I am, therefore I write

Random musings on my life and the world

Breaking away

This place

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has no more hold over me.

My social media days are done. I have deleted my account.

I am free.

Lessons Learned

I suspect that many of us who have young children in our lives, rather as parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, even cousins, sometimes forget that being a kid today can be tough.

I don’t mean the fact that our children are being bullied, or harassed, or stolen, or abused, or killed.

I mean just living day-to-day with changes.

Adults are often pretty accomplished at taking all the stress and confusion in their lives and tamping it down, stuffing it deep inside and moving on, or so they think until their anger boils over, or the occasional drinks with friends becomes a nightly, private session, or food takes the place of being present in the world.

Do you remember when you were two, or three years old?

I don’t. Age five is my earliest memory and even that’s fading, but perhaps you were rather precocious, outgoing, attention seeking. Perhaps you were big for your age; tall and strong and adventurous. Perhaps you were a smart toddler, talking early, remembering more than your parents about ten conversations you had and all the places you went during the day. Perhaps you were some or none of those things. Reticent or outgoing, ahead of the curve in size or hugging the ‘average’ percentile mark on the charts. Wherever you were there was one thing that I bet none of you could do.

At two or three, where you articulate enough to put into words all the feelings and emotions that come when your days were turned upside down? Did you know how to tell your parents that enough was enough? Could you speak words that explained the icky way you feel when your space is invaded or your routine is changed up without anyone asking you if it was okay?

My guess is that your answer is a resounding NO. I would also guess that if you were still able to ask your parents if they remember days when you just weren’t yourself, when your usual cheerfulness was replaced by outbursts, or moments when you turned inward…or turned away…, that they would do what adults still do, use the clichés associated with toddler-hood, like that phrase The Terrible Twos.  

I have no business claiming that they were incorrect in using that term. Maybe this was a personality sea-change and you had slowly morphed into Satan disguised as innocent and pure and good. Until someone told you something you didn’t like. Then all hell broke loose.

Or maybe those changes weren’t so subtle, because let’s face it, you didn’t start spewing hate, vomiting vileness, and perfecting your tantrums overnight. You grew into those behaviors, if you exhibited them at all.

Let’s assume for this discussion that most of you were relatively well-behaved. Is it fair to apply an overall label of terrible behavior to the occasional outburst or rebellion or sullen stillness? Did your parents/family ever look to other reasons that you suddenly turned into a not very likable person? When your own children (if you have them) turn on their attitudes, do you chalk it up to a developmental phase, or do you look deeper?

My point here, returning to that query about emotions and feelings, is that I don’t know any two or three-year old that is proficient in setting their parents/family down and having a serious talk about why they’re having a bad day, or why they don’t want to leave their toys for a sleepover, or why they put the puzzle piece in the space the way that they did, or why they feel lost when too many changes happen at once.

I’m trying to say that kids, toddlers-preschoolers, simply do not have the coping skills, nor the ability to tell you they can’t cope with stress in their life. Adults often cover it up…the not coping. Young children turn outward, at least until even that doesn’t work for them. Then they turn inward. They grow silent. They shut down. They want to escape yet they can’t. They don’t have the words, even though they desperately want to tell you. And when they have reached the point of silence, of turning inside themselves, that’s when my heart breaks because I know that I’ve missed something.

I’ve missed the signs. I’ve chalked up the screaming, and the yelling, and the series of NO and I DON”T WANT TO and the I DON’T KNOW to that terrible age and not to the real issue. I think I can loosely borrow the adult phrase…eyes wide shut here. What I am seeing and experiencing has a deeper meaning, a hidden cause. I only have to stop, and listen, and watch and the answer slaps me in the face.

If you have young children in your lives and their routines change, or life gets hectic or jumbled or intense, or your own adult stress is bubbling up, please just be silent for a bit and stop talking. Watch the child. Really listen to the child. Give the child some space. Tell the child that you understand that things are wonky. Encourage them to just be silent and still themselves. Stop talking at them and listen to them, even to their silence.

They will learn how to speak, to tell you what’s in their hearts and heads. They will eventually have the ability to help you to help them, but not at two, or three, or maybe even eight or ten.

And while you’re learning to listen to them, maybe you can work on listening to your own emotions and what they’re telling you, and what you’re passing on to those kids.

In My Spare Time…

I’ve been doing some at-home, online transcription work for a few months now. I will never get rich doing this. It’s piece work at the very best, paying pennies per downloaded screen.

But it’s generally easy, keeps me busy, hasn’t inflamed the arthritis (yet) and provides both some meager additions to my rainy-day fund, as well as allowing me to feel as if I have some purpose.

A lot of the transcription is medical in nature. I’d say that 80% of the images are clear enough to decipher. It helps to have some medical knowledge as well so that when you see something like ‘fybroids’ or ‘demunta’ or ‘alsheimrs’ you have a pretty good idea of what was intended. I am torn quite often because this company wants their workers to type EXACTLY what they see. I often have to force myself to turn off my internal auto-correct and actually type those words incorrectly.

So many people use a combination of caps and lower case throughout their writing. I think I may be one of those and I apologize to any medical office/transcription service that has had to put up with that crap. I regularly see mixed case paragraphs that just aren’t worth the time involved, nor the low low pay.

“PaTiENT hAs 2mm LEsioN ON rigHt ANTERioR… again, because I must transcribe exactly what I see…

I have been doing a lot of posting of death certificates, some simply verifying others work, some actually entering the original cause of death. So many involve cancer, heart issues, lung disease, dementia. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen ‘Natural causes..died at home peacefully surrounded by family.’ Perhaps those are the ones that are simply left blank, but it stirs something in me that simply being old and tired and ready isn’t worthy of a column of it’s own.

I’ve also done quite a few verification’s of the disposition of a body after death. Those are mostly just checking the checked box and moving on.  I never knew that one had so many options after death. Most choose burial or cremation. I’ve only run into one who checked donation.

I remember feeling slightly uneasy when I first realized that I was transcribing this type of information. It seemed as if I was invading the privacy, the intimate aspects of someone’s life even though there are no identifiers with this information. These pages have also made me realize how sick our society is, how quickly our health providers can label illness, how so many of us will simply be known in the end as a cause of death on a form.

I was slightly rattled today when I saw Osteo Arthritis listed as a cause of death. Premonition…surely not.

In the last few days I have had three listings that have touched me deeply. Two ‘failure to thrive’ pages came across my screen. Babies…and death should not go hand in hand.

Just a few hours ago I saw this as a cause of death:

FELL WHILE HIKING IN THE MOUNTAINS

I had to stop. Our old neighbors lost one of their college age sons a few years ago from this very same accident. It’s easy to get complacent with the ongoing lists of cancer, heart disease, etc. Although I shouldn’t assume, I tend to think older person when I see those those causes listed. Then you see a statement like that. I have no way of knowing how old this person was, their sex, where they lived, but those words were shocking and hit too close to home as I remembered someone I watched grow up, someone my children played with. A young man.

I’ve done enough for today. It’s time to put illness and death aside for now. I know there will be pages waiting to tackle tomorrow.

Memories

Alison and I went to a neighboring community antique mall yesterday. I wonder, is that label, ‘antique mall’, ubiquitous to you? In my case, most of our local antique dealers participate in this sort of scenario:

Picture an old, failing strip mall on the outskirts of Anytown. Some friendly, usually middle-aged couple,  who have tons of junk-stuff-antiques-flotsam & jetsam filling shelves and basement and attic in their home suddenly decide (because the kids are finally gone for REAL) to downsize. While they’re at it, they also ponder opening their own business, because – why not. They aren’t really ready to retire. They like interesting, even curiously odd folks who are into old stuff. They wonder if they may be able to build a tidy little nest egg that will allow them to settle in a small dry valley home with a view of the hills of Sedona out of every window. Plus, they know instinctively that there are others of their kind out there, those who have a butt load of stuff and much of the same passion to share it with a willing world. 

The antique mall is born. A gigantic warehouse type space that harbors denizens of small cubicles or stalls. All unmanned. All filled with the ephemera of many lives. Each space rented out by someone hoping to sell bits and pieces of their (or someone else’s) past. Hundreds of monthly rental fees that, in part, help to build that tidy nest egg; that hope for the future of older age peace and fulfillment.

Honestly, for whatever reason these places come into existence, they make up the majority of the actual process whereby old stuff is sold in my community and I suspect, the only way any owner could feasibly hope to pay for a building and the associated costs surrounding their desire to purge.

We venture into these places not usually looking to buy. We spend an hour or two wandering, touching, laughing, and for me, often remembering and telling stories. We know going in that each storefront, no matter location, will mimic the next in its content. We mostly know that much of what we see is overpriced. We wouldn’t know a good find if flung itself off of a shelf and into our hands. We are opinionated and often wonder (sometimes out loud) what drove the owner of an object to possess it. I find myself often turning these outings into quasi-sociological research – contemplating the social ramifications of the booth filled with hundreds of thimbles and sewing paraphernalia, or the sad corner booth owner who will likely never sell the full-size sleigh or the granite-looking yet clearly plastic 12-foot columns.

There is always at least one booth that appears to have been lifted from the basement of a university library. The owner has filled the shelves with some of the oldest books imaginable. I dread opening some of them, fearing that the only thing left inside will be dust. Yesterday, tucked into the shelves filled with original Nancy Drew and Bobsey Twins series, I came across some in the Cherry Ames series. I was devastated. I never knew this series as a child and I feel cheated at best. This series, had I known it was available during my formative years, would – I am positive – have given me the strength to believe that I too could fulfill my dream of being a nurse.

There is always the overcrowded stall, so much so that one can only stand and peer fearing total destruction and chaos upon entering; the mismatched-non-themed stall, which always has something related to Elvis among its wares; the outdoorsy, obviously gender specific manly man stall (usually directly opposite the frilly, obviously gender specific frivolous doily filled kitchen ware stall); the original-in-the-box Barbie stall, the farm equipment stall; the Pick An Era stall; the country-decor-went-out-with-the-1980’s stall; the dead and stuffed animal stall, the quirky gadget stall, the I-have-so-much-random-old-costume-jewelry-that-I-will-sell-it-to-you-in-gallon-size-Ziploc-baggies-for-$35-a-bag stall…

I will stop, because I can only assume that you either get my drift or have been to one of these places yourself, and… if you have not then you must find one and go…soon.

I must also mention the fans. Small round fans. Medium-sized square fans. Large industrial fans. Fans sitting in open doorways blowing air in. Fans hidden overhead blowing your hair as you shop. Fans to circulate the musty, stale old-smelling air. Fans meant to cool the always hot spaces. Fans that will, when one of these malls catches fire, blow said fire into a frenzy until the electrical system gets toasted and nothing is salvageable anyway. A warning: never spend too much time in the farthest back corner of one of these malls. These corners never have exits and invariably will be your tomb when fire breaks out.

Of course, as Alison and I encountered yesterday, my favorite stalls house the memorabilia of my youth. The avocado, or burnt orange, or harvest gold-colored wares. The hand-crocheted, multi-colored vests. The tie-dye, and the velvet posters. And the decor. The exact “pole lamp” that sat directly behind the red recliner in my living room. I kid you not, we had this lamp. Or my all-time favorite: the glass grapes.

Coming upon a stall filled with such evocative sights makes me cringe at first. Those stalls set in motion memories both happy and sad, funny and heartfelt, painful and slightly surreal.

Coming upon these stalls also create some of the best moments that I share with Alison.

 

Mere Coincidence?

I am at a crossroads.

Our senile Snowflake kitty is growing increasingly confused and presenting increasing challenges and I feel that the time is fast approaching when decisions will be made. Rather ironically, many of the blog posts that I have been reading seem to be focused on topics such as death, senility, dementia, quality of life, and the mystery of knowing/deciding when living is far less important than peace. These posts, coincidentally, center around both humans and animals. Given that, the capacity to believe that there’s a reason for these words happening right now is strong.

Can an atheist believe in fate? It seems unlikely that the Fates of classical mythology, with their ideas of predetermination and destiny, would have a place in the sphere of total disbelief in a god, any gods. I have to err on the side of coincidence, although the irony creeps me out a bit right now.

Snowflake is recovering from a bout with fleas. She is not an outdoors cat anymore. However, she did managed, twice, in mid-July, to sneak outside. I watched her walk off the deck, stand in the old bark and pee, stand in the grass utterly confused with her surroundings, and then because she is stone deaf and couldn’t hear my call, I went out and carried her back into the house. The bloodsuckers must have been swarming. By the time I returned from my beach excursion, she was covered, and not being treated. The remedy was fast, fleas dropped like flies, but the entire thing stressed her so much that it triggered another bout of her chronic respiratory issues that comes with FHV (feline herpes virus).

She eats and drinks, but she’s yowling again. A LOT. She sometimes seems not to recognize us. She seems not to recognize areas of the house that were familiar. Like her litter box.

I have reported issues with this, and the general, and liberal use of puppy training pads all around her box. The issue now is that, increasingly, she doesn’t even go to the box. She has peed on shoes and plastic bags and towels left on the floor. She has peed on throw rugs in the hallway, and the kitchen. She has peed on the large plastic mat that sits under her food dishes. She has peed on blankets left out on the couch. She has peed on an old cushy chair, her favorite sleeping chair. Peed directly on her cat bed then laid down and gone back to sleep.

She has now peed twice on old towels and puppy pads placed on a replacement chair. After the second pee, right before my eyes yesterday, she is now sleeping on an outdoor chair covered in old towels for comfort. It sits in a corner, by the window so that she can watch the world go by during the 30 minutes that she’s awake. If she pees on it I can haul it outside and hose it off.

I found a tooth the other day. It was a canine. One of the big fangs that cats have. This one just happens to be the one she always rubbed on everything to mark as hers, including us. She still remembers that side of her mouth, that tooth is her favorite. She still tries to rub even without her tooth.

Towels and rugs and blankets can be washed. Furniture can’t. I imagine my house smells like cat pee to some extent even though I have scrubbed and sprayed and literally had to toss out one entire chair.

I understand, in my research, that cats can, and do mask pain. They don’t mask stress well though. I know she was stressed from the flea issues and my guilt weighs on me for that, for going away and being unaware. Does her confusion cause stress? How much mental and emotional trauma is she going through because of her decline?

And, if I am being honest, how much more urine can my house take? If there wasn’t a good reason to re-do and remodel I think there will be now, once Snowflake is gone. There won’t be a choice at this rate.

As humans, we have the ability, the right I suppose, to decide the fate of animals in our care.

How do you know when it’s time? How do you determine if the decision is for the animal or for the human? How do you not feel guilty either way?

Going Home

My last full day here. Tomorrow I head home to 90+ degree heat, constantly whirling fans and sweat. I suppose it’s also back to lots of ice pops and no cooking. I’m never very hungry when it’s that hot outside, so salad is my usual option.

I took a few walks yesterday, which then allowed my to stop by the local ice cream store for a scoop of Chai tea latte ice cream. I didn’t find it particularly warm here, but that cone was melting fast as I walked back to the cottage.

I went out this morning to pick up a little something for Miss G. I promised her a shell from the beach. Sadly, I can still remember when you could find shells ON the beach. Now you have to purchase them in little trinket shops that line the boulevard, and they aren’t shells you would typically find around this part of the coast anyway. This area is simply too commercialized, too public, to open to things like driving on the beach itself, to allow for hunting and finding treasure.

There is an odd cloud/fog bank rolling in with some chilly winds. If I wasn’t just a block from the water I would describe it as a hazy, dark wildfire-smoke looking mass. I can see that it’s pretty thick just north of here, yet the sun is still shining around me. I have recollections of the the 1980 John Carpenter horror movie The Fog running through my head.

I’ve enjoyed this little break, but as I lay in bed last night, listening to the ocean in the distance through my open window, I realized that it will be nice to get home. Being on vacation alone makes me think a lot about being alone in general. About choosing to be alone always. I don’t mind the alone-ness. I am not particularly lonely. However, I would be bored I think if I didn’t have a lot to keep me busy. I miss the little chores that need doing when you have your own home and the responsibilities associated. I miss the sound of other voices, even when they are mostly, typically 90% silent. I miss the familiarity of my environment.

I did a few more designs yesterday as well. Nothing that I’m overly crazy about, but I’ll share anyway.

This one has no point whatsoever, no meaning one way or the other. I recently opened a new, fat-tipped pen and decided to use it for the background areas, which made filling easier, but otherwise we’re looking at randomness here.

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I started this one with the large sand-dollar looking design. I was going to stick with the idea of a ‘monotangle’ and add a bunch of little sand-dollar looking designs around this one, but then things took a turn and it all morphed into a quasi-underwater scene, with an out-of-proportion sand-dollar just sitting there. Oh well, let’s call it an homage to my vacation and leave it at that.

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