Country Music

I’m not writing my second book whose working title was to be “Home Visits.” The Pandemic has cast a spell on my brain, resulting in lethargy and an inability to focus on structuring another book. So, instead, I’ve decided to take each home visit story and submit it to a literary magazine for potential publication as a “stand-alone” essay. I plan to email one of the stories, Country Music, at the end of this week to an online journal. 

Country Music tells the story of three patients that I cared for when I worked as a nurse practitioner in a home care program at a Veterans Hospital outside of Chicago. They were at various stages of dying. In the late 80s, the hospice movement was just taking baby steps into the medical/nursing world. I was learning about dying and death from my patients and their caregivers. 

The locations of the three patients’ homes lined up perfectly for me to make the visits to them conveniently in the same day. This lasted for about three months. On the day of the story, a dreary, rainy day, I show the challenges I faced working with my three male patients and their wives (few women were enrolled in the VA health care system at that time), how each man played the hand he was dealt and how the women dealt their husband’s decline. 

One of the men loved country music. Talking with him about songs and artists, rekindled my interest in the genre. I found a great country western radio station on my government-issued compact car. The earthy, raw lyrics telling of common human emotions became my therapeutic passenger that accompanied me on my home visits. 

While I am editing this story for submission, I find myself checking into YouTube to listen to the familiar songs that supported me so many years ago. This is more fun than writing that second book. 

What was my Memoir really about?

It has been two years since my book was published on November 6, 2018. Shortly afterward, I wrote this for She Writes Press Blog:

What was my memoir really about?

November 2018

By Marianna Crane

This guest post was written by Marianna Crane, author of Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers.

Marianna Crane became one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. She writes to educate the public about what nurses really do. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Eno River Literary Journal, Examined Life Journal, Hospital Drive, Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology, and Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine. She lives with her husband in Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit her at http://www.nursingstories.org.

The book will take as long as it needs to take to be done.

My book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, took me about seven years to complete. I couldn’t seem to rush the process. A mentor told me “the book will take as long as it needs to take to be done.” And only after I finished the book did I understand what my story was really about.  

My nursing career covered forty years. As soon as I retired I began to record those years starting with nursing school. When I reached the early 80s, a tug in my gut told me that I couldn’t go any further. During that time I was the coordinator of a not-for-profit clinic in Chicago targeting the underserved elderly. Throughout the years, I always remembered the clinic as being totally different from any other job I ever had. Located on the tenth-floor of an apartment building for low-income seniors, the open door policy allowed anyone to walk in—with a heart attack or carrying a loaf of zucchini bread.

As a new nurse practitioner (I had been a registered nurse for twenty years before I went back to school to become an NP), I narrowly viewed my role as a health care provider. I would see patients in the clinic for illnesses or health maintenance. That the elderly had multitudinous social and economic problems initially eluded me. Or was it that my lack of education in geriatrics, a new specialty at the time, that contributed to my misconceptions?

Many of my patients’ stories were captured in a journal that I kept while I struggled with the dilemmas that challenged me—patients choosing between food and medicine, or were victims of family abuse, or targeted by scam artists from the community. I often vacillated whether I had any right to step in and take over a patient’s finances or change the locks on the doors. With no road map, I fumbled along, sometimes butting heads with my staff in deciding how to intervene.

Finding the Truth in Revision

I learned that what I wrote initially in the book was not a clear map of what I wanted to convey. I just wanted to tell this story. But what story? My memory cast my co-workers in roles that inhibited my progress. With each rewrite, I softened my harsh critique of others and uncovered some detrimental actions that I had initiated. My insight became sharper when I let the story percolate in my head rather than rushing to rewrite. Reflection and patience, albeit over seven years, finally enabled me to be truthful to what happened in the tenth-floor clinic.

In retrospect, I see that having a preconceived notion of what I wanted to write had caused me to miss what was behind the real story. My belief about the stories from the tenth-floor clinic stemmed from what I remembered—my truth at that moment. The passage of time has a way of rearranging recollections. It was only after examining my place in my memoir that I uncovered what the story was really about, even if I had already lived it.

The book took as long as it needed to take to be done.

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.

Time to Take a Break

I want to revisit a time that made me happy. I invite you to look back to a moment that brought you joy, too. Find what you can to feed your soul and rejuvenate your body so you can participate in finding the solutions to our current troubles. Take a break in this time of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter to temporarily distance yourself from the daily bombardment of negative news.

It is a time that I truly hope is not a moment but a movement. May we all keep the movement alive until we have made lasting changes.

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I remember how I felt on a lovely June day in 2017 when I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art and joined the “Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers” from New York that led us through the art galleries marching and stepping up to the music of the Bee Gees: Staying Alive. Ironic title, isn’t it?

I hope that the video at the end of this post lifts your spirits.

A Little Music and Movement Can Make You See Things Differently

Originally published June 6, 2016

Yesterday, I went to the North Carolina Art Museum at 10 a.m. to move to music.

Two women led, followed by a man in a suit holding an open laptop channeling the songs that were mostly by the Bee Gees. The women, in sequined dresses and sneakers, stomped, marched, trotted in time with the music. Thirteen women and two men, ranging in age from 20 to 70 plus, followed behind, mimicking the women’s movements. We didn’t talk.

I felt exhilarated racing through the empty museum with music bouncing off the walls surrounded by other exuberant people. The moves were not stressful. I did most of them except balancing on one leg and I stopped halfway through the jumping jacks.

The group stopped intermittently in front of a piece of art: statue, still life, portrait, and continued to move/exercise in place. Short inspirational narratives, previously taped by Maira Kalman, punctuated the music. Normally, when I visit a museum, I would gaze at the art in quiet contemplation. This time my mind and body seemed as one, absorbing the stimuli transmitted from the environment, my thoughts suspended.

When the two women dropped to the floor, I felt as if someone turned off the lights. Lying among my fellow participants with arms and legs outstretched, I realized that fifty minutes had flown by.

Now the day after, the residual glow from yesterday remains with me.

My new goal is to have more days where I step out of the ordinary.

Thanks Monica Bill Barnes & Company!

Anna Bass,me,Monica Bell Barnes, Robbie Saenz de Viteri

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The first performance The Museum Workout appeared at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Check out the video of the performance. 

photograph by loulex for the New Yorker

Madame X, meet Ladies in Sequined Dresses and Sneakers. For “The Museum Workout,” which starts a four-week run on Jan. 19, Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass, Everywoman dancers of deadpan zaniness, guide tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before public hours, leading light stretching and group exercises as they go. Recorded commentary by the illustrator Maira Kalman, who planned the route, mixes with Motown and disco tunes. Might raised heart rates and squeaking soles heighten perception?

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Home Visits Can Be Fraught With Danger

As I write my second book, which is about the home visits I have made over the years, I am resurrecting memories from my mind and the pages of my journals. Today’s post shows a time when I didn’t use common sense and how home visits can be fraught with danger. 

One day in early fall, on my drive back to the hospital after making all my scheduled home visits, I found myself passing by a patient’s apartment on the westside of Chicago. Since I was ahead of schedule, I decided to drop in, unannounced. I had the time. My patient had a caregiver: a tall, muscular man who always opened the door to the first-floor apartment wearing a long blond wig and thick make-up. Despite his flamboyant appearance, he gave competent care to his charge: a bed-bound, uncommunicative middle-aged man with multiple sclerosis. An exotic array of visitors wandered in and out of the apartment. My patient’s mother, strikingly average looking compared to the rest of the visitors, lived in rooms above her son’s and was often present when I came. However, this day I walked into an unlocked and empty apartment. Only my patient, lying in bed in the darkened bedroom, was present. 

Neither the caregiver, nor the patient’s mother, or anyone else familiar to me entered the apartment while I was there. However, as I finished with my evaluation, a man opened the unlocked apartment door. He wasn’t anyone I had seen before. My patient smiled at him knowingly.

The man removed his jacket and tossed it on the sofa. We introduced ourselves. His eyes moved down my body. Acutely aware of the precarious situation I was in—alone in that apartment with a strange man and unhelpful patient—a band tightened around my chest. 

“I’m just leaving,” I said as I promptly packed up my nursing bag. 

Safely back in my car, my breathing heavy and my hands shaking, I chastised myself for making this impulsive visit. No one back at the office knew where I was. It was a time before cell phones. What If something had happened to me?  I didn’t want to think of that. I never again made an unscheduled home visit. 

Sometime after that impromptu visit, at a nursing conference, I sat fixated as another home health nurse told a story about the time that she had made a scheduled visit. She rang her patient’s doorbell. He didn’t answer. It was later that she found out he had been murdered. And in hearing more detail, she discovered that the murderer had likely been in the house the exact time she was ringing the bell. Good thing the door wasn’t unlocked. 

Home visits can be fraught with danger. 

Nurses are nuts or do they just need “secretaries?”

 

Nurses Are Nuts by Anthony Langley, RN

 

 

 

 

Anthony Langley contacted me to ask if he could send me a copy of his book to review and possibly discuss on my Blog. I am always happy to support a fellow nurse who takes the plunge and writes a book about nursing, so I said sure.

 

 

 

About the Author

Anthony Langley has been a registered nurse for twenty-nine years. He also has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. His interest in nursing started after getting a job as a security officer in the emergency room of a hospital. A male nurse who worked in the emergency room showed him the things that nurses did, which got him interested in nursing.

Anthony Langley

He got his bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1990. At his first job, he started on a medical-surgical unit. He has worked in many areas of the hospital, which include surgical stepdown unit, surgical intensive care, same-day surgery, and the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) recovery room.

 

 

Continue reading “Nurses are nuts or do they just need “secretaries?””

Write What You Are Afraid Of

How serendipitous is this? I wrote this post back on April 15, 2012 about how I hesitated to include into my memoir, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, a story of three men who had cancer and lived near each other.
Their stories didn’t make the cut, after all, because I had narrowed down the scope of the book to include just the time I spent at the clinic. I put their stories on the shelf and, now, I want to write about them in my new book, which is going to be about making home visits.
Truth be told, I have been successfully avoiding writing the manuscript. I’m not sure why.
I plan to meet with my mentor and good friend after the holidays to help me explore what I’m afraid of.

Nursing Stories

I didn’t attend the 2011 Fall Conference in Asheville sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network but I kept this description of one of the master classes: “If You’re Afraid to Write About It, You Probably Should Write About It”   

Often a writer’s breakthrough comes when he finally faces up to material he’s been avoiding. Maybe it’s too personal or too painful or maybe he assumes it just wouldn’t interest anyone else. Whatever the reason, we writers often overlook our own obvious strengths, dismissing the very things that are central to us. Consequently, we write around the edges of our lives or our characters’ lives, so that our stories are pale imitations of what they could be. They may be well-written, they may even be entertaining, but they lack heart. As a writing teacher, I spend a good bit of time helping students recognize and appreciate their own writerly…

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NCWN Fall Conference

I attended the North Carolina Writers Network Fall Conference in Asheville this past weekend.

The Keynote Speaker was Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain)

Q & A with Charles Frazier

Frazier spoke of how he came to be published. His wife’s good friend was an agent. How lucky can you get?

 

Sessions I attended:

I.  Screenplay: Fake vs Fiction with Maryedith Burrell

Me & Maryedith Burrell

To Do: Adapt my book to a screenplay-optional.

2.  Power Up the Truth You Tell with Christine Hale

Make situation significant for the reader

To Do: Create a compelling protagonist for my next book.

 

3.  The Limits of Perception with Tessa Fontaine

Writing Practice

To Do: Try this prompt at home– and others.

4.  The Ins & Outs of Small Press Publishing with Luke Hankins

To Do: Appreciate the fact I worked with She Writes Press.

5.  Creative Ways to Promote Your Book (& Yourself) with Anne Fitten Glenn

To Do:  Pat myself on the back for doing lots that Anne suggested. Plus look into Audio Books and begin to use Instagram.

 

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vets reading
Luncheon with Joseph Bathanti and Brother Like These.

 

Brothers Like These is a program at the local VA hospital to help veterans from the Vietnam War who suffer with PTSD heal through writing. Moving. Good thing I had tissues in my tote.

 

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My book with award stickers on the cover

 

I sold 4 out of the 5 books we authors were allowed to place on the conference sales table. Last year I sold only one book. Did the award stickers make a difference or the discussions of my book with other attendees?

 

I bought a fellow author’s, Charley Pearson, medical thriller at the NCWN Fall Conference. 

To Do: Read. Enjoy. Write a comment on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning the hard way about book promotion

My son-in-law and daughter left for a weekend in Chicago so he could run the marathon. I stayed at their home, watching three grandkids and the two dogs. It was good timing. My life, up to now, has mostly centered on promoting my first and only book. I have been doing little else.

Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, came out a year ago. Initially, I had a publicist but for the past few months I have been driving the marketing train by fits and starts.

UnknownMy recent effort at marketing has been to hop aboard the lecture circuit. I chose a topic, Empowering the Patient, that would attract an audience both interested in my talk, and additionally, would buy my book. I knew about this subject. I am a nurse practitioner, after all. Never mind that I haven’t practiced for twelve years. I have been a volunteer at a local hospital and exposed to the advances in practice and management. Besides, I have experienced the health care system as a caregiver and patient. And I have read lots of books and used online sources to educate myself. I put together an outline, did a Power Point presentation, and developed a reference list to hand out. My audience, I decided, would be impressed with my knowledge and engaging manner and purchase my book.

The lecture sites I choose had restrictions on overtly selling my book. However, I could say I authored a book and leave my promotional literature near the sign-in sheets.

I didn’t sell one book!

While I enjoyed giving the lectures and especially liked interacting with my audience, what became clear was that I didn’t enjoy the time and commitment it took. I was always on the lookout for updated information and the latest health interventions, which took up more time from family, pursuing my other creative endeavors like painting, and time away from writing my second book.

Besides, I found that I was stepping back into my previous nursing role to help out members of my audience. I felt their frustration in dealing with the complicated health care system. I didn’t stop at giving them needed tools. The nurse in me wanted to help by telling them what to do. Could I get sued for giving inaccurate information? Was all this worth the time and effort when it didn’t seem anyone was interested in my book.

What surprised me most of all was how I let myself get so obsessed with book promotion. I am usually sensitive to keeping a balance in my life, protective of my personal space and set limits on getting overly engaged.

Spending time with the grandchildren provided a change of scenery that took me away from my self-imposed author responsibilities. I have come to realize that while I am proud to have authored a book and want to see it sell well, it is after all, only a book

THE WEIRDEST HOME VISIT

This originally appeared on 08/12/2012. The Weirdest Home Visit is one of many stories that didn’t make it into the first book. I am considering it for inclusion in my second book.

Nursing Stories

When I worked in the home care program at a VA hospital in Illinois, medical students sometimes came along with us nurse practitioners while we made our visits. I enjoyed showing them the reality of delivering care in the patient’s home—where we were guests—the subtle line between suggestion and decree, education and instruction, doing for the patient and letting the patient do for himself.

One afternoon, when I had a female medical student riding with me, I had trouble finding the house. In the day of no cell phones or GPS’s, I stopped at a gas station to call the patient’s wife. Was I being paranoid when she sounded like she was being deliberately unclear?

We finally drove down the well-manicured block in a rather upscale neighborhood. One house in the middle of the block was “protected” by a row of stately cypresses or if cypresses trees don’t grow in…

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