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I think it was the tea. For several days last week, I methodically decluttered my closets and drawers in one bedroom, one kitchen, one living room, one dining room, one study, one hallway, and three bathrooms. 

My husband even noticed. “Whatever you’re on, let me know, so next time the house needs to be cleaned, I’ll know what I should get for you.” He’s our grocery shopper, and I put my wants on his list.

I’m “on” tea. Tea from a Chinese herbalist working from her red and gold tea-cluttered storefront in Chicago’s Chinatown. I add five cups of water to her herbal concoction, boil it down to one cup, and drink it as yet another measure to relieve me of my chronic itching. It detoxifies, but clearly it also propelled that streak of cleaning up clutter.


When I clean, I find surprises in every drawer. Who knew we still had a bottle of bluing on top of our stackable washer and dryer, a plastic bag big enough to encase a human, a strand of Mardi Gras beads from the nineties, and, best of all, every draft of Caring Lessons?

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But even those drafts, since my book has been out over three years, have to go. As I think of shredding the very first hard copies, tears come. In 2000, when my friend Marianna Crane and I started writing our nursing stories, those first drafts addressed themes beginning with “C”: Competence, Courage, Compassion, Conflict, Change, Challenge, and Contentment. For fun, we threw in Comedy.

I’d worked with the idea of C’s before; a few had been part of the Caring-focused conceptual framework of the nursing curriculum at Trinity Christian College where I’d taught until my retirement.

As time went on, Marianna and I abandoned the thematic approach. But I still have hard copies of those very first drafts.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few of them. In a way, they are refreshing, unmodified and unchanged. Right from the heart in everyday language without the attention to the “best” nouns and verbs and sense perceptions that make their way into final versions. 

Some stories were revised many times before making it into Caring Lessons, and some got dropped. If you have a copy, you can compare. There should be a change!

Meanwhile, I feel cleansed from my tea-inspired decluttering party and will take off tomorrow, burden free, for a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea.

And as I travel, I will remember a paraphrase of a Mark Twain quote: Travel is the best antidote to bigotry, prejudice, and narrow–mindedness. A good reminder for the world we live in today.