Close Encounters at Thanksgiving: The Grocery Store

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving, and I’m grocery shopping. Pushing the cart through

photo: jparadisi 2012

throngs of people looking for that special can of yams, I wish I’d pinned a sign reading, “Don’t follow, Makes frequent stops,” to my rear, so people might stop running into me.

Surprisingly, most of the shoppers are in good moods. I hear the words, “Excuse me,” “After you,” over and over. Only the very young adults, shopping for holiday meal preparations for the first time, I presume, express out loud their bewilderment at the crowds. Suddenly, their attention to space and time is required. This means they have to get out of the way while text messaging, instead of stopping abruptly in the middle of an aisle where more seasoned shoppers will trample them.

In the produce section I pull a thin plastic bag from a dwindling roll of them to fill with Brussels sprouts. Another woman poises to do the same. I’m sure she’s a nurse, like me, although I will never know. Simultaneously, we pause at the large bin of loose sprouts, realizing we have to gather them with our bare hands, because there is not even a rudimentary tool for the task. We eye each other, smile, then I say, “Wow, how many pairs of dirty hands have been in this bin before mine?”

She laughs. “I know,” she says, “I’m thinking the same thing. I’m going to have to scrub these well, and remove the outer leaves.”

“Me too,” I say.

I’m sure she’s a nurse.

Happy Thanksgiving from JParadisiRN

I Wish I Said It

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis

Today we remember our troops, both past and present, and honor them with our thanks for their sacrifices.


Stains photo: jparadisi 2012

It’s a rare night that I can’t sleep. I’m trying to remove, without waking David, yellow vegetable dye stains of crumbled bits of a bunny-shaped chocolate truffle I ate yesterday, from my favorite pair of white jeans. Undergoing their third washing, they appear permanently stained. Perhaps it’s time to pronounce them, but I’m not ready to let go yet. Why is it easier to remove bloodstains from clothing than yellow Easter candy dye? Sigh.

Not a single car or pedestrian moves along the street outside. If not for David’s rhythmic breathing I might consider I was left behind after the post-apocalyptic rapture.  I’m too much of an optimist to convince myself of this, however. I remember hearing of a boy, home alone, who locked himself in a closet, fearing the rapture occurred and he’d been left behind. His parents found him crying in the closet when they came home.

The yellow dye clings to the white denim like sin; evidence of enjoying a chocolate treat (gluttony), or simple sloppiness (sloth)? I only care because I really like these jeans.

How simple is my life, that a pair of stained jeans is the topic of a post?

I wonder if any of my patients are also sleepless tonight, wrestling with pain, fear or nausea? Are they afraid of being left behind, or more afraid of what they leave behind? This thought makes me sad. I’d rather think about removing yellow candy stains from my white jeans.

Is that a sin?

Hand Knit Socks for the Journey of 2012

Mom's Hand Knit Socks photo: jparadisi 2012

It was a quiet New Year’s Eve in our home, as I worked the next day. It’s okay, because I’ve heard what you do on the first day of the year sets its character. With several hospitals in town looking at staff lay offs, I’m grateful.

I wore a pair of wool socks inside my nurse clogs, knitted and given to me by my mom. They inspired me to write, “Learn to knit socks” on a Post-It note, and add it to my Mason jar of goals and dreams for 2012. Another hastily written, last-minute Post-It note reads, “Research and purchase a case of Oregon Pinot Noir.” I am an accidental wine enthusiast (another post). I may have to work an overtime shift to accomplish it, unless of course, I am a casualty of the layoffs.

2012 is a year of uncertainty, waiting to learn if the economy will improve, or if the other shoe hasn’t yet fallen. I remain cautiously optimistic; I believe the opportunity for things to improve is about the same as for things to go wrong. Surprised by joy is a possibility.

So, I’m wearing the wool socks my mom lovingly knitted, put one foot in front of the other, and begin the journey that is the year 2012.

A Blue Mason Jar Full of Post-It Notes Goals for The New Year

Blue Mason Jar of Dreams photo: jparadisi 2011

Every year I write my New Year’s resolutions on Post-It notes, filling a blue, vintageMason jar with them after reviewing the ones from the year before. I write the date on each Post-It note.  If a previous year’s resolution wasn’t met, and still holds merit, it remains in the Mason jar with the new ones.

Previous years’ resolutions in the jar:

  • “My health: that I may remain cancer-free” (1999)
  • “The continued good health of our families” (1999) I updated this one to “our families” in 2004, the year David and I married.
  • “David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage” (2008)
  • “To show a financial profit as an artist.” (2008)
  • “Gallery representation”(2008)
  • “Publish more stories in 2011” (2010)
  • “A book deal for my manuscript” (2010)
  • “The blog will have more than 1,000 visitors/month (2010)
  • “Lose ten pounds” (2011)

Most striking about the hopes and dreams on this list is that none of them are actually resolvable. They are ongoing. Sure, publishing my manuscript into a book would be great, however, knowing me, the next year I would resolve to write another book, one that won an award or topped the charts, or something like that. Artists are rarely satisfied with any level of achievement. We are always looking up the ladder at the next rung:

  • Gallery representation leads to the desire for critical recognition, increased sales, collectors, fame.
  • Publishing stories leads to writing more stories, longer ones, for larger audiences.

In general, human nature is much the same:

  • Health and happiness leads to the expectation for more of the same.
  • I lost ten pounds last year. For 2012 I expect to keep them off.

Resolution is the wrong choice of word. For me, setting New Year’s Goals is better phraseology. Most of the improvements I wish for in life take time and perseverance to achieve, and more hard work to maintain. To my way of thinking, New Year’s is a time to review the larger goals of my life, and see if they are still worth steering towards. If so, then I ask myself what small adjustments can I make this year to further them? These adjustments are written as goals on the Post-It notes, dated, and placed in the jar.

The most important part of opening the Mason jar each year is reading the hand written Post-It notes, and saying a small prayer of thanks or another expression of gratitude for the advances, which occurred over the past year towards each goal. There is no lasting joy in achievement without gratitude. This year, I am thankful for:

  • A clean bill of health when we were afraid my cancer had returned.
  • Editors who published my paintingsessays, and blog posts.
  • David and I lost weight. He avoided a prescription for blood pressure medication.
  • I was represented by Anka Gallery. I met wonderful people there and made lasting friendships.
  • I sold some paintings.
  • JParadisi RN blog has grown beyond my previous goals.
  • I have met inspiring people through blogging. Special thanks to: Dr. Dean Burke, Joni Watson, Brittney, Sean, poet Stacy Nigliazzo, and artist Matt Lamb.

So what’s on Post-It notes this year? What goals am I steering my life towards in 2012?

  •  Remain cancer free
  • The continued good health of our families
  • David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage
  •  A financial profit as an artist
  • Finish the Vessels of Containment painting series and start the new series
  • Gallery representation
  • Write and publish more stories in 2012
  • Increased writing income
  • The blog will continue to grow
  • Keep off those ten pounds

Here’s the cool thing about writing down goals: The Examined Life (Socrates). Today I see  each goal I’ve written down is focused on an unknown future. I haven’t written a single one, which applies to my present reality. So, until my dreams come true:

  • I will continue to develop my skills as a nurse so my patients remain safe in my care.
  • I will strive to be a better team player at work.
  • I will phrase criticism in a constructive manner.
  • I will remember that everyone has a difficult job. That’s why they call it work.
  • I will say Thank You at least once daily. It’s wrong to wait an entire year to give thanks for everything that is good in my life.

I wish to thank my family and friends (new and old) for your support of JParadisi RN blog. May your New Year be filled with Health, Love, Happiness, and Prosperity.

Merry Christmas and Thanks for the Wings

photo by jparadisi 2011

“Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”~

Clarence Oddbody, It’s a Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas to the friends and readers of JParadisi RN blog. Wishing you joy, health, love and prosperity in the New Year.

Tis the Season for Treacle… and Santa Claus

Christmas Abstract photo: jparadisi 2011

Okay, so I hate emails containing stories oozing treacle like gooey chocolate chips in a cookie hot from the oven. Producing an obvious tear jerker is lazy writing. However, the story below sort of got to me, despite its melodrama. I share it with you. The name of the author is lost somewhere in cyberspace, another reason to dislike these schmaltzy emails. Oh well…

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid.

I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus?” she snorted….”Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!! Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. “Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping.

For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church.

I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.”

The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.  Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were — ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share,

HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…

And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Miracle on Hoyt Street

Note: This post was originally published on December 22, 2010

If It Fits It Ships photo: jparadisi 2010

Trudging out of an Oregon rainstorm into the Post Office, I found a line of 30 people like me with Christmas packages to mail. In a poorly ventilated building, a crowd of wet people smells like wet dogs, but less so. John Lennon’s voice sounded scratchy singing “And so this is Christmas” from a poor quality speaker. I knew the late afternoon was a bad time to go, but I’ve never been a morning person, a characteristic that served me well for twelve years of night shifts.  I started thinking that a busy hospital is a model for Post Office chaos during the holiday season. Each type of health care provider or patient personalities exists in this parallel universe, the Post Office.

For example, attempting to speed things up, a woman wearing a name badge triaged the swelling line of package bearing humanity, asking who needs insurance forms to fill out. Someone at the back of the line asks her what time the Post Office closes. She says she doesn’t know, because she usually doesn’t work in this area. Apparently postal workers float to unfamiliar departments like nurses do during staffing shortages.

In front of me, a woman with silver hair converses with a younger woman. I suspect the silver-haired woman is a retired nurse, because she hands out an endless supply of clicky-pens to other customers in the line in need of writing implements, then pulls a Sharpie out of the same pocket for her own use. The younger woman has long hair pulled back in a barrette. She is sans makeup and wears what we call in Oregon, “tree-hugger” shoes. She is overweight, but kindly attentive to the silver-haired woman. While she speaks, a similar looking man I take for her husband appears and gives her a peck on the mouth. It makes me happy.

I watch a woman wrapping packages in tissue paper and bar code stickers. In front of her, a man loudly complains on a cell phone, “Those #$*#-ing doctors give you a bunch of pills and then you can’t get a hold of them!” He never stops talking the entire time the clerk processes his packages. When he’s finished, she says “Merry Christmas, Sir”, which I think is more than he deserves.

Finally, it’s my turn. Oh no, it’s that clerk, the one who is Newman to my Jerry Seinfeld. She annoys the hell out of me because she doesn’t ask if the contents of a package are dangerous, instead she asks, “What’s in the package?” Once, David and I got into a disagreement when he told her what was in my package. I insisted she was violating my privacy. I’m not special: In the past, I’ve heard her say rude things to other customers and her coworkers too. I brace myself for the encounter, because I have to get these damn packages in the mail in time for Christmas and I’ve been in line for an hour.

She does not ask what’s in my packages. “Anything hazardous, flammable, toxic or a combination thereof?” is all she asks. I say “No.” “How do you want this posted?” she asks. I say “First class,” but she informs me that anything over 13 ounces cannot be First Class. “Priority?” I say as nicely as possible. She pulls out some tape, and fixes a loose corner on one of my packages. “Sorry,” I say, “I never get it perfect.” “Forget perfect, my dear,” she says to me while I pay for the postage. Then she hands me a candy cane. “It’s always a pleasure to serve someone who comes in with a smile. Merry Christmas.”

Photo Op: Happy Thanksgiving From JParadisi RN

How to Make a Turkey Mask With Simple Objects Found at Work:

Find a respiratory mask, then raid the unit secretary’s desk for forbidden White-Out, Sharpies, and Post-It Notes to make this Turkey Mask and entertain your coworkers for hours during a Thanksgiving shift, or until they force you to get back to work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Turkey Mask Made From a Respiratory Mask. mask & image by jparadisi 2011

This Ghoul Will be Your Nurse Tonight: Should Nurses Wear Halloween Costumes to Work?

This IS My Costume. photo: jparadisi 2011

I dodged a bullet this week. My coworkers are wearing costumes to work on Halloween. I was scheduled to work that day, but on Friday a nurse asked to trade shifts, so I don’t have to decide whether or not to wear a costume. This year I won’t feel like the spoilsport among my coworkers. Don’t get me wrong, I like Halloween, costumes, jack o’lanterns, and all that. I just wonder if they are appropriate in patient care areas?

Nurses wearing costumes to work on Halloween aren’t limited to my unit. The entire hospital celebrates with costume contests (individual and department categories), decorations, and special treats. It’s intended to build enthusiasm and rapport among employees. There are written guidelines about what sort of costumes and decorations are not appropriate. Respect for gender, race, political, and religious beliefs is emphasized. Costumes and decorations cannot be gory or represent death. They cannot interfere with patient care either.

Earlier this month, Buckman elementary school principal Brian Anderson, in Portland, Oregon was included in an article in The Huffington Post because he banned costumes at the school. He took heat from parents, and sparked a national controversy on whether he was being fair.  The Portland Mercury quotes Anderson as saying:

For many reasons, the celebration of Halloween at school can lead to student exclusion. There are social, financial and cultural differences among our families that we must respect. The spirit of equity has led most PPS (Portland Public Schools) schools, including most elementary schools, to deemphasize the celebration of Halloween at school.

He has a point. Critics argue that banning Halloween costumes from schools is taking political correctness too far.

But what about hospitals and nurses?

Halloween costumes are allowed in every hospital I’ve worked for, however, I never wore one to work. In the PICU, there were so many painful situations that, for me, costumes felt out of place, yet I don’t recall a single patient or parent expressing disapproval of nurses dressed as witches or scarecrows. Now that I am an outpatient adult oncology nurse, I still don’t wear costumes to work. I have not heard complaints from our patients about the nurses who do.

What do other nurses and health care providers think about this? I also wonder what patients and people from other walks of life have to say.