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Monday, November 21, 2011

Identity Theft Victim

Today has been a very frustrating day.  Noticing that someone has been renting pornographic material on our tv, I contacted our provider.  They told me I still had to pay for the movies, even though I hadn't rented them.  I've heard several say that I shouldn't pay it.  However, the payment is an automatic withdrawal from my bank account, so I don't know how I can prevent the payment from going through without canceling the service altogether.  They are sending information on how to block the videos or change my password by mail.

A few days ago, Walmart wouldn't take my debit card payment for my purchases, asking for a smaller amount.  What the heck was going on?  I knew I had deposited a great deal of money to my account just a couple of weeks prior to this shopping trip, and hadn't spent much of it, wanting to save it for Christmas gifts.

Today, I received a call from JC Penney online, reporting that someone had tried to purchase a tv using my debit card information, but it was a different address to ship it to, which aroused suspicion in the clerk.  I told her I had not ordered any tvs.  She recommended I contact my bank, which I did  immediately.  The bank president closed my debit card.

My next step was to go online, and look at all the debits and credits to my account.  What I found shocked me.
There were over $2000 in charges that I had never made.  I printed out the register of entries.  I was really becoming upset.  Was someone coming in to my house?  Or going through my purse at work?  Or getting access to my account information from shopping online?   I felt violated.  The more I thought about it, the angrier I became.

I posted a message to the culprit on Facebook.  I told this invisible threat to my well-being that I hoped they were enjoying my grandchildren's Christmas money, and that I was trying to gain the strength to forgive them, but it was difficult, very difficult.  I told them that the card was cancelled, and the account would probably be closed as well.

Then I called the sheriff's department and reported what had been happening.  They took my name and number and promised someone would be in touch.  It was much later when the deputy called and said he had been tied up with a traffic accident.  We talked and he asked a lot of questions.  I gave a lot of  information to him that I usually don't give out over the phone.  I had noticed the caller ID number and knew it came from the police department.  I felt a little uneasy giving out that information, because if the wrong person got hold of that information, I could really be in financial disaster.

The deputy said he would come by Mt. Joseph, where I work, tomorrow afternoon to pick up the itemized list of charges made by the culprit.  I hope and pray they catch this person.  I wonder how many others have been stolen from by this person.  I don't know if it happened in one of the stores when I was shopping last weekend, or if my card was exposed to someone elsewhere.  Or could it have happened when I shopped online?

I do know that I will be much more protective with my card and shopping from now on.  My purse will be kept locked in my locker at work, not left lying on the floor by the desk.  I have a hard time trusting anyone. I'm changing the password on my television, so no one can run up a huge bill again.  The remotes will be kept where the dogs can't step on them.  My peace has been destroyed, in the Season of Peace and Goodwill.  I hope things will be better next year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Nano and Halloween getting close!

Halloween is growing very close now.  I will be working in the therapy department on Monday, and have been trying to find an appropriate costume to wear to work.  I found some pink hairspray, a white feather boa, and have toyed with the idea of being a "Pink Lady" from "Grease".  I'm not sure that is what I will do, though.  I may just decide to wear one of my several Halloween scrubs and be more comfortable..we'll see.

I'm getting a little nervous about the NANOWRIMO beginning on Tuesday.  I've gotten a little bit of a head start by doing a loose outline of my story, and fleshing out my characters a little bit.  I need to get them more defined before I start, so I'm not contradicting myself with their behaviors.

I have heard good feedback about my theme and plot so far.  The premise of my story is a nurse in a nursing home who is dealing with four teenagers at home with one bathroom to share, and a husband who drives a truck and is rarely home.  This nurse is also caring for her elderly dad, who is a resident of the nursing home where she works.  When a couple of convicts escape from a nearby prison and take the staff and residents of the nursing home as hostages, the nurse must keep everyone calm, do her job as best she can, while trying to talk the convicts into  surrendering without harming anyone.  Her faith in God is her strongest support in this story.  

I've never written 50,000 words in a month before.  I don't know if I'll make it, but I'd like to give it a try.  Who knows?  It might be my best story yet!  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I've done it now!

Well, I've really stepped in it this time.  I was busy reading all the posts in F2K about NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month), which is held every November.  The idea of this month-long event is to get people to writing.  The goal?  Write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.  It starts November 1 and runs through midnight on November 30th.

I've known about this event since 1999, the first year it began.  However, 1999 was not a particularly slow year for me.  I lost a daughter in a house fire in February, and gave the other daughter to her husband in October.  In between dealing with mourning one, and trying to keep up a happy face for the other, when I really just wanted to crawl in  a hole and never come out, just about wore me out.

Each year, I've had some reason why I couldn't participate in Nano.  Usually, I blamed it on my job, my health,  family obligations, or just plain laziness.  So I had already decided I wouldn't take part again this  year, and posted it in the F2K forum.

Today, however, a niggling thought came to mind.  If I don't ever try, I'll never succeed.  I would prefer to use my work in progress, DOOR IN TIME for Nano, but the powers that be wish everything to be brand new.  So I compromised.  I looked through my prior writings, and found a short story that I had worked on many years ago.  I never really finished it then.  But ideas for the completion of a full novel based on my character began to flood my brain.  I knew then, that I had to try it.

There is no guarantee that I will finish the project now, but I'd sure like to give it a try.  And once I finish this, maybe I'll have the momentum to finish DOOR IN TIME.  I've even got an idea or two for sequels to that novel.

So, if you don't see much of me in November, don't worry.  I'll be fine.  And if you see me carrying my laptop around, don't assume I'm playing games.  I doubt I'll have much time for those for a month or two. There is no penalty for not completing the 50,000 words, but each word that I do get written will be that much closer to the finish line of a new novel.  And that's what I like to do.

If this post inspires you to do something similar and crazy like me, it's not too late to join in.  Just Google NANOWRIMO and follow the leads to the site, register and on November 1, start  your engines and begin racing toward the 30th and a complete novel.

Anyone care to join me?  I'm registered under NurseArtist1951.  I'd love to have some friends doing this with me.  Perhaps we could even meet to write together.  I happen to know a neat little coffee house close by where we can work.

I'm pumped.  Are  you?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cobwebs and Mementos

I wrote this essay about 5 years ago.

There’s nothing like cleaning out closets and junk rooms to bring back memories. That is the project of the week for me, and it has brought a roller coaster of emotions along for the ride.
Jason’s old room is full to the brim with empty boxes, old bedding, old furniture, old stereo equipment belonging to both Jason and Josh, and old toys. Many of these items will simply go to the garbage, but a few of them made me sit down and reminisce for a few moments. Cobwebs cover the corners and ceiling, a reminder that I’ve waited too long to tackle this project.
Take Jason’s old G.I. Joe toys, Transformers, and high school prom pictures. Jason didn’t do much dating in high school, so a nice prom picture with him in it is a treasure to me. I plan on keeping one of these photos for myself.
I found Teresa’s nursing license certificate and card. This brought out a few tears, remembering Teresa’s last days alive. I’ll put these in the scrapbook we started about Teresa to give to Regan. She is old enough now to need some mementos to remind her of her mother.
Becky’s old Cabbage Patch Doll will make a nice gift for her daughter, Karsyn. I was delighted to see those are still popular. My girls certainly enjoyed playing with theirs.
Josh had a lot of stereo equipment stored in that room. I have no idea what some of it even is or what it does. I found an old photo album from when he was in Okinawa. I think some of those photos are better left lost.
I found motorcycle helmets, beer signs, lots of sweaters and boots that will go to the Thrift Shop. Some of Regan’s baby toys she outgrew can be sterilized and put in the toy box for Whitley and Karsyn to play with, or fight over, as the case may be.
Josh has a huge wooden trunk that is full of uniform parts, sports memorabilia, and other assorted mementos of time gone by. I’m hoping he’ll want to take those home with him. But they’ll be ok for a while in the trunk. It’s all the loose items that are bugging me to be disposed of. Lots of CD covers with no disc in them. Do I recycle the covers? Do I search for the CDs? Not likely. Gun cleaning kits, and parts of guns, boxes that once held rifles, weedeaters, and other “man stuff” will all find homes elsewhere.
The floor is looking pretty rough. I’ll have to put down a large area rug to cover splintered areas. The walls definitely need a coat of paint. All of that will have to come later. Right now, it’s back to the “bat cave” to finish sorting. If I don’t emerge in a day or so, please send out a search party. I may have been bitten by something rabid.

My Bucket List

I should be in bed.  I’ve been up since four a.m.  I worked passing meds for eight hours straight today with only a short five minute break and a thirty minute break for lunch.  My feet are killing me, and my back hurts.  But I’m happy.  My loving husband is on his way home.

We’ll only have tomorrow together before he’ll have to leave again.  I have to work Sunday morning as charge nurse.  So it will be another four a.m. alarm day.  We’ll be going to church tomorrow night.

My mother is on a short vacation to Branson, Missouri.  I’m praying that she is having a painless happy time with her sister, niece and other family.  She left me a phone message to say she would be back tomorrow.

My daughter is planning their second vacation this year.  They took a week and their kids and traveled to Colorado earlier this summer.  On Wednesday, Rusty and Becky plan to leave for Cancun, Mexico.  I’m concerned about this trip, as I am every time she leaves the country.  With all the political unrest everywhere and increased terrorism, I am not a big fan of foreign travel.  I’m praying they will return safe and sound and have a good time.

I will be helping to watch their children while they are gone.  Rusty’s mom will have them part of the time, and I will take over when she returns home.  I’ve been asked to stay with them in their home, which means leaving my dogs alone here in my home.  I’m not crazy about that, but I guess we’ll survive.

I think I’ll take my laptop with me to their house.  It will make the days go faster.  I have to work some of the days, so will be seeing the grandkids off to school before I leave for work.  This means getting up pretty early to get ready myself in time to get them up.  More four a.m. mornings, I’m thinking.  Sigh.  Oh well, it’s only for a few days. 

I keep telling Becky that “next year, your dad and I want to take a trip.”  But each year, something happens to prevent our traveling.  This year it was his mom’s illness and death.

Last year, Dennis had to have surgery and missed work, then used vacation leave to pay for missed days.  We haven’t actually traveled together much since 2005, when I had to have multiple surgeries upon our return due to acute appendicitis and complications resulting in further surgery.

Perhaps I need to do like Becky and Rusty do.  Plan a date for our trip and make reservations.   Then we’ll have a good excuse to say, “sorry, we’ll be out of town.”  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love watching those adorable children.  It’s quality time I treasure.  But I would like a chance to indulge in a little traveling of my own.  I have yet to travel out of this country.  I’ve never been on a cruise.  I’ve only flown one time, a few days after we were married back in 1971, when we flew to Chicago, where Dennis was stationed in the U.S. Navy.

I’d like to work on my own bucket list.  I love the mountains, especially in early October, when the autumn splendor is at its highest.  I’d like to see Alaska.  I want to get my feet wet in the ocean.  I want to see the Grand Canyon.  I want to do some plein air painting. I want to take some awesome photos of wildlife and landscapes.  I want to spend some quality time with my husband, while we’re still able to travel.   Is that so wrong?

I received an invitation for an all expense paid free cruise in the mail the other day.  I know most of those things are scams, so I won’t be using that.  But I know a couple of travel consultants locally, who would love to fix me up with reservations for a trip.  I’m tempted to look into it, just to see what is available and how much I’ll need to save.  Why should I have to wait until I’m my Mom’s age to travel? 

I’ll have to sleep on this idea. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


There are times when my dogs infuriate me.  This morning, I let them out to romp while I walked across the street to the mailbox.  Normally, they stay in our yard, chasing each other around, doing their business, and sniffing everything they find, but not this morning.

Almost immediately they both took off running to the neighbor’s yard across the street.  I called to them by name, shouting and coaxing alternately, but to no avail.  They ran away even farther.

I knew they would return home on their own terms, so I went back into the house and read my mail.  After several minutes, I turned to look out of the glass storm door, and they were sitting there on the porch, waiting to be let back in.  Their feet were muddy, their long fur full of leaves and twigs.

I let them in for a moment, thinking I would give them baths.  But I was angry with them, and didn’t want to deal with the mess that always comes with baths just yet.  So I took them out to the back yard and put them in their pen.  I gave them some dog food and made sure they had water, but no treats for Bandit and Starr today.

Or at least until I miss them and bring them back in.  They say Shih Tzu’s are difficult to train.  I say almost impossible.  You don’t train Shih Tzu pups, they train you.  I’ll be the one begging for treats soon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Garage Sales

Garage sales, porch sales, yard sales,
One man's junk is another's treasure.
Furniture, clothing, pots and pans,
Bring cash to some; to others, pleasure.
Antiques, baby supplies, toys, even guns,
Something for everyone, second to none.
Traffic jams, people jumping out of cars,
Racing to grab those canning jars.
TVs, stereos, sports equipment,
Does it work? How much do you want?
Can I fit that into my car?
I wonder if I have space for that.
Can I return it if it don't fit?
Will the grandkids wear that?
Is it out of style?  I wouldn't touch that
for a country mile.
My cash is all gone; my time is all spent.
I wouldn't buy that for one red cent.
Time to go home, put my new treasures away,
Until the next garage sale day.

Dixie Barnes 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Conflict in Fiction and Real Life

When people are under stress, they will sometimes do things unexpectedly.  Conflicts will arise, and relationships change, sometimes permanently.  Friends become enemies, and alliances with others are not formed from the usual criteria, but are results of bonding on certain issues.

I recently observed this behavior in a writing course amongst the mentors of the class.  Remarks were made, offense was taken, and the battle was on.  The conflict escalated to the point that one of the mentors considered quitting.  This would put the class at jeopardy, and damage the integrity of the instructors, possibly permanently.  The mentor involved had been with the school for many years, and had worked her way up to co-administrator status.
Thankfully, she has decided not to leave the course, but will try to avoid further escalation of the incident that started the problem.  Her students will continue to enjoy her expertise, and class will be uninterrupted.

Conflict is an essential part of any fiction project.  Without it, the story is dull and boring.  It was only a coincidence that conflict was the topic of the lesson for this week.  It was awkward, not only for the mentors involved, but also for the students and fellow mentors.  No one wanted to take sides.  Everyone had an opinion, but most resisted the temptation to offer it.  Everyone not personally involved felt the need to walk on eggshells around the issue.

There was conflict in some family issues recently as well.  A beloved family member was dying, and the children were bickering over who should do what to help.  Angry words were said, names were called, and many tears were shed.  Stress was causing conflict.

Thankfully, the family pulled together enough to be present at the funeral.  The planning went relatively smoothly.  The surviving spouse is being cared for, and life is going on.  The situation was created by a lack of communication, frayed nerves, overwork, and raw emotion from anticipated grief. 

The scene is ongoing.  There has been no real resolution of the conflict as of this time, but I am praying the family will find some neutral  ground on which to rebuild the relationships .   Someday, once the air has settled, it might be fodder for a fiction story.  But for now, it is enough that the family members are trying to keep it together for the surviving spouse, who needs help.

Conflict is always present, sometimes under the surface in family dynamics, sometimes barely skin deep, with the potential for emotional outbursts.  In some families, the relationships are permanently destroyed, and never recover.  This is a tragedy for any children in these families.  But it can be tragic for the elderly as well.  Mothers, who spend their entire lives raising their children to love one another, see their children squabbling and at each other’s throats, even on their deathbeds.  How sad.

In my writing, I try to keep some conflict under the surface.  It’s what keeps my readers turning the pages, wanting to know how it all turns out.  In fairy tales, conflicts are almost always resolved and happy endings result.  This does not always happen in real life, unfortunately.  Sometimes an uneasy truce is all that can be expected.  These are uncertain times.  Economic adversity, warfare, crime, childhood and spousal abuse, all add to the conflicts in our lives.  They are all topics of possible stories.  It’s how we handle them that makes or breaks our stories, real and fictionally.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My husband's mother, Georgia, passed away yesterday following a short illness.  She was 85 years old.  She was born November 6, 1926, to Carlos and Rose Knox of Clifton, Ks.

Georgia never attended school past the sixth grade.  She dropped out of school to help raise her siblings.  She was the oldest of eight children.  The family moved several times in the Clifton, Ks area. She worked at several jobs during her teen and young adult life, until she married Dale, who survives her.  They had been married 65 years at the time of her death.

Dale and Georgia raised ten children. My husband is the oldest.  He has five brothers and four sisters.  The brother closest in age to him died following cancer surgery in 2008.

There are many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and several great-great grandchildren.  One grandchild, our daughter, Teresa, died in a house fire in 1999.  When the family has family dinners,they rent the American Legion hall to accommodate the large crowd.  It can get pretty wild, with everyone trying to talk, some playing cards, children chasing each other around having fun, tons of delicious food brought potluck.

Georgia's faith was her strength.  She was a devout Catholic, as were her parents and her siblings. It was her most desired wish that her children would grow up mindful that Jesus is their Savior.

Georgia was always interested in crafts.  She loved doing embroidery work.  Tea towels were stitched with loving fingers and given away as wedding and shower gifts to each new bride in the family.  She also sold them to people who stopped by the booth she shared with her husband.  He makes custom gun stocks for rifles and shotguns, with beautiful walnut wood and delicate etching and checkering.  They traveled together to gun shows all over the country.

The two of them loved to travel and purchased several motor homes and trailers to live in during their travels.  They took several of the older children with them in their travels at times, visiting the national parks and other scenic byways of this great country.

During the past year, Georgia suffered several health setbacks and was hospitalized numerous times.  Her last illness kept her hospitalized for several weeks, culminating in her death on September 23, 2011.

There will be a vigil and Rosary on Sunday, September 25, 2011 at Turner's Funeral Home in Clifton at 7:00 p.m.  Funeral services will be held at the St. Mary's Catholic Church in Clifton, Ks. on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.  Graveside services and internment will be in the St. Mary's Cemetery north of Clifton, immediately following the service.  A dinner will be held for family at the church following internment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Yesterday, I had at least 10 years scared out of me when a black snake about 4 1/2 ft. long dropped out of a tree and landed on the sidewalk right in front of me. I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or the snake. He immediately coiled up and that forked tongue flickered up and down and in and out of his mouth. I beat a hasty retreat to my porch.

I didn't want him to come on to the porch after me. Yeah, I know. They are more scared of us than we are of least that's what I've been told. But I doubt that could ever be. Anyway, I grabbed a broom from the porch and advanced on the snake, attempting to sweep him out to the street, about 20 feet away.

The snake was having none of it. He coiled even tighter. I flipped him over onto his back. He twisted around until he and I were facing each other once more. I whopped him over the head with the bristles of the broom. He didn't like that much. He began slithering toward the tree trunk. I thought, oh great, now he'll be back up above me, just waiting to attack again!

I finally decided to run and grab my camera, so I could safely show the snake to hubby. I snapped a picture of the snake as it was climbing the sycamore's trunk. I've been very cautious since then. I look up and around very intently to see if the creepy creature is about.

Today, when I went to check my mail, I hurried under the limbs of the tree until I was out in the sunshine once more. On my way back under the tree, I looked up. There he was. He had his head and about 7 inches of his body hanging out of a hole in the tree. He has a nest up there. Or is it a she? Do I have a bunch of baby snakes up in that tree too? Heaven forbid!

I watched the snake as it watched me. Eventually, I guess I outstared it, because it retreated slowly back inside the tree's hole. I took that opportunity to make a wild dash under that limb and back to the safety of my house. I checked to be sure the doors were tightly latched once inside. I do not want that creature inside with me. I know I'll dream about snakes tonight.

I have snake repellent at the old house in Clifton. I think I'll bring it over here now.

Oh God! I hate snakes!

Friday, May 27, 2011

All Men Are Slime wd ct. 1162

“All men are slime,” said the waitress, Sherry, as she leaned over the café bar. “I should know, I’ve dated a lot of them. I’ve never found a good one yet.”

As she wiped the bar, she glanced at me with a sympathetic eye. I tried to keep my emotions under control, but a tear defied my best efforts and rolled slowly down one cheek. I sniffed and wiped the tear away with the back of my hand.

“Ah, honey, don’t cry. He isn’t worth it. I’d just forget about men for now. Throw yourself into your work. Get a pet. Find a hobby, or two, or three. You’ll be much better off—you’ll see.” She reached over and patted my arm with her free hand.

“I know, Sherry, but I really thought we had something special. He treated me like a real princess. I’ve never had that before.”

“Julie, they all think they are treating you like a princess, and all the while, they’re only looking out for number one. And that isn’t the female in the equation, believe me.” Sherry left my side to wait on a customer, while I continued to struggle with my emotions.

Sherry returned with the coffee pot, and refreshed my cup. I sat and watched the steam rolling up and around in circles, and sniffed, enjoying the aroma. I was remembering the day I had met Jeff.

“Jeff used to make me coffee, and he’d put little peppermint sticks in it for stirring. It was so good. We’d have our coffee out on the patio in the mornings and watch the sun rise. I loved those mornings with him.” I was whining by the time I finished, and wiped another stray tear from my cheek.

“What did you say he did for a living?” Sherry asked. She pulled a step stool over and sat down across the bar from me. She scanned the café frequently for customers needing assistance, but her attention was mostly devoted to my problems.

“He’s a writer. A sports writer. He goes to all the games and reports on them. You know, like Howard Cosell, except he writes his for the newspapers, not on TV.”

I tucked a strand of stray brown hair behind my ear and stirred my coffee. Smiling, I looked at Sherry, and added, “He actually won an award last year for Best Sports Writer of the Year. He was so proud. And I was, too.”

“That must have been a happy time for you, Julie. What happened to sour those happy times?” Sherry leaned her face on her cupped hands and looked into my eyes.

“He was gone all the time. He’d go to games in every state within a thousand miles of here, and be gone sometimes for three weeks at a time. I got so lonely. I didn’t know what to do with myself.” My smile disappeared as I remembered the cold winter nights alone in my queen sized bed, with only an occasional phone call from him to check on how I was, and tell me where he was going next.

“I’m sure that was a lonely time. Did you have anything to keep you busy or have any friends to hang with?”

“No, I went to work, came home, watched a little tv, and then went to bed. I don’t do hobbies. They get expensive, and my job as a secretary doesn’t pay much.”

“What about friends? Maybe you could have asked someone over to play card games or something. Or go to a movie now and then. Did you try anything like that?”

“No, I’m not much of a socialite. I just waited by the phone. I was afraid to miss one of Jeff’s calls.”

“Did he end your relationship? Or did you?”

“Well, neither of us actually ended it. We just drifted apart. He hasn’t called for over a week now, and so I’m just assuming he doesn’t care anymore.”

“Have you tried calling him?”

“No, I could never do that. My mom always told me that to call a man made you look cheap.”

“Well, then, I guess I know what she’d think of me,” Sherry laughed. “If my guy hasn’t called in a week, I sure as hell would be trying to reach him to find out why!”

I laughed, and took a sip of coffee. “My teachers all said I need to be more assertive. I suppose they’re right. I’ve always been so shy. I’m so afraid of what people might think. So I hide by myself at home. Do you really think I should call him?”

“Well, hell yes! Who knows, maybe he’s been sick or in an accident and can’t talk to you. Or maybe he’s found someone else. But at least you’ll know. Here, use my cell. Call him.” Sherry handed me her cell phone.

My hands shook as I dialed his number. He answered on the third ring.

“Hello? Who is this?”

“It’s Sherry. I’ve been worried. You haven’t called.” My voice trembled as I waited for his answer.

“Oh, Babe, I’m sorry. I lost my cell phone, and just today got a new one. I’ve been missing you so much. Hey, how would you like to fly to Dallas? The Cowboys are playing tomorrow night. I’d love to take you to the game, and maybe we can do some Christmas shopping afterward. I’ll pay for the tickets and everything. When I get the tickets bought, I’ll call you again with the time of your flight. Will you come? I love you, Babe. I miss you.”

“Well, I do have the next three days off. I suppose I could come there. Are you sure? I can’t repay you.”

“Pay me? Who asked for repayment? I want to do this. I think it would be awesome. Besides, I’d like to show you off to some writer friends of mine. They don’t have a beautiful young woman waiting for them. Will you please come?”

“Yes, Jeff. I’ll come. I’ll be waiting for your call. I love you. Goodbye.”

I grinned as I handed Sherry’s phone back to her. She was grinning back at me as she took it and put it in her apron pocket.

“Now see, aren’t you glad you called? He wasn’t dumping you. Now you’ll have a great time with him this weekend. I’m so jealous! Does he have a friend? Maybe there is someone out there for me.” Sherry laughed and patted my arm. A customer waved, and she danced her way down to him at the other end of the bar.

“Oh, God, thank You. This will be an awesome weekend. I’m going to Dallas. I’m going to be with my best friend. Thank you, Lord.”

Julie left a huge tip and a note that simply said “Thank You” next to her cup of coffee, now cold. She grinned as she left the café, ready to face the world once more.


“Carrie, let’s sit here on this bench and you can read your homework to me. It’s so much nicer out here in the garden. The house is so stuffy!”

“Ok, Cindy, you’ll help me if I can’t read the hard words, won’t you?”

“Sure, Carrie. Don’t I always?”

“Well, that one day I was reading to you, but you weren’t really listening. You were watching those two boys over there playing ball. When I asked you to help, you yelled at me.”

“I did not!”

“Did so!”

“Whatever! Just start reading. I’m listening. What are you reading today?”

“It’s a book about animals. I love animals….Carrie?”


“Why won’t Daddy let me have a puppy? I could take care of it…I’d love to have a puppy.”

“Yeah, me too. But we can’t. Daddy says Mom’s allergic.”

“But I want one!”

“Quit your whining! If you’re not going to read, you won’t have your homework done, and there will be hell to pay.”

“What does that mean…hell to pay?”

“It means you’ll be in big trouble and probably get grounded. Now get to reading, young lady!”

“Ok…Maurice was a mouse. He lived in a hole in the wall behind the sofa. Why would a mouse live in a hole in the wall? Don’t they have houses?”

“Carrie, mice are frightened, helpless little animals. They have no hands, no tools. How could they build a house?”

“Well, I don’t know. Don’t yell at me or I’ll tell Mom!”


“Maurice lived with his Mom and Dad and seven brothers and sisters. Wow! That’s a big family. Why don’t we have that many brothers and sisters, Cindy?”

“Probably because they’d ask silly questions, like you. Read!”

“Each mouse had a job in the family. Maurice was a food g-g-ga--, Carrie, I can’t get this word.”

“Gatherer. Maurice was a food gatherer. That means he went out into the rest of the house looking for food particles to carry back to the mouse hole to feed his brothers and sisters.”

“Oh. Do I have a job, Cindy?”

“Yes, your job is to aggravate me. And you’re very, very good at it, too.”

“Oww! Quit pinching! I’m telling Mom!”

“Well, go ahead. And I’ll tell her you didn’t get your homework done. Who do you think will get into the worst trouble?”

“Oh, Cindy. You always have to be so mean?”

“Not if you get your reading done. It’s almost supper time. Now get busy.”

“Ok. One day Maurice was out doing his chore, when he saw a cat. He had never seen a cat before. He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t know that he should be afraid. Why wouldn’t he know what a cat is, Cindy? I know what a cat is.”

“Do you know what a Gila Monster is, Carrie? If you’ve never seen one or heard of one before, how would you know to be afraid?”

“What is a Geela Monser, Carrie? Do we have them here? Should I be afraid of it?”

“It’s a giant lizard. No, we don’t have any here. But if we did, you might want to stay away from it. Read.”

“Maurice wanted to get closer to the cat. He wanted to make friends with it. Uh oh! Is Maurice in trouble?”

“Yep. He sure is.”

“What is he going to do? Carrie?”

“Well, you’ve got the book! Read!”

“Maurice crept slowly toward the sleeping cat. The animal had huge paws and a long fat tail that twi—twu—Carrie? What’s this word?”

“Twitched.” That means the tail is jerking a little bit..side to this.”

“Why does the cat do that?”

“It probably means he is dreaming. Or it could mean he’s playing possum.”

“What’s that?”

“Playing possum is pretending to be asleep, like you do when Mom and Daddy peek in on you at night.”



“But I’m getting hungry. Can’t we go in the house now?”

“Sure. But you’ll have to read the rest of the story to Mom.”

“Oh, I will. I want to know what happens to Maurice.”

“Yeah. Me too. Hey, don’t forget your book!”

“Oh, yeah. Thanks, Cindy. You’re the bestest sister.”

“Yeah, I know. You’re pretty special yourself, Carrie.”

A Night in the Nursing Home wd ct 1499

Denise jumped out of her chair and raced down the hall toward the sound of someone screaming. The moon shone brightly through the window as she entered Room 332.
The elderly lady sitting up in the bed was staring at a shadow on the curtain covering the window, her hands rested on her cheeks, her mouth in an “O” shape. Her frail thin body trembled.
She turned when Denise entered and cried, “The birds—look at all the birds. They want to kill me! Please help me!” She reached her arms toward Denise. Tears ran down her cheeks.
“Maggie, it’s ok. The birds are all outside. They can’t get to you here. Shhh—it’s ok, now. Try to relax. Come on, lie back down. I won’t let anything hurt you.” Denise perched on the edge of Maggie’s bed, cradling her in her arms. She could feel the violent shaking from Maggie’s body. Denise checked Maggie’s blood pressure and pulse, and felt her forehead. No fever, at least, she thought, as she patted Maggie on the arm to reassure her.
Teri, an aide working the same shift, entered the room, anxiety etched on her face. She relaxed slightly as she realized that Denise was already in control of the situation.
“Another nightmare,” Denise explained. “She seems to be having these more frequently lately. I’m wondering if it might be due to that new medication she just started last month.”
“Which medication is that?”
“Imipramine. It’s an antidepressant that Dr. Kinsley ordered for Maggie, because she was crying and withdrawing from everything last month. One of the side effects that can happen is nightmares and hallucinations.”
“Oh, wow! What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to call Dr. Kinsley and report this to him. I’m sure he will order the med to be stopped.”
“Isn’t Dr. Kinsley that doctor that hates to be awakened in the middle of the night?”
“Yes, he is. But I think this is important. He needs to know what is going on. Can you stay with Maggie for a bit until she is ready to sleep again?”
“Yeah, sure. But, would you tell Jeannie where I am? I was helping her do bed checks. I think she’s in Julian’s room.”
“Ok, thanks. Will do.”
Denise returned to the nurse’s station and looked up the number for Dr. Kinsley’s service. She dialed the number and waited, while watching the video monitors for any hall activity. Everything was quiet inside, but she could hear the wind picking up outside. It was starting to rain.
“Shoot. I wonder if my car windows are up,” Denise rubbed her forehead as she struggled to remember if she had rolled her windows up when she arrived at work earlier. The Dr.’s answering service picked up the call and she heard the familiar sounds of his recorded message to call during office hours.
“Crap, now I’ll have to call the doctor on call at the hospital,” Denise punched in the number of the hospital. When the switchboard answered, she requested the doctor on call. She learned that Dr. Howser was on call and asked for him to return her call, then hung up the phone.
The night had started with one resident vomiting in the bathroom. Another was coughing and complained of being short of air. Denise spent much of her time assessing, medicating, and checking vital signs, then charting everything she did.
While she waited for Dr. Howser’s return call she walked down the hall to Julian’s room, where she found Jeannie making his bed. Julian was sitting in the bathroom on the toilet. The strong odor of urine permeated the air.
“Teri is sitting with Maggie for a bit. She was having of her nightmares again,” Denise whispered to Jeannie. “Do you need help here?”
“Well, yeah. I’ve been doing most of the work tonight by myself. Teri is always disappearing.”
“I’m sorry. I asked her to stay with Maggie. Here, let me help you.”
“Thanks. Would you help me get Julian back into bed?”
“Sure. Hey, Julian. How are you tonight? Are you ready to get back in bed?” Julian nodded.
“Ok, then, here we go.” Teri and Denise transferred Julian back into his bed and got him settled in for the rest of the night.
“Ok, then. I’m going back to the nurse’s station. I’m expecting a doctor’s call.”
“Alright, I’ll keep working my way up the hall. Thanks a bunch.” She smiled at Denise and picked up her soiled linens, placing them into a bag to put in the laundry chute.
The phone was ringing as Denise approached the nurse’s station. She ran the last few feet to pick up the receiver before the fourth ring.
Glen River Manor. Denise Davenport, RN, speaking. May I help you?” Denise grabbed her pen and a piece of paper to take a message if needed.
“This is Dr. Howser. I received a message to call you.”
“Yes, Dr. Howser. Maggie Simpson, one of Dr. Kinsley’s patients, is having hallucinations and nightmares. She believes there are birds in her room that are trying to kill her. She started taking imipramine twenty-five milligrams daily at bedtime on the twenty-fourth of June. She is quite anxious. Blood pressure is one thirty over seventy-two; pulse is seventy-nine and regular. She is afebrile. She has already had her imipramine tonight.” Denise paused, and waited for Dr. Howser to reply.
“Any seizure activity?”
‘”No, Doctor.”
“Bowel and bladder function normal?”
“Yes. She had a normal bowel movement this morning, and has been voiding normally all day.”
“Any talk of suicide?”
“Not that I’m aware of. She seemed cheerful at dinnertime.”
“Monitor her through the night with vital signs every four hours. Notify Dr. Kinsley in the morning. If her blood pressure drops twenty points, call me back.”
“Thank you, Doctor Howser.”
“You’re welcome. Good night.”
“Good night.”
Denise hung up the phone and went back down the hall toward Maggie’s room. She met Teri, coming out of the room.
“Shhhh. She’s asleep,” Teri whispered. “Did you find out anything?”
“Not much. Vitals every four. Report blood pressure drops. Call Dr. Kinsley in the morning. Jeannie said she was doing alright. But you might check to see if she needs help anyway.”
“You bet.”
“Holler if you need me. I’ve got to get this charted, before I forget anything.”
Jeannie poked her head out of a door down the hall, and wiggled a hooked finger to summon them to her position.
“I hate to tell you this, but Sam is on the floor. There is a puddle of urine right beside his bed. I think he stood up and just let it loose right beside the bed. He always things he’s in the bathroom, wherever he’s located.” Jeannie shook her head and smiled. “I didn’t see any injuries, but I told him to sit tight until you check him out.”
“Thanks. We’ll need a set of vitals on him. Did you see him fall?”
“No. He was sitting on the floor in that puddle just grinning at me when I walked in to check on him.”
“We’d better initiate neuro checks then. Who knows if he hit his head or not? This is turning into a fun night.”
Denise shook her had and sighed. She examined Sam for injuries and checked his neural function. Sam, a previous stroke victim, was unable to voice his needs, but by the grin on his face as Denise checked his range of motion and looked for skin tears, bruises and abrasions, she deduced that he was in no pain.
Jeannie grinned and teased Denise. “I’ll bet you’re regretting offering to work for Charlotte tonight, aren’t you?”
“Oh, it’s not so bad—yet.” Denise returned the grin. “But let’s hope it quiets down a little bit from here on out. I don’t need any more paperwork to do.”
Denise worked on paperwork and made the necessary calls to doctor, family, and on call nurse to report the fall. She also reported Maggie’s anxiety episode to the on call nurse.
A period of solitude allowed Denise to get some of her charting done. There were breathing treatments to give, and two dressing changes. These went without a hitch.
At five o’clock, Denise taped her report for the next shift, and set up the paperwork for the day shift charge nurse so she could get her labs drawn before breakfast. She restocked the glucometer kit, so there would be plenty of test strips, lancets, alcohol wipes, and cotton balls for the diabetic testing.
Aides for the day shift began arriving at five forty-five, looking around to see how many residents the night shift had dressed and were in their chairs, waiting for breakfast. Not finding many, they grumbled, “as usual, night shift has done absolutely nothing all night.”
Jeannie and Teri looked at Denise, to gauge her reaction. Denise smiled at her aides, looked at the grumblers, and quietly said, “No, nothing at all.”