Bend Without Breaking

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Bend Without Breaking

It’s 7:50am and I’ll already spent, f*cking exhausted. I woke up to the sound of an alarm clock down the hall which rang out on three separate occasions before I finally gave up and got out of bed somewhere south of six am. I went down and fed the dog, realized (again) that I need to buy dog food or I’ll also be a chef to my mutt.

Next stop is the kitchen to make sandwiches. Yes, my kids are old enough to make their own but they don’t so I make them lunch before I get my coffee. Then I go upstairs to make sure my daughter is up (chronic snooze button addict). Chances are good that I’ll get a curt answer or a protest of some sort. If it’s a good day, she’ll be out of bed getting ready. My son across the hall is still sleeping, he gets ready in eight minutes and seems undisturbed by the alarm clock. If there’s ever a fire, I’ll need to go to his room first, deep sleeper.

Around 7:20am I start announcing the “we need to leave” warning. Sometimes I hear a muffled “OK” or some other indication that I’ve been heard. Other days I need to knock on the door and remind myself to smile and talk softly when I tell my girl for the 5th time that we need to leave. Some days there are threats of I’ll make you take the bus or you’ll have to ask Dad to drive you. I rarely follow through. You may be judging me right now and that’s fine. I have to weigh these moment to moment situations and be ready to pivot in an instant. My goal is to get them to school, something my daughter doesn’t want to do most days.

She’s having a hard time right now, 8th grade is a bitch. I won’t do a deep dive into the details because she deserves her privacy. Suffice it to say I worry about her emotionally and physically. I constantly ask myself if I am doing the right thing, going to the right doctors, saying the right words, applying the perfect level of pressure. Finding the balance between when to push forward with accountability and when to ease off out of compassion. Vying for that sweet spot of raising a human that can bend without breaking. This is emotional labor.

 

 

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In Love

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In Love

I recently got hired by a family to help out with driving and errands for a couple in their 90s. Some things I have heard in our short time together:

1. My wife is the good looking blonde with white hair.

2. How are you today?  Response: Vertical

3. Their youngest daughter had the nickname of “Easy” until she determined it would not be appropriate in High School.

4. The other day the wife was looking over her canvas bag which is bit soiled. I suggested that we could wash it and I asked who it was made by, turns out it’s a “Relic” bag. We both laughed at that.

5. For those that may have missed a prior post, here is a photo of their keychain:

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This is it folks, three weeks in and I’m in love.

 

Don’t Stop Believin’

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Don’t Stop Believin’

My regular readers may recall that my father died this past September. We had a complicated relationship and I was mostly on the losing end of that situation. We’ve gone from childhood abandonment – to awkward random sightings – to being able to socialize and converse about superficial stuff. We weren’t close, we weren’t estranged, we were in some weird limbo state that we were never able to breakthrough.

Everyone goes through emotions when their parents die, even if you aren’t close. I didn’t know what to expect in this situation. My father in-law whom I adored died this past May, that was heartbreaking. I miss him every day, I carry that with me daily. With my own father it was different, like our history, it was complicated. I didn’t know how to “unpack” this complex variety of emotions. I even went to see a Medium about it, I wasn’t impressed.

So now I refer to my father as “Ghost Dad” and we chat. Mostly I chat, he’s a pretty good listener. The Medium I saw said I could ask him questions (simple yes or no questions) and if the answer was yes I would be granted a yellow rose of some sort. Well that sounded like some basic bullsh*t to me. Our relationship wasn’t generic it was a kaleidoscope of dysfunction, not something a yellow rose could handle. I came up with my own sign and I told Ghost Dad about it several times, dozens of times. I wanted, no demanded, a unicorn on a unicycle farting rainbows.

Pretty outrageous sure, but the guy owed me. Here are the links to digital bits of my soul that I have thrown out to the universe in an effort to exorcise the demons:

Broken

Less Than

I’ll Buy My Own Flowers

Anyhow, if you actually clicked on the links and read through that mess, apologies. I know it’s awful and maybe it made you cry…I want you to know that I’m doing well. On Christmas, I got a present from a good friend who did not know about the very specific sign. Here’s a picture:

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Socks which feature a unicorn farting rainbows with “Don’t Stop Believin'” on them. Sure there isn’t a unicycle but I’m still taking it as a sign from Ghost Dad. He heard my expletive laden rants and he has repented in his own way. Today I choose forgiveness.

I have felt so much lighter since I received these socks. So much so that I told the practical side of my brain to sit this one out, Don’t Stop Believin’!

 

 

*The featured photo is of a mug that my outstanding friend Katie gifted me. I’m pretty sure she knew about the unicorn sign thing, she just gets me. Thanks Katie!

 

 

 

Aye, Aye, Captain

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Aye, Aye, Captain

The key chain in the featured photo belongs to my client, Rob (not his real name), he is 94 years old. Gawd, I love a man with a sense of humor. I visit Rob and his wife Laura (Pssst, that’s not her name either) twice a week. Their pseudonyms come from the Dick Van Dyke Show, my blog, my rules. Our visits usually consist of errands and me refilling the numerous bird feeders that surround their home.

They keep the bird seed (several varieties) in the basement and I’ve been asked to check the mouse traps down there as well because apparently mice like bird seed. I don’t have any personal experience with mouse traps (thank you husband) but I don’t want my nonagenarian friends taking a chance on the wobbly wooden steps that lead to an unforgiving cement floor. So I glance toward the mousetraps and give a prayer of thanks each time I find them empty. Last week I accidentally set one off when my foot brushed against it. Fortunately it isn’t flip flop season. Once I’ve checked the traps, I fill four old coffee cans with three types of birdseed and then I make the rounds. My clients are happy, the birds are happy and the mice have stayed out of the traps thus far, everyone wins.

This week one of our errands involved taking my clients to the bank to close an account. Laura told me there wasn’t much in it, just a pesky out of the way account she wanted to close in order to consolidate funds. No problem, the branch is near the grocery store, easy peasy. When we get to the bank and my clients state that they want to close an account, they get ushered into a fishbowl of an office. I sit outside the office but I can peak in because, it’s a fishbowl. After a few minutes I go into the office to see what’s going on because I’m concerned that maybe the employee is trying to strong arm my friends into keeping their account, or worse.

I’m not comfortable being in this situation. I’m at a bank with two elderly people that I’m not related to and they want to close an account and walk out the door with significant funds. It turned out that my clients had four certificates of deposit in this institution with maturity dates that went to 2021. At first the employee was extolling the benefits of keeping the CDs in until they reached maturity at which point my clients will be knocking on 100 years old. I gave her the FFS are you kidding me look which likely made me look like a potential criminal….then I asked my clients to think about what they want to do. I followed up with, if you close the account we must deposit the funds into your primary bank today. We left with a check for over $30K. which was thankfully deposited into their other bank before I left them for the day.

This incident created an emotional collage for me. These are new clients, I’ve only worked for them for a month and here I was in this financially sensitive situation with them. My first instinct was to protect them from the bank, I just wanted to make sure that their money was safe. I got a long slow look at how vulnerable they actually are and it made me sad. Later that afternoon I sent an email to their adult children to keep them informed, they are the lucky ones. How many elderly people have to navigate this stuff alone, without a trustworthy relative or helper?

 

 

 

 

Twit, Follow Me @thebrycewarden

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Twit, Follow Me @thebrycewarden

Hello friends, I wanted you all to know that I have won a very prestigious award. No, no, it’s not one of those tag “you’re it” posts when I assign you homework. Those are fun and educational…this is from the Twitter. You know something is super important if there is a preceding “the”.

Now let’s be honest, I’m a lifelong card carrying Luddite, I do not embrace new technology. And by new, I mean any technological advances in the 21st century. My technical skills fall somewhere between infant and hard core Amish. Practically a blank slate over here.

It being early January, I am trying for the best version of myself. I’m not giving up eating so I had to find something…so let’s get better at the Twitter. Yesterday I engaged in a bit of banter and stumbled upon a contest for “fledglings” defined as Twitter accounts with less than two thousand followers. As it happens, I am slightly under that threshold, by slightly, I mean to say I am approximately 1,750 shy of 2,000 followers. So you know, a few shy (Warning Shameless Plug: please follow me @thebrycewarden and maybe tell your friends).

Anyhow these lovely people @The_Fledglings have weekly contests where you can comment with an original non-assholish tweet to throw your hat in the virtual ring. The idea is to grow your followers. Of course my first attempt at this was a fail because you know, Amish. I did a screenshot of my tweet and dropped it in the comments. The kind people informed me that I needed to drop a link and they even had a tutorial for idiots like me who need a tutor for Twitter. Twelve short hours later, I finally followed the rules and linked my tweet.

You guys…I’m a FLEDGLINGS WINNER! I am almost embarrassed at how happy this makes me, almost.

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Hey Stranger, Don’t Tell Me What To Do

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Hey Stranger, Don’t Tell Me What To Do

A friend posted something on Facebook yesterday that pissed me off. Not sure if it was guilt/shame related or if my reaction was strictly oh FFS not again. This particular post was

8 Things Kids Need to Do By Themselves Before They’re 13

In fairness, these were logical tasks, nothing extraordinary in the group…but why? Why is this person specifically qualified to determine when my kids should make their lunch or do their own laundry? She seems lovely but honestly, she doesn’t get to make the rules in my household.

This can be extended to all of those what to wear/when posts too. As if I need a stylist telling me that sleeveless is no good unless your arms don’t have that flabby mass where muscle tone used to be. I can make those critiques on my own. Personally, I think I’m going to let my freak flag fly higher with each decade. It seems I care less and less about what others think with each year, by the time I’m 90, I may embrace the nudist philosophy or maybe I’ll start piercing everything and 90s hair, don’t care. If I make it to that age, I hope to have my wits in tact and perhaps a mo-hawk, I’ll probably skip the tongue piercing. Probably.

Je’taime Montreal

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Je’taime Montreal

Just got back from a family vacation which included 4 nights in Mont-Tremblant and one night in Montreal. The hubs and kids snowboard, I don’t. I prefer a more moderate indoor climate with all of my body parts intact. This was our annual holiday trip which we take with another family (the other family includes my husband’s childhood friend). Since I don’t participate in the sport, my husband does most of the trip planning and basically has to keep both our kids alive on an icy mountain.

I read books, watched Holmes & Holmes and set a goal to walk 5 miles each day. That last bit gets a little weird around 10pm when I realize I’m 2/10 of a mile below my goal. Then I wander the hotel halls in a frenzy trying to get my steps in. Luckily it was a big property although I did bump into a maintenance guy twice within 20 minutes, he gave me a puzzled look. Speaking of oddities, while watching Holmes & Holmes, I saw an advertisement for a Cannabis Summit which featured former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. At first I thought it was some Canadian version of SNL making fun of the USA but nope, that sh*t is real friends. I don’t watch much daytime TV so the whole cannabis summit was news to me, I Googled it when I got home to be sure – The American Cannabis Summit It’s about as weird as when Bob Dole started doing ads for Viagra (apologies if that is new information). Bob Dole ED commercial (warned ya)

My favorite part of our holiday was hands down Montreal. What a fun quirky city that isn’t afraid to let her freak flag fly, I fell in love. We stayed in the Old City section and the boutique hotel had a lot going for it – spacious room, nicely appointed (two sofa beds and a separate bedroom), great location and plenty of hot water. Downside – no elevator (not so bad 4th floor, getting my daily steps goal wasn’t a problem), no onsite parking (hubs saw a cop next to our car when we parked briefly to unload the bags, he ran down to avoid getting a ticket or whatever they do to you in Montreal when you illegally park) and across the street from train tracks (uh-oh, foreshadowing).

Within an hour of checking in, 8 of us were out wandering Old Montreal in search of lunch. We found a place that looked great but didn’t open until 4pm so we went to look for an alternative. La Cage lured us in with their popcorn machine. Baskets and popcorn were in hand before we were seated. The service was slow and I was restless to explore. My husband said why don’t you go out and we’ll catch up later (I love that man). I catapulted from my seat before he could change his mind. I quickly asked my kids if they wanted to go, they chose food over me, I didn’t try to change their minds. Before I left I got the single hotel key and bid au revoir and sprinted for the door.

I have to mention that my family had crappy cell service during our trip. We were dependent on WiFi because our cell phone plan sucks (Consumer Cellular). It’s great when we are home but outside of the USA, it’s pitiful. So I was off the leash in Montreal with no consistent means of communication, like in the olden days before cell phones. It was glorious.

I went to Victoria Square in an attempt to find the underground city. I was distracted by Starbucks and an interesting Santa exhibit. There were several displays and each featured a variation of Santa from different times and locations. This is going to sound odd but, if I was going to toss names around for a round of who would you rather, I’d definitely pick Black Peter. He was in charge of “persuading” the naughty children to change their ways, the henchman for St. Nicholas. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…

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Black Peter, Henchman for St. Nicholas

Sadly the Starbucks didn’t have Chai which is my beverage of choice at that establishment. So I got a regular coffee and used the WiFi long enough to agree to meet at Notre Dame. I was the first to arrive so I got in line. It was a long line which snaked halfway down the block when I hopped on. I didn’t think the hubs would be up for waiting but I decided to stick around until we caught up. I chatted with my line mates the gentleman ahead of me was from Texas and the group of guys behind me were from New York. I overheard my NY friends say that the entrance fee was $6, cash only (uh-oh no Canadian cash on me).

About 20 minutes into my wait I spied the family and shouted my husband’s name. He has an unusual name so that did the trick. The line was still too long for him and everyone else in our group so they didn’t want to go in. At this point I was committed and asked him to get me some Canadian money for entry. He did and we agreed to meet at the hotel at 5pm (I kept the key). Notre Dame is gorgeous, it was worth the 40 minute wait in frigid temps. While I was in there, I lit two candles and said a prayer for my father and father in-law who each passed away in 2018.

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On my way back to the hotel I noticed the dogs of Montreal because they were all dressed better than me. I got my North Face coat for $39.99 at Marshalls two years ago and then it was marked past season, it probably stopped being fashionable 6 months before I bought it. I swear I saw a Chihuahua wearing Patagonia and a Boxer, Oh FFS, it is he in Canada Goose? For the unfamiliar, Canada Goose is the Holy Grail of outerwear the median price point is a grand. My first car was $450., I can’t abide. Of course if I lived in a freezer for 6 months a year and spent significant time outside, I might sing a different tune. Certainly that tune would involve sobbing of some kind.

Later that night we had a great meal a Bevo. We were seated near the kitchen (basically the restaurant version of the kiddie table, thanks Mom). We watched a constant stream of servers exit the kitchen at the intersection of funeral procession meets high fashion. Everyone was wearing black with trays of food which housed various shades of crimson. Is this a nightclub or a restaurant? Even the bathroom made me feel shabby. It featured a wall which is cooler than I could ever hope to be (featured photo).

After dinner we wandered Old Montreal some more. Went to a square where a woman was in a life sized snow globe, people were skating on the pavement and music was being played, very festive. On the way back to the hotel we found an alley which had lights projected onto the street which were interactive, a green blob of a spotlight trailed my daughter, it was fun. It was a lot packed into one day and we were ready to call it a night.

We were all tucked in by midnight, about 3am a metal screeching sound woke the hubs and I up. At first I thought it was a garbage truck in need of some serious repair, 5 minutes into it I looked out the window and saw an endless stream of cargo train cars loudly lumbering by. That slow loud parade lasted 15 solid minutes. The next one came around 5am and was brief in comparison. It reminded me of an I Love Lucy episode –

Aside from the disrupted sleep, Montreal was wonderful and I’d love to go back.

Big Love

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Big Love

The next week or so will get nuts with holidays and travel so I probably won’t get a chance to post until 2019. I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you. I have such a deep appreciation for this community of strangers who have turned into friends I just haven’t met in person yet (I did get to meet a few at EBWW). I marvel at the variety of flags I see on my stats page, some days it’s like Epcot in here. To quote an incredibly overused phrase, I feel #Blessed.

Anyway, we are living in some weird times right now. The world seems more insane than usual and the pace of technological advances is staggering. Artificial intelligence, where’s that going to be in twenty years, thinking about that one thing can warp you. Some of my followers write and others are consistent readers. I see you and I appreciate you. Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to visit my blog and comment. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it’s the best one yet.

I wish each and every one a new year that is filled with good health, surrounded by people you love with a belly sore from laughing.

XO,

Bryce

 

‘Tis the Mofo Season…

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‘Tis the Mofo Season…

It’s been a morning straight out of the children’s horror section, made me think of this –

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My bad morning started last night when I received this email from the school district Superintendent :

I am communicating at this time to inform you that we were notified by the XXXXX Borough Police Department that a potential threat was made to our schools. We are taking direction from the police department with regard to this threat as they continue to investigate the situation. We are going to have police presence at all of our schools tomorrow. We will also increase staff vigilance with regards to this potential threat to our schools. This is all the information we have at this time. We will keep you updated as we receive more information.​

I told my kids about it and said we would make a decision about school in the morning (this morning). I was up at 6am and my daughter was awake already wanting to know the answer. She had a doctor appointment at 7am so we both needed to be up and out. I was still on the fence with school, so I asked for a few minutes to see if there were updates. This is now part of parenting in 21st century America. Parents doing the mental gymnastics to sort out if it is worth sending our kids to school the last day before winter break when there is an unspecified threat.

The initial response is hell no, keep them home. Then you wonder if this starts to happen on the regular, do you just home school or pick and chose which days to send them in if there has been a non-specific threat? If it’s finals week do you roll the dice and hope it’s just a hoax, knowing you will never forgive yourself if they get harmed at school? We got lucky because the school district decided to close in an “abundance of caution” and I felt my small town breath a collective sigh of relief.

One of my friends who doesn’t have kids commented that she can’t imagine what it is like to parent in 2018. This is how I responded:

It’s like diving off of a cliff in the dark and you don’t know what you’re diving into – it could be a soft fluffy mattress, shark invested waters or rocks, no one knows. #Parenting2018

School was closed and I got my daughter to her appointment. At 8am I received a panicked call from my new client who insisted he had a doctor appointment to get to at 8:45am. I immediately left my house to fetch him and his wife who are both in their 90s. Did I mention that it is pouring out, because of course it is. I get my clients to the doctor and was informed that Rob’s appointment is on Monday (sure, why not).

Rob (embarrassed): I hope you are counting your hours.

Me: I am Rob, this though, this never happened. Consider it a test run. I’ll see you at 12:30 to go to Physical Therapy (that’s confirmed).

I get my new friends tucked in their house and head to the grocery store to tick some things off my to do list which is the length of a CVS receipt. I stop at the pet store first, the register isn’t working properly. It’s fine, I’m smiling at this nonsense by now.

 

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This is a CVS receipt well over 5 feet long, he purchased 3 items. My to do list is just as long with no “extra bucks” (well except for the extra bucks I spend).

When I leave the pet store, I notice I have a voice mail from my mother. Her cat needs to be put down, she’s 18 and has been sick, can’t pee or poop. Her vet is 45 minutes away and my mom got lost the last time she went. I called my local vet and got her in for this afternoon when I can go. So yes, this day may very well end with a dead cat because, of course it f*cking will.

I’ve now finished at the dermatologist, doctor’s office and the pet store (it’s barely 9am). Next stop is the grocery store. I can’t buy everything I need for Christmas Eve yet because I need fresh fish for the 7 fishes feast. I go to get bread in the bakery and realize – holy sh*t I need to order a birthday cake for my sister in-law. The lady behind the counter looks at me like I’m on fire – what idiot orders a cake 2 days ahead at the busiest time of the year (guilty as charged). I apologize profusely and explain it can be any chocolate cake with happy birthday on it. She obliges me (she’s a mom, she knows how nuts life is for us).

Then I wander around the store trying to go through the mental list of what I can buy now and what needs to wait until Sunday. At one point I found myself staring at the beef broth, overwhelmed. My brand wasn’t there which threw me into a quandary. I went back and forth a few times before I settled on something unfamiliar.

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Finished at the grocery store, I’ve moved on to Chick-fil-A where I beg for high quantities of chicken nuggets before 10am. My daughter is hosting a gift exchange party tonight (because of course she is). They take pity on me and I get 60 nuggets at the crack of 10am. While I’m waiting my friend texts me pics of her beautiful dinning room table which is set for a Christmas Dinner. I note that I will never be that much of an adult and that I would love to use paper plates – compostable ones because I’m not a monster (yet).

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Ride on

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Ride on

Today I spent a few hours driving a 94 year old man to do some errands. Sadly, he can no longer drive himself though his mind is still sharp, the body protests. I met Rob a couple of weeks ago. It was an interesting introduction, one of his daughters called me to ask about my services. I have a small business that fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. The daughter lives at least 1,000 miles away and was coming in to visit her parents. We talked a bit on the phone and within half an hour of ending our call her father called me (independently) to schedule a meeting. I let the daughter know and we decided that Rob would take the lead.

I always offer a free consultation for new clients. I like to meet the client I will be working with directly and any family members or caregivers that are involved with decision making. Sometimes my clients direct their own finances and decisions, other times a family member takes the lead. I take notes and observe, I try to read the situation without being overly intrusive.

I met with Rob his wife Laura and their daughter about a week ago. The daughter warned me that Laura is resistant to outside help, she told the last employee that she hated her. This resentment of caregivers is more common than you might think. It’s hard to live your entire adult life as an independent person and then have some stranger try to tell you what to do. I strive to find ways to empower my clients and ask them to steer the ship as much as possible. Laura was upset that the last helper was only available after 11am so I asked if she preferred a 9am or 10am start, she perked up. Everyone wants to be heard and validated, sometimes it’s a simple fix.

Today was my first time working for this family and I was tasked with running some errands with Rob. Rob is delightful, he has a smile like Dick Van Dyke and a kind soul. Our first stop was at a Quaker School that he co-founded in the 80’s. This school was created to offer an inclusive educational environment for children that have learning issues. When we came through the door, Rob was greeted with genuine affection and adoration. As we were walking to the front office Rob told me how he always wanted to skateboard down the halls which, he noted, have some peaks and valleys that could make the ride interesting.

Then I got to hear stories about some alumni and the positive impact my new friend had on their lives. It was overwhelming and I felt fortunate to be in his presence. Of course we were there to drop off a fruitcake because everyone over 90 is required by law to make no less than 27 fruitcakes each December. It was presented in a practical yet festive way. The treat was on a square holder (I suspect cardboard) which was covered in aluminum foil. The wreath shaped fruitcake was placed in a extra large Ziploc bag and attached to the base with festive red ribbon and holly. It was quite attractive and if I attempted such a presentation it would be a complete disaster.

Our next stop was at a feed store. I didn’t know feed stores existed until I moved to this somewhat rural area 15 years ago. We were there for two kinds of birdseed something with corn and black sunflower seeds. I have no working knowledge of birds or their seeds, I suspect I will become somewhat familiar, at least at filling the feeders. Once I filled the car with seed, we were on our way, this time to the post office.

The post office was in an old house that was converted from a general store. This building is on a minimum of it’s third life. It offered two ways to get to the door – traditional steps or a ramp. Rob decided to chance the stairs. I get nervous with new clients that have mobility issues using stairs fortunately, we made it without incident. We were there to check their post office box and to mail some…guess…yup, fruitcakes. After about 10 minutes we were on hour way back home.

In between errands Rob and I chatted in the car. He told me that he was only in the Navy for a year during World War II. He was discharged due to medical reasons, he had melanoma. For those unfamiliar, melanoma is the most lethal of skin cancers, he was 19 when he was diagnosed and treated. At 94, he has certainly exceeded longevity expectations. Rob mentioned that he is now the lone survivor from his high school class. I commented that it must be lonely to outlive most of your peers. He gave me a snort with a “you bet”.

When we got back home, his wife of nearly 70 years was preparing to host a book club which, is heavy into discussion and light on actual books. There was some interesting jockeying of cars in the short driveway that borders a busy road. I needed to drop off 50 pounds of bird seed, park their car and move my own vehicle. While we were parked in the driveway working out logistics, a friend offered to walk Rob to the door. I could tell he was uncomfortable with the offer and yet he smiled and made his way up the walkway with his friend. I suspect this family will find it’s way into my heart in no time.