Monday, May 17, 2010

Super Heros

This occured to me in the shower this morning.

If I were a superhero, my super power would be invisibility.

My weakness would be Cheerleader locker rooms.

Just saying.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Expected Unexpected

So my Dad, Luis El Grande, passed away at his winter hideout in Florida on April 8th.

His health was poor, and I (a nurse) and my sister-in-law (a physician) both knew he wasn't well and didn't have very long. Both of us predicted around Thanksgiving that he might not come back to Michigan this spring.

He was only 3 weeks from coming home when he proved us right.

From what I understand, he and his girlfriend were out having fun all day. He came home, made and ate dinner, then dozed off in his lazy boy. When his girlfriend tried to wake him up about two hours later, he was gone. All in all, dying peacefully in your sleep isn't a bad way to go.

Dying from Type II diabetes, congestive heart failure and morbid obesity, however, seems pretty dumb. But he'd been wanting to die since Mom passed back in 2002 and chose slow suicide. He was fully aware that controlling his weight would have meant many more years of life, but there you go.

We buried him last Wednesday next to my Mom. The burial was a debacle, but I'll tell that story another time. Basically it was a customer service foul-up by the cemetery and funeral home. But it got done.

So now I'm the executor of the trust, and Mona is helping out. My brother Juan is in the loop and we'll be talking to Dads lawyer this week. I've managed to get some stuff done, but to really take care of most things we need to wait on the death certificate from Florida.

We also went to his house up north and took some heirlooms out before his girlfriend and her family got in there. We got the will and some jewelry out of the safe, the guns out of the attic, tools out of the basement and took them home.

We're planning an Estate Sale to clean the place out over Memorial Day weekend.

The best thing to come out of this deal is that The Peanuts college (along with a siblings, should one ever come along) is pretty much covered.

The odd thing is that I am not nearly as broken up as I was when Mom died. Me and Luis had some serious disagreements and he was a right bastard on more than a few occasions. I had a great deal of anger towards him for most of my life.

Now that he's gone, I am not so angry. But I'm not grieving much beyond a few tears at the funeral either. It's a very different and so far much less painful experience that when Mom died. It feels more like a milestone than a loss. Kind of like my 40th birthday. It was going to happen sooner or later. Might not be fun, but there's worse things.

Actually, the worst part was explaining it to The Peanut. We were very honest with her and tried to keep it simple. We told her Gramps had died and had gone to heaven. We took her to the funeral so she could say goodbye and we were careful to explain that while he looked like he was asleep, his body was old and sick and he wasn't there anymore (we don't want her to fear sleep).

She took it pretty much the way "the books" said she would; lots of questions with long breaks between series, essentially revisiting the same questions over and over. She expressed sadness a few times and seems to have dealt with it pretty well. But every now and then running through it with her would get me going. She asked us a lot while we were driving and Mona would have to do the talking while I welled up, unable to speak. I feel bad that she won't know her Grandparents on my side, but I didn't know 3 of the 4 of mine and I turned out OK. She already calls my Godparents Grams and Gramps, and they treat her like a grandchild, so all in all she'll never really experience the loss.

Mona's parents are both in their 50's, but he dad is not the healthiest guy (recently lost an eye to cancer and has other issues; I give him 10 years, tops) and her mom had a mastectomy (she's cancer free now) last summer. But I figure they'll last a while, and The Peanut will have lots of chances to go and stay at Grams House of Perpetual Indulgence.

So there you go. It's been a hell of a month.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back So Soon?

Yes I am. Because I need your help and advice.

First, as is my custom, some background.

My brother Juan married into Money. I mean real money. His father-in-law is a world-recognized leader in his field and has literally written the text book on what he does. He's a self made man and has earned all the wealth and acclaim that he currently enjoys.

My sister-in-law, Juanite, is following in his footsteps and has a bright, debt-free future.

Her parents are divorced, and her mom is in a position of authority. She also has a huge alimony income in addition to her own family money.

Juan and I are from a blue collar family. My parents worked hard and they were able to put us through college for our first degrees. You know I just put myself through school again (with Mona's invaluable help) and Juan earned his MBA on his own. We also bought our own houses, cars, and other material possessions by earning the money we made.

My sister-in-law has two siblings. We'll call them Heckle and Jeckle. Both are attorneys. Heckle has a small practice and has gone to his Mom for cash to prop up the business recently (She sold a very expensive house in a resort type community on the east coast to cover him). Heckles wife is in sales and recently talked Heckle's dad into paying for her breast implants. Heckle is a bit of a jerk, but he's generally harmless.

Jeckle is married to an attorney. He practiced for about a year then married and decided to stay home to raise his son while his wife works. His some has some developmental issues, but I'm not sure if they're organic or have been created by Jeckle's numerous neuroses. His daughter has a significant development disorder and requires constant supervision. I have no issues with his decision to stay home with her. As far as his overall character however, Jeckle is in my opinion a huge pussy.

Both sons received a gift (according to my brother) $75K each from their father for the purchase of their homes. According to Juan, both boys have their hands out to Mom and Dad on a regular basis.

Juan and Juanita are currently house hunting. They want to move out of the blue collar neighborhood where we live (just a couple miles apart) to one that is more white collar / professional. They have the income and the ability, and I think they should live wherever they like. They've had some difficulty finding homes they like, had one deal fall through and are in the midst of negotiating for something they like.

The home they're bidding on now is on the opposite side of town (about 40 miles) from Juanita's family. Her family doesn't really like to leave their old money enclave, but Juan and Juanita feel that they have good reasons for searching in the area they've chosen. The area is about 20 miles from me, and fairly convenient. Mona and I talked about living in that area (in a much smaller, less expensive neighborhood) for some time, and like it a great deal.

All the time they've been shopping I've joked with them (especially when in school and unemployed) that I hope they find a house with a room in the basement where I can live when I lose our house (we were never in danger of losing our house). Juan and I both think the idea of me being the sponging, unemployed brother-in-law who lives in the basement is chuckle worthy.

I have approached the idea in a serious manner when talking about Mona and I moving. Because of the current credit climate I'm hearing that it's hard to buy a house when you still own a house. If that's true, then when it comes time for us to move it might be best for us to sell and stay in J&J's basement for a short time while we get a mortgage and find a new place. I figure that would take 2 to 3 months, and with 3000+ square feet (not counting the finished basement) we'd be pretty out of the way. We'd pay them some rent, of course, and Mona would do some child care for them while we were there too. But really the talks were all very hypothetical and no one requested or offered any sort of commitment. It was a big game of “What if..?”.

Which brings us up to the present.

We went to the Patriarch's place not long ago for an Easter visit. Mona and I were invited because it was also a birthday party for Juan's son, Luis.

The house hunt came up in conversation (most of the family was in the room discussing it) and a comment was made either by me or Juan that had something to do with me living in the basement. It was of course made in jest.

The next week, J&J found a house and are negotiating for it. The price was a little higher than planned, and Juanita called her mom to ask about a loan of some cash to cover some move-in expenses. Mom told her that she was uncomfortable with that, because she heard that I was planning to move my family in with them. Apparently Jeckle heard Juan and I joking and ran to mommy to tell her that I was looking for a handout. Juanita later heard the same thing from her father, who mentioned that Heckle was pretty upset.

Now, Heckle has annoyed me in the past with little shots, like pointing out at the Easter gathering that I'm overweight. He's right. But he's fat too (fatter than me, according to Mona). I blew it off. Jeckle's personality or social anxiety keeps him from doing much more than saying hello and goodbye to me while staring at his shoes. We've never had a conversation. Neither of these guys know a thing about me.

But now, Jeckle is out there impugning my character and suggesting that I'm some kind of gold digging bum. And apparently Dad and Mom are buying it. Juanita was not supposed to tell Juan any of this, but I think most wives would share this kind of thing with a spouse. Juan and I are tight enough that he calls me to vent when he's pissed. And of course I told Mona.

This how thing makes me angry. Juan is pretty fired up and Mona has decided she'd rather not see any of them again if at all possible. We certainly won't attend any more family functions on their home turf.

Now, if this were the Romantic age, I could ask Jeckle for satisfaction. I would not be expected to tolerate a slight to my honor. If Jeckle were more of a man and less surrounded by lawyers, I could just whip his ass (I'm not a tough guy at all, but Jeckle makes me look like Chuck Liddell). Both options are closed to me.

Mona says I just need to ignore it and stay away from them. It's too far removed from me to have any need to act. Juan may have to have some words with Jeckle, but really it ought to come from Juanita. My best friend Jaime agrees with Mona.

Juan is 75% of the way to whipping Jeckles ass.

I know that really, Mona and Jamie are right, but the blood of my ancestors and the teaching of my parents inclines me to partner up with Juan and teach Jeckle what happens when he decides that slander seems like a good idea.

What I'm looking for is a third option ideally. I'm leaning toward calling Jeckle a girls name whenever I see him from now on, along with finding other ways to torture him. I like the idea of causing him some social discomfort, engaging him in conversation (while obliquely letting him know that I know it makes him uncomfortable), finding ways to draw attention to him and occasionally causing him some physical pain (extra firm handshakes, “friendly” arm punches, etc). I would never, however, use his children to get to him. They and his wife, are and will remain, completely off limits.

So what I need is your advice. What, if anything, do I do? How shall I handle this?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

If it does, then you must be pretty fond of me by now.

Alright, I admit it's been a long while. A very long while, in fact. But I have no good explanation.

For a while I just haven't had much to say, or the energy to say it. I've also gotten fairly sucked into Facebook. Love me some Facebook. As a result my ramblings here have suffered to the point that you may no longer be reading this at all.

I suppose the first thing I need to do is provide an update on where I am.

I graduated from nursing school with my BSN (3.78 GPA, in case you were wondering) in December, and started looking for jobs. You may have read my rant about not being able to find work. I took a week off in January and we went to Disney with The Peanut. I had a line on a job at that time, but it fell through when the hospital system decided to close a small hospital to inpatient service and displaced a bunch of nurses, which meant outside candidates were not being interviewed. I found this out while in Florida and a couple of days before we got home I stopped shaving.

It got so bad that I started a playoff beard like those seen often in the NHL in spring. I vowed not to shave until I either passed my board exam or got an interview, whichever happened first. I chronicled it's growth with weekly pictures posted to, again, Facebook.

While the beard grew I started really looking for jobs and practically making a stalker of myself. I was calling nurse recruiters regularly and working my network for all it was worth. I'd find job postings, apply online as most of the hospitals required and then make calls to find the hiring manager for those positions. With a name or email address I would send an additional resume and cover letter and/or leave a voicemail for them. Mine was a known name.

While this went on I was waiting for the paperwork to go through the State system so I could take my board exam an get my license, which is the last hurdle to overcome to be able to practice as a Registered Nurse.

In early February I got the approval to take the NCLEX exam (nursing boards) and made the appointment for the following week, which was the soonest available. Most of my friends held off for weeks or even months, but I didn't want to wait. On day 24 of the playoff beard I sat for the exam.

It's a computer test that can take anywhere from 75 to 265 questions to decide whether or not you learned enough in school to be a safe Nurse. There's some kind of formula based on your performance on the test and the difficulty of the questions that lets the computer make a 95% accurate prediction of your ability to function in Nursing. 60 of the 75 questions (if you do the minimum) are test questions and the other 15 are experimental and are just there to be evaluated. You don't know which is which.

The test is administered by a private company and they report the results to the state which decides then about whether or not to license you (based on the test, background checks etc). They have elaborate security procedures to make sure that you are who you say you are and that you don't cheat. I think it's probably easier to get on a nuclear submarine than it is to get into the testing room.

Well, I took the thing and the computer shut off at 75 questions. I felt like I was guessing most of the time, but have enough faith in myself to believe that there was no way I'd fail with the minimum, so I walked out 98% sure that I'd passed. There's a way to sort of check immediately to see of you passed and I did that when I got home. It worked, and I felt good about the whole thing.

My wife was at the house when I got back, letting our sick dog out of the house. There was a job fair going on that I wanted to go to but wasn't sure about timing. I still had time, so I shaved the beard while she ironed a shirt for me.

I went to the event, got there at the end and managed to meet a couple of people, including one recruiter with whom I had been corresponding. It was OK, but kind of quick since I arrived towards the end. I also had time to pick up my Diploma while I was there and catch up with a couple of my friends. When I got home I emailed thank you notes.

The next day I went to another job fair and talked with more recruiters and said hi to the ones I'd seen the day before. I saw a couple more friends, took some notes and headed home.

On the drive home I got a call from a large hospital system asking if I'd like to interview later that week. Heck yes! Bonus, it was on an intensive care unit, which is very challenging but hard to get into as a new grad. I really wanted that job.

I went to the interview and noticed that I was competing with a guy who had a 4.0 in my program and was a classmate. I wasn't sure I could beat him, even though I had much more professional experience (he's 23). The next week I had an interview with a hospital where I had been pestering people. It was on a regular floor and sounded like I would be busting my butt. I was more worried about my ability to do that job than work in an ICU.

Turns out I got the ICU job! Interestingly enough, so did my classmate. A second spot opened and he was offered it ( know I got the spot first because he was offered and accepted a floor job, and then got the call offered the second spot when it opened up). We are in training together, which is actually pretty cool. Nice to have a classmate around.

I'm “working” in Neuroscience ICU. I used the quotes because really I am in training classes three days a week and only working with patients two days a week. The classroom stuff is supposed to be advanced training, ICU nurses are supposed to be able to keep extremely ill people alive and recognize quickly and react when someone tries to die.

Floor nurses need to know a lot of stuff too, and their work is demanding as all get out, but in a different way. Floor nurses bust ass, and anyone who says otherwise is either uninformed or just plain ornery. Either way, they're wrong.

A couple of days later I got the official confirmation that I passed my boards. Everything just sort of fell into place.

I feel kind of like I won the lottery. I have no idea how I got this lucky, but here I am and I'm grateful.

There's more to report, but I'm about typed out at the moment.

I hope you're doing well too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nursing shortage my ass!

OK, I am starting to get seriously pissed.

As you all know, last year at this time I started a one year accelerated nursing program. I graduated with my Bachelors last December. I am still waiting for the state to get everything together so that I can sit for my boards. In the meantime I am looking for a job.

And right now it appears that there ain’t none. Between all the nurses who are going back to work now that their auto working spouses are unemployed, the nurses who have put off retirement and the hospitals that are closing units and facilities I (and most of my classmates) am getting screwed.

I understand this is the worst economy we’ve seen in something like four generations, but COME ON! I haven’t had a single interview, let alone a job offer. On Tuesday I sent out four applications for jobs and got four rejections inside of 18hours. The first one only took 2.5 hours.

Are you freaking kidding me?

I thought I had a shot at an ER job at a local hospital and had talked with the unit manager and the hiring nurse on the phone. I had met the manager a year ago and he told me to call when I graduated. I did and when I hooked up with the hiring manager she was very positive and told me she had some openings and would bring me down for an interview once she had all her internal stuff taken care of.

Two weeks later she tells me that the hospital system is closing another hospital across town and they are going to try and fill all their open spots with the 200 or so displaced nurses.

Another area hospital is willing to talk to me, but they don’t have anything open full time. But they will call me when they do. I’m holding my breath.

And I have another connection with a hospital close to home. My best friend works with the husband of the head nurse recruiter there. He’s passed along my resume, and I’ve spoken to her too. But she wants to wait until I have my license to talk to me about a job.

The hospital where I did most of my training hasn’t called me for a single thing, try as I might.

I can’t do home care or go to a nursing home because I don’t have a license. Right now hospitals are my only option.

Most, if not all of the jobs I’ve seen posted require experienced nurses. It’s a buyer’s market out there. Experienced nurses are a dime a dozen and recruiters who were killing themselves to get warm bodies 18 months ago are now buried under piles of resumes.

The next person I hear tell me that everyone needs nurses and it’s a recession proof job is getting their teeth bent.

Sooner or later I will probably find a job, but right now it’s tight.

And for the record, I am a vindictive bastard. These places that won’t give me the time of day will, someday, be back to begging for RNs.

They will want me. I will remind them of this time. And if they kiss my ass enough I just might talk with them. But before I go to work there someone is going to write me one hell of an obscenely large check.

So, to all you hospitals and hospital recruiters out there, mark my words.

I will remember this. I will remind my nurse friends when the time comes.

It’s going to cost you in the long run. It’s going to cost you like you can’t imagine.

And I’ll be there.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmas Tradition

I posted this last year and as promised/threatened, I'm posting it again. Because it's my favorite Chrsitmas memory.

Both of my parents were/are totally nuts. Not usually bad (although Big Lou had a temper and Mom could handle herself in a fight) but funny, and, if you were their kid, often embarrassing to some degree.

Everything I am about to tell you is true. I witnessed it first hand.

In December of 1993 my father, Big Lou, worked for an auto company has never taken a loan from the government.

One of his friends was given some tickets to the Kenny Rogers Christmas Spectacular which was playing at the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. Three of those tickets found their way to Big Lou.

So I put the folks in my car and we went downtown to see the show. When we got there it turned out that we had front row seats. Big Lou sat on the left-hand end of the row, then Mom and then me.

The opening act was Shelby Lynne, who, despite having a Sinead O’Conner haircut was pretty cute and very enjoyable.

When the curtains opened up to start the main act the music started and out comes Kenny Rogers. He’s carrying a bunch of tambourines and he starts tossing them into the crowd.

My mother suddenly turned into Arnold Horshack, waving her arms in the air, bouncing half out of her seat and yelling Oooo! Oooo! Kenny (I call him Kenny) sees her, and sensing her desperation tosses Mom a Tambourine and goes on with his opening number.

Then he talks to the crowd a bit and tells the lucky few Tambourinists how and when to provide accompaniment and goes on with the show. He does a song or two and then stops. The house lights come up and Kenny starts to talk again.

He tells the audience how much he likes to watch the crowd as he performs. He can always tell who his fans are when he sees them singing along to every song in his repertoire. And he can also spot people who have been dragged in against their will. “People like this guy” he says, pointing to my Father.

The subsequent conversation went something like this:

Kenny: What’s you name?

Big Lou: Lou!

Kenny: Lou, tell me the truth now, you won’t hurt my feelings. Would you say you’re a big fan and you know all my songs, kind of a fan and you know some of the songs, or not a fan at all?

Big Lou: Kind of a fan.

Kenny: Kind of a fan. OK, Lou. Prove it. I’ll tell you what. For every one of my songs that you can name, I’ll give you $10.

Naturally, Big Lou freezes like a skinny dipping Inuit. Mom and I start trying to feed him answers. “The Gambler, Ruby, Lucile, Coward of the County...”

But we get shushed by Kenny. “No helping” he says.

Big Lou: The Gambler

Kenny: The Gambler. (Sighs and rolls his eyes) Fine. Here you go.

And he tosses Big Lou a ten spot!

But now Big Lou is out of answers and Mom and I are just dying because this is freaking great.

So Kenny say’s “Tell you what Lou. Every time you hear one of my songs you know just raise your hand and I’ll give you $10. But you have to be honest. I trust you.”

Big Lou: OK!

So the band starts up again and here we go with Coward of the County. After the first few bars up goes Big Lou’s hand and Kenny stroll over to the corner of the stage. Without stopping the song he tosses Lou another $10. He does two more songs and the same thing happens. So now Big Lou is up $40 on the free tickets he got.

The band starts up again and within a few notes his hand shoots up. He’s not going to miss any of this free money. Kenny starts singing Happy Birthday and Big Lou gets busted. But we all laugh, a fifth song starts up and bam, another $10 for Lou.

So now Kenny stops to talk again. He says that now is the time in the show where he asks for volunteers from the audience. He says that there are some rules. If you get picked you have to come up and you can’t volunteer anyone else. But he can.

Kenny: Lou, you have $50 of my money. Come on up here.

So up goes Big Lou and Kenny shows him where to stand. Then he asks for more volunteers.

Again, Mom goes into her Ron Palilo routine and again, sensing her need, Kenny points to Mom and up she goes. Ten more people get picked and they all form a line on stage with Big Lou at the far end of stage left and Mom right next to him.

Meanwhile I’m loving every minute of this, it’s a riot.

Now Kenny grabs a stack of what look like 8x10 pieces of poster board and hands one to each of the people on stage. He announces that they’re all going to sing The 12 Days of Christmas. Each person will sing the line on the card while Kenny sings the rest of the lyrics.

The music starts up and Kenny sings “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”

Dads up first and even though he’s really a Baritone he’s always thought he was a Bass. In whatever the opposite of a falsetto is, he croaks out “…a partridge in a pear tree”.

Kenny stops.

The music stops.

Without a word he takes my father by the arm and moves him to the other end of the line, takes the last guys card and gives it to Big Lou and gives Big Lou’s card to the guy on the end. That guy gets moved up to the front to stand next to my Mom.

It’s a good crowd and they’re all laughing like hell and applauding. Big Lou is laughing along too. I’m in there in the front row and I must have been laughing harder than anyone else.

The music starts up again and Kenny sings “On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”

Now it’s Mom’s turn. She used to sing in the church choir. She sings “… a partridge in a pear tree.”

Kenny is shocked.

The music stops and he tries to tell her it’s two turtle doves but Mom isn’t having it! She starts arguing with the man on stage in front of a packed house! She knows the words, and it’s a partridge in a pear tree! He finally points to the card in her hand and eventually it sinks in. Vintage Mom. It was absolutely perfect!

The audience is howling and I am sprawled across all three of our seats, laughing hysterically, and hoping that if I do actually die laughing that someone will resuscitate me fast enough to see the rest of the show.

They try it again and this time Mom comes through.

Finally it’s Big Lou’s turn again, the crowd applauds, the song ends and my parents and the other 10 people on stage all shake Kennys hand and return to their seats.

Kenny does a few more songs, Shelby Lynn comes out and they sing a duet and then the show ends.

As we leave the theater people are calling out to my Dad and he’s waving back, loving the attention “yeah, I got $50” he tells people who ask. I just walk along with Mom and Big Lou, smiling and bemused.

That is probably my favorite Christmas memory. If I ever get the chance to meet Kenny Rogers I fully intend to thank him for the great time, the great show and the great memory.

If you live in a place where he puts on a Christmas show, go see it. Even if you don’t end up in the front row I expect you’ll still enjoy it.

Now please, share a fun and funny holiday memory of your own.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Caption this photo

Alright, so I'm sitting in my regular spot at my regular time in my usual Panera writing papers and getting ready for a quiz tomorrow.

Then this guy shows up.

It's not a great shot, but I can tell you that there's a Ferrari logo on the side of his hat and there's no Ferrari visible in the parking lot and as far as I know there is no racing event going on locally that might explain it.

And there's a logo on the shirt as well.

Based on the lines I can see, the undershirt is a wifebeater, as required by law.

The shorts are cargo shorts and the little inserts in the pockets are white. The shoes (3/4 hightops) appear to match. They have a Ferrari patch too!

I haven't seen his face but I'm betting there's a thin, ratty adolescent mustache happening. Just saw the profile and I'm surprised to learn my guess was inaccurate. Hmph. How about that.

Maybe there'll be a ludicrous gold chain.

Nope. Rats.

But the shoes! They have the logo too!

And now there are matching sunglasses!

As ridiculous as he is, I have to admire his level of commitment. Lugi, the little tire salescar from the movie "Cars" wasn't this devoted. There's not a doubt in my mind about his first stop after he wins the lottery.

I wish I had some musical and lyrical talent. This guy needs to be immortalized in a Bud Lite "Real Men of Genius" spot.

I know it's mean, but really, if you don't want to be mocked by some anonymous guy on the internet then don't go out in public looking like this.

What are your thoughts?