Meat

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Meat.

That’s what I felt like today….not what I wanted for dinner but what I was made to feel like when I visited an eye specialist for a follow-up exam requested for me by my very own personable ophthalmologist. But from the moment I entered the office, I felt like “meat”. Not succulent, tender juicy meat but well aged, tough shoe-leather meat being processed as quickly and efficiently as possible to move me through the cattle chute from one technician to another for multiple tests and scans. Each procedure brought with it a different technician who pro-offered the required surface noises uttered to make me feel “valued” and cared for.

It didn’t work. I felt like meat. And I hated it. I was witnessing the streamlining of health care to produce the highest maximum income with the minimum amount of expended time and energy. So, a recap of this abysmal doctor appointment goes like this:

Appointment time 1:30PM. Upon entering the office there were two kiosk like check-in stations where patients are to “check in” which includes scanning your own ID and insurance card, a daunting task for the majority of the clientele who were mostly of the elderly variety.

40 minutes later I leave the waiting room and am taken to a small room for my first test. The technician who ushered me through this test was probably the best and most personable of all I encountered. He was instructive, encouraging, polite and actually treated me as a person.

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My next three encounters were with autonomous robots programmed to act like humans by asking superfluous questions like “How are you doing?” or “How is your day going?” as they checked machines and computers, obviously not interested in my answers to any of those questions.

One of my technicians was to check the pressure in my eyes and then dilate them. Prior to checking pressure, deadening drops are placed in your eyes. I am not sure what went wrong but when she went to check the pressure I actually felt my eye being touched which resulted in pain. I yelled. She apologized and put in more deadening drops (were the wrong drops used initially?). And then I waited as my vision got progressively worse from the dilation.

At 3:10 PM the doctor walked in and by 3:15 he was walking out of the exam room. 2 hours and 45 minutes of being processed as meat. At the end I felt like beef jerky for I certainly had been jerked around.

I am a nurse. And for over 40 years I have cared for patients with caring hands and heart. I have laughed and I have cried with them. I have resisted the move away from bedside nursing to the less personal push toward filling in the boxes on a computer screen. I know computer technology is necessary but still believe that human beings want, and yes need, a human experience particularly in illness when they are most vulnerable.

And I don’t think I am the only patient that has experienced the disconnect from health care professionals as the computer, high-tech world has embraced and become deeply embedded in increasing profitability. Only today, when I ushered a patient into a teaching cubicle to begin her diabetes education, she commented “What, there is no computer in here” and I seized the moment to assure her that we believe in “Humancare” and my computer charting would be done after our visit.

A soft hand to a fevered brow, a kind word of reassurance, the very connection with another human is still an essential part of a full and meaningful existence. Computers, automated systems and robots will never be able to replace the very human emotion of caring.

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Come From Away

The Last Column at Ground Zero – Inner steel column left after collapse of the South Tower on 9/11.

On a recent trip to visit family in New York, we enjoyed a Broadway Play entitled Come From Away. The story is a true one about a small town named Gander in Newfoundland Canada. And this story occurred on a memorable day for all Americans… 9/11. A date, a time, a tragic memory that scarred thousands of families around the world when terrorists plotted and succeeded in bringing down the World Trade Center in New York. These wonderful Ganderites, opened their city, their homes, their hearts to the nearly 7000 passengers who were whisk from the skies and plopped down in a small airport when all flights were grounded across the United States. It was a magnificent play that made me laugh and sob as I sat riveted in my chair for 1 hour and 40 minutes. And in that short time frame I relived the tragic moments of that fateful day.

The title of the play “Come From Away” refers to how we all came from somewhere at some time to be in some place. I did just that when I stepped onto an airplane and traversed half way across America to visit granddaughters and daughters for a lovely “girls extended weekend”. Each of us does this many times in our lives and hopefully at the end of each journey we are welcomed with open arms by the people we love and befriended by the locals that we meet as we ask directions or seek advice.

Set of Come From Away play

From the JFK airport to my granddaughter’s apartment in Brooklyn, our Uber driver answered our questions and got us safely to our destination. He was a refugee from Albania and had lived in Italy for part of his life and spoke Italian, Albanian, English and a little Spanish. He arrived here seeking a better life, safety and hopefully he was befriended along his journey. He came from “Away”. My own granddaughters came from “Away” when they moved to Australia for ten years and moved again to live in New York pursuing careers and college educations. And hopefully they were welcomed at the end of their journey.

The refugee children being held in internment camps came from “Away” seeking refuge from gangs, abuse and terror but unfortunately for them, their end journey wasn’t as pleasant. What made the difference in their journey from all the others before? What makes them different from the Chinese immigrants that helped forge the railroads that traversed America and opened remote areas to easier settlement; or the Irish who helped build our cities into the manufacturing meccas of today; or the Hispanics who toil in our meat-packing plants or harvest the food that feeds us daily; or the Africans that were spirited away from their own homeland and made slaves. All of these “Aways” took the jobs most Americans spurn. And most have been met with derision by the white population, themselves “Aways” from English persecution two centuries ago. Why does the color of ones skin or our heritage define the hierarchy in our society? It shouldn’t, but for some it does.

The falling of the twin towers took the lives of many “Aways” from all countries across the world. People in large cities, rural country farms, distance places, all united on that fateful day because of adversity. The color of your skin didn’t matter when you were being rescued by the firefighter. The police and rescue squads who rushed headlong into the burning buildings didn’t stop to think about who they were rescuing. They were helping humans, just plain people who were living their lives uneventfully until that horrible moment in time when everything changed.

How different things might be in our world today if we all just accepted each other as “just humans”. If we could take away the labels, squash the perceived differences, and live more like the Ganderites on those fateful few days, then perhaps we could relieve the tensions that seem to be dividing our nation at this tenacious time in American history.

After all…we are all “Aways” somewhere.

 

Auto-Pilot

There was a time before computers when an airline pilot actually made all the decisions, pushed all the buttons and levers that lifted an airplane from earthly bonds to soar through the skies to distance places and with skillful precision land safely at its designated destination. Before computers human error caused most accidents whether on land, air or sea. Back then, I measured the skill of my airplane captain by the grey hair on his temples, the swagger of his gait or the well-tailored cut of his uniform. I was placing my life into those hands and I was seeking some measure of comfort. Back then I hadn’t flown a lot and I was young and perhaps fearful of what I had no control over. Basically I had to learn to trust.

Fast forward to today. Computers do most of the navigating of airplanes. I’ve flown many times and am at a point in my life where my trust is based less on emotions and more on statistical facts. In a very old detective show called Dragnet, the lead character, Sergeant Joe Friday, was prone to say “Just the facts ma’am”. Facts and truth are comforting, they form a base that is solid, enduring and can be trusted. And that is what I now think we are all seeking in a much divided and torn America.

For all of my adult years, I have always gone to bed at night trusting that at the helm of our nation, the Captain of our ship was up to the job…knowledgeable, informed, dedicated to protect and defend me against all adversaries foreign and domestic. Those days are long gone and for the past 2 years I awaken each morning and check to see what madness may have occurred while I was sleeping, what tweet has perhaps threatened my existence.

With the new revelation that our illegitimate mob boss Pres has, unbeknownst to him, staff scurrying around removing papers from his desk, editing any information he sees, feeding him only small doses of censored material because they are fearful of what he may do that could harm America, I am afraid. Whoever these people are, they were not elected nor do I know their qualifications. So we have mysterious unknowns running a shadow government protecting us from the Captain of our ship. This does not instill trust. Our government is basically running on auto pilot right now. Who will step up and take the controls when, not if, a major catastrophe occurs? We are rudderless. Surely somewhere within the bowels of an inept Congress there might be one patriot, one brave soul who may bring our ship safely home by being the catalyst for the expulsion of the worst excuse for a president our country has ever endured.

May God bless America, watch over us and keep us safe because we are drifting, drifting, drifting with no one at the helm.

 

Exhaustion

I’m tired. Mentally, physically and emotionally. Being tired is a relatively common occurrence and to be expected throughout life based on the busyness of our day, how hard we partied the night before, or from the burdens of juggling a busy life in an attempt to be everything for everyone. Tired can be a rewarding feeling, the result of a job well done. Being “busy” can be an emotional escape from the painful things that disturb our existence…a busyness that leaves us at the end of a day dropping into an exhausted sleep and there to hopefully recharge our battery to be armed for another day.

America has been assaulted for the past two years and beaten into a state of exhaustion as we have watched the “norms” of the Presidency be reduced to a heap of ashes. As I watched the stately and solemn tributes being paid to a true American hero, I found myself weeping for what America has lost. Many times I didn’t agree with John McCain’s position, his hawkish nature, but my admiration of the man and what he stood for, the life he lived doing what he truly believed was right, was an honorable one. What a stark contrast from the self-centered egotistical narcissistic child currently playing grownup in the People’s House. This man-child, who everyday demonstrates his inadequacies and ignorance about basic civic and judicial knowledge, is putting every American at home and abroad at risk.

And then bombshell after bombshell explodes exposing just how unstable this corrupt president is as Bob Woodward’s new book Fear is released and an anonymous source in the New York Times op/ed page trumpets there is an undercover coupe in place within the White House…staff that scurry around trying to secret from the American public just how broken this administration is. For a long time now I have considered anyone who continues to support and facilitate this unhinged corrupt grifter family as being complicit in the craziness and danger that is the whirling dervish encompassing America today. History will not be kind to them.

November is rapidly approaching and if you value some of the basic freedoms of a democracy, then vote! Freedoms that encompass things like being free to love who one chooses, freedom that believes and supports the equality of each person no matter race, color, creed, freedom to enjoy clean air and water, freedom for women to have a choice about what happens to their own bodies. Help register people to vote, drive people to the polls, vote early, vote as if your life depends upon it because it very well may be a life and death issue for many American citizens.

Swamp Things

Mr. Gator

I love swamps. I have traversed various swamps in my day and in each one I enjoyed the beauty of Bald Cypress trees, Tupelo trees, Spanish moss, water lilies, and the slow moving murky waters where a submerged tree stump might be a lurking alligator awaiting his next meal. Best of all though are the magnificent birds that inhabit these scary but beautiful places. Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Herons, Night Herons, Vultures, Osprey, Anhinga to name a few.

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Anhinga

I’ve been in canoes and air boats and no matter what the vehicle, I find these moments with nature to be restorative. They help me remember the permanence of time…how things continue even in adversity, recover from blows that seem to knock the wind from sails only to grow stronger and more beautiful from it all. Forest fires are devastating but the burn gives rise to new growth. A hurricane, tornado or any of the major disasters wipe clean and when the rebuilding comes, it may be superior in many ways.

I’ve only experienced one swamp that I didn’t like, one swamp that made me fearful, unsure of survival. A swamp inhabited by bottom sucking leeches and loathsome creatures that cared naught for the beauty of nature, or clean water or clean air, or the well-being of all who inhabited that piece of real estate. And yes…that swamp is the infamous cesspool that has grown and blossomed like a red tide bringing hardship and adversity to all who abide in America. I don’t believe that all of Washington DC is a swamp, but I certainly do believe that the tRump administration has transformed the People’s House, the White House into a swamp of unimaginable horror.  I’ve watched environmental regulations and animal protections wiped carelessly away, the corruption and misuse of our money, your money, the people’s money being squandered frivolously all to fulfill the whim of unscrupulous appointees.

Swamps tend to be self nurturing…an ecosystem that repairs and fixes itself to restore a natural balance that keeps it healthy. I had hopes that my fears were unjustified and that the men and women of the tRump administration would rise beyond their greed and truly devote themselves to protecting and defending all the good that America personifies. But I have waited in vain. I know that the only cure for the decisiveness that has permeated America today is the sweeping of that giant blue tsunami across America this November. Vote the swamp things out of Congress or in tRump’s words “Drain the Swamp!”

 

 

Bake the Bag

Recently I received an email from King Arthur Flour about a challenge they were promoting called Bake the Bag. The challenge lasts for 9 weeks and the object is to bake an entire bag of their White Whole Wheat Flour over a 9 week period. Of course I decided to accept the challenge!

Best Banana Nut Bread ever!

First up was a recipe for Banana Nut Bread which admittedly is not my favorite food item on the planet but since I needed some ripe bananas, I purchased those and moved to the 2nd week challenge of Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe more to my liking. It wasn’t a complicated recipe and the end result was not as good as anticipated. The cook time was off for me even though my oven temp is accurate according to an oven thermometer. So this recipe was a bust for me and all recipes that receive that rating travel promptly to the trash can. I’ll stick to the Toll House recipe on the package of Nestle’s chocolate chips in the future.

The bananas finally ripened enough and as I type this, I can smell the aroma wafting from my kitchen. This recipe had an option of adding chocolate chips or butterscotch chips to the batter. Well, I had peanut butter chips and decided that peanut butter and banana is a favorite food group so in they went.

Delicious, delicious, delicious!!! And this from a person who really doesn’t like banana nut bread.

Next up were Brownies and they certainly didn’t disappoint. From scratch, dark chocolate fudgy goodness that was definitely worthy of being a keeper recipe.

Last Monday I cranked out the weekly challenge of Sticky Buns! And they were extremely good. The only change I would make next time would be to use a brioche or sweet dough using bread flour rather than the white whole wheat flour.

I am enjoying the weekly challenges in “Bake the Bag”. Check it out on the King Arthur Flour web site  https://www.kingarthurflour.com/bake-the-bag/  if you might be interested. Next up…Carrot Cake! My favorite!!!