Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life lessons, or "You really ARE an idiot."

I was cooking breakfast this morning (matzo brei if you were curious), and somehow got to thinking about the stupid things I've done in life.

1. Do not cook chicken and pineapple together in a crockpot. While your goal of sweet-and-sour chicken was honorable, the chicken will end up resembling zombie flesh and will taste of the livers-and-onions your mother cooked when you were young. Your DBF will gallantly try to eat it, but you will whisk the plate away to save his life.

2. Do not follow your best friend's instructions to "touch the pretty red spot". That pretty red spot is the glowing inferno in the center of the car's cigarette lighter. You will spend the next few days in pain, wondering if you will have a fingerprint when you become an adult.

3. Barbie dolls do not smell good when they're on fire.

4. Do not date someone you work with. You will end up making him sad, and he will spend the next few months not speaking to you. Which makes work awkward, because there are only four of you in the whole building.

5. Do not eat Mexican food and then drink half a bottle of Jagermeister. Your future ex-brother-in-law will call his wife in hysterics the next morning because of how you and she have "decorated" the house. (Yes, we cleaned it up.)

6. After #5, don't get your nails done in a professional salon. The smell of acetone, burning keratin, and acrylic will have you hurling in the bathroom with quickly-drying fake nails. The salon worker will not be amused, and you will receive glares of disgust upon exiting the bathroom.

7. Do not ditch school. Even once. That one time, you will be frightened to death the entire time, even though you're on a "Good Mission" with your delinquent friends to pick out a birthday card, and you will return to school to a suspicious and very mean PE teacher. That PE teacher will call your parents, and you will be grounded forever.

8. Do not break the aforementioned PE teacher's gold watch with a line drive. He will think you did it on purpose and fail you in the class.

9. Do not dye your hair twice in one day. You will have bright orange hair to your shoulders, and then black, frizzy, wave-the-white-flag hair to your waist. While it is Halloween, it was not your plan to look like a cracked-out Bozo the Clown. People will tell you that you have a great wig for Halloween.

10. When finding a salon that can fix your gods-awful hair, do not select the hairdresser who hits on you the entire time, and you're unable to escape because you have ozone-burning chemicals on your head. He will chase you out the door after your appointment. You WILL see him again, as you are living in a very small town.

I have many more, but will stop here for now before my parents reconsider having adopted me as a child.

Any life lessons from you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Boot Camp

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to boot camp. If you have been, I’m pretty sure you didn’t come back with a huge, exhausted grin on your face, telling your fellow sailors, “That was rad. Send me back.”
I did.

Which concerned my chief and petty officers to the point where they patted me on the back and asked if I needed to go visit the corpsman for a hydration check.

While this was back when Reservists only had to attend boot camp for 17 days, as opposed to the 13-week hell they’re afforded now, it was still 17 days of really hard time. Being a San Diego girl, I was used to sunshine and Coppertone and the smell of the salt air at the beach. I was not used to January weather in Chicago. I was not used to waking up at 0h-killmenow-thirty in the morning to a fire siren directly over my head, followed by a “GETTHEHELLUP! Today’s uniform will be…(lists everything we own). Have a good day!”  Then we had approximately 15 minutes to pee, brush our teeth, struggle into 13 layers of heavy clothing, and make our beds to perfection. With corners.  

Then we headed outside. This was back in the day when I wore glasses. Because of the sexy ski mask, my glasses immediately fogged up. This led to much hilarity and inner cursing as I struggled to not crash into my shipmate in front of me, and to stay on my feet while cruising over ice-slick surfaces. I had the giggles more times than I can count. I was sent to the infirmary for cough drops because I would pretend to be coughing to cover up my laughter.  

Those of you who know me know that I am not a runner. I’m pretty sure my parents nicknamed me “Turtle” behind my back. We were required to run 2 miles on an underground track on this oddly spongy surface that reminded me of running on someone’s crushed dreams. The only reason I did not throw up during my running test is because I was transfixed watching the seemingly-buff guy across the track puke his guts out in the nearest trash bin. My senior chief ran alongside me for much of it, hollering in his salty, 12-pack-a-day way, “C’mon recruit! MOVE those feet! MOVE ‘em! I’m not getting any younger running beside you!” God. I loved him. I wanted to pack him in my suitcase and bring me home for those days where my self-confidence could get a little too high. 

We got to shoot guns. While I’m pretty handy with the smaller firearms, I am not handy with a rifle. Thankfully, we were supplied with air rifles as opposed to being supplied with real bullets for the handguns. Still, I elicited a soft “Oof” from the petty officer behind me, followed by a loud, “Recruit! Excellent shot! You just hit your target in the balls! I can assure you, Recruit, he will not be firing anytime soon!” This, of course, resulted in much laughter, which was naturally followed by “RECRUITS!!! YOU ARE NOT TO LAUGH IN MY FIRING RANGE!!” As I said, I loved our senior chief. 

It was not all hilarity. One cold day we were standing outside, when our division “leader” messed up the pins on one Lieutenant’s shirt and called him “Chief”. That resulted in our senior chief being notified immediately, and we spent the rest of the afternoon in IT (intensive training). Without going into a lot of detail, we were taught to drop to the floor as a group. There were about 100 of us. Dropping in unison is not easy. My hip was a very interesting shade of purple at the end of the day. (Note: the training I received in my reserve duty prior to boot camp was excellent, and I was appalled that someone could mess up those pins.) 

Memories abound of boot camp. From jumping off a high tower into a freezing pool fully clothed, trying to lead my division with laryngitis, coming home with walking pneumonia, having the girls screamed at in the pool bathroom because someone had left a very used maxi pad attached to the back of a toilet, and of course, OF COURSE, being gassed in what is so wrongly called “The Confidence Chamber”. Because I swore to the Navy that I would not describe in detail “The Confidence Chamber” or our final test in boot camp, I won’t, but imagine your entire face being ripped off after being submerged in boiling hydrochloric acid.  That cute guy you're standing next to isn't so cute anymore, with snot and drool dripping everywhere. Keep in mind that you're dripping, too.

I did come out of the Navy a changed person. I was stronger, I was more apt to follow orders without a whole lot of “Screw you, man.” I was taught to lead, and I led. I still do. I learned a lot about myself and about others. More than anything, I learned how to have a sense of humor when faced with things that would normally make me shrink down in a corner. 

And that, my friends, is why I loved boot camp.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Smells, or "What almost kept me out of nursing"

Don't worry, I won't have you running to worship the porcelain gods after reading this post. (Unless, of course, you're in nursing, because you probably know what it's like, and... yeah.)

People ask me all the time why it took me so long to figure out that I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. My answer? Other than the stupidity I had shown over the years, which led me to working in jobs that I hated in order to pay the bills, I really didn't know deep inside where I needed to be. I wanted to help people (isn't that the generic response?) but I was afraid.

I was afraid of the smells.

Not of the blood, or the shots, or needles, or doctors yelling at you, but of the smells. I knew that I would eventually face gangrene, or incontinence, or vomit, or helloooooooooo C. diff.

I took myself off to work at an Alzheimer's facility. I was not prepared for what I would find (or smell) there. Hundreds of diapers in the dumpster outside which were soaking up that California sunshine, our resident Picasso who would paint on the walls using his very own mix of "acrylics", and what dentures smell like when nobody realizes that they're dentures. Get the picture?

I got over the smell thing real fast.

Bring on nursing school!!! I could handle poop and urine! Yeah! Go me!

That also brought on gastric bleeds, colostomy bags, Lactulose aftereffects, birth, death, and wounds that really should have been taken care of last year. There were many days where I would go home and not eat for the next three days.

Now? Two years later? Eh. I still have my moments of "ohgodgonnahurl" but I realize that my patients can smell the same things. It's their stuff, and they realize that everyone is affected by their stuff. All you can do is smile, do the job quickly, make them comfortable, and move on. They WILL be grateful for your seeming ignorance of what is wafting around you.

I guess the main moral to the story is this: Don't let fears keep you from being where you need to be. You'll find yourself sitting around the dinner table, eating chow mein, talking about the awesome Stage IV ulcer you saw yesterday.