Stepping Out Of the Shadows, Again

We’ve had a Nor Easter with heavy rain and snow squalls three days this past week, and the wind is rattling the windows in my ninety year old house. Typical weather for March in New York City. Finally. The winter has been cold and damp, with no snow to brighten the long darkness that wraps around me like a wet blanket on my way to work at 5:30 am, and closes in as I negotiate the subways and commuter railways home at 7:00 pm. If an emergency doesn’t roll in.

After a brief four days on a medical relief mission to Puerto Rico in October, the cold has been been my constant companion en route to numerous the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERC) along with scores of other skilled and dedicated public health professionals, the National Guard, and numerous New York City agencies attending to more than 51,000 asylum seekers, many of them women and young children in emergency relief shelters in all five boroughs of New York City.

Meeting essential needs, medical, psychological and material, requires a lot of ingenuity, but it always seems that a brief huddle with our administrators and colleagues facilitates the process. It is a collectively experienced group of providers, some of them immigrants themselves. Despite the profound exhaustion, I sleep soundly.

The high level of alert and need for quick adjustment to ever changing, volatile and life threatening situations has not allowed time for rest and recovery, and we are all looking forward to a new normal that is an ever moving target. PTSD affects patients and health care providers alike. But the collective positive energy of New Yorkers (like folks dropping off clean clothing and baby supplies to the National Guard on their way to work) during every phase of serial emergency events, combined with the return to daylight savings time and some sun, is most welcome and appreciated. As will an upcoming vacation as long as something else doesn’t happen.

Setting the Mood for Christmas with Highland Romance

This is my last SMP author blog for 2022. I haven’t been able to keep up with my writing, for this blog or otherwise, over the past few months. Despite, my new urban fantasy release Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams last summer, real life has intruded on my fiction projects. All I’ve been writing lately are chart notes while on a dizzying kaleidoscope of assignments that put the moniker of family nurse practitioner to the ultimate test.

First came a relief mission to the mountains of Puerto Rico after flooding hurricanes. Then total immersion in a massive effort to care for migrants from infants to older adults arriving from the Southern Border of the United States. Shifts start as early as 5:30 a.m. and often extend an hour or more past sign off at 7 p.m. due to emergencies. My backpack is loaded with equipment, and my phone…

View original post 150 more words

A 2022 Reprise: I Still Have Not Forgotten How to Fight

I am not looking forward to going back to re-live the late 1960s. I was too young to vote, but old enough to see the televised anguish of anti-war protests and students at Kent State lying dead on the ground. My father was caught in a bottle and brick throwing anti-war protest on the campus of Columbia University. I was a personal witness to race riots in New York City.

I am not looking forward to going back to the 1970s, when The Bronx was burning down and no one did anything because they wanted the Blacks and Puerto Ricans out. I will not use the ugly slur names for I fear they will inspire a rebirth on the lips of those who are too young to recall.

I am not looking forward to arguing with anyone, particularly a Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive, who told a group of nurses starting a campus health clinic that “he” would not “pay for someone’s fling in a back seat.”

I am not looking forward to more watching national parks and national treasures, including the majestic wild animals that inhabit them, decimated, destroyed and driven to extinction by Trump and his “Black Coal Matters” movement.

I am not looking forward to the same anarchy and violence I witnessed when I had the unfortunate experience of being in the same Albuquerque Convention Center at a Donald Trump rally, and being intimidated by his “supporters” strutting about in menacing postures and following me, after I crossed the street to get away from them, believing that I was about to join the protesters who were assembling. There were bottles thrown that night, but rioters have now graduated to bullets shot from guns in the hands of trigger fingers empowered by Trump’s xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny and neo Nazi white supremacy, fueled by the National Rifle Association.

Those are ugly words and ugly accusations but Trump has been our “neighbor” in NYC and he is not a good one. There are “No Trump” zones in Brooklyn, and he better not drive though the South Bronx unless he’s in a bullet proof car. Not that he would scuff the bottoms of his expensive shoes on any of those sidewalks, preferring a more ornate, phallic style of architecture and being more at home as a barker in the carnival-like amusement parks and golf courses that bear his name. I will never consider Trump my president, never trust him, honor him, believe him. I will never respect him.

I am not a fearful person, and I have walked the streets in some of the worst neighborhoods in New York City during the worst times, when there were more abandoned buildings than inhabited ones, and more starving dogs and stray cats than people. But I am terrified right now. And I apologize for rambling. I’m tired, very tired, since I have not slept well for days.

The day after the election, some students from my daughter’s school boarded a NYC bus on the way home. They told a group of African American students from another school that now that Trump was president, they needed to go to the back of the bus. The incident escalated, and the distraught kids contacted their families. These students were stupid enough to do this in uniform and have disgraced the school. I hope they have been arrested for bias intimidation.

I am not looking forward to the first battle I have to wage, which is to go into the principal’s office to find out how the school plans to ensure that this will never happen again, in addition to what my daughter describes as a “two hour lecture over the PA system about respect.” He needs to know that my daughter, who is a naturalized citizen, is terrified that she will be seized and deported by Donald Trump and vigilantes like her fellow classmates who might target her because she was born in Central America.

I am not looking forward to taking care of immigrant children from the Middle East and Central America, who I have been seeing since they arrived, many emaciated, malnourished, fearful victims of violence and abuse, and who are now having panic attacks and PTSD flashbacks.

I would really rather be going about my business, secure in the knowledge that the country is in the hands of a sane, competent President whose only agenda is safeguarding the health, well being and safety of all citizens of the United States, regardless of their political party, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. A President who honors treaties with other nations, and sees that the United States lends a hand to those who need it because of war, natural disasters, or terrorism. A President who doesn’t lie, cheat, steal, shake down, and intimidate, rape and assault women, and evade paying taxes on his billions of dollars of income. A President who is intelligent enough to believe the science of climate change is real, and that without decisive action the Earth will not survive the continued onslaught of misuse, abuse, and overuse by greedy nations and corporations who damage, pollute, contaminate and destroy our resources in the name of “jobs” and profits for the 1%.

I am really not looking forward to fighting, and my family has been surprised to hear my 1970s militant tone. They are concerned that I might upset and alienate relatives and friends who voted for Trump and suggested that maybe I should be less “authoritarian.”

Sorry if I offend any “friends” and family members who voted for Trump. You know by now I always speak my mind, and if you don’t like it “unfriend” me, “block” me, and don’t send me any more Christmas cards. I assure you that I will be just as grateful to not have to hear your “whitesplaining” that it’s only about the “welfare cheats,” ” THE ILLEGALS” (your capitals, not mine),”the gays” and your parroting of grammatically incorrect and often unintelligible “Trumpisms.”

Your judgment in trying to force all that crap down my throat is suspect, since you are very aware of my political persuasions. But don’t worry, I won’t betray your trust and tell anyone about the abortions you, your sister, your girlfriend, or your wife had had because it was an agonizing choice you had the right to make, given the complexities of a situation. That’s why you talked to me about it, knowing I would understand and keep it in confidence. But know that your vote for Trump will mean that other men and women (yes, Mr. Blue Cross/Blue Shield whose name I really wish I could remember, it takes two “flingers”) who face that agonizing choice will find it harder or someday maybe impossible to choose and that they may die because of medical complications or a botch job in a back alley. Yeah, I saw a few of those working the gyn unit in the 1970s. I “REALLY” don’t want to go back there.

I have learned from experience that being “well behaved” invites victimization. I don’t go looking for trouble and, being street wise, cross to get out of the way if I sense danger. But I can’t this time. I am going back to the 1970s and 1980s and have not forgotten how to fight.

Join me to volunteer your voice, your time, your expertise, and your support to the resistance. Sign petitions, March, Protest, Retweet, and Share.

Attend Town Halls: The Town Hall Project

#Resist  #WomensMarch 


The End?

Mayor Adams has lifted the vaccine mandates and mask mandates in most settings. Javits and the other vaccine mega sites are all closed or closing. My temp agency has informed me that the NYC HSS Shelter Immunization and Testing Projects are winding down. The Medical Reserve Corps of New York City and Suffolk Counties re-upped for the Omicron surge, but are now back to restarting long delayed drills and trainings for future disasters. There are no lines in front of urgent care centers, and no pop up testing sites. The New York Recovery Network (NYRN) has an active schedule of nursing and medical missions in South and Central America, India and Nepal, Egypt, Thailand, and West Africa for 2022. We’re packing up supplies this weekend to send to Ukraine, and I would not be surprised if there will be a deployment there or one of the neighboring countries providing refugee assistance, and my name will go on that roster.

I “retired”in 2020 because I was afraid for my life, not because of crime but rather negligence, and was fortunate to find per diem employers, including New York City and New York State, that were able to provide staff with adequate PPE and emotional support. Now, I’ve slipped back into somewhat of a routine with all the other hospital based, battle hardened nurses, doctors, and awesome support staff working with immigrants and high risk families–though just about every family is high risk at this point after all the pandemic pressures.

The COVID 19 ramp up was so steep we were at risk of falling to our deaths and thus this escalator down seems way too fast. It makes sense that since 77% of New York City residents are fully vaccinated, it seems reasonable to not require proof of vaccination as of the date of this writing. The 23% of persons at most risk of infection (the unvaccinated), generally won’t wear masks without a fight and shouldn’t be allowed the platform to disrupt COVID recovery more than they already have. But please allow health care workers and those with high risk conditions the courtesy of masking without drama when asked because the burden of disease, both physical and psychological, is very heavy and we are very tired and post traumatic stress disordered.

What got us through? The 7 PM clapping was thoughtful though most didn’t hear it above the monitors beeping, repetitive hospital overhead code calls, crash carts careening down halls and bumping into walls. The food that showed up unordered three times a day for months was most welcome. Health care workers relied on each other like never before, and we did our best, but there were too many of our colleagues who died of COVID–or suicide. President Biden’s remarks after his inauguration not only gave us thanks–but provided assurance that the ship was now under the control of a sane and competent captain and crew even as the waves of unrest and needless deaths of persons of color threatened to swamp the lifeboats. Enough politics, though all of that needed to be said so the negative energy can be discharged.

I want to thank all the drivers and escorts, the administrators and tech support specialists, the physicians, my fellow nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and medical assistants with whom I have crossed paths, even if it was in the elevators. We were thrown together on a daily basis, and yet safely vaccinated and tested thousands of the most vulnerable men, women and children in New York. I rode the Long Island Railroad on the 4:45 am or 4:55 pm trains to Javits for both day and night 12 hour shifts. I drove to places in The Bronx I had never been, found parking (God was obviously on my side), and took my co workers home at 10 pm because the subways are in very bad shape right now.

I now know more about neighborhoods in Brooklyn than I thought possible. And places in Queens near the penultimate stop on the A Train that took as long as my trips to Brentwood and Riverhead in Eastern Suffolk. I braved the subway to East Harlem (even God could’t help with parking there) where the garbage bags teeming with rats were piled as high as the first story windows. And to get home, I copped a ride with the driver to Barclays in Brooklyn for a two hour odyssey on the Long Island Railroad and Number 7 train (creepy station to wait in, but there were transit cops and a booth clerk on duty) to get back to Queens, because even this bad-ass, who survived the South Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s, was afraid to go down the steps on the 1-2-3 past all the spaced out addicts shambling around.

There was a considerable amount of bonding at JAVAX on those very long shifts surrounded by the US Army Reservists guarding the vaccine supplies. Annette, we hit it off right away despite you being from Brooklyn and me from the Bronx. Not only could you get clients registered in a flash, you held hands and distracted the terrified, calmed the agitated, and help soothe the grieving. Michael, you’re from the Bronx too, so I speak your language. You reminded me of my son (about the same age) with your stand up comic humor that would morph immediately to kind and dignified questioning to obtain needed information from clients who had been waiting in line for hours for their shots. Aaron, I hope that I will get to see you in one of the off-Broadway shows or find you waiting tables in one of the Greenwich Village restaurants that survived the pandemic. Percy, you are both kind and courageous. You and Devonne saved that man’s life with quick, heroic action. And Diana, when you “click” with someone you’ve met only twice, it’s always a good day. Dimitri, I think you’re from Ukraine and if I’m correct, I hope that you and yours are okay.

I’ve only hit the highlights here. All the people I volunteered and/or worked with, no matter what their role, were typical New Yorkers who rose to the occasion, doing whatever needed to be done–and then some. And to the thousands or so I jabbed, and who murmured your appreciation, blew kisses, offered blessings, and squeezed my left elbow so your arm would be relaxed when I injected the vaccine, thanks for trusting us, and science.

Not Writing? No Worries!

Without a doubt the pandemic has, at the very least, led to opportunities to try out new ways of doing things. So it’s time for “The Brief Fling,” “The Reward Break,” “The Pause Before the Finish Line,” and “The True Rest.”

Writers have long been told they need to “write every day”or to do their “morning pages.” I may have been able to write most days, with the exception of the last two years for obvious reasons. Just like everything else in our lives, the pandemic has changed how we think and act in both our personal and professional lives. As such, it helps to reframe that mantra to include more than just sitting down with a pen and paper or typing into a keyboard.

In an August 11, 2021 article in The Writer Magazine, Anica Mrose Rissi wrote:

“Knowing how and when to step away from the page is an important element of craft – one that’s no less essential than fine-tuning your ear for dialogue, sharpening your revision skills, or honing your voice. As with those other skills, you’ll discover how best to wield time off through experimentation…

View original post 340 more words

Writing Milestones: 2020 to 2022

I have a new novel coming out in April 2022. And the upside of the “COVID years” has created a superb plot line in the second book of the contemporary Western.

The last two years have blurred into one, with dual tracks of survival and rescue. I find it difficult to recall exactly when events happened in the twenty-four month period from beginning in January 2020, as I arrived home from a medical mission to Puerto Rico to assist with earthquake relief.

The airport workers were buzzing about the SARS COVID 19 virus outbreak and how they were all at risk. It did catch my attention, recalling how the Ebola outbreak began in the United States from persons arriving from stricken countries-and how it was properly handled. I wasn’t worried.

My personal concerns about an upcoming job change, as well as getting my latest Contemporary Western novel written during were foremost in my mind. So much so, the rash of adolescent patients during February 2020 with severe respiratory illness, not due to seasonal influenza that took forever to resolve, I attributed…

View original post 349 more words

Just Let It Be

Thanks, I needed that!

December can be stressful. Even more so this year as we navigate the increasingly uncertain terrain of Covid.

Whenever I feel discouraged or overwhelmed, I take time to read and reflect upon the following Zen parable:

Buddha was walking from one town to another town with a few of his followers. While they were traveling, they happened to pass a lake. They stopped there and Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Please get me some water from that lake.”

The disciple walked up to the lake. When he reached it, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water and, right at that moment, a bullock cart started crossing the lake right at the edge of it. As a result, the water became very muddy, very turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink?” So, he came back…

View original post 226 more words


This is such a moving and well timed post about holidays.

There are a lot of traditions that have built up around this time of year. A tradition is simply a habit that is carried out at the same time, and often the meaning is forgotten in the mists of time. Some of our most treasured traditions are related to a pagan celebration, a family recipe or even a marketing campaign.

Some are a way to connect with family – a recipe for biscuits or gravy that is handed down through the generations. You taste the same cookie of your childhood and for that magical moment your parents are still alive, and you feel the fur of your old dog under your fingers. A time of year when memories strike the hardest, and for many a time of sorrow for lost loved ones. All amidst a society bent on celebrating, a forced good cheer and social activity that may hide a…

View original post 380 more words

#Vaccines Work #Masks Work

For the first time for as long as I can remember, I have flu like symptoms. But my rapid COVID 19 and Influenza tests remain negative, and I have no fever. I have spent the last three months vaccinating persons living in homeless and transient housing situations agains COVID 19. And the last three weeks vaccinating kids ages 5-17 against COVID 19, which requires a lot more hand holding and close contact than vaccinating adults.

I believe I contracted this virus from my daughter (also COVID vaccinated but not yet boosted) who works in retail and has the same symptoms but she is also negative for COVID 19. We aren’t wearing masks at home as my entire family is vaccinated, and I got my Moderna booster three weeks ago.

Why am I posting this? Because I received my first COVID in vaccines January and February 2021, and despite my vaccinating thousands of New Yorkers ((yes, really, I’ve lost count), from all walks of life in pop ups and the Javits Center where we administered 10K per day at its acme, I have not had a sniffle. And I worked hospital inpatient services in Brooklyn from March through June 2020, at the worst time of the COVID 19 pandemic. We may not have had vaccines, but they gave us adequate PPE, including N 95 masks, impermeable gowns, and face shields.

I may not be feeling too great right now, but I don’t have COVID (nor have I ever had COVID antibodies). Wearing masks and getting vaccines during a life threatening pandemic with a virus so dangerous and virulent are not political statements. They are common sense. And just like vaccines, they work.

Parking Meters: A Twenty Year Flashback to 9/12/2001

Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the main drag, led by exhausted police officers and firefighters. We lined the sidewalks, waving flags, burning our fingers, holding hands, singing God Bless America.

9/12/01. The stench of burning jet fuel, plastic, paper, and human beings wafted over the NYC. Every rear car window and front door sported an American flag poster, as did fences around schools, churches, security grates on storefronts.

Everyone waited patiently in security checkpoint lines at the bridges and tunnels. No bosses said a word if you were late for work. No horns, no reckless driving-there wasn’t anyplace that seemed important enough to hurry to anymore.

The sounds of commercial jets had been replaced by F-16’s flying over the City at regular intervals. The wail of sirens sent people into fits of tears, and there was always someone, often a stranger, there to comfort them, help them.

Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the…

View original post 325 more words