Self-Renewal

I am relishing the fact that spring has come to my part of the world. The sun is out, the temperatures are verging on hot, at least during the daytime, and my entire outlook is bright. Oddly, even working the same amount of hours and spending the same amount of time on errands and other things that I have to fit around my schedule, these last few days seem to be endless. There is a sense of calm, a sense of relief, a sense that not just the plants are awakening, but that I am as well.

The amateur psychologist within me is wondering if I might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So of course, I googled it.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that:

“To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years.”

I checked the symptoms of major depression and added my personal analysis:

Symptoms of Major Depression

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day — Not at all
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless — Nope
  • Having low energy — Well do get up at 4:30 AM and often chase a 2 1/2 year old around so…
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed — No
  • Having problems with sleep — I’m nearing 60. I think I read that it’s common to wake up at night, and take naps during the day. Also see the low energy answer.
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight — No, and my weight has held steady for quite some time now. A nice surprise at my last medical checkup.
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated — This one’s a no as well.
  • Having difficulty concentrating — I can concentrate just fine, I just don’t always remember things after I’ve concentrated on them.
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. — I will admit that hearing that Barbara Bush just passed at 92 years, and that the Queen of England just turned 92 has made me quite aware that I am closer to those numbers myself, but I plan to stick around for some time yet.

I would have to say that I don’t really qualify for the major depression diagnosis. As to the winter symptoms associated with SAD (plus answers again):

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy — I think we covered that one above.
  • Hypersomnia — While I have never fallen asleep while driving, or dozed off while screening a baby, I can easily fall asleep during toddler nap time after lunch.
  • Overeating — Don’t think so, but where does having a strong desire to visit the snack chip aisle in the grocery store fall? I admit to giving into that urge a few times too many. By the way- Lays Kettle Cooked Olive Oil and Herb chips are excellent!
  • Weight gain — No, really I have not gained weight so I think you need to stop asking.
  • Craving for carbohydrates — I always crave carbs. Winter, spring, summer, or fall I do not differentiate with any season regarding my carb craving… ever.
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”) — Maybe when the thermometer says 20 degrees, but I got a nice new down jacket this past winter so I was pretty toasty warm.

Apparently I appear to be fairly stable in the depression arena, and based on subjective opinion, may or may not have some of the symptoms of the winter disorder, but given the definition above, I don’t think that I qualify.

Perhaps seeing my garden bloom, the birds flying past my window, planning out delicious recipes that highlight all the upcoming spring and summer vegetables, looking forward to getting outside more with the granddaughters, and sipping some chilled wine while relaxing on summer evenings on the front lawn means nothing more than my life is normal. It is falling into place. I am settling in and settling down while moving forward. Perhaps the residual stress of that long journey that I was trying to endure at this time last year is really no longer a part of me.

The road ahead is open and I don’t think that I have to look back anymore.

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Momentous Day

You all know that I’m not here much, writing anyway. I read your blogs without fail, and comment on most on a regular basis.

Because I am so random in the writing portion of this blog, I have also become incredibly lazy when it comes to checking most everything to do with my blog. All the background stuff like those hilarious spam comments trying to sell me Viagra or sex toys, or even my stats-which to be honest I don’t care about in the slightest because that’s not why I blog.

It seems that I will garner two or three new followers every few months or so, usually around the time I actually publish a post. A fellow blogger just noted that he has been getting some new email subscribers with the possibility of some sketchy addresses. Nothing like that here, but that issue led me to zip over to my admin pages and do some looking around.

I have, for years, desperately wanted WordPress to allow bloggers to remove followers. The trolls, the sites trying to sell you something because you happen to have a tag that relates to their product or company, the new bloggers who follow everyone but never make an attempt to engage. Even those who have been a part of the loyal followers group, but who haven’t blogged themselves in years and have almost assuredly let their blog die.

What a glorious surprise (thank you WordPress) when I opened my followers statistics and saw that WordPress now allows me to remove followers. When did that happen??This is a grand day indeed and I quickly set about clicking remove with abandon. Just like with stats and views and all that, the number of followers I have is irrelevant to me. Click after click after sweet click quickly took my 450+ followers down to 42. Yes folks, those are the people who engage, who comment, who at the very least like a post every so often. Those are the folks I am keeping in my list. Goodbye to all the rest.

Please know, that if you find yourself suddenly not in the newer, greatly compacted following group, but really, really REALLY want to be, then please click that follow me button again. I may have inadvertently clicked you away in my zeal. But if you have never engaged beyond your initial follow click (and you are likely not reading this anyway) you are no longer on my list. Thanks for stopping, but you just took up too much space for my sensible, organized brain.

Stop-Following-Me
http://love.catchsmile.com/stop-following-me/

I will now also excuse WordPress from trying to maneauver me into paying for their services with email after email telling me how great my blog “could be” if I gave them money. I can overlook their promotions a lot easier now that they have finally listened to me. I have power, and I am deeply enjoying that control.

Closure

As a point of reference, this post from April 8th regarding work and vacation scheduling, now has a definitive ending…sort of.

If you’d rather not read the link, that post involved my query of co-worker motives when it came to choosing vacation days. I was bewildered regarding intent, and for those of you very wise readers who commented along the lines that many things can change in the coming months, well… you get the virtual Smartest Blog Reader Ever blue ribbon. personally delivered by me.

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I went into work this morning for a short training meeting. As I chatted with my co-worker while waiting for our coordinator, I was told that she (the co-worker) had just given her 2-week notice. Her reasons revolved around the fact that after recently earning a second degree her next goal was to enter a Master’s program. She had applied, along with about 700 others. The program chose 24. She was not among the chosen.

Her original commitment to our coordinator when she was hired had been for two years, the length of the Master’s program. Now, without admission to a program she had truly expected to enter based upon her 3.9 GPA, she has to find an actual, full-time job that allows her to live. I learned that she has a teaching degree, and is now scrambling to try to get hired with a few of the local school districts.

I can understand this. Eating, paying bills and rent- those are important things and the wages from our job, even working 7 days per week, just don’t adequately cover those needs. I am also left pondering though, how someone in the competetive world we live in, might assume that they have any guarantees regarding things like acceptance to university Master’s programs who only submit a very select number, no matter what the GPA is. She was clearly counting on this happening, and I do understand the stress she now faces, but I am still left with questions after the following:

She made an interesting comment after sharing this news with me. She has children, although I don’t know their ages, but likely at least late teens. In saying how hard it was to now give up her original goal, and how stressful it is to now have to secure something other than a part-time job, she also clearly spoke about her desire to not disappoint her children by being away from them at holidays, specifically Christmas. While that’s not a direct quote, it seems rather significant to my earlier puzzlement over her choice to volunteer to work every holiday but Christmas.

Of course I let it go, as any issues she may, or may not really have with working holidays really don’t matter anymore. I did find it odd though, and so very specific to my questions about motive.

So, the search has already begun for someone to replace her and now my coordinator is pulled in 5 more directions while she covers this newly open position. I have volunteered to cover days when I can, but can’t help wondering how long the next person will stick around once they are hired and reality sets in for them.

To Bring It Up…Or Not

A few weeks ago my coordinator notified all of us that she would be putting up a “Volunteer for the Holiday” sign-up sheet at each of our locations. The idea was to allow each of us to jot our names down on the holidays that we were interested in and/or willing to work for this coming year. She’s planning well in advance and I respect that.

We screen babies 365 days a year, rain or shine or sleet or piles of snow. Everyday has to be covered and this company is unwilling to pay a coordinator (even if they want to) to cover any major holiday. They will pay one of us time-and-a-half wages, but not a coordinator.

I was surprised to see our sign-up sheet already up when I went into work just over a week ago. I was even more surprised to see that my co-worker had placed her name in every slot available…except for Christmas. We are being asked to cover 6 major holidays, plus the day after Thanksgiving. On a few lines, following her name, she noted that she “didn’t mind working this day” so I took that to mean that perhaps she was just trying to be nice. Yet, as the morning progressed and I would return to the desk to chart my screening results, that blank spot for Christmas day began to annoy me. Here’s why:

This person has always been pleasant, although we have never met face to face. We have talked on the phone, commiserated over ongoing technical issues with our software program, and have even gotten into the habit of texting each other updates or important information regarding babies status so that no one has a surprise when they come into work.

I started this job in September 2017. This co-worker started in early November, 2017. Imagine my shock when I saw her name on the vacation calender, taking time off at Christmas last year after only being on the job for a few months. Apparently she had planned a vacation long in advance. So okay, I did not begrudge her this pre-planned time off and went to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. She was asked to work New Years day, which she did.

Each time I sat at the desk that day my eyes were drawn to that glaring open spot for Christmas day coverage. I just couldn’t keep myself from thinking that her nice gesture at signing up for all the holidays was in reality her way of hoping that I might jump onboard with working Christmas again. In fact, it would end up being Christmas Eve and Christmas day actually, because CE happens to fall on one of my usual work days. So I stewed about it, finished my work and decided to add my name on the days I was willing to work. You would be correct if you assume that I did not put my name down on Christmas day.

Knowing my coordinator was scheduled to work this site prior to the co-worker coming back on Tuesday, I sent an email to my coordinator. Perhaps you could call it a “heads up” or maybe, if I’m being honest, it was my way of trying to call attention to the fact that I had sincerely hoped that I would not have to work a second Christmas in a row. We talked, and I noted that I was not only confused as to why the co-worker had her name on every day except Christmas, but also hoping that she had not already planned another vacation assuming I would accept working that day again.

I have a coordinator who truly does care about her employees, and does her best to be fair. She is very fair about time off and that was her approach to this dilemma. The co-worker and I received an email later that day. It was made clear that, unless we chose to change something among ourselves, we would simply alternate holidays each year so that it would always be fair. This still allowed us to change up or have some choice, which I am very willing to do, and to be able to come up with alternatives each year by working things out ourselves if needed.

I responded with a thank you email, assuming that my co-worker would either do the same, contact me if she wanted to discuss a change, or if she wasn’t pleased, then she would contact the coordinator.

It’s been one week. No email. No contact to discuss anything. I don’t know if she has been in contact with the coordinator. There was no text update on Friday. There was no note in our paperwork box regarding babies.

There has never been a time that she has not responded to a group email sent by the coordinator, as this one was, but perhaps I should assume she hasn’t read this yet? The original sign-up sheet came down so surely she should would have noticed that. My head tells me that she has read the email. My gut is telling me that she very likely is not pleased with the decision, rather it be that I was given some of the days that she asked for, or perhaps that she was assigned Christmas this time around, or all of the above.

Alienating this person was not what I set out to do. Hoping for a fair and equitable work schedule was, and I’m thankful that my coordinator sees the need for that as well. At this point, although I want to know her views and opinions, I am laying low and choosing not to try to ask this co-worker if 1) she saw and read the email, 2) how she feels about the decision, 3) if there is a need to alter days and why.

It is not in my nature to let something like this situation (if it even IS a situation) fester, but perhaps I’m letting my imagination run wild…and life is good for everyone…

How do you read this dilemma? Am I reading way more into this than I should? Would you have been as suspicious as I was after reading that original sign-up list?

I would love some analysis and opinions, even if you think I’m crazy.

 

Here’s Looking At You…

First, I’m admitting to something. A deep, dark secret, although I will bet good money that many of you do just what I do.

When I’m out walking, I like to look into the windows of my neighbors homes.

I don’t mean that I actively maneuver myself through their landscape, stealthly hopping from tree to large bush through groundcover and low perennials just to pop up like a creepy Peeping Jane outside their window.

I stay on the public sidewalk, I promise. It just so happens that the homes in my neighborhood have relatively small, shallow front lawns, which means that the homes conveniently sit rather close to those same public sidewalks. Folks around here on a routine basis do not close their blinds or curtains. That fact allows my curiousity to flourish unchecked, and so, as I stroll on by, I will glance briefly toward the window and then if it appears that no one inside is strategically positioned near the window I will slow my gait and look freely.

I mean they really are giving me an open invitation if you think about it:

Blinds not only open but raised high.

No animals posted near the windows that might alert anyone inside to my presence.

Sometimes, some awfully interesting stuff that is just begging to be looked at.

For instance, one block over is an interesting old home that has literally no window coverings at all. A table saw sits on their front porch, just in front of an old mattress. Black garbage bags have been tossed haphazardly around the dead lawn. I can easily see that a refrigerator sits in what should be the living room. Interior doors are stacked here and there. On occasion, but not since last summer, two youngish men often sat in lawn chairs on the front walk, sipping wine, playing guitar and tossing twigs into a fire pit. That last part I can’t explain, nor can I explain why this house renovation (my conclusion after seeing all the work-in-progress-rooms through the windows) seems to have stalled.

Yes, I am really good at gathering a lot of information in the 5-10 seconds it takes me to walk past a home.

Farther down the street is what I call The Chihuly Window. This old brick home has well manicured landscaping, but the eye-catching feature is their very large picture window. It is full of glass shelving and what is clearly Chihuly glass art pieces, (or maybe really impressive imitations). I dare you to click that link then hit the “price” tab. Mr. Chihuly is well paid indeed.

Mostly I just enjoy looking at how my neighbors have decided to plant their gardens and landscapes and how they have chosen to outfit their front porches. We have a lot of front porches in this community and I really can’t help that the homes also have very large front windows that look out over those porches. My guess is that if they have nice gardens, and neatly arranged and attractive decor on their porches, then it must follow that I might see some nice things inside their living spaces as well. So yes, I look.

Now, to the real purpose of this post.

My neighbor, whose home I look upon when I look out of my own front window, lives alone in a large older home. Front porch- check. Large windows- check. An odd addition off the backside of the house, again with large windows- check. Blinds and curtains never closed- check. So when I walk, and head south, this house is just begging me to look.

I’ve seen her kitties inside. I can see into the original living room and even see all the claw marks on the leather couch that the cats obviously use as a scratching post. I’ve seen inside the family room with the large TV, her recliner and her fancy Victorian lampshade that adorns a tall lamp next to her recliner. I can only surmise that she uses this room as her main living area because I’ve seen other things as well. Lots and lots of things.

Piles and piles of newspapers, documents, and magazines sitting on tables and chairs and furniture that fills the older part of the home. Clothing draped here and there and everywhere. Books and knickknacks and glassware and collections of ephemera that range from country decor, to Victorian bric-a-brac, to colored glass bottles. Boxes of who-knows-what. Household appliances. At least one bicycle. Hutches and cabinets that are filled with stuff. Walls that are filled with art.

All of this is easy to see from the sidewalk. What I can’t see, and what I wonder about, is her upstairs. What might be taking up space up there? My guess is that there are at least four bedrooms. I ask myself if this lady could be a hoarder. Her yard is very large, and well cared for. She has a service. Her carport does have a collection of junk(?) leaving just enough room for her car to squeeze in. There’s a mystery shed on her property line that I park my car next to. Clean on the outside, never opened.

Okay, I do understand that none of this is really my business, but it’s so hard not to speculate. I bet you would too if you walked by her windows. I’ve lived here about 9 months and the stacks have grown, slowly yes, but grown since I moved in. If she is a hoarder, I would call her a relatively neat one, even rather organized at this point.

All that paper worries me though, along with what might be upstairs. A small fire would grow enormous very quickly with the fuel that is sitting in those rooms.

So now it’s true confession time. When you are out exercising or walking the dog, or whatever it is you might do around your neighborhood, do you take a peek? What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve ever seen inside your neighbors window?

 

“What’s In A Name…”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

There’s your cultural lesson folks- Shakespeare has Juliet utter these lines, among others, as she contemplates the meaningless nature of a name. In this case, we know she is focused on the name Montague. We also know how that story ends because apparently, names do mean a whole lot if you happen to be a Montague’s or a Capulet.

No feuding here, just some interesting baby names that have come up at work lately. Three in fact, that have the potential to carry weight for the little people who possess them.

The medical system that I am contracted with serves a diverse population. We have large numbers of Hispanic families. We have equally large numbers of families who are Muslim. We have Latin families. The surrounding community houses a growing number of families from Russia and the Ukraine. We serve numerous Asian families, with the largest numbers being from East and Southeast Asia. Each time that I meet a family with any of these ethnic backgrounds, I try to tuck away in my head some of the specific cultural formalities they often follow regarding naming their babies.

Mother’s surname is often combined with the babies father’s surname, but depending on the culture, it must be in a very specific way. Some babies are named only after a specific number of days have passed after birth. Some babies will be given a surname different from either mom or dad. It’s complicated and when I come to feel that I’m finally getting a handle on some of the patterns an entirely new one pops up.

Babies given name isn’t always predictable. I’ve had parents literally make up the spelling of a common name just to give their child a unique, and often impossible to spell, first name. I am learning not to make cultural assumptions either. I meet a mother and father from Ukraine who are named Yuri and Lyudmila, and expect to hear a baby name that somehow reflects their background and culture. I am not surprised anymore when those parents choose to name their son Thomas, or their daughter Amber.

With that in mind, I really wasn’t surprised today when I screened Celine Dion.

Mom and dad are from Vietnam. Their English is actually quite good. In fact, dad jumped right into spelling names for me without my even asking. We came to babies name and from across the room I heard “C-E-L-I-N-E.” Because I was trying to listen closely and double check each letter as he spoke I really didn’t register the actual name he had just spelled for me. As I began to speak each letter back to him for verification he quickly added,
“Celine Dion, you know like the singer.”

I smiled and thanked him because I assumed that he was just trying to help me make sure I understood babies new first name. I entered babies last name and then asked if they used or planned on a middle name for baby. Mom and dad both looked at me with an odd expression and said simultaneously, “Dion, D-I-O-N. Celine Dion.”

“Oh… Oh I see, I thought you were just trying to help me understand her first name, but she is actually named Celine Dion?”

“Yes, yes, just like the singer!”

I swear that I kept a straight face, because that’s what professionals do, and we just moved forward with the hearing screen. About 15 minutes later, while I was charting in my office, Becky the nurse rolled Celine Dion into the nursery for a test. As she passed me, and with a sly smile, she asked if I had learned babies name. Still being the consummate professional hearing screener that I am, I said that yes I had, and Celine Dion had done well on her test.

“Did they tell you the older girls name?” Becky asked, although this time her smile went from ear to ear.

“No, she was cranky so dad took her out during the screen,” I said.

As Becky rolled the baby into the other room I learned that I had also had the privilege of meeting Angelina Jolie that morning.

***********

This next story, given the fact that I’ve talked in the blog before about our large number of opiod addicted mothers/families, is really nothing but sad, at least initially.

We had a baby in the NICU for many days. Mom and her partner (who believed himself to be the babies father, but who actually wasn’t) were both heavy abusers of opiods. They were told many times that they would not be taking the baby home. They did visit though, almost always high, and also in complete denial that the child was going into foster care. After numerous rounds of antibiotics and morphine for withdrawal, the day came that we could finally screen this little boy.

Most babies who spend a long time in the NICU, and are named, get cute little signs to hang near their isolette. We never have much information, so it’s heartwarming when we can at least record the babies name. In the case of a baby who is being surrendered to CPS we are only allowed to use “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” with the birth mothers last name. The birth family does not name the baby.

I was working on the day this little guy was eligible to be screened. When I started, I was unsure of his discharge status. Some parents, who are in treatment, are allowed to take part in some aspects of babies life. Because I had seen the parents in and out of the NICU I thought that perhaps they were being allowed to be involved somewhat. In that case, I asked nurse Alex if baby had a first name for my database.

Alex turned in her chair, and deadly serious with a glance toward a small construction baby sign near the bassinet, said to me, “Bunny Rabbit.”

I don’t think that I have the ability to convey my reaction adequately in this blog post. I know that I just stared at her as she repeated, with another nod toward the sign, “Bunny Rabbit.”

My head began to shake back and forth and I think I actually uttered, “NO WAY!”

“I’ll be using our standard Baby Boy in this case,” I said while I looked down at a precious boy with an IV coming from his head. Alex and Peggy began replaying some of the events that had led up to the naming of this boy by his heavily addicted and clearly incompetent mother. Legally, thankfully, she lost the right to name this child.

**********

Some names make me smile. Some, in their uniqueness, make me laugh once I leave the patients room. Some make me cringe. Some names given to these little humans leave me wondering who they will grow up to be and how the choice of name will influence them, if at all.

What will Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie think about themselves, and their parents, as they grow up? When will the awareness of their famous names become apparent? How will others behave or treat them?

Who will the tiny boy, who has endured so much already in his early life, become? Will he ever know the woman who wanted to name him Bunny Rabbit because she thought it was cute and completely appropriate? I have to say that I hope not.

What is in a name, as Juliet asks? A mere label, or something much, much more…