Crazy-Good Change

This essay speaks to change, which is something I have always welcomed in my life. In this time of the pandemic when we may long for the familiar and routine, Chris Hilicki challenges us to seek out what it is that we need, not just to get by, but to live “with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.”

WHAT IF A “LITTLE CRAZY” IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED?

BY CHRIS HILICKI  •  SEPTEMBER 5, 2020  •  MINDSET

The season of fall stirs up our love-hate relationship with change. After this particular topsy-turvy summer, we’d love to return to some familiar and comfortable routines. But as the days are shorter and the nights are longer, fall reminds us that change is good, if not beautiful and exciting.

Crazy-Good Change

Whether it’s in our body, mind, or spirit our lives keep changing. If we’re growing (and hopefully we are) we may experience some growing pains. So we look for role models, discipline, prayer, and even magic wands to help us through our transitions in life.

But transitions can make us crazy. I have stopped wondering why people are crazy and instead wonder why they’re not! Sometimes a little “crazy” is just what we need if it means losing our minds long enough to let our hearts and “Soul” lead us toward the best transitions of our lives.

Get ready to change the way you see change:

Positive Change Demands Truth

The best way we can support ongoing healthy change is to be straight with ourselves and each other. We’re at a stage in life where we can cut through empty small talk.

Healthy transitions demand integrity as the key component for accepting change and expecting good things from it. If we want to keep growing, remember: no denials, no rationalizations, and no deceptions.

Honesty doesn’t have to be painful. Helpful honesty merges truth with kindness and compassion within all your relationships, especially the one with yourself. So don’t “fake it until you make it.”

Truly, life is about more than just getting by and barely making it, isn’t it? This is our time to transition with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.

Change Happens

Remember that even when nothing seems to be happening, something always is. This is difficult for most of us to accept, especially for those who so eagerly worshiped at the altar of productivity and so easily mistook busyness for progress.

Slowing down is not the same thing as winding down. Change moves at different heartbeats but the heart must keep beating. So listen to your heart. What is it telling you?

Change Should Revive Us, Not Deprive Us

I’ve been criticized for going down a lot of rabbit holes in my life. I’ve been asked if I lost my focus or if I couldn’t be satisfied and content with what I had.

The truth is, my life is about “trying it all.” I’ve gone down about a million professional and personal roads in life and many of them haven’t looked successful in typical ways. But my satisfaction and success were, and still are, defined by trying new experiences that make me feel fully alive.

I’ve never given up on my endeavors as much as I’ve added on to them. And as much as I like comfortable routines, they can suck the life out of me, too. Transitions don’t always mean giving things up. Go ahead, live it up!

Transitions Make You Feel Alive

Sometimes the seemingly un-survivable moments in our lives create a white-water current that sweeps us toward who we are meant to be. The transitions we still need as we age aren’t those that chase some version of settling down. They are the ones that make us feel most alive.

Don’t settle for less. Find your signature move for this time of your life that represents the YOU that you were created to be and haven’t given up on.

Transitions don’t have to feel like a life or death battle. This year stop fighting the battles you’ve already won. You know the ones I’m talking about: the wars you wage to earn love and approval from yourself and others.

The life you need to strive for is the one that stares down mediocrity and believes your personal best is yet to come. This is YOUR best, not someone else’s best.

Transitions Are Brave

I’ve lost, found, and lost again my health and many of my homes, jobs, and friends. Life isn’t always comfortable or easy. The easy part should be using our experiences to lighten the hardships and heartaches of others.

We don’t always get the fairy tale. But we get the “happily ever after” when we see each stage of our life with the potential to be brave. As T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who risk going too far can find out how far one can go.”

Be brave. Be your best. And when you’re “old” (or just a little older) you’ll savor the life that hasn’t disappointed you. You deserve this kind of life. You know I’m right. Transition from today to the kind of tomorrow you want.

As this season’s days are growing shorter and cooler, embrace the transitions that make you feel a little more alive. The leaves keep changing, and so can you. Be brave. Be true. Be you.

 Chris Hilicki

As a Doctor of Psychology and Clinical Counseling, Chris combines science and spirituality to draw attention to our incredible worth through life’s difficulties. She’s a passionate stargazer and trailblazer, surviving cancer and chronic illness. Her stories and experiences are shared in nationally distributed books, publications, video blogs, and speaking events. Connect with Chris at www.chrishilicki.com

The End of Writerly Silence: On a New (to Me) Workshop Model

When I first attended writing groups, I accepted the “silent workshop” where the author of the piece that is being critiqued keeps silent as she hears feedback from her peers. Who was I to challenge this method? How blindly I accepted that my role in this traditional workshop was to toss out my comments to the writer as if they were truth. Well, they were truth. My truth. Not the writer’s, who was on the “hot seat,” truth or intent.

And when I was on the “hot seat” myself, I attempted to welcome feedback without dialogue with the person who gave the criticism. It was my choice to accept or discard, but not discuss.

How refreshing to reevaluate this one-way interaction for a discussion that the writer controls.
The writer who knows her work best.

I have reblogged an overview of the new “genuine community model” written by Kailyn McCord (Brevity’s Nonfiction blog, August 27, 2020). What are your thoughts?

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

headshot_mccordBy Kailyn McCord

I grew up in what I’d call a traditional workshop. Non-genre specific, usually involving between six and twelve people, this model will be familiar to any in the capital-C capital-W Creative Writing world. In it, the writer under critique listens, verboten from speaking, while peers and professor discuss their work. The conversation usually begins with strengths, then progresses to problems. The function of the writer’s silence is two-fold: first as mechanism so that they might listen more thoroughly, and second, so that the group might elucidate the work before them without clues as to the intentions behind it. Silence bears enlightenment; via their role as witness, the writer comes to see, somewhat miraculously, the true meaning of their own work.

My experiences with this model (years in an MFA, a smattering of conferences) weren’t bad, but they did breed a familiar pattern. When in the hot seat…

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The Trip to the Farmers Market

I drive to the Farmers Market on this dreary Friday. Frankly, it’s nice to have a break from the sunny, humid days. The gray skies impersonate an early Fall and lift my spirits. 

This trip gets me out of the house and into a semblance of normalcy that I remember before the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders began.

Since I plan to write this week’s post about the Farmers Market, I park the car near the entrance to take a picture of the main signpost. On my way back to the car, I notice a white face mask on the road. It looks like mine. It is mine. What are the chances it dropped onto a smear of COVID-19 germs? After a brief hesitation, I pick it up and put it on my face. 

When I come to the Farmers Market, I like to start at one end of the Farmers Building (which is 30,000 square feet) and work my way down the main aisle checking produce and prices on either side. Then, I turn around when I reach the end and retrace my steps, this time making purchases. 

Today, all I am going to do is buy peaches and take pictures.

The market organizers have done away with the wide middle lane running north and south. Now, multiple one-way aisles travel east to west, bisecting the individual farm stands and promoting safe-distancing. 

Without the pressure of buying ingredients for a dinner, I am free to enjoy the lovely presentation of produce. I snap pictures as I travel past the arrangements of bright red tomatoes, varieties of eggplant and various chilis categorized according to heat index. 

I stop by one of the many corn stalls. A women is husking corn. Before we moved to North Carolina, I had never seen a trash bin near the corn displays at Farmers Markets or in grocery stores. Shoppers are invited to husk the corn and dump the husks into a trash bin provided by the grocery store or market before purchasing the corn. While this may be more convenient, as my southern neighbors tell me, I adhere to the common knowledge that corn in their husks stay fresh longer. 

I take some pictures of the corn stall only after asking the permission from the woman who is husking corn. She nods and continues to husk, not paying me any mind. As I’m leaving, she tells me the corn season is winding down. At that news, I steel myself not to buy any more corn since my husband and I have had corn in many reiterations and there is a large container of corn and crab chowder in the refrigerator. 

As I turn to leave the corn stand, I see a woman at the other end of the market waving at me. She smiles and points to her head and gives me a thumbs up. She’s commenting on my purple hair. Pandemic purple I call it. I give her a thumbs up, too. When coloring one’s hair was more popular, I kept my white hair. Now it seems I am pretty much an oddity. I like swimming against the current. I may change colors when this hue fades. Maybe a soft blue or intense red will be the next dye. Social isolation has a strange effect on me. 

I leave the Farmers Market carrying one bag of peaches. 

Black bean and corn salad

Original recipe yields 6 servings

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn kernels  ( Use fresh in season)
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium whole (2-3/5″ diameter)  tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 medium (4-1/8″ long) green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  • Step 1

Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid and shake until ingredients are well mixed.

  • Step 2

In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing and pour it over the salad. Stir salad to coat vegetables and beans with dressing and serve.

Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing

Join me in attending this free series of timely web discussions: Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing.

NurseManifest

We are excited to announce a series of web discussions “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” starting on September 12th, and every week through October 10th! This initiative is in part an outgrowth of our 2018 Nursing Activism Think Tank and inspired by recent spotlights on the killing of Black Americans by police, and the inequitable devastation for people of color caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Racism in nursing has persisted far too long, sustained in large part by our collective failure to acknowledge the contributions and experiences of nurses of color. The intention of each session is to bring the voices of BILNOC (Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other Nurses Of Color) to the center, to explore from that center the persistence of racism in nursing, and to inspire/form actions to finally reckon with racism in nursing.

Lucinda Canty, Christina Nyirati and I (Peggy Chinn) have teamed up…

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Writing advice: Anne Lamott and Toni Morrison

This past Saturday, I watched Anne Lamott on a webinar sponsored by Book Passage. She spoke from her home for three hours, sharing her wisdom on writing.

She shared titles of books that might help with writing:

She shared books that gave her confidence that she could write using their structures, multiple points of view, etc:

She shared many tips, some from other writers. She told her us that we can use all that she shared. She cautioned, however, to give credit to the original source of her advice when appropriate. For example, E. L. Doctorow said: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” In other words, Anne stressed, that we should start to write in short increments. We don’t need to have the whole picture before we begin.

She shared the following writing tips:

  1. Stop NOT Writing.
  2. Don’t be pressured to write well. Write badly. ( remember in Bird by Bird, Anne coined: write a shitty first draft?)
  3. Trust you are loaded with stories to be told.
  4. Don’t try to “think” the story—just be available and let it happen.
  5. If you feel blocked, just write about it.
  6. Don’t tell us—start with the action. Describe. It’s a movie behind your eyes.
  7. Don’t force humor.
  8. If you are too close to the story, pretend you are Margaret Mead studying the aboriginal tribes.
  9. Tape record dialogue. Edit when it’s played back.
  10. Spend the most time at the beginning of your work paying attention to structure.

 

In closing, Anne instructed us to google writing advice from various writers.

Here is a shorten version of an article in Lit Hub written by Emily Temple, August 6, 2019. I “sifted through her interviews and speeches to find out what she thinks about writing.”

Temple has highlighted some of her (Toni’s) wisdom below:

“You Don’t Know Anything.” And Other Writing Advice from Toni Morrison

I don’t want to hear about your true love and your mama and your papa and your friends.

By Emily Temple

August 6, 2019

I can’t think of another writer who is quite so universally beloved as Toni Morrison. Her work is magnificent, her legacy is unimpeachable, and she reveals her brilliance at every opportunity. She also taught for many years at Princeton, and I think it’s safe to assume she knows a thing or two about nurturing young minds. So, using the relatively flimsy excuse of her birthday—Morrison turns 88 on Monday, which is also Presidents’ Day (is this a sign?)—I sifted through her interviews and speeches to find out what she thinks about writing. I’ve highlighted some of her wisdom below.

Write what you want to read.

I wrote the first book because I wanted to read it. I thought that kind of book, with that subject—those most vulnerable, most undescribed, not taken seriously little black girls—had never existed seriously in literature. No one had ever written about them except as props. Since I couldn’t find a book that did that, I thought, “Well, I’ll write it and then I’ll read it.” It was really the reading impulse that got me into the writing thing.

–from a 2014 interview with NEA Arts Magazine

Figure out how you work best.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

–from a 1993 interview with Elissa Schappell in The Paris Review

Use the world around you.

Everything I see or do, the weather and the water, buildings . . . everything actual is an advantage when I am writing. It is like a menu, or a giant tool box, and I can pick and choose what I want. When I am not writing, or more important, when I have nothing on my mind for a book, then I see chaos, confusion, disorder.

–from a 2009 interview with Pam Houston in O Magazine

Let characters speak for themselves.

I try really hard, even if there’s a minor character, to hear their memorable lines. They really do float over your head when you’re writing them, like ghosts or living people. I don’t describe them very much, just broad strokes. You don’t know necessarily how tall they are, because I don’t want to force the reader into seeing what I see. It’s like listening to the radio as a kid. I had to help, as a listener, put in all of the details. It said “blue,” and I had to figure out what shade. Or if they said it was one way, I had to see it. It’s a participatory thing.

–from a 2014 interview with NEA Arts Magazine

Be open.

It’s that being open—not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in.

–from a 2009 interview with Pam Houston in O Magazine

Don’t read your work out loud until it’s finished.

I don’t trust a performance. I could get a response that might make me think it was successful when it wasn’t at all. The difficulty for me in writing—among the difficulties—is to write language that can work quietly on a page for a reader who doesn’t hear anything. Now for that, one has to work very carefully with what is in between the words. What is not said. Which is measure, which is rhythm, and so on. So, it is what you don’t write that frequently gives what you do write its power.

–from a 1993 interview with Elissa Schappell in The Paris Review

Don’t complain.

I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can’t expect to teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort. . . . [Confidence] I can’t do much about. I’m very brutal about that. I just tell them: You have to do this, I don’t want to hear whining about how it’s so difficult. Oh, I don’t tolerate any of that because most of the people who’ve ever written are under enormous duress, myself being one them. So whining about how they can’t get it is ridiculous. What I can do very well is what I used to do, which is edit. I can follow their train of thought, see where their language is going, suggest other avenues. I can do that, and I can do that very well. I like to get in the manuscript.

–from a 1998 interview with Zia Jaffrey in Salon

Beware of overworking.

Those [paragraphs] that need reworking I do as long as I can. I mean I’ve revised six times, seven times, thirteen times. But there’s a line between revision and fretting, just working it to death. It is important to know when you are fretting it; when you are fretting it because it is not working, it needs to be scrapped.

–from a 1993 interview with Elissa Schappell in The Paris Review

Embrace failure.

As a writer, a failure is just information. It’s something that I’ve done wrong in writing, or is inaccurate or unclear. I recognize failure—which is important; some people don’t—and fix it, because it is data, it is information, knowledge of what does not work. That’s rewriting and editing.

With physical failures like liver, kidneys, heart, something else has to be done, something fixable that’s not in one’s own hands. But if it’s in your hands, then you have to pay very close attention to it, rather than get depressed or unnerved or feel ashamed. None of that is useful. It’s as though you’re in a laboratory and you’re working on an experiment with chemicals or with rats, and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t mix. You don’t throw up your hands and run out of the lab. What you do is you identify the procedure and what went wrong and then correct it. If you think of [writing] simply as information, you can get closer to success.

–from a 2014 interview with NEA Arts Magazine

Learn how to read—and critique—your own work.

People say, I write for myself, and it sounds so awful and so narcissistic, but in a sense if you know how to read your own work—that is, with the necessary critical distance—it makes you a better writer and editor. When I teach creative writing, I always speak about how you have to learn how to read your work; I don’t mean enjoy it because you wrote it. I mean, go away from it, and read it as though it is the first time you’ve ever seen it. Critique it that way. Don’t get all involved in your thrilling sentences and all that . . .

–from a 1993 interview with Elissa Schappell in The Paris Review

Seek holiness.

What I’m going to say is going to sound so pompous, but I think an artist, whether it’s a painter or a writer, it’s almost holy. There’s something about the vision, the wisdom. You can be a nobody, but seeing that way, it’s holy, it’s godlike. It’s above the normal life and perception of all of us, normally. You step up. And as long as you’re up there, even if you’re a terrible person—especially if you’re a terrible person—you see things that come together, and shake you, or move you, or clarify something for you that outside of your art you would not have known. It really is a vision above, or beyond.

–from a 2017 interview with Granta

 

Emily Temple

Emily Temple is the managing editor at Lit Hub. Her first novel, The Lightness, was published by William Morrow/HarperCollins in June 2020. You can buy it here.

https://www.emilytemple.net/

One day before this was published, Toni Morrison died from pneumonia.

Olden Days of Nursing: Dialysis

I still remember the teenager but not his name or how long he had been getting peritoneal dialysis (PD). I recall him walking between his parents down the long hospital corridor. He was going home to die. A father with small children had preempted the teenager’s spot on the dialysis unit. Restricting patients was necessary because supplies and personnel were in short supply at the time. Dr. Norman Lasker, head of the Renal Division made that decision unilaterally. 

I  had taken care of the teen when he came in for twice weekly treatments. His mother and father came with him bringing magazines with pictures of sweaty wrestlers, which I found repulsive. Not having any brothers, what did I know about teenage boys? However, we did have something in common: the new TV show, Batman. I would watch the show each week (no binge watching then) so when the teen came on the unit, we would have something to talk about. 

What happened to him after he was sent home? Hospice or palliative care hadn’t evolved, as yet. How did his parents manage? Did he wind up in a hospital at the end of his life? 

I called Carol Passarotti-Novembre. She and I worked on the same research floor: a 15-bed unit at Pollak Hospital in Jersey City. Carol was the first renal nurse in New Jersey, working alongside of Dr. Lasker in one of the first Dialysis Centers in the US in 1961. Only three other major Dialysis Centers existed then: Boston, Seattle and New York City. Dialysis nurses received on-the-job-training. 

Carol didn’t remember the teenager.

 

Of course, she wouldn’t since she had so many other patients. Some were on chronic PD, like the teenager. Patients came twice or three times a week, interspersed with emergency dialysis for acute problems like drug overdose, end stage renal failure, and post-surgical renal shutdown. For eight years, Carol was on call 24/7. Only once did she miss an on-call emergency. Another staff nurse from the research unit stepped in. The patient survived. 

Later on, Dr. Lasker was no longer the lone decider. Carol told me that a “board consisting of physicians, administrators, clergy and others reviewed potential patients to receive dialysis treatments.” She sat on this board. 

Carol ran the show at the Dialysis Center. The “Dialysis Center” was in reality four beds devoted to renal patients on the 15-bed unit. 

The procedure for PD was as follows:

After warming two-liter glass bottles of dialysis solution in the sink, Carol hung them from an IV pole. The fluid flowed into the peritoneal cavity and remained in the patient for 30 to 40 minutes. The bottles were taken down from the IV pole, inverted and placed on the floor so the fluid would drain back into the bottles, which took another 10 minutes. Repeat. The patients stayed overnight since each treatment lasted 36 hours. 

Carol managed up to four patients on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Thursday. The day shift helped when we could. Evening and night nursing staff managed the PD during their shift. Carol discontinued the PD the following morning only to see the same patients come back the next day. 

Not surprisingly, Carol got to know her patients and their families well, as did all us nurses, since each patient came to the unit so frequently. 

One patient, Ellen, a slight Italian women with a large family, stopped breathing and became pulseless when I was in her room. I did what we were taught to do at that time. I slipped her on to the floor, struck her sternum with the side of my hand, breathed into her mouth and started chest compressions. The doctors on the unit came to assist me. We revived her. When she awoke, she told us she didn’t want to be resuscitated. We didn’t ask these questions in 1965. Happily, for me, when Ellen stopped breathing next, I wasn’t in the room. 

Carol had an uplifting story to share: 

“One of our patients was on PD for four years. Her local internist came to her home for each treatment, inserted the trocath [to make the pathway into the peritoneal cavity], and left. Her husband carried out each treatment. Even her little children helped with warming the bottles of dialysate. She switched to home hemodialysis for five years, then continued In-Center Hemodialysis for ten more years. At that point she received a cadaver kidney transplant, which lasted for a good number of years after.“ 

The following is from a speech Carol gave to nephrology nurses and technicians of North Jersey at Marriott Newark Hotel, Newark, NJ, May 6, 2011:  

“The role of the nurse has changed along with each modality of treatment, the changing needs of the patients and families, the advances in technology and the increasing demands for specialized education in nephrology.

. . . My knowledge of nephrology was ‘on the job’ everyday type of learning. I depended upon the physicians I worked with. . . .Working for the medical school had its advantages. The most important being able to be involved in research projects. e. g., vitamin studies, various solute clearance studies, cardiac output studies in the chronic PD patient and also, in developing the original cycler and starting home training programs for PD and hemodialysis.

 

(Carol was the first nurse to be included in a research study citation in the Annals of Internal Medicine.)

Today’s nephrology nurse is involved in direct patient care, teaching in all the fields: PD, hemodialysis, transplantation to the patients and their families as well as research and development. National and local organizations, such as American Association of Nephrology Nurses and Technicians were formed in order to ensure a high standard of education on both a local and national level and making nephrology nursing an accredited and recognized area of nursing. 

For me, the rapid growth and development in this area of medicine over the past 49 years, has been totally mind blowing, awesome, most exhilarating. The potential for future development is limitless!”

Carol married in 1968 and remained with the renal unit of the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry Renal Division until mid 1969 when she left to have her first child. In 1971, she worked as a staff nurse in hemodialysis unit and later in the Hemodialysis Home Training unit at  Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ. In 1976, she joined a Renal and Hypertension practice as both an office nurse and researcher in many drug studies. Carol worked  full-time, sometimes 50 hour weeks, before she retired in 2010 at the age of 70.  

After reflecting on Carol Passarotti-Novembre’s long career in nephrology, I ask the obvious question. How could the development of peritoneal and hemodialysis have progressed without the collegial partnership between nurses and physicians? 

Jersey Journal. Carol and Dr. Lasker are standing beside the first hemodialysis machine.

 

Hedda Hopper’s Lemon Pie

When I first read that men thought of sex every seven seconds, I thought that’s me. No, not that I think of sex but that I think of food frequently. 

Even when I worked full time, I planned our family dinner each evening. Meal planning and cooking seemed more of a hobby that a chore. I enjoyed hosting parties and informal get-togethers. 

Food had always been part of my life. Descended from two ethnic groups that think of food as love, there is no doubt I was hit with a double DNA whammy. My paternal Italian family spent Sunday afternoons at grandma’s Jersey City house: her kitchen table laden with homemade soup, bread and pasta, roasted chicken, salad, fruit, and followed by store bought Italian pastries. Expresso coffee for the adults coupled with good cigars for the men. 

My mother’s Polish relatives lived in the New York City suburbs. Our less frequent trips to see them were also food centric: fresh and smoked kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, red cabbage with sour cream, and a selection of homemade desserts, such as cheesecake, lemon pie and baked apples with ice cream. 

My mother was a good cook. I still have her three-ring binder busting with newspaper clippings of recipes, old cookbooks: The Art of Cooking and Serving by Sarah Field Splint, 1929 and educational booklets, such as The Herb-Ox Money Saver, 1949 and Sunkist Lemons: Bring Out the Flavor, 1939. Tucked into the pages of this last book is a typed recipe for Hedda Hopper’s Lemon Pie.

Now that I’m retired and there are only two of us to cook for, food doesn’t hold the same excitement. And I’m less interested in entertaining, if one can even do this in the time of Covid-19.  However, recently I read Bill Buford’s new book, Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking. After I finished Dirt, I still had a taste for more cooking stories. I dusted off my copy of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain that I never did get around to reading. Either Buford or Bourdain had mentioned Larousse Gastronomique, the “internationally famous bible of cooking.” That’s when I went on a pilgrimage to the bookcase on the second floor stacked with books that mostly were dusted but not read. 

On the bottom shelf stood The World Authority Larousse Gastronomique. It was the first American edition (1961) with 8,500 recipes. If I were to buy this book new on Amazon, I would spend $201.80 plus shipping. Okay, I am a Prime member—no shipping costs. 

On the third shelf, I found a basket with all my mother’s cook books and notes. 

What did this exercise teach me? First of all, the fact that I purchased Larousee Gastronomique reminds me how much cooking had meant to me. I’ll take the time to peruse this tome. Second, the trip down memory lane sorting all my mother’s cooking memorabilia challenges me to carefully sort her recipes and books. Maybe I would even try to recreate some of her dishes starting with Hedda Hopper’s Lemon pie. 

The World Authority Larousse Gastronomique, the Encyclopedia of Food, Wine & Cookery Hardcover – January 1, 1961

by Prosper Montagne (Author), Auguste Escoffier (Introduction), Phileas Gilbert (Introduction), Nina Froud (Editor), Charlotte Turgeon (Editor)

This is the internationally famous bible of cooking, the encyclopedia-cookbook which, because of its 8,500 recipes and the full information it gives on all culinary matters, has been accepted as the world authority. Ask any chef, ask any cooking expert. You will find a copy of LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE in the kitchen of any superior restaurant anywhere in the world. It is a prized possession of every gourmet who knows French. But until now it has been available only the French language. Because of the complexities of variations in terms and measurements, it has never before been translated into English. Now, after three years of intensive work by a staff of twenty experts headed by two famous editors, it has been converted for American usage. LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE contains in its 1,100 large pages 8,500 recipes from all over the world and 1,000 illustrations, many in full color. Also, there are descriptions of cooking processes; full details about all foods, their nature and quality, and how to cure, treat, and preserve them; the history of food and cooking; articles on table service, banquets, food values, and diet — in fact, just about every topic of culinary interest is covered. Though LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE is the prime reference book of chefs, gourmets, and experts, it is equally useful and convenient for the home cook. All recipes except for banquet specialties are on a small-group basis, stated in simple terms for convenience in the home. For this American edition, all entries have been brought up to date, notable in the articles on the preservation of food. Entries are in alphabetical order and are fully cross-referenced under both English and French names. The illustrations in color, black-and-white photographs, and line drawings, many of which were made expressly for the American edition, show not only the appearance of the cooked dish but in many cases the intermediate steps of preparation as well.

Olden Days of Nursing: Coronary Care Unit

 

I helped open the first CCU in New Jersey in 1967. New monitoring technology and implementation of coronary-pulmonary resuscitation precipitated the development of CCUs across the country in order to reduce deaths from acute myocardial infarcts (AMI).

Bethany Hospital in Kansas had opened the first CCU in the United States on May 20, 1962. The second one opened soon after in Philadelphia’s Presbyterian Hospital. It was at Presbyterian Hospital that Rose Pinneo, head nurse of the unit, along with physicians, Lawrence Meltzer and Roderick Kitchell, coauthored Intensive Coronary Care: A Manual for Nurses in 1965. 

I remember the manual and especially Rose Pinneo. Pinneo became a role model for all the new CCU nurses at the time.

I kept this picture in a photo book over the years. Just recently, as I went through all my old photos as a “sequester in place” pandemic project, this picture took on a new significance. It would fit under: “Olden Days of Nursing,” a new grouping of stories I am starting to post on my Blog.  

It was only after I began to do some research that I recognized that right from the inception of CCUs, nurses ran the show. At the time this benefit eluded me. I was still a neophyte. I had not yet dealt with the paternalist health care system and rigid legislation that limited nursing practice. 

I was pleasantly surprised to read about how nurses were positioned to take charge right from the inception of CCUs:  

The opening sentence (in Intensive Coronary Care: A Manual for Nurses) in set the tone: “It may seem curious that the first book dedicated to a new concept of treatment for acute myocardial infarction has been directed primarily to nurses rather than physicians.” They (the authors) emphasized that the new treatment technologies had to be used immediately in order to save lives. To achieve this goal doctors must abandon traditional notions of a nurse’s limited role in clinical decision making.The authors declared, “Intensive coronary care is essentially an advanced system of nursing. It is not an advanced system of medical practice based on electronics.” Their prescription for saving lives was explicit: “A CCU nurse must be able to perform…therapeutic measures by herself without specific orders.”[Italics mine.]

. . . Support for giving specially trained nurses authority to defibrillate patients grew quickly in the late-1960s as concerns about the legal implications of the practice declined. The CCU-inspired empowerment of nurses represented a critical first step in the evolution of team-based care that is such a conspicuous part of current-day cardiology practice.

Resuscitating a Circulation Abstract to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Coronary Care Unit Concept, W. Bruce Fye, Circulation. 2011 Vol 124 (17), 1886-1893. 

The first few of months in the CCU, I supervised the set-up of the physical space, hired nurses and organized the classes to be given by cardiologists. I gave lectures to the hospital staff nurses and administration about this new clinical specialty unit. 

I worked in the CCU for only ten months. Newly married, my husband and I moved to another state because he had a great job opportunity. Over the next few years, we moved five times, had two children and I worked part-time at two other CCUs. When I started school for my bachelors’ degree in 1970, I never went back to the CCU. Cardiology is still my favorite specialty.  

 

Why Your Imperfections Make You Perfect

Originally posted on March 8, 2016

Nursing Stories

imagesI’m now taking watercolor classes, struggling to create something that I can be proud of but mostly learning how to be humble and not compare myself with my fellow classmates. As hard as I try to enjoy the journey and not focus on the end result, I still strive to have my finished product an example of perfection.

I never thought of imperfection as an asset until I read my watercolor instructor’s latest post.

08 MARCH 2016

Why your imperfections make you perfect

 by

Suzanne McDermott

“Perfection itself is imperfection.”

  • VLADIMIR HOROWITZ

 

The gap between Lauren Hutton’s two front teeth.

The wiggly lines of Gahan Wilson’s cartoons.

Uneven brush marks in hand-painted china.

The leaning tower of Pisa.

The tempo at which Toscannini or Glenn Gould raced through pieces.

Odd chisel marks in hand-made furniture.

These are just a few examples of what might be thought of as imperfections…

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The Story Behind the Message

I first posted “The Story Behind the Message” in 2017 before my memoir was published. Now as I work on my second book, this post remains as relevant to me as ever.

Writing for me doesn’t get easier, Molly.

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Rearranging my bookcase, I came across a book with the following inscription:

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To Marianna–No, it’s not easy! But you can do it. All the best, Molly

This is the story behind the message:

I had been writing for as long as I can remember. I saved many of my stories in longhand on scraps of paper, on faded yellow legal pads, and typed up on an old manual typewriter with multiple errors (I flunked typing in high-school). All were unedited and unfinished.

In the early 90s when I lived in the Washington DC area, I started to take writing more seriously by attending classes and conferences. One of the workshops was sponsored by the Smithsonian. I can’t remember for the life of me the woman who conducted the class. What I do remember was the cross section of adults who sat on folded chairs in the cramped room three stories below ground level at the Dillon Ripley Center. At one session, the instructor had invited her friend who was visiting from out of state, the author Molly Giles.

Molly looked to be about my age. She had reddish blond hair and a warm, earthy persona. I immediately wanted to be her best friend. She described the office she rented so she could write undisturbed.

After the class, I stood along side of the table where Molly was autographing her latest book: Creek Walk and Other Stories (still in print). creek-walk-by-molly-gilesShe was poised with pen in hand ready to inscribe the book to me as I chatted on about how much I enjoyed her talk and how I thought writing was fun. She cocked an eyebrow at me as if I had just told her I still believed in the tooth fairy. Gently, she told me that writing could be difficult.

Now, over 20 years later, I have written many words, finished and published some stories. I completed a memoir and am investigating self-publishing venues. For me, writing is more arduous than exhilarating. My greatest strength is persistence.

How I wish I could meet with Molly over a mocha latte at some cozy coffee house. I know what she was trying to tell me so long ago. She was right.

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