Saturday, May 26, 2007


Pomp up the Circumstance. Pomp it up.

Friday, May 18th, at 11AM in the Patriot Center, George Mason University College of Health and Human Services thought it right to bestow upon me a bachelor's of science in nursing (or as we like to abbreviate, a lot of B.S. about N.).

If I may sound so haughty, I already got some B.S. bestowed on my a few years ago. That's a lie, it was some B.A. Which isn't as funny to say. In any case, I felt that I had already paid my respects years ago to the gown and mortar board of the ceremony. So I decided to pay more honor and respect to my nursing ancestors and wear an honest-to-God nursing cap, complete with tassel. Years ago, a nursing student's school would have a "capping" ceremony. Each school had a cap that was unique to the institution and it was a big deal. They don't do that anymore. Probably because in the hospital caps are a cesspool of germs and grossness. With a little Encyclopedia Browning, I found out what the old George Mason cap used to look like and bought one as similar to it as I could. My infamous lab partner joined me and we braved the commencement line-ups hoping we wouldn't be booted for not being uniform with our fellow graduates.

Much to our surprise, the faculty loved it, we were commended for our creativity and nod to nursing tradition, and our classmates seethed with jealousy that they had not thought of something nearly so clever.

I don't know why the "thumbs up" pose has worked its way into my paradigm so much these days. But that nursing cap sure did make it easier for the family to find me. Oh, that and that I had my cellphone to call them.

Ahh, your humble student speaker gives her heartfelt speech about nursing with your brain, but also nursing with your heart. Nursing a body, but nursing a soul, too. Nursing a patient and nursing a community and the world.

Incidentally, why do graduation gowns + jumbotrons make everyone look like they've been eating nothing but cake for the last month?

The blur, given away by the white smear on top, is me getting a dean-love-hug on my diploma-getting-stage-walk.

Ah, my family. I don't know why we're standing in height order or why we've gone all 8th grade dance on you with boys on the right and girls on the left.

Lab partner Jenni complete with matching nursing cap. So she tells me, someone stopped her after the ceremony and said, "Now what's the significance of the white hat versus the green flat ones?" And then she fell asleep during the picture. Hey, better now than during my speech. Cause that might have hurt my feelings.

My bestie and digital photog. One of my biggest cheerleaders these past two years. You probably wish you had a bestie as bestie as mine. Good luck.

And finally, my dearest Betrothed who just bought himself a lifetime with a nurse. My biggest fan, my greatest support and my first congratulatory text message when I got back to my seat.

Friday, May 25, 2007


My graduation-trip to Orlando. By Cathy Laws.

Nothing clever or smart to say about it. We went to Universal Studios, Orlando. We had an awesome time. I recommend it to my friends. Even my enemies -- they should have a good time too sometimes. It is way better and way funner (it even demands that I use bad grammar like "funner") than Disney, and if I may be an adult here -- more for your money.

We went. We rode coasters. We hob-nobbed with fictitious characters. We ate funnel cake. We took funny pictures (Disclaimer: well, we thought they were funny).

Yeah, that's me hanging out with the X-Men. I actually made the Betrothed stand around for their photo time appearances, waited in line with children and then proudly walked up and made like I was a super hero for a second. In hindsight, I wished I had posed with a little more "save the day" gusto.

This was us on the Universal Studios' answer to the Teacup ride. This was prior to spinning. Hence the look of well situated stomach contents and newness of sunblock application.

My favorite Seuss story is that of the Star-Bellied Sneeches. In addition to a ride dedicated to the "I'm okay, you're okay" ideals of the story, which I rode twice with twice the glee of the 5 year olds behind me, they had a small sandy area where a few plaster sneeches sat out catching melanoma. Though I'm guessing the chemical balance of that water might have taken the stars off their bellies without the use of the Sylvester McMonkey McBean or their 10$.

I dunno. The Betrothed looks good with that Arabian Nights background. Plus, the sign behind him that you can't read says "Lucky Monkey" and points down. Ain't he, though?

A painful chapter of my youth was when my family -- I believe my sister -- made the suggestion that my laugh (surely, you know me, you must be familiar with its ear shattering, cackling qualities) was like that of Senor Woodpecker's. When that got into the hands of my dastardly brother, it wasn't long until all of my 4th grade comrades were mocking me with the same. I am still recovering. I have harbored a secret loathe and dislike for the character since. I aimed to make peace with him on this trip. Mocking him seemed like the best way to start down that road.

The Seuss-o-sel. Again with the elbowing of young children for the best steed.

I have seen The Mummy countless times. I have ridden this ride 21 times. It is awesome. They stage these stilted mummy men outside to creep out the guests and keep line wait times low, I think. I think he's about to steal my soul through my ears. Sweet.

Just an innocent slushie and time check. We were pretty much those assholes in the park waiting and snickering behind hordes of tourists taking legitimate pictures so that we could take these for our own (and ha, your) amusement.

See, I can let bygones be bygones. Woody and I have reached an unspoken understanding.

The Betrothed checks his time against Jaws' tonsils. Crap, we're so funny.

From what I understand, I could use a few of these detonating in my life.

They can, Sweetheart. They can.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The trials and tribulations of self tanner.

I was blessed that though I come from hearty, 100% Irish roots that my skin does not scream in horror at the sun whenever I step outside. In fact, I am one of those people who can honestly say, "I rarely burn -- I tan first."

I spent most of my formative years in a pool, everyday, all day, every summer. I maintained my summer swim-suit tans all winter. Hate me, I know. I never used sunscreen, though. I had sun poisoning twice (or was it three times?) and sustained a sunburn so bad that I was told I likely had second degree burns on my shoulders and back. It was an awesome weekend where I developed a brief, but unforgettable love affair with aloe and then learned to love my skin falling off my body. Well, these days, finishing a nursing degree and all, I'm seeing the error of my ways. I am scared to death of my probable date with melanoma in the years to come. Friends are having "suspicious" moles removed, SPF is coming in 50 and higher and to top it all off, they just opened a tanning salon near my house -- which flabbergasted me because I didn't realize anyone still went. Don't they read the paper?! 15x the sun's rays in a 10 minute session at the beds. (Incidentally, I used the beds twice for a friend's wedding years ago. I had gone corporate, lived in an office building under florescent lights, hadn't seen my skin so pale in my life and was afraid I'd frighten her family out of the church with my gleaming whiteness. I had little instruction in the ways of fake-bakes and shouldn't have told the tan-guy that I tanned easily. He cooked me. And personal as it may sound to share with you all, I got a tanning bed burn on the nips. Christ, that hurt. And then I was done.) So yes, foolish, foolish people who go to tanning beds.

Melanoma aside, I am getting married in a few months. Holy crap. I'm getting married in a few months. There's a dress involved, numerous pictures meant to last a lifetime to memorialize this sacred event are going to be taken, you get the idea. When I tried on my strapless dress this past October, I still had my "cruise tan" from March. My older sister (jealous, clearly, because her red-headed Irish ability to burn is directly proportional to my "black-Irish" ease at tanning) scolded me, "Hey, ever heard of MELANOMA? Jesus, get some SPF. And you can't have that tan for the wedding." I do everything my sister says. Seriously.

My instructions this summer were to "cover the hell up", "use some SPF, for chrissake" and get no tan lines that might otherwise distract from my beauteous dress. I'm doing well. I have SPF 50 that I use, bought new makeup and creams with SPF and have been staying far out of the sun whenever possible. When the Betrothed took me to Orlando a few weeks ago to celebrate the graduation (pictures to come, I swear..), I gooped up and bought new shirts to keep my shoulders and neck color-free.

With a recent try-on of the dress, it has become clear to me that white-on-white was never a good look for anyone in or out of the mafia. I need some damned color but am hesitant to enlist the sun (or its cohorts) in my efforts. I called my sister. I do everything my sister says. Seriously.

I didn't want to oompa-loompa orange myself with pure self tanner and I didn't hear good things about the marriage of mystic-spray on+white wedding dress+sweating bride. She suggested that I trial run those new lotions that have some self tanner in them. Dove, Jergens, Neutrogena. I do everything my sister says. Seriously. I went out and bought the Jergens (contents appear to go easier on those of us with sensitive skin) and began my week-to-tan excursion from white. I had to enlist the Betrothed (much to his chagrin) to do "the back". He moaned the whole time about going to work tomorrow with "tan man hands".

This morning I have a nice little glow, I must say. No, I still lack the magic of a digital camera to share my transformation with you all. Far from orange and less sickly-white than I was, this appears to be going well. Tonight is round-2.

I'll let you know when I'm bottle-sun-kissed. And I'll take a picture if I'm orange.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Nurses have balls?

Well, banquets, not balls. We're not all that fancy.

My healthcare posse of nursing pals that I met Nursing School Day-1. Their intelligence, sarcasm, perseverance, bad jokes, affinity for all things nursing and gross, dedication to the field, lunchtime conversation and loyal friendship got us all through. Here's to them. They kept me going. Peg, Jenni and Emily. Three amazing nurses coming to a hospital near you. Well, not near you unless you live near me. I can't vouch for the nurses near you then.

And don't judge me and my dark-as-hell photo because I still lack the almighty power of the digital.

Graduation photos to come. Those are digital because I had digital friends at the ceremony. So there.


Anywhere that sells funnel cake is alright with me.

Part of my "Huzzah, She's Done!" celebrations lately have largely included trips to amusement parks (in addition to endless shopping, quality Tivo catch-up and not-blogging). Time off, warmer weather, a private pilot at my disposal and an insatiable appetite for coasters -- sounds like a recipe for awesomeness.

It takes very little prodding to get the Betrothed behind the yoke of an aircraft. A day trip to Williamsburg? Check. Enough jet fuel? Check.

Two awesome, if not overly chatty, copilots? Check. Seat backs up, tray tables locked and all carry on bags in an overhead compartment? Check, check.

A 3-D movie about pirates that is remarkably STILL playing at Busch Gardens? Check.

Adults elbowing children out of the way for the best horses on the Carousel? Check - *OOF* *pow* - check.

The ability to duplicate the same ridiculous pose on two separate rides? Check.


Do you know why they call it "golf"?

Because every other four letter word was taken.

'Tis true. I graduated from a lifetime of putt-putt this week and was taken to my first driving range with honest-to-God clubs. The Betrothed even bought me a sweet golf glove. It makes me look prettyhard core, actually.

The range is set up all electronic-like. They issue you a little swipey card with your name on it. To get your bucket-o-balls, you put in your card, and the machine programs each ball you get with your name on it. When you whack your balls (insert obvious joke) onto the driving range, it will, ideally, fall into a pit -- which recognizes your named ball -- and assigns you points. All well and good unless you suck a great deal, which was my biggest problem.

Actually, my biggest problem was more about my obsession with attaining points, rather than perfecting my heinous golfing skill set. Ball goes in a hole on the far right of the course because I have a "wicked slice" -- points awarded, all is well. Ball rolls four feet from the tee, but my knees were bent and I didn't bend my wrists, golf-clap but pointless.

To add insult to injury, I, a right hander, have always handled my sports equipment, inexplicably, on the left (and Wow!, did that piss off my dad growing up. ). The Betrothed's family, who exited the womb with a set of clubs and the know-how to use words like "birdie" and "handicap", were perplexed to aid me "on the left".

On the upside, the joint has a full menu and a bar.

Friday, May 04, 2007


She CAN be taught!

I'd like to take this moment to tell you all something desperately important and pertinent to your everday living: I'm done. (I'll give you all a moment to absorb that.) Yes, that's right, I've finished nursing school. And successfully at that.

(Sidebar: I finished so successfully that I got an email from the school saying that I've qualified to wear honor cords at graduation. Go me. But because I am a bit of an academic snob (GO TRIBE), I can't help myself from railing on some of the unfortunate persons who co-attend this university with me, I share this with you. I went to the bookstore to purchase said honor cords -- because, really, it wouldn't honor the school enough unless I was shelling out money, and since I'm only there a few more weeks, they have to really make the squeeze on me. The cashier looked up my name on "the (short) list" and said I was supposed to get a green cord and a gold cord.
I say, "Cool. What does it mean, versus two greens or two golds?"
She says, "It means magma."
"MagMA?" I say. She rolls her eyes at me because she has judged me to be an idiot.
"Yahhhh. Magma coom lawdee?"
"Magma, huh. Sweet."
It took all that was in me to not say with my biggest, fakest smile, "Lava with honors?!")

Today was my very last day of schoolin'. I'd say it was my last day at the hospital, which it was, but really, only my last day with a badge that says "STUDENT NURSE" -- which is almost always read as "TRY NOT TO DIE BECAUSE SHE MAY NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO RIGHT AWAY". Today was my last day at the hospital to be an imbicile. To hang IV tubing and manage to drench my pants in saline. To wipe a butt and accidentally get poop on my arm (though sadly, I don't think poop-joys are restricted to student nurses only). To say, "I can't. I'm just a student. I'm not insured to do that."

Which perfectly segues me into, I believe, one of the best nursing school stories I've had to date (and I've had some good ones). And since today's the last day for nursing school stories, I guess it officially is the best story.

I preface the retelling with some background information that the medically-lay person may not know. Healthcare being what it is today, a lot of previously fairly-majorish procedures can be done now at the bedside. Most of these are performed using "sterile technique" which involves sterile gowns, gloves, caps and masks. Once you are "sterile" you cannot touch anything un-sterile or you have just become un-sterile (or "dirty") and have to start over. This theoretically prevents wayward germs from entering the procedure space and infecting your patient. And while germs are everywhere and nothing is ever truly, 100% sterile, it is the very best effort to keep infection at bay. It takes a while to learn to do this smoothly. The majority of lab-skills in nursing school involved teaching us to do some procedures using sterile technique, how to move about, how to pick things up and how to, most importantly, keep it all sterile.

Being in the ICU these past 7 weeks I have been aparty to numerous sterile procedures. Doctors come in, gown up and get to work. And it seems almost as soon as they're sterile, their phone always rings. (I know, I know. No cell phones in a hospital. These are special "in house" phones that run on some mystical frequency other than cellular. All doctors and most nurses carry them. ) In such an instance, the doctor usually turns to the nurse assisting him and asks them to answer it. This involves reaching back and behind or over and around the sterile gown rifling through the doctor's alltogether searching for the phone. Then you either answer it yourself and have the annoying relayed conversation of"he wants to know if... Oh, great.. Ok.. The doctor says... " -- or you just hold the phone up to the doctor's ear.

Wednesday night, my patient crashed. Luckily for the patient, the past two weeks have turned on some light bulb in my head and I no longer feel like I'm all thumbs in emergency situations (maybe just 4 or 5 thumbs, but opposable thumbs). Scads of healthcare professionals streamed into the room like there was free beer and set about making her not-die. A lot was going on. Other nurses were pushing drugs into her. She was being intubated for a ventilator and they were preparing to "shock" her. The attending (Grey's Translation: McDreamy) doctor was calling the plays and the young ER resident doctor (Grey's Translation: Bailey, 'cept a dude) was prepping her. I assigned myself to the ER doctor who was to insert a central line into her femoral artery. I was not sterile, but in assisting him, I sterily dumped supplies onto his sterile field (without touching them) and did "dirty" things for him (ew, don't be gross. But he was cute, so yeah, sorta, I wish, but not really. But kinda.)

He got the line in. And in the middle of suturing her, his phone rings. He turned his back to me and said, "Can you get that, please?" I immediately thrust both of my hands under his sterile gown, like I have done numerous times before on other doctors, and into the two back pockets of his scrubs groping around for the phone.

He turned his head over his shoulder and with my palms soundly on both of his ass cheeks he soberly said, "My phone is on the table."

I quickly retorted, "Well, then I guess that was a freebie."

I don't believe that anyone else, in the hubbub, heard the exchange. I nearly fell apart with laughter, but managed to keep it together. He, on the other hand, found nothing funny about the situation. I suppose I had just molested him.

The next day I resolved to keep my perverted hands to myself. When I arrived on the unit Thursday morning, of course the same young ER doc was there -- who I had never seen before the night before but, clearly, was destined to have to see everyday now. He was with a group of doctors on patient rounds in the ICU. I hung back to listen to my previous patient's progress. I happened to notice that he was staring at me. Then it occured to me that he was not staring at me at all. He was fixated, and squinting, at my chest (which requires little squinting from 50 paces.. let's be honest). I thought, Oh God - he must have thought I was coming onto him last night and now he's checking me out or something. (I'm terribly humble.) I followed his eye line and realized that was actually reading my hoodie. I just bought it as my own personal homage to my impending pomp and circumstance. Across the left chest in small lettering it says, "I have decided, after I graduate, I am going to be a pirate." I'm very professional. He, humorless to the end, remained unimpressed. A smile, I fear, might have cracked his face.

So that's how I go out as a nursing student. Pirate aspirations and shameless molestation of an overworked, under-funnied doctor. Awesome.

I have a quote on my fridge from one of those daily-rip-off calanders for nurses. It says, "Nursing is a kind and generous profession. Nursing school is cruel and unusual punishment."

It really is. It sure was. And now it's over. Horray!

You all can commence your illnesses (eh, better wait until June) because Nurse Cathy is on the job.

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