Tuesday, December 03, 2013

top ten most portlandy things that happened on my thanksgiving trip to portland

1. For lunch yesterday I had a burrito with maple-glazed delicata squash in it and a vegan marionberry ginger smoothie.

2. My family's Black Friday was spent at the Pendleton Woolen Mills outlet.

3. The following text message, from my sister's friend:

4. Conversation with my friend's roommate shortly after roommate came home:

Me: So, what have you been up to today?
Friend's Roommate: Oh, I was just at the anarchist meeting.
Me: . . .
FR: [rolls cigarette]

5. A strikingly beautiful in an alien kind of way white girl with blonde dreadlocks wearing Vibram FiveFingers, standing next to a rainbow painted bicycle, and playing the accordion.

6. This license plate/car combo:

7. A store called Clogs-N-More, with their expansive clog selection arranged by color.

8. People dressed as Homer Simpson and a Grateful Dead bear holding up signs to lure passersby into a store called Mary Jane's House of Glass.

[no photo to show here, sadly]

9. Rain.

10. There is no ten, because I spent most of my time outside the city wearing flannel pajama pants, allowing my mom to show her love for me by buying me things, letting dogs lick my face, beating everyone at Scrabble, and reading books by famous internet people, all of which I highly recommend. Especially letting dogs lick your face.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


[This weekend I visited friends in NY and discussed my blog with one of them and how I hadn't posted anything in ages but I had a bunch of like 3/4-written posts, and he was like "they're probably good!" and I was like "meh." On the off chance he's right, here is a post I wrote a couple weeks ago but didn't actually post, lamenting how I hadn't posted anything in a long time. Enjoy!]

Oh jeez. I haven't posted in four months. And my last post was about how I hadn't posted in a long time. And how maybe I'd go back and finish posts I'd started in the, like, four months prior to that. Well, I didn't finish any of those. And now I have a whole nother collection of partially done posts that I also probably won't finish.

Here's some work-related stuff, both current and from four months ago.

One important role of The Nurse is patient education--about their meds, their treatment plan, their illness, their dietary choices OMG please don't take three desserts and two sweetened iced teas with your dinner now I am totally going to have to page the doctor when we check your blood sugar at bedtime and then check it again at midnight. Anyway, the other night, about four months ago, I was in the Med Room getting my patient's nighttime meds ready, and, as I usually do when I give out meds other than like Tylenol and Maalox, I assess to see whether the patient knows what medication he or she is taking and what it is for.

Me: Can you tell me what you take at night?
Patient: Zyprexa.
Me: Yep! And can you tell me what the Zyprexa's for?
Patient: Yeah, it's for racism.
Me: Oh, um. Actually. Soooo it's to help clear your thoughts.
Patient: No, it's for racism.
Me: Okay. Would you like water or orange juice with that?

In my charting of this teaching, I put "requires reinforcement" in the Comprehension category.

In every patient's History and Physical and admission documentation is their Chief Complaint. This is, essentially, the reason the patient came into the hospital. It may not necessarily be what is actually wrong with the patient. So we try to use direct quotes, rather than make assumptions. So, like, if I go to the ER, and I say, "It burns when I pee," my Chief Complaint would be "It burns when I pee" and not "urinary tract infection." Because maybe I could have chlamydia instead, or a recent unfortunate encounter with a jalapeno, or something. Anyway, and this is probably anticlimactic now that I've been rambling, but the best Chief Complaint I have seen in some time is:

. . .

"I am having psychiatric thoughts."

. . .


Some quotes from the psych Emergency Department chart I read the other day (four months ago):

"Patient is urinating on the floor, in Room D."

"Patient was admitted to Other Psych Unit in 1997 for increased energy and fear that her kittens were sabertooth tigers."

"Patient needs admission for behavior incompatible with living in society."


The other day (like, within the last few weeks) I, with only the most serious intentions, attempted to find the scientific term for "booger" on Google. A very disorganized schizophrenic patient had had a large booger hanging out of her nose, you see, and seemed to be unaware of this. So I handed her a tissue, told her she had a booger hanging out of her nose, and asked her to wipe her nose with the tissue. She did (after first attempting to wipe her nose with the blanket she had draped over her head like a nun's habit). And then she threw the booger-y tissue at our unit clerk. I reprimanded, er, provided redirection to, the patient, and told her that tissues go in the garbage. "I thought she WAS the garbage!" the patient replied.

So anyway, I wanted to document this incident in the patient's Behavior Description note. But it felt weird to write "booger" in there--an electronic document that could potentially be read by other nurses and physicians and (long shot) legal people. But it turns out there is no scientific term for booger. The closest I could find is rhinolith, which is a calcium deposit in the nose and decidedly NOT a booger, and "dried nasal mucus," which is just lazy and not entirely descriptive. So "booger" it was.

I've written before how occasionally I have these moments when I catch myself looking at someone eating (usually alone) and feel a wave of profound sadness. I guess it's the sudden reminder that we're all really just these tiny organisms on a relatively tiny planet, subconsciously, automatically, just trying to keep ourselves alive. I could've had the same thought had I been floating above myself tonight, watching myself eat my home-cooked meal for one of seared polenta topped with tomato-portabello-olive sauce. Anyway, shit got even more profound the other night (a couple months ago) when I heard in Evening Report that Booger Patient had a new delusion that her father and two members of the clergy were coming to the unit to have dinner with her. And that she had prepared dinner trays for each of them, and set them on a table in the back hallway, on the other end of the unit from the dining area. Trays complete with an entree, a piece of fruit, a beverage or two, and a cup of ice.

No one was coming to visit her for dinner. These trays remained in the back hallway until night shift started (11pm) at which point I dumped the contents into the trash and stacked the trays on the kitchen counter for Nutrition to pick up in the morning.

Here is Isabella Rossellini "exploring the mating habits of snails." And other small creatures, if you poke around the Green Porno website (no pun intended), which I highly recommend.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


[Insert part where I playfully acknowledge that I have not blogged in a really long time--and make an excuse or two for that--here.]

But seriously, a short while back a writerly friend of mine* remarked that I hadn't written anything in a while, and I was like, "Ugh, I KNOW," and then she said, "No no! It actually makes me feel better about myself for not writing as much as I want to." And then I was like, "Sweet!" So, to the other writerly friend** who just pointed out I haven't been writing lately and asked, "What's up with that?", what's up is that I AM JUST BEING HELPFUL.

But really seriously, I have no excuse. I had some posts partially or mostly written, and never really put my butt in the chair long enough to put anything together. Or, rather, I put my butt in the chair plenty, but I spent too much time reading internet advice columns and refreshing my Facebook feed and looking at homeless dogs on Petfinder, willfully forgetting that I was working on anything. Here is a list of things I would've posted here, had I finished writing anything I started in the last three months.

Feb 13 - Therapeutic Groups, and my thoughts on leading them. "Group" is a regular and often dreaded part of my job but also one of my favorite parts, sometimes. It's kind of like physical exercise--I'll put it off and put it off and take the first step of putting on my gym clothes/printing out educational materials, and sometimes it'll end there but sometimes I'll actually follow through with it, and while it's happening and after it's over, I never, ever regret doing it.

Feb 15 - The Day After Valentines Day, and my thoughts on Valentine's Day. More specifically, a rundown of all the Valentine's Days I can remember from the last 31 years. Which is to say, like maybe 20% of them. I don't even remember what I did this year, and it was barely more than two months ago. [Update: A consultation with my Google Calendar reveals that I took a swimming lesson wearing brand new (cherry red!) athletic swim gear recently purchased from Amazon.com (with the intention of taking regular swimming lessons...yeah, that hasn't happened) and then made sure people weren't going into DTs on the Detox Unit.]

March 6 - Borderline Personality Disorder. I can't even... I am exhausted just thinking about this one. Here is a picture of Madonna in 1984.

March 23 - Funeral. I made a pilgrimage back home to Wisconsin for the first time in six years. For the funeral of a friend I loved since age 6. This is the one post I had the least written for, but the one I had, and still have, the most thoughts about.

March 29 - A Light Vocabulary Lesson! Terms that have recently been introduced to my medical vocabulary, for various reasons which I attempt to explain. Terms include: conversion disorder, feculent, vermilion border, and schizoid.

(I have a newish psychiatrist, who is the best, and she recently pointed out that I am really good at changing the subject immediately after talking about something uncomfortable. I think she might be on to something...??)

Anyway! I intend to finish the aforementioned posts, and post them here, soon. That may or may not happen, of course. So, stay tuned! Or not!


*MA - sorry
**DS - thanks for the kick in the rear

P.S. Here are a couple of work highlights from the last two days:

1. My coworker asks her patient to describe his mood. Most patients say "good," "alright," "terrible," etc. This patient says, "pussy." Coworker documents this mood description in the patient's chart, as we must do each shift. I imagine the Treatment Team reading this in Rounds the next morning and laugh, hard.

2. A patient comes up to me at 10:45 pm and asks for a bag of chips. She says: "Hi Gina, I don't know if I should ask you this because you're not my nurse, but can I have some chips? I never had a slumber party. My roommate is eating chips and it seems so fun! I'm just trying to be a normal person. One time I slept in the same room with another woman. She slept on a mat on the floor and I just fell asleep. I never had a slumber party." Of note, this middle-aged patient with chronic schizoaffective disorder is wearing a nightgown with cartoon cats snuggling in pairs printed on it, a hospital robe on top of that, and socks plus hot pink fuzzy slippers on her feet. She has had her own room throughout most of her lengthy hospitalization, but tonight was moved into a double room. My heart liquefies immediately. I totally get her a bag of chips. And she picks up an extra one for her new roommate.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

once upon a time there was no internet

This post goes out to all my New York and New England friends who are, I hope, cooped up inside during the snowstorm, drinking hot beverages and snuggling up next to soft, warm creatures. And to my nurse friends trying to keep their hospital-air-dried eyeballs open on night shift. (Isn't it amazing how as soon as you get home your eyelids start gliding over your corneas with ease again?) And also to anyone else reading this OMG I love you for reading thank you so much. Here is 5 minutes to 5 hours of internet time wasting, depending on how far you wanna go.

First up, The Virtual Autopsy. Or, as my sister calls it, the funnest game ever. Basically, you get a case description of someone who died, and then you click on body parts and see actual autopsied images of said parts, and then you try to determine the cause of death from a list of options. Get it correct and you move onto the next case. Wrong and . . . you get a delicate letdown and another chance. This game is all about learning, after all. My favorite part is that while TVA's subject matter is very real (think colorful images of cross-sectioned spleens), the creators are very matter-of-factly British, cheeky and cheerful:  
She was eating beans, a chip butty and beef sausages.
It is a pity that a doctor wasn’t on the flight to drain the pleural cavity with an empty pen casing or something similar.
[thank you, Sister, and Sister's medical informatics course at the University of British Columbia]

* * *
Via Dooce comes a Tumblr of crazy animal pictures and videos that make you think, "WTF, evolution??" It is called WTF, Evolution? There aren't that many posts yet, so I am thinking of making some submissions:

First up would be this Boston Terrier who likes getting his belly tickled.

[thanks, Max]

And maybe next up would be this worm, called a pigbutt worm. [tangentially via Mimismartypants]


* * *
The Amazon.com Banana Slicer is an oldie but a goodie that was recently re-brought to my attention by a Facebook friend. If you missed it the first time around, the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer is a real item for sale on Amazon.com, and there are thousands of reviews, 99% of them sarcastic. Many of them masterpieces. But my favorite reviews are (or at least appear to be) sincere. 

Says Frank T.:
Friends: Please be aware that most bananas come from Central America. Very few of those countries are democracies. In fact, some of them have been referred to as "Banana Republics." The bananas consume a lot of oil as they make their way to your grocer. Furthermore, I notice the Hutzler 571 is made of plastic, and will eventually end up in your local landfill. Those conveniently sized banana slices atop your GMO corn flakes won't taste quite the same after the sea levels rise high enough to flood your breakfast nook. I urge you to boycott eh Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer as well as bananas that are not grown near your home. 
Adds Susan T., from Whiteland, IN:
This product didn't work for me. Bananas aren't he same size, so the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer is sometimes too small. Cutting a banana down to size to use the slicer kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?
It certainly does.

* * *
And last but not least, my blog idol Mimi Smartypants goes to the gastroenterologist.
I am going on hour 20 of not eating anything besides “clear liquids,” and I have had it up to here with Sierra Goddamn Mist and green tea and water. Supposedly I am also allowed “broth.” Who the hell wants broth? Oh yay, broth! Bro, you brought broth! Hey everybody, there’s broth in the break room! These are phrases you do not hear. Fuck broth. Fuck it to death.
You know, I used to actually really like broth. My mom would always bring me some when I was sick, or occasionally when I was, um, having difficulties on the toilet (because broth = instant bowel movement? I don't know). Anyway, even when I wasn't sick and all systems were running smoothly, I'd often heat myself up some nice broth and put it in a Tupperware sippy cup. Maybe it made me feel taken care of. Or maybe I just really like salt. (I do really, really like salt.) In any case, the last time I drank straight broth was at least 20 years ago (holy shit) and the image of bros and broth together makes me laugh. Also, I now want to buy all the vintage Tupperware.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

cold leftovers

Here are some little nuggets I was going to put in my last post, but my last post turned out to be long enough, so I figured, "Hey, free post!" Or something. I just worked six days in a row and ended it by barricading a door while a nude, obese elderly woman charged at me with her walker, screaming obscenities because she wanted me to push her around in a wheelchair. She later apologized very sweetly and asked me to bring her a strawberry shortcake and give her a leg massage. I brought her the shortcake despite her poorly controlled diabetes and wiggled her feet around a bit. (You gotta pick your battles.) Anyway, I am tired.

Frequently, medical teams in one specialty need to consult medical teams in another. For example, if our 38-weeks-pregnant psych patient is reporting contractions, we get on the horn with OB. When this happens, the consulting team writes a note about their findings, and the home team mentions the consultation in their OWN note, to indicate that all bases have been covered. When the consulting team has not found anything and doesn't feel the need to pursue the issue further, the home team will write that the consulting team "was not impressed." I love this.

Patient does not, in fact, have symptoms of meningitis? "Neurology was not impressed." [And thousands of dollars are spent on tests anyway to prevent the teeny tiny likelihood of being sued.]

Patient who's 38 weeks pregnant and reporting contractions but who is also attention-seeking and dramatic? "OB was not impressed."

The skin around patient's feeding tube is reddened and pus-y and painful and causing him to whimper each time you administer anything through it or change the oozy gauze dressing? "GI was not, for some reason, impressed."

(Poor guy.)

* * *
In nursing school, we are taught to write all our notes in a 100% objective manner. There should be no opinions, assumptions, judgments, etc in nursing notes (there totally are, of course, but that is another post). "Patient showed this. Patient said this. This treatment was given. The result was this." Done. Doctors, however, who should probably be more objective than they are but whose jobs revolve around rendering opinions, have much more leeway. The other day I was reading a History and Physical on a new patient. At the end there's always a plan, often many different plans if a patient has multiple issues. At the very end of one patient's list of plans was the following:

Those toenails have got to go."

I didn't see the toenails in question, unfortunately, but I get the sense that Podiatry would have been impressed.

* * *
I was recently impressed by a quote from a patient hidden deep within one of the notes. The writing physician was apparently walking the patient from the ER to our unit when the patient said, among a zillion other things, as the patient was severely manic, "I just want to find medicines that aren't Zyprexa that help me be mellow without making me fat or drooling or shaking."

Fair enough, kid. Fair enough.

Zyprexa, an oft-prescribed antipsychotic medication, does indeed cause drooling and shaking and "metabolic syndrome" aka "gaining a bunch of weight and getting diabetes." This kid is wise for not wanting to be in that club. The other day I was waiting for an internet video of tigers eating a snowman to load (yeah, I don't know), when this ad popped up...

How far we have come that someone out there wrote the most overly chirpy jingle of all time to advertise diabetes paraphernalia. Humanity is screwed.

Speaking of the future of humanity, am I the only one (besides my roommate Joni who is sitting here at the table as I type this) who was unaware that Mariah Carey had twins and named one of them Moroccan? MOROCCAN. As in, a person or thing from Morocco. Which this boy child is not.

Certain that this choice must have some Special Meaning, I went a'Googlin'. And lo, I was right. The child is named after a room in the Cannon-Carey NYC penthouse, which is furnished and decorated in a Moroccan style. It was in this room that Nick Cannon proposed to Mariah Carey. Glitter and butterflies!

The twin sister, Monroe, has a sensible name by comparison. And how nerdy am I for first thinking of James Monroe, the former POTUS, and not Marilyn?

Portrayals of romantic love among the elderly always makes me so happy. It is so refreshing and inspiring to see people living it up when they're going down, so to speak. (Sorry.) Also, maybe I like them because they give me hope, should I find myself still single 40 years from now HAHAHAHA *sob* 

But seriously, these stories are both really sweet.

Grab a tissue.
Sam and I dated for two years. Then, when I turned 70 and he 80, we had a joint 150th birthday party and announced our engagement. We married a year later.
The bride, 97, is keeping her name.

And last but not least, my two new favorite Instagram accounts (you can find yours truly @ginageener) both happen to be focused on pets in Japan.

And now I want to change the names of my cats Walter and James to Mitsumame and Yohkan-san and acquire a flock of colorful, adorable lovebirds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

a snapshot

For anyone who is not clear on what it is I actually do at work, like, specifically, allow me to describe the first two hours of a recent 12-hour day, which day actually was not that recent because immediately after said day I, have mercy, took off for Arizona and didn't touch a computer the whole time. (Unless you count iPhone, which I know totally counts, but I like to think I am capable of living with less technology for a few days. Go me!) So anyway, here is a rundown of the first two hours of this particular not-all-that-special day.

0700 - 0740: Get Report in the Report Room, i.e., eat oatmeal, chug coffee, and furiously scribble down notes on all 19 of the patients from the day and night before, paying particular attention to my assigned four.

0740 - 0745: Check my patients' orders really fast (BUT ALSO THOROUGHLY AND ACCURATELY) on the computer. Document on the computer that I have checked my patients' orders, by entering another order that indicates I did so. Yeah, I don't know.

0745 - 0755: See Patient 1. Who does not speak English and is from Honduras. I speak un poquito de Spanish. He was just admitted over night. He is sitting, tense and nervous-looking, near the locked exit door, fully dressed with his bags packed. I am able to glean from our strained conversation that he does not understand where he is or why he is here. There is something going on with his legs, as he keeps tapping them and looking at me and then looking at them. I tell him that the interpreter--aka "the person who speaks Spanish better than I"--will be here at 8:00. 

0755 - 0805: See Patient 2. Who has an intake appointment at a recovery house at 8:30 and needs to be discharged, like, ten minutes ago. Tell the patient to gather his belongings. Administer his morning medications. Complete his discharge paperwork, make sure his prescriptions are filled and on the unit, gather all his contraband which is stored in the Med Room to return to him. Sit down to assess and do discharge teaching with the patient. Patient has all his belongings on his lap and is eating a maple glazed donut. He has a distant, blank stare. (Have I told you we have maple glazed donuts on the unit pretty much daily? Help me Lord.) Patient expresses understanding of where he is going and what medications he is to take. He receives papers with this information on them, highlighted in bright yellow by me. I ask the patient to sign his paperwork, and he licks the donut glaze off his fingers and then takes my pen. I tell him he can keep the pen. He signs the papers and hands the pen back to me. I tell him again to keep the pen. He looks confused. Something is not quite right here. 

0805 - 0815: The interpreter for Patient 1 is here. She can only stay for 45 minutes. Which means all assessments, teaching, discussion--mine and the doctors'--must be done pretty much now. I do mine first. It turns out the patient believes there were a bunch of men drinking here, in the hospital, on the unit, in his room, last night. He saw and heard them. They poured beer on his pants on purpose, but it has since dried. He is upset about this. Dios mio.*

0815 - 0825: Kill two birds with one stone by getting medications for and introducing myself to Patient 3. Who has cerebral palsy which has left him unable to use one leg, a plastic splint on the other ankle because has he broke it a year ago and it was never fixed properly, and a cast on one of this arms because it was freshly broken in a bar fight. He is withdrawing from alcohol and narcotics. He is a little bit cranky, understandably. He wants to talk at me about his condition for what feels like a really long time. 

0825 - 0830: See Patient 4. Patient 4 is arguably the worst off of the lot, but he is on Constant Observation (i.e., there is a Certified Nursing Assistant watching him and only him and attending to his needs to the extent of his/her license 24/7). He is not going anywhere anytime soon, and I know he is okay. I know going in that he is on the autism spectrum, is non-verbal, i.e., doesn't speak ever, and has some odd compulsive behaviors. I knock on the door and open it and he is cowering behind the door, shivering and nude, except for his orange baseball cap which prevents him from hitting himself in the head. His observer says she will try to get him to put on some pants. I tell her that sounds good.

0830 - 0840: One of our Nurse Elders expresses concern that Patient 2 may not be appropriate for discharge. I reluctantly concur and tell her about the finger-licking-glaze-pen incident. She talks to "the docs" and performs a Mini-Mental State Examination on the patient. He passes. I call a taxi to take him to his Recovery House. I again make sure he has all his belongings and discharge necessities, and I send him down to meet the cab with one of our Support Associates.

0840 - 0841: I take a mental tally of what is going on. Patient 1 is still with the doctors and has no medication orders yet. Patient 2 is discharged, hooray! Patient 3 is medicated and yapping away at the breakfast table. Patient 4 needs his meds. I know he doesn't always take his meds, or will only take them from certain people. I cross my fingers. 

0841 - 0845: Patient 4 accepts his meds. Aaaaah. I now understand why other nurses have been saying how cute he is. He is really quite adorable, and he looks up at me with deep, soulful puppy dog eyes. (His making of eye contact knocks him off the straight autism diagnosis and onto The Spectrum.) He lies down on the bed and begins choking his stuffed toy monkey with his hands, which is one of the few activities that helps him calm down. A-ok!

0845 - 0846: I am behind on my documentation but everyone got their meds and everything is under control! I got this!

0846 - 0848: I am needed at the Nurses' Station. I have a phone call. Our Support Associate is calling from the hospital lobby. She, for valid reasons, briefly turned her back on Patient 2 and when she turned around, he was getting into the wrong cab and took off before she could do anything. Not just the wrong cab, but a cab from a company that we do not have an account with, like we do with the correct company. I tell her to come back to the unit because, really, what else can she do?

0848 - 0850: I go to the bathroom for the first time in several hours and/or tell The Team what is going on with Patient 2 and/or compulsively pick all the nail polish off my fingernails . . . I don't really remember, so I'm just making an educated guess here.

0850 - 0852: I have another phone call. I pick up the line and it is a man with an accent. He sounds very angry. He tells me that he has a passenger who told him to go to X neighborhood, but the passenger does not know where in X neighborhood he is supposed to go. Also the passenger does not have any money. I tell him that actually the passenger is a patient of mine and is not supposed to go to X neighborhood at all, but to an address near the hospital which he has on a sheet of paper which is on his person. The man says he will call the police. I tell him to return to the hospital, where he will be paid for the whole roundabout ride in cash. The man agrees.

0852 - 0858:
 I attempt to get caught up on my computer documentation and sign of meds I have given and whether or not my patients are experiencing any pain and what, if any, interventions I have provided for said pain.

0858 - 0900: The man calls again. He is downstairs. He says the fare is $12, but he will charge $10 because this is a patient. I thank him. I go find my wallet. There is a $10 bill in it thankgod. I assume the man is not expecting a tip at this point, though he certainly deserves one. The Support Associate, who has since returned to the unit, says she will pay the driver with this $10 and escort the patient to the Recovery House on the bus. I thank her.

Here is a picture of two Shetland ponies wearing cardigan sweaters: 

Image courtesy of Buzzfeed/my friend FAB

*As it turned out, despite a tumor-with-metastases-to-the-brain scare, this patient appeared to have been suffering from alcoholic hallucinosis, which is like a slightly less horrifying and much less dangerous cousin of delirium tremens. Which is a deadly condition that happens to people quite frequently, actually, and is not just a craft beer from Belgium.**

**Delirium Tremens the beer is the third Google result for "delirium tremens." It also, apparently, inspires extreme nerdery from beer reviewers on Beeradvocate.com.
Upon the pour, it yields a deep golden showcase with massive fluffy white crown that stands with exceptional retention. Let the time fly, the head slowly sinks to decent foamy layer covering atop along with plenty of spotty and patchy lace. Rather high carbonation pushes the wave of eternal bubble to run actively towards the crest.

Mmm, beer....

Sunday, January 06, 2013

self help

On a diagonal side street in a desolate little pocket between Baltimore's stately, academic Charles Village and the fairly decrepit Greenmount Avenue (which, under the Google heading, "searches related to 'greenmount avenue baltimore'" are "baltimore police beat" and "worst street in baltimore"), lies a warehouse-y building that is home to The Book Thing. The Book Thing is a magical place where there are multiple rooms stuffed full of shelves and piles and bins of books that are organized by category. You know, like a bookstore. Except everything has been donated, there are no checkout counters, and everything is free.

Image borrowed from this random internet person. Thank you, random internet person.

Today, I was feeling particularly sorry for myself for personal reasons I would've blogged about in 2004, so instead of staying in bed all day with the covers over my head like I so desperately wanted to do (although I did spend a good deal of time doing just that), I biked my sorry ass the 3.4 miles (uphill both ways!) in search of more stimulating reading materials for my psych patients. In the approximate words of my all-time favorite advice columnist, Carolyn Hax--when you're feeling blue, you must 1., eat healthily, 2., not abuse substances, 3., get enough sleep, 4., exercise, 5., spend time with loved ones, and 6., try to focus your attentions outward. I'd already had a pile of pancakes with a friend, so this activity would take me to 3 out of 6, and I figured that 3 out of 6 ain't bad (you can take a wild guess as to which 3 I am still, um, working on).

I love shopping for other people, partially because, hello, it's SHOPPING, but there's less guilt because it's not for you and lord knows you don't need any more crap, but mostly because it's fun to think about what people might like to get that they wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves. For example, this Christmas I bought my parents deluxe dog toothbrushes. They were a big hit.

Anyway. So I acquired 23 books, a couple of which--okay, five--were for me. I hope some patients enjoy them, but even if only one book makes one person's day a little better one time, the back strain from carrying 23 books in my backpack on the way home is worth it to me.

I couldn't resist a 1962 copy of "This is the Pekingese," because Pekingese are so captivatingly weird looking and also the author repeatedly uses the term "germ plasm" in the chapter on how dogs (and humans!) perpetuate their genetic material. I also got a collection of Rumpole stories for a smart, sarcastic older man who used to love to read but is so depressed that he hasn't in years (I have no delusions that I will be successful in getting him to start again, but might as well try?). I got Volume 9 in the photography-heavy series "The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau," because, the most recent day I worked, one of our chronically ill patients perseverated at me for like 30 minutes on how much she loved another volume in the series that we already have on the unit. That one is about dolphins and killer whales, and I figured I'd shake things up a bit and show her some coral reefs.

I also picked up a dictionary--we've had several requests for a dictionary from patients who like to play Scrabble--and I managed to find the same one I grew up with, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. Then there's some easy fiction--James Patterson in large print and Michael Chrichton; a couple classics--"National Velvet," "2001: A Space Odyssey," an abridged, illustrated version of "Last of the Mohicans"; a book of tres novelas in Spanish that looks somewhat okay from what I am able to translate; picture books on nature and the history of footwear design; some hippie dippie self-help stuff (that I am totally going to read before I bring in); a couple of books on writing techniques and exercises--I have a fantasy of doing little writing groups with the patients, though our unit serves people at such varied levels of functioning and also I have no clue how to go about leading a writing group; two National Geographics from the early 1960s (I am keeping one--it's worth it to me for the rad Mad Men-esque advertising alone). And something super cheesy and Christian-looking that I am also totally going to read before I bring it in called "My Angels Wear Fur."

Don't judge me. 

And last but not least, and not dog-related, is "The Witch of Blackbird Pond." I was thinking the other day about my favorite childhood books after reading about a girl crush of mine who has images from her favorite childhood books tattooed all over her arms (I already have one). And I thought of TWoBP for the first time in literally decades, and I remember when I was reading it, it was the first time I knew I had to go to sleep to get up early for something in the morning, but I simply could not put it down. Also it scared the living crap out of me. As soon as I saw it peeking out of the children's bin, I knew it was going in the backpack, and I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of effect it has on me 20 years later.

Thank you for your donation, Candice Myerson!

[Insomniac Update: I originally ended this blog post with the sentence, "I am going to die alone under a pile of furry animals," but I thought I should be more positive and cut out the pity party so I threw in the paragraph about the witches book. Not that dying alone under a pile of furry animals would be the worst way to go, all things considered.]