Nurse, Master Story Teller
A retired nurse who has decided to take the time to rest, recharge and to reinvent. She now spends time crafting words and telling stories both true and fictional. She shares wisdom to entertain, enlighten and satisfy appetites for laughter, beauty and nature.
Boundary bender from age 5, Michele emerged as an entrepreneur at age 10 demonstrated by relentless, wouldn’t take “NO’ door-to-door sales of catalogue flower and vegetable seeds. Michele honed her sales training through Catholic schools fundraisers and strong coaching support at home where she received top candy sales of slightly waxy, chocolate logs as a high school freshman. Even though she was busted in 1st grade by a seemingly nice lunch lady for prevarication, she was voted class president 8-10th grades at two schools.
She enjoyed nearly every day of nursing in OB- GYN, Family Planning, Infertility and all aspects of Women’s Health. Through work in perinatal bereavement, breast Cancer and sexual assault she was challenged and valued. She witnessed and sometimes played a tiny role in horrific events in patients’ lives witnessing miracles of healing grace at the hands of healthcare professionals, families and God.
My dad was a hero to countless people because of how he made them feel. In his company you felt like you were the most important person in the world, his most treasured friend. I was absolutely certain I was his FAVORITE Child, or at least his Favorite daughter, I am the eldest of nine. Now that I am older and wiser, I know that each of my siblings will tell you the exact same thing about themselves. This phenomenon ripples throughout all cousins, friends, former students and football players and honestly out to those meetings him for the first time. He did not know or recognize anyone as a stranger. He was amazing.
When we were little, Dad would coach us up. He encouraged hopefulness, always fostering a can-do attitude- imparting confidence. He taught us to always turn to prayer first and holding good thoughts second. He didn’t mention the idea of LUCK as I recall. Since little kids struggle with crossing fingers—We were instructed to hold our thumbs!
Open your hands with palms up. Fold your wonderful opposing digits into both palms. Wrap your remaining fingers around it. They may look a bit like a barrel or a small stack of tires. Yea you’ve got it! Shake ‘em a bit like rattles. That’s it- Holding your thumbs! I can remember many a football game unlocking my fingers revealing blue, near lifeless thumbs from squeezing so tight.
I was taught to stand up straight. Be proud of your height. It never occurred to me to ask why. I simply stood as tall as I could. Hearing, “Atta girl” was all I needed. We actually practiced handshakes and introductions. Did you do this in your family? Maybe it’s universal, though I suspect not. It was easy learning to look people in the eye when the loving, merry eyes of my dad were my mirror. We developed script. He expected more than stating our name. He urged us to Smile (Be glad- he’d say).
Ask about the other person. Remember their name. Simple tools of good posture, eye contact, a firm handshake and a smile opens doors. More importantly opens hearts. These simple tools make the journey through this life much smoother.
Though heroic, our dad was a prankster, a scamp, some may even claim a rapscallion. Our confidence training came in handy for events like high school or college football games, fairs, a movie and every year without fail- the Indianapolis 500 Race. A ticket short, wanting to save a buck or just to please himself, he would say, ‘When I tell you, Go, look straight ahead, act like you know what you’re doing and keep on walking.’ Every one of my siblings and several cousins will tell you their own version of where they slipped in –unpaid- with dad or Uncle Bill. It was frightening and exhilarating.
Look straight head and keep on walkin’ and the subtext ‘act like you know what you’re doing’ are behaviors that communicate authority and confidence. I tested this repeatedly in my own pranks. My friends were astonished. How do you do that? Why don’t you get caught? The practice of those small lessons over time bred a belief, a skill set that was recognized as confidence. Hearing that often, I came to believe it it about myself.
Disappointments, shortfalls, even failures come to all of us, but confidence helped me to get up quicker and to try again. I am committed to building confidence in others by seeing them with loving parent eyes. Teaching basic skills. Making it fun and practicing through successes until confidence belongs to them. Hopefully the cycle will repeat. Emulating my hero is the best path I know to teach and build confidence in others by letting them know and experience they are my Favorite, my BEST Friend in that moment.
Oil Change at 162K Miles
I successfully changed the oil in my car yesterday for the first time in my life. Granted, I had help from Gary, my husband. Per usual, I’m taking full credit and I have a bit of residual oil staining a couple of nails as proof. I decided to change my car’s oil in a state of austerity thinking along with raw stubbornness.
I drive a compact car. I am NOT compact. Fortunately we do have a couple of ramps to elevate the front of the car. I lined them up, eyeballing the width of the front tires while standing 10-15 feet away. I go to the driver’s seat and Gary yells, “No! Let me help you.” He grabs the ramps tucking and aligning each with a tire. “Just Drive and I’ll tell you when,” he instructs. I put her in gear and head forward just over and past the ramp on the right, lodging it beneath the car. Dislodge, realign, more coaching as Gary stands in front of the car.
Let me remind you, Gary walks (aka shuffles)like he’s eighty, after multiple pelvic and vertebral fractures due to a “horsing around” incident 2 years ago. I sit behind the wheel; my hand poised on the stick shift, saying a little prayer for his safety as I proceed forward, roll back, again and repeat until the third time did the trick (The back and forth, swing set connection plays out over and over for me) I imagine an onlooker could only assume we were rehearsing for a circus act.
My plan to consult the owner’s manual was overridden by Gary. To his credit he knew what supplies and tools were needed. He did the initial exploration released the oil filter and nasty old oil, missing the collection receptacle by an inch. He was finished. It was my turn to take the dive.
Downward dog to knees, rotate to back, shimmy like a walrus or manatee, I imagine my feet like flailing pedal flippers. I wore disposable gloves certain I could keep reasonably clean. I slide the oil receptacle away from my head pushing upward, as I retracted that arm my glove brushed along the pavement gathering a pool of grimy oil inside. I’d been slimed!
I remained resolute. “Hand me the filter,” I commanded. I daubed the screw, put the female part against it and applied my finger finesse like a pianist tickling the slippery cylinder to the right. Pieces and parts would not join and thread. Left, left, left, and then right, right, right. Frustration was growing. Oil was spreading over both gloves and the filter. The screw was at an angle of 15-30 degrees requiring my big man hands to wedge between car parts I was about to rearrange. Working against gravity for a prolonged period is hard. The bigger challenge was the perpetual crunch of being flat on my back lifting my head in order to see the target.
My coach left. Quiet and a short rest with deep breathing helped. Taking it slow and calm I got it threaded and tightened the filter into place. Relieved and proud, capping the release valve was a breeze. I shimmied from beneath the car and took a few minutes to straighten out. Gary was telling me good job and then said, “You’ve got a couple of blotches of grease in your hair.” “Where? How big? ”, I asked. He assured me they were tiny.
It is not uncommon to get a song stuck in my head. “First you say you do And then you don’t, Then you say you will, And then you won’t, You’re undecided now, So what are you going to do?” are the lyrics that have nagged at me.
Luckily it is a playful tune of push and pull, expectation and disappointment, of yes and no popularized
by Ella Fitzgerald. The title of this song is “Undecided.” Like the song, I was trying to move a relationship that was stuck, and for me had started to fester.
“Now you want to play, And then it’s no, And when you say you’ll stay, That’s when you go. You’re undecided now. So what are you going to do?.
So by the second stanza, the debate in my head recognizes that people decide at different rates of speed. Some like a studied, careful approach, and are slow to take action. Others are logical and weigh consequences but are quick, confident and decisive. Both approaches work, because ultimately there’s a decision that results in action. It’s the fence sitters, observers, armchair quarterbacks who simply enjoy watching others carry the load that are creating my current angst.
Sports teams and performers need fans and audiences, teachers need students. Engagement between those involved creates a palpable energy. So showing up and keeping a date is only part of game. If the observers are distracted, only partially present the connection is impossible. The last stanza is “I’ve been sitting on a fence, And it doesn’t Make SENSE, Cause you keep me in Suspense, And you Know it!”
Dang it! It always come back to this…..I can Decide. I can step up and own my truth. I can’t change people. I need to administer life saving truth like rescue breathing or chest compressions given any rare circumstances. I have the get off my behind and over any hurdle not to be fence sitter.
My Broad Ripple pals did not respond to The Story of the Stump when it was posted. A few days later around the lunch table I asked if any of them knew the scoop. One enthusiastically talked about the various pictures she recalled but no one knew who is responsible and the whys behind it. One stated, that would be a great story for our BR paper. I sent the story idea and link to the post and didn’t hear a word other than the automated response from the Gazette.
Since then, this little berg or village has been besieged with gun violence and safety threats. Businesses, residents, and leaders ban together enforcing curfews and increased police presence. Broad Ripple and Indianapolis are wounded and bleeding over the murders of police officers. These are urgent needs that leaves most hearts heavy. And yet the Stump now wears a smiling sunshine face.
I like to look for the good these days, to recognize, capture and celebrate joy. I felt compelled to dig just a little. I stopped at the well loved home and property almost directly across the street from the stump in question. That lawn and home had a few displayed embellishments. There was evidence of whimsy at this home. I stopped, pulled into the drive , climbed the stairs and rang the bell. I stood nearly empty- handed to diminish the resident’s fear of a summons, evangelical visit or solicitation.
Handing her my business card explaining why I had stalked the stump, she relaxed and came out onto the porch. She looked across and said, “No, we don’t know who does it. I think it began out of concern for safety. After that I don’t know” She then became more animated as though sharing a well kept secret. “Whoever it is. (We think it’s a he) does this in the dark of night. We’ve watched in the evening and I get up by 5 in the morning and have never seen who paints it. Why he does it now? I have no idea.” We laughed together, shrugged and parted. A smiling Sunshine face is exactly what Broad Ripple needs. We all need to be a bit lighter, curious and a tad daring.
Blogging for the Catherine Peachey Fund Cookbook
Trying something new. I’m blogging on behalf of the Catherine Peachey Fund’s cookbook project. Just Peachey: Bearing Fruit, 20th anniversary edition cookbook. I’m inserting a quick link if you want to know more.
The book will be released this fall. http://wp.me/p44GbF-12
Confidence at Eight
Entrenched in verbal throws of a neighborhood conflict, ornery Linda Sterret took me off guard.
Between hurling walnuts and acorns, accusations and threats
of early primary years flew across the street from one front yard to another. Important issues about who was a friend, cry baby, tattle tale, smarter, prettier were at stake. It was a tribal insurrection of children. The age old power struggle of who belongs who does not.
I was hanging with the non catholic, new kids who were actually redheaded and freckled. Odds were stacked against them. This family had just two kids, a boy and a girl, neither having any athletic skills.
Playing at their house was different. We could be indoors in the summer. It was really quiet. Each kid had a room of their own. They had toys and didn’t have to share them with each other. The rest of us had several siblings, mostly younger. After breakfast and a small chore or two we were outdoors. Our moms needed us out from underfoot to take care of a babies, clean, cook and iron.
My usual friends took issue with the new kids, or at least Linda did. She was the pack leader, leveraging both her year older and cousin status as qualifications. I remember really mean things being said to the red haired boy in particular. I knew this was wrong and that the Linda led side was more powerful.
I rose up giving my confident retorts and slurs on the side of the new kids. My dad, the football coach/teacher had given me lessons about right and wrong, and standing up for underdogs, and being a leader for good. In response to the insult, “You Bunch of sissies, Go hide behind your mother’s skirt!” I fired back, “My mom doesn’t wear Skirts.” Spiteful, quick Linda replied, “She must look awful funny then!” as her posse laughed and jeered.
Embarrassed, wordless, beaten. That shook my confidence. My plan was to move on and be better prepared next time.