Monday, September 18, 2017

Forgotten Women

For some time, I've had Songs and Sweet Airs: Forgotten Women of Classical Music on my Amazon Wish List. Recently, I had the pleasure of borrowing it from the library, and I've been reading it over the last week. 

In premise, it may sound interesting to you--and it is. But there is one caveat. The author, Anna Beer, uses a lot of music theory-speak, which is fine by me, but may be confusing to anyone who doesn't know what strophic form means, or what a cantata is. 

That said, the main take-away I'm getting from this book is that I--feminist, musician, music teacher--am sorely lacking in knowledge of women in music history.

Sure, I learned about Hildegarde von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Clara Schumann a little in college. But that's it. I've sung a few choral works by women composers here and there, but for the most part, my performing life has been filled with the works of men. 

I'm setting out to change that. I've been looking for reasons to blog more, and this is one way to do it: I will be searching out female composers and listening to their surviving works, documenting here what I learn of them. 

For a start, I leave this gem I've just found tonight on YouTube, by Germaine Tailleferre. I know nothing of her...yet.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day, so I enjoyed a nice lie-in while Popcorn repeatedly stepped on my breasts in an attempt to get breakfast at the usual time (Popcorn doesn't understand "weekends").

Eventually, I got up and gave the boys their wet food, and now I'm relaxing with a cup of tea.

As I perused Facebook, the story of Alex Wubbels, the Utah nurse who was unlawfully arrested for refusing to let a detective take blood from an unconscious patient, came across my feed again. I've been seeing it for several days now, and like everyone else, I was shocked and outraged at the treatment she received from the detective. She was doing her job, and not breaking any laws. The detective was, of course, completely in the wrong.

Her story has reminded many people of something that was driven home to me in a very personal way to me this summer. Nurses are amazing. Of course, you get the occasional Nurse Ratched...

...but as my mom lay in a hospital for nine days in July, prepping for and then recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from her colon, I learned anew why nurses are so important.

When Mom was moved out of the ICU to a regular room after her surgery, one of the nurses, upon seeing her, gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and said, "I'm so happy to see you again!" She was always cheerful, always ready to help Mom with whatever she needed. Mom loved her, and it made a stressful situation more bearable to have someone who so obviously cares for her patients on hand during the recovery process.

The other nurses were just as fantastic--attentive, efficient, caring. When Mom was in the pre-op area, one of the surgical nurses came in to talk to her. He was inputting information on the computer and talking quickly, and I could tell Mom was unable to hear him well, without her hearing aids in. I (nicely) interrupted him and said, "Just FYI, Mom's hard of hearing..." He stopped, smiled, and said, "Well, then, I can do this over here." He pulled a chair up next to Mom and wrote information down on paper instead of inputting it at the computer.

The little things were nice, but I also found that the nurses were willing to do just about anything to ensure the well-being of their patients, and they are fierce advocates. When Mom was first admitted, we didn't have a set surgery date, so she was fasting well before she needed to. She was scared, confined to a hospital room, and uncertain of what was next, and meanwhile, her blood sugar was plummeting. Anxiety started to take hold. It was a nurse who called the doctor in charge over and over until she got through, and insisted to him that Mom be given something. Mom went on a liquid-only diet, but at least she got some needed calories.

Nurses work twelve-hour shifts, three days on, which, when you think about it, has to be exhausting. They are on their feet, they help lift patients in and out of bed, they clean up toilet messes, vomit, and goodness knows what else. They are yelled at by difficult patients, ordered around by tired families, and they take orders from busy doctors who bustle in and out. It is the nurses who truly know how their patients are faring, and it is nurses who are the first to advocate for those patients. To see Alex Wubbels quietly, firmly telling a police detective that she cannot and will not let him take blood from a patient because he did not have a warrant or patient consent should surprise no one.

Nurses work holidays, miss first days of kindergarten, comfort grieving families, patiently answer every question under the sun--or offer to get an answer from a doctor. They deal with bureaucratic red tape and doctors with superiority complexes. They are exhausted, frustrated, and yet they take a deep breath and walk into that patient's room with a smile and a calm demeanor, because they know that patients need reassurance and calm along with the pain meds and IV fluids.

I am, of course, in awe of Dr. P., Mom's surgeon, and Dr. D., her oncologist. Dr. P. did amazing work getting a grapefruit-sized tumor out of Mom's colon, and ensuring that everything went well. Dr. D. is an expert in oncology and every time Mom sees her, she leaves feeling reassured.

But it was the nurses who, every day, made Mom comfortable, helped her get to the bathroom, made sure her needs were met. So on this Labor Day, I'm thanking them, and all of the nurses who work so hard for their patients. Alex Wubbels is getting national attention, but I'm sure she'd be the first to agree that she is no different than any other nurse out there.

P.S. Mom is doing great. She's had two rounds of chemo, and the third is tomorrow. She's had a chemo rash that was pretty uncomfortable, and she naps every day because of the fatigue, but otherwise, she feels really good and her prognosis is good. She's still got her Fightin' Pants on, and she's still staying active in her social activities, as much as she can.