Wish I hadn’t.

As usual, my every instinct is to bust him outta here… where are Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman when we need them?


Twenty-one Days and Counting

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

The Hub

If I were clever like Mary Garvey or Wes Weddell or Larry Murante or Andrew Emlen or Cate or Fred or our neighbor Tucker… I’d write a song.  I don’t know if it would be a lament along the lines of “Danny Boy” or a ballad like “The Sloop John B” or more likely a nonsense song like “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” Only the subject is clear in my mind — the trials and tribulations of the patients at St. Vincent’s.  Although, I’d probably call it St. V’s for the sake of the rhyme scheme.

I think there would be  a verse dedicated to each of the hospital hurdles we’ve encountered — the rules, the hierarchy of doctors, the inconsistency of nurses, the push and pull among therapists, the ever-changing dietary limitations for starters.  The chorus, of course, would be about mysteries of communication under this roof.  Perhaps the title should be something like “And Don’t Tell the Patient Anything at All.”

Command Center

I’m pretty sure it’s not just us.  Yesterday, as I waited for the elevator, a woman was pacing back and forth nearby talking on her cell phone.  “Thirteen people have been in to see her this morning.  They all said something different.  Two of them were doctors.  They said something still different –not what any of the other thirteen had said and they didn’t agree with each other, either.”

I was so tempted to weigh in with Nyel’s experiences.  But… none of my business.  If I’d already had my song written, I’d have broken into the rollicking chorus.  (I do think it needs to be rollicking, don’t you?)  Stay tuned, as they say.  A Hospital Hit is in the making!


My Aunt Mona and Sara-Stedy

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Mona, circa 1920

My Aunt Mona, whose full name was Ruth Muriel Espy, was the most different of my mother’s siblings — at least the most different of the ones I knew.  Albert, Medora, and Sue all died before I was born, but Mona lived until she was 68; I was 32.

Mona always thought of herself as the “ugly duckling” of the family, not because of her looks, but because she considered herself the least intellectual and the poorest student in a family that valued education above all else.  She was petite, scarcely five feet tall, with luxurious auburn hair, envied by every girl in the family.  Following high school, she attended Washington State College in Pullman where she studied nursing and worked as a practical nurse on and off throughout her life.

Mona spent much of her adult life in Southern California, was married and divorced twice, and had no children.  She became interested in politics and, like Papa, was a devoted Republican.  One of her prized possessions was a letter signed by President Eisenhower, himself, thanking her for her work as a committee chairman for his 1952 presidential campaign.  After Mama’s death in 1954, Mona moved to Oysterville to care for Papa.  Mona spoke of herself as “Papa’s girl” and, certainly she took after him in many respects.  She was loquacious, gregarious, and could readily to relate to folks from every background, every walk of life.  Her funeral in 1972 had the largest attendance in Oysterville’s history.

We (and by that I mean the family) thought of Mona as “a character” — but in a good way.  One of her passions was gadgets — especially kitchen gadgets — and, even though we moved into the family house more than twenty-five years after her death, there were still dozens of ‘reminders’ of her passion for every conceivable effort-saving (or spending) contraption.  I’m sure there are still melon ballers, jar openers, egg separators, and thermometers for cakes, meats, candies, etc. still lurking in the cracks and crannies of the house.

I thought of Mona-the-Nurse and Mona-the-Gadget-Lover when Nyel was introduced to Sara Stedy® the other day.  Says the website:  Sara Stedy® is a new enhanced standing aid, builds on the success of Stedy, a proven mobility-promoting support aid that encourages more mobile patients and residents to stand up independently. … The innovative pivoting seat improves transfer efficiency and patient stability.  It works slick as a whistle in getting someone with no hip (and therefore very little mobility) moving from one place to another.

Sara Stedy®

Out of curiosity, I looked on Amazon and found that Sara Stedy® and her many cousins are readily available for prices from sublime to ridiculous.  Fortunately, we think Nyel will be able to gain enough strength in his good leg and his arms and shoulders that he can manage from bed to wheelchair and back again by the time we get home two or three weeks from now.

Meanwhile…. we might be on our way back to the Ocean Beach Hospital swing bed situation as soon as tomorrow!  Cross your fingers for us!  It all depends upon bed availability!

Getting My Irish Up as in Trying Not To

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

I grew up thinking I was “Scotch, Irish, and English.”  Later I learned that scotch was something to imbibe and “Scottish” was perhaps a better choice of words.  Still later I learned that the Irish part was wrong, too.  When I visited Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, I not only found my “Irish” Little relatives, but was told in no uncertain terms that we were English, not Irish.

I don’t know about the Espy side — they, too, were from Northern Ireland and they, too, had arrived there from England during one of the potato famines of the 18th or 19th centuries.  As far as I can tell, they (like my Little forebears) were there for several generations but whether or not that qualified them as “Irish” I don’t know.  And, I don’t know if, perhaps, marrying a thoroughly vetted Irish colleen or perhaps an Irish crofter would count for anything.  I have the feeling that if you had a drop of English blood, you were never to be considered Irish.

It reminds me of the story a young man from Naselle told me.  His parents had moved there when he and his siblings were little.  After fifteen or twenty years, his mother asked an old-timer how long she and  her family would be considered “newcomers.”  After considerable thought, the answer was:  “Until the last person who remembers when you came here is dead.”

All of this flashed through my mind a bit when a caregiver came into Nyel’s room and said she wanted to talk to me about getting Nyel out of here — not this week, of course, but next.  She said that they would not consider sending him home yet (with which we heartily concur) but they were also not much in favor of sending him back to a small rehab place “on the coast.”  She went on to say, “We did that last time and, yet, here he is again!”  To say I was instantly furious is an understatement beyond comprehension.

My Irish was definitely up.  “That certainly wasn’t the fault of the facility where we were,” I said.  “That can be attributed directly to the care Nyel received, or actually, didn’t receive here in the first place.  Have you read his chart?”  I really wonder if I didn’t say all that with a very thick Irish brogue…  She backed down immediately.

I also said that I thought it was paramount to Nyel’s healing that I be nearby and that we also need to have our wonderful community to give him support.  She did not argue.  I assured her that we could get him back and forth to see the doctors here, as needed.  Perhaps she was convinced.

Our first choice is the swing bed situation at Ocean Beach Hospital.  We have our fingers crossed.  She said they had been trying to get another patient admitted there (Really!!  Who??? — but I knew better than to ask.) and, thus far, there was no availability.

“It’s early days yet,” I said.  “Perhaps something will open up.”

“Perhaps,” she said.  “If they will take him.”

“D’fheidhmigh siad go maith níos fearr!” say I!

Above the Fold

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

April 17l 2019

Traditionally, the most important news of the day (or in some cases, of the week) is featured on the front page of the newspaper and, of those, the stories considered most serious or notable go above the fold.  That’s where they are the most eye-catching in usual newspaper displays in which the paper is folded so that only the top half is visible.

There were three stories above the fold in the latest issue of the Observer, and each caused me to wonder a bit at the underlying message.  Not that there was necessarily a hidden message by intent – it was more a matter of my own interpretation.  Bottom line in all three stories:  money!  Though we often omit its importance, it is usually the driving force behind most of our decision-making.

Pacific County Prosecuting Attorney Mark McClain

Headline:  Guilty pleas end Peninsula rape case  According to the story:  McClain said the victim agreed with the plea bargain agreements.  “In any case like this, the most important thing we can do is work with the survivor of this attack, and ensure we listen to her wishes as she is the one who has to live it again when we go to trial and for that reason we value their settlement desire above others when deciding how to resolve these cases.”

Unstated is how much money the County saves by offering plea bargains to  alleged perpetrators rather than taking the case to trial. I doubt that all of plea-bargaining agreements are in the interests of “the survivor.”  It would be interesting to see a few statistics.  How many times does the County offer plea bargains and how much money is saved in the process?  What was the original intent of plea bargaining?  What happened to the good-old fashioned idea of you do the crime, you do the time?

Beach Clean-up July 5. 2015

Headline: LB Oks fireworks after all   In this story, the subhead says it all:  Last-minute 20K boost saves popular tradition. It was the Long Beach Merchants Association to the rescue.  The article did not include reference to the many meetings and discussions by citizens the greater Peninsula area concerning safety issues, cleanup costs etc. Nor was there any reference to the projected bottom line for merchants as a result of the fireworks extravaganza.  It must be considerable to warrant a $20,000 investment.

Chinook Observer Photo

Headline:  Cold War marvel decays on Columbia riverbank This story pulls no punches in the role money plays in this potential environmental disaster. Commercial fisherman Lowell Stambaugh purchased the USS Plainview in 1978 with hopes of turning the former Navy vessel into a fish processing and freezer ship.  When loan interest rates rose, he decided to scrap the aluminum-laden vessel instead. A decade later, the Washington Department of Natural Resources is concerned about pollutants that may leach through the corroding hull into the Columbia River.  Solving the problem is just a matter of… money!

They say it’s the love of money that is the root of all evil.  I’m more inclined to believe it’s  a question of how we choose to use it…

When Past, Present, and Future Collide

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Notre Dame Burns

What happened to me today could probably be called an epiphany of sorts.  But I think it was something much less grand.  Something like getting a dose of reality.  Or putting things in proper perspective.  Or just plain being bummed out.

It actually began yesterday afternoon with a picture of Notre Dame on fire.  Eight hundred years of art and culture going up in flames!  I might well have been in the path of the smoke right here in Oysterville.  My eyes burned and the tears coursed down my cheeks.  But it wasn’t just the objects, themselves – it was that tangible grasp of history that the cathedral had provided to all of us – all thirteen million of us – who paid homage to our past each year by visiting Our Lady of Paris.

I first went in 1958 and then many, many more times.  I’ve taken guided tours, climbed the 422 steps or, sometimes, have gone to simply sit and look.  I’ve been there with loved ones who are no longer with us; I’ve been there on my own on a snowy winter night long ago.  Notre Dame is part of my history, too.

Published 4/16/2019

Today, I listened to environmentalist Bill McKibben talk on the radio about his new (just out today) book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?  He pulls no punches when he talks about where we are here and now in the matter of climate change.  The book begins: “I think we’re uniquely ill prepared to cope with the emerging challenges. So far, we’re not coping with them. Still, there is one sense in which I am less grim than in my younger days. This book ends with the conviction that resistance to these dangers is at least possible.”

And I began to think – to seriously think – about living at sea level as the polar ice caps melt at ever increasing rates.  If, as I heard a “reliable source” say not long ago, the seas rise 30 feet in the next 80 years, that’s fewer years than I am old.  It is happening now!  In the present!

So… what of the future?  Perhaps my dream of making this place of ours into a small house museum so that future visitors might get a glimpse into our past… perhaps that is an unrealistic notion.  Perhaps we should sell while we still can and take the money for a whirlwind trip to see all the world’s historic landmarks while there is yet time?  But… to what end?  Change is inevitable and even memories fade…

The Quality of Mercy

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

STC 22296, title page

The rain fell gently (but persistently) this morning.  It wasn’t especially cold and there was no wind – not even a zephyr.  As I walked down to the chicken coop, Portia’s words from “The Merchant of Venice” came to mind:  The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath. But it wasn’t Portia’s image I visualized.  It was Jenny A. Durkin, Mayor of Seattle.  Nor was a courtroom in sixteenth century Venice the setting that came to mind.  No, it was yesterday’s edition of the Washington Post featuring Mayor Durkin’s extraordinary article headlined, Seattle isn’t afraid of Immigrants, Mr. Trump.  It begins:

Here’s a message to President Trump: Seattle is not afraid of immigrants and refugees. In fact, we have always welcomed people who have faced tremendous hardships around the world. Immigrants and refugees are part of Seattle’s heritage, and they will continue to make us the city of the future.

What does scare us? A president and federal government that would seek to weaponize a law enforcement agency to punish perceived political enemies. A would-be despot who thinks the rule of law does not apply to him.

I read the article several times and commend it to others who are aghast at Trump’s recent threats against sanctuary cities. Not only do I hope the other hundreds of sanctuary locations stay firm in their resolve, I hope that Mayor Durkin’s words are inspirational to other cities, counties, and states, as well.   I commend the article to everyone and anyone who is alarmed by Trump’s twitter twaddle.

I spent a bit of extra time out in that gentle rain this morning.  “Portia,” I thought to myself, “thy name is Jenny.”  (Or should that be the other way around?)

Time to Pony Up

Friday, April 5th, 2019

When I was growing up, our various houses never included anything as grand as a den or an office for my father.  The term “man cave” hadn’t been invented and I’m sure he would have been both amazed and amused at the concept.  No, if he had “paperwork” to do, it was spread out on the dining room table or on a card table in the living room.

Usually, the “set up” occurred shortly after my February 28th birthday and his nightly labors lasted until shortly before mail time on March 15th.  In those days that was when the dreaded income tax was due.  It wasn’t until my first year away at college that the date was changed to the (now) all too familiar April 15th.  As I recall, the card table began to be set up in early February.  Presumably, the rules and regulations were becoming more complicated by then.

We, too, use the dining room table method to sort things out and get them ready for our CPA – a luxury we’ve afforded ourselves since we owned the bookstore and since my writing began to generate a bit of income.  This year, out of curiosity about the new tax regulations, we began early so we could ask our Tax Lady to figure our taxes two ways – by using the new standard deduction and, also, by itemizing as we have done for the past thirty years.  We did slightly better using the standard deduction.  Go figure!

With A Little Help From A Friend

Even so, we had to pay a whole helluva lot more than in any previous year.  So much for the promise by President Tweeter that “Our framework ensures that the benefits of tax reform go to the middle class, not to the highest earners.”  But wait!  Perhaps we are too much below the middle of the middle class? We seem to be in that no man’s land of making too much money to qualify as “below the poverty line” and not quite enough to pay for unexpected expenses – like income tax!

I gave about a nanosecond to all of these thoughts yesterday when I visited a friend and found her dining room table covered with neatly sorted piles of paper.  “Tax time!” she said ruefully.  Yep.  Time to pony up

What would Charley Parkhurst say about it?

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

On a day-to-day basis, I don’t think much about feminism or gender equality.  Certainly, I clapped and cheered for the “Me Too” movement and am proud of all the women who have recently taken office at the national, state, and local levels of government.

And, I’m cognizant of those “five main issues” as described in a 2013 article in the New Statesman Magazine – “The Division of Domestic Labor,” “The Media,” “The Glass Ceiling,” “Social Inequality,” and “Violence Against Women.”  (If you need a quick refresher course, check out

So, I’m always gobsmacked when I hear a reference to the ERA – the Equal Rights Amendment designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex – and the fact that it never received ratification by the required three-fourths (38) of our 50 states.  Only 35 approved it and in later years, four of those 35 have attempted to rescind their approval.  Since 1972 – for 47 years – we’ve been stuck with a non-ratified proposal.  No equal rights for women under our U.S. constitution.  Hard to believe!

Charley Parkhurst

I wonder what Charley Parkhurst would think if s/he were still around. According to Wikipedia, Charley Darkey Parkhurst, born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst (1812–1879), also known as One Eyed Charley or Six-Horse Charley, was an American stagecoach driver, farmer and rancher in California. Born and reared as a girl in New England, mostly in an orphanage, Parkhurst ran away as a youth, taking the name Charley and living as a male. He started work as a stable hand and learned to handle horses, including to drive coaches drawn by multiple horses. He worked in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, traveling to Georgia for associated work.

In his late 30s, Parkhurst sailed to California following the Gold Rush in 1849; there he became a noted stagecoach driver. In 1868, he may have been the first anatomically female individual to vote in a presidential election in California. At his death, it was discovered that he was anatomically female, as was the fact that he had given birth at an earlier time.

Would Charley think that we are on the right track?  Or would s/he expect more of us?  What advice would s/he have for us?  In 20 more years, we will have been working on this equality-for-women-under-the-Constitution concept for as many years as Charlotte/Charley lived.  It’s probably one of those apples and oranges things, but I can’t help but wonder if we’ve accomplished as much for ourselves as s/he did.  Food for thought…