Monday, October 12, 2015

"I love you too, honey" - Mom

Mom was fine in early February, then she fell, and she wasn't ever fine again. She spent weeks in the hospital, and then more weeks in a nursing home, and then she died. She was fine on Valentine's Day and dead right before Mother's Day.

During those weeks I worried about her all the time. I made the 8-hour drive up there to be with her several times, both with Greg and alone.  I slept in the hospital room overnight, I sat in the nursing home room, for hours and hours. I gave her water, I applied lip balm, I fed her, I bathed her, I told her what time it was, I held her hand, I told her I loved her. She told me that she loved me too. She went from weighing almost 120 pounds to less than 100. She slept most of the time. She was sometimes confused.  She couldn't hear and most of the time didn't want to put her glasses on.

I knew she was suffering. I felt like I was losing my mind. I googled "what is a nervous breakdown". I couldn't sleep and kept having to take Tylenol PM. I would sit at my desk at work, in the uncrowded quiet building, and cry.  If anyone asked me about her I would tear up. I talked to HR about getting FMLA, just to go be near her.

My sister was with her almost every day, decorating her room and putting lotion on her hands and feet and watching out for her and making sure the nursing home employees were taking good care of her. She would send me texts and emails and sometimes photos. I'd get them and cry.

I was so worried about her death. What if she was alone? What if she got scared or was in pain?

I would sit next to her in the nursing home watching her sleep, her chest barely moving with her breath. I would hope she would die right then. I could tell everyone how she just went to sleep and didn't wake up, she was peaceful, I was holding her hand, she was fine.

I also knew it could very well happen while I was at work. I started keeping my car keys attached to my swipe card and my phone at work, every time my sister called I would answer while walking out of the building to my car.

And that is how it happened.  At 2pm on a Thursday I answered my phone, already walking to the door, and my sister said "Mother has gone to be with the Lord".

I waited until I got to my car to start crying. My sister had been with her, holding her hand, when she died. She really was fine.

I left work and drove myself home, feeling like the whole world had tilted, but I was okay. Then I got confused when the car key wouldn't open my front door.

And Greg and I drove up to Virginia for the funeral, and our relatives were so kind and sweet and wonderful, and the weather was beautiful, and the scenery was gorgeous, and I felt happy. It was a small funeral in the family funeral home, and then a graveside service in the family cemetery. We went to the church afterwards and ate fried chicken, and pie, and green beans that had come from someone's garden.

It was just exactly what she wanted.

That happiness lasted for a while. I was happy that she was gone, not suffering, not in the nursing home. She believed in heaven and wanted to go be with Dad. I was happy for her.  I was handling it so well.

But now I'm having nightmares. And crying too easily. I guess it was stupid of me to think that I could grieve happily for a few months and that would be it.

I only miss her when something happens, you know? Something good that I want to send her photos of, something bad that I want to tell her about, a holiday to send a card for.

I only miss her all the time.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar." ~ Drew Carey

I've been moved at work. A year after my former boss the VP told me he thought I should be in the other building, the small crowded building with the call centers, it finally happened.  I've been dreading it, but nothing I said would make any difference. It's loud in here, there are frequent distractions, and a lot of my job is analyzing, which ideally would require thinking and concentrating.  My job title is Analyst, after all.

And I don't have the same boss anymore. Despite the fact that I work with multiple departments, my former boss the VP has decided that I should report to the director of one of the departments. There is a whole other operations/technical department and they are the obvious fit for my position. I have spoken to the two heads of that department and they agreed and said they would love to have me, but again, my former boss the VP doesn't agree. Coincidentally, that department is in the other, quiet building.

I got the news while sitting in a meeting with the director guy - my former boss the VP came in and said that, if I didn't already know, I wasn't reporting to him anymore, I was reporting to the director. If I didn't already know? How could I have known?

So here I am in the noisy and crowded call center reporting to a person who doesn't understand what my job is, exactly, and whose department is only one part of my job.

I've worked here for a little over three years now, and it's really a good company. The benefits are decent and it's a growing, obscenely profitable company. I'm hoping to possibly get a promotion... and I'm hoping that will mean more money for me.

In the time I've been here I've gotten much better at many aspects of working in an office. I can be aggressive when I need to, taking charge of meetings, standing up for myself, blah blah blah. I am quite a wimp by nature so it has been really good practice for me to be in a situation where I have to take control and make things happen.  (I failed to win the battle of where I would sit and who I would report to, but it wasn't for lack of aggressive trying on my part.)

I've also learned about selling. I am not a natural salesperson, but now I understand the importance of sales techniques in everyday life. Really, in just about every interaction with other people you are trying to sell them on you, to some degree.

My Dad was a great salesperson. He worked in department stores and opened up two women's clothing stores of his own. But then he decided to move back to VA to raise me, and he transitioned into a broker position, where he sold stocks and retirement plans. He worked with a lot of the universities and community colleges in the southwestern VA area.

Looking back on it now, I can see what he was doing - as he got older and closer to retirement, he was smart enough to realize he needed continuing income without having to continue to work for it. After he retired he got commission for years and years from the sales he had made, in addition to his Social Security and his Veteran's benefits.

What a cool guy.  I sure wish I could talk to him about it now, and ask questions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Social Media Hateration

Some days I congratulate myself on how I have crafted my social media apps, especially Facebook.

I think many people underestimate how completely sites like Facebook and Twitter and tumblr and Instagram are customized by each user. People who say they don't like Facebook and get stressed out by the hate or politics or drama in their feed have set it up to see that.

Perhaps they have set up their life the same way. Most of the people I know who complain about drama are the ones who start the drama.

But my point is that anyone who doesn't like those sites have set them up wrong. Facebook will show you baby pictures, football stats, recipes, gossip, Bible verses or boobs, depending on how you have set it up. The days I congratulate myself are the days when something political is happening and I don't see a bunch of hate spewing in my feed. When gay marriage became legal, every post I saw that day was filled with joy and rainbows, but a few friends complained that they saw posts opposed to gay marriage. I didn't have that, because I don't want it.

I am pretty sure I have Facebook friends who oppose gay marriage because of (in my opinion) misguided religious beliefs, but they aren't the type to be all hatery and yelly on Facebook.  If they were, I wouldn't be friends with them, or at least I would hide them.

(I have exactly 211 friends, and most of the people who complain about arguing in their feeds have three or four times that number. That is part of their problem.)

I have unfriended people for being hateful several times. These were not people I was even very close to, so it was no big deal to cut them loose.

The thing that confuses me is that I often see "polite" discussions (on other people's posts) congratulating themselves about being friends with people who have opposing viewpoints. That's what I love about you, they say, we can be friends and have respectful conversations even when we don't agree.

But that seems like such bullshit to me. How can you respect someone's opinion if you disagree with it, really? My friend who admires Caitlyn Jenner having a respectful conversation with her friend who refers to Caitlyn as "it" is confusing me. I don't want to say that they are both full of shit, but they might be. My friend who often posts about how awesome Bernie Sanders is and responds to his friend who still misses George Bush by saying that they will have to agree to disagree and still remain friends may be sincere; maybe the desire to stay connected to this person is more important. But still, I take issue with the word "respect".

How happy was I to find an old friend on Facebook a couple of years ago, a friend who I met in 7th grade in the nearly pointless Gifted program in our rural school system. Despite the fact that she lived several mountains away we made the effort to see each other, and we had so much in common. I had completely lost touch with her after high school.  This is why I love Facebook!

And then a few days ago she posted about President Obama: "yet another bow to kiss the rings (or maybe the behinds) of his Muslim brothers as he sets the U.S. table for them to take over."  And she really, really believes that.  She is a high IQ 50 year old woman who is positive that the president of the United States is a Muslim terrorist. 

I mean, obviously I am aware that Fox news and other similar media outlets spew hateful and obvious lies and that there are plenty of people who believe them. But I don't spend time with those idiots, and somehow seeing it in an old friend is especially upsetting.  And what can I do? Challenge her on it? There is literally nothing real that proves her point in any way, so if she believes it, then she is willfully delusional for whatever emotionally fucked up reason. I can't talk her out of it with reason and facts, because the reason and facts have always been there and she has turned her back on them.

I really want to be kind to people, and people who are living their lives from a place of fear instead of love are the ones who really need some kindness and understanding. Maybe at some point in the far distant future I will be saintly enough to love her in spite of her deliberate ignorance and hate, but it doesn't look like it's going to be anytime today. The closest I can get is Unfollowing her instead of Unfriending her. And even that feels a little hypocritical.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Trendy grief quote

This 4 year old quote about grief from a Reddit poster called GSnow has been rediscovered and shared around the internets lately, and there's good reason. This is the best description of grief I've ever seen. It's comforting for me to read about grief right now, and I love this.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child.
But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gorged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything… and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.


Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Too much sad going on

Our beautiful cat Sydney has died.

We adopted her so long ago, it was before Greg and I were married, before we bought our condo. It feels like she's been with us forever.

She was a very vocal, social cat who followed Greg around like a puppy. She was polite, though. She would come up on our bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, just to check and see if we were awake yet. If we weren't (or we were lying still and pretending) she'd just hop down and check back an hour later.

Often on Sunday mornings we'd have family cuddle time; she'd lie on Greg's chest and I would snuggle up in his shoulder nook.  A couple of times each year she'd have allergy troubles and those Sunday morning snuggles would sometimes include sneezes; a kitty sneeze in the face from just a few inches away is pretty unpleasant. But we always laughed.

She meowed really, really loudly when she wanted something, and not just once or twice, she would keep going until she got it. She purred so loudly you could literally hear her from the next room. I've never heard a cat purr so noisily.  She used to purr while she was eating her crunchy cat food and it was the weirdest, most savage sound. Sometimes you can look at the 12-pound Siamese housecat and see the lion.

She started losing weight, and we took her to the vet, and they did blood tests and didn't help her at all. So we took her to another vet and he did more tests and tried so hard with different types of medication.

Cancer through her digestive system meant that she was eating, but not getting the nutrients she needed to maintain weight. So she'd eat, and lose weight, and seem normal, but still lose weight. And the poor thing always felt hungry. We'd give her cheese and steak and peanut butter and all kinds of ridiculous things, and she enjoyed eating it but got none of the calories and stayed hungry.

So it became a question of how long to wait. I know some people wait until their beloved animal family members are not able to walk, not able to do anything. We didn't want to wait that long.

While she was still able to get around, and meet us at the door every day when we got home from work, and jump up on my lap, and purr a little from time to time, we put her to sleep. She was clearly suffering, but the suffering wasn't constant yet. She weighed less than 4 pounds.

She's gone now. Our house is so quiet.

I swear the saturation isn't bumped up on her eyes,
they really were an amazing color
(~ 4 years ago)

Nothing better than lying on a nice crunchy fresh plastic
bag... except maybe jumping into a nice fresh cardboard box
(~ 5 years ago)

Greg and Sydney on her last morning

Lying in my lap, the expert in
maximizing lap comfort (~3 years ago)