The City that never sleeps

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Ahhh, that feeling.  You clock out of work that last time before heading out the door so fast they never even see you leave. PURE BLISS.

Cue the frantic packing, long lines at the airport, Uber’s and hotels, way too expensive food and drinks–Congratulations! You’re on vacation!

Well, this week that was me and my destination was the City that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the city of dreams…New York City in all her glory.  I flew with one of my daughter’s friends to see where my daughter Hannah has been working in NYC all summer. We spent the week with her sightseeing, and this evening we’re heading home on the plane to Oklahoma.

What a week! Have you ever been to New York? I visited Niagara Falls when I was about 18 or 19, but I have never actually made it to NYC until now. And WOW! I had so many misperceptions about the place–probably due to the news, movies, tv shows, anything that portrays NYC in the media.

I was happily surprised!😊.  I realised about a day or two in that I was much safer than I thought I would be walking around town. I quickly lost the fear of being robbed, kidnapped, or on the next episode of Law and Order SVU.

So, here are some things I noticed that are unique to NYC.  First of all, traffic was as congested as I assumed it would be, but it was a stark contrast to what I experienced in Europe.  Although there seemed to be about a gazillion buses, Ubers, and taxis, it seemed to be mostly stop and start traffic.  There was not that insane honking, frenzied, all-out sense you were in a NASCAR race the whole time. Europe has Craaa–zzzy traffic. 😳. Another thing I discovered was that New Yorkers are not the rude, power-walking get-out-of-my-face stereotype that we see on TV. Almost everyone we talked to was polite, smiling, willing to help answer questions for us. It was a good feeling.

The subway.. well, it was the subway. You feel like you’re descending into the pit of hell every time you go into it. It is so hot you start sweating buckets the minute you go down the steps. And then you sweat more buckets while down there waiting on your train. We did get to experience the buskers singing or playing in the subway stations– some of them were really talented. One thing I didn’t expect was to be cornered so often by homeless people begging for money. They’d accost you in the subway trains, going from car to car making announcements about needing money and going from person to person. Or doing it while you’re standing in a bus line and can’t get away. Or come up to you while you’re checking out of a store, asking for change. Few of them looked truly needy, as they were quite aggressive and seemed able bodied and able minded enough to hold down a job. That DID frustrate me. But, who am I to judge? I tried to help the ones who appeared truly needy and ignored the rest.

Did you know it cost 46.00 a person to go up the Empire State Building? Or that you need to reserve tickets four months in advance if you want to go up the Statue of Liberty? Yeah, me neither. So guess what I didn’t do this trip. 😳🤔. But we did get to go on a cruise that took us close to the Statue of Liberty so we got a great look at her. And let me tell you, she is as tall and proud and beautiful as she is in pictures. I was awestruck. I also felt a little bit like an idiot that I didn’t know she was on a different island than Ellis Island. You know, where all those people used to come to read about Lady Liberty holding up her lamp to welcome the masses, while they registered to enter the United States. Yeah, two separate islands. Duh….🤦‍♀️

Ground zero was heart-breaking. I cried when I saw the Survivor Tree. I told my daughter and her friend that they were so lucky they couldn’t remember that day in history. How each of us who can remember it can recall in detail the horror of that day and the following days and months. The agony we felt as a nation.  Almost everyone of us knew of someone who was affected some way, some how by the events of that day. In a sense, we are all survivors of that day. We came thru as individuals, and a nation, forever changed. Life as an American changed that day and we can never return to pre- 9/11. And while visiting Ground zero gave me a huge sense of loss, it also kind of felt like a pilgrimage to holy ground. I was able to pay my respects to those lost, and to their families who lost so much when they died that day.

We unexpectedly got to see a Yankee’s game! That was incredible! We walked up to sight-see the stadium, and a security guard gave us free tickets and sent us on in. We absolutely loved the experience!! My 13-year-old son wouldn’t even talk to me the next day when he found out- he was so mad I got to go to a game and he didn’t. He is a HUGE Yankees fan, and he couldn’t believe I went to a game without him. Poor kid 😊😊.

Brooklyn was quite a bit different than downtown Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge is absolutely beautiful and we loved Jane’s Carousel down by the water. It’s definitely a different vibe there than across the bridge. We didn’t stay long, as we had a plane to catch, but I enjoyed sitting by the waterfront watching the river and skyline view.

Our hotel this past week was right across the street from Madison Square Garden and about two blocks from Macy’s, with the Empire State Building just beyond that. We hit up Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks 5th Avenue, Tiffany’s, Swarovski’s, Fao Schwartz… we did the circuit. And had oh-so-much fun doing it! One evening we watched the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  The next morning we went and stood by the same window Audrey Hepburn did, and ate a croissant there like she did in the opening scene of that movie. For my theatre major daughter, it was epic. ❤️

I saved the best for last, of course. On Wednesday night, we got to see one of my most favourite actors in the world. Tom Hiddleston (“Loki”) starred in the opening night performance of his first Broadway play. We were ten rows back in the audience and I KNOW, I just KNOW that he made eye contact with me at one point. 🙀😉. That man can do no wrong, know what I mean?? 😜😂. He is that rare combination of being a beautiful person, both inside and out. So, highlight of the trip, right there.

Well, that mostly sums up my NYC experience. I enjoyed the bus tours, street vendors, sidewalk artists, gift shops, little street markets,… there was so much to see and do. We didn’t see it all, but we sure did pack in a lot of fun in five short days.

In short, the Detweiler’s took Manhattan! 😊😊

Katie Brack Day

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So… I know we all have them.  If you don’t, you will sooner or later.  (And consider yourself very lucky if you don’t already.)  You know them, those days we all dread…those silent, looming anniversaries of some terror, some horror, perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Maybe it was the day you were told you had cancer, or that your loved one was killed unexpectedly in an accident, or the day you realised you’ve lost everything you’ve ever worked for.  Your spouse was unfaithful, your dog died, another war started and your loved one didn’t make it back alive.  So, so many things in this life can and do go wrong.  And we go through the stages of grieving, and we gradually recover, because we are a resilient people.   But there’s always that day that comes around once a year, that day on the calendar, that marks for you a space in time to stop and remember.  To grieve anew, to honor what was lost, to put into perspective what time and change has wrought.  Everyone deals with that day on the calendar differently.

I have been radio silent the past two weeks for that reason.  (Well, that, and partly because I was on a Carribean cruise soaking up some sun–I really was radio silent and unable to write during that time. )

This past week marked the 21st anniversary of when my beautiful five year-old goddaughter passed away unexpectedly in my home.  A whole person’s drinking age life-time ago.  I have had three great kids of my own, helped care for numerous foster kids, have taken care of oh-so-many kids in the healthcare system as a nurse, and still the ache remains.  Oh, time has greatly helped heal the wound.  Now the anniversary is more of a tug at an old scar vs. ripping my heart open again, like it used to years ago.  The way I remember the day is different now than what it used to be–I don’t fall to pieces anymore, for one thing.  I still cry a few bitter tears each year, and we still plant flowers in her “memory garden”, and my hubby makes sure I know he remembers too.   I message her parents, who are divorced now and live in different states than we do.  We check in on each other, make sure the other is doing okay.  And I look at her scrapbook, and remember all the beautiful, wonderful things about her.  All the things that made her so uniquely “her”, that made her so sweet and loveable, despite her severe level of cerebral palsy.

To this day, I have a hard time talking about the details of that day.  We’ve since moved to another state, where no one knew her, or what happened.  It’s easier to not talk about it at all.  But I made a promise to her and her parents.  That her short little life was not lived in vain, she did have a purpose, and I will always strive to keep her memory alive in whatever way I can.  I tell my friends and coworkers about her.  I tell my kids about her.   When we go “back home” to visit every couple of years, I take them to the cemetery with me to visit her.  (And then I choke up and start crying and I whisper to her I will see her in heaven someday, and I have to leave before I’m a complete wreck.)

I suspect you know what I’m talking about.  Your scenario might not look the same.  You might handle grief totally different than I do.  But we all have those memories, those moments in time that stand out starkly in our minds.  It’s one of the things that bonds us together as humanity.  Just as a smile is universal, so is crying and shaking your fist at the sky.

Whether it’s been two years or ten, or way longer than that, grief and loss never totally go away.  We are grateful that the sharp sting fades away, and the jagged edges smooth away like rocks worn smooth in a stream.  But that takes time, and time means days and weeks and years.  Which, of course, means anniversaries that roll relentlessly by.

If you still struggle with the anniversary part of the grieving process, I encourage you to start something new to carry on as a tradition for years to come.  Something that lets you vent your grief in a positive way, to honor your memories, to help you get through it.  And when it’s come and gone, and you can breathe a sigh of relief again, whisper a prayer of thanks that it won’t roll around again for another year.  And hopefully by then, it will be easier to deal with.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

Rest in Peace,  KatieBug,  I Love You

4-25-93  —  6-6-98

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                            Nurse Ames, RN

Peg tubes–good, bad, or ugly?

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”–Rumi–

She’s 66 years old, she lives in a group home, she has cerebral palsy and MR. She’s been in and out of the hospital this past year several times, each time declining physically. She doesn’t speak, she just points to what she wants and makes hand gestures. I’m only 5’2″ and when I help her to the bathroom, I tower over her height-wise. She is tiny, but her personality is huge. We nurses know her normal by now–she’s happy, grins ear to ear, wants to give everyone hugs. If only all of our patients could be that way, right? Today she is back in the hospital. They have placed a peg tube because she can no longer pass a swallow study. She is hurting, despondent–not her normal self at all. Her mouth is dry because she can no longer eat or drink. Her stomach is trying to get used to bolus peg tube feedings, which is stretching her stomach more than it’s used to. The canned liquid we give as total nutrition is causing her gas. Not only are these things causing her pain, but also the new peg tube site itself is still quite sore. She’s never been on pain medicine before, but the need for it is there now. So she sleeps a lot more than normal, is much less active. This leaves her wide open to a variety of complications–bed sores, pneumonia, blood clots in her legs, etc. However, at least she is now hydrated, and getting the vital nutrients she needs to stay alive. She doesn’t have to choke on her medicine, food, or drinks anymore. And she no longer needs to worry about aspiration pneumonia every time she takes a swallow.

Making the decision for end-of-life care is never easy. Nurses have the luxury of an objective point of view.  Meanwhile, family members are torn by the possible consequences of their decisions, no matter what that decision might be. Nurses have seen the same scenario enough times to guess the most likely outcome, whereas family members are dealing with uncharted territory. It’s a tough call to make, and I’ve been on both sides of the equation.  As for peg tubes themselves, I have seen some people thrive and regain health with them, while others just sort of wither away regardless. Are we giving loved ones another shot at life? Or delaying the inevitable while their quality of life further declines? I don’t know…there’s definitely no easy answer to that.  Every situation is different, every patient, every family group…All I can do as a nurse is provide information and be as honest as I can be when difficult questions arise.

As for my little peg tube patient, I hope she’s doing well again back at her group home.  I never got the chance to see her smile return before she was discharged.  I do know she was surrounded by love.  Her caretakers and other residents often visited her, and she seemed to have a great support system.  If anyone has a chance at returning to a better quality of life, it would be her.  I hope she gets her smile back.  

                           Nurse Ames, RN

Quasimodo’s house on fire

“France is crying, and the whole world, too.”– Ruairi Casey

September 11, 2001.  Do you remember where you were?  What you were doing? How you felt as you watched the towers fall? …April 19, 1995, 9:02 A.M.  How about that one?  Does that bring back sharp memories? Do you remember the agony of knowing your fellow Americans lie trapped beneath the rubble?  Think back further…Remember the day the Challenger exploded, the day the Berlin wall came down, the day the Gulf War started? How about the day they finally got Osama Bin Laden? I remember the headlines–that day felt pretty victorious in America, almost like a party.

This past week was to be the week that we as Oklahomans gathered together to remember those lost on April 19, 1995. Each year our collective memories gear up for the anniversary of our loss as a state.  Each year, I try to teach my kids the importance of learning about history from those who can remember it personally, not just by learning it from a history book.  I remind them that as their generation takes its place in history, they will someday have their own events burned on their collective conscience.  History that they will pass on to their own kids as a memory instead of from a history book. History is alive in the hearts and minds of those who’ve lived it–it’s personal.  While I can relate to them what it felt like to sit in school and learn about the Challenger exploding, they can go to their grandparents to hear firsthand stories of when Armstrong walked on the moon, or when Kennedy was shot.  It’s way more interesting to hear about it firsthand than to listen to your history teacher lecture about it while you try to stay awake in class.

So, this past week started with generations worth of historical memories already lying on the back burner of everyone’s mind.  It’s usually good for at least one Evening News recap–April is rife with historical events.  The sinking of the Titanic, Lincoln’s assassination, Boston Marathon Bombings, Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine shootings …Tax Day….the list is long and tedious.

And then I walked into a patient’s room this week and watched in horror as another historical event played out on the TV screen in front of me.  I was discharging a patient when I actually realized what was happening–I literally stopped talking mid-sentence, my mouth agape.  Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched in disbelief.  I could hardly stand to watch as I saw the flames and smoke of Notre Dame shoot higher than the great cathedral ever dreamed of reaching. Friends started texting me-“Did you see the news??”  Coworkers passed the word through the halls while the news spread like wildfire on social media. And as we watched her burn, we began sharing stories.  Reminiscing who had seen her when, and what was our favourite memory of her.   I had witnessed Notre Dame’s great beauty myself less than two years ago.  I was awestruck by her magnificence and had every intention of returning sooner rather than later to see her again.  Now I watched from almost 5,000 miles away as 850+years of history burned to the ground.  What mankind had managed to preserve for centuries was now gone in a matter of hours.

That evening I hugged my kids, and cried a few more tears for the majestic building that was now only a shell of its former self .  I related my memories of my time there, and we mourned her loss together. Then we talked.  “…Kids, remember when I’ve told you that your generation will have events that will go down in history, just like all the generations before? And that you will have your own ‘live’ version of that to pass on to your kids?  Here is one that will be in history books.  Remember what you were doing, where you were at, so that it is easier to bring it back to mind. Just as I can remember the day when Princess Diana died,  I want you to be able to remember the day Notre Dame burned.  Because you are a part of history yourself.  And how you relate to history and the world around you affects your life on a daily basis.”

I hope they can soak up my knowledge–what I’ve learned from my love for history, travel, and the world around me.    I hope what I’ve learned in my lifetime is not in vain, that they can retain it and use it for themselves.  So that they too have a love for life and respect for all mankind.  That they can pass it on and make the world a better place.  And I’m glad for my memories.  And my pictures of myself and that grand beauty.  For she was a building like no other.  I hope she is rebuilt, stronger and better than before.  That her purpose remains the same.  To point others to God as well as continue on as a historical legacy for generations to come.  To be an inspiration, a source of beauty, a place of worship, a safe haven.  She unites not only the people of France, but mankind as a whole.  I am so thankful to have been one of the millions to have passed through her doors and found peace within.

                        Nurse Ames, RN