Sunday, July 05, 2015

Once in a while, I am reminded that I am no longer young.

Most of the time, I'd say I feel about. . .oh, twenty-seven? Mentally, at least. When I'm not being an eight-year-old boy.

Sometimes I am reminded that this is only a lovely fiction, a way that my brain has of denying the inevitable decay and death that attends every one of us.

Like when I tried to get into and then out of Kitty's car.

We had a strategic meeting, Kitty and Marcie and Marcie's husband and their dogs and I. Kitty drove the five minutes to Marcie's house--believe me, this is not a place you want to walk when it's numpty-bumpty degrees outside--so we took her car.

Kitty has a Japanese rocket of some sort. It has letters and numbers after its name. It's low to the ground and feels like an old sports-version Mercedes to ride in: you can feel every bump, and it's very, very tight and heavy. And getting into it is like getting into a bucket.

I folded in half and sort of fell in with a "GNMPH" noise and managed to buckle my seatbelt. Getting out? Well.

Have you ever watched a bullrider in the chute before the bull's released? He'll grab the harness with one hand, put the other up above his head, and then do this back-and-forth rocking three or four times. Then the chute's opened, and a huge mass of fat and muscle, enraged at its captivity, bolts forth with unpredictable and probably disastrous results.

That was me.

ANYway. We got there in one piece and met dog #1, dog #2, and husband, in that order, as well as Marcie's sister, who was there visiting. And we talked.

About Keith. And about us.

See, nothing's been done, as far as anybody knew as of Monday of last week, about Keith. I'd been assured by our mangler that Keith would be retrained in the areas where he showed deficiencies. . .but nothing's happened. And he's still doing totally unnecessary, stupid things, like not giving blood pressure medicine to people who need it. Because they've had brain bleeds. And their systolic pressure is in the 230's. When the top limit for them is 140. But I digress.

Because things are not moving along as we would've liked, and for a number of other reasons, I contacted the person who coordinates the neurocritical care unit. It was just a "hey, how you doin', we've got this moron here, how's the baby" sort of casual thing, bringing her up to speed on what's been and not been happening. Because, you know, I figured that, as the coordinator of the whole fucking unit, somebody might've mentioned this stuff to her.

Well, nobody had. And my calling her led to a number of people suddenly waking up to the fact that a) other people above them in the org. chart had been made aware of this running disaster by the coordinator; b) something had to be done, and; c) everybody's hair was on fire. It escalated, even though I didn't mean it to. Now everyone from the CNO on down's been made privy to every single write-up and suchlike.

And Marcie and I have been disciplined. Marcie for "falsifying" charting that she didn't actually falsify--in fact, the whole reason she got a black mark is because an assistant manager who's had nothing to do with this whole situation can't understand how our machines work*--and me, for going "outside the chain of command." Which means that that same manager is upset that she got called out for not doing more to help us with Keith.

In her defense, she never knew about Keith. Because we never told her. Because she showed a positive, proactive disinclination to learn or understand anything about the NCCU, not being a critical-care nurse herself. Because she's declined to be oriented, she's shoved off responsibility for us on to other people, and she's thrown mini-tantrums about us calling on her for help.

Tomorrow I get to walk back into a forest of people taller than me, all with smouldering hair. I'll probably be pressured to sign the write-up that's on my file, and once again, I'll have to refuse. Hell, I might have to write a rebuttal, or take it to HR.

I might have to quit nursing altogether, change my name, get plastic surgery, and move to Brazil.

That might be okay.

Unless all they have is cars like Kitty's.

---   ---   ---   ---   ---

*LSS, our machines time-and-initial-stamp vitals when they're verified by a nurse. Our assistant mangler (Ass Mangler? Mmmmaybe) doesn't understand that, and so thinks that differing initials on one chart mean that somebody's lying. It's stupid, but it's what I've come to expect from Sunnydale.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Product Review: How Long Has It Been Since I Last Did This?

People, you need to know: I am the Queen, Undisputed, of Mascara.

I am asked routinely by perfect strangers in the grocery store if my lashes are actually mine.

They are the one truly, undeniably, irrevocably good feature I have. No matter how short my hair is or what my nose happens to be doing on a given day, my eyelashes are On Fucking Fleek, as the kids say, all the time. They don't fall out, they take dye easily, they're long and thick and look like false ones if I load up on mascara.

If I have one vanity, it's my eyelashes. They are the one immutably good thing about my face. My eyebrows go from Crazy Recluse to Mountain Man in a day; my cheekbones appear and disappear like blue sky in the Spring; my nose may or may not have a bump in the middle or on the end, depending on how much salt I've eaten in the last twenty-four hours. But eyelashes? I so have that shit covered.

Currently my eyelashes are longer than my hair. Really.

As a result of all this, I've become obsessed with mascara. See, when your lashes are long and thick but transparent, you depend on mascara to make them visible. Without mascara, I remind people uncomfortably of a white rabbit, like I'm about to be locked in a cage and have household cleaners tested on me. Without mascara (or dye in the summertime), my eyeballs blend seamlessly into my face at large, making me look like a washed-out X-Files alien.

I fucking live for some goddamned mascara, is what I'm sayin'.

And, today, I have reached a milestone: with the delivery of a one-hundred-point sample from Sephora, I have now tried every mascara currently available on the US market. I'm not exaggerating. I've spent something like a thousand bucks in the last two years on mascara: drugstore, mid-market, high-end. There is no grocery-store trip I take that doesn't end with a couple of tubes in my basket. I've used Maybelline, and Cover Girl, and NYX, and ELF, and NY, and Dior, and Lancome, and Clinique, and every other mascara you can name.

Yes. I have an Excel spreadsheet.

It's taken me a decade, but I am prepared now to offer you my winner of all winners, my mascara Holy Grail, the one makeup product that, if it is discontinued by the manufacturer, I will spend good foldin' cash money to buy a hundred tubes of offa eBay before it all goes dry.

That mascara is:

Ardency Inn Punker.

It comes in one color: black. It has a curved brush, which is a pain in the ass, but I'm willing to put up with it for the formula. It's wax-based, it dries incredibly fast, it does not clump even when you come to the end of the tube, It is not waterproof, but it is tear-and-sweat resistant. It does not smudge under your eyes, even if you have oily undereye skin like I do. It is safe for contact lens wearers and has never amplified my allergies. It makes lashes look great with one coat, amazing with two, and drag-queen-worthy with three.

You do not have to comb out between coats unless you want to.

And it works with false eyelashes.

My Asian coworkers love it because it dries fast enough that it doesn't dot up on their eyelids. My Indian coworkers love it because it gives them that natural-looking, yet-can-be-seen-from-space look that they love. My Hispanic colleagues love it because it's a true neutral black, not something with blue or red undertones. I love it because I take my makeup tips from drag queens and it makes me look amazing. I routinely put four coats on before work, combing between each (though I don't need to) and slay strangers with my full, soft, incredibly draggy eyelashes.

You can get it at Sephora or on Amazon, but it's twice as expensive on Amazon.

Dior Diorshow comes in a distant second, but you'll pay more for it.

Maybelline Full & Soft is a good drugstore replacement, but be prepared to reapply and reapply and reapply and reapply to get the same effect.

Ardency Inn Punker: if you wear mascara, go get you some.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cancery McCancersons. Don't like it? Click back.

I had the first of the five-year hurdles last week: I saw my dentist. Me and my surgical deficit, we went in to the same office and sat in the same chair, but with a different hygienist, one who didn't once have twins kicking me in the face while she worked on my teeth. I sat and looked up at the same goddamned pine trees that I saw when they said they thought I might have cancer, and I waited for a verdict.

Everything is fine, they said. My teeth and gums are really healthy. I need to floss more. There is no evidence of disease.

For anybody else, that would be a milestone, a real one. For me, it's kind of a milestone. It's a milestone that everybody else has created, not knowing that the sort of tumor I had shows up again, usually in a nastier form, after twenty years.

Those of you late to the game should know: five years ago, at forty, I had half my hard palate and all of my soft palate removed due to something called polymorphous adenocarcinoma. Mine was low-grade, leading to the initialism PLGA, and try searching *that* on Google. You'll end up knowing more about golf than you ever wanted to.

When I was diagnosed, the article on Wikipedia was a stub. You could've edited it to add what you knew to help others. There was one paragraph in one textbook about it.

ANYWAY. After a hellish year that you can read about by clicking on the 2010 and 2011 archives, I had a prosthetic that was better than my original mouth. I had no need for nightlights, since I had had enough rads to glow in the dark. I was well-versed in CTs and PETs and MRIs, with and without contrast, and with the recovery process that goes with having bone saws in your head.

In October, I will be officially five years out. The trouble is that five years means, simultaneously, nothing and everything.

In October, it'll be five years since I stood at my kitchen sink and looked out the back window and prayed and wished that I could spend more time gardening.

I haven't spent any more time gardening.

In October, it'll be five years since I called The Brother In Beer with the news that my lump was malignant. He spent the next couple of nights wondering what the hell he was doing so far away.

We're together now, and he's The Boyfiend, but I haven't been as present as I should've been.

In October, it'll be five years since Nikki and Lara got really sick, not just big-surgery-and-plastic-shit sick, and had to lose their hair and get irradiated. I never had to do any of that. They were solid as rocks, the both of them, when what I was going through was so much small potatoes.

The Boyfiend's father is celebrating his five-year anniversary too, celebrating freedom from a much nastier type of cancer that meant a G-tube and head-and-neck radiation and all the things that go along with that.

Here's the breakdown:

I didn't have a really nasty cancer.

The cancer I did have has a recurrance period way beyond what most people think about. Anything can happen in twenty years, and most things do.

Max, the dog who kept me company when I couldn't talk at all, is dead. Mongo is here now. The cat-boys were barely out of kittenhood then, and are now adult cats. One is huge and muscular, the other is sleek and flexible. They'll all be dead by the time I have a real clear checkup. Hell, the guy who did my surgery will have retired by then.

Things have moved on, except they haven't, really.

I realized today that I've internalized this bullshit anniversary. Mostly, I think, because twenty years is too much to think about. If I can make it five years, then maybe I can make it seven, or nine, and eventually forget about what happened, except that I'll still have that Thing I have to put in my mouth to talk. Maybe I can reconcile myself to another fifteen years of wondering if the tumor's come back.

If I think about it as a whole, as in "I have to fear every checkup for the next fifteen years," then I want to fling myself out a window.

I realized today that I've spent the last five years putting things off, vamping 'till ready, because I believe in this five-year mark that means nothing. And now I wonder if I'm going to keep putting shit off for another fifteen years. I hope not.

Wouldn't it be fucking hilarious if my CT or MR shows something growing on a lung? Or my intestines, or liver, or meninges? It would certainly give me something to do, but I'm not sure I'd be grateful.

What do you say when you have nothing to be afraid of, yet you're still afraid?

I never realized until now how much having most of the inside of my head exposed to air had affected me. I'm ashamed: it shouldn't be such a big fucking deal. Lara has gone out and run marathons, for God's sake, and I've just sat here paralyzed, navel-gazing.

Despite all of that, I'm still afraid. I have no reason to be, but I am.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This is what I don't get.

Dr. Vizzini was rounding today with his residents and said, apropos of a patient, "It's all about that bass/'Bout that bass/No treble."

And he was met with expressionless faces and nods of assent.

So why should I, when I weaved through that same group of residents two seconds later, while carrying a depleted breakfast tray, get the side-eye for

"I think it's pretty clear/That I ain't no size two/But I can shake it shake it/Like I'm supposed to do"

When it came with the applause of the attending?

I mean. Srsly, guize. If you're gonna accept the attending starting a thang, you gotta accept a nurse capping that thang off.

If Dr. Vizzini says it's okay, then it's okay.

'Cause I won't be no stick-figure silicone Barbie Doll. (she-doo-bee-doo-bee)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Guise? Guise? I need advice.



All drama, all joking, all silliness aside: I need srs advice.

Keith did two things in the past week that were so boneheaded, so arrogant, so overstepping-of-boundaries, so completely idiotic, that I feel like it's getting to be a quandary just working with him.

(And yes, before we go any further, he's been written up and counselled and so on, and has returned from those meetings with a halo of righteousness.) (It's nearly impossible to fire anybody at Sunnydale.)

I'm going to look up my legal responsibilities tomorrow, once I've metabolized the bottle of wine I just drank to get over this day, but I have a question about ethics, to wit:

What is my ethical responsibility to patients who are not my own, when I know that the nurse who is caring for those patients is at least minimally competent and at worst actively dangerous?

I have never had to ask this question before. I hope I never have to ask it again.

I'm baffled. If it were up to me, Keith would be gone before the start of the shift tomorrow. Not only has he done some incredibly dangerous shit, he's lied about it, and about other stuff, and even falsified his charts. Lesser things got somebody fired from a Planned Parenthood clinic I worked at.

And I do not know what to do.

Rated on a scale of one to ten, with one being stuck in a nice, comfortable elevator equipped with chaise longue and Benedict Cumberbatch and several bottles of good Scotch, and ten being told I have CANSUH, this is over and beyond and way past ten. At least with CANSUH, I had somebody who told me "you're not gonna die from this" and somebody else who said "you're not even gonna have to be trached."

I am, in short, worried that something that Keith does will make me lose my license because I didn't act on my own prior to his injuring-or-worse somebody. Legal stuff I can look up. What's the ethical take on this?

Anybody?

Bueller?


Thursday, June 11, 2015

By request: White Girl Bibimbop

Here is my version, filtered through My Korean Kitchen and Kitty's Filipino father.

Music for cooking:

MmmBop (can be altered to "bimmmbop, baby, bimmmbop, baby")

Besame Mucho (you can sing along with my beloved Cenobio: "Ses-a-me, ses-a-me, ses-a-me mucho, ses-a-me!")

Any Decemebrists song in which people do not die or live lonely lives; Joni Mitchell (the strummy years); Bare Naked Ladies.

Ingredients and equipment you will need:

A sharp knife
A big frying pan, wok, or covered omelette pan
A cutting board
Something to stir stuff with

Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Garlic
Ginger (optional, but it makes your kitchen smell nice)
Brown sugar

Bean sprouts (if all you can get are canned, skip this part. Canned bean sprouts are gross.)
Spinach, bok choy, or napa cabbage
Carrots
Mushrooms: preferably oyster, shiitake, woodears, or anything other than those bland button things (I got two packages of "Gourmet Blend" from the local HEB.)
Beef. It can be ground, very thinly sliced sirloin or tenderloin, or mince if you're in Australia or Europe. (Mince is good enough for My Korean Kitchen, so it's good enough for us.)
Zucchini. Broccoli. Kale. Whatever. What have you got? It's all gonna get wilted later.
An egg or two.

Rice. Make more than you think you'll need.

Preparation:

For each quarter-pound/120 grams of beef, mix:

one tablespoon each of soy sauce and sesame oil
a teaspoon, roughly, of chopped garlic
a half-teaspoon of brown sugar
as much grated ginger as you feel is advisable (optional)

Mix it all up and either mix it into your beef mince or pour it over your very thinly sliced beef (or tofu, if you don't eat vegetarians).

(Protip: beef can be sliced more thinly than you imagine possible if you freeze it for an hour first, then use a very sharp knife.)

While this is marinating, chop up your bok choy or Napa cabbage, or slice your spinach up a bit.

Julienne (that is, cut into matchsticks) the carrot and/or zucchini.

Slice or rinse or otherwise parcel out the mushrooms you've gotten your paws on.

Chop up whatever else you've got in the way of vegetables.

Keep all these things separate. If you have actual bok choy, you'll want to cook the stems first. I got baby bok choy, so that wasn't necessary.

Take your big pan and heat up a smidge of sesame oil in it. Add some of that chopped garlic you've got hanging around.

Add the bok choy/cabbage/zucchini/spinach and cook it just until it's wilted. You don't want mush; you want things to retain their basic character.

Scoop that shit out of the pan and put it somewhere out of the way.

Put the carrot in there. Cook it for about three minutes, or until it's tender but still crunchy. Err on the side of crunchy.

If you have decent bean sprouts, dump out the carrots and put the bean sprouts in their place. Cook a minute or two, until they're just-barely tender. You should not need more oil or water; the bean sprouts have plenty of water on their own.

Now dump out the bean sprouts. You *are* keeping the veggies separate from one another, right? Good.

Add the barest squidgen of oil to the pan, turn the heat up, and add the mushrooms. You want to sear them rather than have them release all their liquid. Once they smell good, dump 'em out.

(Yes, we're using a lot of plates. It's worth it.)

Now cook your meat. What I do is pan-fry it, then drain it through a fine-mesh strainer, so all the fat goes away and all the garlic stays in the mix. You want the heat high, but not high enough to make the residual oil in the pan smoke all over the place. Eugh.

Dump out the meat. Turn the heat off under the pan.

Now here is where I diverge from real bibimbap and go to the true round-eye version. Normally, you'd be layering all this stuff atop cooked rice and topping it with chili sauce and--here is the key--a sunny-side-up egg.

I hate uncooked eggs. Plus, I have to take this shit to work and reheat it in the microwave. So I do what Kit's dad does, and scramble an egg per serving, and cook it like a flat, plain, browned omelette.

I beat that egg to death, then pour it into the pan (which is still warm from the meat) and let it set. Once it's brown, I flip it over all of a piece and let it brown on the other side. Then I take it out, chiffonade it (that is, cut it into delicate fine strips) and sprinkle it over the rest of my booty.

To serve, plate up some rice. Put portions of everything you've just cooked in beautifully-arranged order atop the rice. You can top it with chili sauce, or sprinkle sesame seeds over it, or just dig in with a side of kimchi.

I'm sure there's a formal recipe for the chili sauce, but I just use the stuff that comes in the little jars and mix it to taste with sesame oil and soy sauce. Sometimes I add some leftover garlic if I feel really bold.

And there you have it. You can make all this stuff ahead of time, cook the rice fresh, and nuke your pre-prepared ingredients, then put it all together. Or you can do what I do, which is attempt something like a Michelin chef would plate, then say "Fuck it" and mix it all together in a plastic container. Either way, it's tasty.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Finally, a post that is not about Keith.

Although I am working with him for two days, starting tomorrow, so I'll have tons of new material.

Which is the only thing that's keeping me sane right now.

Anyway. Working with Keith--although this post is definitely not about Keith--got me thinking about the other people I work with.

First on my list of People I Love are Marcie and Kitty. I love them for different reasons. Kitty I love because, although she's a child genius and graduated from college at, like, seventeen, we have lots in common. We read different-but-overlapping books (she introduced me to Miss Peregrine's; I'm introducing her to Gerald Durrell and Dorothy Sayers and Ellis Peters), we like the same music, mostly, and we both have a ladyboner for history. Her ladyboner is for Asian history, mine is for European, so we have lots to talk about. Plus, we both like to cook, so we have mini-potlucks every time we work together (good for my recipe book, rotten for my waistline).

Marcie, in addition to being sweet and funny and silly and gorgeous, is one of the finest nurses I have ever met. The only criticism I have about her is that she doesn't use the big brass balls I know she has often enough, and so gets steamrolled by the likes of Keith and some of the more clueless residents. However: if I have a thorny problem, or a tricky question, I head straight to her. You can see her mental Rolodex flip-flip-flipping as she comes up with the exact answer you need in a matter of seconds. Plus, she has the best assortment of facial expressions I've ever seen. And she loves her dogs.

Coming in a close second are Deborah and Jim.

Deb is six feet tall, clocks in at about two-fifty, and has amazing biceps. Oh, and purple hair. And an attitude. And is the person you want on your side, whether you're in a fight or a code. She's also a great drinking buddy.

Jim is as large as Deb, but has a manic energy that she keeps under control. He vibrates all over the floor--kind of scary in a person of that size--and has a huge, booming laugh. It's not often you hear laughter in the hospital, so it's nice to hear his. He likes football, and beer, and cute fuzzy bunnies. If ever I need a hug, it's Jim I want. Since I am not a huggy person, I can't think of better praise.

We have a whole assortment of other folks: Liss, who's as likely to fall over her own feet and run expensive equipment into the walls as she is to look at you; Debbie, who is nearly to retirement and has no qualms about telling you she just farted in the med room; and Marty, Marty, and Marty: all three guys have the same name and could not be more different. One's from Uganda, one's from East Texas, and the third is from San Francisco. In order, they like soccer, shooting, and sailing.

There's also Kamal, who, along with Minna, will be starting Ramadan fasting in a week. Things always begin well during these warm-season Ramadans, then begin to get kinda tetchy toward the end. Kamal looks ashy and exhausted, and Minna starts dropping things and wandering around in a daze. (Yes, you can eat before and after sunrise/sunset, but come on: the days are long, the nights are short, and you have to sleep sometime.) I'm looking forward to Ramadan backing up to a time that's not quite so wearing on the nurses and residents.

And there's Randy, who lives umpteen miles away from Sunnydale, out in the middle of freaking nowhere, and does dryland farming and ranching. He has two years' worth of food stored up, all-terrain bikes for his wife and kids (with mounts for rifles on each), believes strongly that the world is going to hell, and brings us fresh eggs. He's the one who greeted the two Israeli nurses who were here on a research trip with a snapshot of the cougar he'd shot on his land*. He has a moustache worthy of respect and exercises by running his forty acres and pitching hay bales over his head every time he comes across one.

Basically, I work with an assortment of cartoon characters. Given the antics of my dog--who leaned over the plumber's shoulder yesterday and wagged his tail gently as the plumber explained every step of replacing a gas valve to him--and the behavior of the cats, who continue to find new high places to hang out (on top of doors? REALLY??), I am beginning to think I live in the world's best alternate-reality novel. Kind of Pratchett, maybe with a few of Gaiman's flying square-rigger ships thrown in, and a bit of Heinlein when it comes to people like Deb. And Minna, who, when I had trouble finding a can opener before a potluck, took a huge knife in hand and said, "Give that can to me. I am from a third-world country; I can get in to it."

I am a lucky person.

Even adding Keith to the mix.

But this post is not about him.




*Yeah, I'm not crazy about his shooting a cougar either, especially given that it was a female. However, he has an eight-year-old son who raises goats for FFA, and who goes out to feed them at sunrise and sunset. Given that a cougar will happily attack anything the size of an eight-year-old, I can see his reasoning. Things are different out there.