Category Archives: Humor

Forced Migration

Closure of a small portion of the aviary was necessary for reasons unrelated to the occupants. The number of feathered friends was few following successful moves to other worthy sanctuaries. The birds remaining were a ragtag flock of common species likely to fare well in transfers to two nearby wings of the facility.

It was the staff, the humans, whose feathers were ruffled with the news and the change to their routines. The flock nodded, blinked repeatedly and returned to daily routines. Staff flared, clicked, bobbed and shook until successfully reassigned.

The lead human, Old Bird, her beak grinding with occasional hisses and growls ran a fowl in her own disappointment over the surprise circumstance. Old Bird was agitated having had her perch pulled from her grip. Like her flock, she needed to fly, adjust perspective to create shelter and a more hospitable environment. Once the imminent danger was faced, Old Bird was able to flit, fly and sing familiar sounds in slightly different places.  Even old birds can learn new tricks.

Fiona Flamingo

She was wearing pink. A pink cap, sweater and pink corduroy pants. Ms. Flamingo’s feathers were ruffled on her arrival. She was mean-eyed and all of 99 pounds. Angry and suspicious she scowled, squinted as she clutched her only possession in her fist. It was a brass lock and key. She handed it to me and refused to answer any questions.

Fiona was steady on her feet for an octogenarian. Her breathing was good. Her wrinkled face hinted of years of smoking. Fiona was wary of the new surroundings. She refused food, medication or to change clothes. For days she refused to bathe. She was sad looking lying on top of the bed, fully dressed, wearing socks and sandals for a quick get- a- away. In our setting we can afford to be patient. There is no revolving door of fast admits and discharges.

As she began to nest Fiona’s feathers smoothed and she revealed her Achilles heel- black coffee, and diet coke. Diet because Fiona at 80 didn’t want to be fat. She held a great distain for too fluffy or fat. Fat can’t fly. Early conversations with Fiona concerned TV and electricity- both dangerous. These fears made her use of the patients’ lounge unappealing. Delusions about religion, the bible belt variety, electromagnetics and government were themes she discussed.

Fiona Flamingo found her areas of comfort. She began to thrive with aviary routines, her preferred staff, a few safe feathered friends,   regular meals and her ability to score soda and coffee while penniless. Of course, the long acting psychotropics helped with a brief       restraint when Fiona fiercely resisted.

Over time Fiona became more social and cooperative. She spent a lot of time near the nurses’ station rising,the earliest bird, before dawn.  Perched on one-leg, the other cocked back against the wall she waited for day staff to arrive with the promise of small caffeine rewards.  Fiona began to sing. She’d sing hymns in her room, sing to staff. She loved to sing and preen and occasionally, Fiona would dance. She   would light up. We could see the young Fiona emerge.

She began to do nice things for others. She enjoyed the younger male patients in a momma bird concerned way. She was creative.
Fiona called Mrs. Nottingham. I could hear her ask, “Is Nottingham here?” She stalked her favorite staff member and tried her darnedest     to convince her to take Fiona and “the boys” home with her. Luckily that did not happen. The staff member needed cover and distraction to make safe get-a-way at the end of shifts. It was not all sweetness and flight. Fiona would phone her also-old sister then squawk, rant    making mean accusations and then hang up on her.

This Flamingo got well enough to fly the coop. She left the Aviary, without the boys. She had a few sets of clothes and toiletries to take with her and I returned her Brass lock and key. There were hugs and even a few tears as Fiona took flight.

The Aviary

My decision to accept a staff nurse position in mental health hospital was, at best, disconcerting to my husband. It perplexed him that after working solely with girls and women for 40 years I would consider and/or be able to care for adult men. He worried about my transition from the worlds of not- for-profit and privately- owned facilities with strong religious/spiritual missions to a state run, government culture and systems. It confounded him that I would go back to bedside nursing after years of management, entrepreneurship and community activism. Finally, it seemed most unreasonable to abandon beautiful, comfortable, modern buildings with nice equipment and ample supplies. After waving all the yellow, cautionary flags he said, “Do what you have to do.”

Please know while I appear confident and eager, I am not fearless, in optimal physical condition nor the quickest thinker at age 65. Day three of orientation, participating in Bridge Building Class was a first- time experience. Bridge Building skills are critical to employment. It entails de-escalation techniques and the use of physical and mechanical restraints for patients who become a danger to themselves or others. This was up close and personal, live demonstrations, practice and return demonstrations. Physical deflecting, blocking pads, spit masks, 2-4-way restraints and ‘the chair’. (recall Hannibal Lector, sans metal face cage). It was a lot to take in.

Nervous about the risks, in an adrenalin afterglow, I shared the day’s events with my husband while icing my knee. He was unusually quiet. In retrospect, I sense his concerns for my safety. I am typically close-mouthed about work. My spouse usually presents dinner and shares the details of his day. He tries to draw me out to share mine. His efforts go afoul as he tried to be comedic referring to patients as criminal, crazy and the like. I think the first time or two, I tried to ignore my ire- unsuccessfully. The third time- I gave my best Aretha Franklin, extended-arm, flat handed: “STOP! You better THINK about what you’re tryin’ to say to me!” “You can no longer talk like that! Those words are derogatory and mean. That language demeans me, my colleagues and my patients.” He was stunned. He is not a mean person. He simply didn’t know. Neither of us knew until that moment. Our rules changed. Both Maya Angelou and St. Mother Teresa have been credited with the adage, “When you know better, you can do better.”

Bless his heart. My spouse announced his newest brilliant idea a couple days after my patient/self-protective declaration. Excitedly, he announced, “I will now refer to your workplace as the Aviary and the residents as birds and various species! What do you think?” Our shared memory of the bird sanctuary in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City and our brief stint owning chickens held fond memories. “Brilliant!”, I agreed. As so it is.

I have no idea the social acceptability or if this breaches some mental health profession decorum. What I do know is that this is a way we can peripherally discuss our daily lives and for me to contain the anonymity of patients in a manner of loving observation and respect. The most fun comes with the wide variety of synonyms, idioms, and slang related to birds. For example; to bird- to watch, a lot of our work is observation and reporting. Giving the bird- this happens often and is ok if it’s a patient giving this sign of disapproval. It’s not ok for staff to act in kind. We have people who (WHOO) are owlish or nocturnal, and pacers who never take flight like emus or penguins. Sometimes patients repeated come to the nurse station or swoop like gulls and aggressive patients or those with a proclivity to escape reminds me of raptor behavior. But here a home I often am asked, “How were the loons or your loons today?” I kind of love this and them, the entire mismatched flock.


I sent a quick text to my boss at work today.  I referred to patients in our usual abbreviation ‘pts.’ My dutiful file system photo album, entertainment, education, a.k.a. phone; changed it to say pets. In essence I bothered her at work while I am enjoying a day off  asking how we can obtain MP3 players for our pets. Granted, she is a dog-owning, canine lover but sometimes these little corrections might lead someone to think I’d fallen off the wagon….and on to my head.

Competing Hemispheres

Left Brain Report
To: Nursing Manager
1. Washer is unplugged and non-functional. Based on the electrical burn odor I suspect the motor is ruined. Reason: overfill and industrial use of home style washer.
2. Budget Justification: Replacement of appliances, mattresses, bedding and supplies necessary to care for growing number of patients who are incontinent not anticipated during budget prep.
3. Room changes and care plans altered to reduce incidents named above. The psychiatric conditions of our patients minimize success of patients’ understanding to participate in changing behaviors.
4. Nelda is exhibiting new behaviors the team may want to address.
Thank you.







                                                                                                Right Brain Report

Urinary Spring Floods
Another One Bites the Dust- Washer, NOT patient. The washer in laundry room (nearest D3) sustained a slow burn when Freida Frequency’s saturated bedding and wedge pillow overfilled its drum. The washer was reported as not working and our noses detected the tell-tale scent of electrical and metallic burn. Said appliance was unplugged on 6/1/18 at 0800 and a brief prayer of gratitude that St Florian, patron saint of fires, was unnecessary as the once fierce agitator’s time of death was confirmed. Nurse Evelyn completed a work order about the washer’s demise.
Frieda’s mattress was replaced in the last 3 months. The new one is likely saturated given the volume of urinary exposure and the tributaries pooling beneath and around the Isle of Frieda.
Darrel Bellow’s bathroom habits are not fully understood except for the following:
• He has URGENCY and Frequency of both bladder and bowel (based on hallway sniff test).
• Locked bathrooms are a huge barrier for a man of his age.
• He is unwilling to allow ANY medical intervention
• His bedroom’s bathroom is green-locked (closed) for an unspecified time for repairs.
• He occupies the Community Bathroom so often thus delaying other’s use

Nelda Border regaled evening staff with a new behavior as proof of her dire medical/medicinal needs and aptitude for drama and attention. She lay face down on the floor of her bedroom (no fall was involved) urinating all over herself and the floor. She laid amid her custom tidepool until she tired of it. Finally retiring and going to bed in trade for some Benadryl. Staff wisely downplayed the entire scene and cleaned up the mess and laundry as though no big deal.
That’s all Folks,
Ima Story, RN

Cartoon Coping

As a kid,  I had no imaginary friend. I did have a constant cartoon station playing in my head.
It was a audio-visual processor with instant replay, color, speed control all set strictly for comedy.
This was before color TVs,when 3 TV stations existed and operated a mere 19 hours of the day.

My independent network was a big source of entertainment boldly satirizing characters, and reordering.
dialogue that regularly improved my position as hero. Instead of dreaming, I watched reruns and edited,
rewrote and directed in my head.

It was shocking, albeit satisfying to learn I possessed a gift of a that not everyone enjoyed. 
My network,Cartoon Coping, served me well.  It helped me be funny, to laugh at myself, to laugh at
and with others,process hurts and transgressions,to be playful and to be flexible.
It would wax and wane as life and work appeared (or pretended to be)  more adult.
It was the abrupt blackout of my personal network that initially went unnoticed and I later grieved
when treated for my first episode of depression.

Cartoon Coping never returned with same reliability under the adjusted network owner. Character drawings
and fun loving story lines appeared during more elevated moods and temperament. Perhaps watching was
no longer useful or was replaced with new found amusements.  Fortunately both my capacity and appetite for
humor are well intact as I rely more heavily on real friends and family and study for coping. Life is funny
in moment and in the retelling.




Convenient Is Not Simple

Day off task:  Get new primary care physician in Indy

  1. I want to stay in same health system
  2. Fully integrated electronic medical records
  3. Good to great patient service experience so far
  4. Did my research and due diligence- decision made

Now- let’s make it so!

I go to the ‘convenient’ on line chat. Here’s what happened.

joshua: Hello, You are connected now to joshua.

joshua: Hello. Thank you for chatting with a live operator at How may I help you?

Michele: Want to transfer physician records/change PCP from Dr Great Guy, Anderson IN to Dr. Hope You’re Good in Greenwood IN

Michele: This is for me and my husbad. We have moved to Indy

Michele: Husband, not HusBad—damn spellcheck

joshua: Okay. You can request your records from your old Doctor’s office or your new doctor can send the request over and get those records sent over. (ignores my witty word play….No sense of humor! Big tip off)

Michele: Do I need to access MY Chart to accomplish? I’ve not used My chart.

joshua: No. But you can login if you have an account and change your doctor’s name. (What?)

joshua: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Michele: “You can request your records from your old Doctor’s office or your new doctor…” To request records, do I need to contact by phone, during busy business hours? I’m feeling disappointed . Thought this connectedness could be achieved through this online chat.

joshua: I apologize no. You would have to call and request your records. We only assist with finding new doctors and general information.

Michele: UUhhhggg. Thanks Live operator. You have disconnected.

My laptop then butts in stating, “Ask Cortana about Joshua”……’s a sinister plot!

Give credit when due. I did get a call from Pt. Access person.   Two more calls. I’m back in 1990’s

Snail mail, sign forms and post back. Almost there……We’ve come so far, chasing our tails.

Convenient Is Not Simple


Dang Spellcheck

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” This describes my overwrought experience with Spellcheck.  Lord knows, I value help with my lousy keyboarding and phonetic insufficiencies.  Reciting the age old spelling rules, like i before e, are moderately helpful.  Spelling and grammar checks to the rescue with innocuous underlines always bid consideration. Thanks Spellcheck, for making me a better communicator.

Other times, Spellcheck is no better than a “mean girl” poised to humiliate, embarrass and undermine my success. Working for years in reproductive health makes me especially alert to use of the word public that I’ve seen correct on more than one occasion to pubic. Discussion of breast can morph into beast, or best of beastly becomes breasty which reminds me of a mean girl or two.  Spellcheck teams up as the evil witch-sister to my tyrannical inner critic. It’s a lot to overcome for a fledgling writer.

After toiling for some time producing a piece that I thought worthy of sharing, I methodically checked and corrected as I read. Proof reading a second time I invited Spellcheck as another set of eyes, I perused again, uploaded, reread, reviewed and scheduled Publish.  Push- Zoom- Done!  I felt self-satisfied, almost confident.

Late the next day, my husband complimented the post. This is not the norm. It felt pretty great. Then he kindly mentioned, “I  did noticed two, tiny typos.” Tyrant, inner critic cackled in the background.  ”Where?” I shriek. Oh, the indignity! Switching Or to of and of to on!  She changed a favorite line ‘party of one ‘ to a party on one.’  Frankly, I haven’t been on one for the last five years.

My pride cloud burst with the realization I had failed, again, to be thankful and without expectation for simply completing a story and enjoying the experience of doing so. It was another opportunity to accept feedback and practice appreciation and a chance to laugh at myself and my arrogance. It’s crazy for a two -letter preposition to take down a grown woman to her knees. Believe me, it’s easy to blame, find fault or wallow in fat-finger, shame and dwell in the inner critics Failure-corner.

Spellcheck, don’t you know I want to be funny, to make people laugh, with me- not AT me? Life is funny and worth sharing, so don’t be such a breast, I mean beast, Grammer Queen.  I hope my readers love me or are entertained, ever widening my pubic- that’s public, even if I write just to amuse myself.

Fess up. Tell me about your “spellcheck” challenges.

Ermapalooza! My Bumbling into Fear

My most recent ‘writing’ is nothing more than email dashed off yesterday.

Subject: Mermaid (stinkin’ spellcheck- ERMA) Bombeck Writers Workshop

Getting very anxious about the nearly here,
highly competitive, registration process for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop.  Will a special font make me look more attractive?
I have a reliable Word doc. Name, address, email, website, phone and credit card information written, proofed, edited- no shitty first drafts for this occasion. Planning to position said cliff notes strategically on my desktop today. Bookmarking site.
Tomorrow; stopwatch timed practice accessing site, refining my cut and paste of info (faster & more accurate) than my keyboarding. Now carb loading- woke up from working nights convinced a chocolate eclair, or two, is the perfect pre reg meal.

Hold your Thumbs for Me!


Soul Soothing in Recovery

Carrie Newcomer & Jana Stanfield

Carrie Newcomer &
Jana Stanfield

Music is reliable tool to shift my mood, thoughts and attitude.  It is often a passive prayer with me a quiet watchdog. Music is a terrific driving companion leaving less room for negative thinking.

It has often been an extended hand when I’m awash in turbulent waters of depression, grief and even anguish.  My spirit experiences the vibration of certain chords, the pulse of rhythm, the dance of melody and resonance of harmonies, reminding me that I live and breathe.  Music can nudge me into a sense of hope andlightness.

Jana Stanfield is dubbed the Queen of Heavy Mental, a writer and performer of social work songs. I was listening to her before having much knowledge of 12 step programs of recovery.  It tickles me how I missed the screamingly obvious messages in songs titled, ‘Next Right Step’ and ‘Let the Change Begin’ and ‘Here and Now.’  I just picked up a CD and on the back cover is a coin bearing the Serenity Prayer.  Who Knew? Needless to say, the songs helped me long before I was aware.

Indiana Songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, creates songs and poetry that feed my soul.  She shares her rich appreciation and fascination with “the common things” in life that are remarkably extraordinary when viewed through her lyrics. Her work has fueled and guided my spiritual rebirth and growth.

Wise and peace loving, song after song supports a willingness to love wholeheartedly, inclusively. I am drawn to tales of justice, forgiveness, and relationship. I have learned to thrive in light and dark, and all the shades of grey in between, by learning that the sacred exists in simplest of things.

Music is as personal as fragrance.  It’s a chemical reaction in my understanding. It’s likely we may not enjoy the same sounds or artists. I share this suggestion to explore music as a component to health, a  gentle friend or a good coach.  Thank you, Jana Stanfield and Carrie Newcomer, for being minstrel teachers. You’ve helped me to recognize and appreciate so much beauty. Thank you. I’m glad to be a grateful, sober messenger.