Monthly Archives: September 2017

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Making the Bed…..

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Making the Bed…..

As a midlifer, I have finally decided to start making the bed on a consistent,  nearly daily basis. Now I have shirked this responsibility for decades minus the rare occasion when guests were stopping by and even then, I was a keep visitors to the first floor kind of gal.

I’ve had some decent reasons for not making the bed mind you. One being, I’m not the last one in bed in the morning. The hubs sleeps later than me 99.9% of the time. I have a rule that states the person to stay in bed the longest has to make it. So I guess he hasn’t been making the bed for the past 20 years, tsk tsk. I should note that I haven’t clearly explained this rule more than 3 times so it may have slipped his mind.

The real reason for not making the bed, it’s simply not a priority. I don’t care if it’s unmade most of the time so why bother. I realize I may have wounded a few people with that last bit so let’s pause here for a deep breathe. OK, we all have different priorities so let’s just move along. So why on earth have I decided to make the bed now?

My husband commented about beds being made a few times this year. Honestly he’s probably mentioned it consistently over the past 20 years and I just slid it to the back burner of my brain. I mean, if he felt that strongly about it, nothing was stopping him from making it, right? So why now?

Why indeed? Well I guess after a couple of decades together you still need to find ways to surprise your partner. Trust me it gets tricky to keep things fresh. We still enjoy each other’s company (wink) so that isn’t the issue – I just wanted to find other ways to show him I still care. Making the bed is different for us, it takes just a sliver of effort and is something tangible.

So my new routine started about a month ago….it coincided with the purchase of some pillows and a new comforter. Perhaps the guilt of indulging on those items also propelled me. My good deed did not go unnoticed. After about 2 weeks my husband commented. He acknowledged that the bed was being made and that he liked it. Then he said I should vacuum more. This my friends, is why half of marriages end in divorce.

 

*Not our actual bed in the photo. Plucked from the web and to date, unable to identify the photographer for proper credit.

 

 

 

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube