Saturday, July 22, 2006
book report: His Dark Materials
by Philip Pullman
I first ran across this series of young adult novels in a sort of odd way - every so often, I get a newsletter in the mail from the English department at the university where I got my BA in English several years ago. And one of their regular features is a section where some of the professors describe a book they've read recently. Usually they're super hoity-toity and talk about some impenetrable poetry collection, or a new work of literary criticism, or an unbelievably depressing novel that is helping them to build character, or whatever. But one of the profs said he was reading this charming young adult novel that had a polar bear on the cover. So I put it on my holds list.
That was The Golden Compass. I was sucked in from the very first page, where we meet Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon (what's a daemon? you get to figure it out as you read!). Lyra lives at Oxford College, an orphan being raised by the professors. Her world is related to ours but clearly not the same... and Lyra gets caught up in a secret struggle between forces of good and evil. Evil in this case being a beautiful woman with a golden monkey daemon, who kidnaps children and does medical research on them. Lyra is brave and strong and sneaky, and totally warmed my heart as a little-girl heroine who doesn't succeed through her cuteness or her empathy for others, but through her hard-headedness and cunning.
After racing through The Golden Compass, I couldn't wait to read The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. The Subtle Knife introduced Lyra's partner in adventure, a boy from our own world named Will. Together, they proceed much further down the path to figuring out the big conflict between good and evil, and make some heart-breaking discoveries about themselves, each other, and their worlds.
Then in The Amber Spyglass, the religious themes that had been developed in the first two novels come to the forefront. And many people will be offended by the anti-organized religion stance that Pullman takes. As a non-religious person myself, I was actually excited to read about an alternate view on spirtuality and morality. However, I did think the second half of this book got a little "out there" and confusing, which was disappointing after the taut and focused writing of the first two books. The ending, however, was heartrending and memorable, and tied up the story beautifully, if not happily-ever-after.
I'm so happy to find that people are still writing books that are filled with challenging ideas, magic, and difficult situations. I don't read a lot of kid's books at this point in my life, but the ones I do pick up seem to be so fluffy ("yay! you're special! life is great!") or issue-oriented ("drugs are bad" "lesbians are parents too!") or non-controversial ("let's all be nice to each other") that I wonder what kids would actually get out of reading them. I would rank this book up there with some of the British children's lit I read when I was a kid - like The Secret Garden or The Little Princess or that book about the little British girl whose parents die in a cholera epidemic in India and she has to come back to England and live with some creepy family... or is that The Little Princess? Anyway - this series was good and I look forward to my own child reading it someday.
Labels: book reports
Thursday, July 20, 2006
sick in the summer
I'm supposed to work tomorrow morning and I swear I'm going to be better by then! I'm tired of being sick!
Shoe info for Chelsea: Shoreline's shoe guidelines are white, leather, closed toe, closed back (Dansko Professional clogs are okay, but the ones with a strap around the heel or nothing around the heel are not), no colored logos. Most of my classmates got all-white sneakers, like Reeboks or New Balance. One of my classmates scored some super-nice sneaks at Nordstrom Rack. I have a super-expensive pair of white Dansko lace-up shoes, but they're not as comfortable as I hoped. I did my CNA clinicals wearing all-white "professional" sneakers that I got at Payless Shoes for $20, and in retrospect, they would have done the job for Shoreline, too. In other words, don't feel like you're obligated to spend a ton of money on fancy shoes!
Labels: nursing school
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
She is very weak and mostly incontinent, but is still able to get around a little in her wheelchair. She takes pleasure in spending time with people, passing out hugs and kisses in the dining room like a politician running for office. She has very little appetite but still eats a bit at each meal. She has some memory loss but is perfectly capable of holding a conversation and expressing herself appropriately.
Last weekend I worked the evening shift on the floor where this resident lives. And when I was getting her ready for bed, she told me she wanted to die. I took a deep breath and said, "you feel like you're ready?" and she said yes. I sat down and took her hand, and said "It sounds like you're tired of the way things are now." And she exclaimed, "Yes! I'm exhausted!" I told her I could understand why she might feel that way. She got very quiet for a few minutes and patted my arm and petted my hair (I have long hair and was wearing it in pigtails) - she seemed to find the touch reassuring. Then she said, "Maybe I just won't wake up tomorrow." And I agreed, "Maybe you won't. Or maybe you will, and either way, whatever happens will happen." She smiled. I asked her what I could do for her before she went to sleep - she wanted a drink of water, and a hug and a kiss, and then she smiled again and said, "And hit me over the head with a baseball bat!" I couldn't help but laugh... but pointed out that I wasn't going to do that. She said, "Well, I don't have a baseball bat anyway."
I sat with her for a little while longer just holding her hand. She told me after a few minutes that she would be able to sleep. So I kissed her goodnight again and went on my way.
How did I do handling this situation? I wanted to make it clear that it was okay for her to talk with me about dying, that I wasn't uncomfortable or creeped out. She seemed comfortable with my response.
book report: The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai
Many years ago, I went to see Kiran Desai read from her first novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, at Elliott Bay Books. I loved that book - it was funny and sad and absurd and touching all at the same time. So I was thrilled when I heard that she had finally published another novel.
This novel is set in northern India in the 1980s, when the movement for an independent Nepal was in full swing. Sai is a teenaged orphan who is living with her grandfather, a retired judge who avoids nearly all human interaction and prefers the company of his beloved dog. Sai, bored with her isolated existence, strikes up an affair with her Nepali tutor Gyan, but the relationship self-destructs in a hurry when Gyan gets caught up in the political movement. Sai goes so far as to visit Gyan's neighborhood looking for him - and realizes that they are in completely different social classes as she walks around the slum where he lives with his parents and siblings. As the revolutionary movement gets uglier and the Nepalis turn on their Indian neighbors, Sai tries to shelter with her neighbors, two older Indian ladies who are more British in their lifestyles than Indian.
Meanwhile, the judge's cook's son Biju works at a series of menial jobs in New York City. He went to America to have more success than his father... but he is miserable and doesn't see any advantage of being in a new country.
The whole book is a commentary on class, on nationality, and on identity. The sad tone of the writing made it hard for me to finish reading the book - there is no big happy ending, although it isn't a tragedy, either. It's hard to tell what is going to happen to the characters when the novel comes to an end.
Labels: book reports
eat this diet
Interesting idea. We're trying to get back to watching our diet and losing weight again - following this plan would remove a lot of the mental effort.
It may be too soon to make a declaration, but it looks like today is not the day that B is going to bite it or take a turn for the worse. In fact, the vet (who diagnosed B's diabetes but hasn't examined him since) exclaimed, "You look good!" when B first got out of the carrier.
And another thought? If having a newborn baby is similar, in that you have to wake up and take care of a small creature every two hours, I'm not so sure about having one. I feel like crap warmed over today.
Friday, July 07, 2006
can you get a new spine like a new hip?
The one good thing about working the morning shift is that I get off work at 2:00, and can stop by the gym on my way home and still be home by 4:00. And the best thing about the gym isn't the workout - it's soaking my aching muscles and feet in the hot tub!
The job is harder that my previous job at The Home, I think. I occasionally work on an assisted living floor, which is more like my job at The Home. But a lot of the time I work on the Alzheimer's ward, which I find much more challenging. Not only are the residents impaired mentally, they tend to be much more physically impaired, requiring assistance with transferring from bed to wheelchair, toileting, bathing, and feeding. I have never worked in such a physically demanding environment before - but I can do it. The part I'm finding more challenging is that the Alzheimer's residents are really, you know, demented, and it's hard to make a connection with them. Some of them are so advanced in their dementia that they hit and scream and resist any attempts at caregiving. Some do bizarre things like go into a random room and poo on the floor. I think the reason I'm having a harder time working with these residents is that I want to make a connection with my patients, and I can't help but take it a little bit personally when I get hit or screamed at, even though I know the hitter or screamer is not "all there". It's emotionally exhausting.
On the other hand, the CNAs that I described in my last entry don't seem bothered at all by the dementia patients. They like working on the dementia ward because they are not at the beck & call of assisted living residents - they just do their caregiving routines and call it good. Although, I don't want to make it sounds like they're all robots - yesterday, for example, a CNA who has been there a long time insisted that we call the nurse on duty right away for a resident who "wasn't acting right". She couldn't quite explain was wasn't "right" about the resident, but when the nurse arrived, she assessed the resident and agreed that there was a problem.
I just feel happier working with slightly more cognizant people, I guess. I have been working on a floor where one of my patients is a sweet little old lady on hospice - she is very weak and needs lots of care, but is just so good-humored. She pages me constantly when I'm working, which would drive me nuts from some people, but with her I can't get upset because I think she just wants some company and some affection. Last weekend I cared for her for two days straight and when I put her to bed one night, she announced, "I love you!" and gave me a big kiss. So sweet. It's going to be tough when she dies.
Another resident on that floor has serious short-term memory loss and a chronic pain condition. She is fixated on her pain medication and with the memory loss, can't remember when she last had it. So she pages often to tell me that she's in pain and she wants some medication. I tried rubbing her back where she said it hurt, and it was like a miracle - her breathing slowed, she relaxed, and said she could rest and wait until dinnertime for her medication. I felt like a freaking genius. :) It's not like I did anything major, but it felt really good to make a small positive change for this lady. I felt like a nurse and not a caregiving robot.