Category Archives: Creativity

The Worst Patient

When I was delivering direct patient care, we were given a two-hour window during which to administer medications. If a med was scheduled for 1 p.m. (1300 in hospital-speak) it could be given between noon and 2 p.m. (1200 to 1400). It was one of the ways Administration acknowledged that we nurses had a lot on our plate and the day was only so long.

I don’t know if this is still the case at the bedside as I’ve been gone a long while now, and I don’t expect to ever return. The curtain has lowered on those days, but I am reminded of that window every time I take my own meds late. Or forget to take them at all.

These days I have only one patient’s needs to meet. There is only one patient for me to give primary care to. Only one patient whose meds I have to keep straight in my head. Me.

And I find that it’s not any easier. One does not simplify things, especially when that one researches and investigates every little thing. And at times does not even comply with the treatment.

I once confessed to the Nurse Practitioner taking my history that I was noncompliant with one medication. She paused in her note taking to look up at me, then we locked eyes and laughed. It’s common knowledge that doctors and nurses make the worst patients.

As it stands, the nurse in me is trying to come up with a workable plan of care for the patient in me. For a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of making a MAR for myself (Medication Administration Record). Or would that be on myself?

We used to get the MARs every day from the pharmacy; they covered 24 hours’ worth of documentation. I don’t need to get as specific, but I would at least need to list all my meds and the times they are due. That way I would be able to check them off, sign off on them so to speak, as I take them. And thereby no longer wonder did I take that calcium this morning? Or that Gabapentin last night?

As it is, there’s no way to tell. I have so many things on my mind, so many things that need to get done. And subconsciously, I don’t want to take my meds. Or more accurately, I don’t want to have a reason to need to take my meds.

But alas, I do.

I already have my phone set to alert me that Wednesday is Methotrexate Day. Unfortunately, every day is Plaquenil Day and noon seems to come around all too quickly. I swear there are less than 24 hours between noons. Or maybe it just seems that way. It’s that old noncompliance thing tugging at me.

So I’m thinking a “MAR” should keep me on the daily straight and narrow. Back when I supervised three separate nursing units, my last task each day was to list all the things that needed to get done the next day. Those were the steno-pad days, before the now ubiquitous computers. I would leave the hand-written list on the center of my desk so it was the first thing I saw upon opening my office door.

And it really worked. I got so much done that first year; it still makes me tired just thinking about it. But they do say that if you write down your goals, they are more likely to get accomplished.

It’s definitely come time to make myself another action plan. I just have to decide on the form, or the format. A dry erase board comes to mind. But I don’t think I can find room on the wall for one that big. Anyway, I don’t want it front and center, spoiling the “décor” of my home office. So I’ll design it on my laptop, then print it out so it can join the jumble on my desk.

I’ll program my phone to remind me to look at it. Or for it.

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Falling Leaves

quilt designThe goal: to bring this pencil sketch into quilt reality.

It took all of an afternoon to bring what was in my head onto graph paper. And then a while longer to make the math add up so every piece of fabric will nestle precisely against the other.

It may now only be pencil lead on white paper, but in the unshaded areas I see a light green background upon which fragile leaves softly undulate as they fall.

I see rich brown borders, bronze in tone, depicting a boundary of welcoming soil upon which the leaves will land, knowing they only have so far to fall.

Within, the Flying Geese will move, resplendent in a wild array of fall colors, from blood red to golden yellow. The colors symbolize inevitable change as the geese fly to and fro along the confines, mimicking the ebbs and flows of life itself.

quilt fabricsThese fabrics will help me paint.

As they go through the auditioning process they will speak to me, or not. And as happens in life, they won’t all make the literal cut. But all will not be lost for they might foster ideas for another time.

And I know this lot will not suffice. Therefore, I will set out to hunt and gather additional fabrics as I search for more color, more vibrancy, more life.

In So Many Ways

I’ve settled into a Tuesday and Friday Tai Chi class routine. Granted it’s only been one week. But it feels good. I’m renewing friendships and meeting new people. I met the lady who won my Native American Culture themed quilt at the raffle. (See my post, Done!) She was ecstatic and stopped the class to verify I was the quilter. “I love it!” she said. Talk about a shot in the arm, gave me renewed vigor to finish the class.

I’d wondered if my legs would hold up. It’s all a matter of shifting your weight from one leg to the other as you dance your way through the 108 moves. All this weight-bearing helps build bone, something mighty useful to me now. But I needn’t have worried, my legs remembered. They held up admirably, while the rest of me had a harder time remembering some of the hand moves.

Though they started the same week, these classes are independent of each other. That means that on Friday I get to repeat what I learned on Tuesday. This works well as I am a perpetual beginner, having yet to complete all 108 moves. Monday and Wednesday classes start in two weeks and I plan to take those too.  There’s nothing like reinforcement. And camaraderie.

And I have another reason for taking all these 10:00 AM classes. They will help me to structure my day so I can fit the most into it. Freelance editing is occupying more and more of my time, and that’s a good thing. But working from home, I’ve let myself maintain a non-schedule schedule, working all hours of the day or night. There’s been no clock to punch, and no boss but my lenient self. As long as the deadline is met, your client doesn’t care when you work.

But now, I need to adopt a daily discipline so that I can accomplish all I want to do. Such as my own writing (my WIPs won’t write themselves, sigh), and then there’s my quilting. I do want to keep up with it, and I plan to make a bunch of children’s quilts for the homeless shelter our Tai Chi Branch supports. For Christmas.

So you see, Tai Chi to the rescue. In so many ways.

Woman, Interrupted

I have been remiss. I’ve been consumed with the fire at my side. In my side. It’s amazing how encompassing it has been. Everything was pushed aside. Shoved aside. There were no neurons left over to expend on all of my daily activities.

My reading slacked off, especially my on-screen reading. The fact that the screen would do a periodic disappearing act didn’t help. I am now so far behind with my emails, hundreds that have piled up in the interim. I don’t believe I will ever catch up.

There were the faithful emails from Elise, my Spanish Word of the Day lady. Some of the words would amaze me. I didn’t realize I knew them so that when I punched her email open on my cell phone, I would think, Aha! I am more fluent in my native tongue than I give myself credit for. It felt like a small victory.

The emails from my quilting site only served to underscore what the hundreds of cuts of fabric, neatly stacked on a wall of shelving in my office were saying to me. What about me? What about us? When will you give us your time? My Tai Chi instructor emailed, Can we have some of your creations for our Mother’s Day Raffle? I’ve yet to respond. Mother’s Day was just another day with shingles pain this year.

The writing blog posts are also stacked up neatly in my inbox, awaiting my time and attention as well. I didn’t want to read them with blurry eyes and blurry mind; that would in effect cancel out their very purpose, which is to help me finesse my craft. I look forward to digesting them, in small bites, the better to savor them.

And, of course, my personal writing was suspended. It wasn’t for lack of material, but for lack of dexterity. My fingers lost their place, lost their connection to the home keys on the keyboard. The keys that are the base from which they launch themselves across the span of the key layout. My brain saw one word and my fingers typed up a close facsimile of it; the relay was broken. Or merely interrupted. Whatever it was, it was infuriating.

Regardless, I persevered and completed the projects I had pending; deadlines wait for no man, or woman.  But, it was slow going and quite a strange experience. They say you never appreciate something until you lose it; that might be true. All I know is that my fingers are once again.dancing nimbly over this keyboard. The circuits are reconnected, soldered together through sheer willpower. The embers of shingles pain still burn, and I am being careful not to fan them into bright, lacerating flames.

Oh, Ye of Little Time

Half of February is gone already. Where did it go? What did I do with it?

All I know is that my to-do list gets longer by the day. Though I don’t always know which day. It’s my own fault somewhat. This past week I got to spend two whole days with my Cutie. She came laden with Valentine’s Day candy and she brought me my own Valentine’s goodie bag. M&M’s, yum!

Chocolate candy

Happy Face!

Chocolate candy

The look of love. For chocolate

Valentine's Day

Then we got cleaned up for dinner out.

 

Though by the time we left the restaurant, it had turned cold and rainy. What kind of nasty trick was that? This is Miami!

And this morning the cold persists. My hands don’t appreciate that. I have a quilt to finish. I’ve let it simmer for almost a week or so and it’s due Saturday.

Quilting

I’m not too sure about it, but too late to change it. Have to sally forth.

Yesterday I spent the day recouping from following a toddler around. That is an activity best reserved for the young, not the young at heart. And while I rested up, I did get to accomplish one of my New Year’s resolutions. Update my blog(s) a little. I have to say it was fun.

But now, back to my list of things to do. First up, finish that quilt!

Anatomy of a Quilt

I spent most of the day yesterday speed-quilting. Due to time constraints, I had to choose an easy-to-piece design for our Tai Chi Chinese New Year‘s party which is on the 23rd of this month. I try to make something to add to the raffles that we have at every celebration. We are a non-profit group and are working to have our own building with a kitchen that has running water. All we ask for is water! Anyhoo, I ran into a quilting speed bump.

This is the basic block of nine pieces, unsewn.

The basic block of nine pieces, unsewn.

The 9 x 9 inch squares attached to the 3 x 9 inch strips to make a row.

9 x 9 inch squares attached to 3 x 9 inch strips.

The 3 x 3 inch squares attached to the 3 x 9 inch strips to make the alternating row. My floor is so handy to lay my quilts out on.

3 x 3 inch squares attached to 3 x 9 inch strips to make alternating row. My floor is so handy to lay out my quilts.

All simply happy together.

All simply happy together.

To break the monotony, I planned borders. And this is where it all went awry.

I decided to give it some pizazz by adding a nine-patch block at each corner.

To  give it some pizazz, I decided to add nine-patch blocks at each corner.

I made all four blocks, cut all the border strips and went to bed. I wanted a purple/print/purple border, with the corner blocks as contrast. So it would look like this:

I was so pleased with myself!

I was so pleased with myself!

And then, I woke up. Woke up to the fact that I hadn’t considered the color contrast between the body of the quilt and its adjacent border.

Major clash!

Major clash!

So, it’s back to the cutting board and the sewing machine. My border will have to be reversed.

And the corner blocks will have to be reversed as well. Ahhh!!

And the corner blocks will have to be reversed as well. Ahhh!!

Oh, well, I’ll have to focus on the bright side. I have enough leftover fabric to play with. Worse would have been if I’d used up all the fabric and Jo-Ann’s was out. Don’t even wanna think about that!

(Note: the stated measurements are finished size. When cutting, you add a half inch all around to allow for quarter-inch seams. A 9 x 9 inch square would be cut 9 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches.)

By the way, this is last year’s Chinese New Year’s quilt. I had a little bit more time to spend on this one. It’s displayed as a wall hanging in the next county’s Tai Chi Center. The lady who runs that Chapter won it in the raffle.

South Westside-20120204-00233

Write, I Do

One of my goals lately has been to establish a writing routine and produce a certain number of words each day. In attempting to meet this goal, I joined a writing site that requires me to log in and do just that. This site faithfully keeps a word tally and tracks who is fully participating.

Every day I get an email reminding me to write my words. Unfortunately that email goes to an account I consistently forget to check. Every so often I remember, and then I feel a little guilty when I go in and delete several weeks’ worth of reminders. For a few minutes I feel bad that I am not letting the site count my words.

This exercise is supposed to be done first thing in the morning, to clear your head and get you ready to seize the day, to accept open-minded the onslaught of words that this process unleashes. If you keep at it, the theory goes, you will soon have a manuscript of sorts in your hot little hand. The idea is sound, if you can get yourself to follow a linear thought for 300 pages, or 60,000 to 90,000 words.

I don’t know if it’s that I don’t have the discipline, or maybe the tenacity, to stick with one work in progress, or that I am stretching myself too thin having more than one WIP.  I know which one I want to finish editing and polishing; I just can’t make myself do it. The subject matter is still a little raw for me perhaps. Or maybe I’ve been letting it stew a little too long in my consciousness.

But, I know I will get to it, when the time is right because write, I do. Every day. And since I gave myself the assignment of posting daily on this blog for the month of December, I find a myriad of ideas suffusing my brain. The list of topics or situations I want to write about keeps getting longer.

I don’t know if I will be able to develop them all during this month; it is going by faster than I expected. But, I will keep jotting them down and expanding on them on my trusty index cards for future essays, blog posts, fiction and nonfiction pieces.

And I think I will relieve that particular website from its daily email duties to me. It’s a good idea, but obviously not for this writer, or at least not yet.

Why We Write

Is it to fill the void?

Or is it to empty ourselves of what we can no longer hold within?

Sometimes I think the reason I write is the same reason I get up in the morning. Because I have to. But in truth, I don’t really know why I write. Maybe it is to share the joy, or maybe I do it to ease the pain. Perhaps it is to use the new words I just learned and sound so delicious that I must see them and hear them. For I always read aloud what I write, to hear the flow, the rhythm, the melody that words can at times produce. Even without our assistance.

I write many things, short pieces and long pieces. Fiction, nonfiction and sometimes a cross between.   I suppose I write what is next in the pipeline, waiting its turn to burst out. I go from one genre to another; I don’t know why that is either. I would love to sit and work on a book from start to finish. But, which one?

They say write the book you want to read. That is sound advice, except for me it doesn’t quite work. I read so many genres; there is no specific one I want to read. I want to read all of them.

Sometimes writing is therapy for me. Normally you pay for therapy, but in this instance I am going to see if I can make this “therapy” pay me. In the coming days I plan to share some pieces I have written. Some are funny, some are sad, some are just silly. But, they are all a collection of my words.

And I will continue to write, as that is an incurable condition with me, while I concentrate on the other projects I assigned myself for this month. Did I think I was Wonder Woman?

I’d love to know why you write.

Just completed this baby blanket for my newborn granddaughter. She looks so beautiful in yellow.
Just completed this baby blanket for my newborn granddaughter. She looks so beautiful in yellow.
Making this blanket as a Christmas gift for my father-in-law. A third of the way done!
Making this blanket as a Christmas gift for my father-in-law. A third of the way done.
And sewing this Christmas tree skirt for my daughter-in-law. The ruffle still needs to be made and attached.

Sewing this Christmas tree skirt for my daughter-in-law. She wanted blue. The ruffle still needs to be made and attached. And there’s four more projects pending. The suspense, will there be enough time before Christmas? I suppose time will tell! And why are my other captions not showing up as captions? What gives?

Simulacrum of a Thing

IMG-20121204-00476

I am reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, and she has a chapter about index cards and their usefulness. Until I came to that chapter, I hadn’t realized what an addiction I have to those little 4 x 6 cards. Like a certain credit card, I never leave home without at least one. Usually, I keep a bunch in my purse to capture any stray thoughts I might have as I travel around town. But never fear, I don’t write and drive; I wait for the traffic light to turn red.

We all know that if we don’t jot something down as soon as possible after it hits our brain, most likely it will be gone forever. Only the thought doesn’t go away completely. Part of it stays in the back of your mind, on the tip of your tongue, a simulacrum of a thing that will neither fade away nor come back in full force. It remains there to torture you while you berate yourself. Why didn’t I write that brilliant thought down?

I’m reminded of how, for several days, I turned the house upside down looking for the left over index cards from my youngest daughter’s high school years. I knew I had them somewhere. I could literally visualize them, all that neat white space waiting to be filled. But they eluded me. It was like looking for that last bottle of liquor in the movie The Lost Weekend. Only I didn’t have to steal my cleaning lady’s money to go out and buy a fix. Mainly because I don’t have a cleaning lady.

This incident occurred a couple of years ago when I finally started writing seriously or seriously writing. After I bought a new packet of index cards, I found the lost ones lying neatly on a bookshelf. Now, I am never without those trusty little cards. Like reading glasses, I have some in practically every room of the house. Besides my purse, they live in my bedside drawer. As sometimes happens, I’ll come to in the middle of the night with passages going through my head. Quickly, I snap on the light, grab a pen and lash the thought down before it floats away. Or at the very least, the essence of it.

Index cards make my favorite bookmarks. Not only do they hold the place in the books I’m reading, but they afford me the space to write down any thoughts or ideas my reading conjures up. And when I come across something profound or motivational, or both, I copy it onto a card and tape it to my desk, so that it’s right in front of me as I work.

They serve me in my other work as well, as quilting aids. Once I decide what a quilt will look like, I record on separate cards how many pieces of each fabric I need to cut and in what dimensions. I then tape the cards to the wall alongside my sewing table, a ready reference as I construct a quilt puzzle comprised of hundreds of pieces.

Once while in the lab chair waiting for the vampire to strike, I noticed they had new wall art. It was a piece constructed of luminous metal squares in browns and greens. As my blood flowed into the lab tubes, the image of it as a quilt flowed into my brain. Holding my left arm bent at the elbow, I rushed out of the lab to my car where I sat sketching it out. It will make a great quilt. Someday.

One fun thing I use the cards for is to write my granddaughter’s name in great big letters. “I want paper,” she says to me when she sees me at my desk, “I want to make an A.” At three, she is ready to learn how to write her name and I pronounce each letter slowly as I write it all in caps across the top of a card, A-L-Y-S-S-A. Her face lights up as pen in hand she sits down to her task, forming the A with care.  When she goes home she leaves me the gift of her scribbles. Maybe one day she’ll be a writer, too.

The cards are also handy to make myself notes about foods to try, their benefits and nutritional value, especially those with anti-inflammatory aspects. I am always on the lookout for foods that will help me combat RA and keep my weight at tolerable levels. I figure if I write them down, I might remember to buy these foods when I go grocery shopping. Because of course, making a grocery list is the one thing I don’t ever use my cards for!

To Blog or Not To Blog

I follow Kristen Lamb’s Blog and a while back, she wrote a post titled “Would Hemingway Blog?” When I went back to refer to it for this entry, I was surprised to learn it was written back in September. Which means I read it back in September. I swear it feels like it was just yesterday, but obviously her words had staying power because that post remains in my subconscious.

Her answer to the question was a resounding yes, followed by three exclamation points. I admit my first reaction to the question was, no, Papa would not waste his time pursuing such activities when he had earth-shattering novels waiting to burst from him. But, she went on to explain how he did, in a way, by using his journalistic muscles to write “clean, strong prose.”

It made sense to me, yet I still can’t imagine Papa tweeting. Maybe it’s because I’ve yet to join the tweet bandwagon. I wanted to get the blogging thing down first.

At first it seemed like I was reaching. Could I do it? Could I write something worth reading? By others, I mean. Would anyone care about what I had to say? And what exactly did I want to say?

I chose to focus on my health, mainly as a therapeutic practice exercise. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and the audience would be small. I wouldn’t make too big a fool of myself!

At first, I looked forward to posting and then life sort of got in the way and I let this blog languish for a long while. Which, ironically, defeated the therapeutic intent I meant it to have, at least on myself.

Now, the more I think about Kristen’s words, the more convinced I am she is right. Blogging is a good thing. If only to strengthen your writing muscles or to instill some writing discipline. And then, there is also the icing on the cake: the connections you make and the people you hear back from. Sometimes weeks after you’ve posted a piece. The fact that someone will take the time to hunt back into your archives is definitely priceless. (Thank you, Alice)

I gave myself the task of posting every day this month in honor of my upcoming birthday. But, I’m beginning to think it may turn out to be a far more valuable gift than I intended. As I relearned today, time waits for no man, or woman. If I want to be a better writer, I better get to it.

This is supposedly how Hemingway's studio was, down to his Royal typewriter. I find it hard to believe he would leave it behind. I can't imagine being without my computer. Would Papa let go of his typewriter? Inquiring minds want to know.

This is supposedly how Hemingway’s studio was when he lived in Key West, down to his Royal typewriter. I find it hard to believe he would leave it behind. I can’t imagine being without my laptop. Would Papa let go of his typewriter? Inquiring minds want to know.