Pump Up The Volume

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Pump Up The Volume

Things have been super heavy lately. Time to take a break from all the heartache, put on some party hats, turn up the music and dance on the tables….metaphorically speaking.

Pump Up The Volume by M/A/R/R/S –

 

As I’m listening to this song, I’m transported back to the late 80s when I had a part time job video taping weddings. Pump Up The Volume was played at 99.9% of the weddings I attended and we all did the electric slide to it. That was a fun job except for the 37.5 pounds of equipment that was attached to my body for 8 – 14 hour days depending on the wedding package the bride and groom settled on. Scratch that, depending on the package the parents of the bride were willing to buy. Actually the job was fun most of the time, it just lacked in consistency. The work was steady May – November but you never knew what kind of party it was until you got there.

Sometimes we taped the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready for the wedding. This added 3 to 4 hours to the day and maybe got me an extra 30 bucks so, meh. I was young and broke so I slipped into my pseudo tux (complete with black bow tie), set the alarm for an ungodly hour and schlepped to wherever I needed to be. It was usually a row house in Chambersburg. At the time Chambersburg was about 112% Italian and the weddings became somewhat predictable. We affectionately referred to these brides as “Burger Bits”.

There was always a Tony or a Vinny to greet me at the door along with duplicates of Lisa and Maria. There was always food – Italian bakery cookies, crumb cakes, fresh fruit and coffee. God bless them for having coffee at every hour of the day. The houses were small and the families were large. Cousins, blood and honorary Aunts and Uncles, “business associates” and neighbors galore. There was usually someone on the line from Italy kissing into the phone. The mother of the bride oscillated between being on the verge of nostalgic tears and ready to skin someone alive for transgressions like – not getting all the lint off of a suit jacket or bringing the wrong brand of milk to go with all of that coffee. It was….intense.

The brides were beautiful and sweet, all the time. I was amazed at their composure while I stalked them with a large video camera and a light that could double as a beacon for wayward coastal ships. They were poised, confident and radiated happiness. There were a few exceptions but nothing like the Bridezillas you hear about today. If they got the “getting ready” package their video inevitably included this song –

 

Dear Gawd I hate that song with the heat of a thousand suns. I don’t know how Phil, the owner of the company, didn’t off himself after editing his 7,341st bride getting ready to that song. I still have nightmares about it. After capturing the happy bride and her bridesmaids in all of their glory, I was off to the church to secure a good location.

Parking was always a bitch in Chambersburg. And having to park half a block or more away from the church was fine, if you didn’t have to haul half your body weight in equipment to and from the car. Add rain to the mix and well it just sucked. The churches and priests varied on their rules for video taping weddings. The alter was almost always off limits in Catholic churches and sometimes you could feel the resentment from the clergy. They didn’t consider us a value add to the holy ceremony. I wasn’t there to have a philosophical debate I just needed to shoot the damn wedding. I already had issues with the Catholic Church and this hostility didn’t help matters….but I digress.

After the ceremony and the inevitable humungous receiving line, there were always family photos in the church. I’d stick around for that and then get ready for the official “photo shoot” which would take place in a park or at the reception venue. The Photographer called the shots, I just hoped for some candid laughter and smiles among the wedding party. Something to make the video look different from the Photo Album.

After the Photo Shoot it was time to get to the reception. If I was lucky there was time to pee and eat a granola bar. By this point I was usually 8 hours into the day and in need of caffeine to get through the next 6 or 7 hours. The reception is where things got really interesting or really boring. I would bounce between the guest cocktail hour and the bridal party which was usually in a separate “VIP” room. The VIP room typically had it’s own bathroom, bar service and food. The wait staff was always on full ass-kissing mode around the bridal party so if you’re looking for the jumbo shrimp, that’s where it resides.

You could tell a lot about the future of the marriage based on the cocktail hour. Some couples were already pissed off at each other which wasn’t a good sign. We did have repeat customers for some second and third weddings, true story. Also, the way people treated the “staff” varied wildly. I was either treated like family or a piece of furniture, there was no in-between.

Some families had us eat at the parents table, which seems over the top to me. Um, we just met 10 hours ago shouldn’t I be in the back of the room with the co-workers that they “had” to invite? Other families didn’t reserve us a meal at all. A 14 hour day and no meal for the skinny video chick. The photographer always got fed, we were second class citizens until the boss finally added it to the contract. I’m sure for some people it just slipped their minds, so the addendum to the contract helped them to remember.

My job was to capture candid, happy moments when guests least expected it. It’s difficult to creep up on people when you’re sporting a 3 foot long camera, 12 inches wide with a blinding light attached to it. Good thing I was cute and friendly. Some guests simply weren’t having it and I got the “no, honey” look with hand gestures that sent me on my way sans coverage. I used to joke that some of these people were afraid they’d get ousted on “America’s Most Wanted” until I realized that some were likely mobbed up and that I should keep my mouth shut.

I always got hit on by some drunk guy in the bridal party. I managed to avoid bad situations by making sure I parked near other guests and always made trips to my car when other people were around. It was a definite downside to the job, I had to be extremely careful.

The best weddings were the ones where my boss worked with me. Phil became a close friend and it was always more fun when he was around. He loved the MC Hammer song – “U Can’t Touch This” and we always stole a dance when the DJ played it.

This song always puts a smile on my face (unlike that hell cat “Going to the Chapel”) and makes me think of my friend.

 

 

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Of Course, Me too.

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Of Course, Me too.

“Me too” is trending on social media right now. It’s a way for people (mostly women but not exclusively) to identify that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted at some point. At the risk of sounding trendy, this is a tinder box of triggers for a lot of us.

Where to start…..early y’all I grew up in the 70’s when women were definitely not seen as equals. I was a kid – probably 5 the first time someone tried to get fresh with me. We were visiting a friend of my mother. It was a family but the guy and his offspring were overly sexual. I remember seeing boob mugs and a novelty lady parts on the guys desk. His son, a few years older than me, kept trying to get me naked. I was 5 years old. I refused to get naked for him despite his relentless requests.

Fast forward to me at 7 years old, living in New Jersey. There was a teen boy that lived by my babysitter. He got me to make out with him in a fort. What teen wants to make out with a 7 year old? He was definitely a predator in training. I remember him telling me how we would get married when I was 16. Even at 7, I knew he was full of shit.

Leap to my teen years and I wasn’t making great life choices. I had a brief stint with drugs and alcohol which lasted about 18 months. It was the early 80s and there were times when I was stupid enough to hitch hike, sometimes alone. One time in particular, the driver took me to a remote location. I knew I was in trouble and my teen brain was in overdrive. I liked to think I was cool but I was very inexperienced and afraid. I talked my way out of an assault by making up a story about a boyfriend in South River that had ties to the mob. I rattled of names of guys and streets that were completely fabricated. The driver must have believed me because things didn’t escalate. That was a really close call.

Fortunately I stopped drinking and using drugs at the age of 15. I got sent to an adolescent rehab which was a fairly new concept in 1983. Ten months later, I was in a sexual relationship with the man who was previously my counselor in rehab. I have tried to convince myself that this was consensual. It was in some ways but it wasn’t a level playing field. He was 32, I was 16. If a 32 year old man shows any interest in my daughter when she is 16, there will be hell to pay.

When I started working, harassment was just another thing you had to deal with on the job. I was a cashier at a grocery store for several years in my late teens. One older man in the dairy department insisted on hugging all of the girls and then he would make comments about their breast size. I hated this and mentioned it to management. The hugging stopped but I was looked at as a trouble maker from that point on. “Oh, it’s no big deal, he’s just old and likes hugs” my co-workers would say. “Really” I would retort, “he just commented on your cup size.”

I worked for a large corporation in the early 90s. I was good at my job and got consistent promotions. I was there about 4 years when one of my former managers heard that I had ended a relationship. The next day a box from Victoria’s Secret was on my desk. It contained two camisole nightgowns with matching robes and two pairs of thigh high stockings. It cost a small fortune and instantly made me feel uncomfortable. This man was no longer my manager and we rarely spoke. And if that wasn’t enough, his wife worked for the same company. So I handled it in a way that would leave him some dignity. I thanked him for the gift and said “I’m sure you only meant this as a friendly gesture but it makes me uncomfortable”. I requested that he take it back, he refused and I let it drop. By this point, I had learned the importance of deescalation.

I remember going to a sober get together with male acquaintances that said they would not give me a ride home unless I blew them. I started walking and they eventually caught up with me to give me a ride but I didn’t feel safe. Even sober, I could not escape creeps. There was one man in particular that would go to the same weekly AA meeting as me, he harassed me every time he saw me. Every. Single. Time. The kicker was that he sponsored my sponsor’s husband. She had a fit when she witnessed his behavior one night. She had not idea he treated me that way. To me he was just another asshole that I tried to ignore. It didn’t even cross my mind to tell her about it.

I will say these things don’t happen with the frequency they once did. I’ve been married for 15 years and I am self-employed. I’d like to think the world is starting to change but it is more likely that I have aged out of the target zone. Now my focus is preparing my children for the situations they may encounter. Time to make “me too” the exception instead of the norm, it’s beyond time.

 

 

Last Call

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Last Call

I encountered a situation yesterday that was a first in my ten years as a hospice volunteer. A couple of days ago the Volunteer Coordinator sent out an email asking for a volunteer. She gave a summary of the case including the town, first name of the patient and a description of the requested visit. The patient was in my town so I responded immediately that I would like to help this family. The next day a secure email was sent to me with the patient name, address and contact information.

Last night I called the patient’s wife to schedule the visit. A woman answered the phone and I asked if it was Helen, my contact. “No”, the shaky voice replied. I explained the reason for my call and a slight sense of dread was building. “No need to visit, he died about an hour ago. He’s still on the floor waiting for the funeral director to get him.” I could hear the tears in the voice on the other end of the phone and then it clicked, I know this person.

“Jan, is that you?” I asked, sure that I knew the person on the other end of the line. “Yes” she replied. I gave my full name, said how sorry I was and asked if there was anything I could do in that moment. There wasn’t anything to do, except to express my deepest condolences which is what I did. She thanked me for the call and we said good-bye.

I could picture my acquaintance on the phone. Tears, that keep coming when you think you’re all cried out. I could feel her concern for her newly widowed mother. I wondered if she ate dinner or if she would sleep over her parents home to ease the adjustment of that awful first night. I imagined a fitful night with not much sleep, except for an hour or so when the emotional exhaustion just overwhelms your body and forces you to rest despite your mind’s best efforts to keep you up. I could sense the headache, the nasal congestion and the scratchy throat, remnants of many tears shed. I felt her grief and I took a little piece with me. I still have it.

Sir Drake

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Sir Drake

My son takes legendary shits. He started in his toddler years and in his well-traveled youth, has destroyed bathrooms all across this great land. He’s also taken his toilet destroying ways across the pond. It’s seriously something we need to consider when we plan a trip.

One of my husband’s favorite tales to tell goes back to when our boy was about 4. They were on a man trip to NYC and were in the bowels of the city (sorry couldn’t resist) when need struck. At first my husband was hoping to find a bathroom that wasn’t in the underground but nature wouldn’t wait. So they had to find a bathroom in a NYC subway station.

I’ve lived most of my life within a fifty mile radius of NYC and have been there many times. In my almost half a century on this earth, I have managed to avoid subway bathrooms. In fact I have a knack for finding decent bathrooms wherever I am. Pro tip, higher-end hotels typically have nice bathrooms near the banquet rooms and they are almost always unlocked. You can usually cruise right in unless you are sloppy drunk or look like a homeless person.

After my husband confirmed that our son “really” had to go, he found a bathroom attached to a Dunkin’ Donuts. For those not familiar, Dunkin’ Donuts sells donuts and coffee and they are not known for having spectacular bathrooms. The Dunkin’ Donuts in a crowded subway station are less than ideal.

The details are sketchy and the “incident” happened a decade ago…I can tell you this, the hubs got our boy out of there as quick as possible. Something about the toilet making a weird gurgling sound…comparable to the death rattle sound that people make with their dying breath. There was a line of still drunk and hungover customers waiting to use the facilities and my husband gave the “it’s broken” warning before picking up the boy and high tailing it out of there. They heard screams behind them in their haste to exit but they didn’t look back.

I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve had to search for plungers in vacation rental homes. The more savvy rental units have a plunger visible others don’t and that results in an awkward phone call or a trip to the local hardware store. He’s usually good the first couple of days on a trip but then when the “back up” gets cleared, things get dicey.

A couple of years ago I was reading in my bedroom when my son ran in with a panicked look on his face. “Mom there’s water coming in through the laundry room window”, he said sounding scared. Well that doesn’t make sense I thought to myself and got downstairs in record time. Turns out the water was coming from the ceiling. I ran back upstairs and discovered the problem.

My son had taken a crap and then took a shower. He didn’t notice that the toilet was still running. Toilet water and sewage was overflowing, I quickly shut off the water valve. I heard screaming from downstairs and knew that my husband was aware of the situation. It was a bit of a mess but the damage wasn’t too bad. The laundry room got a face lift with new drywall and a paint job. We wondered if we could avoid this in the future.

My husband is an Engineer so he’s analytical by nature. Whenever we need a new appliance he spends hours researching the available options, creates a spreadsheet and consults the Gods of Reason. He doesn’t “rush” into things, his decisions are practical and well thought out. So when he decided to buy a new toilet for our son’s bathroom, I was confident in his choice.

The “Drake II” by TOTO (not the band) was the winner. My husband was determined that this particular toilet would take care of our clogging problem. He read the specs and was intrigued by the “double cyclone” feature. It sounded more like a carnival ride than a toilet to me and we were all pretty excited about it. A few days later, Sir Drake, the second, joined our family and has been a beloved member for 3 years now.

And for the record, I have received no compensation for this post. We simply appreciate a good product that lives up to it’s promise. We aren’t alone, there are tons of positive reviews online. Some are very enthusiastic. Here’s part of my favorite Drake review:

5.0 out of 5 starsBuy it! Buy it now! This is a great toilet

on May 27, 2014

For all the greatness that is the Toto Drake 2, it gets better. One might think that it isn’t possible to improve upon perfection. One would be wrong. With the addition of one small accessory, your life not only has meaning, it has new direction. It is possible that after installing this item that one day you might be the President. Or CEO of GM. Choose your lofty goal. With the addition of the wax-less seal made by the clever people at the Fernco company, your joy will be complete.


So ride. Ride your steed to elysian fields of glory. Ride like the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook has me in a Jam

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Facebook has me in a Jam

I accidentally got into a Facebook fight with a local guy who sells jams. I know it sounds ridiculous, this guy has been caustic since day one. I volunteer for a local non-profit and a few months ago we had a vendor event. I was doing promotions on FB for it when I get a  – “why wasn’t I invited” in the comments from this guy. I never heard his name before but I respond politely give him the details and he joined the event. He donated a total of $3. to the non-profit. I let it go.

Things are going fine. I liked his jam related posts and we have some mutual local business friends that collaborate with him. Great, I support local businesses. Then in August things went off the rails. He posted something which asked a question, I answered. Things spiraled from there.

I logged off and went to bed and soon after, he started a sh*t storm on my personal Facebook page. Some of my friends defended me and took screen shots of the whole sordid affair. Most of the offensive comments were deleted by the time I checked in the next morning. Just a few traces of a rough night with people messaging me the details. My friends were demanding a boycott of his business. I urged them to let it go, he does make a good product. Just brush it off. Then I unfriended him because I don’t need the drama.

A month later he’s at it again. He makes random comments on the Facebook page for the non-profit for which I volunteer. We are collecting items for an auction. He comments that he wants to donate but never responds to messages with the details on how to do so. Then he comments again on other pages, acting like he wanted to help but I was unresponsive. I see it for what it is and I handle it with class despite our history.

Ok this is boring why am I wasting your time….here’s the funny part….my husband loves this f*cking jam. The one he likes reminds him of childhood summers spent in Italy. How can I deprive him of that? I can’t. But I don’t want to order this stuff online and have Jam Man see my name on the order – he’ll probably poison the jar. And I definitely do not want him to have my home address.

So in an ironic twist, filed under things you do for love……I am driving around the county going into small businesses looking for this stupid jam. I bought another variety at one store a few days ago, husband gave it the thumbs down. I go back two days later for the beloved flavor, they don’t have it. Damn it.

This morning my husband sends me a text “good jam” – meaning please get me the stuff that reminds me of childhood summers spent in Italy. My first reaction was “You’re on your own dude, Jam Man was at it again yesterday.” Then I look up other stores that might carry it and find a local venue. I found it!!! So yes I bought the stupid jam because I love my husband more than I dislike the Jam Man.

 

 

Picture Day (I kind of hate it)

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Picture Day (I kind of hate it)

I hate picture day. I hated it when I was in school and I hate it now that I have kids. First of all – the stress. Knowing that whatever you look like on this particular day will live on in infamy is daunting. It also feels like another shakedown. Have you seen the prices? Are these head shots for some modeling agency, wth? This morning was a mother f*ckin’ disaster. It went completely off the rails and I have to own a large chunk of it.

It started off OK, almost good. Woke up at 5:55am without an alarm. I actually slept about 7 hours last night, rare. I woke my daughter up shortly after I was upright. It’s “Picture Day” so I knew my tween would want to do some extra primping and I thought the extra half hour would help. She came downstairs and asked if I could wash her PE uniform. Sure, I put it on the quick cycle and went about my morning routine. Switched it to the dryer when it was done, happy I hadn’t neglected that task.

Fast forward to 7:25 and I start making the “we need to leave in 5 minutes” announcement. My son is ready, he is always ready. He’s so punctual it’s annoying at times. 7:30 “we really need to leave” as I find evidence of the morning rush on the kitchen counter, assorted crumbs and incidentals. I give the “don’t leave raspberries wet in the container or they mold” talk. 7:32 “I’m getting in the car, we need to leave.” I hear my daughter rushing up the stairs, see her phone on the bench, pick it up. Daughter asks where her uniform is – “it’s in the dryer, come on we need to go”. I hand my daughter her cell phone as she gets ready to dive into the dryer to find her uniform, then I get in the car with my son.

7:34 my son and I are in the car, waiting. I’m getting annoyed, this shit happens too often and for the love of God it is still September. How horrible will this be in March. We really need to leave by 7:30 to guarantee we will get there on time without doing the walk of shame into the office where late arrivals need to sign in. “You need to get in the car now!” I scream it. I’m done, finished. A minute later I see my daughter dropping her backpack and I tell her just get in the car again for maybe the ninth time in 4 minutes. Then it happened “get in the f*cking car!” Yup, I lost it.

So now my kid is crying. Somehow, the lid for the hand sanitizer comes off and my daughter is struggling with it, sobbing. I rip the cord attaching the hand sanitizer to the back pack and place the bottle with it’s non-compliant lid in my door pocket to limit the mess. She’s begging me to let her fix the cap and I tell her to just wait. At this point I have visions of her wearing the hand sanitizer and my car already smells like a clinic from the stuff.

I have maybe 10 minutes to try to make this OK and I try, I really do. My daughter is crying that picture day is ruined. I tell her she looks great, her hair is spectacular. I apologize for cursing. She keeps circling back to the hand sanitizer like her life won’t be complete if she doesn’t have it. I tell her I’ll work on it when we get to a light.

I tell her she can hit reset on her day. Picture day doesn’t have to be ruined it can just be a bad 10 minutes, that’s all. We can do better, starting….now. She stops crying and tells me she couldn’t find her uniform in the dryer and I tell her it was in there. She insists it wasn’t. She laments about what she will do. I reminded her she has three options – use the one at school, sure it’s a little stinky but it is an option, this is why we have 2 sets. Borrow a friend’s who doesn’t have PE today or take the hit and lose points for not having a uniform. I will not bring the uniform to her school, she needs to learn consequences.

2 minutes from drop off, holy hell we might actually make the cut off. I didn’t get stopped at the light, it’s a minor miracle. My daughters hands are steady enough to attempt to fix the hand sanitizer so I hand it over. She fixes it but is annoyed that the cord is broken. I tell her to use the side pocket. And remind her that she has 32 other sanitizers at home…..an inconvenience is all it is.

She mentions she can’t find her phone. I say it’s OK. You know when and where I will pick you up. She’s not happy about this. I remind my kids about the book – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – we must have read that a hundred times. My son chimes in from the back, reminds me that we watched the movie. I honestly, don’t remember he starts to bring up a kangaroo scene and I feel like we are getting back on track, just a little. As usual I am leaning on humor to gloss over the dysfunction of my parenting. I know it’s a silly band aid but I need something to slow the flow.

By some miracle of the traffic gods we get to drop off on time. I remind my kids that I love them and say the same thing I do every day – “be nice to everybody but take crap from no one”.  And they exit the car and my daughter gives me a death stare that screams “hypocrite” and she’s not all wrong. When she gets home later we will discuss this when we are both calm and we will both suggest ways to avoid this morning’s horror show.

For the record, the PE uniform was in the dryer and her phone was at the bottom of the garage steps. So at least we know where everything is – we’ll do better tomorrow. I hope we’ll do better tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Boring Life….

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My Boring Life….

I’m bringing boring back. Too much crazy sh*t happening in the world, makes me want to cover my ears and scream “I can’t hear you!” Since people get twitchy when you cover your ears and scream in public, I’ll settle for a blog post. Here is a glimpse into my glamorous life folks, hope you have popcorn.

6am wake up so I can be a human alarm clock for my 12 year old daughter. Why do I do this well she wouldn’t get up otherwise so there’s that. Also, we don’t allow our kids to have their phones, the modern alarm of choice, in their room overnight and I’m too cheap and lazy to buy a stand alone alarm clock. I greet my grumpy tween and go back to bed for another blissful 30 minutes.

I manage to get the kids to the bus stop on time go back home. I don’t have to leave until 10:30ish for a client visit so I spend a few hours preparing for a fund-raising event scheduled for this weekend. I’m tracking down the people who haven’t paid yet to make sure they haven’t decided to ditch at the last minute. We have a wait list so it would be nice to get those people in if we can. I do a few promos on FB, some modifications to the donor sheet and a delivery of an auction item. Now it’s time to go to the job I get paid to do.

My visit today is to a 79 year old woman and her 88 year old husband. The woman, Helen, has mild dementia and her husband, Ralph, stays in bed most of the time. I am the entertainment. I am the social call for a lonely woman who struggles with depression. My goal each visit is to get her to eat and to stimulate her mind through some social activity or puzzles of some sort. I make her laugh through the inconvenient hardships of old age. She has a hate-hate relationship with her Depends which is something we talk about at length. She sometimes uses Vaseline or Desitin to relieve the chaffing the elastic causes at the leg openings. A couple of weeks ago she tried to put toothpaste on her nether regions. She’s in pain from a lifetime accumulation of injuries, aches and pains. The body wears out and it’s tough to witness. It’s worse when the brain goes along for the descent.

Most days it takes a solid hour to get my friend fed and dressed. Once we do that my goal is to propel her out the door and into the lobby. The community they live in has a front lobby that includes table shuffleboard. We like to play while eavesdropping on whatever is happening while we are there.

Image result for pictures table shuffleboard

Last Friday things got interesting when one of the residents went rogue and wandered off. Lorna is about 93 and walks fairly slowly with the help of a walker. Somehow she managed to slip by the front desk and get an impressive distance from the place. We were witnesses to the “chase” and subsequent capture. Then when I left, Helen and Lorna chatted about it.

After my visit I made a beeline for home, I like to be there when my kids get off the bus. Today it was just my son as my daughter had an activity. At about this time I got a text from the hubs….no words just this –

IMG_4074

That’s his subtle way of asking me to buy something for him. I replied with detailed instructions on how to open the canister and proper gum chewing etiquette. No reply, sigh.

Soon after that request I get a call from my mother. She was supposed to have cataract surgery today but it got cancelled because some family member of the surgeon had the nerve to die. That’s pretty much how she spun it. In 13 minutes she covered a lot of ground mostly how overwhelmed she is and how she wants to move. I bought the house she is currently living in because for 8 years she bitched non-stop about the last place…..and so it goes.

I rush out to get kid number two from her afternoon activity and I have about 50 minutes to make dinner and catch up on email. Badda Bing Badda Boom I make dinner. Freakin’ magic I tell you. I never know what I’m going to make until it dawns on me that it is my job…..someone has to make dinner, oh that’s right, I’m that someone. I usually don’t have a plan and somehow it works out. Tonight was pan sauteed lemon chicken in a white wine reduction (yes I made it sound fancy – I basically threw sh*t in a pan) with green beans. It was pretty good, a solid 6. They can’t all be 10s.

Then I started to load the dishwasher from the sink backlog. As I was doing this task my phone rang so I asked my daughter to answer it. She she went into a complete panic….like the phone was made of Plutonium (Pu, how appropriate)….she did a total half ass job with the conversation. So for half an hour, my husband and I took turns calling her pretending to be looking for ourselves so she could practice. She hates me a little and said “maaaahum” the way that 12 year old girls do.

Time to take the oldest to soccer practice. Drop him off at the field and go home to feed 3/4’s of the family the meal that I dreamed up 20 minutes ago. I set a plate aside for my son so no one eats his portion. In the blink of an eye I’m back in the car to fetch the boy. I go to the practice field where I dropped him off at 5:30 and he isn’t there, neither is his team. I scan the field, recalling the shirt he wore to practice. I just bought it this weekend so it’s fresh in my mind. It’s a heathered blue, with gray tints, it has a pocket left side of the chest and a thin line of white around the sleeves and the waist, gray shorts. I keep scanning, there are 5 boys on the field, none of them familiar.

I call a friend, her son practices at the same park during the same time for a different team. She picks up her phone and warns me that I’m on speaker phone (because I am the friend you must warn) her son didn’t go to practice. I tell her I’ll update her later, I have to go and manage one “sh*t” and an apology as I end the call. I drive to another field at the park, wrong kids, not our coach. I call my husband, he instantly starts screaming about our son not taking his phone. I remained calm said he left his phone behind because he needed to charge it. I decide to circle the park another time and get off the phone with my husband because his panic won’t help me now.

I drive slow, wondering if practice ended early. Would someone offer him a ride? He wouldn’t take it. I know my kid unless it is my close friend whose kid skipped practice, he won’t get in a car. He knows I’m coming to get him at 7pm he will wait. I consider the pavilion and the play ground. Without a phone he could have lost track of time and decided to wait it out there. I glance in that direction, bunch of littles and their parents.

I decide that I will circle the park one more time, slowly and deliberately because I can not bear the thought of my kid gone. I can’t. I can’t imagine how parents of missing children get through 10 minutes let alone hours, days, months and years. It would consume me. I have to place these thoughts on the back burner as I look for my son with heightened concentration.

I see that new H & M shirt that I just bought on Saturday. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him and I park the car and exhale. I call my husband and text my friend and the world begins to spin once again. A few minutes later he comes to the car. He knows I was worried. He apologizes and tells me it wasn’t his idea to switch fields. Because that’s the kind of kid he is and I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

Breathing Room

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Breathing Room

I watched his breathing. At times it was barely perceptible other times it was labored, loud and had some shakiness to it. I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t die during the three hours while I sat with him. It was my first time visiting, it got scheduled the way they usually do.

Initially the hospice coordinator sends out an email to see if any of the volunteers are available for a given case. She provides basic information; the day/time preferred, the town and a general synopsis of the situation. She’ll tell us if anyone else will be in the home or if there are pets and give an brief sentence about the condition of the patient. It’s almost always some form of cancer, the second runner up is COPD.

Usually the caregiver just needs to get out a few hours for work, doctor appointments or some other urgent matter. There have been several occasions where I relieved the caregiver so they could make funeral arrangements. That is such a sad and necessary outing. Once at a support meeting for hospice volunteers, a peer complained that the caregiver she relieved went out to play poker with friends. I don’t judge what the caregiver does with their time away. Providing care to someone who is terminally ill is difficult, if you want to take time off to play poker or have a beer, I am totally cool with that.

After the first email goes out, volunteers will alert the coordinator if they can take on the case. Once that is done a secure, private message is sent to the volunteer best suited for the task. This confidential message provides more in-depth information about the patient including the name and number of the main contact. Then the volunteer calls that person to schedule the visit.

My initial call for today’s visit happened two days ago. The wife needed about 3 hours to run some errands and I told her my available hours. Ginny sounded tense on the phone, I could hear the strain in her voice. You might think that’s the norm but oddly enough, it isn’t. Most of the families I have dealt with have a poise and calm that I can only attribute to denial, exhaustion or some zen like state that I have not yet obtained. Ginny was how I think I would sound if our roles were reversed. We agreed to the schedule and I told her that I would confirm the morning of my visit just to make sure we were still on. This is a sad and necessary precaution as you do not want to ring someone’s doorbell and find out that their beloved passed away the day before. It happens.

I called again this morning to make sure we were still on. Ginny sounded the same as the first call and I gently repeated the agreed upon times. When I got to the house, I greeted their neighbor in the driveway. She informed me that she would relieve me if Ginny ran late. Then I let myself in through the back kitchen door. I announced my arrival and Ginny welcomed me from a distant room. This is not uncommon as the tasks of terminal care can make it hard to leave the bedside. I made my way to the correct room and introduced myself.

The next 20 minutes was a series of harried movements and Ginny’s out loud mental check lists and a final dose of pain medication before she could leave. In these moments I witnessed a love that was so sweet it broke my heart. Ginny crawled into bed with Bill and explained where she was going, who I was, and that she would be back soon. It pained her to leave his side though I could tell she needed to leave for her own sake. Just a couple of hours to not be surrounded by the inevitable death of a man she has given the past 47 years to, the love of her life.

In a private moment in the kitchen, Ginny told me that she didn’t understand why he was holding on. I asked if he was waiting for a visitor to say good bye, a final conversation? She said she asked him but he didn’t confide in any such need. Sometimes the body lasts longer than you can possibly imagine, other times it expires in such a rapid decline even the most experienced hospice nurse doesn’t see it coming. Death is fickle and unpredictable even to the stewards who’ve witnessed it hundreds of times.

Ginny was finally able to pry herself away and I sat in the room with her love. Saying silent prayers, reading a book and keeping one eye on my bedridden friend. He was quiet until he needed to go to the bathroom. This was indicated with hand gestures and a reach for the portable urinal. A bit of panic always goes through me in these instances. My first concern is safety followed closely by privacy.

I’m not a nurse, nor do I play one on TV. I’ve been in the trenches and I can handle a mess. What I don’t want to do is accidentally cause someone with brittle bones to get a fracture by moving them the wrong way.  My Aunt had bone cancer and she broke both her legs trying to bathe herself, it was horrible. I think of her when I’m in these situations so I air on the cautious side.

We got through it without breaking anything and he fell back into a restless sleep. His agitation level at times made me wonder if he had just hours or days left. In the nearly 10 years I have been doing this I’ve seen many patients get into a state of agitation; flailing limbs, mumbling and a burst of energy followed by calm. This has happened in the last few days of life for many of the people I have visited as a hospice volunteer.

I’m not sure if Ginny will call me again to sit with her husband. If she does, I will make room for her and Bill. I will take the experience with me and think of them when I drive by their house. It’s something I do often when I drive past the houses where I have visited my hospice friends. Sometimes it’s a single encounter, other times I spend months visiting on a set schedule. Every experience is sacred and is something that becomes a part of me. The sad truth is, we are all going to die. The hospice patient just has a little advance notice.

 

 

That’s my business…

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That’s my business…

Today I met a client who used the word “fuck” as a noun, a verb and an adjective. She switched tenses with the finesse of a linguistic ninja, it was spectacular. The fact that this person is an ordained minister is the icing on the cake. I love my job.

I started a small business in 2014. I basically fill in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. My usual clients are elderly and they need a little TLC. I check in on them while their adult children work – share a meal, do some light housekeeping and socialize. I am the eyes and ears for loved ones when they can’t be there.

I’ve visited clients in their own home and I’ve been the jail break conspirator for nursing home residents. I used to visit a 97 year old man who was in a nursing home. Twice a week I would take him out for lunch at Chick-fil-A and each time he acted like it was the best meal of his life. It’s incredibly rewarding to be the best part of someone’s day….even if they don’t always remember the details. My lunch date never could get my name straight but he always leapt out of the day room chair when he saw me. He walked across the room with a happy purpose in his stride and a wide smile planted on his face. One time around the holidays, I told my nonagenarian (great Scrabble word) friend that he looked “festive”. He replied – “Did you say I look sexy?” to which I said “I sure did, John” with a wink. These are golden moments.

It isn’t always so fun and carefree. There are always medical concerns lurking in the background, potential embarrassing moments and the sad realization that this friendship likely won’t last that long. I used to visit Eleanore, she was 88 and had severe dementia. One day I came in for my usual lunch visit and she wasn’t wearing pants….how do you handle that you ask? I said “Eleanore, you didn’t tell me it was no pants Monday” and I promptly got her dressed. I always look for ways to add humor and preserve a person’s dignity. If someone doesn’t want to be checked on I’ll tell them I’m there to walk the dog or do laundry, we a find a way to make it work.

The saddest situation I have encountered was Ted, a man in his mid fifties with Early-onset Alzheimer’s. His wife worked full time and needed someone to check on him during the day, feed him lunch and tidy up. This man used to be an Engineer. He was well educated, had a brilliant career and then it all came crashing down way too soon. They had one kid in high school and another in college. His wife amazed me. She also had a puppy because you need that chaos as a distraction from the hard stuff. On the good days, I took Ted and the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. We had to be careful of Ted wandering out of the house when no one was there. I suggested cameras and safety locks but he still managed to escape a few times. Eventually it was no longer safe for Ted to be home and he had to go into a memory care center. That one still haunts me.

One of my earliest and favorite clients recently passed away. Pam reached out to me because she was recovering from an injury and needed some help. She was young somewhere around 60 and had a little dog that needed to be walked twice a day along with other odds and ends like shopping, opening jars, rides to the doctor and anything else she needed. We became friends and the lines for work and friendship blurred. Trips to the doctor turned into social outings of movies, lunch and Marshall’s. We remained friends after my services were no longer needed and I was heartbroken when she died suddenly last June.

I meet most of my clients through a friend or family member. My business is based exclusively on referrals as I do not do any advertising. I tend to have one or two clients at a time because I can serve them better that way. The family dynamics vary with each client but they all love their family member and are so grateful to find reliable help. They each hold a special place in my heart and I am honored to be entrusted with their care.

 

 

 

The Pedophile Next-door

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The Pedophile Next-door

When I was in my late 20’s I lived in an apartment across the street from the Atlantic Ocean in Central, New Jersey. It was an amazing time. I was newly single, young, ambitious and full of energy. I worked hard. I had a full time job, a part time job and college courses. I was disciplined and stayed focused on my goals. I recognized that I had the time and energy in this phase of life and that things would likely change at some point, so I persevered.

Somehow, I managed to find time for a social life and I made some close friends. Many of which I’m still in contact with today, some 20 years later. We would celebrate birthdays together, take turns hosting parties, we went dancing in clubs and roller bladed together on Friday nights. It was a time I look back at with fondness. It’s a mid/late twenties I would want for my kids a dozen years from now. Those memories got somewhat tainted this weekend.

I got a Facebook message from one of my close friends from that time period. She informed me that she had some gossip that I would be interested in. I didn’t see the message for a few hours and when I did two people entered my mind….one was an ex-boyfriend who I found out did time in federal prison for embezzlement…the other was my old neighbor, Paul. I’ll save the ex for another post.

Paul lived in the apartment above mine and he was a bit of an odd duck. He would never confirm his age but we had him pegged at least ten years older than the rest of us. He worked for the government as an Engineer and was also going to grad school. He was from Ireland and had lived in the United States for a large chunk of his life. He had a sister that was married with a couple of kids and a mom that drifted between Ireland and the US. While we were neighbors, he introduced me to a couple of his girlfriends. None of those relationships lasted very long, a few months at most.

He threw off a creepy vibe which was hard to pinpoint. Several of us thought he was possibly gay and not ready to come out. However, he would also leer at me and other females sometimes which was awkward and puzzling. He made suggestive comments at times that I just brushed off. It wasn’t ever going to happen. There were also plenty of times when we had interesting conversations. He was an intelligent, creative person with varied interests and lots of friends. He wasn’t all bad.

After hearing from our mutual friend, I googled his name and read a link to a newspaper article. Paul was arrested last month for viewing and sharing pornographic images of children. I don’t know if he has ever touched a child in an inappropriate way, I don’t have any further information. It’s just sickening and disheartening for those children and their families. This is a crime and an impulse that I just can not wrap my brain around. It is so destructive and vile.

As much as I hate the crime, I took a moment to think of the criminal. This person was kind to me on many occasions. I considered him a friend all those years ago. And while I knew there was something off, I chalked it off as not urgent. Was he acting out then? Did he harm his nieces? Was he abused as a child? Questions that will likely never get answered.