Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Day

I love the task of trying to find Christmas gifts for my Mom, just one or two, so that she can have packages to unwrap and, hopefully, be delighted with a gift.  It's pretty difficult since she doesn't want anything and is trying to get rid of the things she does have.

For the past few years I've given her calendars with artwork by Robert Tuckwiller, an artist who lives right exactly where we are from, and paints the landscape we think of as home.  I get one for me to put up at my desk at work, one for Mom, and I started getting one for my sister, too, when I realized how much she liked them.

No Place Like Home - Robert Tuckwiller
I swear, that is practically the exact view across the street from the house I grew up in, and the white house looks just like the house that the lady who sent me the bread recipe still lives in.

When I placed the order I told Mr. Tuckwiller how my mother really wanted to know the location of all of the paintings in the calendars, and he wrote out a list for her, even including previous years.  She was completely thrilled to get that.

She gets a ton of Christmas cards, and I also gave her this cute display hanger from Pier 1:
It looks a lot cuter with actual cards in it

Greg did exactly what I love, which is to get me multiple things to unwrap.  The highlights are a 40"x25" canvas art print of Adam Ant!  How neat is that?  He might know me.

It's already on our wall

And a really fancy USB turntable so I can not only listen to all my albums (yes, I still have all my albums from the 70s and 80s, shut up) but I can also convert them to mp3s.  I actually have a bunch of albums that were never released on CD, so I'm really excited about that.

I'm also excited about the blu-rays of season 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey, which came along with a promise from Greg to watch it with me.  The blu-rays will just look gorgeous on our giant tv.

But the best part was the sneaky way I ninja'd Greg's present.  It's pretty hard to spend a lot of money without him knowing it, since we share a bank account, but I realized a couple of months ago that I could just get $20 cash back whenever I made any purchase anywhere when he wasn't with me, and he'd never notice.  I racked up a couple of hundred that way, took his $100 cash bonus that he got at work, and with a little extra "Christmas shopping money" from the ATM I ended up with a bit more than the ~$400 he thought I had.

So he was pretty surprised to get the 4th generation iPad with retina display and a red magnetic cover to go with it.  Heh.  If he ever puts it down, I'll ask him if he likes it.

Despite Mom still being in pain and despite me hovering over her and forcing her to let me do her laundry and take out her trash and turn down her bed (all things she normally fusses at me until I give up even trying to do) we had a pretty nice Christmas.

My sister and her husband came and we all had ham, sweet potatoes, and green beans in the dining room together.
It certainly wasn't the typical Christmas most people picture, but I was with my sweet Mom and my sweet husband and we shared hugs and thoughtful gifts and it was, for the most part, very nice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve

Greg and I drove up to Georgia with our Jetta packed with prettily-wrapped Christmas presents, laptops, our giant suitcase, snacks and our pillows (the secret to sleeping on an uncomfortable bed is to bring your own pillow).

We went out for our usual breakfast for dinner at the local IHOP, and the pancakes with hot syrup and butter were as delicious a treat as always.

The next morning Mom called me while we were still waking up and said she'd fallen and hit her chest on the corner of the table in her apartment.  We ran, and she seemed relatively okay, but in a lot of pain.  She said she felt a sharp pain whenever she breathed. I looked at her chest and she had a minor bruise, but I know (I think?) with elderly people sometimes things take longer to show up.  She is typically very anti-going to the doctor or hospital, so when she tearfully asked about getting medical attention I knew she must be really hurt.  She insisted we take her to an urgent care clinic, because she was scared of having x-rays and being admitted to a hospital.

We went, in the freezing Christmas Eve morning fog and rain, and found a packed waiting room run by a  cold-faced woman who said she had no idea how long the wait would be and waved a long sign-in sheet at me saying, "All these people are ahead of you."

We left and put Mom back in the car, Greg holding the umbrella over our heads while I helped her in, and I told her that if she needed to get medical care, I thought maybe the best plan would be to go back to her apartment and call an ambulance.  That way, she'd be taken right in, without spending hours in a crowded emergency room waiting room.  I told her they couldn't admit her if she didn't agree to be admitted, and she said okay.

In the hallway, I looked at Greg.  Help me figure out what to do, I said, I'm freaking out.  He held my hand and told me to take care of my Mom, and he'd take care of me.

They got there quickly and a bunch of EMTs crowded into her apartment. I noticed one or two stayed in the hallway, not bringing the gurney in right away.  They were all nice Georgia boys with heavy accents, going out of their way to be polite to Mom and address her as Ma'am and direct their questions to her, speaking louder when she couldn't hear them.  Feeling exactly like a scared 12-year old I tried hard to be the adult in charge, and I told them directly and succinctly what had happened.

They asked her if it was okay to examine her chest, and I knelt by her chair and held her hand, knowing it's hard at any age to have your chest examined after having two mastectomies.  The one who appeared to be in charge said he didn't believe any bones were broken or cracked, that he thought she had a bruised sternum.  They listened to her breathing with a stethoscope and took her blood pressure, and said she was breathing just fine.  He cautioned me that he didn't have "x-ray vision" and there was no way to know for sure without an x-ray.

She's 91 and has back problems and going in for x-rays will be extremely hard on her and painful for her, I told them.  I don't want to put her through that if it's not vitally necessary.  What would happen if she does have a cracked or broken sternum?

There's still not much they can do, the EMT told me, except give her pain medication.  I know Mom's history with pain medication, and it's basically nonexistent; even after fracturing two vertebrae she took mild pain pills only rarely, and under great protest.

What would you do, if she were your mother, or grandmother, I asked them.  They looked at Mom.  "Ma'am, do you want to go to the hospital?"

She shook her head.  "No, unless I have to."

Everyone looked at me.  I said that I thought it would be best if we just kept her at home and kept an eye on her.  They all looked relieved and told us to call again if she got worse and they would come right back, it would be no problem.  One guy told me that that's exactly the decision he would have made, but he wasn't allowed to tell me that before.

We all apologized for bringing them out, and they said that it was no problem at all.  Merry Christmas, they wished Mom as they left, telling her they hoped she'd feel better real soon.

Greg and I gave Mom a bunch of ibuprofen and she got back in bed, and by noon the next day she felt well enough to get dressed and have lunch in the dining room with me and Greg and my sister and her husband.  I could tell she was in pain, but she seemed to hold up okay.

She's still having trouble moving around, but has been able to shower and get dressed and undressed, and she said today she thinks it's starting to get better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's the Season

Boy, this time of year.  I deliberately try to make it easy on myself, with not making appointments and getting Christmas shopping and cards done early and nothing hanging over my head like an impending cloud of holiday doom.  But it always sneaks in, doesn't it?

My presents are all ready, but not yet wrapped.  Saturday I'll be wrapping, and cleaning, and doing laundry, and packing.  I usually make peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses on top, but I think I may let that go this year. We'll be leaving for Georgia early Sunday morning, by Sunday night we will be having breakfast for dinner at IHOP and settling into the retirement home's guest room.  Christmas Eve will be lunch with my sister and her husband, and presents after dinner per our family tradition.  Christmas Day will be meals at the retirement home since restaurants aren't open (sometimes we go back to IHOP, the only one that is open) and spending time with Mom.  The day after Christmas will probably start painfully early with a drive back home.  And the day after that we'll both be back at work...

When I was offered this job, I was a bit reluctant.  I actually had nearly two month's severance paychecks that got cut off when I accepted this job.  I told them I wanted a few days to think about it.  I questioned their time off policy, because going up to Georgia a few times a year is very, very important to me, and was told that my paid time off amount would be nearly what I had had at my previous job.

Now they are telling me that they made a mistake, and that's not the policy I fall under.  The difference is pretty major, the paid time off is about half what I was expecting.  I went to the HR manager and after investigating she told me that they are really sorry, but it can't be changed. I went to my boss, and he said he'd look into it.  I have a meeting with him tomorrow, and have a pretty strong feeling I know what he's going to say.

I hate stuff like this.  I don't want to get screwed, but I don't want to get all litigious or anything either.  They attached a detailed description of the time off plan with my emailed offer letter, and my friend in HR tells me that counts as "getting it in writing".  My supportive husband has said that he is fine with whatever decision I make, whether I just wuss out and pretend it's not a big deal or I quit on the spot and walk out.

My boss is an extremely direct, brief, concise person who walks fast and will typically answer a meeting request within 1.5 minutes.  I've only sent him emails twice, and he answered those immediately too.  (He has an iPhone that he checks constantly.)  I have to admit I am curious about what he would do if I, the technical, geeky, very quiet 46-year old woman who he seems to make an effort to be nice to (I always have time for you! What can I do to help you? What do you need? even as he also asks: How do you spell your first name?), just got in his face and declared anything other than honoring what I was promised would be UNACCEPTABLE and he must FIX IT now or I would MARCH OUT.

The problem is, there's at least a 30% chance he would stand up and yell right back at me, at which time I would completely crumble and start sobbing.  Hmmm.

Anyway.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Continuing to look around on tumblr I have found a blog called Abandoned Porn.  It's basically beautiful photographs of abandoned places, which look completely poignant and heartbreaking.

Maybe it's the blue mountains off in the distance, but this one really reminds me strongly of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I grew up.  I'm fascinated by it, I can't stop looking at it.  That is the kind of house that was built by hand.  People lived their lives there, were born there, had loving moments and heartbreak there.  Now, even the trees taking it over look dead.

I'm back to myself again, though, which is nice.  I like myself, at least most of the time.  I'm getting together digital photos to take to Mom to put on her digital photo frame, buying Christmas gifts, mailing Christmas cards, burning Yankee Candle tarts that smell like Christmas trees.

Oh, and our dishwasher died, we will have to buy a new one, like now.  I'm not stressy about it, though.  I hated that old crappy dishwasher and look forward to a new one that hopefully works much better and with significantly less volume and overall crapitude than the broken one.

Maybe after it's replaced we can toss the old one in a parking lot and someone will take a poignant photo of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I always said that those poor people who got all upset over a birthday were just in an unhappy place in their lives.  Nearly 30 and unmarried or childless or unemployed or whatever, nearly 40 and unhappily married or underemployed or filing for bankruptcy or whatever.  Whatever it is that they think they should have by that age and they don't so they freak out and get resentful and unhappy about having a birthday.

But holy shit, here I am about to turn 47 and for the first time in my life my period was really, really weird and I think it may possibly be the very early beginnings of menopause and I tell you what, I am FREAKING OUT.

I have a confession to make:  I kind of love having my period.  I don't love the pain (or the menstrual migraines, obviously) but I like how it makes me feel very introspective, and creative, and it kind of forces me to slow down and maybe take a day off work if I need to, and evaluate.  If there is any bullshit going on in my life it becomes very clear during my period.

Back in my late 20s I went through a hippie phase, for real, and I made my own menstrual pads out of unbleached cotton, and washed them and used the water on my plants.

Well, I did that for a couple of months, before I realized how kind of stupid that is, because it's just stinky and doesn't actually help the plants.  Even if you disregard the idea that soaking used cotton homemade menstrual pads in water is kind of gross, which it sort of is, but I was all about the loving my body and being natural and yadda yadda.  Even still, it did not seem to bring any benefit to the plants and was definitely unpleasant, so screw it.

I do not still make or use cotton menstrual pads, but I do try to find products that are not unhealthy to me or the environment, and I love my Instead softcups, which are kind of like a disposable Diva cup.

I pay attention to my body, or at least I try to.  I like my body, give or take a few aesthetic changes I might desire, and I like to know what's going on.  This month it seemed like I ovulated for way longer than normal, but signs of ovulation can be misinterpreted, so who knows.  But then my period was a little more than a week late, and it was a week of unprecedented hormonal distress.  I felt violently angry, extremely tired, emotional to the point of tears for no reason whatsoever, and just generally really unhappy every minute of every day.  The weirdest part was that I didn't feel like myself.  You know, plus a lot of crampy pain.

If that is what menopause is going to actually be like, just kill me now.  I am pretty sure my husband, who tried so hard to be nice to me, would agree.

My period finally started on Monday, and I am just now starting to feel a little bit back to myself again. I hope.  I really have no idea if that was in any way menopause-related or if I was just panicking, but I have to admit, it was kind of terrifying.