Things Facebook Doesn’t Know

My grandmother has become a bit part of my FB.  (Yes, she knows about it.)  Every few weeks, I’ll share a scene or conversation.  She gets tons of “likes” and comments.  But as I’m slowly working myself up to the idea of going back into the workforce full-time, I realized that putting a positive spin on my time with her has made it seem like I just get to eat puppies and shit rainbows with her 24-7.

What goes unsaid is the mind-numbingly repetativeness of our visits (“Did you eat breakfast?”  “Yes, I always eat breakfast”  “Did you eat breakfast?”  “Yes, why?  Did you?”  “Yes but sometimes I think you don’t.”)  Probably if her eyesight were better she could judge the size of my ass and stop this particular merry-go-round. 

Grandma also has gotten to a point in her life where she can still have a good bit of independence, but doesn’t feel well enough to enjoy it.  She goes to fancy parties her community puts on, social visits, etc.  But when I ask how it was, inevitably she was put next to someone who talked too softly, or she couldn’t see the band, or they served a type of food difficult to eat…all the negatives pile up on me and smother any patience and kindness I’ve tried to store up for her.

Usually I will finally explode in a fake-hearty expression of, “Well, sorry it was so awful!”  Which is her cue to start, “Now, it wasn’t that bad…the potatoes were cooked very well…”

I also do not subject my FB friends to the fact that ANY conversation, left lingering more than 5 minutes, comes back to food.  I like food.  LOVE it, actually.  If she weren’t a diabetic with high blood pressure, conversations about food might even be interesting.  But I don’t need to dissect how good a baked potato was baked.

Lastly, what doesn’t come across in a little status blurb on a social network, is how little I feel I actually help her.  How little she actually wants my help.  She likes my coming because it gives her just a little edge, makes every day things just a little easier.  But mostly?  She naps in the afternoon and I watch Glee on my laptop. 

I’m not complaining about the fact that she won’t embrace an eReader, or set up online bill pay, or get a Jitterbug phone (although the last bugs to no end because she pays $50/month for a cell phone SHE CANNOT TURN ON.) But she won’t even let me drive her to the Olive Garden (an old favorite of hers) because it is “too far across town” – i.e. more than 10 minutes away (15!  probably less if I got on I-75, which I drive on 2 hours sucessfully every week to get to her!).

So, yeah.  I’m looking for a new job.  I understand there will be drawbacks to this – not the least of which is the fact that there are good things about spending so much time with grandma and I have truly cherished this time.  But I think it’s better that I extricate myself from this while we both feel that way.

I just hope Facebook understands.

FAIL in Progress

I know this feeling will pass.  And come again.  It’s part of being human. 

But the feeling that I have failed my grandmother is painful.  I want to cry, run out of this apartment, and never come back.

After seeing my brother’s Kindle and not finding it easy to read, grandma and I had both discussed the idea of the iPad.  After taking her to appointment after appointment where her eyesight did not seem to improve, but she could consistently read dark, jet black text on bright paper (the minutes from her living complex were printed like this), I really thought an iPad would solve her reading problems.

And they might, but not right now.

I convinced Tom a few weeks ago that we should buy one.  Just let grandma, um, borrow it.  Indefinitely.  We could afford it, would both enjoy one, but wouldn’t find any real need for it unless traveling.

The iPad came last Friday and Tom was hooked in 5 minutes.  I think it really pained him to leave it at home when he left for work this week, despite having a PDA and a laptop in his carryon luggage.

I knew better than to spring it on grandma first thing when I got here this week.  I’d seen what happened when I had an agenda from the the get-go.  Too much information overloaded her and nothing productive occurred.

So I waited till we had got settled, gone out for lunch, and done the regular back-at-home routine.  She was on the couch when I proferred it, ready with a book (and the book icon being the only one on that desktop, and the screen saver turned off so it wouldn’t change appearance on her, and the screen rotate locked so it didn’t confuse her).

Wow.

I expected she wouldn’t be thrilled.  It would confuse her.  It would be foreign.  But I did hope I could leave it somewhere easy to access for the week and it would grow on her.  Certainly with all the complaining she has done with how hard it is to read she would enjoy the bright, big font.

Instead she had a complete meltdown.  I mean losing train of thought and hyperventilating and needing to go lie down. 

And about things I guess I should have expected, but didn’t. 

She is completely flummoxed by the idea the book is just “in there”.  She wants to understand it and I can’t explain it in words she recognizes.  And quite frankly, if I put aside how devestated I am to make my grandmother so upset, I myself am completely flummoxed as to this need to understand technology like the computer when she cannot explain or fully understand cable tv or wireless phones yet enjoys using them.

This is the biggest step I’ve tried to make in helping her.  I often leave here, week in and week out, feeling like I have accomplished nothing.  She still has the same complaints.  She’s still resistent to letting me take control of any facet of her life regardless of how tired of it she may be.

I know I make a difference by just being here.  I know that.  But this seemed like something so small and innocent – she didn’t have to make a decision to purchase one, or give up her regular print books, or even sell her soul to the devil.

I am used to doing good.  Not well, as in, excelling at something.  I mean doning the cape and walking off into the sunset having made the world a better place.  I do it all the time with animals.  I can’t…

Sigh.  I was about to write that I can’t remember the last time I felt I made such an error in judgement.  But then I remembered.  And it was worse than this.  Damn it.  I guess that means my pity party is over and I need to dust myself off and try again.

…It still sucks though.

Marching Onward

I guess I really should update more than once a month, huh?  At the very least, my frugality should kick in and decide paying for this site means I actually use it.

I miss writing daily.  Like many things, it’s habit.  Once broken, hard to fix.  I have the time now to do so – I no longer work at the sanctuary and Tom travels for work every week so I have my evenings to myself.  But somehow I never think to write.

I turned 35 this month.  It happened with little fanfare, as I wished.  I guess I might have wanted a bit more trumpet blowing if I thought I were healthier, wealthier, and wiser than I was at 30.  But alas, I don’t think that’s the case.

I’m getting there though.  Before fixing this writing habit, I’m trying to fix a few healthy habits that fell by the wayside.  Hate to throw him under the bus, but it is so much easier with Tom gone most of the time.  As someone who was paid for physical labor over half his life, he has a hard time convincing himself to sweat without dollar signs attached.  He also had a HUGE change in his eating habits when we merged – no red meat?  What’s this green stuff?  And while that was great for him, it was a step backwards for me and my 8-a-day.

The wealthier is a bit harder to manage.  I am currently drawing a small salary from my grandmother.  It became evident last fall that she needed extra help around the house.  I couldn’t provide more support without making her my “job”, and so we agreed that’s what was best for now.  I drive up to Gainesville once a week to spend 2 days with her.  I also do things for her throughout the week that don’t require her presence – buying a toaster, getting rid of old items we’ve stashed in my trunk, etc.

I am enjoying this extra time with her immensely.  Thankfully, Tom comes from a large, tight-knit family.  He’s incredibly supportive of this departure from my having a “real job”.

While leaving the sanctuary as the IT Manager wasn’t something I was seriously considering at the time, several changes happened that made this decision easy for me.  GM, (aka friend, mentor, big brother, hero, cohort who made the impossible challenges of working there bearable) had/has some pretty awesome opportunities in the works for him.  Whether higher ups felt threatened by that, or were making a preemptive strike on his leaving, he wasn’t being treated well.

I wasn’t being treated well either, come to think of it.  Several of us that helped build up much of the infrastructure were put down and negated on many changes that started to happen.

Since then, changes having been occurring at a rapid fire pace.  I am still a volunteer, and still a volunteer coordinator.  I hope that things will slow down and the dust will settle.  But there are a lot of hurt feelings and I’m not sure the outcome of that yet – even for myself.

And the wiser part?  Well, perhaps leaving the paid position at the sanctuary and returning to volunteer-only status is a big step in that direction.  It gives me freedom and distance from some of the people out there while allowing me more time with the cats.

Other than that, I kind of feel like I’m back where I was when I left my software engineering job.  Blank slate.  It feels a bit silly to be here yet again.  But I’d rather be here than stuck in another unhappy situation.  I can only move forward from here.

So…Yeah.

That’s pretty much my answer to everything these days.

I started to login to write and then thought, “Does anyone even read here anymore?”  Then I remembered that handy sitemeter thingy I so dearly loved three years ago.  And yes.  Four people do still read here.  Assuming two of you are not exes who can get facebook updates on my current mental and Mafia Wars status, I figured I’d stop by.

I also figured with several posts about my grandparents, I’d pop back in here before that one really sad post.  Grandma’s health is deteriorating.  She could live a few more years and I’m not trying to shovel any dirt on her, but my grandparents were so active.  Two or three foreign trips a year.  Dinner out at least twice a week.  Houses in three different states for different seasons and connections.  Now if my grandmother gets “off campus” (the hip way to refer to leaving the retirement home grounds), it’s a major occassion.

I know she thinks life is pale and stupid without my grandfather.  That’s just not the kind of person who is looking to stretch her minutes here.  I don’t blame her, and I know she finds joy where and when she can.  I hope to be a help in this final journey of her life, as she was such a help in mine.

Tom and I are inching along.  In a few months, I will have been married to him longer than my first husband.  I still feel that tug.  I am not cut out for this marriage crap.  But he is still the king of awesome and inappropriateness and putting up with my sorry ass.  So I guess I’ll keep him around.

The sanctuary…has been through many changes.  And is continuing to change.  Something I love telling guests is how we never feel we’ve got it perfect – we’ll always searching for ways to make the lives of the animals better.  So, when you say shit like that you kinda have to shut your mouth when change occurs.  They are for the best, but damn do the growing pains hurt.

For me specifically, I feel comfortable enough to say that the IT portion of my position has grown and pushed every limit of my knowledge.  It’s difficult to balance it with animal care, volunteer coordinating, and the other more mundane aspects of my paycheck.  Some days I feel like nothing more than a gopher.  Some days I feel like a queen.  And some days I feel like a failure.

Today, I felt like a failure.  So I’m shooting for at least gopher tomorrow.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do.

A Memory

I told my grandmother that we were proud new parents of a bread maker.  (Stretching the not-having-a-baby-but-look-at-the-other-cute-things-we-have-in-our-life gig a little far?  Maybe.)

I remember my grandmother making bread from scratch all summer long.  Only raisin bread.  I got to help put in the raisins.  Grandpa said the storebought kind didn’t have enough raisins.  She never made any other kind of bread, just raisin bread.

“A bread maker?  How nice.  I used to make your grandfather spice bread.”

“Yes, raisin bread.  With extra raisins.”

She shook her head, “Nooo…” slowly, like she was letting me down gently, “He didn’t like it with cinnamon…he wanted some other spice…cumin!  That’s it.  I made it with cumin.”

This conversation haunts me.

Am I remembering wrong?  Can I have such strong, specific feelings that are completely made up?

Can she be wrong?  Has all her joking about being an old woman finally come to pass?

Or worst, are we both right?  Is she thinking of a different time, a different bread.  If so, I’m missing out on one more story to cling to when she’s gone.

Cleaning up

Not really sure what the title has to do with anything.  This is almost a free-write, but not really.  I decided I would post and then remembered a topic I thought might be sweet to share so at some point I will get around to that.

At some point.  We all know I require three paragraphs before I have ANY point.

It’s Monday and so far it’s been pretty good, which means great since anyone who sat in as much traffic as I did this morning and can still call their day “good” is either insane or lucky or both.  I always hear the traffic and wonder, “What street is that?”  I mean, I travel a long ways every day and on some pretty congested streets, but it’s been a long time since I hit as many accidents as I did today.  Three.

My boss, the only other person in the company who works from this office, is out sick so far today.  Since I remembered a few things I’d let slip last week, it was nice to get caught up on that without feeling the pressure of the real start of the week.

Things slipped past me last week because it was the first week of classes.  And the first week of “real” work in quite a while.  (I’ve been mostly working from home since Christmas).  I struggled quite a bit to find a class schedule I liked.  I’d come to really enjoy having some days where I wasn’t required to be on campus.  I finally settled on a statistics class that meets two evenings a week.  I’m not too thrilled about getting home so late, especially since the other three nights of the week I will feed at the sanctuary and not get home until late also.  But it seemed to be the best fit for flexibility in my schedule.  Now twice a week I can schedule myself at the sanctuary, or have a day to do chores, homework, etc.

In my 2008 goals, you’ll notice I wanted all of our pets to stay alive.  I didn’t mention our family.  That’s because I am still aware of the laws of science.  Both our families contain people elderly and fighting diseases.  Despite prepared for the inevitable, I was stunned when Tom lost two uncles in the space of two weeks.  I had met neither, and one can possibly be chalked into the “inevitable” category, but it’s still a rather gruesome start to the year.

Which brings me to my grandfather.  I haven’t mourned him much, in part because our relationship was a bit tricky in the end.  For one, he had been in pain and on pain medications for a good long time.  Most of when I saw him, he was irritated – either physically or with the limitations placed on his life.  Another reasons for our distance was because I believe he did not approve of my life change.  Quitting your job was a stupid thing to do in his opinion, and I respect that.  I guess I had reached a point in my life where my grandfather’s approval wasn’t the be-all-end-all, because it didn’t bother me that much when he was alive.  But now that he’s dead, I wish I could know that he’s proud of things I’ve done since.  It’s a vague wish; I don’t think I’ve made much progress in areas he’d focus on.  But I do wish he knew I was married.  It’s not a title or goal I desired, and it means little to me because I did not need the piece of paper to know I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Tom.  But marriage is something that my grandfather would understand as a way to judge my happiness and stability in life.

Almost every time I visit my grandmother, I come home with something.  Sometimes it’s something she just wants to get rid of and I can use.  But often it’s things of my grandfather’s that need a new home.  I try to find the right way to divest myself of them, although to be honest one or two things have simply gone in the trash.  (I did not see a used eletric razor, which apparently did not actually shave anymore, as something worth anyone’s time.)  Right after I post this, I’ll be heading out to mail his earing aid as a donation to Hear Now.

One time I took his old cameras.  I pretty much knew my father would like them – he’s worked in the photography world (both behind the lens and penning for photographers) off and on all his life.  I was able to give them to him in a fancy, 3,461 zippered bag last August.

In the back of my closet, there is another bag.  It’s an old leather camera bag, with just one compartment and one zipper.  I managed to put all its contents in the other one, so it is another item that will go just in the trash.  The leather is cracked and the zipper sticks and no one else would want it.  But everytime I take a whiff, it smells like my grandfather.  I almost wish it didn’t; that I could be free of it.  But it does.  And I can’t be free of it quite yet. 

How my life is cataloged

“You know Norma, she has that disease….same as your friend.  Start’s with a c…”

“Cerebral Palsy?”

“No.  That old boyfriend.”

“…Corhn’s disease?”

“Yes!”

“Wow.  That was a while ago….that was over two husbands ago!”

“Now you’re just bragging.”

“I don’t think that’s something to brag about, Grandma.”

Scratch That

I am not going hiking with Tom this weekend.  I am picking my grandmother up from the hospital after she finishes her first round of chemo.

I guarantee, there will not be pictures.

I am so frustrated with this whole situation I could just spit.  Or start drinking at 4pm on a Wednesday.

I’m frustrated we didn’t know about the chemo earlier.  I could have re-arranged my schedule to have free weekdays (my boss is extremely lenient and awesome about working from home) and spent half of my time in Gainesville.  As it is, squeezing a few weekends out is difficult.  Both weekends I’ve had to go up I’ve also been scheduled to cover Sundays at the sanctuary. 

I’m frustrated with my grandmother’s friend who took it upon herself to get my cell phone number.  She left a message saying she wanted to offer her take on the doctor’s appointment that she attended.  When we got on the phone, she told me nothing my grandmother hadn’t relayed except that, “You need to be here.”  I was ready to go willingly.  But now that I’ve been told so by a complete stranger…yech.

I’m frustrated that this is falling in the busiest month for Tom’s work.  He apologized for not listening last night, when he fell asleep.  What’s he doing right now?  You mean you can’t hear the snores?  But such *comforting* snores!

I’m frustrated that I called my mother to vent about grandma’s friend, and all she said was, “So can you make it?”  Here’s the thing:  I’ve done this for the family already.  When I was twenty I spent the summer living with a great aunt who I watched die violently of a stroke.  Long, long ago I used to moan about how sick I was of everyone feeling I was “strong”.  This is the kind of thing that makes me moan.

I’m frustrated with myself for feeling this way.  How many times have I said that my grandparents (now just grandmother) are part of the reason I live in Florida?  Exactly what did I think that would lead up to?  Cookies and rainbows?

It’s funny; when I started this post, I thought I’d lead to some cathartic release of frustration over my grandmother and cancer.  But I just don’t have it in me.  Cancer happens.  My grandmother lost her husband five months ago and still doesn’t have the results from her bone marrow biopsy – it’s not like she’s been twiddling her thumbs, assuming I’ll sweep in and save the day.  She plans to hire help, she just hasn’t been sure what kind of help she’ll need.  Until then…?

Barring a nice tied up neat moral of the story, I’ll leave with a moment of Zen:

Teacher and Student 

Ho Tai is a Buddha from my grandparents backyard – first in Ann Arbor, MI, then in Gainesville, FL.  When they arranged to moving into the retirement community, Ho Tai was one of three pieces I arranged to take.  Celeste is, without a doubt, our dumbest cat.  And yet here, she looks so wise!  You’d never imagine she lacks understanding of closed doors, bathroom hygiene, or how to not fall off a bed. 

Back! From outerspace!

I didn’t quite mean to leave the sad hanging out there so long.  But work backed up on me while I was in Gainesville (didn’t help I was sick for a week prior), it’s finals week, our internet connection has been coocoo for coacoa puffs…

I’m sure I’ll write more about Grandpa at some point.  But I haven’t really processed it for myself.  His death has been more about holding Grandma together and paperwork.  I will go back to Gainesville next week to meet with her lawyer and obtain power of attorney in case anything happens to her.  That, and take her to the mall to buy underwear.

I’m sure if my grandmother knew I was telling the internet she needed new underwear, she’d re-think the whole power of attorney thing.

I’m not happy about that, and really don’t see my relative proximity as reason to cut my father out of the loop.  I mean, I’m going to have to do all this again for him someday…how does he get out of taking his turn?  But, it is what the family wants.  More importantly, it is what my grandmother wants.

The family didn’t have any sort of service, but the law school did.  (He was a big-wig in criminial law and education.)  My father spoke at it and said that two first year law students attended.  They had never met Grandpa, just heard of him and read his work and were in awe such a man had been at the school that they wanted to pay their respects.

He was a pretty cool guy.

As I mentioned, it’s finals week.  My big crunch was the two weeks prior though.  Last tests, last papers, etc.  I evidently missed the A range in my ecology lab by .14.  Point.  One.  Four.  That’s lower than my blood-alcohol content on most days!  Grr.

I have a solid A in ecology itself, and therefore a pass on the final.  That leaves my genetics final.  I don’t want to be too presumptous, but I’m not in a tizzy over it.

I have a new car now; it was my grandfather’s.  ST is now driving Sophia and orgasming over the gas mileage.  Bert, a 2003 Nissan Ultima, has more bells and whistles than I would ever buy for myself and I have to admit it’s pretty fun sometimes.  I have those neat radio controls on the steering wheel now.

On Wednesday, I will have a much-needed massage from Katie – my first from her in forever as her schedule got mega busy this past year.  Then, I will stop by the condo to start unloading boxes.

Yup.  We’re moving back.

Remember how I said I was looking forward to summer?  Well, I’ve booked myself possibly tighter than I was this semester.  Did you really expect any less of me?

Words! To Read!

New ones, at that.

My brother came to town in the middle of finals.  I beat him at Scrabble, ST beat both of us at Monopoly, and we made Christmas cookies.

 Mr. Hanky

(The original cookie cutter is supposed to be a hot chili pepper.  But you pick up as much poo as I do, and your mind gravitates that way…)

(Chocolate roll-out cookies far surpass any plain sugar recipe I’ve used.)

George flew in and out of Tampa, but his main visit was to the grandparents.  I didn’t go with him for many reasons.  Mostly because I had no desire to sit around and talk law.  Grandpa taught years and years ago at the University of Chicago Law School and George just finished his first semester there.

Instead, we spread out the grandparental Christmas cheer.  I went up for Monday and Tuesday this week.  Mostly to run errands while my grandfather had another back procedure.

I don’t really want to talk about that.

While I was there, I received a wonderful and much-needed phone call that said I was hired.  An office affiliated with USF is hiring office assistants and finally someone felt they could work with my schedule.  An added bonus of sorts is that I won’t start until school resumes in January.  Christmas Break!

Our Christmas is looking rather jolly.  Roark’s favorite sleeping space under the tree has been usurped by brightly colored packages.  ST, who has stated several times he is not a holiday person, even got into my family’s tradition of putting riddles on gift tags.  It’s meant to be a hint at the present, but so far I haven’t guessed any of mine.  Evidently, if we follow HIS tradition, I will know at 1am of December 25th.  Yup.  He’ll let me sleep a whole 60 minutes into Christmas before festivities commence.

Another holiday tradition that was abandoned for a few years…I will be making my sinful creme brulee french toast and trudging out to the sanctuary for some brunch.  ST will slave over a hot stove to prepare a Christmas dinner for my return.

I’ve felt strange about Christmas this year.  Rushed and frazzled.  I’ve had finals and interviews and projects.  Today it will get to be roughly 80 degrees.  The only “white” part is the snowbird skin seen in cars driving WAY TOO FUCKING SLOW.

But right now, with the presents (almost) all wrapped, the turkey in the fridge, more cookie dough waiting abuse, a leopard-trimmed santa hat waiting for me in the car, and a man who wants to share it all with me…I might be feeling just a wee-bit of that spirit.

Ho ho ho.