To be precious.

It was instilled in me at a fairly early age by our dear friends in the American media that to be considered beautiful or precious in these great United States a girl had to be thin, petite and preferably Caucasian. (None of these obviously, described me :p). As a little girl, I watched an ungodly amount of television and poured through mountains of fashion magazines. Rarely did I ever find someone that looked like me (that was until the Cosby Show came a long, but that would be way later.)

My adult perspective mostly allows me to look past the often intentional transgressions of the American media, but every now and then when triggered by certain  forms of fuckery, my childhood inferiority complex is shaken back to life. For instance, when the tea party was in full on post-election  “take back our county” swing in 2009; I couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a billboard with some doe eyed cherry cheeked cherub staring at me.  The message was typically something having to do with protecting her future from “big government”.

Every time I saw those damn things, I’d become enraged. It wasn’t the the child’s image that set me ablaze,  but rather what the imagery implied.  Not once did I see one of these brazen take back America manifestos with a Black child, or a Latino child, or an Asian child … hell I never saw one with a boy on it.  Just a small, White, “innocent”, “fragile” female.  As is usual when I am highly pissed off, my creative juices began to flow.  I’d already been gathering ideas for a play about the black female psyche called Oppression Pop. 5. I knew right away that my anger about the limited view of what it means to be “precious” in the eyes of some Americans had a place within it.

The subject matter of the play is not easy, but definitely warrants  an open honest dialogue.  In Charlotte?  Open of mind and empty of stomach?  Join Kendrea Mekkah and I next Sunday for Dinner and A Reading, where we’ll be reading Oppression Pop. 5, enjoying a delicious meal of soul food, and discussing themes from the play!

Rosie.

Here’s a word from me and Mekkah!

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Rosie’s hierarchy of deeds

Level I:  The Bottom Line – (breathe, eat, sleep, crap, pay rent … repeat.)

I like my job.  My day job … respiratory therapy … yeah, like it. I like the hospital where I work, and the folks (day and night shift) that I work with. I do not  love my job. I don’t love it for reasons that have nothing to do with the job itself, more so than I do not enjoy being under the employ of others. I do not like other people having the ability to decide (at their on discretion, by the way, in this great state of North Carolina) whether or not I will receive a pay check that I will use to support myself and my family.  What I have come to learn though is that it’s not necessarily the employment, but the attitude that I carry in with me that determines whether or not I am happy.  We gotta work, there’s no denying that, sooo …

I work.  And  on my way to work this past Thursday, as is often customary, I was listening to NPR.  Then this warming humanitarian piece came pouring through the car stereo:

(the entire piece can be read here.)

All manner of bells, whistles, and alerts went off. Negro spirituals ebbed and flowed, pickaninnies danced spirited jigs, visions of Haile Selassie with a shine kit ready to buff well worn loafers into golden sandals appeared and disappeared.  Then Rush … Rush Limbaugh in all his boundless wisdom entered and said, “Goddam liberal media.” –– and I agreed with him (terrifying, I know).

Maybe in an America in an alternate universe where the African Slave Trade never happened, where blacks many years post slavery were not largely prevented performing anything but menial work due to roadblocks in education, financial, and sociological advancement, this story could be a soul stirring human interest story.  This ain’t that America.  And I could not conceive of how this story got green lighted.  I mean JEEZ:

At Concourse D, there’s one shoeshiner with a thick African accent, a soul patch, and an interesting story to tell.”

 Like what in the entire fuck  is and “African accent” or a soul patch for that matter.  Ok … digressing.

During my post listen nausea I began to think of the very sordid and stereotype riddled relationship with blacks and labor in this country, and realized that this was probably another source for my disdain for work. Then some of my humanist buddhisty thought kicked in (which is great, because being frustrated with racism in this “post racial” world is  exhausting.)  This allowed my view to broaden enough for me to arrive at the next level.

Level II: Be SOMEBODY! – (I want you to want me, I need you to need me.)

I dare say that everybody wants to be important/significant/necessary.  In our society, and in many for that matter, a person’s livelihood or role in that society is the means by which people arrive at their “somebodyhood”.  Which works, except when it doesn’t.  I will refer to my healthcare career again here.

During my career I have met the most brilliant CNAs (nurse aids as they were once called) and the most brilliantly idiotic doctors (some dangerously so).  In the healthcare hierarchy of deeds it is the MD that receives all the respect and accolades in the general public, followed closely by nursing.  What the general public does not often see, unless they have the misfortune of becoming ill, is the entire healthcare team.

Respiratory therapists, pharmacy techs, secretaries, lab, x-ray, PT, OT, Speech therapists, the social work team, environmental services, clinical engineering … we make up an intricate web of people who take care of those who have limited or no ability to take care of themselves. We are where the rubber meets the road, the folks that carryout the orders of the good (and not so good) doctors. I’m not saying that I haven’t worked with some amazing doctors in my time as a therapist because I have and without nursing there would be a gaping hole in healthcare that would be impossible to fill, but it sucks that as important/significant/necessary/ as our jobs are people often don’t know or care that we’re doing them … unless we’re not.

So why do we still do the work? Mainly because of the bottom line, but when you find folks that have hung in there for years and are still generally happy there’s usually a bigger reason (either that or they’re masochists 😉 ).   At our core, or at least at mine, I enjoy people.  My patients, my co-workers, err body.  They make the work I do bearable. Over the years we have loved each other through unspeakable tragedy and limitless joy.  I have laughed harder than I have ever laughed at work and cried harder than I have ever cried.  It was this that I was thinking of when I made my final decent into the parking lot of “The U” last Thursday.  I was glowing with the light of universal love and brotherhood. I had arrived at …

Level III:  I AM somebody.

My mother is the foundation of my beliefs about work.  She worked hard from age 16 to age 42 at a job on which she was one of the first blacks.  She had to take a test to even get the job, an effort by a then lily white company (New Jersey Bell) to keep blacks out. My mother went on to become a union delegate.  She fought (sometimes literally) for the rights of the worker that while they might not be recognized individually that they be respected and treated fairly.  This I believe this to be the real bottom line, decent work for decent compensation and fair treatment. My mother was never one to see one person’s job as important and another person’s as insignificant. Work was work.  I couldn’t appreciate her example then,  but I do now.

As much as it pains me to admit it, even the shoe shiner’s job is important/significant/necessary.  It provides a moment of respite for the weary business traveler, a means of financial support for “Shine”, his family, and the league of Ethiopian shoe shiners in training he has back at home (I’m sorry … I’m trying to let it go, but can’t he find something else to do?) Just as the healthcare team is a bridge of support for the sick, we are a bridge of support for one another in life. Each section of the bridge from the bolts (shoe shines) to the the planks (doctors) perform a function that we might not necessarily understand, but without which we would be lacking.

Rosie.

A Letter to the Respiratory Therapist

Dearest RT,

I have often said that we are the red headed step children of the health care industry. Not yet able to enjoy the respect that comes with longevity of similar careers like nursing, we are still after decades of existence a bit of an enigma to everyday people. Some might have noticed our name yelled during episodes of their favorite hospital drama. After all the business of saving lives is complete the heroic MD yells with deep conviction

“Call respiratory and tell them to bring a vent!”

As he clutches an endotracheal tube that is nowhere near secure in a patient that isn’t even being bagged. As if we’re off somewhere slamming down doughnuts as we wait for vents to be called for.

What everyday man often doesn’t know is we would have been there from the word go. Nor do they know that in many cases it us who often secures the airway , initiates “life support”, and then asks that the MD get called so we can tell them what we did. Little does the everyday man know how hard we work to cover anywhere between 10-25 patients per therapists per shift while having to be prepared to drop it all and see about the emergencies (and quasi emergencies whenever summoned.) We are often unappreciated, misunderstood, and unfortunately mistreated by those whose team we’re supposed to be on. Yes, red headed step children.

Notice I said “often” not always, as there are those times, hospitals, and situations where all the stars align and therapists are truly made to feel a part of the team. Our experience and knowledge are valued. People actually know our names instead of yelling “RESPIRATORY!” down the hallway behind us. I have been fortunate in my now almost 12 year career to have enjoyed these circumstances and I’m truly grateful for these times.

When it’s bad though, it’s really really bad. I have worked in places where therapists have been reduced to the role of nothing more than a button pusher or knob turner having their clinical skills and knowledge completely disregarded by people who often don’t fully understand the purpose and action of therapies they’re requesting then being told or shown by their own management that we have to “take one for the team.” To understand this I have to go back to the point that the general public and alas some healthcare professionals have no clue, or worse, no respect for what we do. I don’t pretend to know how to change this other than to keep doing what we’re doing. Do it well. Do it consistently, stay educated in the field and stand our ground in the face of adversity and ignorance. Combat ignorance with education and open dialogue, and maybe…just maybe, things will change.

I write this letter from a place of appreciation and love for everything this career has done for my life and the many wonderful people it has placed in it. My patients! The reason why I can do what I do in the first place. The good ones, the mean ones, the in-between ones, but especially the pleasantly confused ones whose shenanigans make my night whiz by. The nursing staff who I’ve saved lives side by side with, cried with in tragedy, and even laughed with in tragedy (cause you gotta laugh to keep from cryin’ right?). The MDs, who don’t let their egos get in the way of what is best for a patient, who once they understood that I knew what I was doing allowed me to DO MY JOB! The unit secretaries, radiology, lab techs, pharmacy, environmental, hospital security without you guys there is no us, because we are ALL critical to lives of the patients we care for whether we know, or are told that or not.

I’m in the process of stepping back from this career that has been a defining part of my life since I was pregnant with my son and into one as a writer. Eventually, (if all goes well) I won’t be practicing much if at all. However, everything I learned while a therapist will carry me in to the tough business of the written word. After all what can thicken your skin or grow you as a person more than dealing with life, death, and every manifestation of the human being on a daily/nightly basis? I promise to one day write our story that people may continue to come to better know and understand who we are. I promise to tell our story to the best of my rotten ability!

To all my fellow RTs:

Your name is NOT “respiratory”. Your knowledge and experience matter even when those around you would make you feel that it doesn’t. Go forth, give nebs, save lives, be as BRILLIANT as you are, and smile because you are somebody!

With Love,

Stacey Rose RRT, RCP

The Zion Chronicles: …and we’re back.

When I was a kid this time of year always seemed like a new beginning to me. I returned to school, with a fresh mind, a willing heart, and a glimmer in my eye. Often my hopes were dashed by 3rd period, but this did not keep the post holiday after glow from returning each year. I have since transposed this yearly hope shot to my son and my outlook on his education. Each year he’s been in school this time of year has often spelled a new beginning. This year, with things being the way they are, I’m not so sure.

This is the first year that he had work to complete and turn in over the holiday. A science project specifically. A science project that he left all instructions for in parts unknown. This slip in consciousness had me emailing, texting, calling (technology I tell ya!), and hair pulling until we finally came up with a full set of instructions. A tedious 3 days later we look at a project that was complete, but definitely not what I would have him hand in. I decided to let it go because while it wasn’t what I think he was capable of I watched him work. He was definitely putting forward his best effort.

He would stop to ask me to repeat instructions again. He’d work a little more, then stop again, and ask me what I thought…again. I began to realize that he was working to make me happy. To satisfy what I thought was right. When I took a look at the whole process it dawned on me he’d sought my advice down to the medium he chose to use to create the project. It made me incredibly sad to watch this kids scurry around trying to get it just right so I would approve. This was not the parent I wanted to be, but it was the parent I’d become. Somewhere along the line I’d stripped my child of the ability to stand confident in his own decisions.

That’s the shit that sticks with a kid into adulthood. I know because I am/was one of those kids. At 34 I still feel more settled in decisions that I make that my mother agrees with than ones that I make that she doesn’t. What’s crazy is even when I am 100% correct in my decision I still doubt myself. Example, I refused to get Zion a PSP for Christmas because of his lack of effort in school. She disagreed. She felt that since she’s never penalized us for Christmas that I shouldn’t penalize him. I sat for about two weeks in a mud puddle of guilt and frustration, but I didn’t buy the damn game! I also didn’t provide him with a lavish Christmas because it wasn’t warranted, and it would have reinforced some behaviors that for sure didn’t need reinforcement.

Thank the powers that be for growth. To think, if I hadn’t done some growing up and out of this codependent pattern behavior, I might not be writing right now. I might not have chosen theatre as a career option at 30. We are not our parents. Our children are not us. I want nothing but the best for Zion, but there is going to come a point (and I feel it’s coming soon) that what he feels is best for him and what I feel is best for him is going to veer off in different directions. I have to accept it or the next few years are going to be hell on earth. Hence me letting his science project be exactly what he made it. His.

He went to turn the project in today. So many of the kids hadn’t done it that she gave them until Friday to complete it. It figures. He brought it back home and resigned to start over. I gave him total autonomy, but advised that if his second draft failed to be completed the first one would have to do. Maybe I’m letting go too much. I’m not sure how involved I should be. This whole business is like stumbling around in the dark to find a light switch in an unfamiliar space. Hopefully I’ll just stumble along and not bust my ass completely, and pray god, avoid causing any permanent damage to Zion’s tender developing ego.

With a lingering hint of after glow, and hope that this week’s testing turns up some answers to Zion’s educational woes…

Rosie.

The Zion Chronicles: Throw everything at the wall…something will stick.

Today finds me in a very reasonable non-desperate place in my parenting situation. I’m truly grateful for this. What we’ve been up to? Well, much of the same. Threatening. Screaming. Yelling. Punishing. Sighing. Crying. Sadness. I got profoundly sad, then depressed over my son and his inability to “get” it. I spent about a week or two in bed feeling sorry for myself and my ineffective parenting skills. I wallowed. Oh how I wallowed. I found no point in going on. I felt worthless. I wanted to die (no bullshitting). I. I…was the most self centered muphucka on the planet for two weeks. The bottom line is, they aren’t my grades. I don’t have to suffer any of the consequences of them. My job as a parent is to guide and to be there when needed. Both of which I always do, even at my most paranoid and overbearing.

We stayed in the fight. Even when we hated each other, because honestly looking back over the last few weeks; I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have run away or gone emo if I had me for a mom. In the midst of our everyday grind something came to me. We hadn’t played, genuinely played, for a very long while. Maybe because somewhere inside me I felt that I wasn’t doing my job if I allowed him to goof off. What I didn’t think about is that I was doing him and our relationship a severe disservice. Play is JUST as important as work. When I took an honest look at my child’s life I saw that it was mainly work with scattered instances of play that I would stifle as quickly as they arose. What an f’n Scrooge I’d become!

So, I as an experiment (we’ll see how this works folks) decided to play a game with him for 15 minutes for every homework assignment he completes. This accomplishes few things: First, It allows him a break. Second, it allows me to play with him and give him the time with me that he clearly wants (as can be seen by his eagerness to complete assignments per they’re requirement so we can play) and I get time with him, which I want :). It’s been pretty cool so far too!

We’ve been playing Table Topics (which I didn’t initially think he’d like, but it was what was here). If you’re not familiar with Table Topics it’s a game that’s basically a stack of questions that the players go around asking each other. Some are about life experience, others about thoughts on topics, dreams, aspirations. It turns out Zion loves this game. He digs finding out things about me and telling me things about him (he actually confessed stealing a power ranger action figure when he was younger!)

Sidebar: I am having him tested for a learning disability. He resents me a little for it, no matter how much I explain it doesn’t make him stupid, but he’s a kid. I get how he feels. No one wants to be different. As a parent though, I MUST be sure all my bases are covered to ensure he’s getting everything he needs from his educators (and hell yes you have to jump in with both feet when you’re dealing with CMS!)

I can’t say what any of this done for his grades yet (with an overall more healthy emotional well being I’m sure they will at least stabilize, I pray!) I’m seriously trying to let that go for now, but it’s worked wonders for our relationship in just a short period. I’m also doing a lot of work on me. So I don’t take his comments, rants, and attitudes personally. So I don’t feel like I have to fight every battle tooth and nail. So I don’t feel like I have to physically assert my dominance when he’s just doing the things kids do. I won’t be disrespected for sure. However I don’t have to disrespect him to gain that respect. Pretty good feeling.

Yes, I’m still here. Still in it, but now working with my son, instead of against him. It’s working. For now.

Rosie.

The Zion Chronicles: Slap goes the two piece

To give you an example of just how damn QUICK it gets on and poppin’ between my loving son and I:

Friday afternoon. An easy pick up day as the weekend is upon us and there was no need to deal with homework right away. Wait? I’d already said I wasn’t anyway. So there really shouldn’t be an issue right? Ten minutes into our car ride I remind him I had a show and see if he still wanted to go (as he said he wanted to earlier). He says yes, so we head off to get some subs before I’m called. We get said subs, everything is going great and we strike up a conversation about acting.

I have always said and believe that my son is a stronger actor than me. He just has an ability to shed fear instantly when faced with an audience that I have yet to acquire. He says he didn’t know I felt that way. I once again acknowledge what I’d said. Then I’m not sure if he starts to analyze any of my prior performances in his mind, but a second or so later he tells me that he’d noticed how nervous I’d always seemed on stage. I, having to perform that night am not stomaching this too well (maybe I would have at a different time, but not just then. Alas children have no filter.) I ask him firmly and repeatedly to not use my compliment as a weapon to make me feel bad about myself. He glares at me momentarily, and as I’m asking him to confirm that he won’t he refuses to open his mouth. I told him since he can’t answer me he could stay home because I didn’t need to bring that type of negativity with me to a performance.

(side note: This is a pet peeve of mine. Why the hell do people always want to stir up some unresolved whatever or some new bullshit right when you are about to do something major?! Aarrgh!)

I let it go with little struggle, and even managed to turn on some music for the remainder of the ride home. We get to the house. He rushes out of the car, and speed walks to the door not wanting me to get the opportunity to unlock it. He bangs on it so his Grandmother will answer. She does. He jams through the door. She give me the “What-happened-now” face. I tell her what happened and mean while Zion has descended upon her left over two-piece chicken and biscuit from lunch. Like his Mom he’s an emotional eater. I tell him point blank to put it down and that he doesn’t get to pig out because he’s pissed with me. He chooses to ignore me and attempts to brush past me still snacking so I slap it out of his hand. It felt pretty juvenile, and it was a direct response to how disrespected I felt and how furious I was (I even made him pick it up 😦 ).

That is the kind of stuff that I want to stop doing, and I know if I keep acknowledging the behavior and trying to make changes those changes will assuredly come.

Keep dancing, singing, swimming, praying, and waving your magic sticks for me.

Rosie.