The Chef’s Wife

22 06 2010

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Hidden Agenda

22 01 2010

My viola professor in college always talked about his housemate. A good looking 30-something year old man with a same-sex roommate can only mean one thing. I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t just come out and say it. It was obvious. Everyone knew. Perfectly manicured nails and effeminate gestures. Why pretend otherwise? Because it was 1994, and we lived in Western Michigan. It would be another 3 years before Ellen came out of the closet and before the lesbian scene on Xena Warrior Princess. And 10 years before we would be all deemed lepers and have same sex marriage and domestic partnerships banned in the state of Michigan.

Back then I didn’t understand that it was different being out at work verses being out with friends at college. When you get into a profession, there’s more to lose. You want to be respected by your coworkers and trusted by your clients. If you’re perceived as being gay that can will negatively effect people’s perceptions of you and your work.

When I started at the hospital in 1999, I wasn’t out. At first I was the young professional with the 3-tone spiky hair and the hole in my nose. I didn’t start wearing my nose piercing for another 5 years. I was young enough that having a roommate wasn’t a red flag for queerness. And for my patients, I was whatever they needed me to be—that conservative Christian nurse administering to their needs.

But when my “roommate” died, I had difficulty explaining it to my coworkers. I was devastated. I couldn’t even call into to work, because I would start bawling as soon as I tried to explain. My friend called in for me.

“They’re asking what’s the relationship.” She held her hand over the phone and looked at me. The amount of time off allowed for bereavement depended on the relationship to the deceased. “Roommate” was not a listed relationship.  I shrugged and waved my hands in the air.

“She’ll have to explain that,” she said.

It was 2 weeks before I returned to work. I’m sure some people guessed, but it was never really discussed. Only a couple of my coworkers really knew. And after that there was really no point in telling everyone that I was gay, because I wasn’t with anyone anymore.

I let my hair grow out, and started wearing it in a conservative old lady bun. People treat you differently when you have long hair. Men hold open doors and give you their numbers. I blended in. I kept my next relationship to myself. I even had roommates that were just roommates.

In 2004, one of my coworkers asked me to sign a petition banning same sex marriage. She didn’t ask me just once. She asked me twice—like she had forgotten that I refused the first time. Either it was a witch hunt and she had found me, or I blended in that well. Around that same time I had protested at the Kent County Court house to allow for gay marriage. Between the Lines had interviewed me at the protest and put my picture in their paper.

I sent my boss an e-mail telling her how uncomfortable I had been with the situation. Work is not the place for anyone’s political forum. A week later, we were all required to attend a mandatory meeting on the zero tolerance harassment policy. I was surprised to find that sexual orientation was included. Wow, I was protected.

Once you have established yourself in a certain way, as a certain type of person, it’s difficult to change. In 2005 I had a private commitment ceremony with my girlfriend. I decided that I would wear my titanium wedding band to work. If my coworkers asked, I would tell them. Nobody asked. I continued on as before.  When my ex-girlfriend died in 2006, I took a day off work for my deceased “friend.” I remember Val asked me, “But you weren’t as close to this friend as your other one?” I couldn’t really answer, because we weren’t that close anymore, but we had been the same amount of close at one time.

I spent 36 hours every week for 10 years with my coworkers, but there was always this barrier. I never realized the amount of stress it created by not being out. Energy that could have been used making friendships was used to maintain the self-ostracizing/self-censoring glass bubble. Toward the end many people knew, and I was able to talk more—mostly because of my Facebook status. I might have pretended at work, but I wasn’t going to pretend elsewhere. And I think if I would have trusted them enough to give them a chance, it might have been different.

I’m out at my new job.  I talk about my partner instead of my roommate. I didn’t want it to be like it was at my old job. Wondering if people knew or not. Waiting for people to find out.  Not being able to talk about my life. Not being able to explain that I need time off because my partner is seriously ill or dead. And honestly, I feel more relaxed even though I’m caring for patients that are more acutely and critically ill.

It amazes me how accepting people are even from more conservative backgrounds. Really, no one gives a shit. When you finally show who you really are, you find that people like or dislike you just the same. You also find that you’re not the only one.  

As far as my patients go, I tell them what they want to hear. I’m married to my chef husband, Jack.

Zombie Nurse

29 12 2009

When I work 3rd shift, everyday is like waking up with a hangover. Body aches, head aches. Nothing that Motrin or Tylenol can really touch. A constant fuzziness in my brain, like the grey matter started to mold up there. Put that Reticular Activating System back in the crisper would you? Oops someone forgot to close the cerebellum bag. Now it’s all crusty and dry. Damn it. I was going to use that.

Can’t get enough sleep—ever. After three 12 hour shifts in a row, I crash. I go to bed during day light hours, but don’t wake up until it’s dark again. The daylight never happened. It’s winter in Michigan; there’s no daylight anyway.  In my dreams, I pop vitamin D pills like their M&Ms and visit long hallways filled with tanning beds and UV lights.  

The zombie apocalypse is real. We are the living zombies. We eat. We sleep. Sometimes we shit and shower. We go to work. And then we do it all over again. Notice that glazed look in our eyes. bRaIns! BrAiNs! We can’t seem to wake our brains. So we crave yours hoping that if we eat your dayshift brains, we will feel the sun on our pale dead bodies.

I watch other people sleep. I’m the night shift nurse with the squeaky shoes that opens the door every hour to make sure that you’re sleeping. This is why you can’t sleep in the hospital. I can’t sleep, so neither should you.

“Are you having any chest pain?” I ask.

“No, not right now. I’m sleeping,” You say.

“I could have sworn you said you were having chest pain.”

“I was sleeping”.

“Does this hurt?” I ask as I punch you in the chest.


“Better get you some nitro. Let me get your vital signs. While we’re at it, we should get a troponin and an EKG.”

The phlebotomist jabs a needle in your vein while the respiratory therapist places cold electrodes on your chest.

“But it doesn’t really hurt that much,” You say.

I pump the blood pressure cuff up to 250mmHg.

When I’m not working, I have found that activities that used to be enjoyable have lost their appeal.

Instead of cooking, I point and click on Facebook’s Café World.  I point and click an entire meal, watching virtual people enjoy gingerbread houses, pot roasts and gourmet duck. Wish I felt like cooking.

Instead of writing, I watch Buck Roger’s Episodes on Hulu.

Instead of going to the movies, I stream movies through the Xbox from Netflix.

Eating? Brains sound good. Otherwise I’m a little nauseated. Healthy choices like vegetables and fruits seem obsolete. I want brains and junk food. Brains and chocolate chip cookies. Brains and chips.

Why bother getting dressed on my days off? For that matter, why bother showering? I’m probably just going to get back into bed in a few hours anyway, so that I can sleep during those normal sleeping hours when it’s dark–instead of working under fluorescent lights. So off days become pajama days on the couch. Followed by more sleeping in the bed.

Naptime replaces all favorite hobbies, interests and relationships.

The Longest Relationship I Ever Had

25 09 2009

10 years and 7 months—something like that. Almost everything I know about nursing, I learned there. My job has probably been the only stable thing in my life. I have moved 8 times, lost 2 partners, almost lost my mom, watched my father-in-law die, started and abandoned the MSN program and finished my MFA. That’s the short version.

 Even before the restructuring, I knew the end was drawing near.  I could feel it at 6:30 am as I walked down the long corridor. I wondered how many more times I would ride the elevator to my floor. What was next? I kept having dreams about tornadoes and tsunamis. These dreams are often about change and rebirth. I thought maybe I would die in a fiery plane crash on my way to Nebraska. That obviously didn’t happen.

 Yesterday I worked the last day at my 1st nursing job. I didn’t know it was going to be my last day until the day before. It was anti-climatic. A regular let’s discharge everybody Friday. No bangles. No buzzers. No banners. Just an e-mail on how I’ll leave a void. Assholes leave voids too.

 Packed up my stash of snacks. Emptied the freezer. Shredded my mail file and evaluation portfolio. Picked out the books that were still relevant.

All day I made a list in my head of the things that I won’t miss. All the discharge paper work—not many people are discharged on the night shift. Not having a bright light over the bed. Being on the last floor the doctors come to round. Getting up at 4:30am. The constant ring of the phone. Semi-private rooms. Medications in a million different places. Being Vocera-ed for stupid ass shit—but maybe that will be somebody else’s job.

J.G. asked me if I was a little sad. She asked if I was going to miss them. I said that I was and that I would, but I hesitated a little and laughed at the end. So she didn’t believe me. You’re not really sad, she said. Well, I am, but I don’t want to be. And I most certainly don’t want to be in front of people. It’s hard to be sad when I know I’m only going to be 5 floors down, and in all likelihood will be back as a float staff from my new floor. And it’s hard to be sad when I don’t feel anything yet. Except a sinking, nauseated feeling in my stomach. Besides nobody died. Everybody is still right there where I left them—for now.

I stood in my boss’s office to say good-bye. I think maybe she was holding back tears. Maybe. It was verging on something emotional, and I didn’t like it. I had this compulsion to hug her, but I know she doesn’t like hugs. Instead I said, this feels weird, so I’m out of here.

Truthfully, I’m scared shitless. I’ll be the one orientating, not mentoring someone else.  I’ll be the new person. I’ll be the person who doesn’t know stuff. And I’m really going to miss them.

You suck.

29 08 2009

I don’t think I have ever received so many rejections in my life. And they are so passive. I would feel better if they just punched me in the face or kicked me in the ass. Glimmer Train rejected “The Key Collector.” Only they don’t even use the term rejection. It just states “complete.” Meaning they have looked at my shit, and they don’t want it, but thank you anyway.  No letter about how much I suck or why I suck or how I could suck less. Or maybe I need to suck more or suck at something else. 


I have never been rejected by any colleges/universities that I applied to–graduate or undergraduate. Until 2004, I had never been denied a job that I applied for. Now that job applications are mostly on-line, you get these pre-canned messages. “Better qualified candidates were selected”. Or you just don’t hear back at all. And you’re damn lucky to get an interview. I even signed up as a volunteer at the literacy center. You think I’ve heard back from them? I can’t even give my services away.

Naked Moms & Notes on being even more pathetic

28 08 2009

Goddamn it. Mom wants to be my Facebook friend. WTF? She’s not the most computer literate person. But I’m sure one thing will lead to another, and she’ll find my irreverent blog. Fucking A. So much for getting myself out there.

Any suggestions? I can’t not friend my own mother. I’m sorry you gave birth to me, but you can’t be my Facebook friend. Letting Mom read my stuff is like being naked. It’s not cool to be naked in front of your mom. Not cool at all.

Speaking of nakedness and mothers–not to be confused with naked mothers. Mom’s been wearing this rather thin, worn night gown. She needs a new one. It’s so thin she wears a robe over it. She says they don’t have nightgowns anymore only pjs. I find this hard to believe. Anyway . . .I ask her what’s wrong with pjs. She says that she wears a nightgown because Dad likes easy access. I can’t believe my mother is saying shit like this. My mother who doesn’t like to discuss sex, religion or politics.

On another note –the bitching about work note–I applied for the ICU/TU position again. Never got an interview the last time. That’s pathetic. Not being able to even get an interview with the organization I currently work for. Please hire me. I’m pathetic and poor. I can be cute too if you just give me a chance. Smart? We’ll have to work on smart.

Changed my cover letter. Cited specific examples of how awesome I was the last time I worked on their floor. If this doesn’t work, I may have to resort to a fictional resume or maybe a creative non-fiction with a disclaimer. *Certain facts were embellished. *Certain events were manufactured. *References may be manufactured for aesthetic reasons.

Protected: Flexible

20 08 2009

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