2009 - My Year In Review


“Should old acquaintance be forgot / and never brought to mind? / Should old acquaintance be forgot / and days auld lang syne?” What does this mean? I'm thinking that the question is... Should you forget old friends and days gone by?

I don't think so.

Today, I am affording myself time to reflect on the past year and document the days that have gone by and the friends with whom those days have been spent. In the past, I have been known to write one of those "Year in Review" letters and post them with my Christmas Cards, but this year, I failed to send any Christmas cards - so there you go.

In 2009, I’ve had my fair share of ‘ups and downs’ (mostly ups) and although January begins with a real downer…bear with me – the year gets better.

January:Our brother, Terry died. He was the eldest in our family of four kids and chose to end his lengthy battle with kidney disease and diabetes by not continuing with dialysis. A brave decision supported by his doctors, nurses, family and friends. We were with him until he took his last breath. YouTube: Remembering Terry ...

The following letter was written to my brother, sister and I from Amelia, our 6 year old cousin on the morning after Terry passed away. Her parents, Kirk and Karen were Terry's support system as he lived so far away from us and I will forever be grateful to them for their love and compassion towards him and for embracing us as we arrived to be with him during his last few days on earth.

It has been my experience that during the worst of times, I am struck by the consistency of friends and family who are always there through thick and thin. Thank you Doug, Kathy, Bob, Eugene, Mo, Karen, Kirk, Madonna, Carrie, Jackie, Gate, my brother Vic and sister Bobbie. I am so incredibly fortunate to have you all in my life.

February:I worked. A lot. Knowing that work-a-hol-ism is my way of (not) coping. My sweet husband (and shrink), Doug knew that it was time to plan a trip.

March:Kicking and screaming, we drove to Port Aransas, Texas. A way, laid-back beach community located on the Gulf of Texas. Flip flops, no make up, shorts and sweats were the order of the day. We would park ourselves under beach umbrellas until dusk where I would cry from time to time, reflecting on the loss of my big brother and talk about ‘feelings’ with my best friend. It was a healthy thing to do and I thank my husband for his insight.

April:Several years ago, I produced a video. It’s called “Infant Emergencies and CPR…When You Least Expect It”. It still sells on amazon.com but I’m not quite sure why - as it is only available in VHS. Anyway, during the production, I was given the opportunity to do a “voiceover” in a sound studio. I was hooked. In April, I started taking voice-over classes and I have really enjoyed it. I’m thinking I should audition for a volunteer agency that creates audiobooks for the blind.

Check out Doug's YouTube video of our trip...Paris and London 2009. The first week, Doug and I toured Paris alone, then we met up with his sister, brother-in-law and brother in London. We had a blast.

June:I pursued my dream to become a writer. I became a blogger. So far I've had just over 2000 hits and despite the fact that most of my fan-base has been unabashedly solicited, I have 27 fans and 9 followers! Woo Hoo!

Erma Bombeck once said ... "There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, 'Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams.' Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they're still there. These are great dreams, but they never even get out of the box."

Through my blog, one of my dreams has escaped that box. I wonder what other dream will make its way out of the box in 2010? Are you willing to put your dream out there?

Do You Believe in Miracles?


If someone had told me when I first began my career as a critical care nurse that “miracles happen”, my science-based training would have made me doubt their legitimacy. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had an open mind to possibilities, (but not so open that my brains fall out) coupled with healthy respect for fact.

Mike F. introduced me to my first miracle. It was in the early eighties and he was a thirty-something, critically ill patient. Married to Debbie, with two young children, he had endstage cardiomyopathy. This is a disease process where the heart becomes enlarged and weak. Very little could be done for him (with the exception of a heart transplant). Anti-rejection drugs were non-existent at that time and transplants were rarely attempted.

On this particular night, Mike was dying. His cardiologist arrived, examined him, spoke with his family, then simply noted in Mike’s chart…“Death is imminent.”

I encouraged his family to be with him as I was certain this would be Mike’s last night. Mike’s parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins came to the hospital and then the prayer vigil began. I had never before seen anything like it. Holding hands, encircling Mike’s bed, the family prayed quietly throughout the night. When I would enter his dimly lit room to administer care, the reverence and peace inside was nearly palpable. Family members would relieve one another during the vigil but the prayer circle remained unbroken until daybreak. It was with a heavy heart that I left the hospital that morning.

A few days later, I returned for my scheduled shift. Miraculously, Mike’s condition had improved. My colleagues had reported that the prayer vigil had lasted until the following evening when the cardiologist revisited Mike and noted “ a miracle happened” in his chart.

It was a year later when I was at the mall and immediately recognized Debbie (Mike’s wife) walking hand in hand with a tall red-headed man. I approached her somewhat cautiously as I suspected Mike had died and that she was now in a new relationship. You could have blown me over with a feather when the man, grinning broadly, extended out his arms for a hug and said “What am I?” It was Mike! He looked so good that I truly didn’t recognize him.

It was a thrill seeing them both again and learning that Mike’s cardiomyopathy had completely reversed. His heart was healthy again. Scientifically impossible. That being said , I feel confident to say …”miracles happen”.

The Annual Cookie Exchange


Each year at Holiday Time, Lori & Jeni host an annual Christmas cookie exchange for their friends and acquaintances. The lure, you may ask? A signature martini (or two), wonderful appetizers and the opportunity to see everyone again..

So, our instructions are to bake six dozen of the same cookies. Then we are to divide them up into three separate containers and take them to the party! Voila! Sounds easy enough, but when you’re not much of a cookie-baker (see Hello Cupcake!) the assignment is daunting.

Kathy (see friend) and I attend this event faithfully every year and really enjoy seeing every one again, but cookie-bakers – we’re not.

The first year of the exchange, Kathy politely asked if she could bring cake (hoping to pick three cakes up on the way to the party)… “No, we want cookies” was the cookie exchange hostesses response.

The second year of the exchange, Kathy asked if she could bring meat… “No, we want cookies.” the inflexible cookie exchange hostesses said.
The third year we put our heads together and called a bakery. Our instructions were clear… “Please place the cookies in unmarked packages” We were busted at the cookie exchange when someone noticed the teensy gold bakery sticker on the inside of the box.

The fourth year, we bribed a cookie-baking friend to complete our assignment for us. Maryanne would have gladly done it without the bribe but we didn’t feel right about that so Kathy repaid her with a lasagna casserole and I, with a pot roast.

This year, I will not be able to attend but next year I have a ‘no-bake’ cookie recipe that I plan on using. It just requires assembly.

"Burger Cookies"

Parkland 9: Medicine ER


This may not be Parkland's Medicine ER - but it sure looks a whole lot like it

Imagine a place with no windows, whitish-gray walls and fluorescent lighting to match the pale environment. Now, add more sick people than you have space for – all stretcher spaces occupied so treatment is frequently administered ‘chairside’. Include the incessant cacophony of people wretching, cursing and howling in pain. Layer that with the shrill sounds of various monitor alarms, telephones ringing, call lights being activated and overhead pages. Include the constant staff discourse, debates and dialogues in this equation. You're in Parkland’s Medicine Pit

In the 80’s, “Medicine” was home to anything that didn’t fall into the other Parkland ER Specialties. The chief complaints were varied and frequently complex and you could bet that diabetes was involved. Cardiac patients within hand-holding distance of a drug overdoses, next to AIDS patients beside TB patients. The numbers of patients seemed endless and prioritization of care was paramount.

Medicine was staffed with three (or four if you were lucky) nurses, one PCA (Patient Care Assistant) and one Unit Clerk.

I learned early on that with as many very sick people that we had to treat, doctors who attempted to ‘bark’ orders to nurses were deemed unacceptable. It was not uncommon for a nurse to tell a doctor to “get it yourself” when the request was non-emergent. And they did. The more clever doctors were respectful towards the nurses and their role.

I also learned to appreciate the tone of three very different cries. The cry of pain, the cry of despair or grief and the cry for attention.

It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun but, for a young, enthusiastic ER nurse – Medicine was a challenging and interesting beast to tame.

Salvation Army Bell-Ringers


You’ve really got to hand it to those Salvation Army Bell Ringers.

When I was growing up, we would call them “The Sally Ann” and would see them all 'duded up' in their military outfits and joyously ringing their bell (overhead) at Christmastime in hopes of a little spare change for their kettle. Positioning themselves outside of supermarkets and on busy street corners for hours in the cold of winter to drum up a little cash for the poor. They would have broad smiles on their faces and would occasionally burst out in song. It was really something. They were respected for their faith and fortitude. So, what happened to the bell ringers of yore?

Today, our neighborhood Salvation Army Bell Ringers appear as though they could care less if you contributed or not. No eye contact, no broad smiles, no spiffy paramilitary uniform, bell ringing kept below the waist and if they broke out in song, I’m certain someone would call 911.

Quietly, standing in their designated spot with just a red kettle and a bell. I’m thinking that many of them do not speak English and are hired from the local day-labor site - I could be wrong but I call 'em as I see 'em. This is just another sign of the times as it appears as though the bell ringers could use a little ($) help as well. These are not our mother’s Salvation Army Bell-Ringers but I can’t bear to walk past them without giving a few coins as The Salvation Army always shows up for humanity.

Known for their help with the poor, homeless and destitute I was unaware that they also dedicate themselves to prisoner rehabilitations, fighting human trafficking and have a division dedicated to loneliness called “The League of Mercy”. Who knew?

Addendum: 12/14/09 - I learned something new every day and today it came from my friend, Lisa... "Sometimes the bell ringers don't look so happy because they are fulfilling community service hours. I knew someone that had to ring the bell after he was arrested as part of his sentence."

Ahhhhh. It's all coming together now....I guess that could explain the lack of eye contact.

A Salvation Army History Lesson ...
For those of you, like me who wonder, “why military?”… a little history… In 1865, William Booth (founder of The Salvation Army) held evangelistic meetings in the East End of London. Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts. Many churches, however, did not accept Booth's followers because of their jaded pasts. So Booth continued giving his new converts spiritual direction, challenging them to save others like themselves and calling them “Salvationists”. (I'm guessing the military uniforms really helped with self-esteem)

Booth was reading a printer's proof of the 1878 annual report when he noticed the statement "The Christian Mission is a volunteer army." Crossing out the words "volunteer army," he penned in "Salvation Army” and his mission then followed a military model of leadership. http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/ ______________________________________________________

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...


Tree #1 - Living Room

Every year I would dutifully decorate our Christmas tree, hang a little garland here and there and presto! Christmas at The Spotswoods.

Tree #2 - Family Room

Then I met my cousin's cousin, Deb. Does that make her my cousin? The jury is still out on that one but she and her husband are a lovely couple and have subsequently become good friends.

Deb is a Christmasmaniac with SEVEN fully decorated trees in her house, nativity scenes galore - amidst more decorative versions of pine boughs, holly and poinsettias than I knew existed. So I recruited her to help me spruce up the place for the holidays... 12 hours later, I wound up with 3 fully decorated trees and several holiday 'arrangements'. Wow.

Tree #3 - KitchenDuke-mas

Paranoid in South America

Anticipating travel to South America was both exciting and scary. Admittedly, reports of muggings, kidnappings and police corruption go...