Retiring the Self

Thanks for reading the blog. I’m going to retire Nurse Dianne for a while–perhaps for good. I don’t like feeling like people are looking for my mistakes online and as if you can no longer even gently (although there are definitely times I have NOT been gentle) disagree with others. I appreciate everyone who has read and replied over the years. Peace out.

The Pink Hair Affair Revisited: Why, Months Later, I’m Grateful.

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The Pink Hair Affair. Also known as “The Day I Totally Lost My Shit At Work.”

A quick summary for the new reader: I dyed my hair pink. Cotton candy, Pixie, pornstar pink. I loved it. Work? Not so much. The “new dress code policy,” recently revised by the corporate overlords, got handed out to the ENTIRE office the very morning I showed up with my pink hair. A coincidence? I think not.

Fast forward to now. I have a new job. I’m also taking a much needed vacation with my husband before I start the aforementioned new job. Okay, yeah, I am still a little bitter about the hair.

But… the corporate overlords actually did me a favor. As much as I loved my pink hair, my current (soon-to-be-former) employer forced me to make a choice: them or me? I was, admittedly, quite unhappy. Losing my shit over my hair color just tipped me over the edge–I was finally forced to chose me. It was a hard choice, too. I had to admit that I had once again made a job move that didn’t entirely thrill me. I had to admit that it was long past time to move on.

They (the corporate overlords) also forced me into a choice that ultimately made me more employable. I admit it; pink hair is a choice you make after you think you’ve figured out the lay of the land (which I clearly had not). Going where I’m headed (prison, it’s a long story), I probably won’t dye my hair pink again. Prison is definitely not place where you want to stand out–even if you are there as an employee, not as an inmate.

Really, what happened as a result of my rage over the Pink Hair Affair (no, I am not overstating it) is that I was forced to take a risk, to take a chance, to make a move which I was not sure that I was ready to make. Now, I’m moving into a job where I have more money, more time off, and (first impressions) I’m going to be more valued. (I do want to be very clear; my immediate coworkers are not the issue–I feel undervalued–and at times, not at all valued–by the megacorporation that owns our clinic. They operate out of another–nonWestern state–and they act like we are ALL employees in that backward state.) I’m also going to my new employer with, I think, more realistic expectations. Those are all good things.

So… call it a gift in very fucked-up packaging. I was forced to make what I hope will be a better choice for me.

And… I now have a really cute hair cut.

 

The Metapoint: Blood on Our Hands

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I woke to a great deal of disturbing news this morning.

Locally, I found out that two Iditarod mushers were attacked on the trail last night/early this morning. Several dogs were seriously injured when a snowmachiner (that’s what we Alaskans call someone riding a snowmobile) intentionally rammed the dog teams and sleds with his snowmachine. Even worse, a young dog named Nash (running in Jeff King’s team) was killed. Neither musher was hurt but reports from the trail indicate that both are shaken.

Reports from the trail also suggest that the snowmachiner may have been drunk.

I’m not sure how to deal with the ramifications of alcohol in our society. Prohibition didn’t work. Surely… however, we all have blood on our hands.

The bigger point, the metapoint, is this. We are now seeing a candidate for the office of President of the United States openly inciting violence at his events. We are living through an area where violence against others is being not just tacitly supported but openly encouraged. This sets an overall tone suggesting that violence is an acceptable response in any situation.

Hey… I get it. If someone intentionally ran down my dog team, or even worse–killed a dog, I would be hard pressed not to hurt or kill that person. Seriously. Many dog mushers carry guns so they can take care of themselves and their teams in the wilderness. I’m not out to shoot a moose but if it was a choice between the moose and my dog team, the moose would be toast. (Or ribs and dog food.) It would be a huge inner struggle between my conscience, anger and adrenaline to keep myself from using said firearm against the bastard that killed one of my dogs.

We humans have to work to overcome our inclinations to violence.

However, when the frontrunner in a major political party says things like “I miss the days when you could send a protester out on a stretcher” (roughly paraphrased) or “I’ll defend you in court if you hurt him,” we have crossed the line into a culture where violence of any kind is celebrated.

In the last week at the Donald’s rallies, a reporter was assaulted. A young black protester was suckerpunched by a Trump supporter and the protester was piled on by police and arrested. It took a while for law enforcement to figure out that the guy who through the suckerpunch was the one who should have been arrested. Last night, a Trump rally was cancelled due to fear of violence. Some people ended up going to the hospital anyway.

I’m waiting for police dogs to be unleashed on protestors, for water cannons to be opened up on citizens who are trying to stop the Donald.

It’s unbelievable to me that such violence abounds in our country today–even though I admit that I would have my own internal struggle in specific circumstances.

I’ve said it before. I’m going to repeat myself: rhetoric matters.

For my friends who think it’s funny to talk about supporting Trump–even in jest–HIS RHETORIC MATTERS.

This is the metapoint: we all have blood on our hands and what we say matters.

 

Why I Deleted Facebook from My Phone

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It’s really a version of saving my own life.

It’s been a bad brain week here. I’ve been exhausted, angry, dizzy and I’ve had a hard time speaking clearly. I’ve also been really fatigued. It’s a sign that neurofatigue is hitting hard.

I think I’ve also felt so dismissed for so long that I’ve gotten a bit (more) paranoid. I feel like people thinking I’m faking.

All in all, it’s very frustrating.

After getting home and laying down, I looked at my phone for a few minutes. It did not help me calm down. In fact, I noticed that a friend with differing political views had posted–to my private page–a meme dissing Bernie Sanders. (As you saw in my last blog, I make no bones about being Bernie’s girl.) Now, I’m guilty as charged. I share A LOT of political stuff on Facebook. My page is clogged with politics. If I’m not hailing Bernie, I’m weighing in on the Donald or I’m ranting about the dangers of big corporations. However, I never share something to someone’s page unless I think they are going to appreciate it. (Maybe I’ve lost my sense of humor.) In fact, I think posting something directly on a person’s page when you know it will upset them or otherwise annoy them (kind of like the proverbial burr under the saddle) is tantamount to walking into someone’s house and shitting in the living room. I was pretty hot. After a little sharp-edged back and forth, I said this:

Not having this convo when we clearly are not going to change each other’s minds. This path leads to hurting each other and we’ve both experienced enough hurt to last a lifetime. We have dramatically different lenses. That’s all.

Maybe it’s hypocritical but I do think there is a difference.

So… I decided I need a wee bit of a social media fast. I removed Facebook from my phone. I’m not bailing completely. In all honesty, it’s a way to keep up with friends who are far away and I’ve “met” some people I dearly love who are “just” online friends. I also see funny stuff that feeds my Walking Dead addiction. Social media can be a fun place but it’s not benign.

But… by taking Facebook off of my phone, it won’t be quite so easily accessible and it won’t be quite so easy to get into those sharp-elbowed discussions that border on picking at each other to see who bleeds or caves first. I’m less and less into that. I’ll have to make a concerted effort to look when I am near a computer–thereby slowing the dopamine rush from repeatedly hitting the feeder bar.

Good night.

Armed With a Broken Heart

It’s About Social Justice

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I find it ironic, actually. I’m probably one of the crankiest people I know right now and I’m having a hard time finding my own heart. Today, I ranted about an aspect of our current Medicare plan that I just loathe: the “Medicare Wellness Exam.” Ideally, it serves a purpose; it is supposed to present health care providers with an opportunity to assess patient’s health risks and to make sure that preventive measures such as vaccines, colon cancer screening and labs are all up to date. It’s totally misnamed. (Hang in there with me; I’ll get to the point in a few hundred more words.) You see, patients actually expect an annual exam and that’s not what it is. One of the nurses in our office described it as “an interview.” Heaven forbid we actually TOUCH a patient. It actually ends up being a wasteful visit; it become an opportunity for large profiteering health care corporations to milk a little more money out of the system. It angers me to no end and if I were the Ruler of the World (or at least the President of the US), it’s the first thing I would eliminate from Medicare “benefits.”

Yet, I’m a passionate advocate for single payer health care or Medicare for All. We just need to give it a tune-up.

Why am I ranting about this in particular? Well, in part, I feel like corporate America has gotten sickeningly corrupt. Health care isn’t about health or care. It’s about profit. I’ve said it before; if your clinic or hospital is large enough to be traded on the NYSE, it needs to go out of business because the bottom line is greed and profit.

(You knew this was going to lead to Bernie Sanders, right?)

I’ve made no bones about being a Bernie girl. I’m sure my Republican friends (yes, I do¬† have them) feel like they risk their lives when they open my Facebook feed. I share a lot of stuff about Bernie. I feel like he is the best hope we’ve had in my lifetime.

I love Bernie because I feel like his compassion is genuine. He really does care about lifting people out of poverty, making sure that people of all backgrounds (gender, sexual orientation, religion, political persuasion, and social status) are treated fairly, and assuring that we all have access to a basic and reasonable level of care. Some of you call it communism (inaccurate). Others call it national socialism; nope, look to the Trump camp–a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn is about as far from a national socialist as you can get. Bernie calls it Democratic Socialism. I call it social justice–but I’m glad to be able to come out of my Democratic Socialist closet too.

Honestly, it’s really about fairness. It’s about each of us taking care of the other. I talk to people who are afraid that “their stuff” is going to be taken away. I can’t fathom it; you can’t take it to the grave. I think that we all benefit when we raise the standard of living (education, wages, access to care). I talked with a lady today who spent her late teens and early twenties in the military and she was stationed in Germany. (Yes, Germany. Suck it, Trump.) She said that she learned a lot about people taking care of each other when she lived in Germany. She marveled at the benefits of universal heath care and paid maternity leave. (Did I mention she was stationed there because she was serving in the US military?)

I don’t live in a reality where I think all people have had the same opportunities nor do I live in a world where I believe that you all just have to work hard and you will be successful. I meet people everyday who have worked their asses off and they are still suffering. All it takes is one devastating illness or the outsourcing of your job to ruin you financially. I see nothing wrong with leveling the playing field a bit.

Social justice is about making sure that homelessness is eradicated, addicts are treated instead of demonized, veterans have a lifetime of health care in exchange for their service, and children don’t go to bed hungry in the richest nation on the planet. Yeah, social justice is about the “Haves” sharing just a little bit more so that the “Have Nots” can live a life of simple human dignity too.

If that makes me a bleeding heart, a much-derided Liberal with a capital L, and a socialist (of the democratic variety), I can live with that.

By the way, have you met Jane Sanders? She’s freaking amazing.

Call It Democracy

Money

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This picture sums it all up–money, even when you feel stable, is a headache (of course, Walter White is one of my favorite anti-heroes of all time as well).

Most of you know we had a house fire nine months ago. We got a payout on household goods a couple of months ago… and here’s the creepy thing about insurance payouts. They depreciate your belongings and if you replace specific belongings, you regain the depreciated value once you replace them and send in the receipt (in a nutshell, you get more money back from the insurance company when you do this). You get fairly picky about what you are going to replace once you have lost everything. That said, however, you still end up replacing a lot and everything has to be done–including final payouts for depreciated items–within one year. You end up replacing things at an insane rate; I feel like I have randomly-filled boxes arriving daily.

I’ve said before… it’s a disgusting feeling. Yes, to be fair, there is some excitement about replacing things you love and upgrading things you’d like to be a bit better. However, it feels like blood money. We lost so much more than material stuff.

Ironically, I’ve experienced some judgement too. People look askance at the expenditures. I’ve had people warn me about the dangers of shopping addiction (really).

Don’t judge… I’m replacing 25 years of stuff… and we didn’t report a lot of stuff to our insurance company as a loss because we simply didn’t remember when we were creating belongings lists. I’m also replacing things sparingly.

It still hurts.

Home

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I went home for Katie’s funeral this weekend.

I drove to Moose Pass on Friday night. I spent the night with my dear friend Erin. She is always a balm for a wounded soul.

Driving into Seward on Saturday, the curves in the road felt like home. I could point out to you where I got stuck in my first big snowstorm–long before Nick and I had ever lived in Moose Pass or Seward. I knew when I was coming up on what the folk of Southcentral Alaska colloquially call avalanche chutes. I could tell you where Whip and Judy lived and died, where Donnie had the terrible accident that ultimately lead to his death, where Irv lived many fierce and proud years. I could point out the lodge where I saw Tracy Grammer sing, the library where I met a well-known musher, and the same library where I heard a Holocaust survivor speak. I still remembered to slow down for those bumps in the road just before Snow River and I looked for the eagle’s nest in the same area. I saw Teddy’s Bed and Breakfast, the Estes store, and the Bear Creek Fire Department. I have so many memories and attachments along those 35 miles of road.

I drove past our first cabin. I drove past the home we owned (and I have to tell you, it has lost some of its curb appeal with the addition constructed by the people who bought it from us–you no longer see the beautiful wood siding). I drove into the parking lot at the Providence Seward Medical Center and was crying before I got in the building. I met my Margie in the parking lot and we started a good cry. I was invited into the heart of the nursing staff in Seward and I was allowed to join them in their walk in solidarity to Katie’s services. They are a special crew, and I remembered that they are still my family. They are more family to me than most who share my DNA. I saw beautiful Kim, Phil who always has something funny and smart to say, Mark who I love despite our sometimes mutual disgust for the other’s politics, Lynn who has come home again, Stephanie who is doing us all proud in her fledgling nursing career, Dawn with her strong opinions and infectious laugh, Gandy who I know best as a Facebook friend because I was leaving just as she arrived, and Sara who actually gave me the black dress I wore to the services because she wanted to make sure I had something nice to wear after we lost everything in a house fire. (I had the chance to tell Sara that I was the best dressed homeless woman in Alaska for a while thanks to her.) I will never again work with such a fine group of people; I miss those who could not join us.

When we arrived at the church–Katie was a fine Irish Catholic lass–the Rosary was still being said. The casket was still open for the viewing. It brought to mind a conversation I’d had with Erin the night before; in Alaska, funerals are strange. You rarely see a body; we often have memorial services or the funeral has a small (sometimes unidentifiable) urn of cremains. There is something about seeing the body of the person you loved that makes it really final; Katie no longer inhabits that flesh. I am not a Christian but I agree with the priest who conducted the service; Katie lives on, she is ever-present for us, and we will see each other again.

Strangely, I found myself comforted by the ritual of the Church. There is something about knowing that you are hearing sacred words that have been said for the faithful departed for centuries that makes you understand you are at the epicenter of something somber and important. The tribute to Katie was especially striking; there were many first responders, law enforcement, and health care providers there in uniform who were a testament to the woman Katie was and to the many lives she has touched. Her fellow firefighter, Jillian, let us know that Katie’s duties as a firefighter were done and were well done. The final ringing of the fire bells and tone out of the ambulance corps tore my heart open and turned my intermittent sobs into what my friend Margie rightly called “the ugly cry.” (You know the one… the sobs that come up from your toes.)

Greeting her parents by the hearse, before we proceeded to the graveside services, brought on more ugly crying. I can’t imagine what it must be to bury your daughter–a woman who had done so much and still had so much more to do on and for this planet. I didn’t know her father well, but talking to him broke my heart. Fiercely hugging her mother tore out what was left of it. You know what she said to me? We were standing next to a hearse prepared to take her daughter’s body to her final resting place and Lee (mom) said to me, “You know, I love the new hair cut and color… but I really liked the pink too.” That’s Katie’s family–they wanted to be sure that the rest of us were all doing okay.

At the graveside, it was a challenge at times to hear what people were saying but Katie’s friends and family had a chance to say some final farewells. Those who knew of her love of roses put some in her grave with her. The sound of the flowers hitting her casket was final and heartwrenching. As any good Irish lass would ask, she was sent to her peaceful slumber by a man in a kilt; there was a piper at the gravesite.

Many a glass of Jameson was held aloft in her honor at the reception. (I never do shots and I had a remarkable five; I know I did her proud.) I met a number of lovely nurses, emergency medical providers and police officers who worked with her long after I’d left and I was so heartened to see so many young faces working in service to their community. In these dark political times, it’s heartening to know that there are still those out there who work hard in their communities (even if we don’t necessarily vote the same way).

I realized that my time with these people–and with Miss Kate–was incomparable. In some ways, Moose Pass and Seward will always be my heart home and my PSMC nurses will always be family. It was an honor to be counted among your number yesterday.

I don’t believe that terrible things happen to teach us a lesson–I don’t think that a gentle God (or Goddess, however you understand Him, Her, or Them) really works that way. However, I do think that is our responsibility to learn our lessons when and where we can. Katie, you did not live or die in vain; I pray that in breaking my heart wide open, you help me find it again. Until the next life, sweet Kate. Until the next life.

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