18 October 2012

One reason I work in medical: seeing someone pull back from the brink of death is priceless.

Seeing a patient come in for a checkup gripping the pill box I gave her at the last visit, seeing the lettering worn off the little flip-doors because she has been using it and it's working and her viral load is way down and she is smiling. She feels better.

And I feel better.

We take for granted our ability to keep ourselves relatively stable and healthy. Some folks need a little extra help.

05 October 2012


Oatmeal is a good food. It is warm and soothing in the belly. I am sitting in the kitchen floor with a bowl of the maple and brown sugar kind, feeding it to my grandson. He has the cabinet open. The mixing bowls have been pulled out and he is nesting and un-nesting them. After each rotation of movements, he turns toward me and opens his mouth so that I may spoon in another bite. He is busily content with the monotony of this moment, as am I. He is a beautful child. Eyes that seem to be staying hazel and golden hair which is smooth in the morning, but as the day goes on springs into tiny curls. Some days I cannot stop staring at him, at his preciousness and his relationship to me.

Now he has found the skillets, three stacked together, and the process continues. Stack. Bite. Unstack. Bite. Then the bowl is empty and the spell is broken. He stands up and totters over to his favorite window, the one he can see out of in the kitchen. He shrieks greetings to the tree and the birds. He knows this place, this house his mother never lived in.

21 September 2012

I'm taking a little break from the public eye. From the Audience Mentality, so to speak. The internet and social media causes us to think and act as though we are continually on stage in fromt of our peers, as really we are, and I am thinking about whether that is a healthy thing. I like to write truth, and sometimes the truth hurts people. Sometimes people just don't want to be included in my public truths. So I am at an impasse with my writing and I feel that the only way I can break through that and make some preogress is to close the door and write alone.

I will be writing privtaely for a little while. I also hope to get  a few real live letters out before the postal service goes under. You should do the same.

I do have an email address and I check it daily. mfschuppeATgmailDOTcom.  I would be most grateful to receive even an electronic letter from any of you.

Of course, I may pop on here at some random time and wax poetic about asparagus or something. One just never knows.

25 June 2012

I have become such a fearful person. Driving into Richmond, my heart was in my throat. Will I miss my turn? Hit a one-way street? I was miserable, and yet, I did find my way with no problem albeit minor parking stresses. There always seems to be a kind soul nearby to help me when I feel frozen. And slowly, I learn to move my stiff joints in the scary world. I stay home in my bubble too much. I love my mother, but I don't want to become like her, afraid to do anything new. So I keep pushing myself, painfully.

After the conference, I paid for my parking and made my way to my hotel. Same scared feeling to drive 1.5 miles. Went in to my hotel which is a historic building which has been converted and practically forced my keys on the valet driver. The girl at the front desk handed me a little tiny manila envelope containing 2 big gold keys. This place is totally old school and I like it. Went to my room and wandered around a bit. I didn't even want to go out and find a place to eat dinner alone. But I pushed past that and asked the girl at the desk where I could walk to. She directed me toward a little place on Broad St which she called a "cafe" but the prices were not what I would correlate with a cafe. But anyway, the chicken marsala was great and the wine was half-price so it was a good meal. The venue was an old pharmacy that had been converted. The bar still had above it the vintage sign proclaiming: prescriptions. Antique crystal light fixtures hung everywhere, and I felt at home.

 I do love the city. Despite the grime and crime, and the alarm going of at the pawn shop across Broad...the city is alive with people and art and creativity and freedom. Walking back to the Linden in the warm air,  I felt good. I didn't feel afraid to be out there alone, I simply felt overdressed in my Business Casual. I wanted to be there in clothes I felt like myself in. I could have been, if I'd bothered to change.

And I sense that I need to keep thinking of ways to keep myself alive, before I become too crippled.

13 June 2012


I am behind on reading my friends' blogs and on keeping food in the house and getting Maddie's car registered at the DMV. Life is swirling too quickly for me. Life is going well; I just don't have enough time or energy to do the whole schtick. I am learning a new job and working with people who are living with HIV and I really love it so far. HIV is not really a death sentence anymore, not for most people. It's a chronic disease, yet unlike cancer or kidney failure, it's a chronic illness that can be spread. I ponder these things and more at clinic.

My head is cluttered with so many things I want to write about. I've lost so much already. How to make the time.

25 May 2012

I went to the hospital today for a new hire health screen. As I was walking toward the terrace entrance in my purple scrubs, I was reminded that this is a place I never expected to find myself in: that I am one of the people in the scrubs. I don't work here, but I belong here, though when I walk in it smells like a hospital and I dislike it as much as anyone. The last time I was here my then month-old grandson was here on the peds unit with bronchitis and a tiny IV line in his pink heel. I had scrubs on then, too. I had different plans for my life than this, at a time. But here I am.

I passed a woman in the parking lot. The white door of her car was hanging open, and she was sitting there with her legs hanging out, sobbing loudly. This is a place of sad news. I wanted to go over to her and kneel down and pat her hand, but she was actually on the phone with someone. Instead I hurried past her into the "employee health" section of the building, a cramped and dingy-looking area. Ironically, I was seated in the waiting area next to a new student midwife who was also waiting her turn. There was a time when I would have struck up a conversation about birth, but I found myself awkwardly shy. Why would she care if I once had aspirations to be a midwife? I fiddled with my phone instead, waited my turn to pee in a cup in front of someone.

20 May 2012

I almost cried in the grocery store on Friday. I'm not much of a crier- excepting the occasional meltdown, not much shakes me to tears. But as I grow older they seem to come more easily.

This was a quarter to six in the evening. I had just finished a 9-hour day at work and I was tired and trying to grab a few items to get through the dinner meal. As I turned my cart onto the chip aisle to get some microwave popcorn, there was a mother with her 2 boys there. The boys were horsing around a bit as kids do, and the mother was scolding them to stop. Suddenly, one of the boys tumbled onto the floor and rolled right in front of my cart. Maybe the brother pushed him. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and just laid there staring at me. I of course couldn't move because he was blocking my path. It was then that the mother glanced over in his direction and then said to him: I'm going to knock your motherfucking head off.

The kid looked about seven.

I wondered what sort of parent would say that to a child. I wouldn't even say that to someone I hated. I smiled feebly at the little boy and he moved enough for me to wheel my cart past him. I got around to the next aisle and it was then that the tears stung my eyes. What is his life like? How terribly hard growing up must be for some kids. I thought of his sad eyes boring into mine. I thought of the good people in social services and school counseling who spend their lives trying to help these little ones. It must be hard and discouraging.

And then I thought of all the bullshit hoops that adoptive parents have to go through to get their hands on a child to love, when any old unfit idiot who happens to be fertile can have kids.

13 May 2012

Never Enough Time

I keep trying to write. I do. But something always happens. there just isn't enough time. The washer is trilling for me to move the clothes over. Or I sit down to write and Ezra shuffles past the doorway and I know he's bored and then I feel too guilty to sit and write. Or any other number of things that take me from the small amount of time I have when I'm not at work. People come in and look at my screen. I don't like for people to look at my screen. I can never quite remove myself from my surroundings anymore. Writing is fizzling. Ariel Gore tells me to forget that stuff about needing money and a room of one's own to write. But dude, I get that. I need that. I have lost countless thoughts and words because I am never, ever alone for any length of time. How early would I have to get up to beat everyone else to some solitude? Most days, I am out the door by 7:10am and barely coherent, much less ready to bang out some words. Not sure what my solution is these days. I really think I need to break away from the computer altogether and just go back to a little notebook and a quiet corner. Sometime.

09 April 2012

Cleaning the Cobwebs

Half day. Kids gone in their various directions and I find myself alone, such a rarity these days. I decided to clean my craft room. The state of it is a reflection of the frame of mind I've been in lately- chaotic, neglected, un-inspired. Ive been thinking a lot in the past few days and getting my head on straight about some stuff. Ever notice how sometimes things can be going great but somehow you find yourself miserable just the same? Well- me anyway. Nora was helping me make some buttons earlier and suddenly I saw what the work area had gotten to.

After the girls left I set to it. Lit some incense. My dad hates incense; he says the smoke makes him feel like he's choking. But I love the way it burns when it first hits my nostrils and how the smell never fails to lift my spirits. I also put on some Weepies and turned it up. Something I am coming to realize is how quiet my life has become. I work all day in a place with no music, and then I come home and work in the kitchen and get tired and go to bed. I have lost music. I am figuring out what needs to happen for me to get that back.

I rolled up the cheap little rug we had placed in front of the computer and threw it out. It's constantly bunched up under the rollers on the chair and I suddenly wondered why we were still battling it. I do it a lot- fighting against things that aren't working. Sometimes I do that because I don't know how to fix it. What I am realizing is that sometimes you can't fix it. You don't fix it. You fix yourself.

The only person you can really control is yourself and your own attitude and reactions to situations. That's what I'm working on.

31 March 2012

I have been writing poetry for many years, some of it better than others. Slowly, I began getting a pile of words together that I liked the most. 


27 March 2012

Tuesday night, solace and white wine

I did have to go and tell the whole blogosphere that I could shine anywhere, didn't I? What a jackass. Work has been grueling. Defeating. Overwhelming. Today I had to fight the urge to flee the building. I have a stack of paperwork thick enough to provide a comfy cushion for my elbow, thanks to a system upgrade which has rendered me even less computer-adept than I was before. Left work at 5:30 after shoving the pile of un-processed papers in my drawer for the night. Went by the grocery store where I dropped $83 and some change like it was nothing, then drove over to the mall to pick Maddie up and then back to the ball field for one more pickup. But Hunter needed a ride home so I did that, praying my groceries would not be a soggy blob by the time I made it home. I threw a little unhealthy convenience food at the kids and plopped down at the computer with a glass of cold wine and let myself go numb. Numb is how I feel after a day like today. I try to think of a friend of mine, who has a job she hates but somehow never seems to lose sight of herself and keeps her spirit intact and travels out of town on her weekends off and just generally inspires me. What drives her that doesn't drive me? I desperately want to know. I disappoint everyone around me.

Finally, the kids have grown bored of waiting for me to get off the computer and they go put a movie on. I am glad. I just want to be alone after dealing with people all day. Joe is out of town and so Nora will want to sleep with me tonight. I'll be in bed by 9:30. I am a shell.

I have a chapbook of poems being published and I am happy. I feel unworthy but glad. I have written nothing recently. I want to but my mind, it's so tired. How to balance it all? The things I do all day give me things to write about, but they sap me so much that I can't write about them.

And too many uses of the word "I." It makes me nauseous.

But when I am drawing up a joint injection and the milky Kenalong is mingling in the syringe with the Lidocaine and I change the needle out like I've done it all my life and the Asian doctor says something that sounds like "trichantery" and I know she means "trochanteric"- it's like maybe it's all meant to be. Maybe.

14 March 2012


Maybe it's just the weather. We've got balmy upper 70's here in the Burg this week and the sun is seeping into every sour crack in me and filling me with light. In just a day or two, it seemed like the grass became lush and we have propped up those windows which we can get open in our antique house.

So maybe it is just the weather but I feel as though I had a revelation today. I've been having a lot of angst recently over what I am "meant" to do as a nurse and what type of nursing field I "belong" in, and the whole death of the dream I had for so long of spending my life working with pregnancy and birth. If it's a "calling" I am looking for, I have to look at all the things I have done up to now that have felt right to me. Being a mother. Being a birth assistant and educator. Loving people with Alzheimer's. What becomes clear to me as I think on these things is this:

It is my calling to take care of people.

That is what I do. It's what I've done for most of my life. And if caring for people is my calling, then I am fulfilling that calling no matter who I am caring for. They don't need to be pregnant. Or breastfeeding. Or old. Or any other particular thing. I think I am meant to care for people, and to grow as a person as I serve people and listen to their stories and put a hand on theirs and really hear them. A calling is never something that you choose. Your calling always chooses you, in some way.

Today, that feels really peaceful. Like maybe I can shine anywhere as long as I keep my focus on my calling.

04 March 2012


I had lunch with a friend yesterday. We had not been out together in quite some time. It is something to have a friend that you can always pick up where you left off with, despite time or distance. We had lunch together at a local fundraising event and then went for coffee. She knows that I'm going to get a plain old cup'o'coffee and I know she is going to choose an exotic soup from the lunch choice. It is good to have a friend that you don't have to explain a lot of things too. We have a lot of similarities, and also enough differences to keep our relationship rich and varied. She is someone I can throw out the name of a rare disease to and she will know of it. I had put my camera in my bag on the way out, intending to get a picture of the two of us together. We have so few, and the days so short. But I forgot. I always forget.

27 February 2012


A friend is writing a history about a nonprofit birth advocacy group in our state. I was one of the founding sisters of that group, so the invitation was extended to me to help fill in my piece of the story. Because I was there and all. But I didn't respond- I allowed the other founder from our local group to take care of it. Because, well, I don't really want to talk about it. That's a lot of emotion to stir up. How did I have so much time to get that group going, to travel to other cities every few months for day-long meetings? How did I ever have so much passion for something? Seems so long ago.

And anyway, I think too hard and too much. I've been given this moment and I will choose to live in it. I live in gratefulness that my husband did not just get blown up in Afghanistan. That I did not just bury my own child. That yesterday I was able to buy my girls new sneakers and hold and kiss my grandson.

Sometimes I get too egotistical and want to believe that I am supposed to do something amazing in the world. But I can't even get a set of blinds up in my house. Need to focus in a bit more. Relish the days I have left with my children who are growing and sprouting wings and learning to fly on out of this little coop.

26 February 2012

Windy Weekend

My new definition of weekend: doing all the chores I never have time to do during the week anymore. Which, by and large, is okay right now. The ongoing process of getting settled in our new place continues, and I enjoy getting the counters cleared and wiped off. The sun blazes though the old wavy glass on the old shitty windows and hits the wood, and when it does I want it to gleam. So I sweep- then swiff- then mop. Repeat. At least until I run out of steam. Turning this place into something is going to take a long time.

Last weekend, some family members came to visit and we threw a coat of blue paint over the horrid mauve in the dining room. We were going to throw 2 coats but it began to snow rather fiercely and we got distracted, sipping wine and standing on the porch watching the snow tumble down. Taking photos. The blue looks amazing, and we plan to still add the second coat ourselves. We have this habit of starting projects, getting the area functional and then moving on to the next project. I have paint here for my craft room but have about 76 nail holes in here I need to spackle before I can paint. I also have an art market coming up in a few weeks so I feel like I should be preparing for that first before the room gets torn apart again.

I'm excited about having my own room. A place that inspires me. It's something I desperately need right now. Work drains me of any sense of identity or creativity. I am thankful for this move, and for Joe, whose brains and skills make it possible for us to live in this wonderful old place. I am thinking about the warm weather, about seeing our mystery garden out back begin to bloom and having people over to laugh with us and share the season.

08 February 2012

Pushing Past my Ass

Determined to shake this work/winter/fatigue rut I've been in. Pushing past my ass, in the words of an incredibly dear midwife friend. Walking across 12th street to the post office, I was reminded of how much more I can see when I am walking, up close on things. Not flying by in my car with the radio on, low and aimless. My craft room sits dormant, the poetry in my head drowning in prescription refills and Kenlalog injections. I will walk more.

Trying to break out any little way I can.

Thinking about a full-length collection about being a nurse. So much to laugh about. So much sadness. So many who could say more and say it all better than I. But so what?

Thinking of my virtual friend Jo, who always manages to tend to herself and express herself and all that. I am using her for inspiration. She takes a lot of pictures of herself. But, you know. If she didn't I guess she wouldn't inspire me quite so much. I am, after all, a visual person.

Thinking of Joe and how much he means to me. Tonight at the grocery, I saw a mother in an Arby's blouse with her four kids and I felt humbled. I've been given so much. Maybe at times it doesn't seem that way, but may I never forget how much I have been given.

Moment. By moment. Today at work? Sucked. Left work at 5:30 and had to go by Food Lion. Ordinarily I'd feel exhausted and sorry for myself, but this time I tried just digging the moment. It worked pretty well.

Of course, I don't have PMS this week, either.

The past few months of packing and moving have been one long exercise in pushing past my ass. It's been absolutely grueling at times. But slowly, things are settling into place and I become more able to function. I am one who tends toward fatigue, unfortunately.  But somehow, I feel myself growing stronger every day. The hard things do grow us.

06 February 2012

Maddie's white cat, who had become practically feral at one point, is turning into a nuzzly lap cat, May I admit that I love this? He is the only cat we have left, now. Brandy was my big, purring tabby who

30 January 2012


Dropping Nora off at the middle school this morning, I saw a teacher heading into the building who had 1) wet hair and 2) an above-the-knee skirt with pantyhose on. I looked down at the thermometer in my car: 34.

Some people don't seem so bothered by the cold. I wish I were one of them. I wish I were tougher. Stronger. Better with tools. Wish I never got tired.

I am looking at the million projects at our new house as an opportunity to learn some new things. So far I haven't even been able to get a set of blinds put up. Joe has managed several plumbing repairs and has learned to disassemble an entire double-hung 100+ year old sash window. Among other things.

Saturday I went out in the yard for a bit and did a little raking. There are a couple of seasons worth of leaves all around. The yard is cute and has a lot of potential. Too bad I know nothing about gardening. Regardless, we are looking forward to the springtime, when we get to see what living things emerge from the ground. Kind of a neat surprise this first year.

We are still working on cleaning out the attic. Its horribly filthy up there and it gets me sneezing something awful when I work up there. Slowly we are tossing the junk and we have scored a few treasures along the way. Nora found a huge stamp collection which she is really enjoying, and I found an amazing metal desk lamp that simply needed a new cord. I say simply because for Joe, replacing the cord *was* simple. I would have never known how to do it. Found a little table for Nora's aquarium, boxes of old letters from the 60s, and a couple more 10 gallon aquariums.

I never thought I was very good at the domestics, but it seems like I have fallen back on my cleaning skills as my most useful contribution so far to Harrison St. And it needs to be done, for sure. But how did I get to be almost 39 and suddenly feel so inept in so many areas? Sometimes it feels like the farther I go in life, the more I see undone ahead of me. Trying to fall back again on the skill of existing in the moment.

23 January 2012

New Bearings in a New Place

My new neighborhood is different from my old one. It's darker, and quieter. I sleep much better here. There is a white fence around our space which quietly states: This is Ours. So far, only the local cats dare to defy the message and lap from our birdbath at their leisure. Our own cat is still too chicken to stay out for more than a few minutes. Once the king of the hill at the old place, he's still scoping out the competition cautiously.

This place is very diverse. We have condemned, crumbling houses and we have small mansions. But everyone is friendly and waves hello. We are somewhere in the middle, of course. We might describe ourselves as Decent. Pretty good house, looks nice on the outside, but no antiques on the inside.

It's quite a process, turning a house into a home. We'd been in the other place for so long. We've been here for weeks and there is still lots of piles of stuff just waiting to be dealt with. We are learning that you just have to start putting things up like you know what you're doing. It can always be changed later. That's what makes it start to feel like home. It's nice to have more elbow room. Finally, our dining room doesn't have to be a multipurpose craft room/library/study. We put the computer in the craft room and it feels right. No more computer in our bedroom. No more TV right by the front door with people passing in front of it all the time.

Of course, there are things about the old house that were better. Much more cabinet and closet space, for one thing. We are having to get really creative in how we deal with that issue and sometimes it's frustrating. But it's all a process. Change can be uncomfortable. One must look forward.

From this spot in my craft room where I am writing, there is a window which overlooks the Johnson OB clinic. It is a place that I very much desired to work. That place had a lot to do with me going back to school to get my LPN, so that I could make a career out of working with pregnant women. And here I am today, working as a rheumatology nurse. A good job, to be sure. But not my dream. Every day now, I look out the window and I am reminded of that dream. A dream that took up 15 years of my life and countless hours and efforts. And I find that it's a good reminder, that we have to allow ourselves to go wherever we are meant to go, and that most of the time, we have no idea where that is.  Yes, sometimes I envy people who seem to have the resources and the circumstances to do whatever they want. But in the end I feel peaceful. I have a loving partner and we have a vision for the rest of our life together, and the rest will work itself out.

02 January 2012

The Lonely Soul of an Empty House

It is bad for a house to sit empty for more than a short while. Devoid of the din and movement of human life, it begins to decay. Grime settles onto the floor- they don't look too bad at first, but after 5 or 6 runs with the mop the water in the bucket is still turning dark gray. It takes on a smell that can only be called lonely, a smell like empty rooms and closed windows. I think houses can feel lonely. They want to be used; after all, that is their purpose.

We are moving into a lonely house. The kids can feel this, and it feels uncomfortable. It's not Home, it's cold and everything echoes. The wallpaper and the paint are not ours; they were chosen by strangers. It will take time to love these new rooms and to groom them into a place in which we feel an emotional embrace when we walk in the front door. It will take time.

The house wants to be loved. Generations of families have climbed the stairs and kissed in the bedrooms and cried in the kitchen. Now it is our turn.

The house we are leaving will not sit empty. It has a new family waiting to come in and love it. Nineteen years ago when we were just children of 19 ourselves and knew nothing about loving a house, we moved there and the house had been sitting empty. Its occupant had fallen asleep smoking on her couch and started a smoldering fire. It was her misfortune that brought us to our first home. The house was repaired and put on the market for a pittance by the elderly sibling who all the trouble was bequeathed to. That house was lonely too- it's sole occupant of 30 years had left it- but it was August and there was enough sun streaming in the windows to chase the sadness into the corners. The floors were still just as grimy and we had almost no furniture to fill the many rooms. Over the years we filled it with children and many other things, and it came to life.

This new house is going to come back to life through the touch of our hands and the sound of our laughter.It will take some time but one of these days we will walk through its rooms and realize, quite suddenly, that it feels like Home.