Shed that Skin

My company was sold today. And in the ways of all corporate buys and sells… it is a WONDERFUL opportunity for both sides. (insert small eye roll). All the correct buzz words were used and tons of empty reassurances were given.

But in the nine years that I have been here, we have had four different names … this will probably be the fifth. And I don’t think it is a buy and dismantle; it is more a buy and figure stuff out. But it is the next 12-18 months of chaos that is so wearing. The what is our name, how do we do this, what do we tell this person, how does vacation accumulation, health care and 401(k) match change, and even location where we work. All the questions that no one can answer at this point except with, it will all work out.

And it will, I have seen it happen again and again. Each time you lose a few more people that you wish wouldn’t leave but you know it is the right choice for them. They decide enough is enough and shed the skin for something new.

Something to think about.

What Good Are Notebooks?

My child used to call it “over listening” when he would eavesdrop. I will be honest I always thought it was a better word. More descriptive.

Many moons ago, my parents divorced. It was before the time of social acceptance of this legal process and it was difficult for my mother. Quite difficult. There is a lot of insight that you gain after 30+ years, but it was a time of quick growing up and caregiving.

She would be fascinated by the world of Blogging today. I remember not long ago, I went to my child and said, some stranger liked my blog post!! And he said, that is sort of why you do it? And what struck me was… no… not really. I blog because words get all jumbled it my head and I need to get them out… and maybe they help others and maybe they just float into the “interwebs” as my friends and I ironically call it.  I hope they help others… but, no I don’t think that is it.

My mother wrote in paper notebooks. She “hid” them in a drawer. I found them one day. And I read them. Over listening, if you will. It rocked my world. We were a country music family, with a bit of Johnny Mathis thrown in for balance. Lots of LPs on the stereo. She had written: Hank is wrong… there is no more light.

With hindsight… I know it was a vent. For goodness sake, she was with me for another 30 years, she needed to lance a boil, she needed to heal.  As an adult, I have danced in that dark. I get it. But for an early teen who is so very overwhelmed, yeah you don’t forget that. It forms you. You are very careful not to over listen if you can avoid it.

So… where does it leave us today? 1) prolly should not over listen if you can avoid it. 2) context is key 3) My mom was wrong and Hank is right 4) be kind to yourself and others… we are all just doing the best we can.

Shout out to:  Talking Heads: Life During Wartimes for the title.

Decorating

This time right now… was the BEST as a kid.

My mother would decide it was time to get out the Easter decorations. And we would get out the two boxes (about copy paper in size) and carefully unwarp the treasures.

It contained all the things that were part of her childhood Easter celebration. Plastic bunnies and chicks. Plaster rabbits with springs for necks (early bobble heads?) Lots of animals pulling metal carts. A chicken that was alleged to lay eggs when you turned the crank (but never worked in my life time). These sat out for the weeks leading up to Easter but then were “hidden” around the house the night prior with candy and small treats to find the morning of Easter.

When my child was about three, she gave the boxes to me. I was scared to death. He was THREE. He could NOT be trusted with these things. Some of them were from when SHE was three… which made them like 8,000 years old (math, really not my strong suit). I may have mentioned this. She eyerolled me. And to be honest, he was probably ready… me not so much. This is a heavy mantle. I was sure I was not ready.

But I did it that year. And the next year and… well, he is 18 and I am planning on doing it this year also.

And there are new ones we have added over the years that have meaning to him. But there are ones that mean so much to me too. There is a plaster rabbit with QUITE the attitude on his face and a coy looking plastic bunny, who sits by the flowers on our dining room table that makes me smile.

That is the core of tradition, isn’t it? Some of them hurt our hearts in a scraping sort of way but also make us smile. Some of them are really heavy and we are not sure we are ready… shouldn’t the ADULTS do that stuff… oh wait?! And some of them pass the joy and the past in a good way, like that sassy coy bunny who smiles at me every dinner for the next few weeks.

Uncommon Type

Book review… why are you shocked? I told you I might do this… granted not a mainstay but still.

And in full disclosure #1, I put this on hold because I heard that he was playing the role of Mr. Rodgers and we all know how I feel about him…

Ok, disclosure #2, I have only read the first three chapters at this point.

And disclosure #3, I just like Tom Hanks.

But…

I read fast. Probably too fast. I read a lot of pleasure reading, I compare it to sitcoms on the TV… back I the 80s  (I have no idea if there are still sitcoms on TV today, Netflix much?)

But this book is like a really good piece of chocolate. The words are carefully picked, the stories are random (short stories) but each one has such depth in such a short period of time.

I check this out of the library as a book book (paper) as I am trying to limit screen time at night. And it is perfect for that.

And… I think that is it for the review. Check it out. Take 10 minutes in a book store, put it on hold at your library. Read the first three… if you are not convinced, ok, we are still good. But maybe try it, right before you are ready to call it a day… let it tuck you in… night… sweet dreams.

Patience

I had a bit of trouble with patience as a child. I know this shocks you. And my Grandpa, who may have been the most patient man I have ever met, used to say, just relax it will work out. And it does. February is a hard month for me and it always amazes me when I make it to the end. 9 years ago I was frantically interviewing and looking for full time work, 8 years ago I was trying to plan a wedding in a place I had never been. 6 years ago was trying to convince my offspring that flunking 7th grade might not be the best idea for either of us. 4 years ago I said goodbye to my mom. 2 years ago I was nervously waiting to see if I scored high enough on the GRE and would be admitted to the MLS program.

Back the end of 6th grade, my son said, I want to join Band and play Baritone. In our world, you had to join Band before 6th grade. (Band is a capitalized word in this district) I said, ok talk to the teacher; see what you need to do to make this happen. This was a period in our lives when follow thru was not a strong suit; I had no worries that this was the end of this. Two days later he returned, he talked to her, he needed to take lessons over the summer with Mr. Z (phone number given to me), she would give him a baritone for use over the summer, he would test first week of 7th grade and if ok would be in. I had to sit down. Holy Cats, he was serious about this.

Home practice was painful. No, it was horrific. It sounded like someone was dying a horrible death via farts. I have no music ability, but I was pretty sure it was only the same 4 notes over and over for 9,000 hours solid.

He has talent. Basic god given talent. More than I have in my little finger. I have always knows this. I had a kindergarten music teacher tell me he had perfect pitch (I may have said, oh how nice. MOTY). He has the uncanny ability to hear something and repeat it musically. Talk music theory with him and you might as well be talking about how to work the washing machine, but music is in his core. I honestly believe he could not survive without it.

He was a drum major this last marching band season. And my biggest fear (while being of course peacock proud) was that he would miss his baritone. I was assured that of course not. But that season is over and he took it upon himself to get his home baritone cleaned and ready.

When he got it home, he played it to test it. And then played more. Thirty minutes more. And it was wonderful. I was sad when the recital from behind his closed room door ended.  He has gotten really good at playing the baritone. My Grandpa was probably right, I need to be a bit better about this whole patience thing.

I’d Forgotten

Tonight at supper… or dinner… whatever you call it. It is all good. The three of us gather (because this is a big thing with me… like I said before, I’m ok with rare nights reading together, but if it is all of us…I want to talk.. about Politics or Chickens or School or Black Panther or … ANYTHING but this is our moment as a family, let’s sit down for dinner and chat) and are talking about… lettuce.

If allowed, I fear this family would eat Iceburg … if they ate any. But I try to work in a bit of Romaine, I dance with some baby Spinach, have been know to go totally off the rails and serve a nice Spring Mix. But the men of the home, they are not fond of purple as a green.

Tonight, I served baby lettuce that came in both green and purple. I explained to the offspring that if he shut his eyes he could not tell the difference. He argued that he could. I said, no. It is the same.

He laughed and said, remember Grandma Yuck used to tell us she could tell the colors of M&Ms with her eyes shut and was right less than half the time.  And we all laughed.

I had forgotten that. And he is 100% right. She was adamant that she had that skill (spoiler alert: she did not). And we let her have it for the most part. “it is orange” uh almost, yellow.

I had forgotten this. And it is such a fun, easy memory unlike some of them that keep me awake at 1am. That is one of the hardest parts of when someone is gone. You are in charge of all the memories, there is no app for that. And if you forget, and no one has your back… those memories are gone. We live in a time where every meal is frequently photographed and documented … and yet… how do we grab the past before it is gone.

“This one is yellow.”  very close… orange.

This is your brain on sand

It is cold in the land of kkdonk. Not as cold as other places, but make my joints ache and miss the sunshine, cold. I’d blame the groundhog but honestly living here, I would be excited for just 6 more weeks of winter (well 4 since he was all shadow hunting about two weeks ago now).

It is the grey here. Some day (after I move) I want to see how many days we have little to no sunlight… lots I think. And I have learned after 20+ years in this area that when the sun is out this time of year, you stop what you are doing and go and stand in it for fear you will not see it again for awhile.

Which is probably why I love the ocean and sand, because even on cloudy days, the odds of sunshine are pretty good. I love the smell of the ocean and the feel of the sand under my feet. I love how every wave brings a chance for something new and some thing different.

One of my many favorite lines from Edna St. Vincent Millay:

…And build a little shanty on the sand
In such a way that the extremest band
Of brittle seaweed will escape my door
But by a yard or two,…

Yeah… that!

My Lawn

“I may know the word but not say it. I may know the truth but not face it.”

I lived a lot of my life where people hunted… deer, rabbit, squirrel… I have gone on a deer hunt (ok, I did kick up leaves and send silent vibes of RUN DEER RUN) but I get it. I have friends and family that hunt with bows and shot guns. They eat the meat and enjoy it. It is a way of life. It just is.

In all my years on the earth, I have never met anyone who hunted game that resides in US with an AK- 15. Just throwing that out there.

But this is not that post, not yet. It is a parenting post. This one hit me hard. I have a high school student. I see the ages and realize those parents have already ordered those announcements and cap/gown they can never use AND will arrive in a few weeks/months to rip the wound wide open again. I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. I hugged my child very, very closely that night. And then we talked.

I asked the questions I probably should have asked long ago. He is a generation that has had lock down (sorry ALICE) drills since first grade. I said, do you have a plan… sort of a mental idea of what you would do. Yes, he said, for every place in the school, I have thought of this often. I have picked something in every area I could use as a weapon. I can tell you exactly what in every class room I would use to bar the door and have scoped out hiding places. This was all told very matter of fact and with details, feeling me out if I thought the flag would make a good spear like assault, etc. And my heart was broken and proud.

I am heartbroken he has grown up in a world where this is a norm. That somehow I failed in protecting him. And yet I am proud, he is better prepared than I will ever be in an attack. He is aware, more so that we think they are with their headphones in their ears. And he is also angry. Like the survivors in FL, he is angry at his elders and rightfully so. I’m proud of these kids today. They give me hope in many different ways and they can stand on my lawn any time they want.

 

Lyrics by Natalie Merchant.

ICU

I probably could count the hours that I have been here (not this ICU but in an ICU waiting room) but that seems like a bad use of math. Thankfully never as a patient, but in various caregiving roles. The first time I was just so far out of my element, I didn’t know what to ask or who to ask. I didn’t even have a charging cable or extra battery. I didn’t have medicine listings that the hospital needed. I didn’t have quarters for the coffee machine or clean underwear. It was a very fast and very hard learning experience.

Few things about ICU 1) just because someone is in ICU does not mean they will die there; yes it is serious, yes they need more skilled care than in the regular rooms, but people leave ICU and go on for years and years. It is easy to think the worse when you are surrounded by monitors and screens and bells and alarms and you get trapped in your own head with your thoughts. 2) It is normally staffed with a nursing staff that has been doing what they do for a long time, be nice to them, be thankful and appreciative and know that they can explain things or help you remember what the doctor said after the 5 minute spout of information. I have always made it a point of when I was finally out of the ICU care pattern to drop off something at the nurses’ station. 3) Nurses are not there as your valet. I knew someone once who kept asking them for a soda or some ice or… and for themselves not the patient… don’t do that.

If you are a patient in ICU, just focus on getting better. Period that is your job.

If you are the primary caregiver or health care representative for the patient… my instant fly out the door go to is: phone, charger, headphones, tablet and or paper notebook and pen, all the cash and coin I can quickly scrounge and a water bottle. Hopefully you have the medication list somewhere (I had it in a google doc) ahead of time. Makes life easier. And a copy of the paperwork allowing you to assist the patient. That is my immediate go to list. If I get to come home for a break, I add hand lotion, lip balm, power bars (with protein), a change of clothes for the car, toothpaste/brush, hairbrush and deodorant, books to read (if they aren’t on my tablet).

If you are the support staff to the primary caregiver, use the above list and bring the things they forgot. Offer to bring a meal (and by that I mean pick up a non-fast food meal, a good meal like Bob Evans (meat, starch, veggie) or a nice salad because they will be living on vending machine and soda/coffee. Bring bottled water.

And finally if you are the friend of a primary caregiver and you want to help but say how can I help and they say, “oh I am fine I don’t need anything”. Make up a little Ziplock and drop it off.  Just sandwich bag sized with travel Kleenex, hand sanitizer, hand lotion and lip balm (hospitals are so very dry!) throw in a few pieces of hard candy and maybe some chocolate (you know your friend better than I do).  Maybe an ink pen (mine kept getting lost) and small note pad. Depending on hair length, a hair tie or two might be nice (again, mine kept disappearing) and maybe some gum. And just a note, something about thinking about them, there for them something so they know they are not alone and drop it off with a hug. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and shouldn’t be too big, quart size bag at most… it is knowing someone thought to do that … that is what matters during that time.

Which brings me to my last point:

It is not the giant elaborate gestures that you remember; it is the small ones, the person who quietly steadies you with a text, just saying thinking about you. The Little Things. When my mother was in hospice, towards the end and I was so tired and so emotionally exhausted, my friend said I am bringing you coffee tonight, what time? First off, very little decision making on my part because she told me she was doing it and all I needed to give was time. The person you are trying to help has no brain power to make decision; they have no idea what they need, so make it easy. 7pm, I said. She showed up with coffee for both of us and we sat in this little nook off the wing for family and took out a glittery flask I had gotten her years ago for Christmas and put a tad of Baileys in my coffee and we laughed like high school kids afraid of their parents catching them. To this day it makes me smile, the kindness and the silly when I needed it.

Setting the playing field

I read this book on vacation and well, wow.

Ok, there are parts I wanted to smack the author on the head for being a stereotypical cookie cutter Millennial (Gen Y whatever!). But the rest… nice reset. The gist, if I may cull it down for you, is that you are giving a “F” (and from now on I am going to say FIG because the “” are way too hard on my keyboard) and I do try to be at least a PG13 blog) about needs to be trimmed down.

We live in a whole new world of 24/7 news. Of constant selfies. Of pictures of our friend’s food. Profound Nonsense.

It.is.too.much.

Thus the culling of the book.

You have to pick. What do you really care about? What do you give the FIG about? Five things? Narrow it down to five things… and don’t be haphazard about it… what DO you give a Fig about. Mine… Health. Kindness. Open-mindness. Creativity. Honesty.

And that is it. That is the litmus test. If something upsets you… does it fall in those five things? No> then let it go. Yes> then what do we do to fight this because this is a battle worth having.

That is the whole book… and eye opening.

I had a wonderful boss once upon a time, she said to me, you cannot die on every hill, you MUST pick your battles. And she was right and this book spelled it out. Pick your Hills. Pick your Figs.