Wednesday, September 17, 2014

           Surprise, Surprise  
           I was a naval corpsman and stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, before I was discharged from the Navy and earned my bachelor’s degree in nursing. The naval station there had a small hospital of two wards, an operating room, and an emergency room. The one ward was divided into private rooms and held obstetric patients and pediatrics and an occasional officer. The other area was an open ward for the enlisted men.
A pregnant woman was admitted again after she had several admissions for her pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition in pregnant women when they had changes in their body that would cause their blood pressure to dangerously rise. It required bed rest to lower the woman’s blood pressure. Each time she came in, we would tease, “You’re going to have twins.” because her abdomen was so large.
She would respond, “No. No. My doctor says there is only one.” At that time, we didn’t have sonograms, etc. It was only by listening with a fetascope to hear the infant’s heartbeat that we could monitor child during the pregnancy.
I was working the daylight shift, after she delivered the day before. She had indeed delivered a set of twins. She had two daughters and I was planning on teasing her about having twins, but when I went into her room, I was stopped in my tracks. She was crying.
I asked. “What’s wrong? Are you having pain?”
She gave a few more sobs before managing to answer, “If I had a little girl, I planned to name her Alice. Now I don’t know what to do. If I name one of them Alice, I know I will love that one more.”
Offhandedly I said, “Well…. Why don’t you name both of them something close, but not Alice?” The names Alicia and Allison popped into my head. So I said, “Why not name them something like Alicia and Allison?”
She stopped crying and said the names softly to herself. That was what she named them. Neither name was Alice, but both were variations of her beloved name.
About a month later, she contacted me and I had the privilege of babysitting the girls while she and her husband had their first date night away from the twins.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Can You Dig It, I Did.

As I grew, our basement grew as well. My dad and mom, Carl and Sybil Beck bought a small house along Route 711, between Indian Head and Normalville, Pennsylvania. It had only a partial basement. The rest was a crawl space. The basement was large enough for a coal bin, large coal furnace, and a water heater. Mom found room for a wringer washer as well. The running water for the house came from a spring about 200 yards away.
As my parents needed the space, my dad chiseled and cut an opening in the cinder block wall. I helped my dad dig by hand, the heavy clay dirt. He used an old, iron wheeled wheelbarrow to haul it up and out of the cellar or when he got closer to the outside wall he threw the dirt onto the wood planked bed of an old truck. The house didn’t have an inside bathroom, but a privy instead.
One thing I do remember was the digging. It seemed that digging filled much of my youth. In my preadolescent years my hands were filled with a pick, mattock, and a spade. When Dad decided, at the prodding of my mom as sure, to build an indoor bathroom, I helped to dig the pit for the septic tank and the drainage lines.
My brother, Ken and I had to help dig another water line to bring water from the springhouse into our home. The old water line had been corroding and the water pressure was lessening for about a year. It was a daily chore. Dad would assign a certain amount to be dug out and expected it to be done. One day he came home and was upset to see we hadn’t made his assigned quota. After chewing us out, he went to do what we hadn’t finished. What he found was a huge flat rock. It was almost 18 inches thick and the size of a dining room table top, extending over two feet beyond the sides of the ditch. He tried to break it with a sledge hammer. When he couldn’t break it, his solution was to dig under it and pass the plastic pipe beneath it.
A small stream flowed behind the house and Dad would have us dig out the silt that would fill it in the spring. We would spread it on the one side to prevent it from flooding onto his lawn at the winter thaw. Dad loved to have his lawn mowed and neat.
When Dad added on a garage, we dug the foundation for it, actually, for two garages. One had to be torn down because of flooding from road run off. It was a time when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation sometimes failed to grade the berm and water would travel down the driveway and into the garage.
We had to help spade the garden and weed. That wasn’t the bad part. It was spring and it was cool. I liked it more than using the hoe later in the year to get rid of the weeds in the hot sun of summer.
In the winter, the summer tools were put away and the heavy scoop shovel came out. It was used to throw coal into the furnace, shovel out the ashes, and to remove snow from the walks and the driveways. Removing the snow wasn’t as bad as where I live now. Our parents’ home was partially sheltered in a valley and drifts were rare. What remained to shovel was the depth of the snowfall.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Sore Muscles

As I age, I notice that my muscles tire and become more sore when I work outside. I also notice that my muscles stay sore longer. Part of the problem, I am sure, is that I am living a more sedate life than I did before. Writing requires less out and about than it did when I was employed as a nurse, even in the supervisory position.
As a nursing supervisor, I helped others lift and move people, walked a lot, and ate less than I do now. The stress and worry of staffing, patient and visitor complaints, and other problems were always laid at my feet for me to handle. I am writing my memoirs and hope to have it published. I wrote the stories from four years of being a naval corpsman, four years of nursing school, and thirty-five years of working as a nurse.
The stories run the gamut from extreme sadness to the very funny and joyful. I changed the some of the names to protect the innocent, confront the guilty, and to confuse those who don’t recognize the difference between the two.
 
But, back to the sore muscles, this past week, I got another load of firewood. I stacked wood for two days. The third day, I mowed the grass in my one acre lawn. I have a walk behind mower. According to the app on my cell, I walk almost a mile and a half. It’s been hot in the sun.
I do like to be outside, but not for extended periods of time. I have diabetes and the exercise helps me keep my weight down and my blood sugar and blood pressure under control. The exercise does make my muscles sore and the diabetes causes pain in legs, neuropathy.

I have several meetings this week as well as the rest of the wood to stack. The rain has given me reprieve today, but I have a meeting later today. Tomorrow morning there is a work day at our church and a meeting in the afternoon; Sunday, church, Sunday school, and another meeting in the afternoon. If I am not completely pooped, there is Sunday night service.
Most people hate to see Monday come, but this week, I am looking for a day to just stack wood and write.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Bugging Bugosh
There was a roly-poly corpsman whose last name was Bugosh. He wore bib overalls when he was in the barracks in Keflavik, Iceland. Of course the jeans that he wore were the Osh Kosh brand, so his nickname was Osh Kosh B’gosh.
He hailed from the same state as I did and he had just re-upped. (He signed on for another four year hitch in the Navy.) By signing on before the end his enlistment term, he would receive a bonus from the Navy.
He was strutting around like a Bantam rooster with his thumbs hooked in the bib of his jeans. He was trying to get those of us who were near the end of their enlistment to sign on for four more years. I looked at it as, “misery loves company” and ignored him.
When that didn’t work he started by bragging that when I got discharged, I would get a job and be paying taxes and thus paying his salary. He smiled a huge smile and began rocking on his heels, thumbs still hanging in the suspenders of his overalls.
I think I was born to burst other people’s bubbles. His cockiness irritated me. He acted as though he had all the answers. I ignored it for awhile, but he finally got in my face as he twirled the tip of his handle bar moustache.
“You’re from Pennsylvania, right?” I queried.
He admitted, hesitantly, “Yes.” I could tell he wasn’t sure where I was going with my questions.
“You still have to pay Pennsylvania state taxes too, right?” I pressed.
With a puzzled look on his face, he admitted, “Yes.”
Bad person that I am, here’s where I burst his bubble. “Then you have it all wrong. When I am discharged, I plan to go back home and go on welfare again, just like my mom and dad. You’ll be paying my salary.” His face got red and I watched him deflate just like that bubble.

My parents had never been on public assistance and I didn’t plan to go on welfare, but he didn’t need to know that. I was getting out so that I could go to college and pursue a degree in nursing. I wasn’t going to tell him otherwise.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Riding the Rails

I needed a break from retirement; actually just some time away from the routine and to take myself out of the house. A friend and I drove to Elkins, West Virginia to ride the rails. In Elkins, they have several trips that leave the train station. The trips last from four hours to six and one half hours. The ride we made passed through the Monongahela National Forest, a wilderness area. This train ride as several unusual aspects.
   Not too far into our ride, we went into a tunnel. It was a surprise for the passengers in our car; the tour guide was announcing, but for some reason her description hadn’t gone through the address system. The tunnel was very dark, but we could see the walls seemingly close to the sides of the cars. Later we found that the rail cars were a scant five inches from the walls of the tunnel. Another unique aspect of the tunnel under Cheat Mountain is that it has an “S” curve between the entrance and egress portals.
There is one stop at the Cheat River Falls for photographs and shortly afterwards the Salamander Train traverses a sharp curve. It is the sharpest curve east of the Rocky Mountains at 36 degrees. Other train cars can’t maneuver it. The Salamander can because its cars are only sixty feet long, while other cars are eighty feet long and the radius is too tight for them to make the turn.
The High Falls of the Cheat River drops about twenty feet from multiple places along a rock ledge. The multiple streams of water made interesting views to photograph from above and below. The water was clear with a deep pool below.
There were three cars attached to a work diesel engine. One was a pale gray utility car and the other two were passenger cars. The “younger car” was built in 1939 with dark green plush seats. The “older car” which was the one that we rode in was built in 1919. The seats were of short-napped lighter green velvet and the backs of the seats swiveled up and over to change which way the passengers would sit. These seats were more comfortable than the “younger car.”
On the way to the ghost town of Spruce, we saw a bald eagle fly along the river and land in the snag of a dead tree. There was also a short stop at the metal truss Cheat Bridge.
We were served a hearty bag lunch and non-alcoholic drinks were available throughout the six hour trip. It was a relief to be able walk around the site of Spruce. None of the buildings were left, but photographs with descriptions of the hotel, homes, store, and the coal tipple were noted on the photo boards. For some reason, the engineer decided to back the train into the “Big Cut.” Our tour guide shared that we were getting to see something that passengers rarely get to see. “I’ve guided since April and this is only the second time that he’s done this.” A sidebar: the engineer is a registered pharmacist as well as an engineer. He works one week at each job rotating them.
On the trip back to Elkins, the locomotive was on the other end of our car and we were able to stand in the open at the end of the car. The one thing that surprised me was the altitude that we climbed from Elkins to Spruce. The altitude at Elkins is 1930 and I was told by the tour guide that the Big Cut is nearly 4400 feet. It became obvious as we descended along the tracks. It was a remarkable ride hitting thirty miles per hour at some places and much slower through the sharp curves and the tunnel.
The line is called the “Durbin & Greenbriar Valley Railroad.” The tour guide, conductor, and the engineer couldn’t have been more friendly and cordial. I enjoyed the other riders and spoke and teased with some of the others. One gentleman was from Ontario, a couple was from York PA, and two men were from the Johnstown/ Somerset PA area. All in all, it was a pleasurable relaxing get-away.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Retired and Enjoying It

I retired because I chose to retire, but lately I have been getting job offers through a site that I was invited to join by several friends. It’s called Linkedin. It is supposed to increase the outreach of your projects by sharing friends. I’m not computer savvy and fumble with setting up pages, surfing, etc. There is one spot on the site that appears on your page with job offers from all over the country. I don’t know whether the Linkedin site automatically tosses them on my page or whether someone actually reviews and posts, but I just added a summary.

I am retired and enjoying the time to write stories, poetry, Haiku, and memoirs. I am not at this time looking for employment unless it is a minimal, part time job with limited responsibility. After 28 years as a nursing supervisor and all of the conflict and responsibility that I had to handle, I need the freedom and time to enjoy writing for a period of time.
Thank you for offers, but Right now I am not looking for employment.”

I have worked on farms for school clothing, worked during high school as a stock boy and sign painter, given Uncle Sam four years in the Navy as a corpsman, got my bachelor degree in nursing, and worked for thirty-six years as a nurse. Four years as a med/ surg. Nurse on the night shift, five years in the emergency department, and  twenty-eight years as a nursing supervisor.
I have always loved to write, play with words, look at things with my warped view on things, and tried to share what I see. I have trouble writing horror stories, I think working in a hospital over the years; I’ve seen enough horror stories to last me for a lifetime. And thinking of new ways to inflict pain and death is alien to me
Speaking of alien life, that is another genre that I have difficulty diving into. Sci-fi and futuristic stories, I have a problem wrapping my brain around. I guess I am not a future thinking person.
I write, in a creative way, to show realistic ways of a character reacting to the world around him or her. Showing what the character is feeling, seeing, and thinking. I try to explain what I see in my mind, the creative plot and place of the story. I try to make what I write realistic and allow the reader to follow the characters and connect with them.
One of my favorite writers is Louis L’Amour. I know that many will scoff, but the writer was prolific. Much of what he wrote was spawned by places that he had been and things that he had done. He uses very descriptive phrases to share his thoughts with the reader and used down to earth words with which the general reader can readily understand.
The curious turns of phrases are what I like best. The way he used them, shows a skill that many more famous and learned authors cannot touch. His books are an easy read; a relaxing and entertaining read, meant for all to enjoy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Her Choice
An older woman that I cared for was bedfast. She did not use a bedpan when she voided. She asked for a urinal. She was a very clean person and I never had to change the bed linens when she was finished, so I thought, “Why not? The urinal was what she wanted and it looked as though she knew what she’s doing.”
Other nurses had this lady for a patient on other days and knew she used a urinal, but instead of asking her how she did it, they harassed me, the new nurse, and said, “Ask her how she does it.”
They hadn’t the courage to ask her when she was their client, but now they were pressuring me to intrude.
That didn’t set too well with me. It irritated me and quite frankly, it was none of my business. If that was what the woman wanted, that was what she would get.
Later that afternoon, the woman called out again for the urinal. I went into her room and gave it to her and I left. When she was finished, she rang her call bell again and I went into her room to empty it.
The other nurses were huddled around the nursing station, waiting for me to emerge. “Well, did she tell you how she does it?” they asked.
It was near the end of the day and I was tired. I was at the end of my patience, wearing of their harassing the newbie. My breaking point had finally been reached. I said, “I did ask, and do you know what she told me?" I leaned forward and said quietly, "She said that she purses her lips.” I walked away leaving them open-mouthed and dumbfounded.
I hadn’t really asked the woman, but I assume she pushed aside her external genitalia and pressed the urinal tightly against herself, because there was never a wet spot in her bed. To me it seemed to be a cleaner way of urinating than on a bedpan.