Sunday, March 30, 2008

God's Speed


Breaking local news on television--Matt Maupin's body has been found, missing in action-captured- in Iraq since April 9, 2004. As his father stated,"Matt's coming home."

A sad, yet somehow fitting, bookend to my weekend off. Friday was spent trying to save the life of an 18 year old young man shot in the head outside his mother's home. He'll live. The gangstas on these streets do not aim to kill anymore. They aim to paralyze. More suffering that way. The killers in Iraq extract a different but similiar pain from their victims.

Young men, still boys to those of us old enough to have parented them, fresh off the playing fields into the fields of battle. Beirut. Cincinnati. The battles change, the cost of battle does not.

God's speed, Matt, and a prayer for parents everywhere.

hello, luv-va

Yes, Virginia, there will be a spring, and there will be fabulousity...
video

Why I now need an extra day off work just to grocery shop and read the labels

Op-Ed Contributor
Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird?
By BRIDGET STUTCHBURY
Published: March 30, 2008
Migratory songbirds are suffering mysterious population declines, and pesticides may well be to blame.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/opinion/30stutchbury.html?ex=1364616000&en=51cc29503f23a4e8&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

if you like gloom and drizzle...


For those who enjoy another day of chilly, grey, and drizzly weather today will be fabulous. I can see a handsome male cardinal singing his heart out on the bare branches outside the windows. He sounds lovely, but happily I don't understand birdsong--it's probably some highly aggressive territorial bantering like, "Get the hell away from my tree or I will peck your eyes out." Birdsong sounds much better without the words.

Cruising the blog-o-shere I've been intruiged by the reading challenges. Yes, I see also that they have been in existence for many years now, but apparently I have been living in some parallel universe and unaware. The shame and horror...

I believe I will start with one of the Man Booker choices. I've started two which are on my list, but stopped reading. No memory why, sometimes it's just not the right time for a certain book, or something else caught my eye and I forgot. The others listed I chose quite simply because I liked the covers. You can't judge a book by it's cover, but I have found that you surely can buy them in boxfuls and then cart them off to your street's yard sale.

Finding the two books I started and stopped will require me to clean out the mini library next to the bed and bring them to the surface. I did not want to do any actual physical labor today, being the lazy minx that I am, but I will do my share for literature and the improvement of the Universal Mind. Don't thank me...I'm a giver.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I love this poem...

Snow, Aldo by Kate DiCamillo

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man's overcoat and
the black dog's fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. "Snow, Aldo," he said to the dog,
"snow." And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thank an Old Woman Today

The other day at work one of my patients was a 49 year old Hispanic gentleman who had been transferred to us from one of the smaller community hospitals as a head bleed from an assault. Head bleed in hospital language meaning bleeding on the INSIDE of the skull. He did in fact have quite a large bleed on the CT scan--even I could see it--but it was deep in the brain and there were no signs of trauma. He probably bled as a result of untreated high blood pressure and one of the vessels in the brain, in the basal ganglia, broke open.

His neighbor,"some cranky old lady," in the apartment building where he lives called the police complaining about "a fight" after she saw/heard four men dragging him up to his apartment. The truth is that Hispanic man worked at a Chinese restaurant, and that he had lost his speech and couldn't walk, was dragging his right side around, and the four men from the restaurant drove him home and got him up the stairs to his apartment. The hospital translator complained when she came to see him,"People think any Hispanic man is a Mexican, and that he's been in a fight." Now I don't know about that, but I do know that this cranky old lady saved Hispanic man's life and, if life were fair, would be thanked for her nosiness and cultural insensitivity.

Instead of being found dead which which could have been a very big problem for that apartment building..."Lucy, you got some esplainin' to do," Hispanic man is with me in the ICU looking fairly confused. Perhaps that's because I speak very little Spanish and the words I don't know I tend to say in French. "Levanter ses yeux,""Avez-vous mal?" He usually looks at me and nods yes; could be hoping that I'll quietly tiptoe back out of his room and babble badly in FranSpanglish to someone else. But here he is, alive and preparing for rehab, and that's all because some cranky old woman called the police.

I think tomorrow we should all go out of our way to thank a cranky old woman we know. You know who I'm talking about--the one at your local grocery store who snaps at you if you ask her if she needs help getting a can down off the shelf, the one with the wig that's always a little crooked. That's her. Just tell her thanks and don't tell her why. Thanks get played forward, she gets a little crankier; it's a win-win.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

thoughts I gathered today from "Writers' Almanac"

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love -sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression, an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word." Robert Frost


And, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." Robert Frost

Monday, March 24, 2008


24 March 2008

We saw a deer on our walk today. A bushy white-tailed female bounded in front of us from Dunore Park and ran into the ivy woodiness of land next to the graveyard. Brutus was on it like the mighty but slow hunter that he is, and stood at attention looking northward every time he saw a flutter of movement to the side. No more deer sightings though.
Wouldn’t even be much of a mention except that we live in the city and Dunore Park is just a snip of land in the shape of a half-moon that’s grassy and has a swing set for the neighborhood kids and two park benches for their parents or lazy dog walkers. It’s a cut- out from Ludlow Avenue, now a four lane road that comes up from Hamilton Avenue in Northside and the expressways. Our lone deer must have come from the wooded areas surrounding the homes of Clifton Crest and run across the four lanes of road and traffic back to the sheltered wood of the graveyard. We’ve seen a family of deer there before, their tracks left in the snow some winter mornings. Once, on mother’s day two years ago, we saw three of them casually strolling across Ludlow on the quiet Sunday afternoon.
Winter is not giving up, at least not today. Although the light looks like spring, and the day sounds like spring, there is no spring smell in the air, and the wind from the west is cold on our faces, making our lips stiff and noses runny.
The dog’s business is done. He has smelled every bush and tree along the paths and left his postscripts on the messages found. Now it is time for inside chores, cleaning dishes and clothes, and driving a honey-haired girl around the town. Perhaps a date tonight for her father and me. So many things to plan while we wait in limbo for the passing of the seasons.

Traveling Down I-75 South to Exit 144, Corinth, Kentucky for Dinner with My Daughter and Her Friend

the long shadows of a late March afternoon
drape themselves across the highway
like discarded pairs of stockings
lightly covering the graveled brim of road
and extending out until just touching the wheels of the cars
but never rustle at their passing.

filigreed tips of the trees stretch into sky,
blue giving away hints of the hazy pastel of evening
soon to settle.

exit 144-Corinth/Owenton
and a bare stretch of interstate overpass
empty to the right and left
but for a white wooden sign, “Bob & Lois’s Diner,”
a thin, red wagon wheel,
and a dusty black pickup truck in the lot.

we take the large 8-top by the window,
orders of grilled cheeseburgers, slaw, and fries all around
and settle in for our family meal.

stories are told, laughs are laughed, and voices mimicked.
stories of new puppies oohed and aahed
as evening creeps forward
and the folks of Corinth come and go
after their supper eaten on the way home
after work, still in their work clothes.

we make our way home
guided by a full moon to the east
and drift over the hills into home, and Clifton
as into a Rousseau painting;
the moon echoing the patterns made by the gaslights.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Found Down

She felt it gnawing away inside her, just below her breastbone like a small little mouse nibbling away at the core. A little sweet faced mouse, nothing like that long, brown, sharp nosed shape she’d seen sliding along behind the stove last week. She would think about a tiny little grey mouse like the ones who came to help Cinderella. Cinderella had all kinds of mice and birds living in her house, no one thought that was disgusting and vile.
She burrowed her way deeper into the blankets enveloping her, trying to not lose the small pocket of warmth she had created. The bed became colder, the grey light through the window frosty. The objects around her though were not sharpening in clarity in the chilled air, but hazy and pale, fading at the edges.
Warm liquid seeped beneath her, saturating the bed, its sticky heat quickly dissipated. She lay motionless not wanting to surrender what small territory of comfort she had claimed and closed her eyes to the waves of twisting and tearing that went on forever inside her gut, until they stopped.

The Ides of March

Brutus the boxer sleeping with his head on stuffed squirrel squeaky toy,
Felix the cat sleeping on my true love’s dining room chair,
Bella the cat silently padding across dining room table to hiss and swat at Felix.
HoneyHaired girl sleeping.
Megan the rat watching all from her cage, standing up tall on hind legs.
3 small birds on tree outside, one with pale red top of head.
Grey, quiet, drizzly day.
My true love not calling me back.

Along Ludlow

Red coat beneath red
umbrella and the sky is
beginning to snow.

To Whom It May Concern

If you ever find me here lying on the floor
Dead of a broken neck
Please look no further for the guilty culprit
Than the 60 pounds of boxer dog at my feet.
The one who won’t look at you.
He will respond to firm proddings eventually
With a sigh heavy with reluctant resignation
And a look that could speak volumes
If the subject was,
“Whaaaaaat???”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dillon, Montana


I have a note in my pocket from my husband,
“Meteor shower… midnight-dawn tonight. Perseus?”
How often is a person in Montana in the middle of August
During a meteor shower…
Walking out the front door
Into a jolt of cold air
We hear sharp, insistent barking
As the collie alerts the other two.
The retriever sniffs us once
Then turns back towards the front yard and interrupted dreaming.
The black lab, Juice, stays with us, a genial host, and we walk
Past the barn with its bright beacon of light,
Dirt and gravel make soft, crunching noise under our feet.
We lean in towards each other, strides matching,
And make our way in the dark towards the sluice.
The air smells fresh, like nothing, until the smells of grass
And hay and horses and fresh water single themselves out.
The sky is completely clear, stars are everywhere.
“Stars are the holes in the sky where the souls of the dead
Passed through to be with the Great Spirit.”
In this field, on this night, this is the only truth present
For the vast array of tiny pinpricks of light.
The night sky, not as at home,
Coming down in a quiet, comforting blanket of darkness,
But always present as a veil, a stick-on covering that could be peeled away for the great wonder behind it.
My husband sees a gazillion shooting stars. I see three, maybe four,
Until we both see one long, trailing flash of brightness that arcs
Without end into the dark.
We turn round and slowly make our way back
To dreaming dogs and warm blankets and two little blonde headed
Softly snoring cowgirls
Enveloped by the softly lit indigo sky.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ode to Felix

Oh, to be Felix the cat
Who anticipates every front door opening
With sunbaked sidewalks for snoozing
And a new flock of birds to chase.



Oh, for the life of Felix
Where every door opening
Means a warm pillowed couch
And a honey haired girl to love you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

McWheezy

He pulls me out to the front porch,
door slamming, unable to contain his exuberance,
runs to the end of the walk and comes
to a quick halt. Nose to ground.
Every day there are no less than five stops he must make
before we reach the park, reading the messages left behind;
a golden stream added on to some, not others.
Stepping lightly up and down moss covered and grassy patches
littered with September’s acorns, he pauses on the hills
to look out at his kingdom below and sniff the air above him.
On the grass by the swings he lets loose
and runs and runs and runs in circles
surrounding me in a ring of dog.
I watch him now asleep on his carefully
arranged collection of blankets and one pink, stuffed pig,
nose twitching, paws trembling, chest heaving,
and wonder where he’s gone.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 2008

Something is different this morning.
I wake to the same grey day, same cold day;
searching through the bedroom window I see
the same snow covering the ground of the backyard.
But this day feels different and I don’t know why.
It’s the sound of this morning
that holds the change.
I can hear it...a bird’s
song. Must be a returning bird,
that I hadn’t realized
was ever gone until I heard its return.
The morning song of an ordinary robin
becomes enough to make a woman get up out of bed,
walk down the hallway, and spy around the corner
looking for hope.


video

Today

Today was the second day of two days ACLS mandatory testing--Advanced CardioPulmonary Life Support. Two days after two weeks of going over and over what to do in worst case scenerios..."you're going through the parking garage in the morning, on your way to work, and you see a young man--30ish slumped next to an open car door, nonresponsive..."
"coming back from the Starbucks in the cafeteria you find an older man lying unconscious in the stairwell and he is not breathing, your patient's wife comes out of his room and tells you that she feels as though her heart is being squeezed through a keyhole and suddenly collapses and is pulseless," and now a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I passed. As the American Heart Association has emblazoned on all their videos, "Learn and Live."
While the specter of Christmas Future hovered in the corners of the classroom in his grey hooded robe we frantically attempted to save the 52yr old woman who came in to the ER complaining of dizziness and had a heart rate of 238/min. We climbed up and down the algorithms we had attempted to staple to our minds, manuevering around joules and mcgs/kg/min to revive the post surgical patient found cyanotic leaning over his lunch tray. Heart rates of 30's, VTach/VFib, pulseless electrical activity lurking around each and every corner waiting to claim another victim.
Watching the videos of more tragedy for some poor family, the thought flickers past those watching the screen, which ones of us will suffer this. Who here will one day be the woman collapsing after brunch at a favorite restaurant on the morning of her 40th wedding anniversary? Who will be poor Jim--golfing with his son on a beautiful spring day and suffering a massive MI at the 12th hole? Who will find themselves standing in the cosmic game of musical chairs?
The patient of my scenerio survived, the instructor unwilling to let the members of my group leave unsuccessful in our lifesaving skills. This patient was brought back from the brink of death, one foot with a toe on the bucket and ready for kicking, he survived despite heavily stacked odds and went on to live a happy and healthy life in the ether.
I picked up my ACLS card, came home, ate lunch, and took the dog for a walk with my husband. Two hawks flew over us, their shadows casting a passing darkening and flew towards the highway. We looked around for the low, deep sound of chimes, finally tracking it from the sunporch house up on the hill ahead of us. Today the bells do not toll for me or mine and I am profoundly grateful.

Cawing In The Elms


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The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time


This Christmas tree must come down. It absolutely must come down today, the20th of January; a free Sunday since I was called off work. It is well past the Epiphany and the end of the Christmas season. In fact, I faintly heard both those days heckling each other as they ran past our house on the sunlit sidewalk below. The dog heard them first and added his yelps out the window. I saw the tail end of a couple of pairs of jean legs and boots, and the flying tassle of a stocking cap. Can’t say I blame them one bit. They have finished their required duties in this year’s festivities. No cups o’kindness, no present mirth nor present laughter remains for those of us left behind. Probably the curly headed baby Jesus is with them. They’ll meet up with the three wise men and go ice skating up at the lake in Burnet Woods, swooping past the ducks that live there, laughing at the chorus of cantankerous quacking.

In years past I couldn’t wait to put up our tree and ornaments with the company of “White Christmas;" The Bing and Rosemary Clooney in the background and a young Danny Kaye dancing around like he was made from pipe cleaners. I lost heart this winter bringing down our accumulation of boxes and untwining, unwrapping, un-shrouding decades of decorations and memories, followed by the thought of having to repack it in a flurried few weeks.
There are no old holiday movies on TV this afternoon. There are no old movies on at all. That widens the emptiness. A couple of dancers from the ‘40’s or a pair of detectives in black and white would be good company today while I take down tiny wooden birdhouses from a palely lit tree.

What’s next for dismantling is the ornament that was my big brother’s when we were kids. It’s a large and tarnished red glass globe with the name TOMMY handwritten on it in silver glitter, the letters still undamaged after his fifty-six winters.

Some people seem to be indestructible. My brother falls into this category. They continue to survive past dramas, overdoses, bad choices, and just plain bad luck. They keep on stepping on, each day a new one, the day that will be better than yesterday. You think that eventually they will reach a plateau where you can meet up with them again, be present with the person who bookends the set of memories from a brother’s and sister’s childhoods. If you ever let yourself think some people can forever weather what life hands out, you are wrong. You gravely underestimate the Veterans’ Administration’s Emergency Room on a holiday weekend. If you add to this a sister--two thousand, four hundred and five miles across the country, the only sibling, busy with her own three days of 12 hour shifts on that same holiday weekend--you create a crack so wide that to fall through it is without any hope of rescue. Tommy’s fall through the crack was eight months ago.

I say the words to myself. He’s at peace now… He’s in a better place… He was lost and now he’s found. All the words a person is instructed not to say to a mourning family. I look through this morning’s church bulletin, superstitiously hoping to find wisdom for the day. All I find is that it’s the second Sunday of Ordinary Time, and instead of psalms, caught at the corner of my brain is a ragged edge of song…..

“… But when I reach across the galaxy
(and I will someday)
I will miss your company…”

This tree can wait another day; hell, it can stay up forever. The truth is, grief has a way of settling in and making itself at home. I’ll find a way to rearrange our daily clutter and make room for it, play a bit more Rickie Lee Jones and listen to what peace she sings. For now though, the dog and I are going for a walk and he’ll sniff the air for stray squirrels, maybe some ducks. Along the way we’ll keep watch out for wayward ice skaters. With any luck they’ll still be out on the lake, blades offering up to the sunlight splintered sprays of ice suspended for a flash of time.