Off and running

As of today I have been cleared to perform my new job, although as in the last post, I still only partially exist in the system.

I screened babies this weekend, although it was a slow weekend and there weren’t many babies. More babies=more practice before going it alone. I screened four babies today, at two different locations, with my coordinator. Everything went well, much better actually than my last baby Sunday. I was having all kinds of issues, but luckily the screener I was working with is a screening wizard, and pulled out passing results when I thought all was lost.

I have a small notebook full of notes, although I never think to refer to them when I’m in the room with patients. Seems rather anxiety inducing if your screener has to refer to her notebook…although I would if really necessary. I’ve learned a lot since working this job five years ago. Invaluable stuff that no one ever told me before.

Next weekend those babies are all mine…


Front, back or sideways

Whirling dervish…


That description came to mind with all changes that have happened in just 24 hours and now I feel a little bit like I don’t know what side is up, or down.

I think I shared that I was hired back with the company who employed me about 5 years ago–the medical group that contracts with hospital systems to provide Newborn Hearing Screenings prior to discharge. I became an employee of the local practice on June 30th. I have been waiting ever since to get official clearance by the hospital facility where I will actually be doing the screening. My coordinator, who has been short staffed for months, has been pulling her hair out, waiting to get this onboarding process completed.

She went out on a limb yesterday and had me come into the site to observe, even though technically I was not supposed to be in patient rooms without my official badge. I could only take notes and watch, but at least it was something. Much of the process came back to me rather quickly, although this facility takes a bit of a different approach than my previous position.

Overall, it was great to be back with the babies, even though I couldn’t touch them. It was also a little difficult because this facility still uses the LDRP approach with their moms. Once admitted, moms labor, deliver, recover and spend their postpartum 24-36 hours in the same room. Passing rooms and hearing moms in active labor had my educator/doula motor running on high gear. I wanted to dump the screening machine and offer them labor support. I can imagine that it’s going to be a challenge to have to pass those room in the future.

Anyway, I left there with no news and no idea of how much longer it might be before I could actually begin this job. Being in limbo for 2-3 months is not unheard of I was told early on.

Out of the blue, as I was eating lunch today, my coordinator called. “We can get your badge!” she said into the phone. “They still haven’t assigned you an official ID, but with the badge you can start screening and we will work around using the electronic health record.”

While extremely glad, and also excited that I was finally given the okay to do my job, I knew that much of the stress the other screeners had been facing was now going to be transferred to me. They are/were sick of filling in and covering the holes in scheduling. My coordinator especially has worked 30+ days straight, no time off.

I was rather taken aback though, when she began rattling off day after day this week and early next to do some “hurry up training” with the intention of my taking off on my own by the Labor Day weekend. Ironically, I had been reviewing my notes from yesterday when she called. I had no idea what I wrote or why I wrote what I did on quite a few pages as I was trying to watch, listen, and write at the same time. I think I used to be able to do that…when I was 18. She was talking, making plans, and I was half listening, wondering how I was going to make sense of things with 3 or 4 days training and ongoing restricted access to some vital areas that proved to be a part of those unreadable or illogical notes.

Long story short: I threw on some scrubs, drove to my facility, did part of a hearing screen, again without my badge, to get a little hands-on experience. I then drove to the main facility 40 minutes away in (almost) rush hour traffic to get my badge. I was being prodded to screen a few babies while I was there, for more “training.” I think, perhaps by the look on my face, that it was clear that I wasn’t keen on that idea.

Fortunately, my coordinator stopped, took a breath, and allowed me to give some input. Just that short hands-on time today allowed me to see that I really haven’t forgotten everything, even after 5 years. I know that I’ll be slow again, at first and while being watched, but I can already anticipate being on my own. The autonomy of this job is one of the things that I love. Until I have full access to every process, I’m taking the viewpoint that I just have to roll with what comes, do the parts that I already know and can do with just a little practice, and ask questions when I need to.

We parted with the plan that I will co-screen with two different screeners this coming Saturday and Sunday. I will be shadowed by my coordinator next Monday. If all goes well from both our points of view then I will be on my own September 2nd. I have the option as well to seek more training time, somehow working around my days watching the granddaughters.

The frenetic spinning in my head has slowed. I am remembering to breathe. I am reminding myself that this will all work out. I am reminding myself that I was a competent screener once before, and that I will be again. I am hoping that if the whirling begins again, it will take me to a deep, meditative state where I will lie in an open field and let the sun wash over me and calm will prevail.

I am refusing to think just how close September 2nd is…

Alleyways…Part 2

If you’re wondering what the heck this post is all about, go to this post first.

Well, I hate to say it, but I think this second part has been a disappointment in some ways. Now don’t get me wrong in any way. I really had no desire, as I wandered through various alleyways, to find myself in the middle of some crime, or stumble upon a body. I already clearly knew that I wasn’t going to encounter that locked off barrier sort of feeling that comes along the alleyways at my oldest daughters residence, but I suppose I had hoped for something– different maybe, something unique perhaps.

What I found was what I suppose most would describe as a common alleyway. Nothing grand, nothing treacherous, nothing really unexpected.

What did surprise though, was that what I thought to be a rather extensive amount of alleyways in this little community really isn’t. I ventured off in mid afternoon and after only about 2-3 blocks from my apartment, I ran out of alleyways. Ultimately, because I was walking and had the time to observe what was happening, I realized that the discontinuation of the alleys also marked a change in housing style.

The alleyways were a feature of the core of this community. By that, I mean the original core neighborhoods within a very specific distance from Main Street. I live on the south side of Main, and the original, historic homes, mostly Craftsman style, only encompass about 2-3 blocks off Main. It was clear very quickly that the neighborhoods further out held homes that were clearly built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Ramblers, some brick, some conventional siding, most with bigger lots, and none with any alleyways in sight.

I began to realize that the majority of connecting roads, all labeled avenues by the way, opened to this south side of Main. The north side of Main Street is one long connected set of storefronts. Only a very few roads go north from main, at least until you reach the much newer part of town. There is one exception, and that is the land that now holds the high school and athletic fields. Perhaps this space, years ago also held onto the custom of alleyways. I suppose, if I want to really delve into this towns infrastructure, then I’m going to have to do some research on what was situated on the land that now holds this school complex.

It is pretty clear though that this community was created around a central street of commerce and for unknown reasons at this point, grew southward originally. I suspect, knowing what I do about this general area, that anything farther south, the area that now holds all the ramblers, was likely farm land, and perhaps that is what the northern side of Main was utilized for as well, although that side is much farther from the river. The alleyways were an integral part of the early development, but by the time the farmland was being developed, alleyways had likely become a thing of the past.

Anyway, I promised pictures, and I did take a few, but as it turned out each alleyway I traveled was much like the previous or the next. They tend to follow that pattern of gravel laden access for the garbage service. I did run into one rather unique sight, but unfortunately that involved a human person and I really didn’t think they would appreciate my blatantly snapping a picture. Try to imagine a wooden deck, very large, that had been built onto the back of one of those Craftsmen homes. It looked rickety at best, but sitting up on it, and it was probably 20 feet off the ground, was a lady who was lounging and reading. Not too odd, until you notice the very large gargoyle statue perched next to her. We exchanged hello’s and I moved on, but that has to be a story of interest.

So, a few things I saw as I wandered:

The typical look of the alleyways I encountered. About 1/2 and 1/2 as far as fenced off versus open to back yards. There were a lot of stand alone garages as well, many desperately in need of repair-

Then a few slightly more interesting ways to keep one’s privacy intact: a mammoth laurel hedge, and just a small part of what I estimate to be roughly 20 feet of very natural bamboo “fencing”-

A small peak into someone’s garden, and no- this picture does nothing to show you the detail. I was pretty impressed with their agricultural skills. I wasn’t willing to risk getting caught, but they had some pretty impressive carrots growing close to the fence just to the left of this picture…


A few random flowers-

And finally, way up there-perched on the wire, a pair of mourning doves. I hear these doves calling every morning, “Coo-ooo…coo, Coo-oo…coo” Every time that I tried to get closer to get a better picture, off they would fly farther down the alley.


I realized after all this that my apartment site was once the site of a home. the very old, original driveway entrance is still visible along the front avenue. Everyone living on either side of this building, including our tenants, all put their trash out along what once would have been an alleyway, but what now adjoins a public parking lot and the back of the municipal building.

I wonder what my alleyway was like, years ago. I’m going to imagine that it was the grandest one in the entire town.

Alleyways- Part 1

I now live in a community where alleyways are quite prevalent. By the way, I think the term alleyway sounds a bit more quaint than plain old alley, so I’m choosing to add the “way” in this post.

The community I grew up in, and eventually settled in during most of my adult life, wasn’t prolific when it came to alleyways. You could find a few places in the downtown area, the more historical area, where an alleyway might pop up. I was a kid then and found no pleasure in what a person might discover in these backdoor places. The only thing an alleyway did for me back then was to provide a shortcut on my way home from school.

Alison, the youngest daughter, now lives in a historic neighborhood that is full of alleyways. Like the ones I remember from my youth, hers are gravel lined, very rutted and overgrown with weeds. I think they serve her neighbors as nothing more than a place to put garbage cans, or entice wandering animals looking for a free handout. Also, unfortunately, when you Google alleyway for her specific location what pops up are any number of news stories that highlight crime and death and bodies found.

Cara, the oldest daughter, lives in a planned community. This one has traditional homes with drive-up front garages and full backyards. It also has the modern version of the alleyway. I think of this version as the cram-as-many-homes-as-you-can-into-the-smallest-available-space type of community. Their alleyways are really more of one long, U-shaped interconnected driveway that leads to each homes rear garage. When you Google her community, they don’t show these blocks in the gallery of photos. I was sitting on her patio the other day, looking out at her fence.

Yes, I have time to ponder these sorts of things on occasion…

Every home on her “block” is surrounded in the back by a fence. It lines both sides of the home, starting with the front edge, runs all the way around to each side of the driveway and on one side actually comes up and borders the backyard. The alleyway is literally a paved asphalt ribbon that leads starkly to each home, running just inches from each fence.

Why am I sharing these details you might wonder. Or why should you care…

You really don’t have to care I suppose, but it struck me that one of the major ideas behind these planned communities is to create a sense of, well- community. It seems rather ironic that planners then go ahead, cram houses together with just a few feet between each other, and then surround them with these tall, privacy fences that do nothing to encourage community at all. They form a barrier. They lock the inhabitants into their own world and, to me anyway, signal quite clearly that other folks probably shouldn’t come across the line.

The fronts of these homes all have porches of some sort, and the general idea is to gather there, or as many do routinely, in the streets- at least from what I’ve noticed. I come away from this neighborhood sometimes with a sense that it’s okay to be visible on the surface, but encouraging real life interaction means breaking through some heavy and formidable walls that surround each home.

So, the point of this post, as I seem to have ventured off into some sociological impressions, is that I want to learn more about the alleyways that now make up my new community. Most of the homes around me have front porches. I see people on them in the evenings as I walk. I see quite a bit of open yard space, but I wonder what is behind the facade.

Do these new alleyways fit the model of dark, crime ridden, clandestine places?

Are they simply pathways for the local garbage haulers and tomcats? Byways to others detritus and secrets and leftovers…

Can I learn anything from these alleyways, about the people living in front of them, or will I find fences and barriers that allow for the world to see only what these people want.

In part 2, I want to share with you some of what I find in pictures… Stay tuned.


How does your garden grow…

One of the things that sold me on this apartment was the fact that the landlords allow each tenant to plant whatever they want in the little beds under their two front windows. I miss my plants from the old house, quite a bit actually. I sure couldn’t get out and dig like I used to but I still loved to putter around in the beds, trim and weed, learn what worked and what was a flop, or what would take off wildly all on it’s own without even being asked.

The soil in my new beds was lacking considerably in everything except for overuse. Just a few days ago someone brought in some new topsoil, which was wonderful. I added some compost to that and will continue to amend these beds as my garden grows and changes.

Here’s a picture of what the beds looked like last Wednesday.


Here’s how mine have changed in the last few days.

I’m taking these pictures with my phone and the sun obviously is not helping, and I am rather sadly lacking in skills when it comes to adjusting photo related things, so I have called on Google to help with some better pictures. I know that first photo looks sad. Those are heuchera, one of my favorites, as are the three bright green plants in the second picture.

Check this website.  Heuchera, or Coral Bells, are really all about the foliage, although the tiny flowers that grow from very thin stalks are quite nice. There are so many varieties. I got one of the lime ones listed on the website, and the three lonely ones are a variety that isn’t even listed there.

Any way, I don’t intend to leave those 3 all alone forever. I’ve ordered some dwarf English Lavender called Wee One, and also an amazingly brilliant perennial called Blanket Flower to go along side and behind the heuchera. They come in early October.

Behind those bright lime green heuchera are some Heliotrope and, my most exciting find, miniature Hosta’s!! They stay small, only getting to be about 12″ all around. The variety I got is called Blue Mouse Ears. Hosta’s are one of my favorite plants and I’ve had good luck with them, but the common type would take over the entire bed so I was thrilled to find these.

This project has been so much fun. Fingers crossed that they all make it through the winter and our rainy spring to come next year.


It was mid-afternoon and I was roaming through websites on the computer, looking for odds and ends like decor ideas and plants for my front flower beds.

The morning had been wonderful. My handy son-in-law, with my oldest daughter and the grand girls in tow, had come over to install my new window screens. Somewhere, in the process of just being around as living space for over 50 years, the screens had either disappeared from my front and bedroom windows, or perhaps they never existed in the first place. SIL picked right up on my desire to have open windows without bugs invading the indoors and went to work making screens for me. I am most pleased.

Anyway, as I was searching out ideas I heard a car door close outside, then a blonde head came into view in the corner of my dining room window. The next thing I knew, coming down the sidewalk towards my door was a face that I haven’t seen in about 2 years.

“Oh my god, Christine,” I shouted as I bolted toward the screen door. We hugged each other, and after a short (because you can cover my entire apartment in less than 1 minute) tour, I spent a few hours chatting with this wonderful lady. I worked with her at the Oral Surgery office and have only seen her sporadically since then.

She has followed my blog over the years, and we’ve been doing the “well we really need to get together” dance but then being awful about actually “getting together.”

I love that she took it upon herself to come exploring for my new home. She hasn’t changed a bit and I feel like our conversation picked up about where we left off the last time we were together. This had to be the best surprise I’ve had in a long time.

And Christine, when you read this just know that you made my day!