Monday, October 31, 2011


Homemade soup, butternut squash, Halloween, caramel apples, crunchy leaves, golden sunlight.  It's fall and it's lovely.  And tonight, a first!   I broke my streak of 20 plus years of having way too much candy on Halloween.  I actually ran out of every single last piece of candy in the joint with over 200 pieces walking away with Packers and Yankees and ghouls and witches and princesses and ninjas.  Tiny tigers and pumpkins, round and clueless as they were cute, plunging pudgy hands into the candy bowl for candy I'm sure they would never eat.   I'm not even sure they knew it was candy, it was just colorful.  There's nothing more triumphant than running out of a reputable amount of candy.  It kind of puffs you up.  Ran out of candy, what can you do?  I'm awesome.   Really what I forget is that we don't have any candy coming in anymore on Halloween, just going out.  No bags to raid for those last few kids that show up to the party late.  I rooted through the pantry shelves and came up with single serving potato chips and Cliff bars.  But in the end it was too tragic, so after about three kids I turned out the lights.

The Chicken and Mrs. Bachmann
Our street has evolved as the new drive-in street for kids across the way.  It's an easy access street, close by, wide and car-friendly. Parents can hover at or crawl along the curb while the kids do a few houses at a time before hitting a curmudgeon's house.  Then they get a whoop or a whistle from the car and all go hopping back in the car in search of more lighted houses. When I was young, it was mere feet between neighbors, but the little legs here have to go quite a bit further between houses for a hard won snack size candy bar.  The kids come in big groups, all ages and sizes, some with costumes and some without, it really doesn't matter because most are wearing coats.  There might be several moms or dads or just older siblings leading the way.  Some families collect candy for the baby in the stroller, a favorite tradition of ours from our days in West Philly.  The kids are fearful of stepping into the foyer presumably because they've been told never to go into stranger's houses (good rule), so I have to step outside to give the candy and get a look at their costumes.  They say Trick or Treat and thank you without prompting. Some of them go off script and tell me how nice my house is which I find touching.  They feel like neighbors but I don't know where they live and I wish I knew them better.  Ally told me to stop giving two and three pieces at a time, admonishing me that I would run out.  "I heard you out there sneaking them extra pieces, Mom.  No wonder you ran out."  I know, I can't help myself.  

ironically the mime is stuck outside the glass door
Halloween is a special night for me, from growing up in the trick or treating capital of the world, Narberth, PA to starting a Halloween tradition in West Philly that continues today and now to Madison where I'm mostly the nice older lady who is a soft touch.   Ah, whatever.  It's one night and no need for limits.  As my neighbor posted on Facebook tonight, and I paraphrase, "if I ever get tired of cute little princesses and pumpkins ringing my doorbell, commence with the beatings."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Six weeks. I know I know.

Sometimes it takes six weeks to think of something to write about something that doesn't begin with "those darn kids of mine..."  That's all I'm saying.  They are mind suckers.  Only I didn't say sucker.

This week I'm feeling my dinosaur bones creak but I'm loving it because finally it has been revealed to me where my knowledge of the past is relevant!   In the event of a power outage.

early morning fog over the Wisconsin Capitol

As part of our clinic's emergency preparedness, we have been walking through the steps we would need to take in the event of a cut in the power to our computers.  Everything is automated in our little corner of the health care world, from parking to registration to filling prescriptions at Walgreens.  The paper chart is gone, the consultation forms are gone, the prescription pads are gone--all information is stored in one giant program on the computer for the entire organization.  And for most people, they can't remember working any another way.  Coming from the school district where paper is still very much alive, this change to the paperless health care setting was probably the biggest shock to me, and it still is.

I run with what we call in nursing, the pumps and pearls crowd.   Most of them are younger than me by about a decade.  It keeps my wardrobe hip but in my brain I quietly identify with the ladies who wear Christmas sweaters and Sketchers.  I run in a fast circle of power pals in business attire, attending meetings to discuss and strategize about things that nurses in patient care couldn't begin to care about and don't need to because I'm there.   I do believe, I do believe, I do believe.   It's been a learning curve over the first year to see the value in what I do.    Policy, standards, regulatory, organizational, evidence based practice, quality improvement, meaningful use--buzzy buzz words that mostly make sense to me now.  But I also clean clinic rooms between patients, I hold kids during procedures, I talk to parents pissed off because they've waited two hours to see the doctor and I help lost people find their way.  I'm the rarest of pumps and pearls--I'm also a mensch.   They've embraced me.  It's been a year.  Hurray, I'm through it.

Kansas butterfly

So, back to "downtime".  I can't even go into the details of an absurd conversation about coming up with a plan for running clinic during a full power outage. We can run as long as 90 minutes behind schedule when we're working with full power.  Really, we're going to try to see patients with no power?  I'm thinking we just tell everybody to go home.  (and that right there is why I'm not in charge)  I was willing, however, to entertain the possibility of how we would run clinic without the use of computers.  The sheer notion of developing a work flow involving pen and paper or gasp, talking face to face is always perplexing for everyone in the group EXCEPT this woman of  a certain age who during the dry run sat blithly in a chair and chirped, "...Heaven forbid we might have to use paper or talk to one another!" The group ignored the sarcasm and communicated with weary glances that this woman should sit quietly and keep thoughts of the good old days to herself while the real grown ups talked.  Fine, whatever.

Late autumn Kansas sunflower 

Them: "So, how will radiology know that patients are sitting out here in the waiting room?"
Me: "Somebody could walk back there and actually talk to the radiology tech."
Them: "Shut up Julie."
Them: "Anyway, and how will the lab know that the family has checked in?"
Me: "The lab person could walk down the hallway and talk to the front desk staff or vice versa?"
Them: "No, that won't work."

I'm just trying to keep it real.