Thanksgiving Tradition

Looks like I have started my own tradition. I am posting Happy Lasagna Day on my Blog during Thanksgiving week for the third time since 2016. That year, my husband and I chose to spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year, although we enjoyed a traditional turkey meal with my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids, I posted Happy Lasagna Day for the second time. 

This year we will spend Thanksgiving day alone, again, but not by choice. My husband and I are at high risk for the devastating effects of Covid-19 and we decided to stay safe at home. 

Rather than feel sorry for our isolation, I will relive the warm memories of family celebrations of the past by posting Happy Lasagna Day for the third time. Yes, my new ritual. 

Happy Lasagna Day

First posted on November 24, 2016

My husband and I are spending Thanksgiving alone—by choice. We had been invited out but graciously declined. 

After having three sets of houseguests in six weeks, we are happy to be alone. By the way, the house has never been cleaner. 

And we broke from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—we are having lasagna. 

I love leftover lasagna as much or more than leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy. 

Over the years lasagna has become the ubiquitous casserole. You can find it premade in deli departments and frozen food cases in grocery stores. It’s the go-to meal neighbors bring over to neighbors on happy occasions (childbirth) and solemn occasions (sickness or death in the family). 

My love of lasagna goes back to my childhood when we visited Grandma in Jersey City. She lived in a second floor walk-up two blocks from my house. Who remembers what time she got up in the morning to begin cooking the lasagna and the rest of the meal, including homemade bread and a roasted chicken? As for the lasagna, she made the pasta from scratch. The tomato sauce (we called this gravy) simmered for hours on the stove. She used whole-milk ricotta and mozzarella cheeses that were made fresh at the Italian store down the block.  

Being the oldest granddaughter, I sometimes helped by assembling the multiple layers of the dish. First the sauce, the pasta in one layer, a few spoonfuls of cheese mixture (ricotta, parmesan, eggs, oregano and parsley), sliced mozzarella, more sauce/gravy and then I started over again finishing with the mozzarella on top. 

If the family ever had turkey for Thanksgiving, I don’t remember. 

In Grandma’ s cramped kitchen the men ate first—Grandma’s three sons, her five sons-in law and Grandpa. My cousins and I sat at the “children’s table” that was cobbled together with end tables and folding chairs. The women served and cleared and eventually sat down to dinner with the windows open to let out the steam from the kitchen along with the delicious aromas of the Italian Thanksgiving feast.  

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the usual, although not insignificant blessings, such as health, family, friends, but also for the memories that warm me and bring me back to Grandma’s table laden with her gifts and in the company of my extended family—some long gone but not forgotten. 

Wishing you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving with Joyful Memories. 

Some Needed Levity

I don’t know how Tim Holt does it but he grinds out an entertaining post every week. I could be one of his little old ladies shuffling along in my black church shoes with a grin on my face. However, I don’t wear church shoes or walk with a shuffle–yet. I do, however, have a smile on my face because his story brings back memories of dancing to the big name bands at the Plaza Hotel in New York City the 60s.

In this time of uncertainty and worry, I submit Tim’s post to bring a bit of levity to your day.

 

 

~I Play a Little~

“I’m no Tommy Dorsey” is what I say sometimes to hunched little ladies shuffling along in their black church shoes who look old enough to know Tommy Dorsey, to have danced to his music. Often, they grin and drop in a dollar.  I don’t need the dollar.  I need the grin.  Other times, I tell people I am Tommy Dorsey.

You don’t know Tommy Dorsey?  Oh, for crying out loud.  This is the year 2020. Put the toilet paper down and go in that store and buy a CD.  But be careful.  Or better yet, tap this, then keep reading.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKQc-cbAvdQ  The ads will pass quickly. That’s not true. They will pass excruciatingly slowly.

You recognize it? I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.  I play that one in front of the store every Saturday. I don’t need to play for money.  I have a nice income.  I live quite comfortably.  But I discovered that few stopped to listen unless I put a cigar box on the side walk next to my trombone case.  I drew a big dollar sign on the lid.  Folks want to help the old guy.  Kinda nice, isn’t it?  I don’t like how the young ones calling me “Sugar,” but that reflects how they feel about old dudes with beards like me.  Kindly. I’m sure they’d pat my hand if I put it out there.

But we old folks need to get our kicks.  Do they still say that? I play here on Saturdays.  And a bunch of us meet in the park once a month and bring sheet music that’s older than our grandkids, and we play for a couple of hours.  Until nap time.  It astounds me how many over-80s plan their days around naps.

The trombone doesn’t consume me.  I love its feel in my hands, and its sound, mellow and sad, like dropping pennies into a deep well. Something like that.  At least for me.  Everyone hears the sound from way down somewhere.  That’s the magic of the trombone.  But for me, it’s a Saturday thing. And a grassy park thing. And a sunny day thing.

I also like to bake.  So I have a job at Paulie’s Bakery on Fridays.  We start early.  It’s a long day.  Dough is mixed and pinched and divided and like monks in white robes, they rise.  The buns, hundreds of them, stand like congregates, demanding my commitment.   Instead of paying me, I ask Pauly If I may fill two bags at the end of the day with hot cross buns, still warm, all separated by little tissues.  He did the calculation.  He said, “Sure.”  It’s nearly 7 by the time we finish cleaning up.  I drop the bags off at Hope Church on the way home.  Saturday morning is treat-time for folks whose circumstances cause them to need to dine for free.

Not a bad life for an old Ophthalmologist, is it?  Just listen to the music and wonder what else I do.

Tim Holt

 

 

 

 

 

 It Takes a Village or a City Block

This is my 262nd Blog post. It’s a significant number for me. I spent the first twenty years of my life in a two-bedroom apartment in a three-story brick building in Jersey City, New Jersey: 262 Summit Avenue.

Most of the buildings on the block were three stories with an apartment on each floor. I could name everyone who lived on the block. Few people moved. Multigenerational families stayed in close proximity. My grandparents’ place was a two-block walk away.

2009 visit. The gates are new.

We children couldn’t do anything wrong without a neighbor correcting us or telling our parents. In the summers we played outside until evening darkened the skies and the streetlights came on. In the colder weather, when the chill kept folks indoors, the older women sat by their windows as if afraid they would miss something.

Across the street, taking up most of the block, sat the massive New Jersey National Guard  Armory. The National Guard soldiers came for weekend training. Blaring brass bands cut above the street traffic. It was only when I reached my teens that seeing all the young men in uniform kept me close to home.

In summers, the Armory hosted the Rodeo and big-name performers: Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante. My friends and I, probably around ten or eleven years old, had managed to sneak through a side door and wander around before the Rodeo started, watching the workers set up the stands for the audience and the pens for the animals. During the show, we edged up so close to the action that we could hear the cowboys’ grunts, as they desperately tried to stay on the backs of the bucking horses or angry bulls.

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We listened to Frank Sinatra from the shadows along the walls. A spotlight followed his lanky body on the stage as he crooned into a microphone. We felt invincible.

In retrospect, it seemed easy for my friends and I to slip into the Armory. I don’t remember ever once getting kicked out. Perhaps the workers chose to look the other way.

My best friend, Carol, lived at one end of the block and I lived on the other. I’ve written about her in a post: Taking the Bus. We met when we were four or five years old, attended the same grammar school and high school. After she married, she and her husband moved to south Jersey. Two years later, I married. We moved to Newark, then near DC, making other moves until we eventually settled down in North Carolina.

After many years of exchanging Christmas cards, Carol and I now live 20 miles from one another. When we get together, we rehash our childhood memories on the 200 block of Summit Avenue. The city street that was the Village that raised us.

The Perks of Serving on the Board

 

I have served on the Family Patient Advisory Council at my local hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina since it’s inception a little over two years ago. I became the first Chair and now I am the Senior Chair.

This last week, the hospital funded my travel to Chicago to attend the Patient Experience Conference 2018 where the Chief Nursing Officer, Manager of Service Excellence, also a nurse, and I gave a presentation: Operationalizing Patient Advisory Council: Going Beyond the Boundaries.

 

I felt privileged to discuss the successes and challenges of our group and pleased, as a retired nurse, that I am using my background in health care services to facilitate change. In this case, to promote and improve the patient experience.

 

Patient Experience

Patient experience encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the health care system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses, and staff in hospitals, physician practices, and other health care facilities. As an integral component of health care quality, patient experience includes several aspects of health care delivery that patients value highly when they seek and receive care, such as getting timely appointments, easy access to information, and good communication with health care providers.

Understanding patient experience is a key step in moving toward patient-centered care. By looking at various aspects of patient experience, one can assess the extent to which patients are receiving care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values. Evaluating patient experience along with other components such as effectiveness and safety of care is essential to providing a complete picture of health care quality. – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

At the conference, not only did I learn about the patient experience movement and its growing numbers of supporters, I came away excited about the direction of health care.

After the conference, I met my friend Lois. Our friendship spans 40 years. We had one day of sleet and one day of sun in our quest to revisit old haunts and discover renovations to Chicago’s old buildings. At Navy Pier we asked a mother and daughter to take our picture. It turned out the daughter was starting nursing school with the intent to become a nurse practitioner. At this serendipitous meeting, Lois and I shared sage advice about the rewarding aspects of a nursing career.

Back home in temperate North Carolina, I look back at my time in Chicago and feel privileged to have attended the conference and had the added perk to have spent time with Lois.

The Old Faded Picture

Recently rummaging around in my office closet for my watercolor materials, I came across an old envelope with a faded 5 X 7 picture inside. Years ago I had planned to frame it. Obviously, I forgot all about it. Most of what is stored in the closet fits into the category: out of sight, out of mind.

This closet is stuffed with past journals, yearly calendars dating back more than 20 years, greeting cards, and evidence of my artistic endeavors: pastels, watercolors, acrylics and scores of papers for each medium, along with canvases, and a variety of paint brushes. However, the significant items sharing the confines of the closet are the photographs spilling out of albums, in shoeboxes, and in dilapidated wooden frames.

Over our many moves, I boxed my memorabilia without weeding anything out but only adding to the collection, always promising myself that I would organize the stash.

And as the years passed I became more reluctant to tackle the task. Maybe the constraints I have placed on the act of clearing out do more to deter me than support me. I will need two days since I will pull everything out of the closet, not returning anything until I have handled it and made the decision to toss or save. Did I say I needed only two days?

I can see myself sitting on the floor surrounded by these old pictures, fingering each while nostalgia washes over me. I will be revisiting places I lived, missing family members who have long since died, dealing with changes that the passage of time had not only had on me but my spouse and children. Yes, I know how this all will affect me and I am not anxious to deal with such an emotional task.

Getting back to the picture.

 

We rented a house on Sister Bay, Wisconsin after I read about the area in the Chicago Magazine: the best place to see the fall colors and beautiful sunsets. Since we were “poor”—my husband was in graduate school and we were living on my salary as a part time nurse—I wrote the owner of a rental home asking for a discount. Since we didn’t go during the annual Fall Fest, the owner agreed. Our children loved that we were steps from the bay. They explored the large room on the second floor with rows of single beds and at least two cribs. We took out the rowboat on that first visit, catching the winds of an abrupt storm and just made it back to shore without capsizing. We rented bikes to survey the fall colors. Our favorite breakfast restaurant had a goat grazing on grass that grew on the roof.

We rented the same house over the years, without the discount. Each time the owner had made improvements: a porch, a wrap around deck, bedrooms replacing the one large room on the second floor, and finally he declared “no children. “

On our last visit, my mother came with us. Late one afternoon she must have picked up my camera on the deck and took this picture of my daughter and me. She also captured my son sorting stones on the narrow strip of beach. My husband probably was grilling hamburgers on the other side of the deck. Perhaps after another magnificent sunset, we went inside for dinner. Perhaps afterward, my son would show us the best stones he picked at the water’s edge to take back home.

Perhaps sorting through the old pictures won’t be too daunting after all.

Nurse at the Switchboard

Ten of us from a class of 44 traveled to Cape May, New Jersey to attend our 55th nursing reunion. We first met as young Catholic teens in the late ’50s enrolled in the diploma program at Saint Peter’s School of Nursing in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hard to believe we are now in our mid-70s.

At our luncheon at the Inn of Cape May on a glorious sunny day this past September, we laughed and reminisced about the three years we lived together, when Connie mentioned that she had to man the switchboard at night during the psych rotation at a private psychiatric facility in a Maryland suburb.

Never heard of this we said. But one of us (can’t remember exactly who that was) chimed in to say she remembered at the time how glad she was that she never had to do this. So there was validation that Connie’s memory was intact. Imagine having to work at a telephone switchboard! What does this have to do with learning about psychiatric patients?

lady at switchboard

I found a picture of a telephone switchboard for you too young to remember this contraption that connected folks to each other via telephone lines. Or you could just watch the old movie: Bells Are Ringing with Judy Holiday and Dean Martin.

 

 

 

After hearing about the switchboard, we began outdoing each other with anecdotes about our early nursing days.

I wanted to take notes to capture these unique tales but decided I would rather just enjoy the fellowship. Later, I asked my classmates if I could call them, one by one, and document what they would want to share with current nurses about life in the “olden days.” They all consented.

So now I have a new project. I had been thinking about surveying my classmates about their nursing lives for quite a while. Since our 55th celebration is over, I realize it is now or never. We are dying off. Sad to say but true. Who will remember us? Or what nursing was like years ago? Who would believe that as part of the educational program to learn to be a psych nurse you had to know how to work a telephone switchboard?

You’ll be hearing more about my classmates.

Nurses of a Certain Age

Excepted from Off the Charts, May 31, 2017

 

AJN Facebook Readers on Influences, Public Attitudes to Nursing, Practices of Yesterday

by Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC 

What do you remember from early in your career that would never be seen or done today?

We “nurses of a certain age” remember!—and we’re amazed at how far our profession has come. As one nurse commented, in response to early nursing practices that seem primitive today, “Oh my goodness, how has humanity survived?!”

There were, of course, our caps, white dresses, white hose, and white shoes. One nurse recalled that we always wore our school pins on our uniforms. These seem not much in evidence these days, but were always a source of pride and connection (and sometimes, lighthearted rivalries) back in the day.

In addition, nurses pointed out that the scope of practice has certainly changed. Nurses mixed soft soap for enemas, mixed weak solutions of Lysol (!) for vaginal douching. Wound care has, shall we say, evolved. Nurses recalled packing wounds with eusol (chlorinated lime plus boric acid—“cleaned wounds by removing patients’ flesh with it!”), Savlon (chlorhexidine combined with a chemical later used for disinfecting floors), Milton (a bleach solution), or sugar mixed with Betadine or egg whites. Some remembered “vigorously rubbing talc onto bums to relieve pressure” or “Maalox and heat lamp for sore butts.”

Are automated medication dispensing systems (for example, Pyxis machines) and bar codes part of your daily routine? Several comments described pouring meds from stock bottles on the unit or mixing chemotherapy solutions in the medication room. There were no medication carts, just medication trays with cups and handwritten cards for each patient (different colored cards for b.i.d, t.i.d., etc.).

“Point of care” lab testing didn’t include quality checks. One nurse remembered “burning urine samples in a glass tube over a Bunsen burner to check sugar levels.” DeLee suctioning of newborns—“I ended up with a mouth full of stomach contents more than once”—or pipetting blood and urine samples for the lab via mouth suction were also routine.

Many comments reminded us of tools rarely seen in today’s hospitals. There were time-taped IV bags, glass syringes and IV and chest tube bottles, mercury thermometers, crank beds and egg-crate mattresses, “gloveless everything,” and no hand sanitizer.

Routines and work practices of years ago may be hard to imagine today. Nurses recalled smoking during report, and patients smoking in bed. Patients were admitted “just for observation,” or a day or two prior to surgery. Each shift charted in a different color of ink. Nurses recalled time to talk with patients, and actual “acuity-based staffing” (“RIP,” as one nurse commented).

Another nurse summed up a certain sadness as she described some lost aspects of patient care:

“morning care before breakfast, clean sheets every day, evening care with back rubs, trash emptied, fresh water and being aware of the patient’s environment. [We] took time to assess the patient by the RN and listening. The care was impeccable because of the nurses who controlled the patient experience.”

Back Rub

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What is a Student Nurse?

Carol Ann, a friend of mine from nursing school, recently came to visit. She and her husband live in California. They cruised the Panama Canal over Christmas, drove to see friends in Clearwater, Florida, toured both Savannah and Charleston and traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina to stay with us for a few days. Immediately, we began to reminisce about our school years. I pulled out the Lumine 1962img_0075 yearbook so we could scan our younger selves when we lived in the nursing residence with 42 other young women. For three years, the Gray Nuns of Montreal instilled in us the essence of nursing along with the skills and art of the profession.

Of course, much has changed since then (I will write more about this in later posts). At the time, we nursing students staffed the hospital on the evening and night shifts where a senior student nurse filled the charge position and second year students worked under her. None of us were paid for this “experience.”

The following essay printed in our yearbook describes the student nurse—all young women. I don’t know the author, Barbara Garrity, nor do I agree that student nurses wore white before they graduated.

Many of you older nurses will recognize the out-dated attitudes of the time and most of you youngsters may be scratching your heads wondering could a student nurse be a real person.

What do you think?

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WHAT IS A STUDENT NURSE?

By Barbara Garrity

Student nurses are found everywhere, underneath, on top of, or slithering past patients’ beds. Doctors yell at them, head nurses criticize them, residents overlook them, mothers worry about them, and patients love them.

A student nurse is courage under a cap, a smile in snowy white, strength in starched skirts, energy that is endless, the best of young womanhood, a modern Florence Nightingale. Just when she is gaining poise and prestige, she drops a glass, breaks a syringe or steps on a doctor’s foot.

A student nurse is a composite. She eats like a team of hungry interns and works like the whole nursing staff put together. She has the speed of a gazelle, the strength of an ox, the quickness of a cat, the endurance of a flagpole sitter, the abilities of Florence Nightingale, Linda Richards, and Clara Barton all rolled into one white uniform.

To the head nurse, she has the stability of mush, the fleetness of a snail, the mentality of a mule and is held together by starch, adhesive tape and strained nerves. To an alumna, she will never work as hard, carry more trays, make more beds, or scrub on more cases than her predecessors.

A student nurse likes days off, boys her own age, the O.R., affiliations, certain doctors, pretty clothes, her roommate, Mom and Dad. She’s not much on working 3-11, days off with class, alarm clocks, getting up for roll call, or eating corn beef every Tuesday.

No one else looks forward so much to a day off or so little with working 3-11. No one else gets so much pleasure from straightening a wrinkled sheet or wetting a pair of parched lips. No one else can cram into one little head the course of a disease, the bones comprising the pelvis, what to do when a patient is in shock, how to insert a Cantor tube (usually at 3 A.M.) plus the ten top tunes of the hit parade.

A student nurse is a wonderful creature; you can criticize her, but you can’t discourage her. You can hurt her feelings, but you can’t make her quit. Might as well admit it, whether you are a head nurse, doctor, alumna, or patient, she is your personal representative of the hospital, your living symbol of faith and sympathetic care.

Dad and the Bride Doll

 

My father, a complicated man, was the oldest son of 10 children. His parents came to America from Naples, Italy via Ellis Island at the turn of the century, and settled down in Jersey City, New Jersey.

He left school in the sixth grade to pick up bits of coal from the railroad tracks, placing them in a wagon, to later sell to buy food for the family.

Brookyn Navy Yard
Brookyn Navy Yard

My father was a tight package of a man. Dark and solid with biceps of steel and large hands heavily calloused. He worked on the docks of the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II and then in construction. When we visited Grandma for Sunday dinners, he would flex his muscles and I, and another cousin or two, would hang on his arm as our legs swung above the floor.

A hard drinking man, he was the black sheep of the family but my grandmother’s favorite. She would cook the foods he loved and he would sing and dance her around the kitchen, dodging the hot wood stove and the table that could expand to serve her large family. He never failed to make her laugh, she who took to her bed with headaches; dour and sad, more days than not.

I was his only child. I knew he would have preferred a son who he would teach to box, throw a ball and take to the Yankee games. To please him, I learned to swing a bat, hit a fastball and bob and weave as I sparred with an imaginary opponent. He took me out of school to see the 7th game of the World Series when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in 1952.

One Christmas when I was about eight or nine, I wanted a bride doll. I knew it cost a lot of money and money was always tight. My father shook his head indicating I would not get my wish.

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Close to Christmas, when my father went into his bedroom and pulled the door behind him—not quite closing it—I crept up to watch through the slit. He opened the closet and reached on the top shelf and took down a box. Opening it, he removed a beautiful blond doll with a white gown and stroked her veil with his heavy hands. I guess I faked my shocked reaction when I opened the present on Christmas day. I don’t remember if I wished at the time I hadn’t peeked into the bedroom, since it diminished my surprise. However now as I look back I treasure the sight of my father gently smoothing out the doll’s veil and knowing he was making his little girl happy on Christmas.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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Happy Lasagna Day

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My husband and I are spending Thanksgiving alone—by choice. We had been invited out but graciously declined.

After having three sets of houseguests in six weeks, we are happy to be alone. By the way, the house has never been cleaner.

And we broke from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—we are having lasagna.

lasagna

I love leftover lasagna as much or more than leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy.

 

Over the years lasagna has become the ubiquitous casserole. You can find it premade in deli departments and frozen food cases in grocery stores. It’s the go-to meal neighbors bring over to neighbors on happy occasions (childbirth) and solemn occasions (sickness or death in the family).

My love of lasagna goes back to my childhood when we visited Grandma in Jersey City. She lived in a second floor walk-up two blocks from my house. Who remembers what time she got up in the morning to begin cooking the lasagna and the rest of the meal, including homemade bread and a roasted chicken? As for the lasagna, she made the pasta from scratch. The tomato sauce (we called this gravy) simmered for hours on the stove. She used whole-milk ricotta and mozzarella cheeses that were made fresh at the Italian store down the block.

Being the oldest granddaughter, I sometimes helped by assembling the multiple layers of the dish. First the sauce, the pasta in one layer, a few spoonfuls of cheese mixture (ricotta, parmesan, eggs, oregano and parsley), sliced mozzarella, more sauce/gravy and then I started over again finishing with the mozzarella on top.

If the family ever had turkey for Thanksgiving, I don’t remember.

In Grandma’ s cramped kitchen the men ate first—Grandma’s three sons, her five sons-in law and Grandpa. My cousins and I sat at the “children’s table” that was cobbled together with end tables and folding chairs. The women served and cleared and eventually sat down to dinner with the windows open to let out the steam from the kitchen along with the delicious aromas of the Italian Thanksgiving feast.

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So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the usual, although not insignificant blessings, such as health, family, friends, but also for the memories that warm me and bring me back to Grandma’s table laden with her gifts and in the company of my extended family—some long gone but not forgotten.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving and joyful memories.