Pet Funeral

This past weekend my family held its first ever pet funeral.  A touching homage to Crystal, my daughters newly acquired Chinese fighting fish.  (If ever there was a reason not to give a kid a fish as a party favor, this would be it…fish die…more than they live.)  Crystal came to us, one of three fish (one for each of my children), as a birthday party ‘goody bag’.  Equipped with her own little fishbowl and a colorful, gravely carpet, she seemed like the perfect accessory for my seven-year old little girl.  As a bonus, on the way out of the pet store party place, one of the employees informed my daughter she had inadvertently received a beta fish, (worth more money), and was told the fish would live for at least ten years.  My daughter is the kind of kid who takes information, squirrels it away for a rainy day, and then uses it to her advantage when the time arises. (I’m thinking law school might be in her future.)

So it came as quite a surprise when Crystal turned up dead in her bowl thirteen days later; cause of death: unknown.  Thankfully for me, Crystal was a D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), so my fish lip pucker wasn’t required.  After having a forensic review with the children, we were completely unable to come up with any evidence as to what or who may have killed our new family member.  The water was clean, there was food in the bowl, everyone in the family had an alibi that night (we were all sleeping), and so it remains a mystery.  My daughter, however, recalled quite clearly her fishes ten-year life expectancy, and is now gunning for the kid at the pet store.

I had to remind her that in times of grief it’s not unusual to want to bestow blame or anger on someone else.  I encouraged her to express her feelings and get it all out.  What I didn’t expect was my four-year olds reaction when he learned of Crystal’s untimely end.  The tears came freely for him, and I returned his grief with hugs and kisses.  So much for a toilet flush funeral, it was obvious we were going to have to go all out for our gal Crystal; it was time to open: The Pet Cemetery.

My kids have been to a pet cemetery before, (No, not the Stephen King kind), a local one at an old manor house along the Hudson River.  It is a peaceful place in the woods where several of the owners of the house had buried their beloved pets, and carved touching epitaphs honoring their memories.

My children rallied together, a band of broken hearts, with their shovels, rakes and picks, and got to work locating a beautiful spot adjacent to the woods, under a big oak tree, bordering the edge of our property.  They dug a shallow grave, collected branches of softly changing leaves, and picked flowers growing wildly in the yard.  A tombstone was chosen; it was grand and coated in delicate green moss; old worldly, and elegant, propped against the tree, it marked the final resting place of our fish Crystal.

When all the preparations were finalized, the children summoned my husband and me to the site of interment, where each of us were directed to say something positive about our too short-lived fish family member.  We closed with a Hail Mary, gently dropped the fresh dug earth back onto the fish, and encased her tomb with a crimson coat of leaves and flowers.

Tears were wiped, and a reception followed in the kitchen; all in all a beautiful ceremony.

And so it begins, our children’s introduction to death, but also their instinctual need to bury their dead with dignity and respect, for life IS precious, even if you are just a fish.


Today I woke up and found Ember, my oldest son’s fish, dead at the bottom of his bowl.

I think we might have a serial killer in the house!

Cupcake Wars; Battling Childhood Obesity One Cupcake At a Time

Spider Halloween Cupcakes by Jean James

Why is it that when America has a problem with something their only solution is declare war on it?  There’s the war on drugs, the war on guns, the war on terror, the war on women, the war on Christmas, the war on cancer, the war on job creation, the war on marriage, the war on free speech, the war on war, the war on ethics, the war on working moms, the war on murder, the war on success, the war on sugary drinks, the war on fossil fuels, the war on soda, the war on obesity and therefore the war on cupcakes.  There are so many wars going on, I’m having a hard time keeping it all straight in my head.  Maybe there should be a war on declaring war on everything!  Just saying…

So back in 2010 the Obama administration signed into law the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HH-FKA).  This was enacted to battle both hunger and childhood obesity by presenting guidelines to improve the nutritious value of school lunches, while concurrently providing accessibility to lunch programs for children who were otherwise going to school hungry.  At the helm of the battleship USS Fat and Hungry Kids, is our effervescent First Lady, Michele Obama.  I applaud her efforts for drawing national awareness to a distended obesity crisis among children, teenagers, and adults.  But as a nurse, and a bit of cynic, I also realize that the obesity epidemic is costing the U.S. government approximately 3 billion dollars a year for those children covered under Medicaid, and about 11 billion dollars a year for those privately insured.  So when big money is at stake, it’s no wonder we have to declare war on something.  And that something right now is the cupcake.

Because of this new HH-FKA law, I received a notice home from my children’s elementary school principal  informing me that the time-honored tradition of bringing in cupcakes for your kid’s birthday party at school was being eliminated.  In lieu of cupcakes the notice recommended bringing in  “goodie bags”.   It seems our principal is going all Mayor Bloomberg on our kids big, fat asses, and has decided (along with the Federal Government), that they’ve had one cupcake too many.  I have to tell you that I received this notice on the same day I picked up my kids from school, and was slammed in the face by the odor of bacon wafting down the hallway from the cafeteria…you know bacon, the other white fat!

Now I don’t know about you, but I love making cupcakes for my kid’s birthday parties at school.  Two of them have birthdays in the fall, which gives me a whole lot of creativity time making Halloween themed spooky masterpieces.  The kids mostly love to look at the cupcake designs, eat the frosting off the top, and throw the rest of the cupcake in the garbage, so I’m pretty sure the caloric intake isn’t as high as the government might think.  The goodie bags, on the other hand, are mostly filled with candy (100% ingestion rate guaranteed) and or landfill crap (cheap toys imported from China probably coated in toxic lead levels).

Look, I get it, childhood obesity is ever-expanding, but I don’t need the President, the Mayor, or my school principal telling me what I can or cannot feed my kids.  We need to look a little deeper, beyond the batter and frosting, outside the schoolyard grounds, far, far away from the White House lawn, and into the windows of the kitchens of the culprits of the cause of the obese children.  If you’re a parent that means you!

17% of children and adolescents 2-19 years old are obese in this country.  If one parent is obese then their child has a 50% chance of being obese, if both parents are obese, that risk goes to 80%. It is the personal responsibility of parents to  provide an environment of health at home for themselves and their children.  I’m a parent, I’m not obese.  I exercise regularly, I eat right, and once in a while I like to enjoy a cupcake.  This problem of obesity is self-induced and self-indulgent.  Most people are quiet aware that they are overweight.  But try telling someone they can’t have something, and all you do is make them want it more.

America has not won one war it has declared war on.  We still have a drug problem, there are way too many guns on the street, the terrorists keep terrorizing us, people are still dying from cancer, and fat people keep getting fatter.  Government intervention is never the solution to solving personal problems.  Banning cupcakes from school isn’t going to make any child thinner.

This problems run deep in the psyche of Americans.  Somewhere in the last twenty years kids stopped being kids.  Playing video games won out to playing kick the can.  Paranoia won out to trusting that kids could play outside with their friends, and if as a parent you’re so worried about them being abducted, then get YOUR fat ass off the couch and go play with them!  We’ve become a nation of instant gratification and reward.  Had a hard day…I deserve a drink; boyfriend broke up with you, have a pint of Haagen-Dazs, kid throwing a temper tantrum, give him a cookie to shut him up.  Life isn’t easy, but  we don’t have to have a treat every time the going gets tough.

I worry about the weakness of overindulgent Americans, but I worry more about our weakness to stand up and keep big brother’s hands out of our cookie jars.

Wednesday’s Weakest Link

Weak Link by Jean James

Weak Link by Jean James

Ok I know Wednesday has come and gone, but I’m on vacation with my family, so writing has become incredibly difficult.  All those damn kids want to do is swim and play and eat and run around.  Those conditions are not very condusive for my computer.  So I have a quick minute to update my Wednesday’s Weakest Link.

My past week of training has improved.  I managed to upgrade from the trail to the street, which I have found to be way more difficult, but most of my running in Oregon will be on the street.

I just had my first meeting with the group of people I’ll be running with.  They all seem cool.  They better be, I have to live in a van with complete strangers at my smelliest;  best to have a good sense of humor.  I’ve been given my assigned legs of the race, and for the most part I’ve lucked out.  Two of the three legs are looking good, but there’s one leg I’m afraid is going to either make me or break me.

My middle leg is 6.8 miles long, is rated as hard and has a one mile uphill grade at the beginning.  Oh yeah and did I mention I’ll be doing this at night.  The only thing I have working in my favor is the many years I’ve spent up all night as a nurse working the late shift.  Although at least then I could take a nap.

So far my max run has been 5 miles, so I really have to kick it up a notch this week and try for 6.  I’m also eating like shit since I’m on vacation and I’m eating out every meal.  Today was the first day I even ate a piece of fruit.  I am, however, doing a lot of swimming with the kids so I guess that’s something.

I was told at my runner’s group meeting that I have to provide my own energy stuff.  Any suggestions would be helpful.  Someone mentioned something called ‘goo’?  I don’t have a clue.  Also any suggestions for energy bars would be helpful too.  Because we are living out of these vans, food needs to be non-perishable.  Things like peanut butter, beef jerky and salami were mentioned as possible grocery list items.  If I had to run on a belly full of salami I just might puke my way to the finish line.  I have a funny feeling I’m going to come home a few pounds lighter.

The night after my runners meeting, I ended up going out to the Bryant Park Cafe in NYC for dinner.  The food was amazing.  They happened to have the Quinoa on the menu, but after that ‘dirt’ comment, I chickened out and got the Bronzino instead.  I’m sure I made the right decision.  But I’m not counting it out, just building up the courage.

Wednesday’s Weakest Link

Weak Link by Jean James

Weak Link by Jean James

Forgive me trail for I have sinned. it has been one week since my last running session.  It’s 30 days to race time, and I’m so behind schedule.  Trying to find time for a run this past week has been next to impossible, and I fear I will pay for my slacker behavior.  Damn those three kids, weekly camps, job, and P.M.S.; a perfect storm of tired and I got sucked right into the eye.  I’m not sure how a week slipped past and I only made it to the trail once.  On the bright side, I did manage to get that chocolate bar I was complaining about last week.

Along with some advice I got on my last article, I’ve also been watching all the olympic prep this week, and twice in one week Quinoa (pronounced Kin-wa)was mentioned, so I’ve decided to throw it into my diet.  It’s a grain containing amino acids, lysine, calcium, phosphorus and iron, and is closely related to the tumbleweed.  And since I’ve been feeling a bit like a tumbleweed myself lately, this might just be the perfect food for me.

This week I’ve decided to kick it up a notch and make a running schedule and more importantly, stick to it.  Maybe this way I’ll manage to run more than once a week.  And since I’ve booked my flight to Oregon, there’s really no turning back.

So wish me luck in achieving my goals this week.  Any motivational advice would always be appreciated.

Happy Running!

Friday Funnies: Calling All Nurses!

U.S. Nurses playing cards, reading, and relaxing circa 1918.  U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command Photo.

U.S. Nurses playing cards, reading, and relaxing circa 1918. U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command Photo.



Something magical happens when nurses get together to share stories so funny they make us pee in our pants, double over in stitches, and send tears streaming down our face, as we release the tension of caring for some pretty f’d-up patients.  I have experienced this kind of laughter over the years and it’s like a great orgasm: deep, rich, and leaving you wanting more.

With that said, I would like to invite my fellow nurse readers (if I have any) to submit your funniest story, or one you’ve heard and think is worthy of retelling.  Each and every Friday I would like to post these stories to the ‘Friday Funnies’.  You can publish your story under your own name, your nom de plume, or remain anonymous. I’ll fill in my own stories if I don’t have any friday guest authors.

The only thing I ask is that you abide by the HIPPA laws, and use your artistic license to change any part of your story that might identify someone.

You can send your submissions to

Happy story telling!

Wednesday’s Weakest Link

Weak Link by Jean James

Weak Link by Jean James

Attention all runners, I need help!!  I was invited to join a relay race team to run in the 31st annual Hood to Coast relay race in Oregon at the end of August.  The Hood to Coast relay race is the largest relay race in the world.  The course is 199 miles long with 1050 teams of 12 runners.  The first race started in 1982, and its popularity has grown exponentially.  I guess that’s how I’m now somehow involved.

I like to consider myself a social exerciser.  I don’t compete, and my only real challenge is getting out of bed to make it to the gym.  I’ve never run a race in my life, okay except for field day, but that really shouldn’t count.  I’m the last person to join the team, as they were down a man, and my friend interjected on my behalf.  From what I can gather, I’m sure I’m the weakest link.

I’ll be running with a lot of overachievers.  The team captain will be competing in the NYC Ironman just prior to this race, so you can imagine what I’m up against.  I only have 38 days left to race time and I have to be able to comfortably run up to seven miles.  However, I don’t find anything comfortable about the term seven miles.

So, it’s training time, and this is where I need your help.  I’m fortunate to live in a place with a great outdoor trail.  The problem is, it’s 100 degrees everyday, I have no clue what to eat before I run, and with three young kids I’m already bordering on exhaustion.

I feel like it’s me against the trail and the trail is winning.  I head out determined to run five miles without stopping, but that trail’s a siren calling me in from the shadeless pavement, with her benches and rest areas.  Just a quick break I tell myself, a few sips of water, then feet to the street.  I know there’s no stopping in the real race.  I know this, yet I’m lured in any way.

It doesn’t help that I’m both hungry and tired all the time.  I’m hoping it’s anemia, at least there’s a cure for that, but I’m still waiting on my blood results.   So I need a plan to boost my energy, improve my diet, and help me with tips on how to run farther without running out of steam.

I’m pleading to the runners, nutritionists, health nuts, and anyone else out there with advice to offer.  I don’t want to let my team down.  I don’t want to be the weakest link.

I plan on keeping this Wednesday journal from now until I finish the race, keeping you updated on my progress and hopefully having you update me on what it takes to run a successful race.

This week I cheated on my trail with the gym.  I ran three miles on the indoor track (without stopping) and did 1.6 miles on the Stairmaster (I’m sure this doesn’t count).  I’m PMS, cranky and tired this week.  It makes running extremely difficult when you can’t breathe, your boobs hurt and you really don’t give a shit about any upcoming race.  My only objective this week is to restock my fridge with extra dark Lindt chocolate bars or I might rip someone’s face off.

See, I told you I need help!

This Really Burns Me Up!

Courtesy of Jesse Michener at

Courtesy of Jesse Michener at

Two sisters from a Washington state school suffered severe sun burn during their field day festivities due to a ridiculous policy that states sunscreen cannot be applied to children at school; it is considered a “medication”.  Only California allows children to bring sunscreen to school.  The school district forbids teachers from applying sunscreen to children for obvious reasons, but refuses to allow the children to block themselves because sunscreen use requires a physician’s prescription.  What??!!

My two kids recently had field day and I got a notice home saying the exact same thing.  I could apply sunscreen to my children before leaving for school, but any reapplication would not be available for them should their initial block wear off.  So rather than protect the children from obvious dangerous exposure to the sun (one liability), they would rather cover their own assess by doing nothing (an even worse liability).

So tell me, why do we have school nurses?  I understand not wanting teachers to reapply the sunscreen and I absolutely agree with that, but if a child is burning and is in need of medical care, isn’t it the responsibility of the school nurse to intervene at that moment.  Where was this Tacoma WA. school nurse at anyway?  And even if the nurse can’t reapply sunscreen, shouldn’t her judgement come into play here and remove the children from the unsafe environment.

I can’t tell you how many notes I get home during the school year to give my permission for the most ridiculous things, you would think perhaps that on field day schools might make it a policy to have parents sign a permission slip allowing the school nurse to reapply sunscreen in the event that their child was starting to bubble up like a hot tar blister?  Call me crazy but this country is so obsessed with liability that we feel more comfortable with apathy.

Why is it that one state out of fifty has managed to find a solution to this problem, but 49 states still have their thumb up their ass?  I understand children have a lot of allergies, got it, but if the parents are sending in a labeled bottle of sunscreen that they always use on their child, then I’m not sure I see what the big deal is.

Again, doing nothing to protect children in a dangerous situation is more of a crime to me than acting in their best interest.  Field day should be a day for tears of joy and fun and laughter, not a day for tears of pain and trips to the Emergency room.  Thankfully these girls are healing from their burns, but what will their future hold?  According to it only takes one blistering sunburn to more than double their risk of melanoma later in life.

I wonder how many cumulative years of graduate degrees were on that field, yet no one was smart enough to take the children out of the sun?