A Thanksgiving Memory

This is my favorite Thanksgiving Memory.  I post it every Thanksgiving to remind me of how truly thankful I am for all the wonderful people in my life!!

Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard

Vintage Thanksgiving Postcard

Dear Nursing Administrator,

Today I witnessed an act, which for the first time, made me grateful to have worked Thanksgiving Day.  Before I explain, you need to understand a little background.

For the past month or so we have been caring for a nineteen year old-young man in room 419, who is slowly dying from lymphoma.  Over this past month I have never looked after, nor been involved in this patient’s care.  In fact, I didn’t even really pay attention.  Why?  I’m not sure.  As charge nurse I was up to date on his name, age, room number and diagnosis.  I knew his mom was a nurse and his father was a New York City Police Officer.  I knew that one or both parents never left his bedside.  I knew I found it extremely uncomfortable to participate in his case, what I didn’t know was why; I’m still not completely sure.  Maybe it was his age, maybe it was because his parents were always there, maybe it was because I identified with this family on some level and steeled myself from getting involved.  My apathy, or perhaps cowardice, found it helpful that their room was at the very end of our unit, so far removed from the nurse’s station, that their daily story played out on what seemed a far away stage.

Our unit is a twenty bed Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), not a hospice ward.  I’m used to dealing with critically ill, older patients in cardiac distress.  Even when those patient’s are terminally ill, I somehow rise to the occasion to support their crumbling family.  But this boy, what was he doing here?  What did I know of caring for a nineteen year old?  Apparently there are cardiac complications that come from bone marrow transplants which led this boy to our unit, and subsequently into our lives.

So while my head was buried in the sand for the past month, there were several amazing nurses consistently caring for this patient.  But today, Thanksgiving Day, I would soon come to find out just what I had been hiding from, because today I was assigned to care for this boy.

What had I been hiding from?  His family was lovely; two devoted parents sitting vigil in their hopes and tears.  His nurse mother was someone I could have easily seen myself working side by side with, and his NYPD dad, well, I must confess was a reminder of my own NYPD dad.  But this boy of nineteen was so ill.  His body reflected the disease that had stolen his youth and replaced it with the frame of an old man’s.  Swaddled in blankets to fend off the cold, his face was the only piece of flesh I could see; though his eyes were pale and hollowed, a spark, still dimly lit, reflected back, and a smile slow danced across his lips from time to time.

Room 419 was where this family would spend their last Thanksgiving together.  No fancy table, no turkey, nothing to remind them of the holiday unfolding on most American tables that day.  No, this room was the exact opposite.  The only reminder of the outside world I could gather was the pile of soda cans collecting on the window sill.

Then lunchtime arrived, and with it came Emma, one of our nurses, (off duty that day), with a large bag in her arms, and a six-pack of soda in her hand, heading for room 419.  As I went to greet her with a confused expression on my face, and a ,”What are you doing here on your day off?”  She told me she was here to bring 419’s family Thanksgiving dinner before she was due to catch a train to her own Thanksgiving dinner.  You see, while I was flying under the radar where this family was concerned, Emma was flying high; high on her morals, her faith, and her uncompromising dedication of what it means to be a nurse.  There was no way she could sit down for her own Thanksgiving meal, without first and foremost providing one for this family she had grown so close to.  What a special moment to witness.

Thanksgiving is such an American holiday.  We all take pride in our heritage, our sophisticated menu’s, our high-end wine lists, alternately, we take such a twisted approach on sharing a meal with family we might not want to be sitting next to.

Ironically, Emma is not at all American, she is Filipino.  But somehow, she, more than any American I know was able to take this holiday, and provide one family with the gift of thanks, when they probably felt too weak to feel anything but the life of their core slipping away.  I know this family was truly thankful for this one gift, this one meal, that this one very special nurse provided for them on what would be their last Thanksgiving as a complete family.

Vintage Thanksgiving Poem

I was thankful to have had the opportunity to witness grace in action.Several days later the boy in room 419 was granted his wish to go home to die.  His parents complied, and forty-five minutes after being laid to rest in his own bed, that nineteen year old boy died on his own terms, in his own way.

I will never forget this Thanksgiving as long as I live.  I am nominating Emma for the highest award we give to nurses in our hospital; The Daisy Award.  I’m sure every Thanksgiving I will be reminded of this family and be truly grateful for all the wonderful people in my own life.

Sincerely,

Jean

I wrote that letter over ten years ago, and I have never forgotten the family from room 419, or the nurse who made their last days bearable.  They make me thankful every year for the life I have, and the family I live it with.

Since that time I have become a mother myself.  Losing a child, any age, is unfathomable to me; it was my understanding he was their only son.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, don’t sweat the small stuff.  Who cares if the Turkey’s a little dry, or the company’s a little wet.  Be thankful to be together with your family and friends.

I know I’ll be!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

thanksgiving vintage postcard

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Veterans Day: Nurses on the Battlefield: The Ultimate Sacrifice

I like to believe that every day nurses do something heroic for people, even if that something is trifling. We make small sacrifices every day for our patients, like forgoing a meal, or a trip to the bathroom, staying late to make sure our patient’s care is complete, and spending holidays caring for our sick patients instead of sitting down to dinner with our families. But when I think about the sacrifice our military nurses make, I quickly realize a grumbling stomach, and a full bladder are inconsequential in comparison.

Today is Veterans Day, a day I hold in high esteem. I honor all the men and women who serve this great nation. However, when I think of what it truly means to sacrifice, I am drawn to the battlefield nurses who are not only hungry, and running with full bladders, but are putting their lives in danger to care for the heroes that defend our nation. Battlefield nursing launched our most famous leader, Florence Nightingale, into the history books, during her time in the Crimean War. Her dedication to service, her intellect, and her ability to improve battlefield conditions, while reducing soldier mortality rates in the wounded, changed the face of nursing care not only on the front lines, but in each and every hospital as well.

In America George Washington understood the importance of the battlefield nurse, and in 1775 The Congressional Resolution allotted one nurse for every 10 patients in military hospitals, and provided nurses a salary, though meager, at two dollars per month. Up until that time, nurses positions had traditionally been voluntary. By 1777 George Washington put out a call for more nurses, and the salary was increased to eight dollars per month. Nurse’s time on the battlefield did not end with George Washington. From 1861-1865 over 3000 nurses served in the Union Army during the Civil War. By this time nurses were earning 12 dollars per month and rations, however, nurses were always at risk of contracting contagious diseases, and battlefield injuries.

 In 1917 when WWI raged across Europe, over 12,000 American nurses were ready to serve. They were deployed all over the world. Again in 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, nurses came forward to serve in the Second World War. For the past nearly seven decades Nurses have served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. To date, approximately 1000 nurses have lost their lives in the line of duty. A true sacrifice!

Operating Room, MASH unit Korea

Vietnam war memorial with nurse and wounded soldier.

Flight Nurses Today           

I recently came across this article about one of those brave nurses who made the ultimate sacrifice doing her job, caring for the soldiers, and country, she swore to protect. She is the kind of woman, nurse, and human being I would hope all of us aspire to be. Today’s Veterans Day post is dedicated in her honor: Jennifer M. Moreno.

An undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Army 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, Calif., an Army nurse from Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was one of four people killed Sunday, Oct. 5, 2013 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/US Army)

Everyday we have choices to make. Some may be small, some large; others may be easy, while some may be life changing. On October 6, 2013 Captain Jennifer Moreno, an Army Special Operations Command Nurse was on assignment with her comrades in Afghanistan attempting to capture a high value target. Instead of the high value target surrendering, an Afghan woman came out and detonated her suicide vest, wounding six troops. That explosion then set of an IED. As soldiers rushed to help the injured troops, they set off another IED. A second Afghan emerged from the building, detonated his suicide vest, killing Jani a working military dog.

Ground soldiers were ordered to stay in place by their commander, but Moreno heard the cry of help for a wounded soldier. It is in that moment where Moreno’s choice represented duty to serve, and Captain Moreno chose not to stay in place, but to perform her commitment, and follow the Nurses Code of Ethics, as well as the soldiers creed to “never leave a fallen comrade”, to go help save her fellow soldiers. It was a choice that would prove to be fatal.

In over a century of war, we have lost many nurses to the side effects of conflict whether by disease, or injury. I would like to take the time to honor those listed below, and thank them for their service, and their ultimate sacrifice.

Spanish American War: 21 Nurses died of typhoid and malaria.

WW I: 430 Nurses died from the 1918 Influenza outbreak.

WW II: 460 nurses died. Six Army Nurses died in hostile fire at Anzio Beachhead in 1944. Six Army Nurses died when a Japanese suicide plane crashed into the Hospital Ship USS Comfort near the Philippine Islands in 1945.

Korea: 16 Army, Navy, and Airforce Nurses died enroute to the battlefield

Vietnam War: 8 Nurses died in enroute to the battlefield. Army Nurse Lt. Sharon Lane died from hostile fire.

Iraq: Army Nurse Capt. Maria Inez Ortiz was killed by a mortar attack in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Army Nurse Captain Gussie Jones died in Iraq of non-battle related causes.

Ft. Hood Texas: Army Psychiatric Nurse Captain John Gaffney, Army Mental Health Adult Nurse Practitioner Captain Russell Seager, and Army Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Lt. Colonel Juanita Warman were all killed by hostile fire when Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on them.

Afghanistan: Army Nurse Captain Jennifer Moreno killed in and IED explosion. Army Nurse Practitioner, Lt. Colonel Richard Berrettini died from injuries after his vehicle was hit by an IED. Army Nurse Captain Bruce Clark collapsed, and died during deployment in Afghanistan. Army Certified Nurse Anesthetist Joshua McClimans was killed by indirect rocket or mortar fire from insurgents on his way to work at the Army Hospital in Afghanistan.

God bless all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms!

The Hairbag Poet-Perspective

Hi and welcome to my Friday series The Hairbag Poet.

In the blogging world Fridays are known as Poetry Friday.  You can read about Poetry Friday here. I will plan on posting The Hairbag Poet each Friday.

You can read about the history of this series here.

Today I will be presenting two poems. One is from the perspective of the dolls, and the other is from the perspective of the Aliens, characters that you may remember from some of my previous poems. This has been a fun series to write, if not a little creepy.

Today’s poem, and really this whole series has been an example of anthropomorphism. According to Poetry Foundation anthropomorphism is “a form of personification in which human qualities are attributed to anything inhuman, usually a god, animal, object, or concept.” I think children are always bringing objects to life. It’s why I have the photo’s I do. The dolls, and toys in most of these posts are my nieces. However I believe their worn torn world are the result of my brother’s imagination. When I think about it, I feel like my brother and I are kids again, playing with toys; we’re just a little older, and our sense of humor has warped a bit, but we’re creating, collaborating, imagining, and having a good laugh.

I hope you enjoy these posts. Thanks for stopping by and reading, and please feel free to post your own poetry in the comments if you feel inspired by the photographs. I always love reading other peoples perspective on “art”.

 

The Hairbag Poet

 

Photo by Donald who says, “The barbies attack the fairy village.”

Perspective: Dolls

Warriors come out to play.
Revenge is what we seek today.
Fairy Queen,
you’ve killed our tribe,
and now in hollowed oak you hide.
Come out and face us
one last time!
Let justice judge
your vicious crime.

Photo by Donald who says, “The Aliens still on their trek come upon the battle.”

Perspective: Aliens

We are the aliens
from X-241,
our planet is Ogda,
it’s warmed by one sun.

My offspring and I
landed last year in Maine
in your snowy, cold land
with its icy terrain.

We were chased by clawed beasts,
and a smoking old guy,
so we ran for our lives
as our spaceship stood by.

We escaped to our home,
we regrouped,
and we planned
to return to this land
we could not understand.

So we waited till Summer
when earth neared the sun,
and traveled through space;
another journey begun.

But not much has changed,
this land they call Maine,
remains brutally cold;
a hostile domain.

We’ve witnessed a war
between dolls and a fairy
that’s inhumane, ruthless,
vicious and scary.

Barbie doll heads sat skewered on spikes,
that were severed with ease,
by the Fairy Queen’s strike.

This visual nightmare,
a crime wicked, mean.
“An eye for an eye”
claims this homicidal Queen.

It’s time that we leave now
and head westernmost,
to the fog laden, misty, Pacific seacoast.

I am sad to say that my brother Donald has moved from Maine to Washington State, and we will no longer be sharing the same coast. Though I’m happy for him, and his family, because they are moving to a beautiful area, I will miss them dearly. I look forward to what the west coast will inspire in Donald’s photography, and the future of the Hairbag Poet.

The Hairbag Poet-First Impressions

Hi and welcome to my Friday series The Hairbag Poet.

In the blogging world Fridays are known as Poetry Friday.  You can read about Poetry Friday here. I will plan on posting The Hairbag Poet each Friday.

You can read about the history of this series here.

I’m sad to say that today’s poem will be an elegy to my dear friend Vera who passed away recently. According to Poetry Foundation, “In traditional English poetry, it is often a melancholy poem that laments its subject’s death, but ends in consolation.” My friend Vera was quite the traditional English lady, with a divinely cheeky side that I think she let shine when she came to visit us in New York.

What’s so wonderful about my friendship with this amazing lady was the genesis of our relationship, the difference in our ages, and the ocean between us. I first met Vera, who is the mother of one of my closest friends, back in the mid 1990s.  I was a young 20 something year old, living and working in NYC, and like most NYC singles, I was renting a share in a Hamptons house with a few of my friends, Vera’s son being one of them.

On one of the hottest days of the summer, my friend asked me if I would pick up his mother who had just flown into town, and drive her out to The Hamptons with me in my run down, no air-conditioned, two-door, hatch back, hunk of junk. Besides not wanting to take a total stranger in my car for a 4-5 hour hell ride out to Long Island, I also kind of had a bad experience in the past with an ex-boyfriends English mother, who let’s just say left a rancid taste in my mouth.

After quite a bit of pleading, and a notarized letter that his mother was not a mean, English aristocrat guided by the ramblings of Emily Post, I acquiesced. It was a wonderful decision! Vera was the kind of lady that smoked like a chimney, partied like a rock star, danced like a dervish, and spoke like my fair lady. I loved everything about her.  Over the years Vera came to visit NY often, and we continued to bond on those short visits.

Life is not immune to change, and neither was I. I grew up, got married, and started a family of my own, and though Vera made a visit to my house in the country when my first child was born, we didn’t see much of each of other after that. We exchanged Christmas cards, and I sent her pictures of the kids, but our correspondence was brief.

Life is sad when we find ourselves distanced from the ones we love.

I know Vera truly lived a wonderful life, and I am grateful, and honored for having had the pleasure to spend the time with her that I was given. She will be truly missed!

I hope you enjoy these posts. Thanks for stopping by.

The Hairbag Poet

First Impressions

I was uncertain the first day I met you,

sovereign in your jewels, and high brow heritage.

It was a meeting I tried to refuse, but,

for the kindness gifted to a good friend, I conceded.

“She’s nice, she’s cool, you’ll love her,” he said.

“No Way!”

English Mothers are not my style, they cramp my style; they don’t get my style.

But I said yes anyway,

and there you were: dripping in gold, and purple track pants, climbing into

my rusty car, with missing hubcaps, and locks jammed long ago

by the thieves of New York.

You were quiet…polite.

I was quiet…polite.

The heat was stifling,

and we hadn’t even gotten off of St. Marks Place.

I offered cold tea.

Do the English drink cold tea?

Apparently.

With the city behind us,

and a long journey ahead,

I wanted to smoke.

Do the English smoke?

Apparently…

like predators on prey.

Was that relief?

Smoke drifted out both windows,

and the tension wisped away with it.

Conversation eased from pleasantries to endearment.

This was a friendship in the making!

Vera on the back of my Harley Davidson.

The Hairbag Poet-The Drones of War

Hi and welcome to my Friday series The Hairbag Poet.

 

In the blogging world Fridays are known as Poetry Friday.  You can read about Poetry Friday here. I will plan on posting The Hairbag Poet each Friday.

You can read about the history of this series here.

One of the things I love about being the Hairbag Poet, is the research that goes into writing this series.  I know it’s mostly silly, and weird subject matter attached to often disturbing photographs (thanks to my brother Donald) that I write about, but I take the learning of poetry seriously.

For this post I came across a poetic term called Caesura. According to poetry foundation Caesura is “A stop or pause in a metrical line, often marked by punctuation or by a grammatical boundary, such as a phrase or clause. Medial caesurae (plural of caesura) can be found throughout contemporary poet Derek Walcott’s “The Bounty.” When the pause occurs toward the beginning or end of the line, it is termed, respectively, initial or terminal.” Caesura can be marked with this symbol ll (parallel lines) in the middle of the line, but according to literary terms it is not usually marked at all. Some famous lines evincing caesura are the “The Star-Spangeled Banner” lyrics “Oh, say can you see ll by the dawn’s early light…” Another example is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” “To be or not to be, ll that is the question.” A beautiful example of initial and terminal caesura can be found in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Mother and Poet.”

I hope you enjoy these posts. Thanks for stopping by and reading, and please feel free to post your own poetry in the comments if you feel inspired by the photographs. I always love reading other peoples perspective on “art”.

 

The Hairbag Poet

Photo by Donald who says, “Barbie sends in her archers.”

The Drones of War

The Drones ride in with their spiked wings.
Vengeance coats their metal tips.
Fairy Queens do not veil themselves in honey,
but ready themselves on the battlefield;
defeat absent from their vernacular.
No hive of arrows will incarcerate this fierce sprite.
With quiver mute, the Drones retreat.
Their return…cocksure!

The Hairbag Poet-The Fairy Wars

Hi and welcome to my Friday series The Hairbag Poet.

In the blogging world Fridays are known as Poetry Friday.  You can read about Poetry Friday here. I will plan on posting The Hairbag Poet each Friday.

You can read about the history of this series here.

Todays poem covers two poetic writing styles of repetition: anaphora and epistrophe (or epiphora). According to Poetry Foundation, anaphora “is the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines to create a sonic effect.” On the other hand, epiphora is when a word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses (Literary Devices, 2018).

I attempted to incorporate both into my poem today. Hopefully this Hairbag Poet got it right.

I hope you enjoy these posts. Thanks for stopping by and reading, and please feel free to post your own poetry in the comments if you feel inspired by the photographs. I always love reading other peoples perspective on “art”.

 

The Hairbag Poet

Photo by Donald. He says, “The barbies thought it was a good time to take the fairy stronghold. They were mistaken! And so the Fairy war began”

The Dolls of War lie prone in the sun soaked grass of a summer afternoon.
Tears cry for the fallen.
The Dolls of War espy the Fairy Queens triumph; hubris hangs in azalea’s fragrance.
Tears cry for the broken.
The Dolls of War rigored bodies prove victims of an indiscriminate battlefield reaper.
Tears cry for the wicked.

The Hairbag Poet-Space Sled

Hi and welcome to my Friday series The Hairbag Poet.

 

In the blogging world Fridays are known as Poetry Friday.  You can read about Poetry Friday here. I will plan on posting The Hairbag Poet each Friday.

You can read about the history of this series here.

Yikes, I know, I know, I have been MIA for quite some time now, but my grad school end of the year projects took up so much of my time, and to add insult to injury I decided to continue the craziness by taking an 8 week summer course.  I am a glutton for punishment. Now that school is finally out for the summer, we will be catching up with our winter aliens, but first we must catch up with our poetry, because as the Hairbag Poet, I still have so much to learn.

One thing I’ve realized about these alien characters, is what I’ve realized about most fictional characters we read about, which is, we tend to hypostatize them. For example, I have been living with Harry Potter in my house for years. My daughter has been pining to go to boarding school at Hogwarts, and waits patiently for her letter of invitation to shoot out of our fireplace. We often view our favorite characters as old friends, and believe in their existence. When Mulder and Scully of the X-Files came back on TV, it was like a high school reunion for me; we all looked a little older, but reveled in the good old days none the less.

This notion of truth in our fictional characters and stories is known as verisimilitude. Verisimilitude, according to the Poetry Foundation, is “the appearance of being true, or a likeness to truth.” It’s interesting to note that Veritaserum is Harry Potter’s magical potion of sodium pentathol. Ver, as you may or may not know, is the latin root word meaning truth or true. I think writers are often mixing truths or at least believable fiction into their writing, and we as readers love believing in them. I for one would not hesitate to touch the stones at Craigh na Dun to go back in time to meet the hunky, lovable, Scottish Highlander Jaime Fraser in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Believable fiction is what often brings us all together at the water cooler, pining over characters that don’t exist in real life. I guess we can all dream a little…

I hope you enjoy these posts. Thanks for stopping by and reading, and please feel free to post your own poetry in the comments if you feel inspired by the photographs. I always love reading other peoples perspective on “art”.

The Hairbag Poet

Photo by Donald who says, “The Alien tries the ways of these strange inhabitants.”

Space Sled

My offspring and I
are still stranded in Maine,
in this snowy cold land,
with its icy terrain.

We fear that the double clawed creatures
are spies,
Led by a cold, creepy
smoking old guy.

They’ve been lurking about
at the shore,
on the pier.
They’re tracking our movements
with high tech spy gear.

Our Wand of All Knowledge,
that’s fixed with a chip,
has picked up a message
from our mothership.

Our spacecraft is coming,
the rendezvous’ far,
so we hijacked this space sled,
like human, snow car.

Our Wand of All Knowledge
will guide our descent
down the snowy cold banks,
over frozen cement.

The spies sense our movement.
We see them approach.
We fasten the reigns
of our horseless sled coach.

They are closing in fast
on my offspring and I.
If only this red, plastic, chariot
could fly!

We zoom down the hill
icy spray coats our face
our sled gathers speed
at a breathtaking pace.

This Olympic like race
draws the smoking man near
in this steeplechase, face-to-face
tense atmosphere.

Our ship’s up ahead,
but the sled’s slowing down.
The angry clawed spies
begin making ground.

My offspring is caught,
clamped in double clawed jaws.
My Wand of All Knowledge
fires magnetopause.

The clawed beasts scream out,
releasing my offspring,
but smoking man grabs him
and locks him in coiling.

The Wand of All Knowledge
takes aim at this foe,
and blasts him 10 feet
into piles of snow.

I uncoil my offspring,
and remount my sled.
These humans are crazy!
They want us for dead.

Two miles to go.
The ships lights are in sight,
but ahead I am blinded
by two bright flashlights.

“Stop! FBI!”
Come two voices
quite dully
from the X-Files two agents
called Mulder and Scully.

“We’ve been to your ship,
and we know who you are,
and we’d like to assist you
back home to your star.”

My offspring and I
were relieved to find friends
on this hostile, cold planet
of clawed beasts and men.

“Greetings to you
Mr. Mulder, Ms. Scully,
your kindness is felt
in my three chambered zulli.”

“We’ve heard of your work,
and we plead you take care,
in your search of the truth,
for the truth is out there….”

“Now it’s time we depart
back to X-241,
to our planet Ogda,
that is warmed by one sun.”

“One day we’ll return,
but for now we’ll take leave,
but we want you to know
it’s ok to believe.”

X-Files, Mulder and Scully