Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

A little Christmas corner at my desk
The culture around Christmas in pediatrics is sticky and sad at times.  Nobody wants a kid to be sick anytime, let alone around the holidays, and that's the sad bit.  And most kids getting care over the holidays are very sick.  The sticky part is making hospitals and clinics places that are festive yet functional, warm yet professional, happy while acknowledging of the dead seriousness that families are facing.

One of my first Christmases as a nurse I was promoted for desperate staffing purposes then demoted immediately after.  One isn’t ready to be the charge nurse until the more senior nurses don’t want to work a holiday.  Understandably, only the sickest of kids are hospitalized over the holidays and the care  is more complicated and potentially fraught with disaster, and managed by the least experienced nurses.  But we all know how nurses roll.  We rise to the task as one would expect.  I've been lucky to work in places that strongly supported nursing and with some very good karma my working Christmases have been busy and complicated but never dangerous.  That was the Christmas when I put my big girl pants on in caring for a dying boy.

Since then I think mostly about his parents on Christmas eve and the privilege it was to share their family's very intimate experience.   I wasn’t his regular caregiver prior to the holiday and after Christmas, although I was added to his team of nurses, I was benched in favor of his regular nurses. He died a week or so after Christmas.  I sobbed at his funeral along with his friends and family because I was too green to know how unhelpful that was to his parents.  One of those “didn’t know what I didn’t know” things before I became a parent myself. 

My few days off this year are nothing compared to my school nurse winter breaks that went on forever, but that didn't always feel great. Leaving for a two week holiday as a school nurse, I knew that many of my kids were not going to enjoy the holidays like my own children would.  Their parents would still need to work and often their family chaos didn't observe Christmas, so they would likely be left alone a lot or farmed out to last minute child care or even end up being the child care for younger siblings for the full two weeks.  Gifts and celebrations are typically sparse in the lives of kids who find comfort in their school health offices with regularity.  It's a needy bunch.  It seemed harsh to be there so fully for them five days a week and then disappear for two weeks…let alone the summer.    Nursing's a culture and just a few days off feels right.

Watching for Santa over the horizon

So the weight of the season for some falls a little heavier on me since I've become a parent, but at the same time an easy ability to enjoy the little things comes without having to work at it.  All Americans would do well to step back and think about sick kids over the holidays as bad as that may sound.  It would make the lines at the mall seem tolerable and everybody would drive a little less like bats out of hell in the parking lot.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cheer cheer cheer....I'm full of it

the only men "man" enough to hang with the cookie crowd and help with the math...3 women bring 3 dozen,
1 woman brings 4 dozen, 1 woman brings 5 dozen and 19 women bring 6 dozen.  What is the maximum that everyone can take on the first pass so everybody gets at least one of each cookie?  
Just shoot me.
I'm Christmasing myself silly the past few days.  Two parties this weekend, one for Chip's students and one for the ladies for the annual neighborhood cookie exchange.  Mulled wine and Mexican food thoughtfully prepared by local awesome restaurant go surprisingly well together.

Family strategizing before the exchange

The snow came this weekend and because it was preceded by a little sleet that made all the trees sticky, our neighborhood was quickly transformed into a treacherous winter wonderland.

Chip's students built us a snowman on their way out.  A+ for each of them I say!

Then there's my annual obsession with A Christmas Carol.  I am impressed with just how many versions there are on TV this year and as I write I'm watching George C. Scott do Patton do Ebenezer Scrooge.  A few days ago it was Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley in a musical version.  Completely obscure versions indeed.  I'm impressed with just how sick Tiny Tim looks in the George C. Scott version tonight.

And two daughters have two birthdays in the past few weeks and so we're now the parents of an adult...

and a sweet 16.

It's always holiday madness for us at this time of year and I suppose we'd have it no other way.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas in NYC

Flatiron Building
"It will be like this until after New Year's."

The resigned and weary words of my longtime city dwelling friend as we gazed out the window of our restaurant at a stalled 9th Avenue at midnight Saturday.  A constant state of Black Friday frenzy from Thanksgiving until January 2nd.  Times Square, theaters, restaurants, department stores--all literally clogged with people to the point of them oozing out and more dramatically at times being birthed from doorways onto the sidewalks.  Hundreds of people inside squeezing around awkwardly placed Christmas display tables that literally prevent and trap shoppers from actually shopping.  There is a point of saturation not observed during Christmas time when the displays feel more like barricades rather than lovely things to look at.

Sex and the City view

Stylish wreaths becoming a world class city

But for two days we were ready for anything the crowds could dish out because we have been shopping together for nearly 30 years and well, we've got sharp elbows.  Ally and I flew in for a quick weekend to our respective hosts, the uncles for her, the ladies for me.  Such a seamless trip that I worked most of the day Friday and she went to school and yet both of us were dining and in my case wining by 9:30pm in Manhattan.  All thanks to a direct flight from Madison to LaGuardia that is beyond simple in this day of body scanners and yellow alerts.  Must not be a terrorist preferred route.

me and the birthday girl

Coffee together, our collective favorite part of the day together when we can laze over our cups and catch up on our news in our PJ's.  The marathon shopping day began at 10am and ended at 6pm, six miles or 16,000 steps according to the pedometer of the middle aged. Rockefeller Center, Saks, The Strand, Fishs Eddy, ABC, Union Square Christmas Market, Mario Batali's Eataly (too crowded to eat but not to smell, touch and see).  Pooped out finally at a CVS near Union Square.

Rockefeller Center.
The tree's behind us but you'll have to take my word for it.
They have always been my personal shoppers going all the way back to Uptown Square and Filene's Basement--the real one.  And it's only the rarest of friends that can pick a fragrance for you and I would trust any of them to do that.  Whatever makes them able to do that also gives them the ability to combine Lillet and gin in a perfect martini and dates, dolmades and cheese into a delicious appetizer plate.  I need a recipe to work it, but that's just not their style.  They are all artists and my best friends and no wordsmithing can describe my love for them.

My manager, stylist and agent in deep negotiations about
what direction my fragrance needs to move

Blood orange martinis, Sprite and a Bourbon Bloody Mary at the Vynyl Diner
in Hells Kitchen.  Great place for a bite to eat after the theater.  The blood
theme relates to our show, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.

But so as not to end on a treacly note, I've got to just make a plea to the regular New Yorkers who have felt it necessary to dip their fingers far too deep into the Dippity Doo cosmetic surgery jar.  For Jesus sake, how much collagen can a face take?  The thing of it is there's a growing army of women and men with faces altered into cartoonish and ghoulish scowls as if that's the new normal for people of a little older certain age than me, wearing clothes off the rack and shopping for lettuce.   It is not a look, people!  And I can't help thinking it's just more of the same from a generation and a half that refuses to let go of their youth.   Maybe at your granddaughter's wedding you are the rocking-est granny in the photo but once you go to animate that look of plastic puffiness punctuated by padded cheekbones and misshapen lips it's all a bit grotesque.  When regular folks shopping at Duane Reade resemble Joan Rivers, we've got problems as a society.