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Writing More Personal Stories

While it was time consuming, I loved doing the April Alphabet Challenge A to Z. It got me writing new stories, released memories I had forgotten and expanded my writing skills. Going forward with my Blog, I will intersperse more personal tales. 

This is a timely decision since nurses are getting greater attention being on the forefront of the pandemic. Look what nurses do, shout the headlines. Plus, nurses are writing their own stories in essays, news media and books in greater numbers. This is just fantastic. I feel more comfortable cutting a back bit on my emphasis to show how nurses make a difference. 

Also, there seems to be a national movement to grant nurse practitioners the legal authority to practice independently. That is, to practice without physician oversight. While I was busy constructing a daily post for the month of April, a friend emailed me an article about nurse practitioners titled: We trusted nurse practitioners to handle a pandemic. Why not regular care(Lusine Poghosyan, The Niskanen Center Newsletter, March 9, 2021). Before COVID-19, only 22 states allowed NPs to practice independently. Since then, governors of 23 states have signed executive orders to permit NPs to practice without physician agreements. 

Sadly, it took a pandemic to unearth the truth that nurses and NPs do improve patient care and make a difference in the health care system. 

Alphabet Challenge: Z

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

Z: Zaragoza

I chose the theme: Places I have been for my Alphabet Challenge. I nearly ended this last day of the challenge without the final letter because I couldn’t think of a place I had visited that started with a Z, except Zoo of course. And that seemed a cop out. 

Then I flipped through my travel journal and found Zaragoza. We had stopped there for one night while driving between Toledo and Barcelona in Spain in 2006. My husband and I were on a Road Scholar bus tour. 

The problem with Zaragoza was that I had no memory of the city. That is, until I read my note in the journal. 

After a tour of the city of Zaragoza, our guide took some of the group back to the hotel to await dinner at 9 p.m., allowing the rest of us to stay behind if we wanted. 

I decided, with a few others, to further explore the city. As my travel companions scattered, I found myself alone. Delightfully alone. For the first time on the trip, I wasn’t walking alongside another tourist or my husband. It didn’t bother me that I hadn’t any money or that my husband had inadvertently carried off our camera. 

Without money or a camera, I wasn’t distracted thinking of what to buy or when to take a picture. I wandered about the town without a destination. I lingered in a large market with many stalls holding meats, fruits, nuts, local pottery and art. I ambled up and down the streets. I got lost. With help from the locals, by stammering out my high school Spanish and using lots of hand gestures, I arrived at my hotel in time for dinner. 

How would I have remembered that delightful experience in Zaragoza if I hadn’t had to find a place I had been that started with the letter Z? 

Alphabet Challenge: Y

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

Y: Yacht Club

Sometime back in the 80’s I decided I wanted to learn to sail. Never mind that I had no boat, no plans on buying a boat, no friends who sailed or had a boat or wanted to take a class with me, and I had husband who couldn’t swim and didn’t have the same desire to sail as I had. I registered for classes that were held in the evening at a yacht club on Lake Michigan. 

About thirty of us sat on folding chairs in a large wood-paneled room facing a plain stage. On the stage, two men stood sipping from glasses that I thought could be filled with gin and proceeded to do a comedic take on sailing. One of them resembled Robert Redford. I can’t remember taking notes or having any handouts. I came every week because after the “class” we would sail on Lake Michigan. Members of the yacht club made their boats available for us students, hoping some of us would join the club and come back to crew for them in the future. 

We were assigned a different boat each week. Some of the boat owners loosened the rules and offered beer to the students. All of the owners gave us the opportunity to navigate their boat. 

Skimming along the waters of Lake Michigan as the Chicago shoreline receded and the sky darkened, allowing the stars to sparkle overhead, always took my breath away.  

One night a storm came up abruptly while we were out on the lake. Thankfully, I’d been assigned to one of the larger boats with a captain who adhered to the rules of not allowing alcohol. A small boat not far from us was having difficulty fighting the wind. All I can remember was the swift and professional action of our captain as he tossed a line to the distressed boat  and the “thank yous” from the grateful crew as they docked at the pier safely behind us. 

Just as quickly as the wind roared, the wind stopped. I tumbled off the boat on jello legs. 

After graduation, I didn’t join the yacht club. 

Alphabet Challenge: X

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z.

X: X-Ray Department

I believe the X-Ray/Radiology Department was in the basement of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center where I was working but I’m not sure because I don’t remember going there on my own but usually following an entourage of white coats including the physician who was the head honcho studying a rare disease a couple of residents and a student or two and me the nurse practitioner taking up the rear happy to be part of this group and because I get to hear what the radiologist has to say when he points out the very subtle findings in the MRI or CAT scan or whatever x-ray the patient has had hoping

to identify if the disease being studied was causing the symptom that the patient was having so much so that he and his family came all this way from whatever state to get a diagnosis and they are upstairs in the waiting room on pins and needles hoping for clarification but I have been around this Institute long enough to know that most times there is no definitive answer and when the patient and his family hear that the diagnosis is inconclusive and look downhearted the primary investigator says that sometimes no diagnosis is better than a horrible one with no cure but that doesn’t make the patient or family feel better and I am sad for them because I know how much they wished to hear that their ailment had a name and a cure and they are disappointed to have traveled all the way to the NIH to get no answers however I still feel honored to be part of this research project although the part I play is rote but necessary in moving the research study along even if I don’t have a PhD in a research specialty nor am I one of the leading investigators in this important study I hope my nursing contribution has been helpful and I find out after I have given my notice and leave to follow my husband to another state because he has a new job that my position was filled by two nurse practitioners. 

Alphabet Challenge: W

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

W: West Catchment Area

When I started my job as a nurse practitioner in home care at a Veteran’s hospital outside of Chicago, I had the choice of taking care of patients in the north or west region. The north region was deemed a safer catchment area. The west region, which surrounded Oak Park where I lived, had pockets of crime caused by rampant gang and drug activity. I wanted to be closer to home and stop off for lunch if I was in the neighborhood. I didn’t think twice before choosing the west side. Maybe I thought I was invincible, a city girl used to the gritty streets and boarded up homes. 

I tried to keep my senses sharp and stay alert when I drove through the neighborhoods making my home visits. I kept my distance from the car in front of me in case I needed to make a quick U-turn. I avoided groups of young males loitering on the street corners and always locked the car doors. 

In the long run, it wasn’t just the neighborhood that proved unsafe. Any home I went into could hold danger regardless how dilapidated the outside environs. My close calls, and there were some, depended on the character of those with whom I interacted. 

Still, to this day, I keep my handbag on the floor of the car and out of sight.

Alphabet Challenge: V

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

V: Venice

Before we headed for a Villa in Tuscany, (See: I: Italy) my husband and I and our friends, Bill and Mary Ann, had reservations to spend three nights at a monastery in a residential section of Venice. 

When we arrived in Venice, we couldn’t find the monastery. It was getting dark. We had the name and directions but no address. Thinking we were in the general vicinity, we stopped people who briskly passed us, perhaps on their way home from work. Most shrugged their shoulders as we showed them the name of the monastery on a sheet of paper: Casa Vacanza Madonna dell’Orto Patronato Pio IX

This was before cell phones so we hadn’t any way to contact the place. We didn’t see any phone booths nearby. Finally, a young man pointed to a large wooden door behind us. Our accommodations were hidden in plain sight. 

We rang the bell, and after a long wait, a nun opened the heavy door letting us into a spacious courtyard. After we registered, we each were handed two towels: a thread-bare bath and face towel. Our rooms were spartan: two twin beds, a desk and chair and a wooden wardrobe to hang our clothes. Thankfully, each room had its own bathroom and shower. 

The next morning, we shared the breakfast room with two other couples and the nuns, about six or seven, in full habit. They ate together at a long table in the corner of the room. 

On our breakfast table sat a basket filled with slices of Italian bread, pastries, packets of cheese, and fresh fruit. Butter, jam, and honey were placed alongside the basket. Over on a sideboard against the wall were glasses, cups, and utensils along with water, hot tea, a pitcher of milk and bowl of sugar. 

At the very end of the sideboard, the nuns left their cloth napkins neatly folded for reuse as they left the dining room. They laid a slip of paper with their name on top of each. 

We stayed at the monastery for three nights. During the day we hiked all over Venice. 

In the evenings, we ambled back to one of the trattorias in the neighborhood that we had scoped out during our earlier walk. 

Our lodging may have been simple but was more than adequate, and the location was exceptional.

Casa Vacanza Madonna dell’Orto Patronato Pio IX

Alphabet Challenge: U

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

U: University of Illinois at Chicago

I graduated from UIC, College of Nursing in 1981 with a master’s degree in Public Health Nursing. During my first semester, in the community assessment class, I was assigned to the Pilsen neighborhood with a fellow student. At the end of this course, we had to write a paper about the community and the health problems that we unearthed. 

In order to get to know the neighborhood, my classmate and I walked the streets, looking at the housing and stopping in the stores. Mexican music played loudly from the shops while mothers, fathers, grandparents and lots of babies and children filled the sidewalks. I fell in love with the Mexican neighborhood. I brought home Piñatas, Mexican pastries and colorful vases. The vibrant sense of this Hispanic community impressed me.

There was another part of this geographical area: modest, detached homes and sidewalks swept clean by elderly Italian and Polish homeowners who soon would no longer be able to keep up their property. It was this population I would meet again in a few years after I became a gerontological nurse practitioner and took charge of a senior clinic on the westside of Chicago. UIC was the conduit for the welcome change of direction in my career. 

Alphabet Challenge: T

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

T: Taormina

I visited Taormina, Sicily, in fall, 2004. I remember the place well but found surprisingly few notes in my travel journal. I probably soaked up the beauty of the town and didn’t feel the need to document the experience. 

The main section of Taormina looms high over the sea. In town, the white-washed store fronts sold flowers, fresh produce, art, and, made on the premises, cannoli. Hotel Caparena, where we stayed, is still in operation.

I recall walking on the deserted beach on a glorious sunny afternoon. I planted my feet at the water’s edge recording the waves of the Mediterranean sea on my cell phone. I listened to that recording for months after our trip. 

I later learned that Truman Capote had stayed at Villa Britannia in Taormina, another hotel still in operation. He felt New York City held too many distractions to write. 

I would love to have a room of my own in Taormina. 

Alphabet Challenge: S

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

S: San Francisco

Emergency runaway ramp

We left the Grand Canyon in early afternoon. As we began our descent into Death Valley, the sun slid behind the hills. The car started to pick up speed. Penny screamed, “the brakes aren’t working.”  She gripped the wheel, giving all of her attention to keeping the car on the road. On one side of us loomed the granite facade of the mountain. On the other a drop-off to the valley below. As the car continued to accelerate, Carol Ann and I grasped hands and prayed. Miraculously, Penny jerked the car off to the right onto an emergency runaway ramp. We slowed down. When the car stopped, we sat silently as we realized we hadn’t died. 

Penny, Carol Ann and I had graduated from St. Peter’s School of Nursing a year ago. We promised that we would work as hospital nurses for a year and then move to San Francisco to live. We left New Jersey in Carol Ann’s second-hand car in September 1963. We had driven cross country along Route 66 from New Jersey. On the way, Carol Ann’s old jalopy had to be serviced many times: two flat tires, overheated engine and now, after our close call, a garage in Lone Pine, California, where the car was towed, would fix the brakes.

We arrived in San Francisco, our final destination, on a sunny autumn day. Our bags were in the trunk. We were headed to the YMCA in the Tenderloin district where we had rented the “penthouse.” 

On the first hill in San Francisco, the car stalled. Penny was behind the wheel. She couldn’t seem to put the stick shift into gear. We sat looking down the steep decline in front of us. I sat in the middle of the front seat and Carol Ann sat next to the door, just as we had as we careened down the mountain days before. My hands started to sweat. Carol Ann must have felt as I did because she opened the door and jumped out of the car. I followed. Standing beside the car, we both watched helplessly as Penny sat frozen. The cars behind her started to honk. I knew I couldn’t climb back into the car to help. Neither could Carol Ann.

Poor Penny was behind the wheel again. Before we could figure out what to do, a guy standing on the sidewalk sized up the situation. He jogged over and opened the driver’s door. Wordless, he grabbed the wheel. When he put his foot on the brake, Penny slid out of the car. He slipped into first gear and drove the car down the steep street, waiting for us to join him at the bottom. 

The next day Carol Ann sold the car.

Penny began dating the fellow who came to our rescue.

I decided I didn’t want to live in San Francisco and, after a few months, went home—by plane. 

Alphabet Challenge: R

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

R: Roof

My friend Carol lived with her family in a two-bedroom flat in the basement of an apartment complex in Jersey City. Her parents were the custodians. (See B for Basement) 

Carol and I began to play together before we started kindergarten. By the time we were in our early teens—after dolls and before boys—we discovered the roof of her apartment building.  

The four-story building had a flat roof surrounded by a brick wall high enough that we couldn’t plummet to the sidewalk but low enough we could stretch over and watch the cars below. Sometimes we sat on the tarpaper floor eating sandwiches for lunch or stretched out letting the sun warm our bodies. 

What I remember best was the evening sky dotted with stars as Carol and I took turns belting out the popular songs of the day. The crying catch in the voices of Teresa Brewer (Let Me Go, Lover) and Brenda Lee (I’m Sorry) challenged our vocal dexterity.

The serendipitous recording of Up on the Roof, released in 1962, never fails to take me back to Carol’s roof every time I hear it.