05 November 2015


This morning I stopped and got coffee at my 2nd favorite stand near my work.  It's located downtown and across the street from the YMCA so you sometimes see characters that you don't normally see. The baristas are always super nice, like one would expect, but they sometimes have some sketchy customers so they are aware of their surroundings.

While I was waiting for my drink, I noticed a guy approach the car waiting on the other side of the stand.  It was a cute, little, just post-college age girl who looked like she was heading to work.  (I have very active imagination, in case you haven't noticed)

He was a typical Bellingham appearing guy, which means nothing to those of you who have never been here but picture a snowboarder in your mind.  That's what he looked like, so not sketchy but definitely free-spirited.

It's odd that someone would approach a car in a drive-through so I just kind of surreptitiously paid attention.  It felt a little flirty, actually.  She answered him, smiling, then got out of her car and walked behind it.  This made me a little nervous but there were plenty of people around, in case my intuition was wrong and he was a serial killer.  (Ted Bundy lived in Bellingham for a while, so you never know, right?)

Soon, she returned to her car and the barista asked her if everything was okay.  She kind of giggled then answered that he just tapped her car bumper and wanted to let her know.  She was completely unconcerned about it but I noticed that she got her information out of her purse.

The barista gave me the credit card slip to sign and commented on it.  I said that it felt like a meet-cute type of situation.  She giggled and said "Maybe so, we'll watch and see."  I mean, it is a little drastic and risky but also kind of clever.  I peeked around the corner when I left and his car was a nice one, so it didn't seem like someone trying to scam insurance money.

Now I'm imagining that they've exchanged information and maybe they'll need to meet somewhere for something insurance or repair related.  Then they'll have a great meet-cute story to tell everyone.

03 November 2015

A Little Summer Adventure

Yeah,  this is one of those thinking that I clicked "Publish" things.  In August.

Out of the clear blue sky, Kevin invited me to go to Winthrop for the weekend.  He had talked about going there since we bought the big truck but all of a sudden he decided "Let's go!"  Which is how it should be, I think.  Otherwise there is always a reason to not go, because there is just never a "perfect" time.  He said that because we didn't get to do much of anything fun lately, this was a good opportunity.

It took four tries to find a hotel, because short notice and August.  I will advise to not trust the online booking systems because the sites said every place was booked but after a few calls, I found a room in a nice hotel down by the river.  This prompted a few Chris Farley references for days.

This is another example of how we shouldn't be in charge of our own lives because it's as if half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now, including a resort lake nearby where we were staying. But more on that later.

I had to hustle on Friday to get all my errands and chores done on Friday.  By the time Friday night came around, I was absolutely ready to go relax. This is the first time we've done a trip just for just us and just for relaxation since about 2000.  Everything we do seems to be activity related and done in large groups. Neither of us are big on just relaxing so this was going to be interesting.  We're not used to being at our own devices.

Saturday morning Kevin woke me up a little early so we could leave before traffic was stupid.  He took the puppy to get coffee and treats while I got ready and packed.  Then we avoided eye contact with the puppy, who knows it's the weekend and was feeling betrayed that we were leaving.

Winthrop is about three hours away, over a northern pass that is just a two lane highway.  It's a primitive pass that closes every winter due to snow and slides.  There is no cell service for almost two hours. Picture the lost highway that you would see in horror films.

That being said, it's quite beautiful.  Lots of mountain ranges, boulders, trees.  We stopped a few times to take pictures and walk around.  Three hours isn't a long trip and it was nice to just take our time.  Also, did I mention no cell service?  In this case, it was a relief.

We stopped in Newhalem, which is a housing development/camp owned by Seattle City Light.  It looks right at the mountain faces and is the last stop before going over the pass.  As we pulled in, we noticed smoke on the mountain.  Again, half of Eastern Washington is on fire right now.  We both worried that we would now have fires on our side of the mountains. We saw a homemade sign on the side of the road that said "We have seen the fires, no need to call to report." so we kept going. Because we make good choices.

We got into Winthrop at lunch time and the place was a complete zoo.  It's Old Western styled town on one long street.  We ate lunch then went to find our hotel.  It turns out that we could have walked to it from the restaurant, so that was nice. In fact, it's all quite walkable in Winthrop.

I can't believe that I didn't take any pictures but there is a good reason. More on that in a bit.  Here is the link to help you envision where we stayed:  Hotel Rio Vista.   It's right on the river and each room has a balcony/deck.  We actually sat by the river for a little while and chatted about returning to see it in the winter when the river is really ripping and/or in the summer again and going rafting.

We walked around town, including a museum that was set up like a little town.  It is a very cool way to look at artifacts.  Actual livery, blacksmithing, doctor office, etc.  It was a mining town and they had the equipment used to dig, haul and otherwise mine.  Kevin was equally horrified and impressed at the primitive machinery. He was definitely thankful of the new equipment he runs every day.

We had ice cream before dinner, because: adults! and played miniature golf.  I was totally beating Kevin until he shot a hole-in-one.We visited a bookstore and a gift shop and just took our time.  This never happens in our lives, we rarely just relax.

Then we went back to the hotel and took a nap.  And the power went out.  Like the mature adults we are, we ignored it for a little while.  There weren't any sirens or reverse 911 calls so we didn't panic.We were on vacation, we were napping.  We were being boneheads.

Finally, we went to the front desk to see what was happening. They had no idea about anything.  No idea what happened, no idea when it would return, "last time it was weeks" and suggested that if we wanted something to eat, we should go to the grocery store NOW.

Enter manic crazy person into the hotel lobby. "I used to volunteer for the Red Cross in L.A. so if you need food or batteries, just knock on my door. I'm in room number-whatever."   Then she proceeded to tell us that money in small denominations is the MOST IMPORTANT ITEM in your emergency kit.  We slowly backed out the door.

We walked back into town and it was a ghost town.  Where there were people and cars a few hours ago, there was nothing.  We went back to the ice cream shop. (the only place still open) where the hilarious young son is gesturing behind his mother, the owner, to us to get out of town. They agreed that it could be days before power was restored and because we were only three hours away, to go home. 

So, we went back to the hotel and loaded the truck.  We had to get something to eat because Kevin has to eat every three hours or so or bad things happen.  I always have snack with me but remember, we had ice cream before we had our dinner and now it's 7:00 and no dinner.  We needed real food.

The grocery store was busy, with cars in the turn lanes waiting to get gas.  Kevin parked in an adjoining parking lot and went into the store by himself.   I figured this would be quicker.  About ten minutes later, he returned with an incredulous look on his face.  "Armageddon?"  I asked.

"You don't even KNOW!" he says.  "It was chaos.  It was like a movie. The shelves were empty and people were freaking out.  This is all I could get."  He hands me a bag that contains doughnuts, chips, and two bottles of water.  Jeez.  Now it's an authentic road trip from our teen years, full of junk food and poor choices.

Out of town we head.  This pass can be ugly in the daylight and Kevin wasn't excited about doing it in the dark.  "You look for deer and I'm going to, maybe, speed. A little."  Again, this place is remote so we were the only car on the road for miles.

We passed a DNR crew on the way when we were quite a bit from out of town so we assumed that something was going on with the nearby fires.  Seeing them made us glad that we left town when we did.  We reached almost the top of the pass when Kevin says "Is that someone walking?"  It was way dark by then.  Easily nine o'clock.

We were in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no rest stops, no campgrounds, nothing.  We were still at least an hour from the nearest town, which isn't really a town at all.  It's the Seattle City Light property that surrounds the dams that I mentioned earlier.  There are houses, but no stores or hotels or anything helpful if you're stranded.

As we got closer, we saw that it was a man and a little girl walking alongside  the road.  What.the.WHAT?  Kevin wondered "What do we do?" and all I said was "Kevin, she's a little girl."   We are in the middle of nowhere and I would have rather risk being killed than leaving that little girl to the elements and animals.

Kevin turned the truck around and pulled up ahead of them.  The little girl actually started jumping and skipping in excitement.  I thought I was going to burst into tears.  Kevin said it just broke his heart to see her.  She was probably around seven or eight and Kevin said the man was older than he, maybe a grandpa.

At the same time that Kevin jogged up to them another vehicle approached them.  They asked if everything was alright and did they need a ride.   The grandpa said that they had broken down so they were walking.  The other car was a SUV so Kevin suggested that they would be more comfortable with them.  (instead of squeezing in the extended cab of our truck for an hour)  They went, gratefully, with the people in the SUV.

The grandpa shook Kevin's hand and thanked him profusely for stopping.  He said that other cars had passed and not stopped. What is wrong with humanity?  A LITTLE GIRL, for eff sakes.  We couldn't understand why they weren't walking back toward the nearest town.  Maybe he became confused, we just don't know.

So, off we are again on the quest to get home.  We had talked about getting something to eat when we reached civilization, which is actually my old hometown.  But being rattled by the grandpa and girl, all we could think of was we wanted to get home again so we didn't stop.

We got home, so very tired, at nearly midnight.  We had a bowl of cereal and went to bed.  In our safe house, with electricity and no fires nearby. The next morning the news reported that the fires had damaged the electrical wires in the area, causing outages.  I phoned later in the afternoon and they had power again.  We still felt confident in our decision because regardless of the power, we had no food.  And we didn't pay a hotel fee to be camping.

The hotel gave us 50% credit so now we have to return.  We can't decide if we want to go in the winter or the summer.  I think we'll just not go when that half of the state is not on fire.

If You Don't Want to be Called a Pinhead, Don't Be A Pinhead

We went to family dinner on Friday night and we took our big Dodge truck.  Kevin is always careful where he parks it.  He wants to keep it nice and it takes up an entire parking space because of it's size.  Often, we park a little further away just so we're not inconveniencing anyone by not allowing enough space around to park.

This time was no exception.  We parked at the end of the lot, so curb on one side and parking spaces on the other.  When we came out, there was a little white car parked right next us.  I laughed at first because anyone who is ever careful parking their car is aware of the phenomenon of having another car (usually a junker) park right next to them when you make the effort to park far away in order to keep your nice car nice.

Kevin was all "Are you KIDDING me?" and got a little more vocal with his displeasure as we neared the car. It turns out that the car is parked squarely on the white line dividing our spaces; as if playing a game that required perfectly aligning the drivers side tires on the line.  There were open spaces next to them and there was no way on earth that the driver got out of the car and thought it was okay.  In fact, it's my guess that their door at the very least touched the running board of the truck in order for them to get out.

So, now sarcasm is at a high.  I mentioned to Kevin the above thought.  "They got out and thought it's okay, I'm parked like a douche but it doesn't matter." While Kevin is saying "What kind of a pinhead thinks that's okay."

After a moment, Kevin looked behind us and kind of nods his head.  I glance but it wasn't anyone I knew and not thinking just started getting into the truck.  Then I hear a woman's voice "Oh, I guess I did park a little close, didn't I?"

"Yeah, Yeah, you did do that." is all I said then closed the door.  Kevin said something along the line of "Yeah, you could have done better" or something like that.  Then he got in the truck.   We waited a mili-second  then we were all "OMG, can you believe that just happened!?!?"

Kevin said "I feel a little bad that they heard me call them a pinhead."  I replied "If you act like a pinhead, then you can expect to hear that about yourself."  Know that Kevin is the most diplomatic guy.  He can usually smooth over awkward situations, calm people down, or discuss uncomfortable topics in an Oprah like manner.  He probably wouldn't have said anything if he'd known that someone was within hearing range.  So, it was awkward yet funny.  Where Kevin was remorseful, I was still indignant.

Kevin decided to wait for her to pull out of the space because, again, she parked too close.  Of course she did the whole take fifteen minutes to put on her seatbelt, reapply lipstick, organize her purse, adjust her mirror, put her driving gloves on thing that just makes me stabby.  Then, again, because tight parking, she takes about five attempts to get backed out and leave.

I thought Kevin was going to get out of the truck and demand her keys and license. Any remorse he felt vanished.

Hard Drive is Full, Please Clear Some Memory

So, the work thing.  My brain is so, so tired.  The partner left behind a bit of a mess, and while I knew  intellectually that this was going to be, I was overwhelmed.  It's learning a whole new system and fixing problems that I don't know how to fix.  I must be doing okay because the biller and my boss seem pleased. 

Two things about the partner: she is skilled at making something more complicated than it needs to be and she doesn't know how to ask for help.  Thus the current mess.

I had a stack of paper about half a ream high that needed something called Codes and Units.  Units are easy, four units make up an hour but they had to be written on each paper.  Codes seem complicated and overwhelming until, kind of like algebra, it just clicks. 

There are Speech Therapists and they have one set of codes.  They helped make their own list before I took over.  Then, there are Occupational and Physical Therapists and their codes weren't in place.  Their codes are much more complicated and they couldn't help make the list because they came from workplaces where they didn't have to worry about this. (much bigger organizations than ours)  However, they both provided telephone numbers/email for women who could.  In 24 hours, we had a good list of codes and that stack went away.

Two other things to know: these codes had to be in place on October 1st.  I took over on the 17th.  Super fun.  The initial system the partner made up was a little slip of pink paper with the codes printed on it for one set of therapists only.  The therapist circled the code then turned them in each time they had a session.  Then partner wrote them on the forms. So much room for error and what a pain for the therapist to keep these little slips of paper.  These little slips of paper that I couldn't find anywhere.  They already had a form called a Home Visit Form that they complete after each visit so these stupid little slips make no sense whatsoever.

Now, because the biller helped me, there is one sheet of paper that the therapists complete at the end of the day that does all of the above and simply goes to the biller.  I no longer have to look at it.  This is the prime example of making something much more difficult than it had to be.  The therapists are relieved not to have those slips, they have master lists, and they don't have to make copies of anything.  Before they ended their days also making copies for the partner to go with the little pink slips. 

I am literally making this job up as I go.  There is one set of instructions that are written down in nearly an essay style. To make it more entertaining, there are judgey statements like "You should be able to figure this out without asking."  Oh, I forgot to mention this: no one else knows how to do this job.  The boss has NO IDEA, which is a specific kind of ridiculous.  I can ask the 2nd in charge and she can give me a little direction but the system has changed since she did the job.  I am relying on the biller, who is nice but talks like I know all the things.  I have to constantly remind her that I don't know anything and that nothing is written down.  Despite this, we are getting along just fine.

Now, this coming week I have to learn the website databases.  There are mainly three of them, so, so, so! overwhelming. One main database that leads to every insurance company ever, each insurance companies websites, plus the billers website database.    I literally had to just ignore that part until I finished the above because I couldn't even contemplate it without abject panic. Breathing in a paper bag, rocking under my desk while eating my hair panic.

I was feeling pretty good about this plan until I got an email from the biller at the end of the day on Friday that has a list of kids denied insurance payments.  Now I have to go back and trace where the wheels fall off and hope I can fix it.  Because, if not, the center doesn't get paid.  Fun!  the only relief is that with this particular set of problems, it's not my fault.  It's the partners but I have to fix it while not knowing what I'm doing.  Luckily, some of it is as simple as making a copy of their insurance information and giving it to the biller.  The other part is those intimidating websites. 

So, I may start drinking again.  Oh, and I go on vacation on the 18th so I have a deadline to get this mess cleaned up.  I really, really, really want to punch the partner.  I'm focusing on winning though.  I want to be able to say "I fixed this".  I have to use my OCD powers for good. 

Oh! and then I overhear the boss offer to compensate the partner for any time she has spent answering questions via email/phone.  Wait, WHAT?  this is how codependent their relationship was and the perfect example of how we ended up in this mess.
All this being said, I still love my job.  I love my coworkers, they really are the best. They're really mellow, kind without being smarmy, and there's no drama.  They're really good at saying "I don't understand" or "I don't agree so let's talk more about it."  It's like the dream team.  
The one glitch in the system is the boss has actually said that she doesn't want to be the boss.  However, after talking to the Board President about that topic, I/we have permission to kind of force her to relinquish some stuff so that she is relegated to just doing her job, which isn't intended to be within the four walls of the center.   Then  the program manager, the resource coordinator and I are running the joint.  How crazy is that?  In two weeks, I went from being the afternoon low-level person to being an administrator.  It's terrifying.
I am doing what I did at my old job plus now the insurance billing.  It is also similar to the school (billing insurance instead of billing DSHS) but without the H/R component BUT that is becoming partially my responsibility as well.  Remember when I said I didn't want to do this again?  I'm totally doing it again. 
I believe the difference in this situation is that the staff is really supportive and everyone has a good set of boundaries. Plus this wonderful school schedule thing; all the major holidays off and an upcoming nearly two weeks off at the end of the year.  Did I mention I'm going on vacation in two weeks, for two weeks?  (Did y'all just tell me to shut up? It feels like you did. :)  It's okay, I totally would to)

Also, I am forcing myself to keep boundaries unlike either of my previous jobs, which is growth.  I leave on time, I leave everything at the office, I concentrate on not thinking about work while I'm home, even though that's nearly impossible right now.  I'm working about 32 hours a week, 8:30-3:00ish.  Longer if necessary but then comp time to follow. I make a point of coming home and watching Greys Anatomy or Bones with the puppy, just to decompress. Although this implies that I have any brainpower left over at the end of the day.  Because wow, is my hard drive full.  I can't process any more information.
I do have to have the awkward conversation about compensation though.  My job just tripled so it feels like I should be compensated more.  I haven't quite figured out how to approach this.  Right now, I'm thinking that I have to figure out with my new partners what my new title should be.  Once we decide that,  then I think it organically opens the compensation conversation door.  I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to but clearly, it is on me. The other tack is now I should have vacation pay and I have a vacation soon. I've never had to negotiate a salary before so this is new territory for me.

And while this is whiny, I am very grateful.  I still can't believe that I finally got my dream job.  I just have to do a brain scan and discard any unnecessary information.  Goodbye my twenties, glad to erase you.

22 October 2015

I Was Just Getting Well Adjusted

In the Be Careful for What You Wish For file is this week.  After three months of wondering wth my job share partner does with her time, I'm finding out.  She "resigned" on Friday. 

In my excitement to not be working with someone who is condescending and inept, I somehow missed the whole I Will Be Working More memo.  After waxing poetic about loving working in the afternoons, I am working in the mornings.  After telling Kevin I wasn't worried about spending $300 on fixing  one of the heaters in the truck and justifying it with "It won't be frosty when I leave for work", I suddenly need that heater. (although we haven't had a frost yet, which is weird)

It was fun anticipating and  then doing the redecorating and organization of the desk.  Partner used sticky notes for many things.  There were five of  them just on the monitor. (two of which were passwords, because security)   They were the very first thing I took care of.  The second thing was all the papers on the bulletin boards, a lot of which were outdated. Even though the office provided a set of speakers and a lamp, she had two more. Unnecessary clutter and paperwork, my favorites!

Partner worked there for about a year and a half.  It's like she sat down at the desk and that was it.  She added sticky notes and papers to the bulletin board and...yeah, that seems to be it.  One of  the desk drawers was full of empty file hangers and folders.  So, if you opened it, it kind of looked like there was stuff going on, but not at all if you looked closely.

While I do enjoy the personal vindication of being right about her, I'm not enjoying as much the cleaning of  the mess.  Just today, four days later, I'm starting to be able to breathe again.  I feel like I've opened every drawer and looked through every file.  I can safely say that if I find any more surprises (like two packs of sticky notes and two boxes of pens tucked in the back of an unused drawer, after I had cleaned out everything) I'm going to go full internet meme style desk flip. 

The one scary part of this new situation is that I need to learn insurance billing.  The process is convoluted and can require three websites to complete.  Three. Websites.  Oh, and bonus: two have to be run in Internet Explorer.  Sigh.  I'm going to have to use my OCD powers for good.  Right now there are 115 kids and there will be 130 by December.  I am praying to every from of god there is that this doesn't turn into some kind of goat rodeo.

So, yeah, after all my talk of working part time, I'm now going to be working 35 hours. After stating that I didn't want a high responsibility job, insurance billing.   I need to make better choices. 

05 October 2015

A Lot of Important Thoughts From a Simple Music CD

In order to make room for the newly inherited and organized photo albums, I had to clean out a cupboard that we rarely use.  It's a cute little cupboard/built-in but it is out of the way to store anything that is frequently useful. It is in the hallway, next to the office and common folk bathroom.  It is perfect to store DVD's, games, and CD's though.  As always, it didn't occur to me to take a photo beforehand so you'll have to trust me. But this is what it looks like on the outside:

The top section was filled with movies.  DVD's, VHS  tapes, and box sets.  I  had even gone as far as to have a section for Christmas movies and books.  (I have issues, I know. Totally aware)  The bottom section was filled with CD's.  I had them stored in miniature apple crates in our old house and somehow they fit perfectly into this cupboard. 

I've talked before about what to do with the hundreds of CD's we have.  Most of the music Kevin wants is loaded onto a SD card in his phone, which is fantastic until the SD card goes away as they sometimes do.  I need to look into online storage for him but it is a lot of data to upload.

I have some music on my phone from CD's but mostly I use Amazon Prime Music or Sirius.  What is on my phone is the Go-To Music, the can't live without stuff. U2, 54/40, Barenaked Ladies (Could I be more Canadian?) 

It boils down to an anxiety thing.  I don't want to let the CD's go because What-If.  Yet, there are so many of them.  Although I do listen to them occasionally.  One would think that with Sirius radio and a billion stations to listen to, I wouldn't get trapped in Radio Hell but I still do.  Radio Hell is when there simply isn't good music playing, or more accurately perhaps, music you're in the mood to hear.  In that case, I have a lone Jack Johnson CD in the truck.  It used to be Bon Jovi, so clearly I've grown.

Here is what I finally did, or am in the process of doing.  I started going through the boxes and taking out CD's that I know I will probably never listen to again.  CD's that were bought on a whim, gifts, or just musical tastes have changed. That act culled a few but not as many as I had hoped.  Then I gave it a few days and went through them again.  I may have taken a few more out but not many.

It is strange how musical tastes change.  Or maybe not taste per se but just plain tired of hearing a song or band.  Especially now that I am at an age that popular music from my youth is being used in commercials and played in grocery stores.  There were a few CD's that I used to love that I was all "Ugh, I'll be happy to never hear that again."

Then I went through again and took out the CD's that I can't live without. The aforementioned bands, Tom Petty, Glee soundtracks, anything from Eminem to Dixie Chicks.  This leaves me with 60 CD's that I am keeping and need to find a home for. Still a lot.
post-culling, waiting for their fate to be decided by Kevin
Now Kevin is next.  I'm going to have him do the same thing I did: take out the music he'll never listen to and then choose the stuff he can't live without if his phone gets lost or whatever.  He is not looking forward to this at all.  I can't blame him.  It's taken me weeks to get this far.  Then I will do a final cull and off to Goodwill they go.

I already had him go through the movies and he took out about ten DVD's and mocked my keeping any VHS tapes. It's not like there are a bunch of them and it's mostly racing stuff, some footage of him racing.   I took out about only the same amount of DVD's so there will be no judging on either of our behalf.

At least with the DVD's, the format hasn't changed for a few years.  It was VHS/Beta, then it was laser disc and then it was DVD's and Blueray.   Now it's streaming video and DVR's and while I use that too, it's nice to have the movies in my physical possession.  I think it's the same with these CD's.  The formats will change probably but I have these for now.

One thought I had  about the movies was "Will I watch these once I retire or in a home?"  (I know, I went a little dark there in my considerations)  Certainly the technology will have changed by then again but we're in the What-If category again.  One would think that would prompt me to keep them more but I thought about it and actually became a little more ruthless.

This leaves one shelf that holds games.  Monopoly, cribbage, an authentic 1970's Newlywed Game, and games that have just accumulated over time.  We don't play them anymore but I just know that someday we will.  The kids will be over, or we'll be retired with nothing else to do, or whatever.  They live on the bottom shelf so it's not like it's valuable real estate being taken up. I have chosen to ignore that shelf entirely for now.  Even though I still have to find a home to store the CD's we are keeping.  We will come to that standoff eventually.

So...the point...hmmm...there are a few: stop keeping crap you don't use. Music is a reflection of our own history.  What's important to others might not be to you.  What was important then isn't necessarily going to be important forever.  Plan ahead.  Break a big task into littler tasks. (somewhere my mom is muttering "littler" is not a word)

01 October 2015

It is Only the Preseason

As you may have noticed, it's election preseason.  I keep deep-breathing and reminding myself that it's only preseason.  Like in football, it doesn't matter if games are lost or what happens because it has little reflection on the actual season. It is just an opportunity to shake out the rookies who won't make the cut. It's my futile hope that when the actual season begins, the nonsense will lessen.

But that is just on the national and media level.  Now we have the social media level.  There seems to be no preseason in social media.  It can be just constant nonsense.  Once something is posted on social media, it is forever.  Even if it has been repeatedly debunked, it still makes the rounds.

We have what I call the Grandma Circle on our facebook.  It consists of Kevin's mom, Kevin's aunt, Kevin's mom's best friend, and our neighbor.  If one posts a meme, you can count that it will make the rounds within hours.  Every once in a while, I will post a comment that says "Ooops, this is a fake" just to stem the tide or just because I can't take it anymore when something is false.

Someone posted a status update a little while ago that said something along the lines of "We aren't friends because we agree on politics. I didn't choose to friend you because of politics.  I will hide or unfriend people who choose to spend their time on facebook spreading their views."

At first, I was all "Dude, Harsh" but I get it.  I use the facebook to keep in touch with friends and cousins.  I usually post memes about coffee and books and photos of the puppy.  If we're somewhere interesting, I will "check-in" with a comment or something funny. 

Gone are the days where I post an actual update.  I'm not sure why.  Some of the reason is that this year went sideways and I just didn't have much to say.  I just don't think people don't want to hear that my leg hurts, or Kevin's mom is struggling, or Lucky the Dog died, or that I hated the "perfect on paper" job.  I think people would rather see coffee memes and cute puppies.  But that is just my opinion, my way of doing things.

Along that line, I don't usually post anything political either.  I did when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage because that personally affected members of my family and friends.  That was the exception.  Otherwise I do the passive activism thing of liking posts I agree with.  Some of those show up in our news feeds now so I feel like that it a gentle way of supporting a cause or stating a belief without the bullsh*t "Share if you agree" tagline. I won't like anything that has the "share" part of it.  I don't feel like I'm yelling in your face what my thought or belief is with a meme.

I just don't think it's respectful to the many kinds of people on my facebook.  Like you, I have family, coworkers, friends, and far-away friends, many of whom are older and they don't want to see the eff word in their feed, my politics will likely not match theirs, (think: church ladies) and unfortunately, I was raised in a political environment that doesn't match my own beliefs.  There are too many different people with different belief systems for me to feel easy about posting something like that.

One coping skill I use to cull out the nonsense on my feed is the hide option.  If someone posts something from a source I don't support, I use the "Hide all from ....." button.  This has alleviated some stress from my newsfeed for certain. By doing so, it often hides certain topics from my feed.

But there's always that one friend who posts stuff to "start a conversation" or "just to push buttons".  This friend is about to get themselves hidden.  The most recent one said something like "I know this will offend some so just keep scrolling if that's you."  I was actually surprised at how disrespectful that felt.  They consciously posted something knowing that it was offensive to some (and it was, and it was willfully ignorant, and narrow-minded) and just be all fine with it.

I guess I just don't understand it.  It's not free speech, it's intentionally posting to upset someone. It is disrespecting others because they have the right to do so and social media provides that platform. I choose not to be that person and it, perhaps childishly, frustrates me that others don't think the same.

Back to the original point: it's the political preseason.  (it's actually called the "silly season" but I like the football analogy)  I can only hope that the nonsense settles down once the rookies are cut, and we can move forward with the best candidates, not just the best of the worst.  I can only hope that people can maybe use some courtesy and continue to be friends.

Even if I have to hide them until 2017.

17 September 2015

In a Small Box, Amongst Boxes

I made a sad discovery while going through this last set of boxes.  At the bottom of a smaller box was this card:

Kevin's mom delivered a child before his brother.  (Kevin is the youngest, although most people guess he's the oldest.)  This baby, a boy, was a Thalidomide baby, so he didn't fully develop.  I'm unclear if he died in utero or shortly after birth.   Kevin's mom said that she saw him, like a glimpse, even though they wouldn't let her have him.

We have never asked what happened to the baby. Only once have I heard her talk about it.  Now, with her health, I'm not sure we would get a clear answer. It was 1959, a small town, and they were poor so it's difficult to guess. There isn't a birth or death record on public record, which is puzzling. I've done an extensive search.  So, I was surprised to see the burial card.  It seems the only proof that this baby existed.

Being the research nerd that I am, I phoned the cemetery.  A wonderful woman named Allie answered my questions, as if the birth had just happened and not almost sixty years ago.  The impact of the information caught me off guard so much.  I just can't even.

The baby was born and died on January 14, 1959.  There isn't a gender indicated, which matches the Thalidomide baby description.  In case you don't know, they were called "Flipper babies" because their extremities didn't develop.  I'm guessing that they couldn't tell and Kevin's mom just chose a gender.  I don't know if she ever named the baby, I'm guessing not.

My plan is to drive out one day soon to the cemetery, where most of Kevin's family has been buried, to see if I can find him.  I suspect that there is no marker though.  Allie said that she could provide a map to show me exactly where he is buried.  I can see if there is a marker or if we need to get one.

I can't imagine that Kevin's mom has been out there to visit.  She was eighteen when this happened, her husband was on the road during the birth, and she didn't drive. Also, they moved to another county shortly after Kevin's birth, three years later, so it's not like she could just stop by.

I'm going to err on the side of caution and not mention any of this to her.  Her condition changes day-to-day and I just don't think it's a good idea to risk upsetting her.  If the opportunity ever arises, I will gingerly share what I've learned.  I know it's been upsetting for me and it's not even my blood relation.  

14 September 2015

Three Boxes

The other night at dinner I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I finally finished the photo project.  All the photos that were going into albums were in them, they were scanned, and some posted on facebook.

She frowned for a moment and said "Did you see a bunch of truck pictures?"

Oh. No.

"Well, there were some but...do you...do you think there are more?"

"I think so. Maybe."

I told her "You're going to make me cry. I don't cry and you're going to make me cry."

To increase the difficulty level to this project, family was coming in the very next day.  Family who would love to see these photos.  I was feeling confident that I had finished the albums and then there's MORE. And now a deadline.  *FUN*

Kevin and I went over after dinner and looked again.  Three boxes of photos.  THREE BOXES.  Full of loose photos, not even in albums.  Some in envelopes but mostly just loose. Three. Boxes.

In some ways I wasn't daunted because I had developed a system.  I do an initial sort into family groups, mother and father.  Then I do another sort into smaller groups of photos that can go to the cousins or into events  This also allows to sort out copies, bad pictures and things like negatives.  Or, in this case this time, slides. Yep. SLIDES.

In the initial batch of photographs there were negatives like none I had never seen before.  They were almost like tintypes.  I had those developed and discovered there was a picture of my father-in-law's dad when he was in his twenties.  So, probably one hundred years old.

These are the kinds of treasures I keep finding.

So, I had a system and a baseline to start, again. One of the albums is a really nice, archival type album.  Kevin's mom had begun to fill it but not in an organized way.  In fact, many of the albums were haphazard like that; halfway organized and then just random photos.

I built upon her work, putting her family's photos in the front and in chronological order.  Then I flipped forward to about halfway through and put Kevin's dad's family photos in chronological order as well.

This was fantastic.  Right up until the additional three boxes.

Okay, challenge accepted.  I found an empty album and started again.  I focused on Kevin's dad's family because those are the folks who were coming to visit.  Now I have an album nearly full of just those photos.

I spent a few hours printing out copies for the Uncle and the Cousin during their visit. They were pretty happy to have them.  Imagine suddenly having photos of you when you were significantly younger, some of which you didn't even know existed.

The fun part, to me, was posting them on my mother-in-law's facebook page.  I made her two albums, one for each branch of the family.  Then I tagged the cousins.  I think we created our own ancestry site on the facebook. Kevin's uncle is a goldmine of information.  Dude can tell you dates, locations, names like it was yesterday.  He turns 81 soon.

Time warp is a risk while doing this.  I've found myself actually dreaming of times and people that I didn't know or experience. Stories that I heard were becoming real.  I was legitimately sad that I missed things like a cousin's wedding or a birthday party.

I watched Kevin grow up as there were photos of when he was an infant, toddler, school-ager, right up to adulthood. He had no idea that his mom had any of these photos.

There were photos of he and his former wife, which were jarring to see at first then they kind of lost their power to shock.  There was a twinge of sadness...regret, maybe, that I didn't get to experience that part of his life.  He swears I wouldn't have liked him then and maybe not.  Who's to know, really.  I knew him superficially while I was married the first time anyway.

But I feel more connected to the family now too.  I can identify family members when they were young, which house the photo was taken at, and I know the stories behind the photos.

And my photo wall is coming along beautifully!

05 September 2015

Half Days, Full Days

I wasn't sure how I would like working in the afternoons.  It has an element of waiting all morning to go to work, which can be frustrating and distracting. But as time has passed, that sense of anticpation/panic is less.

It's been sixty days now (I know, right!?!) and I've decided that I like it, very much.  Previously, I was home by 3:30 every day.  It gave me the afternoon to relax but only two-ish hours before Kevin came home from work.  So, really, it provided time to do chores, start dinner, and maybe watch some television like the news or whatever.

Now, Kevin leaves at 5:30 in the morning and I'm up.  I did not say awake, but up.  I have coffee and a little treat while Lucy and I watch television.  I watch shows or a movie that Kevin doesn't like.  Puppy always sleeps on me and sometimes she is Ambien for me.

I had a steadfast rule of no computer in the morning because it was a big distraction.  I can break that rule now and I need to.  I've lost the rhythm of writing every day and I need to get back into it. As evidenced by the lack of posts here. That and August.

The idea that a pet can be helpful when you spend a lot of time alone is true. Lucy insists on going outside around 8:30 every morning. This means I have to be showered and ready for the day before then.  I have to be ready because she seems to sense when I'm indisposed, if you will, and tends to wander further than allowed.  The shiny side of this is that it's impossible just to laze around all morning because she has things to do.

Subtopic: The cast nurse who helped me when I broke all the bones gave me life changing (for me) advice. "Don't leave a room until you're 100% done in there".  Because I was off my feet for months, I practiced that advice long enough to become a habit.  Bathroom is clean after I get ready for the day, bedroom is straightened after I get dressed, kitchen is clean after breakfast.

So usually I'm ready for the day and have my chores done by 9:00. That's almost four hours of free time.  What have I done with it, you ask.  Sometimes not one single thing.  I've found that I'm much happier when I'm purposefully doing nothing. (duh)  But not every day, otherwise it becomes depressing.  I figured out that I needed to schedule how I was going to spend free time, which is counter-intuitive, for sure.  I set an intention for each day, a small project or task.

Because of this, my rock garden is beautiful this summer.  My house is organized within an inch of its life.  The photo project is 98% finished.  I've watched up to the last season of Bones.   It's been a really nice summer and I'm feeling quite accomplished.

I'm a little worried that when the weather turns, I will not be as active and bored, even.  I guess we'll see.  However, I am enjoying the thought of not defrosting a vehicle every morning though.  The roads won't be slick.

Here is the one thing I don't like: if I need to stop at the grocery store after work.  It's the busiest time in the store, I just want to get back home (I've become a wee hermit-y) and going before work isn't an option if I'm needing cold stuff, which often I am.  Big picture, this isn't a big problem. It does lead to me just going without whatever we need for as long as I can.

Lastly, I enjoy the fact that if I am annoyed with having to go to work, for whatever reason, is that I just tell myself "It's four hours."  Four hours is nothing, big picture.

So, all this is essentially to say that I very much am glad to be working the schedule I am.  I'm relieved that I held out, as scary as it was, and I highly recommend it.  Also, it's September so back to reality.  See you again soon.

14 August 2015

Zucchini, for the Win

We've reached a stage where I'm trying to think of things we need to know from Kevin's mom before her memory totally goes or she passes.  Thus the urgency to get the picture project finished and photos given to the cousins.  We've also kind of purposefully having her tell stories so that history gets passed along.

This is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but her fried zucchini recipe was one of those things.  She's the only one in the family who makes them.  Things like this are what get forgotten until it's too late.  Sure, we can look recipes up online but they're just not the same.  Of course the recipe hasn't been written down because she's been making them for over fifty years.

So, the other evening Kevin told me that his mom had made fried zucchini and he was going over to get some.  I told him I would come along because we really needed to get a recipe from her.

First off,  the parents react like I've just learned to tie my shoes when it comes to learning something new to cook, it's not condescending but actually kind of endearing.  So when the opportunity arose to actually teach me something,  the heavens opened.

Of course, she has a specific dish that she makes the batter in.  It's probably a hundred years old and was Kevin's grandmas "every day" dish.  It looks a hundred years old.  Next came how to make the batter.  It's simple: 1/2 cup flour, two eggs, a little milk, whisk (I just had to make the gesture of "whisking" to remind myself what that word was...so not a cooker...sigh)  It should be about the consistency of pancake batter.

Thinly slice the zucchini and dip in batter.  Tap it gently but not too gently.  As I learned, there is a balance of too thick and too thin.  Kevin said "Mom said to just give it a little tap, tap, tap" to which I responded "Just a tap, a little tappity tap tap tap"  (extra points if you get the Happy Gilmore reference, otherwise I just wasted your time.)

This is where I say that I don't fry anything.  I hate frying. Hate. It. I hate the popping of the grease, the mess, the smell, the fact that I have to stand there the whole time, everything.  Hate it.  So, I have to squelch everything that I am in order to do this.

Prep was easy because she sent me with batter in the hundred year old dish.  She actually laughed in an exasperated fashion when I said I didn't have flour.  (in case the batter needed thickening)  I sliced everything up and off we were.

First few had too thick of batter. The next few were almost perfect but I forgot salt and pepper.  The last bit was not as good as mom's but getting there.  Kevin called it a success, so that's all that really matters.

Of course, I posted my "victory" on facebook because that's what you do now. I was surprised at just how positive everyone was. I don't know why, I just was.

Feeling perhaps over-confident, I tried again two nights ago.  I already had fish baking in the oven so I thought I could get it done easily enough.  Dude, I was so wrong. So. Wrong.

Like always, I underestimated my time.  The fish ended up being over-done.  I forgot to start the rice and chaos ensued.  I took the fish out and set it on a burner and moved on, forgetting that the burner was hot.  Not only did the fish begin to literally fry, the pan BROKE when I took it off.

This is why I don't cook.

But the zucchini was so good, Kevin took his mother a small plate of them so I guess I win.

02 August 2015

What I'm Doing Over Summer Vacation

Soo...Let's update, shall we?

New job is better, I'm doing what I've been hired for and funny how that makes all the difference.  I'm still unsure about my job-share partner, but I hope that it can be resolved with time.  I guess I can define it as "You're not the boss of me and I'm good at my job so step off."  

I love who I work with, many of whom I know from when I worked at the school.  They're a funny group and there doesn't appear to be the drama that comes when so many women work together. So, I would say it's mostly good. Oh, and I have the last week of August off because my new work follows the school district calendar.  So, yeah!

Kevin's mom.  She's a tough old bird, let me tell you.  She's off her oxygen mostly and is able to get around a bit.  Like before, our struggle with them accepting help of any kind. Someone to help with chores = No, Meals on Wheels = No, so that's *fun*.  His dad still struggles with getting her meds correct, which makes us all mental.  But you know, what? we thought she was dead a few months ago so we'll focus on that.

Gardening...I have become Suzy Gardener.  I would have never figured this in my life, like ever.  But here I am with a little corner flower garden and a growing rock garden.  I'm actually getting excited about seeing it next year.  I'm going to be disappointed if, for some reason, this doesn't turn out well.

Next up, I'm considering planting a little garden.  I am considering tomatoes (even though Kevin isn't a fan), peppers, peas, carrots, and green onions.  Key word in this is "considering".  I think vegetable are going to be a little more of a commitment than watering and weeding a flower garden.  We'll see, I'm just feeling all cocky right now. 

I had the opportunity to ask the science professor (I can't remember his specialty...geology, I think?) about the NYT article stating that the entire West Coast being washed away when the Big One comes.  He scoffed. Outright scoffed. So, if that's any consolation to you.  He stated that we've already sustained a big quake and there was  a little damage and no loss of life or injury.  I hadn't thought about that.  Also, LA has already sustained two large quakes and are the better for it. He agreed with me that the statement that No One is Prepared was an incorrect blanket statement. 

One good thing is that the state suddenly was given a grant to work further on an early warning system.  I'm sure if someone was asked, they would state it was a coincidence, but I'm skeptical that it was.

Did I tell you that Kevin's brother backed into his old truck?  Kevin's Toyota, that used to be my Toyota.  Insurance paid to fix the front bumper, fender, and light.  If you've read this space for a long time, you'll remember that I rolled this truck in 2007 and we had it fixed then.  But they only had to paint one side of it so "luckily" he hit the old paint side.  Kevin's childhood friend owns a body shop so he offered to paint the "old" side for a little extra something-something.  Now we have a nearly like-new truck with 410,000 miles on it.  We are planning on being a Toyota commercial eventually.

We haven't been racing this summer because there is just too much going on around here.  We might go in the Fall but we'll see.  Funny thing is that we've been enjoying our Summer at home so much. Much more than I think either of us realized we would.  When we would normally be gone for multiple weekends, we have time at home.  Kevin hasn't had to work Saturdays this summer as well, so we just are having a really good summer.

That's what's happening here.  Mostly good news!  That's a nice change.

30 July 2015

This Shouldn't Be So Difficult

We have had two challenging, yet ridiculous, experiences lately.  This definitely qualifies as First World Problems, but it's still unnecessarily annoying.

First, Kevin broke our ice cream scoop.  I'm unsure how, but he managed.  So, no big deal, we were going to the store the next day so we added it onto the list.  This is where I say that we shouldn't shop together because we're both youngest children.  One of us are going to make an impulse purchase.

Who knew how many different kinds of ice cream scoops there are.  I mean, it's not a complicated tool, I don't understand why there are so many variations. I get that I can barely find the kitchen aisles in most stores but this is an ice cream scoop. 

Funny aside: Kevin spotted a melon baller and mentioned "Why would someone even bother?"  Also, a store worker tried to help us but I don't think she quite got our not complicated requirements for an ice cream scoop.

The one that was most similar to the one that was broken had a bright pink handle.  I can't even.  I know it's silly but I'm not a twelve year old girl.  Finally, we just chose the simplest, sturdiest one.

While checking out, I noticed the price of the scoop.  $15.99.  FOR AN ICE CREAM SCOOP. 

Kevin had taken a call while we were checking out, when he returned I asked him to guess how much the scoop cost.  He ventured a guess of $7. He joined me in righteous indignation when he heard the price tag. 

We totally returned it and bought a more reasonably priced one.  Which one was it, you wonder?  The one with the unfortunately pink handle. 

I'm still astounded that there are so many variations of ice cream scoops, something that a sturdy, large spoon can do.  Also, how stupidly expensive they are.  Bored? look it up on the amazon. There's one that is $34.95.  For an ICE CREAM SCOOP.

(photo courtesy of amazon.com)
It occurs to me that this post shows that we are the youngest children.  You'll see why in a second.

We went out to dinner with the kids on Sunday, a rare treat. (with the kids, not the pizza part)  The in-laws chose the restaurant, a pizza place in one of the historical districts of Bellingham.  They love it but it's not my favorite.  This is coming from me, the person who would eat pizza every day if I didn't want to be 3,000 lbs and dead.

Here is why it's not my favorite:
There are categories of pizza, by city: New York, Detroit, Chicago. 
Then, instead of the standard Vegetarian, Hawaiian, Meat Lovers, style of pizzas they have names like 57 Packard or Lakeshore Drive or Marshall Fields. 
And, the ingredients are all very similar, mostly consisting of combinations of red meat and gourmet cheeses.

This is pizza, folks, it doesn't have to be so complicated. It's just so hipster.

To add insult to injury, the pizza isn't that great.  Our in-laws were completely befuddled as to why we didn't like it.  It's like they don't even know us.  We are a PB&J couple, not a pita with hummus and organic celery couple.

This concludes the This Shouldn't Be So Difficult portion of my life. This is also where I would suggest that we need bigger problems but that ship has sailed over the past few years for us.  So, I get to pout about ice cream scoops and hipster pizza.

14 July 2015

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

So, there is a lot of hub bub about the New York Times article yesterday about how Seattle is going to fall into the ocean when we have The Big One.  Swistle asked me what I thought about it so I answered her and then thought..."Hmm, this could be a good post" so here it is:

I hadn't read it either but the news is talking about it a lot right now so I feel like I had read it. I admit, I was a little hesitant to read it, thinking it was going to be anxiety inducing.  It was, a little bit, but if you live here it really isn't something you haven't heard before.
From my perspective, it's something everyone knows but just...not ignores per se...but lives with.  It's like living with a volcano on Hawaii.  It's there, and chances are it's going to blow, but you just live your life.
I disagree a little bit with the perspective that no one is prepared.  Many buildings, especially since the Nisqually quake, have been retrofitted to withstand a quake.  Most schools, hospitals, etc. are required to have things like televisions, appliances, wall hangings, etc. tethered.  (many households - like new builds - have this as well) 
Plus the earthquake kits.  It seems like many folks have these (not doomsday preppers, just regular people) not only in their homes but in cars as well.  Schools and care centers are asked to have them, but it's not required.
An interesting thought/theory: BC hasn't done much about preparedness, even after the Nisqually Quake.  Theory holds that if such an event occurs, the border will effectively disappear to help pool resources.
There is an element of futility, people with ocean front property know the risk and there's little that can be done.  We've already seen the ocean reclaiming property here, without a quake and separate from climate change effects; think a river reverting to its natural course.
I'm glad she mentioned the Ring of Fire, because that's a thing.  It has been increasingly active and it has kind of a pattern to its activity.  That does make me nervous, because it seems like it will be our turn soon.  However, she did a good job writing about why we've been a bit immune to quakes like the other areas (Japan, New Zealand)  and that made me a feel a little better.  It's as if we're sort of protected but once the pressure releases, we're utterly screwed.

It is kind of common knowledge that Seattle is screwed.  It's protected by many little islands so it wouldn't be quite the direct hit that the Oregon or Vancouver coast would take.  However, downtown Seattle is literally built over the original city that burned in a fire.  It's sketchy now in areas because they were drilling a tunnel for a freeway and the ground started to sink.  Also, it's built below the water table in areas.  Nothing can be done with that.  They're building a seawall but that's not going to prevent damage from the Big One.
Now, we live on a small mountain, on the side that doesn't face the bay.  We will be missed by most of the drama.  Our house is tethered so it will be the internal damage she spoke about and the loss of resources.  We have a generator and fuel so that will get us a few days, and the family and neighbors are next door so resources can be pooled.  With the creek, we should still have a water resource.  It's the food and fuel component that is worrisome.  But that's all temporary. 
Infrastructure reports tell us that none of our bridges would withstand a large quake, so this isolates us a bit but there are ways around that with four-wheel drive.  The question that she poses is a good one: But where are you going to go?  Eastward, of course.  Or north to our Canadian friends that live nearly in the Yukon Territory.  But that's in theory.
I follow the writer on Twitter, she definitely knows the area as she spends most of her vacation time on this coast.  I believe her intention is pure, not one of drama.  She sure needed an editor on that first part of the article though, sheesh.
We still talk about where we would live once we retire.  It has gotten less likely now that there are grandchildren (grandnephews/nieces is such a cumbersome description)  We have talked about being snowbirds or having an RV and doing extensive traveling.  But this would be low on the list of reasons why we would move away from our beautiful little corner of the world.

And this is where I say that I have no formal science background so my knowledge is picked up from living here, state history, and what I've learned in school.  Also, the one non-family neighbor is a Science professor at the University here.  He's told us all about how the Earth does what it does.

11 July 2015

Only One Mike

My mom phoned the other day.  It turns out that the house next door had sewer issues and there was a crew working there.  This is the house where my mom has been keeping an eye out for the owners who live overseas.

The work required that her water be turned off and when it was turned back on, the worker came over to let her know.  Somehow, my mom ended up walking next door to see the ongoing work.

She tells me that there was a guy running a small backhoe behind the house.  He sees her and says hello, calling her by name.  For whatever reason, she chats with this guy even though she isn't sure who he is.  Wait, it gets worse. (not terrible worse, but worse)

The guy asks about me, by name.  "I'm sure she has lots of kids by now."  Mom tells him that I'm very happy, been married 25 years and didn't have kids because I couldn't have them. She tells him I have about ten nieces and nephews and that's enough for me.  The guy said  to tell me hello. 

The guy's name is Mike and he's slender, average height and has dirty blonde hair.

Yeah, she totally had a conversation with my ex-husband.  The one whom I have a permanent restraining order against for domestic violence and stalking.

"Mom, did you just have a conversation with my ex-husband?"

Count to twenty before she responds.

"Well, I...hmmm, I'm not sure."

OH FFS, mother.   This is where I breathe deep and remind myself that she is eighty years old.  And in her defense, she hasn't seem him since early 1990.

She wondered if it could be anyone else.  I told her that I didn't date any other Mikes, any Mikes that I do know/have known didn't know her and didn't fit her description.  I dated like six guys since I was sixteen so it's not like the process of elimination is difficult.  

I even went as far as to scroll through my friends list on the facebook. No one was on the list.  I asked Kevin if he can think of anyone he or we know that runs heavy equipment named Mike.  No one.

So...yeah.  That's not freaky at all.

And yes, he would be bold/dumb enough to talk to my mom like nothing had ever happened. 

Kevin was a little  taken aback.  He knows how crazy the end of the relationship got but he said "It's been twenty six years so chances are, he will forget all about you again."  I'm assuming he is right.

An old friend was at the party at my mom's house a few days later.  I told him the story and he laughed.  "I didn't think he was smart enough to run a backhoe." 

08 July 2015

What I've Been Doing on Summer Vacation

So much stuff going on.

Okay, firstly, the mother-in-law.  She's doing okay.  We're tentatively pleased that she has been home one month without returning to the hospital.  She's on oxygen and still not eating well but we've recently learned that she's doing about as well as someone in her condition can.

They continue to shrug off help and we've all had to just take a step back and let them manage.  We are just going to have to wait and hope that nothing goes terribly wrong. In the meanwhile, I work in the afternoons so that leaves them unsupervised, if you will, for about three hours.

I had to do a final exam for my ankle last month.  The doctor remarked how well I had healed after "such a traumatic injury."  It was a little jarring to hear that, again.  It's been three-plus years since that adventure started and it's kind of faded into the dark corners of my memory.   I am hoping that the exam is the last time I have to deal with that whole thing.

The photo project has stalled.  It has been over 80 degrees here for a month and many days over 90 degrees.  Not only is the office uncomfortable during the summer, I just didn't feel like it was a good idea to handle old photographs when it's this hot.

And...work.  This week will be the first normal week that I've had.  Last week was spent as training, with training being defined as lots of overdue filing.  To boot, for the second time, I have begun a job without an actual desk.  Because I am job sharing and the person is there, I am left hovering at other peoples desk.  I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed.

But I am using some of the advice from Swistle's latest posts about new jobs into play.  Be patient, look for solutions or things I do like, and voice concerns when the opportunity arises.  

I know that after this week, the job will look differently so I need to be patient.  I set a goal to finish all this filing so that it's no longer an option.  Finally, yesterday before I left I got to chat with the executive director.  She asked how I was feeling/thinking about my first week.  It gave me an opportunity to say "Well, I've done lots of filing..."  I'm relieved to say that she was a little surprised and stated "We'll find other things for you to do."

The gardening project has taken a beating because of our unusual heatwave and now smoke from the fires in British Columbia.   A few of the plants are looking pretty bad but I'm hoping to limp them through the summer.  My dream is that next Spring everything will bounce back and be lovely.

About that heat wave, I know others have rain and tornadoes but this heat is overwhelming.  We're used to low-mid seventies and rain, not a month of high temps.  You can tell that people are getting a little stabby because we're missing our rain.

We bought a kiddie pool and put it out on our deck. Then Kevin put up one of our canopies from the race car trailer and now we have a lovely little oasis out there.  We sit out there after work or whatever with our feet in the pool and just relax.  It's absolutely lovely and a foreign concept to us.

A friend of mine added me to a summer reading challenge.  I started with A Million Little Mistakes and it was very disappointing.  I actually laid on the floor of the office and read it in about an hour.  Next I read The Thirteenth Tale, which I've been meaning to read for years, and really enjoy it.  I have a book on my tablet called The Reincarnationist that I want to start.

That's how my summer is going.  Busy, full of change, and getting slightly less stressful

25 June 2015

Sometimes These Things are True

Nearly one year after stopping working, surgery, and having a horrible private sector job, I finally have a new job!  It was one of those serendipity situations where my dream job became available right at the perfect time.

Because, really, I was starting to think that I wasn't ever going to be employed again.  I heard a lot of  "over-qualified" and "had some skills you don't possess" (usually casework or accounting, neither of which I'm interested in growing skills).  I was beginning to believe that I was going to have to take a job in the dreaded, formerly unsuccessful foray, of the private sector.

Somehow, someway, I don't even care, I was offered my dream job yesterday.  It's an office administrator/fundraising/many hat-wearing, position with a non-profit school that serves developmentally disabled children.  It's part-time, in the afternoons, and flexible. Check, check, and check! 

I begin sometime next week and I'm equal parts excited and nervous.  It would be foolish not to be.  I'm gaining new friends, I'm learning new systems, I'm going back to work in the SUMMERTIME.  Where am I going to park, what do I do about *any number of things*.  You know, the usual stuff.

But mostly, it's a big, loud *happy dance*! 

I was out of town visiting a friend when I got the call.  I excused myself and took the call outside.  I was so excited they could still hear me outside.  I hung up with them and immediately phoned Kevin "I GOT IT!!!" I yelled at him.  I rarely get overtly excited about anything so this took him by surprise. "You got what?"  "I GOT IT" I continued to yell.  "THE JOB! THE DREAM JOB!"  Then he did a happy dance with me and suggested I bring him an iced mocha in celebration, as is proper etiquette in the Pacific Northwest.

So, oddly funny, I was flipping through magazines last night.  I looked through the TV Guide (because I'm seventy-five years old) and in the back are horoscopes for the week.  In a creepy cool way, the horoscopes (which are always accurate and true, right?) predicted my dream job:

I'm Sagittarius

24 June 2015

Wait, Seven Kids, Not Six

For every dark side, there is a shiny side.  After so much dark, we received a big dose of shiny over the weekend.  The Nephew and his wife are PREGNANT!   We are all so excited.  They've known for a bit now but wanted to wait until she was nearly out of her first trimester, which matched up with Father's Day.

So, if you're following along, this baby makes SIX kids.  Seven counting his thirteen year old brother-in-law, whom they have temporary custody.  Talk about a Crowded House!  I'm hesitant to do the math but this baby makes my ninth grandniece/nephew.  All under the ages of 14.

They had the ultrasound yesterday and discovered that there is only one baby.  I will admit to being slightly disappointed that there is only one baby.  After having triplets, one would think that they would be begging the Universe for a single baby but they were surprisingly calm about the whole thing.

There will be nearly ten years between the triplets and the baby.  This means the baby will be the youngest and yet, also be an only when the trips go to college, etc. Kind of like I was.  I think this is part of the reason they are so chill about it.  It's not as if the kids are all young and in diapers, they're all schoolagers now and two of them are in middle school.

We asked about the kids reactions and they were varied and funny.  The eldest (C1) was all teenagery about it: cool, fine, whatever.  C2 is excited, thinking about all the cool things they will do together, Girl Triplet is trying to figure out how she is going to go to school and take care of the baby, Boy Triplet C is "That's So Cool" while Boy Triplet P is like "Wait, what?"   The new child, I don't know the easiest way to describe him to y'all yet, said and this is a direct quote: "That's cool, if that's what you want to do."

Go back a month or two to when Kevin's mom was having surgery.  I didn't know this but the Nephew was the last one to speak with her before she went into surgery.  He said he went back into the room, leaned over and whispered "Nana, we're pregnant. We're having a baby in January."  He said she lit up the room, hearing the news.

How sweet of that boy to send his grandma off to surgery with such huge news.  He told her that she had to keep it a secret when she woke up.  Thus implying that she was going to wake up, when there was big doubt that she would.

I'm excited about this baby in a way that I haven't been with the others. Not to imply that I didn't look forward to the others. It's just after the past three years of abject awfulness that we've had, this baby is such good news.  Nephew has become like a son to us, even more than before.  I feel connected to this baby and can't wait until he or she is here. 

Babies are such good news.

19 June 2015

I'm Going to Write Myself a Letter

I am going to write myself a letter to open when I turn seventy.  It's tentatively titled "Don't be a D*ck"  or perhaps more appropriately subtitled "Accept Help When It's Offered"

We're having the ongoing struggle with the folks accepting help caring for the mother.  We keep hearing "We've got it" and "When she gets better then we can..." when NEITHER OF THESE THINGS ARE TRUE.

I keep meditating on this topic, "I'm going to be there someday" "We all get old" etc. etc.  Kevin says that we can't MAKE them do anything and he's right. 

We are trying to get them signed up for a program that can offer them all kinds of assistance: someone to come in to help, food assistance, financial assistance, medicine management, etc.  The caseworker is the husband of a friend of ours and he called me today to say "Nope."  Because of the I'll Do It Myself! attitude, they won't get past the initial screening process. 

Here is a non-quick recap of what we're dealing with:

We've had endless talks about Kevin's mom drinking water, because dehydration was one of the causes that landed/lands her in the hospital.  She always promises to try and then doesn't.  I think it's going to come down to the boys telling her they're not going to visit her in the hospital if she has to be hospitalized because she's dehydrated.  She acts as if we've asked her to set her hair on fire.

When she was admitted to the ER, the doctor stated that medication management has to change.  She wasn't taking her meds correctly and she was taking something she shouldn't be (laxative) and wasn't taking something that she should be. (cholesterol meds) My father-in-law does all the meds.  Here's the fun part: he doesn't read.  He literally holds the bottles and visually matches it to the paperwork.  But he doesn't know what he's reading (think heart meds vs. anxiety meds)  

Of course, we try to problem solve. We said we would buy pill boxes and help him get it organized. This way he only has to hand her the meds.  EPIC TANTRUM.  A list of nonsensical reasons why it won't work: the pills don't fit in the boxes, what happens if he runs out, it takes HOURS to distribute her pills (using an example of when she went to visit her sister) and we don't understand IT JUST WON'T WORK AND I CAN DO IT MYSELF!  (that last part is implied) 

The answer to this is You Can't Read.  But the boys can't say that, although I think they should. I'm not as worried about his pride when it's something this serious.  So, I walked away because I don't tolerate tantrums.  In fact, I've taken a wee break from them entirely.

We agreed to shelve the topic until the next day or so.   Two hours later, Kevin went over to check on them before we went to bed.  His father was STILL trying to figure out the meds.  The discharge paperwork wasn't formatted the same as the previous paperwork so he couldn't figure it out.  He was freaking out. Kevin texted me to come help.  I may have cursed.

I had to go over to figure this out without cursing, muttering or doing the I Told You So dance.  I was mostly successful.  Finally, I just took the paperwork home to figure out how to make this make sense to him. I cannot touch the meds physically because he has A System. And don't get him started on the one time that the ER docs "mixed everything up" and ruined his life.  MONTHS AGO.

The paperwork stated "Take two times daily" or "once daily".  While this is obvious to everyone else, it's not obvious to him; he spirals out with "But is it in the morning or the night? How do I know if she needs it?"  OH FFS.  Oh, and the nurses notated in the margins and with highlights when she had the last dose.

30 minutes later, I created a spreadsheet with everything delineated as best I can for someone who doesn't read. I had also called the nurse at the hospital for help but they were busy.  I was finished by the time they phoned back and even then it wasn't the nurse we needed.  But she did say that my logic was sound in making the chart and entering everything correctly.

My sister-n-law managed to get the pills organized into pill boxes the next day without a PEEP from him, which makes me relieved and yet, still a little stabby. The next step is to register for Walgreens online and set everything up on auto-renew.  He insists this won't work because: reasons.

Swistle summed it up the best: "It's like, nothing can solve it because everything is going through the That Won't Work filter. The goal isn't to listen to possible solutions and see what will work; the goal is to pick solutions apart and "win" by proving nothing will work."

I guess the most frustrating part is that they need help and will sometimes will voice that need, but then he gets all stabby and shouty when anyone makes suggestions or tries to help.  Logic says just walk away and let him deal. But this is a safety issue (MEDICINE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) and we can't do that. Logic also says that it's because he feels we're judging him and that he's done something wrong.   Because WE ARE. 

Then there's the fact that he is at risk of falling or being exhausted (requiring hospitalization) because he's the sole caregiver.  The reaction to this is textbook defensiveness.  We can't get him to understand that the consequence of him geting hurt or injured is they're both in a care facility. But to him, it's simply NOT POSSIBLE. We can rationalize that it's the loss of control and independence, but we can't get them to understand that the next stop is a care facility.

On a selfish note, and Kevin has used this rationale with them, at some point it has to be about US.  We're exhausted.  We're stressed.  We are spending our free time making sure that everything is taken care of.  When Kevin mentioned "Don't you want to do this so at least WE can stop worrying and having to come help?"  They just continue to insist that they don't need it and eventually everything will go back to normal.  He even told them (bless his heart forever) "Surely can't continue to clean your house, babysit the dog, and catch the ambulance forever.  That can't be her job."

Have I mentioned she's on oxygen 24/7?  That she doesn't like taking her medicine? Or eating?  YEAH.

So, deep breath. I am going to write myself a letter.  Maybe even include this post with it.  When I'm old, I need to remember to not be a jerk to the people that are just trying to help.

18 June 2015

Faded Letters

Back to the photo project topic, I promised to elaborate on Kevin's memory book in one of the past posts.

Kevin's mom gave him the memory book a few years ago.  He looked at it then we put it away for safekeeping and forgot about its existence.  With the photo project, I brought it back out.  He looked at it again the other evening after I added photos and reordered it a little.  It has to be chronological or what's the point, right?

She not only had all of his school portraits and class photos, she included birth announcements, doctors orders (he was a failure to thrive baby), birthday cards (see, I'm not the only one who keeps/hoards them!)  and report cards.  We were both amazed at what she kept and that she thought at the time to keep them.  They moved many times during his childhood so this had to be quite the effort.

Imagine Kevin's surprise and eventual embarrassment when he discovered that she also kept (and somehow FOUND) Kevin's love letters. Love letters being from when he was ages between thirteen and sixteen.

He sat and read them with a mixture of humor and absolute horror.  "My MOM read these!" he said at one point.  They were simple, age-appropriate letters from girls that he was "dating" at the time.  They were actual letters too, with stamps and everything! It was a picture to see him, some nearly forty years later, long married and wearing reading glasses.

One is written in pencil and is extremely faded.  I offered to scan it so he could better read it and he was a little horrified, "Um, no, no, you don't have to do that..."  I didn't read them while working on the book so I had no idea what they included, other than they were written by girls.  I've read them since and they're the typical letters from that age, you know: heartfelt and utterly humiliating to read as an adult.

But it gave me the idea that Kevin resoundly and immediately squashed:  Find the girl on the facebook and message her a copy of the letter, just for a laugh.  I mean, what good is social media for if not to share humiliating memories?

It also made me think of the episode of Everyone Loves Raymond where Raymond discovers that his mother read his journal when he was a teen.  The embarrassment was acute and hilarious.  Once again, I found myself in one of those sitcom episodes.

17 June 2015

Greenish Thumb

In between taking care of two houses, babysitting dogs and flower gardens, looking for a job, and frequent trips to the hospital, I've been trying to work more on my gardening.  I have been mildly successful.

One thing that I discovered is that the grocery store I regularly go to has a discount plant section.  There are plants that are struggling for whatever reason, not being watered enough/too much, rootbound, past blooming stage.  I've bought yellow chrysanthemums that looked like Adams Family Flowers but are pretty and blooming now.  Kevin thought I'd lost my mind planting half-dead flowers. He wasn't all wrong.

I bought a small rose bush that blooms in small, multicolored buds.  I'm hoping that it will root in the rock garden and be happy.  It looks good right now but we'll see.  Next up was lavender.  I planted this yesterday in the rock garden and it's starting to show signs of peppyness already.

I have a butterfly bush in the rock garden that is making the bees SO HAPPY right now.  I'm going to find another one and plant it.  And yes, I've seen a fair share of butterflies too.  Because Kevin's mom gave it to us years ago and she no longer remembers what exactly it was, I'm going to take a photo and ask someone.  It has happy pink flowers.  There is another one further down that has happy white flowers.  So far the bees aren't as impressed with it.

There is a walkway behind the house that only Lucy uses; it runs from our deck to the back yard.  I put plants along that walkway this spring to make it look nice and not so stark.  Kevin mentioned that no one could see it and I told him that I liked walking out on the deck and seeing it.  However, only half the plants were happy there.  I think two things happened: there wasn't as much direct sunlight as I thought and because they sat on the ground it was a buffet for bugs. You're welcome, bugs.

I found something in a magazine that I'm going to try but it's going to have to wait until I return to work.  I want to make narrow planters along that fence (Kevin's already shaking his head) so that they're up off the ground.  The article lists shady plants that like the Northwest weather so I at least have a road map for this attempt.

I also want to plant some bulbs but am hesitant.  The last time I tried, Missy was just a puppy and she declared them the BEST TREAT EVER.  I can only imagine what Lucy would do, especially since it would require digging.  She's already killed the daisies I planted because she was hunting for critters.  Also, what bulbs did survive the puppy were taken out by a then unknowing Kevin.

And while I'm doing this, I'm trying to only choose perennials.  Every once in a while, I'll cave and buy an annual because OMG So Pretty but I have to exercise some sort of restraint if I want the Magazine Garden of My Dreams.

15 June 2015

Look At This Photograph...Every Time It Makes Me Laugh

The project I'm working on now is scanning photos from Kevin's mom's albums.

Kevin's mom likes looking at pictures, she always has but recently, she will spend a while just looking at photos.  It doesn't matter if it's actual pictures or ones on her tablet or someones phone, kind of like a child.

I did some research about folks with dementia and found that is a characteristic.  It's a self-soothing technique.  I thought about how to go about doing this for her.  Here are the struggles:

I've printed out photos before but they've gotten put away in the shuffle of life or she's put them somewhere and doesn't remember now.  She's not strong enough to hold a big photo album.  Sometimes she's good with her tablet and other times she isn't.  They live in a tiny house so hanging photos on the walls aren't an option.

So, I'm making photo albums on her facebook so that she can see them anytime on her tablet, they won't get misplaced or ruined and bonus: everyone else gets to see them as well.

I've done this in the past almost a year ago, her nieces asked for any photos she had of their late mother. So I made an album and tagged all the girls (4, including twins) so they could have photos of their mom.

Then one of cousins sent pictures so I created another album on Facebook for her of family history stuff.  I've been adding to that here and there.  This last visit to the hospital, I raided her closet where she keeps all her photos and albums.  I started scanning them into the laptop and posting them on Facebook. (thank god for the cloud...but my data plan is taking a beating)

Holy time travel, batman. There are photos from when Kevin's parents were teens and when she was a child.  There are baby-teen pictures of Kevin that I've never seen, or him for that matter. 

With this photo project, I'm hearing family stories (Oh, and an aunt passed away and we went to her funeral yesterday. Because, of course.)  A person needs charts, graphs, and a laser pointer to keep track of this family tree.

Kevin's mom has four sisters and a brother.  Kevin's dad has two brothers and three sisters.  Originally, one of the brothers married one of HER sisters.  They divorced and he eventually married not one, but two of his brother's ex-wives.  One of my father-in-law sister got pregnant as a late teen by a boy from a prominent family, married someone else, and was eventually widowed.  The other two sisters have long-term marriages.  All of them have at least two but up to four children.

Kevin's mom's sisters have been married multiple times.  Susie married Uncle Don TWICE, once in the fifties and once in the 90's. The one that married the brother was either married or in multiple relationships and died as an addict.  The other died of cancer after being divorced and was in love with my sister-in-law's widowed dad, and the youngest sister (who is the EXACT SAME AGE AS KEVIN'S BROTHER) has been married twice. To two guys names STEVE.  The brother is gay, but married TWICE, and his lifelong companion died of AIDS right when Kevin and I started dating.

I swear this is all true.
But, then I learned a little bit more about Kevin's parents.  I knew that he had a dalliance when Kevin was young.  I use the word dalliance because his mother insists that there was no sex. (eye-roll) What I didn't know was that they separated and that there was another, another woman who caused a second separation.
He was a long haul truck driver and this isn't unusual for drivers.  But I was shocked that there were two women and that they were actually separated.  She also said that he used to be hell on wheels (Drinking and mischief) but that was because of the friends he hung out with.  To which, Kevin and I have eye strain from the eye-rolling.  OH, and another thing: one of his best friends back-in-the-day was my ex-husbands uncle. 
So, I'm looking through a different filter when I'm looking  at some of the pictures of Kevin's parents. He was a total rascal. It was always said that it was his BROTHERS that were rascals. Ummm, no, it was him too.

You see what I'm saying?  LOLOMG.

So, anyway, back to the original topic.  Kevin's mom made memory books for the boys that included school portraits, class photos, report cards, and keepsakes like birthday cards and Valentines.  I've been able to add to Kevin's book quite a bit.  It's been really fun. (and more on this topic later)
Now Kevin's mom has stated that she wants to have the photos distributed amongst the sons and grandkids.("Otherwise, they will just sit in the closet until I die!")  This is my next step. I've already begun separating photos out for the boys but she means the photos that are in albums and not just the ones that are stored loosely are to be distributed. And what about the one million cousins?  That's a big project that I might just offer to store the albums instead of taking them apart.  Then I will work with her to make sure every one of them are labeled and stories are told.  Also, I'm hoping that tossing them up on the facebook will be sufficient for the one million cousins.
OH! And when I was posting the photos of Kevin's dads family on Facebook, I didn't know who was who.  I took a photo of the photo then messaged Kevin's aunt (who is my FAVORITE, ever) asking for details.  That was Super Fun!  She would say things like "That's my mom and my exboyfriend...NO" Or "That was Sonny's ex-wife, she never smiled" or "You can post that one, Marlene might not like it but that's okay."  (Marlene is a sister, and she's on Facebook, and she wasn't amused.)

I've found that I have to walk away or I easily get overwhelmed. There are so many photos! (Five large albums and on big cookie tin full of wonderfulness)  Also, we're having a bit of heat wave and my office bakes in the afternoon, even with a giant window.  But I've finished the memory books as much as I'm going to and I've dropped off some really old, black and white negatives to be developed.

So, word of advice: label photos with your parents now before the memories fade.  We're "lucky" that Kevin's mom's dementia has affected her short-term memory only.  She can talk all day long about what happened when everyone was young.  A benefit of labeling photos is that you get to hear stories.  As stated above, whooo boy, there are some stories to be heard in every family.