Monday, January 31, 2011

ginger's snap

so i made a little ice cream for my friend ginger. i sent it off to her for taste testing and although her testers were not all in agreement about it, ginger's vote is really the only one that counts, since it's her flavor.

it's intended to be primarily a maple ice cream with secondary flavors of apple and ginger. you might prefer less ginger in the recipe, or to use a lighter grade syrup, but it is what it is and here's an approximation of it that you can try for yourself. the maple i use is from ginger's farm. it's the good stuff.

ginger's snap

1 cup grade b maple syrup
2 cups apple cider
fresh ginger, a piece about the size of the end of your thumb, peeled and chopped
cinnamon and assorted spices to taste
3 or 4 egg yolks, whisked lightly
1 cup milk
1 cup light cream
1 cup heavy cream

in a saucepan, reduce the cider and syrup until you have about a cup of concentrated apple/maple syrup. this will take a while and you should add the fresh ginger ad any other spices you're using here. take your time with this. it's not hard, and your house will smell divine.

strain the syrup mixture.

combine the milk and light cream with the reduced syrup and adjust the spices to taste. remember that the spices will become more intense later on, so underdo it slightly unless you're making it for ginger, who says there isn't any such a thing as too much ginger.

when the light dairy/ syrup mixture is almost to a simmer, pour a little bit into the whisked egg yolks and then add the egg mixture back into the custard. this step keeps your yolks from cooking like egg drop soup when you add them to the hot milk mixture.

cook that on medium heat until it just starts to thicken. add the heavy cream and once it's mixed smoothly, talke the whole thing and pop it in the fridge until it's cold.

then do whatever it is you do with your ice cream maker. when it's at your desired consistency, put it in containers for additional freezing to firm it up.  i leave mine overnight. your results may vary.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

yes, it IS that good.

the day before yesterday i made this recipe for clementine sherbet.

i don't have too much to say about it except that i made a double recipe, it was easy to do, and it is INSANELY good.

i am still working on my snowfort, but i think before you see any pictures i may have to finish editing a video journal i have on my desk left over from october. bit by bit i'm getting stuff done.

and i'll have stuff to show you! that will be nice.

and the sherbet is good.

did i mention it's good?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

closing some tabs

ok, when i'm not busy doing things like making food or building snowforts or going to dances or being kept in mental hospitals, i collect cool things for you to look at or play with that sit on a back window of my browser and now it's just too much stuff. i have to close some tabs.

so here's your linkdump of interesting stuff to play with, if you have a few spare hours.

first, i don't know what news you're watching about the demonstrations in egypt, but if you're watching american channels, you're getting squat. if you want to know what's going on over there, you should be watching al jazeera english. come to think of it, they're a pretty good new source all the time. one thing about news is that every outlet has some bias. that's why you should get your news from different sources, ans not all ones that agree with everything you do, unless you're rush.

i'm not. i like people to think for themselves.

ok. then you can go over to the nasa extreme planet makeover and play with planets. you can configure your own planet and also look at some existing ones. and you can download your own planet for your scrapbook or whatever. it's kind of fun, but it won't take up your whole morning.

if you need things put in perspective for you, you can check out the scale of the universe. the swirly version isn't as clear as the regular version, but it's awesome looking.

and if you're still in the mood for physics-y things, sixty symbols is a fabulous collection of short videos on topics of physics and astronomy. when i have friends over to watch videos, they're on my list. with your friends, maybe not so much.

and here on earth, you may be aware that the island nation of tuvalu is disappearing as the ocean levels rise. so there's the tuvalu mapping project that runs in google earth so you can have a look around there.

and while we're mapping things with photos, have a look at historypin, where historic photos get pinned to contemporary views in google earth.

if you like los angeles, or if you just like looking at maps and interesting places, there's hidden los angeles, which is a good place to look at stuff you'd never get to see in that city. offbeat monuments, museums, and if you're hungry, you can find a place to eat.

if you'd like to look at state-by-state health stats in the US, this site not only provides some awesome charts and tables, but it's one of the sources that are being used for some very interesting interpretive maps lately. if you really like maps with US health and income statistics, you'll like this one, too.

i have more than a passing interest in language and dialect, so if you're really nerdy like that, you can look at a pretty exhaustive map of north american english dialects. if you're really nerdy, you may wish to learn the west saxon literary dialect from the university of calgary.

and if you're going to tweet any of this, you might as well have this one. but you maybe also want to consider how your information travels, which kind of brings us back to egypt. and yemen. and china. and the UK. and the US...

there. now i can close some tabs and go out to play in the snow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

lunch at my house

the short answer to the question "what are you having for lunch today?" would be "poached eggs".

but i'm not really capable of doing anything simply. so what's for lunch today at my house was a pair of darlin' little locally raised free range eggs poached and served over panfried polenta topped with fontina cheese with braised white beans, a mushroom, onion, and greens sautée, and a cute little sweet potato sformato on the side.

do i have to tell you that this is good?

oh, my.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

admin bob

if you're just joining us, or if like me you have a short attention span and maybe some brain damage that impairs your ability to form and retrieve memory totally reliably, i am at this point in the blog more or less alternately telling you what's happening now with all the fun stuff coming out of my kitchen and the building of the snohaus (pictures pending, i promise), and telling you piecemeal the story of my recent stay at the laughing academy.

so, even though i have some darling things going on in the kitchen and even though the snohaus is going awesome, it's back to brattleboro:

i don't know exactly what day he came in, because it was before i started taking notes. whole truth be told, this guy is probably WHY i decided i'd better start taking notes. as long as i'm telling the story i should probably remind you that none of us up there is a tourist. we are there because we are addicts, because we are sick. we are broken, every single one of us. some of us are there voluntarily. some of us are there "voluntarily", which is a fine distinction of law, some of us are involuntary, and some of us are out-and-out court remands.

me, i'm in there for "batshit crazy", which as far as i know isn't being included in the new DSM, but maybe it should be.

most of us, when we are there, though, are aware that we have a problem of some sort.

i believe that i have outlined the complex procedure of the community meeting for you elsewhere, but just in case you missed it, the general point is that when it's your turn, you say your first name, a goal for the day, a coping skill you might use, and a thing you're thankful for. in case you can't wrap your brain around that format, the agenda is conveniently written out for you on the whiteboard on the wall.

so this guy, bob, comes in and for his first community meeting, an afternoon meeting, he sits at the head of the circle at the table with the staff responsible for charting. and it gets to be his turn to talk and he leans back in the chair, crosses his legs casually the way you might if you were about to address a board meeting as the new chairman and you wish to appear friendly, and he starts his speech.

he starts off by giving his name. not just his first name, either.

"hi, i'm bob. bob crouch. that's crouch. not quite standing, not quite sitting. crouch. i came here with my lovely wife and six beautiful children of whom i'm very proud and we are very pleased to be here in your community to work with you people. my goal for tonight is to get to know you lovely people" (he pauses for a tiny moment here) "faculty, staff, and administrators, and see how this fine hospital runs. you have a very fine reputation and i look forward to working with all of you."

at this point someone interrupts his monologue to ask him what coping skill he might use, and what he's thankful for, two questions that puzzle him, but he fields them affably.

"a coping skill i might use is getting to know all you fine people, and i am thankful for my wife and six lovely children, all grown, who are scattered around the country from arizona to maine..."

he is interrupted again by someone who actually IS on staff who thanks him for his contribution and we move on to the next far less interesting person.

let's face it: bob is so far off script that he has caught the attention of even the most wildly schizophrenic patients and nobody in that room could have been more interesting than him unless they'd been tinted purple and had a potted plant growing out of their second head.

later that evening we're sitting in the common area and the nurses are all busy on something or other and i'm trying to get their attention in a subtle sort of way because i can see bob on his way. he goes right up to their little half-door, reaches over the counter, and lets himself in to the nurses' station. i don't manage to get any of their attention pointed in that direction until he has already gone into the back room and -i don't know- maybe helped himself to some files or something.

the nurses apologize to me for not realizing that i was trying to interrupt them with something important.


anyway, in the morning at community meeting, bob's right there at the head of the table, bright as a new penny and rarin' to go.

"good morning!" he says enthusiastically when it's his turn. "i may have met some of you yesterday. i'm bob crouch. that's crouch. not quite sitting, not quite standing. crouch. my wife and six beautiful children" (other patients will swear to me later that his count varies from five to nine, depending on when you hear him tell the story) "are very happy to be here in this community and i look forward to getting to know all you fine people, staff, faculty, and , uh, the rest-"

"do you have a goal for today, bob?" someone redirects him.

"yes. first thing this morning i'd like complete personnel files of all the medical and nursing staff brought to me for review so i can check everybody's credentials and later i'll want complete files for the rest of the staff and we'll see how this hospital runs. it has a very fine reputation." he says, still very pleased and open and friendly in just the way you would be if you had been brought in to review the entire operation for efficiency rather than for your detox.

"something you're thankful for, bob?" someone prompts, trying to get him back on script.

"oh, yes. i'm thankful for the opportunity to really get to know all you fine people."

it is disappointing to the rest of us when bob's turn is over. bob, on the other hand, listens to each of us in turn say our names, our goals (which include things like "to do a crossword puzzle" or "to work on getting space in a rehab program" or "to be able to stay awake in groups"), our coping skills, and the things we are thankful for. if it registers on him for a second that we are all mental patients, he gives no outward indication of it.

bob's like that pretty much nonstop. as far as i can tell he never talks to any of us, but he's always real thankful to be getting to know all us fine people so well. and every once in a while he's kind of lucid and sort of obliquely mentions that he might be here to work on "a problem" which we all know by now is a HUGE drinking problem and that his enabling strategy of choice over the years has apparently been to spew out enough authoritative and competent-sounding crap to make people leave him alone and let him just drink.

but he's so far gone now that it's just not working for him anymore. not even a little bit. mostly he still can't figure out where he is or what he's doing.

here's a fairly standard incident from the admin bob playbook:

he come striding down the long hall at about 2130 hours. night meds have been given, and things are winding down. a group of us are sitting by the cornier and he comes booming up:"good morning, everybody! what are you all doing?"
"uh, we're all getting ready to go to bed, bob. it's nine-thirty. at night."
"oh.." he says, i a little confused, but with an air of superior nature, "isn't that odd that you people are falling asleep just as i'm getting up for the day!"
"it's nine-thirty. at night." someone repeats.
"you should probably go to bed, too, bob." someone else says.
"oh. well, then. what time are you guys all going to the... thing... in the morning?" he asks, looking for information, but trying to appear to be in charge.
"we're all going to community meeting tomorrow morning at nine-thirty. tomorrow. in the morning. after we sleep." each of these points is added for emphasis because bob appears to need each individual piece of information fed to him again.
"and the... thing... is at what time?"
"nine thirty tomorrow morning, bob."
"remind me again. where is it?"
"in the day room." we gesture toward the day room, which is where every meeting is held.

bob goes to bed.

over successive days, we notice that if he opens the refrigerator or freezer, he walks away with it open, often as not without taking anything out. he is found in the kitchen with his pants down, apparently just before he confuses it for the men's room.

and there comes a day when admin bob is sitting on the sofa with his coat in his lap. those of us who have been around the block a few times know this is not a good thing. he explains that in the morning he had been given a very thorough medical examination and been pronounced healthy, so now he was going home.

twice a day up there a nurse takes your vitals. it's procedure. i don't care what anyone says. having your temperature, blood pressure, and o2 sat checked is not a comprehensive medical examination. and we all know that this is what bob is talking about.

and now he is demanding to go home, but it's clear that he's not competent. which means that without knowing what's going on, he has just set into motion the process: he has rolled the dice without even calling for them to be passed.

when you demand to go against advice, the law requires an independent evaluation. this is what we call "rolling the dice". if you came in voluntary but you want to leave before they think you should, you roll the dice. if you pass, you go home. if you lose, you are held involuntary for eight days and then you can be re-evaluated.

what happens is that a small panel of mental health screeners from the county come and they review the documents, they interview the patient, and they interview the doctors and appropriate staff. then they render their decision as to whether you represent a danger to yourself or others. it can be a time-consuming and resource intensive process and while people try to make things run smoothly elsewhere on the ward, the tension is there and the staff is just one or two notches busier.

you maybe wouldn't notice it if you were a stranger to the place.

but there's admin bob, on the sofa with his coat. we go to lunch. he's still there waiting, placid look on his face. we go out to group and we come back. he's still there. the veterans know exactly what this means.

and someone on staff has to tell him that he's not allowed to leave. i don't know who tells him, but there's this guy; i don't know if he's an RN or some other kind of staff, but he sits with bob a long time and they talk. it's tense at first; that's what body language tells you from across the room. it's a hard thing to be ruled incompetent, even if you understand what's happening.

but this guy, this nurse (i think), quiet, kind of uptight-looking, he just sits and talks with bob and after a while they're just two guys talking and bob is telling stories. he's smiling. and here's the miracle: he has been given some of his dignity back.

Friday, January 21, 2011

why i won't stop to ask for directions

it's not that i don't want to admit that i'm lost, because if you're following my story at all, you know that i will admit that i am lost or at least that i do not know where i am loudly and cheerfully to anyone who happens to come along.

no, the reason i do not stop to ask for directions is that it gives me an excuse to look at my maps. i am nearly never happier than when i am playing with my maps. i have maps that i use to find my way, both in software and on paper, and maps that i use to chart things, to write on, maps that i use to make art with, and of course i have to look at other people's maps, too.

so i don't remember exactly what i was going to write about today; it maybe had to do with my snowfort, or something i was making in my kitchen, or maybe some art project, or some blog thing i was thinking about, but then some map things came across my desk and i was transfixed.

oh, my.

so i will tell you about that, and a couple of other things for good measure, since i'm on the subject.

i subscribe to the blog of the hand drawn map association. makes me weak at the knees. a while ago the new york times put out this really awesome interactive literary map of manhattan, and last week they ran a story with a cool interactive feature about the restoration of a rare map by bernard ratzer all of which is so sexy i can barely stand up, as opposed to this thing, which is interesting but very disturbing. who uses a thing like that? none of my neighbors, thankfully. i checked.

and i didn't really intend to do a post about cool mapping stuff but this cool thing crossed my desk this week, so you might as well have a look at it, if you like maps, data collection, and thinking about how trash moves and collects or trends and all manner of good nerdy map related data-y things. just go look.

then maybe you were following this fun sociology/mapping/art project as it's been developing, and although i have, i wasn't going to mention it really, but then today's kxcd comic came out and it was just too funny:

 but then today i saw this awesome blog entry by this guy named alexander chen and what he's doing is developing this little software thingy that is using a new york city subway map as a string instrument:

Conductor (In progress demo) from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

and all of that was very nice, but here was the real kicker: oh, sweet, merciful creator of the universe! this guy seb przd has taken a spherical panoramic photograph of a room and then made a flickr photoset of it using different map projections, and if that's not enough map porn for you, he's got a link on the page that takes you to all kinds of explanations and diagrams about map projections!

i might just die from it. is it possible to die from map pleasure overload?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

eggs and cream

lately i've been on this thing where i make darling little ice creams. but i can't just make them. oh, no. i have to improvise. which is all right, since they're turning out all right, but the urge strikes me and there i am in the grocery store buying way more eggs and way more cream that i ever have in my life because you have to have those things if you're going to be making ice cream.

and i use eggs for other stuff anyway and have you SEEN what they charge for eggs if you decide you need to have cage free eggs, never mind organic eggs, and i STILL don't like the kind of life even those farm chickens are having, so i've been looking for someone who can set me up with home grown free range eggs that won't cost me an arm and a leg and then -bingo!- some friends of mine at church got some chickens who have now started laying sufficiently steadily that they can hook me up with my weekly eggs at $2 a dozen, which is half what i'd pay in the grocey store, but -get this: they'll take ice cream in trade.

and yes, i KNOW that a pint of homemade premium ice cream is worth more than the $2, but i'm saving money on my groceries in general by getting the eggs cheap plus i'm not supporting a factory farm PLUS i can only eat about a third of the ice cream i make, and that's if i have people over and share what i have in my freezer, so it's kind of a recreational thing.

the way i see it, i'm gaining. i'm going to make the ice cream anyway, and give some of it away. and i save $4 on eggs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

clouds and fog

here's the new word cloud using this cute little tool:

but then i was going to give you the gunning fog index for the same blog entries thinking that to be a very clever juxtposition of concepts and allowing me to make fun use of a title and it was going swimmingly well because i had actually found a really nifty little online tool that calculates gunning fog index, and although that little tool appears to be broken at the moment, i did the math earlier in the week and apparently my gunning fog index for these posts hovers somewhere at an average of 10.7.

i am not sure what conclusions to draw, but the picture is pretty.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

dreams of flying discs

most people have dreams of flying. i don't know why, but when i have dreams of flying, i am always flying in a very practical way, sculling just over the ground, sometimes with the ability to carry gear. i am never swooping over the landscape the way other people report that they do. my flying dreams enable me to negotiate crowded hallways, or to catch the elevator before it closes, or to get to camp without my feet hurting so much.

seemingly unrelated, i know i have mentioned to you that i had at some point taken up playing disc golf and that i keep threatening to tell you about it but never do.  let's just say that at some point i will have pictures and graphs and maybe evens some happy little stories and some videos btu for now let's just take it as a given that i am playing disc golf, ok?

and that during the Indeterminate Time it is not just my soul that howls with pain for being isolated from my people, my community, my church, my home, but my body howls with being cut off from all the things it would do, which is mostly GO OUT AND PLAY. it's how i cope with emotional pain. it is my primary distractor. when i don't know anything else to do, i GO. OUT. AND. PLAY.

now, i KNOW biking is not going to be made available to me. there are no bikes for me to ride. and there's nothing on the ward to do, really, except yoga, and i'm trying to do that, but i can't concentrate and i can't remember how, even though i try a little, and it's more frustrating than anything.

but in my dreams i keep feeling my body throwing my discs. in my dreams i feel free. in my dreams i feel as if i can withstand anything if i can throw my discs, and the dreams are so real and then i wake to find i am still in that room, the one with the bars on the windows and i don't know how i'll find the energy to get dressed even.

when i first got to the retreat, or rather, when i stopped howling enough to go to groups, there was this guy named gary working and i had my doubts about him from the way he used the phrase "praise the Lord" from time to time. sometimes doing that pegs my bullshit meter way over. sometimes not. and he was kind of too cheerful. and a little weird.

but i watched him work. and i developed a respect for him. and if this seems unrelated to anything i was saying, it's only because i want to establish that my respect for gary and his work developed  before gary and his work had any real benefit to me. probably it was knowing whom to ask and how to ask that brought about the best result, and that was largely gary's help.

it was right about the time of the order to get the pants from my car. and since i knew what it was taking to go there, on the day before while out at lawton hall i asked: is there any rule against the throwing of frisbees?

no, there is no rule against the throwing of frisbees. but we do not provide frisbees.

so if while i was at my car getting my pants, i might theoretically pick up my frisbees and place them in contaband? (contraband is where items are kept that we are not allowed to have on the floor that may or may not be accessed)

theoretically, yes. but that doesn't mean you'd be allowed to throw them.

but that would make them available later in case the decision is made later that such a thing is permissible?

theoretically, yes. theoretically.

so the discs were brought out and put in contraband.

and in the morning before the morning walk i went to the charge nurse and very politely had the whole conversation about the theoretical rules about frisbees and asked if it might be all right for me to be allowed to throw my discs on a trial basis while supervised on the morning walk.

the charge nurse looked dubious but said it was all right with her if it was all right with gary, who was going to have to take responsibility for it.

gary, bless, his heart, with whom i had already spoken. gary, who knew what i was on about, gary, whose attitude was "let's see if it works and if it doesn't we won't do it again" instead of "that might not work so let's not try it".

so we signed out my discs and a couple of us patients went for a chilly walk and we threw a few discs and i shared nicely with anyone who wanted and the walk went great and gary was able to report back that it went just fine and so when other people took us out, their attitude about the discs was "well, if gary says it's ok, then it must be ok", so nobody ever told us "no", and except for that one really nasty cold wet day i got to go out and throw a few throws every day and it's nothing like real exercise, but it's something at least to move your muscles and loosen you up and it set the tone for the rest of my day and it was as close to flying as i needed to come.

God bless you, gary. and praise the Lord.

Monday, January 17, 2011

here's my day

it would seem like a random collection of stuff except for the common theme of it was how i spent my day:

i got up this morning after some lovely lounging in bed to read with my usual breakfast a blog article that informs me that aside from some side effects i've known about, there are some additional alarming side effects to some medications i've been taking  that would actually CAUSE the problems they've been prescribed to me to help.

but after breakfast i read the ski report as is my custom (at least in winter) and learned that today they were spinning the number one chair, which is my favorite, and although i had planned to go skiing today anyway, i decided to get a move on because any day they spin the number one chair is a day i get going early. not that it makes much of a difference just yet, because i'm still pretty out of shape and still don't have even a half day's skiing in my legs yet, but i can pretend, can't i?

so i got myself up there.

but before i get to leave the driveway,  i find my garage door to be malfunctioning and i can't figure out how to use my backup override key because even though i was paying attention when the guy explained how to do it, that was like twelve years ago and i'm standing there trying to figure it out and my neighbor happens to come over and show me not just how to do it but how to fix it later, and i am on my way.

and the parking lot was WAY full. turns out it's a holiday weekend or something. the place was full of foreigners, and by foreigners, i mean people who buy day passes, never mind people who have out of state plates, let alone come up on a bus from D.C.

D.C.? you kidding me? you all got on a bus to come all the way up here? to bolton? did you people get lost on the way to stowe or something?

anyway, whenever i see people from away on the mountain, i am happy to see them and can't be friendly enough. i know which side my local economy is buttered on. i know who pays for my mountain to keep running. a mountain full of foreigners is a mountain that will stay open.

and today was my FAVORITE kind of day of mountain full of foreigners: beautiful blue sky, perfect piles and piles of snow, lodge full of people, no wind, all the lifts running, happy contests and events, hotels full, snack bar humming, and seven degrees outside.

that means everybody comes and buys lift tickets and nobody but the locals actually skis. everybody's happy.

and because they're spinning the number one chair, i get to take my picture from the elbow of peggy dow's like i do every day i ski off of that chair, which means since i haven't linked you to it in a while, i am going to get to show you my peggy dow video, my love song to a ski trail:

and then i came home and had a little lunch, kind of based on this recipe, but since i'm not vegan, i just went right ahead and used butter and some lovely fontina cheese and i tossed some greens in at the end of the mushroom and onion sautée.

the maple i use in all of my recipes these days is from isham family farm and the truth is that there's no difference between one very fine premium vermont maple and another, but i like ginger and her farm, and that's the maple i use in my kitchen these days. grade b. that's what i like. and i use a lot of it.

after lunch i fixed the garage door which took some doing; seven degrees out, remember? plus i'd never used the override thingy and those pins had never moved since their installation day and there's a lot you can do with a fine lubricant but i'm kind of on the short side and reaching over my head is not the optimum angle for all this on a day like today.

but i get it reassembled and everything and of course i can't just call it a day and move on, oh, no. i'm not done playing outside. i have to spend an hour or so working on my awesome snowfort because i'm a freaking LUNATIC and i'm just not happy unless i have moved a half ton of snow.

so then i come back into the house and get undressed and everything and make myself a little something to eat for supper, and because i'm chilly i think a little bowl of miso soup over white rice with a poached egg on top will be just the thing. kind of like this recipe only because i'm feeling a little lazy i go ahead and use packaged miso. it's lovely.

and as long as i happen to be in the kitchen, i start up a new batch of ginger ale.


and while i had a few minutes that were unaccounted for, i set out all my meds for the week, and organized all of october's photos for the thirteen project. okay, so i'm just a few months behind on that one, but i have my excuses. once i get back on my feet, i'll get that taken care of.

now if you'll excuse me, i want to take a hot shower and head off to bed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

stunning, really

there would have been not reason NOT to sleep in and skip church today except that  there was a thing i'd told martin i'd do for him and donna-sue and i'd said i'd bring it and as long as i had to heave myself out of bed to brng it i might as well heave myself out of be on time to come for practice with the CMT, nevermind i'd been to the dance at the capital city grange with the crashcos last night.

the dance was its usual good time and about seven different kinds of awesome even though i'm not in as good a shape as i used to be in and after the first half we decided to go home which was probably the right thing to have done, considering the amount of muscle soreness that was in store for me but i'm still glad i went because as i said, it's about seven different kinds of awesome and worth it, even when the alarm clock goes off for church in the morning.

the real reason i'm writing to you about it is that i get to tell you about my fabulous solution to the what-to-wear-between-home-and-the-dance problem, which is only really a big problem when it's cold out, because here it's REALLY cold out sometimes, but you also might need to put your dress on before you leave the house and once people get moving in that grange hall it gets mighty warm, so it's not even an option to wear stockings.

so i went with an outfit that i thought was really genius which mrs. crascho photographed for your "benefit", and although it was more utilitarian than anything, i thought i  had sort of hit the high water mark of true vermont crunchy-granola-earthmother-hippie-volvo-driving-lesbian-vegetarian-potluck chic, or  maybe in short, "i know where goddard college is".

my outfit is almost entirely black and should properly be described for you: a cute little black shirt, short sleeves and a scoop neck, with lycra shorts and black and hot pink socks as a base layer. most people would not see the shorts, since over that i am wearing a calf-length peasanty-crinkly skirt with bangly things that flares out when i dance and pretty and girly-like. i'm wearing a very plain silver cross around my neck, and cute little silver and onyx dangle earrings, on the conservative side. against the cold i'm wearing a little fleece jacket,  a little round fleece hat with a tassel, an oversized men's tweed greatcoat, merrell winter weight clogs -and this is the kicker- fleece pants that bunch up at the ankles just so to give me that endearing look that suggests i have just come from the potluck.

you will be glad to know that the fleece pants and most of the outlandish garb come off before i hit the dance floor.

but hey, i'm warm and happy, before and after.

anyway, this afternoon i worked on my awesome snowfort and some things in the kitchen and maybe later i'll tel you about that or not, but there are pictures and either way i'll talk to you later.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

david the sunshine med nurse

i think i said at some point i said might come back and tell you about him, and now is that time. it sounds maybe like i don't take him seriously, but i do.

i don't know what it's like to be all patients checking in to all hospitals, but i know what it's like to be me checking in to the hospitals i've checked into, and i have talked with a number of patients who have indicated that we have some shared experiences.

one of the things you do is watch the staff closely. when you come in you are often pretty badly strung out and you have to get and idea pretty quickly who can be trusted and who can't. in every population some people are full of shit and some aren't. in every population some people have a sense of humor and some don't. and the thing about people is that some of them are just on our wavelength and some aren't.

the patients can tell you, if you're in good enough shape to talk with the other patients when you come in, who's on the level and who likes rules. the patients will tell you right away if that scary looking patient is really sweet and harmless if that's the truth, but they won't tell you anything if that scary looking patient is really scary. it's kind of a code. the patients will explain a lot of things for you; they will explain for you whether an "offer of a quieter room" means an "offer of a quieter room" or whether it means a "threat of five-point restraint, a dose of thorazine, and a quieter room". the patients will tell you right away if there's a ratched on the floor.

but mostly you have to watch the staff yourself and decide who's full of bullshit and who's not.

david the sunshine nurse seems at first to be way too happy, but my bullshit detector isn't going off. and he's really sincere and pleasant to everybody, and enthusiastic about his work, and on the weekends he runs a music group for which he plays music and that makes me kind of grumpy, but i realize that it has more to do with the fact that i'm grumpy about how i've let my guitar skills slide, because he's really good.

and i'd like to be all snotty about the music he's playing, but i'm looking around me at what's REALLY going on and people are singing and they are smiling and nearly all the patients are there and just about everybody but me loves it and that's where the real healing is, and while i don't care for his brand of music, i am loving his brand of sunshine, but i have to leave anyway because i'm in the middle of that drug reaction and i'm too uncomfortable to sit.

later on i get to have this awesome conversation with him about medications and later i also hear snippets of conversations around the ward, not because i'm trying too hard to eavesdrop, but because the place is kind of built so that there's really no such thing as a private conversation, and i'm really impressed. i don't know what exactly his educational credentials are other than he's an RN and that he appears to have some sort of specialty in medications, because i notice that only certain nurses only ever work the med room, so it would not surprise me if he has as much training or nearly as much training as a registered pharmacist, who, by the way, holds (in most cases) a bona fide doctorate in pharmacology-

but anyway,  the more i see this man work, the more impressed i am. and as he works, he spreads sunshine and music. and it's subtle, but then you notice him using his lunch hours to bring sunshine and music to patients on other wards. and he probably doesn't have to wear ties that make you laugh necessarily, but in his own quiet way he just goes about making his own corner of the world better, and against tremendous odds.

he is not dealing with flowers in a park. he is dealing with addicts and junkies and the flat-out crazy. he is bringing sunshine to broken people in a bleak place in difficult times.

sometimes they get better, and sometimes they don't, but he is not seeing them at the times when they are at their best.

so, david the sunshine med nurse: best of luck to you, and thanks.

Friday, January 14, 2011

one-offs from the blogoshpere

i keep saying that i visit random blogs, or at least that's how i make my introductions when i make comments at blogs i've come across randomly, or how i explain to people i know in real life how it is that i come to read the blogs of hundreds of people i don't otherwise know.

nearly every blogging engine has some kind of random button you can press and voilà, you are reading a random blog, although i think maybe it isn't entirely a random blog, but based on some kind of algorithm that considers where you were when you started, but that's not where i was going with this post (oooh, look, a SQUIRREL!)

anyway, i was thinking about all the blogs i look at once and never return to and thought maybe i'd do a little piece on those. in preparation i spent an hour or two hitting "random" buttons and taking notes.

so, gentle, reader, here are the blog characteristics that will make me click through faster than the preacher's kid leaves the party when the sheriff shows up.

  • your formatting hurts my eyes. i won't bother to look for content i like here. i don't care how clever you are, or how deep your thoughts are. it really is that simple.
  • your page is not written in any language i understand. i don't insist on english, especially in photo captions where i can make do in several languages, but if you aren't writing in a language i understand, you don't care if i read it, anyway.
  • you are using the blog as the home page for your business. fine. i have no objection to it, but unless you also provide some entertaining content or unless it's a business i'm interested in, i won't be reading it. i realize that for you it's a smart business choice in terms of a free web presence, but it's just a bad fit for me as an entertainment source. best of luck to you, though.
  • your blog is so cluttered with gadgets that you have no room for any content.
  • your blog is nothing more than a regurgitation of cute things you saw at someone else's blog.
  • you haven't updated your blog since 2009, and that was only to mention that you're amazed that you still get hits, since you hadn't written anything since 2007.
  • your blog is made only of pictures, and none of them are labeled, captioned, or explained in any way. they are also not very interesting pictures.
  • your blog contains the words "please vote for this (whatever) every day".
  • i scroll down the page a LONG time, i mean a really, really LONG time and i can't figure out what you're on about. is that your band? your favorite band? your brother's wedding? some guys from school? some random pictures? i think you want me to think something about it is awesome, but i just don't get it. can you give me some more information? any information? what's this post about? i keep scrolling, but i don't get any more information out of any other posts. at this point i'm only looking to try to figure out because i know i'm going to be writing about it later in the day and i want to be sure that you're as totally opaque as you appear to be at first glance. in you case, i guess, the blog is about not communicating anything, not even a mood. i'm just guessing about the awesome thing. 
  • your blog wants me to know NOW, NOW, NOW some amazing facts i need to know about Jesus. let me tell you, pal, if i need to know those things about Jesus that quick, your blog is not going to be His chosen venue.
  • your blog is one more cookie-cutter cute craft mommie blog about your perfect beautiful kids and your perfect hubby that you "wuv" so much and the great bounty of the Lord and all that because while i believe you love your husband and kids and God and all that and that you like crafts there are a lot of people out there writing about it more genuinely than you and by the time it gets to you it's old news anyway so you might as well bring to the table what you bring to the table, which is you, yourself, unvarnished, the way you are.
  • your blog is full of this week's internet meme.
  • your blog is mostly made up of social media buttons. if you have nothing to say here, why would i follow you anywhere else?
and the biggest reason i run very fast, never to return:
  • your blog has auto-play music.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

tornado girl

i don't know what her real name was. i never learned it. a lot of people up there got nicknames, like all the bobs, just so we could keep them straight. i mean, you're up there and in the space of a week there's five guys named bob so you give them nicknames. you have to. it's not the sort of place where you're on a last name basis.

but tornado girl was special. really special. you know she's special when a roomfull of junkies looks up and says: "wow. this one's special."

it's hard to convey in print what it felt like to be indoors with her, much less indoors on a locked ward with her. she had obviously stocked up but good JUST before she had come in and the  check in process had gone just a little too long and she was expecting the people in the hospital to replenish her supply of drugs immediately upon her arrival on the ward.


that was her approach to detox.

a refreshing approach, actually. a lot of people when they come for "detox" from one drug ask for substitute drugs or drugs that will ease their pain and take the edge off their discomfort. but not tornado girl.


among us, we had a combined great deal of experience of a great many witnesses of a great many detoxes, and we all agreed that this girl was special. we had to hand it to her that this was one approach to detox that we had never seen before.

and we were lined up for dinner, getting counted, a thing you have to do because they count you against the list of who has walking privilege and they count who shows up at the door and they round up the tardy ones and then they have to hunt up four staff for each traveling patient and they count you again and a nurse has to sign off on it andjust as thy're putting us through the "airlock" tornado girl's psychiatrist comes to meet with her for the first time and we all look at each other and we say "is that who she go assigned to? oh, that's not good" because when you come in the first time you're assigned at random to one of the floor docs but tornado girl has a sense of entitlement slightly longer than all of her DNA if you unwind it and lay it end-to-end and the doc she's been assigned is the one i have cheerfully nicknamed "the arrogant bastard".

now, "the arrogant bastard" is a crack psychiatrist. the man knows what he's doing. i just think that his personality style and tornado girl's sense of entitlement are going to meet in a perfect storm and it's going to be a bumpy ride on the ward.

which of course it is.

the farther tornado girl goes into withdrawal, the more she likes to talk about it with me and anyone else she can buttonhole. and her idea of the perfect conversational distance goes from four inches to about two, and her idea of a perfect conversational volume has increased proportionately.

at some point she starts making a lot of phone calls and we all pretend we can't hear her but we're secretly taking bets as to whether or not anybody will try to dissuade her when she tries to check out.

we hope not.

nobody does.

and nobody misses her when she leaves.

we just clean up the trailer park and get on with it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

what i like today

this morning i woke up and although it hadn't snowed much, it was snowing pretty strongly, so i scrapped my plans to go skiing, figuring i could grocery shop today and ski tomorrow. i do not care to ski while it is actually snowing out; i'm fussy that way. it gets down my neck, my goggles fog up, whine, whine. i haven't the time for all that. i can do it tomorrow.

it turns out i won't be doing it tomorrow, either. it turns out that with such a monumental dump of snow it will take a day for them to groom it out so that i can ski in it without hurting myself (no full set of connective tissue in either knee, besides old and out of shape), but the way it was snowing today i also didn't get to go grocery shopping, either.

so what did i do?

i read this awesome story: cucumber gravy, by susan palwick.  you should read it too. full disclosure: i read her blog, which you can find here. she talks a lot about cats and knitting and writing and chaplaincy and learning to play the viola but mostly why i like to read her blog is that she's a decent person and she can string a sentence together intelligently. i'm not so wild about cats or knitting but if she's writing about it, i'm willing to read it.

today i love creamed chipped beef on mashed potatoes, but if you want some of that, you have to make your own. i make mine with both worcestershire sauce and tabasco.

i also like snow. today i started working on this year's edition of the snohaus, which can only be described as my seasonal monument to insanity. here's an entry from last year describing that and if you're enterprising you can get from there to the photo albums but if i think of it later maybe i'll link you to the full account of last year's two incarnations of the snowfort.

as a result of that i heard the neighborhood children refer to me in awed tones as "that crazy old lady". excellent. i am just barely forty-six years old and i am already "that crazy old lady".

also on my list of what i like today is this sexy little number, an hour-long documentary on how awesome statistics are, which i'm only halfway done watching and which i want to finish watching before i go to bed for the night.

ooooh. talk nerdy to me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


he came in alone, with one small bag of stuff. he walked straight to the nurses' station and did what check-in he had to do quietly and politely. he did not look around him, except that when he was spoken to, he spoke back. he returned greetings. he said his name when introduced but did not seem to be in a condition to learn names.

he looked preoccupied; he stood upright, but his small frame looked weighted and his eyes were sad and clear. sometimes when the new people come in they look crazy or high or terrified or beat up and you know what's ahead of them but this guy looked fine except for the unsettling  feeling you got looking at him that he knew what was coming and that it wasn't going to be good.

i watched him pass; i hadn't seen his eyes or heard him speak a word but it was as if i could feel something good and decent in his heart and i just loved something about him and it felt to me as if he had just very manfully walked up to the edge of hell and said to the charge nurse: "well, let's get this started, then."

in a matter of hours it was started. in a few more hours everyone there knew what he was in for. he was detoxing. and although the staff doesn't tell his business, the other patients know enough about what they give him and how they take care of him to know that he's having a very bad detox from both suboxone and from alcohol.

later on if i feel like it, i'll tell you more about suboxone, but for now i'll just say that it's a replacement drug for heroin and it's used both legally and illegally and that withdrawal (or as they say on the wards, "withdraw") from it or any of that class of drug will be hell, but won't kill you, but withdraw from alcohol very well might.

and because of that, they have to have him out in the public areas of the ward. they have to be able to monitor him closely, and that means we all get a front row seat. he gets jittery. he sees bugs. a lot of bugs. he knew it would be this way, and he struggles beyond reasonable expectation to remain calm and to be polite. he apologizes for his shortness of temper.

and he does a thing i have never seen in a detox patient.

often patients in detox ask for as much pharmaceutical help as they can get. often they ask for as much substitution, as much of an easy way out as they can possibly get, as little of a detox as they can possibly get away with.

but this guy asks the charge nurse if she can give him just barely enough of a mild sedative to take away enough of his anxiety about the bugs to allow him to bear it until they go away. she's willing to give him more, but he only wants just enough.

i can only guess at what his blood pressure is; the veins in his neck are visible at a pretty good distance. his face is red. they take his vital signs every few minutes.  he passes in and out of consciousness. he pisses himself. he wakes up for a few minutes, sits up, and passes out with his nose in a cup of soda. someone gently moves it so he doesn't have a ring on his face when he wakes up.

he never whines. he never complains. it is obvious that he is uncomfortable. he is so uncomfortable that he is going out of his skin but when he can stay awake enough to keep his eyes open the only thing he can think of to do is to play chess.

so that's what he does. i don't know that he loves chess so much, but i do know that chess is a big enough thing to wrap your brain around. bit by bit i begin to realize that when he's not playing chess or working on a chessboard, he is so uncomfortable in his body that it drives him nuts and he can hardly think straight or even think at all.

but he does not complain or blame. he simply does his best with what he's got.

and that's a chessboard.

Monday, January 10, 2011

three things

thing one: today i went skiing for the first time all season. i went to pick up my pass and then i thought i'd have a few runs, but the truth is i'm out of shape and i don't have more than two runs in me and even those weren't very aggressive runs and i had to stop to rest on the second one, but two runs is better than no runs.

i seem to have lost weight since last season, if the photo on my pass is any indicator, which is both awesome and surprising, considering i just spent the last month or so sitting on my ass eating high fat hospital foods in large portions like they give out and not exercising much.

thing two: i follow a very funny blog written by a woman in queensland. you know, the place with all the flooding. today she posted an awesome video her husband shot of floodwaters and it's just gone viral and no i'm not going to link you to it because i'm just not. i found her by accident and although i'm kind of a guest there, i don't think she's prepared for a few million guests.

just by accident a couple of months ago i happened to discover this awesome little blog about an hour before THAT one went all viral and i was all, like, wait a minute! a few minutes ago it was just me and you and a few other people you knew and i was just a random stranger that wandered in here and all of a sudden where did these other forty-four THOUSAND people come from? only since the other forty-four thousand people came in about an hour after i did i hadn't really established much of a claim to permanence there and in a few days there were millions of people and the things was being translated into portuguese and she was giving interviews on french television and MSNBC and things still really haven't calmed down in her household but they will soon, i think. i still read the blog but i think most of the other people have gone.

anyway, i'm not linking you to the lady in queensland. you didn't hear about her from me.

thing three: you know how i love maps. and you know how i love infographics. here's a little interactive map infographic thingy fedex has done that you can play with. ooooh, oooooh! i may not ever have sex again as long as i live, but i can still enjoy a well-done cartogram.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

plan b

it's hard enough to link together loosely-related elements and make them into a story when my mind is clear and tell it to you, and harder still when the elements overlap or are interwoven through time or across seemingly unrelated concepts or draw together otherwise unrelated people or events or rely on weird little networks of coincidences but for the most part the story falls in some sort of orderly fashion and if you were able to keep track of it, you might be able to diagram it with some success.

unfortunately, during the Indeterminate Time, while things happened that were certainly real, the portions of my brain that processed them are unable to recall them in precise sequence any better than you are able to nail jello to a wall. and even coming out of the Indeterminate Time where my notes may be good (and i took PAGES of notes) it will just make more sense for me to tell the stories in bits and pieces and let you try to pull together the organized narrative if you need to, ok?

intermittently i will also be telling you the other stuff that's on the regular program around here because let's face it, i did not start this blog to be a solid wall of psychiatric story, but rather a catch-all of what's-on-my-mind and while i wish to tell you the story, i also wish to tell you for instance that it's snowing and that tomorrow the skiing will be nice. and that there's soup to be made and toys to try out. and that i still have pictures to clock and video to process. and i still have stuff to tell you about my virginia roadtrip, and the rest of my october roadtrip, and that i think i'm still behind in telling you all the stuff from my MAY road trip, so even though i've been writing regularly, i have serious backlog.

and sooner or later i'm going to get around to writing about some blogs i like.

if i have time.

anyway, during the Indeterminate Time i'm up there and i am powerful homesick and besides that i am howlingly sad for just being sad but i'm trying to get it under control or at least just get my appearance of it under control and not cry and scream so loud because it's really close quarters and that's really uncomfortable for other people to be around, and i really don't want to get my privileges yanked so even though i'm feeling very unstable, and like i want to run around in circles screaming very loudly or like i might spend another three days crying or worse, laugh until i fall to the floor and not be able to stop, i'm trying really, really hard to just walk around with no affect at all rather than let it get out of control and it doesn't leak out much unless someone on staff comes to talk with me about how i feel, which is when it leaks, which i find out later when i go look it up that this kind of plays against me in the sneak diagnosis department.

and when i tell them i am lonely and homesick for my people, whom i miss, and who are special to me, they tell me i can socialize with the other patients, but when i tell the that the other patients are not the same as my friends and my family and my church family and that it's JUST NOT THE SAME, this also works toward the sneak diagnosis.

jiminy. i have learned so much.


during this time i am also creeping toward my birthday. for a lot of reasons i often feel ambivalent about my birthday, but one thing about which i am not ambivalent is that the only thing that sucks more about spending your birthday or any other holiday on a pysch ward is the lame observance of your birthday in which people try to make you feel better or bring some festivity to it and i know not everybody agrees with me on this, but one thing i know is that of those of us who have had birthdays while on psych units, we are none of us lukewarm about it: we either welcome the small kindhearted attempts to make it better, or it is hellish for us.

i know where i stand.

and you do, too.

and you should know that my mom loves me and wants to come visit me for my birthday. in principle i don't have an objection to that. my mom can visit without making a federal case out of it being my birthday. but this unit is weird: it doesn't really have any sitting space where you can really be with your visitors. every other unit i've been on has had some sort of sitting area where i've felt comfortable receiving visitors, but not this one. and i can't imagine visiting with my mom out so much mixed in with this present cast of characters. and i still think i might be going home soon, so i tell her not to come.

but my mom is kind of headstrong. and i'm surprised SHE hasn't gotten a sneak secondary diagnosis, now that i think of it, but they're not paid to diagnose her. she manages to arrange a "meeting" with the social worker. so she comes down to visit.

now, the night before i have given express directions to staff to put it in my chart: there is to be no mention that it is my birthday, and even so, one or two of them still think they ought to say something about it, but i manage to head it off. it is my forty sixth birthday, and in the morning one of the patients, not knowing that it is my birthday, and not knowing what kind of books i like to read, and not knowing a lot of things about me, hands me a book and says she thinks maybe i should read this.

it is plan b: further thoughts on faith, by anne lamott, and it begins with the words "On my forty-ninth birthday, I decided that all of life was hopeless", which evaporated my bad mood pretty quickly by the sheer freakishness of it.

anne lamott is a favorite of my pastor at home, and while i had never before read anything by her, i had heard her quoted from the pulpit, although i had to be a little bit into the book before i realized it.

so my mom arrives to visit and the social worker gets us set up for our "meeting" and she would be welcome to stay (i am only meeting her for the first time) but she has actual work do do and excuses herself. my mom has brought laundry detergent that doesn't make me itch, and some clean clothes, some snacks i can share, and a really beautiful not-marked-for-birthday flourless chocolate cake that later on i will have the nurses cut up so i can share it with the other patients.

i don't need to tell them what the occasion is, but a cake like that is a thing of beauty and graciousness and no matter how good or kind or well-trained or professional the staff is or how well-appointed the hospital is, it is still a bleak place and it is an awesome thing to offer each person a little slice of something that came from a very nice bakery just that morning.

little blessings.

Friday, January 07, 2011

coming out

now, during the Indeterminate Days, i kept crying "i don't even know where we are!" and they kept telling me i was in brattleboro, or if they thought to be more detailed, on (specific ward) of the brattleboro retreat, and they thought fine enough to leave it at that.

and all i could answer was "BUT WHERE ARE WE?", which makes no sense; no sense at all unless you realize that i am a map weenie, that in my car i carry a map bag, a black leather satchel containing very nice paper road maps of all of new england and a good deal of the rest of the eastern seaboard and the maritime provinces besides AND i also collect maps of state parks and trail systems AND i have on my laptop both road maps and topo maps for all of north america and that i subscribe to the google earth blog and this blog and it's hard for me to get in the car and go anywhere without having my GPS navigation going and a lot of my life is kind of defined not so much by the finding of geocaches, but the looking for them, so a lot of me is about geography and when they brought me over in the truck i lost track of where we were after we crossed over in front of the 7-11 coming over route 9 because even though i couldn't see anything in the truck i still could feel where we were coming over hogback and then all of a sudden i had no idea where we were and all through the Indeterminate Time i would pick my head up and cry "i don't even know where we are!"

and nobody could understand it as a cry of great distress and i had no way of putting enough clear thoughts together to explain it to anyone.

and near the end of the Indeterminate Time i knew i needed sunlight. there was no in my room; a fault of the position of the building and (i learned later) a weather pattern that a few days in a  row clouded in the only time of day when sun WOULD shine in my window and partly the fault of the escape proof screening and i noticed there was a little bit of sunshine i could see from the stall in the women's bathroom if i crept up on the safety bar and hung by my fingers and toes and looked out but i didn't think i wanted to be seen looking out the window THAT way no matter how pretty it was, so i went looking for another patch of sunlight because i felt that there had to be some somewhere and whether there was any thruth to it, i thought of the days i spent at dartmouth-hitchcock, an altogether more genteel mental hospital, when i used to sit on the sofa in that patch of sunlight and feel almost not crazy, i thought somehow that if i could find a patch of sunlight to be in for a few minutes that maybe i could just be in it and maybe something in me could loosen up and i might be able to move on to something better.

it's worth a try, you know?

i found exactly one patch of sunlight to stand in. right on the corner of the unit, near the nurses' station. not close enough to be in the way, but close enough to be annoying, i think. i didn't care. it was sunlight. and behind them, behind their desks, was a window, a window without escape-proof screening, so i could see out of it, so i just stared out of it, watching people and cars go by in the sunlight.

completely captivating, and so beautiful i think i cried a little. if anyone had asked me what i was doing, i would have told them, but nobody asked. sunlight. my first view of the outside.

and that may have been a friday afternoon, because i think as i was standing there, things started happening fast. a lot of people came up separately to ask me a lot of questions about whether or not i would be safe to leave the unit, whether or not i would be safe with other patients, whether i was a flight risk, whether i could be trusted with art supplies. these questions were both the generic questions, and they were also asked as if to settle an argument, and in fact i knew that the team was not in total agreement as to whether i should be moved up in privilege, and the weekend was coming.

if you are not moved up on friday, you don't move until monday. and all of a sudden i'm standing there and someone's asking me if i want to go get my coat to go an outside group. what? what outside group? am i allowed to go to an outside group? ten minutes ago i was on checks.

checks? (there's a lot of list checking here. usually you don't go from checks to going outside.) shrug. you're on my list.  turns to charge nurse. she on green? checks big board. board says i'm on checks. there's a lot of conferencing. this all happens really fast, though. nope, green. want to go?

GO? i'm going somewhere? anywhere? you bet.

i have my coat on so fast and am waiting by the door so fast their heads spin.

we are going, it turns out, to lawton hall, which is where much of the recreational therapy is housed. imagine my shock. the building itself is beautiful and dates back to the time when the retreat was attempting to attract more upscale patients with kind of minor nervous disorders to come for therapeutic vacations before they turned into hardcore burnout cases (it's worth reading up on the history of the place) and even though this building has gone through a few changes it still has this old-style charm that makes me think of adirondack summer camp with its pressed tin ceiling and  big windows and there are three pool tables and a foosball table and table hockey and ping pong and a big table next to the picture window with a jigsaw puzzle on it and it's not by any means a wonderland and you wouldn't mistake it for an upscale hotel but everything's in working order and the important thing is that we've come to spend a happy hour NOT ON A LOCKED WARD.

and then we get back and now that i have walking privileges, not only am i getting to go to groups, but i am going to the caf! the caf! that great wonderland of plenty! for a hospital, the food is pretty good here, but in the caf there are choices. the food is actually better in the inpatient caf (omniscient narrator from the future) than it is in the general caf because there are MORE options and if you want to make up a little plate of a lot of tastes of everything AND have the fruit plate too, you get to do that and it's prix fixe, as opposed to being charged per item. they take the trouble to make little cups of hummus and cottage cheese and stuff available all the time, too, so you can be very flexible in there and you can nearly always find something to like. plus if carol is working, she makes it a point to know what's good today.

so anyway, all of a sudden, i'm walking around outside in the fresh air (albeit at appointed times and heavily supervised) and when i ask "where ARE we?" the answer i get is "that's the interstate, and that's the putney road, and that's route 30" and i can go "ohhhhh. 'coz i'm a map geek. an' ever since i been here i have not been able to figure out where i am on the MAP an' that's been driving me CRAZY."

Sunday, January 02, 2011

keeping time

in real time (whatever that is), while i'm telling the story of my journey through the worst part of getting better, because really, the part where you're so busted up that you land in the hospital at your bottom is the part where you have no where to get but better;

in real time i'm out here in the "real" world sometimes. today is the second of january and last night i went dancing with the crashcos at the capital city grange. there's no better way,really, than bringing in the new year than going to the dance, the regular dance series, only it's new year's day or the night of and everybody's kind of pumped up and it's a bigger party than usual only not too much bigger but the energy is higher and it just feels good to dance.

it is, as crashco says, "organized chaos", but it is joyful and it is to me a triumph because without getting too far into it, i thought that after the Very Bad Thing i was never again going to be able to go back to the dance; in the grocery store i was a cripple, wincing and cringing every time some guy got too close to me, getting ready to shout at no one in particular and i could not imagine going through these figures again, not knowing who might tough or bump me and not knowing who might receive me or swing me or who i might encounter coming up or down the sets and it turns out it was not just fine; it was FABULOUS.

so there's absolutely nothing to do but ride the waves of the figures going up and down the hall and give myself up to the beautiful geometry of the dance and love the people, all of them, each a miracle of creation. later on in the long epic story of hospitals and therapy i'll tell you about my awesomeness manifesto and i'll look back or forward on this moment: people are awesome. have you looked around you? at how stunningly beautiful they are?


go out dancing.  see you out there.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

one pair of pants

during most of the indeterminate time i had one pair of pants i was allowed to wear, unless you count the bottoms from the team issue uniform, which i don't. maybe you don't mind walking around all day in the team crazy sweatpants, but i prefer street clothes at home, and i prefer street clothes on the locked ward of the mental hospital. even the staff of the mental hospital prefers it if you wear street clothes if possible. they take it as a sign that you're trying.

ok. so it's been firmly established that i have some chemical sensitivities. we don't need to go into the whole story of all my childhood rashes or that i use deodorants with as few scents and dyes as possible and that my laundry detergents of choice are scent-and-dye-free, an that in general i don't go overboard with additives.

i'm not a zealot and i don't need a completely natural white-fiber naturals-only clean environment, thank goodness, but i have some sensitivities and when i reach my limits there's a rash and i have to back off, hatwipe, or it's going to be ugly.

you can do laundry on the unit, but it's a pain in the ass to wear your one pair of pants while you're washing them, and the only soap you can use is the unit approved combination detergent/dryer sheet and i never use a dryer sheet because they're not necessary and i've never met one that doesn't make me break out, and it's kind of an all day project to get your one pair of pants off and wear the crazy suit down to the laundry room and get it unlocked for you to check and see if some other patient isn't using one of the machines and then ask for the sheet and put your stuff in and i have to wash my stuff with the soap and then wash it again after taking the sheet out to wash the soap out (i hope) and each time i have to leave the locked room and go to groups and get the room unlocked for me and it takes for-honkin-ever and if i wear the same pair of pants two days in a row i break out because i'm sensitive to my own SWEAT.

now, at this point i have privileges to go to the caf, (the cafeteria), which means i can see my car which is parked about fifty feet away from the building. i have a bag of dirty laundry in my car. there are acceptable unit-approvable pants in my car. several pairs of them. and i want them. i don't care how i get them. i don't care if someone goes to get them for me, or if i go get them in shackles, or if they just let me get them supervised. surely a doctor can write an order for me to get my pants out of my car? which is right over there? surely this is a reasonable request? (remember this later. apparently this is a special request made by special people who need special treatment.)

meanwhile, i have a rash on my legs that breaks open and bleeds. it could be the meds. it could be the hospital laundry detergent. it could be the soap/shampoo. when i am having an allergic reaction, the first line of breakdown is usually a skin rash. my best guess, i tell them, is probably the detergent. may i please have more pants? that would help a lot.

they keep putting me off.

now, the funny thing is that in hospitals they keep trying to discourage any drug seeking behaviors. the alternate solution to the rash is lots and lots of benadryl, which i am willing to take. i am not willing to take any disapproving looks over my requests for benadryl to ease my discomfort over the rash, since clean pants would really help clear that up, as would different detergent.

i'm also working on different detergent, but i'm a long way from having visitors to bring it to me, so i'm trying to work with what's available.

finally an order is written to take me to my car. since i have several hours advance warning, i ask a few subtle questions and find out that ther are no hospital rules against the throwing of frisbees and when we go to the car to get the laundry, we also retrieve my golf discs which i immediately turn over to contraband, a thing which i will tell you about later.

anyway, now i have four pair of pants to work with, and can work out laundry without pressure, taking as many hours as i need to to do multiple washes and rinses and the rash does not go away (omniscient narrator from the future) until a change of detergent is brought later and in fact it is still not fully healed at the time of this writing (1 january, nearly a month later), but at least it stops getting worse, which is progress of a sort.

sometimes that's all you can hope for.

today omniscient narrator from the future is going to make some ice cream and later on go dancing with the crashcos. tomorrow i'll go to church, the first communion service of the new year which makes it important to me. tomorrow afternoon i'll make my way down to ripley and start my new year down there and keep getting better.

you get better too, from whatever pains you, and you keep enjoying your blessings, and may they be many.

happy new year.


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