“What’s In A Name…”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

There’s your cultural lesson folks- Shakespeare has Juliet utter these lines, among others, as she contemplates the meaningless nature of a name. In this case, we know she is focused on the name Montague. We also know how that story ends because apparently, names do mean a whole lot if you happen to be a Montague’s or a Capulet.

No feuding here, just some interesting baby names that have come up at work lately. Three in fact, that have the potential to carry weight for the little people who possess them.

The medical system that I am contracted with serves a diverse population. We have large numbers of Hispanic families. We have equally large numbers of families who are Muslim. We have Latin families. The surrounding community houses a growing number of families from Russia and the Ukraine. We serve numerous Asian families, with the largest numbers being from East and Southeast Asia. Each time that I meet a family with any of these ethnic backgrounds, I try to tuck away in my head some of the specific cultural formalities they often follow regarding naming their babies.

Mother’s surname is often combined with the babies father’s surname, but depending on the culture, it must be in a very specific way. Some babies are named only after a specific number of days have passed after birth. Some babies will be given a surname different from either mom or dad. It’s complicated and when I come to feel that I’m finally getting a handle on some of the patterns an entirely new one pops up.

Babies given name isn’t always predictable. I’ve had parents literally make up the spelling of a common name just to give their child a unique, and often impossible to spell, first name. I am learning not to make cultural assumptions either. I meet a mother and father from Ukraine who are named Yuri and Lyudmila, and expect to hear a baby name that somehow reflects their background and culture. I am not surprised anymore when those parents choose to name their son Thomas, or their daughter Amber.

With that in mind, I really wasn’t surprised today when I screened Celine Dion.

Mom and dad are from Vietnam. Their English is actually quite good. In fact, dad jumped right into spelling names for me without my even asking. We came to babies name and from across the room I heard “C-E-L-I-N-E.” Because I was trying to listen closely and double check each letter as he spoke I really didn’t register the actual name he had just spelled for me. As I began to speak each letter back to him for verification he quickly added,
“Celine Dion, you know like the singer.”

I smiled and thanked him because I assumed that he was just trying to help me make sure I understood babies new first name. I entered babies last name and then asked if they used or planned on a middle name for baby. Mom and dad both looked at me with an odd expression and said simultaneously, “Dion, D-I-O-N. Celine Dion.”

“Oh… Oh I see, I thought you were just trying to help me understand her first name, but she is actually named Celine Dion?”

“Yes, yes, just like the singer!”

I swear that I kept a straight face, because that’s what professionals do, and we just moved forward with the hearing screen. About 15 minutes later, while I was charting in my office, Becky the nurse rolled Celine Dion into the nursery for a test. As she passed me, and with a sly smile, she asked if I had learned babies name. Still being the consummate professional hearing screener that I am, I said that yes I had, and Celine Dion had done well on her test.

“Did they tell you the older girls name?” Becky asked, although this time her smile went from ear to ear.

“No, she was cranky so dad took her out during the screen,” I said.

As Becky rolled the baby into the other room I learned that I had also had the privilege of meeting Angelina Jolie that morning.


This next story, given the fact that I’ve talked in the blog before about our large number of opiod addicted mothers/families, is really nothing but sad, at least initially.

We had a baby in the NICU for many days. Mom and her partner (who believed himself to be the babies father, but who actually wasn’t) were both heavy abusers of opiods. They were told many times that they would not be taking the baby home. They did visit though, almost always high, and also in complete denial that the child was going into foster care. After numerous rounds of antibiotics and morphine for withdrawal, the day came that we could finally screen this little boy.

Most babies who spend a long time in the NICU, and are named, get cute little signs to hang near their isolette. We never have much information, so it’s heartwarming when we can at least record the babies name. In the case of a baby who is being surrendered to CPS we are only allowed to use “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” with the birth mothers last name. The birth family does not name the baby.

I was working on the day this little guy was eligible to be screened. When I started, I was unsure of his discharge status. Some parents, who are in treatment, are allowed to take part in some aspects of babies life. Because I had seen the parents in and out of the NICU I thought that perhaps they were being allowed to be involved somewhat. In that case, I asked nurse Alex if baby had a first name for my database.

Alex turned in her chair, and deadly serious with a glance toward a small construction baby sign near the bassinet, said to me, “Bunny Rabbit.”

I don’t think that I have the ability to convey my reaction adequately in this blog post. I know that I just stared at her as she repeated, with another nod toward the sign, “Bunny Rabbit.”

My head began to shake back and forth and I think I actually uttered, “NO WAY!”

“I’ll be using our standard Baby Boy in this case,” I said while I looked down at a precious boy with an IV coming from his head. Alex and Peggy began replaying some of the events that had led up to the naming of this boy by his heavily addicted and clearly incompetent mother. Legally, thankfully, she lost the right to name this child.


Some names make me smile. Some, in their uniqueness, make me laugh once I leave the patients room. Some make me cringe. Some names given to these little humans leave me wondering who they will grow up to be and how the choice of name will influence them, if at all.

What will Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie think about themselves, and their parents, as they grow up? When will the awareness of their famous names become apparent? How will others behave or treat them?

Who will the tiny boy, who has endured so much already in his early life, become? Will he ever know the woman who wanted to name him Bunny Rabbit because she thought it was cute and completely appropriate? I have to say that I hope not.

What is in a name, as Juliet asks? A mere label, or something much, much more…



Stick A Fork In Me…

Do some of you set down to tackle a post but then find yourself contemplating rather to actually post it? Perhaps you tuck it away in the drafts folder and sit on the idea for a few days, or months. Perhaps the post is controversial, or deeply personal, or maybe you just wonder if anyone will really be interested in reading about Great Uncle Fred’s prostate surgery.

This readers, is one of those posts. I have been stewing over this for some time. I need to write about the issue, the aftermath, and then let it go. I apologize in advance and caution you that if you don’t want to read another of my “post divorce” stories, stop now and move ahead with your day.

Not so long ago, in this post actually, I mentioned an issue that had been centered on the ex-spouse, because… aren’t all my real issues somehow related to him. The gory details include the fact that he was told that he was being laid off from his job of many years, likely right around Christmas. I was informed of this by him in a panicked phone call whereby he felt obliged to let me know that once the layoff occurred he was very uncertain about how he would provide our agreed upon alimony.

“Uh, how about getting another job…,” although I didn’t really say that to him.

I had to hear about how he was going to have to change his lifestyle, cut some things out -like his nearly $200 per month cable bill- and how he might just decide to retire. That idea apparently sent his CPA into near cardiac arrest and then into uncontrollable laughter and then into dismay when he realized that the ex truly didn’t understand why retirement at 60 wasn’t really an option.

I chose to keep my opinions to myself at that point, because really why bother. I did start planning however, and taking stock of my own finances. I was even able to find a bit of humor in the fact that the ex somehow assumed that I would just take his need to stop paying his court ordered alimony as a given. He truly seemed to believe that his only responsibility was to ask me to stop depending on the agreed upon amount we had set up every month. That readers is a hallmark characteristic of this man. Toss responsibility onto everyone else.

I’m sure he was caught wildly off guard when he learned that the only way to change a signed court order was to go back to court with a lawyer and attempt to get a judge to change or withdraw what was established in the divorce decree. As he chose to totally allow me to handle the entire divorce, (we filed an uncontested petition) and never had any intention of even showing up for the final hearing, I had little worry that a) he would even consider hiring a lawyer, because that meant paying someone, b) he would have no idea how to attempt any sort of changes himself, and c) he would find some means to continue the ordered payments while bemoaning his plight and the unfairness of it for the next 3 1/2 years.

His layoff notice was received in mid October. I saw him on Christmas day while the granddaughters opened gifts. I barely spoke to him and chose not to ask about the layoff, but assumed it was imminent or had already happened. He never brought the issue up to me.

In early January, in a conversation with my oldest daughter, I felt that it was important to mention that, given the fact that her dad was now not working, and had left me with the clear indication that somehow he needed our financial situation to change, she and I needed to have some discussions about my future as the granddaughters caregiver. Her reply to me, “I’m confused… did you not know that they rescinded his layoff?”

Clearly the answer to that question was no, I had no idea, even though he had apparently learned that his employment would continue somewhere back in November. Let me just stress here- I saw the man at Christmas. He said nothing to me. Nothing. No mention at all that the once looming unemployment was no longer an issue.

So I have sat with this news for the past two weeks. I have, just as I have done for so many years, even attempted to convince myself that perhaps he had just forgotten to mention that financially our world will not be turned upside down. In his initial rush to tell me just how his layoff would impact me by straining his ability to live comfortably he must have simply been so relieved to find he could keep his cable service that telling me just slipped his mind.

Old habits die hard readers, isn’t that what they say. Silly me to continue to find myself giving him the benefit of the doubt. Naive me to hold onto even a smidgen of hope that he would realize that I had no idea of everything that had transpired, that he might even manage a small apology for not telling me sooner. Stupid me to believe that perhaps he has come to understand that he must be responsible for his actions, or inaction.

I decided that in some way I had to end this, because I knew he wouldn’t. I sent this email to him last night, and yes…it is a bold lie…but I had to see how he would respond.

“Been wondering about your ongoing plans surrounding the layoff, as I assume that it has become official by now. I know you mentioned that you would likely be looking to use severance pay and unemployment for some time but would appreciate knowing how/when you anticipate changes and what you might be planning those to be–such as changes to the alimony order. 

I have been diligent about watching the amount of my spending since learning of the layoff, but quite frankly I depend upon the alimony amount each month, even with a part-time job. My hours from that are minimal. I need as much notice as possible (as will C and my ability to be with the girls)  if income considerations are to change with the process of a new court order assigning any changed amounts each month. Obviously this is something we need to discuss in person, but as I haven’t heard any updates I needed to touch base at least.”

This was the reply I got a short time ago:

“My layoff was rescinded.  I should be good.”

HE should be good. Isn’t that great to know. The best news ever. HE is gonna be fine. HE hasn’t had any worries since Thanksgiving when they stopped the layoff process. HE has known for 2 months that there were no more issues or concerns.

“I should be good.”

Four little words that have allowed me to finally let go of the silly, naive, stupid me who held onto that teeny, tiny smidgen of hope that a 60 year old man had any potential to learn even a minute amount of responsibility.

I. Am. Done.

The answer is clearly a resounding no.

Let’s Catch Up…

Just thought that I’d catch you up on the goings on in my world in case anyone is interested…

Here in my little 4-unit building we have some new neighbors. It’s only taken the landlords four months to gut and renovate the unit once lived in by controlling (and probably abusive) curmudgeon Sam. I have not met them yet, but I understand they are siblings, 3 of them, although I have only seen 2. I suspect they work a lot as they are young and it seems relatively quiet there so far. Even when they were moving in this past weekend they did so rather unobtrusively so I don’t suspect wild parties will be very common. In an ironic twist, one of them drives an old Jeep Wrangler that reminds me in noise level and looks of my Alison’s old car. Her’s was white, verging on dinged up, dingy gray and this one is black but it has the familiar engine sound, some odd wires or connectors hanging from underneath it and even duct tape helping to hold up one of the rear windows. Seems that aging Jeeps must fall apart in a universal manner.

***** ***** *****

I spent a good two weeks with some sort of toxic germs living in my nose and bronchial passages. I really thought that I was going to escape relatively unscathed this season as I had managed to avoid most of the germs my two little angels seemed to be spreading non-stop since September. Somehow though, even obsessive hand washing and bathing in hand sanitizer didn’t help this time. Working was interesting. I screened quite often in semi-dark rooms so that the parents (hopefully) didn’t notice all the snot dripping into my pretty yellow (but not very absorbent) masks. I also feared leaving unsightly snot trails under my nose when the masks came off.

In other work news, I had an interesting weekend there a few days ago. We had a baby born with a number of congenital anomalies, one of which might have involved hearing issues so I was asked to screen the baby right away in the NICU. She passed easily so at least that’s one less issue to deal with although she may still have a rough road ahead.

I had screened my first baby of the day just prior to that NICU baby. Thirty minutes later, standing in the NICU talking with Alex we heard “Code Blue, 3rd Floor, Mother/Baby Unit, Room 340.”  Room 340 was the baby I had just left. Code Blue means respiratory issues… as in not breathing. By the time the nurses wheeled her in and the code team arrived she was pink and crying. Apparently she gagged on a substantial amount of fluid and then began to turn blue.

A few other, non-baby issues came and went and I set out to screen my last baby for the day. I really didn’t need to do that one, but I suspected Sunday was going to be busy so I thought I would try to get one more finished. Mom was exhausted and sleeping, dad was also exhausted but very much needing to be the overly helpful dad that I sometimes run into. I have found an interesting cultural phenomenon with dads from Ukraine and surrounding Eastern European countries. They want to be very hands on when I come to screen, as in having the full intent to actually place my sensors and ear hugs for me. This dad was no exception, but I’ve found that if I give them a very specific task, as in helping to keep baby calm, I can get them to let me do my job.

Anyway, this babies coloring was wide ranging. She would fuss and be nicely pink, then gradually her color would turn. I watched this occur a few times and was just on the verge of stopping my test when she passed. It was pretty clear to me, although dad was unaware, that she wasn’t getting oxygen at an adequate level. I quickly gave dad his paperwork, turned to look at baby who had just been fussy and pink, and saw that she was dusky. This is dusky:


Needless to say I made a beeline for the nurses who moved quickly to check on her. The next thing I knew she was being wheeled into the NICU. Her oxygen level: 88. I found out on Sunday that she had been transferred to a higher level NICU. She was unable to stay adequately oxygenated even with a CPAP unit. Scary moments for sure and no one wanted to think what the outcome might have been.

***** ***** *****

Finally, in totally unrelated news, I have come to the sad realization that (and I don’t really know who said this, or even where I might have heard it) but when you divorce and expect to be relatively free from issues with your ex-spouse it never really works out that way. They are always a presence. They will always (inadvertently or perhaps not) find ways to irritate, anger, annoy and just generally plague your existence.

This could be a long story and this post is already long enough so very short version: There was an issue that arose way back in late September, but that I chose not to write about at the time. It could have been rather devastating and I have been planning and adjusting for the past few months. Of course it involves a financial component. Long story short, after more extended angst and worry, after new sleepless nights, in a rather accidental and unintentional way, I just found out (NOT FROM THE EX-SPOUSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO TELL ME) that all is just fine, peachy-keen, no problem, no worries, over and done. Apparently the knowledge that the looming crisis was no longer a crisis came to the ex around Thanksgiving. That means that I have had the pleasure of added stress for over 3 months now and was not even afforded the courtesy to be told that the world was good, that I could still plan for uninterrupted income, and that I didn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing silly things like trying to figure out how to stay warm while not using any heat in my apartment.

I will close this post by saying that I added that image of the dusky blue color not only to illustrate that sweet baby girls issues on Saturday, but also to highlight, after learning all the information above, what I pictured the color of my ex-spouses face to be as I throttled the life out of him.

Blame It On the Dog

Cece Mae turned two in October. That’s her there sitting on Santa’s lap with big sister Gisella.


Cece has a strong personality. Cece has perfected the word NO! and the phrase I DON’T WANT TO! Cece clearly understands what we say to her. We know this because she can, when she chooses to, actually converse in long sentences and sometimes even paragraphs. We love Cece, but Cece will look directly at you and do exactly what you just told her not to do.

Cece has started down the long and arduous road of potty training. Her parents are having no more luck than I do, although I think they are resorting to bribery to get her to practice. She loves to read the potty book, but is she impressed enough with the baby in the book tossing aside his diaper, grinning from ear to ear as his proud parents applaud his obvious tinkle, tinkle, toot into the potty? Nope. Is she encouraged by wearing “big girl panties” rather than diapers? Nope.

Today grandma decided that we would be a bit more diligent about the practice. Pants came off, big girl panties came off, and Cece got to run around with a naked bottom to make things that much easier for getting onto the potty. Success? Nope.

Cece and I went downstairs for lunch. She gobbled up her taco salad and it became evident (to grandma anyway) the the squirmy bottom on the chair was feeling a certain urge. Climbing down off of her chair Cece ran off to the other room while grandma tossed dishes into the sink. My intention was to head Miss Cecelia into the potty. It was awfully quiet out in the front room and just as I turned I was sure that I noticed a tiny little naked bottom squatting down near the front window. In my head I uttered “oh crap” and out loud, using my grandma voice I had just started to say, “Cece…what are you…”

“Grandma, dog poop on the floor!”

“Cece Mae! Coco is outside. Did you poop on the floor?”

Entering the other room (which thankfully is not carpeted, I was greeted by both a spreading puddle of pee and also Cece’s “dog poop” gift.

After cleaning up I truly regretted not having taken a picture to send to mom and dad at work although I have no doubt that Cece will give me more opportunities for pictures before she finally accepts that the toilet is the place that big girls go potty.

And that it’s not very polite to blame the dog…


Nothing major, but something that has been growing on me since about mid-September.

I like my job.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I said that. Likely it was years ago when I was teaching childbirth classes. I loved that job. That job felt right. I probably used the word like a few times during my dental assisting career as well, although I suspect that I liked the doing of the actual job more than I ever really liked where I worked.

I also don’t really know why this admission strikes me as rather incongruous. I suspect that we can all find something about our work to complain about. The commute, a co-worker- or two or three, overtime, workplace drama, etc. I would be surprised to find anyone who would say that their career, and the inherent aspects that surround doing that career, is perfect, but I do assume that many/most of us like the path we have chosen or the career we have ended up in. Yet again today, as I spent time educating a father about what I was doing and why, the revelation popped quietly into my head: I really like this job.

Those extra shifts that I picked up when we lost one of our screeners haven’t been a burden at all. I could literally do this job five days a week. I don’t remember feeling this way when I worked at the same job five years ago. Just like the dental career, I liked the doing, but the place and people- no connection, no sense of belonging.

New parents haven’t changed. I meet them when they are bleary-eyed, sleep deprived but high as the sky eager and anxious and terrified humans contemplating the new person in their lives.

Babies certainly haven’t changed. The babies are the most predictable aspects of my job in so many ways…most of the time…until they aren’t. Babies will surprise you when you least expect it. They will force you to adapt and to think on your feet. Their job is to challenge and I am finding that amazing and humbling.

The job really hasn’t changed with the exception of a few procedural differences. Autonomy, self control and responsibility, the aspects that I craved last time around, still give me a sense of purpose, and self-worth, and feelings of capability and ownership in my work.

So with so much the same I wonder why I am so much in like with my job. Could it be because the facility is smaller with a calmer atmosphere, or that the staff is simply more welcoming and so I feel more grounded; more of a team member; perhaps even more valued. I remember always feeling intimidated when I had to enter the NICU to check on or screen a baby. Now, with my desk just 4 feet from the NICU, I am building a rapport with the nursing staff who feel like colleagues rather than strangers. I am greeted regularly by the housekeeping staff and nutrition staff delivering breakfast. I even got a physician (maybe anesthesiologist) who is always there on my shift, to finally smile and tip his head in greeting.

I’m sure that all of this is a factor, but I also wonder what’s different this time around with me. Five years ago I had just ended my career in dentistry because of arthritis. Five years ago I was beginning my role as grandma. Five years ago I knew that my marriage was over, although I had no idea that I would actually come to the decision of divorce. Five years ago it was difficult to take a job that had me working weekend evenings, even though I was beginning to welcome being out of the house more and more. I think in some ways guilt led me to take that job five years ago. I felt a need to still contribute, maybe even to prove something about my place in a marriage where it was becoming clear that my not working was frowned upon, and the reason I stopped working was implausible in the mind of my ex-husband.

Today, I hold this job for myself. I still feel a need to contribute, but the contribution is to my own sense of self, my own well-being, my own desire to learn from and interact with other adults. Of course, I am also contributing to my finances, and I won’t deny that the extra money every 2 weeks is a bonus! Selfish reasons maybe, but there is no burden of proof that is owed to anyone anymore. I get up and go to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings because I want to. Because I like to. Because it is necessary for me to forge a sense of ownership about myself. Because I do not have to think of how my days and nights are, or are not, making someone else happy or content.

I do this job for me, and that makes all the difference.




I want to get my weather whining over right away, because I really have no reason to whine given what others are facing both across my state as well as to the south. It is too hot, too humid, and smoke is blanketing this area like a winter quilt. My eyes hurt, my nose itches, and I’m coughing. Plus I break out into a sweat if I walk from the kitchen to my living room. I don’t like it.

Okay, I’m done with that part.

Do you remember some of my brief mentions of Sam, the neighbor in Apt. 2? The crusty old curmudgeon. The guy who has had some sort of monopoly over the laundry room electric meter for ages. The guy who cared for his mother for years after her stroke until she died. The man who has taken over 4 months to move out of here and back to his own apartment.

Sam is out, but Sam left with a bang. Literally. Sam and his friend Eve left (we assumed) for good on Saturday. I won’t lie, Apt. 1 tenant Nancy and I had a little happy dance outside when we believed him to be gone. She has her reasons, and my reasons developed quickly as I learned just after moving in that curmudgeon or not, Sam is a controlling abuser. His control and his verbal and emotional abuse were always directed toward Eve. I don’t have to go into detail regarding the things I heard in the last month. You are all intelligent enough to figure it out. There is a backstory there, concerning Eve, but I have no idea how or why she came into the picture, nor do I know anything about her or her life. While I fear for this woman, and grieve for her in her choice to stay around this man, I also selfishly rejoiced on Saturday that he had moved on.

Then Sunday night happened.

Their car drove in and they began to haul the remaining crap from the apartment. The landlord had come over early that day. I assumed, after seeing what was left, that he had contacted Sam and told him to get the crap out, but no, Sam still had his keys and still had intentions to linger and take his time removing the leftover junk.

Eve was set to work, hauling and dumping and removing while Sam, in his typical manner, sat back, or wandered around checking for what I can only assume to be things he deems to be out of place or not meeting his demands. About 1 hour into this return visit the loud, hateful words began toward Eve. I was just beginning to text the landlord, when I heard the laundry room door open. Sam was checking (as he always had) to see if laundry had been done in the 24 hours that he had been absent. Apt. 1 Nancy, who finally felt as if she was free to use our own laundry room and not the local coin-op facility had done laundry Saturday night, after they left. She never does laundry here…ever.

Sam immediately assumed that it was me. I know because he stood outside my open kitchen window and loudly announced, “You did laundry again and DIDN’T PAY!” He moved on to call the landlord and scream the same thing to him, again outside my window. As my fingers hovered over 911 on my phone the laundry room door slammed shut and there were bellows for Eve to “come now!” The apartment door was slammed so hard I expected to see glass on the sidewalk. The car roared off around the corner and we haven’t seen Sam since.

The landlord has been back, changing locks just in case, and apologizing more than is necessary. He has a major job ahead to get that apartment ready for someone new. Sam has been threatened with police action should he appear here again. I have been told to call 911 immediately if I see him. Nancy feels bad because the use of her own laundry room led to some of this chaos. I’ve tried to assure her that Sam could and would be able to create chaos regardless of the laundry situation. I cannot begin to imagine what life will be like for Eve should she continue to stay with Sam, and I believe she will.

Apartment life in what I believed to be a small, quaint, community…