OMG

Perhaps I should subtitle this post Label Me A Nitwit…

You may, or you may not remember a post I wrote about my panic and terror as winter was approaching and I had the displeasure of trying to figure out how to use my baseboard heating system. Even if you don’t remember I’ve decided not to link the post. At this point it’s old news, and with a very recent discovery, I imagine should be completely irrelevant.

Before I reveal my amazing news I just want to assure every one of you that I really, really have tried to make this home as insulated as I could. I invested in my own weatherstripping and put new and thicker material all around my front door. I hung thermal curtains over the existing blinds. I got thick draft blockers for my doors and even my horrid single pane window frames. The non-carpeted floors seem to reflect the chilly outside temperatures. I’ve invested in various rugs and tried to place them strategically.  I have judiciously used my heaters, trying not to turn them on unless necessary. My two front windows get full sun on the days that it makes an appearance. If given the chance, that sun does a nice job of providing warmth during the day.

However, November around here was damp, dark and getting progressively colder. I layered socks. I layered clothing or used sweaters. I ran the heaters only as needed and not at all at night, even in my bedroom. My electric bill, while not extreme, did rise quite a bit between mid October and mid November. Since Thanksgiving it has been getting even colder. I have been feeling a sense of dread looming as the temps at night have been sitting below freezing and I can’t seem to keep these rooms heated.

A few days ago, as the temps dipped lower and my anxiety started growing I even resorted to attempts to keep the heat from the baseboard heaters from traveling right up under the curtains and out through those front windows.

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Yes, that is blue painters tape holding the thermal curtains securely to the wall so that the heat cannot escape. Please don’t judge me. I felt as if I was running out of options.

Then today, as I was crawling around by the front door/dining room doing some crevice cleaning I was being blasted over and over by a persistent draft. Now I’ve stood near my front door since I placed the new weatherstripping. That made a huge difference. The landlord had already placed one of those rubber strips on the bottom of the door, both inside and outside, which also helped to block drafts from under the door. I really thought that the door situation was okay, until today when I crawled up to the door and placed my hand above the rubber strip, and above the metal plate that holds the rubber strip on. A gale force wind was blowing in and it felt like ice.

The rubber on the outside is not as tight as the rubber on the inside, which actually scrapes the floor as the door moves. Cold air was coming under the outside rubber and shooting it’s way up behind the attachment plate and directly into my house negating any heat the baseboards were putting out. Everything suddenly made sense, like why, when I sit on my couch, I always feel a cold draft on my neck. My neck is directly in line with the blasts of frigid air coming under the door.

Lacking the financial, or legal means to 1) place better weatherstripping on this old door, or 2) actually get a new, better door, I used what I had on hand and the results were instantaneous.

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Notice dear readers that you can see the metal sill. You can see the gray rubber tucked nice and tight to the sill. You cannot see the metal band that holds the rubber onto the door. Why? It has now been sealed over with duct tape. Yes, it is tacky to look at but the gap that existed is now covered and that is more important to me than looks at this moment.

How do I know this is the answer? At this moment it is 32 degrees outside. I have one, and only one, baseboard heater turned on to a fairly low setting. My floors are warm. My feet aren’t cold. There is no draft swirling around my neck. My hands are warm. I am WARM with only one damn heater on!

A 4 foot by 1/4 inch gap has been the bane of my existence for the past month and all I needed was a little duct tape and Voila! Eureka! Holy Cow! Life is GOOD!

I will gladly live with some duct tape on my door.

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Revelation

Nothing major, but something that has been growing on me since about mid-September.

I like my job.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I said that. Likely it was years ago when I was teaching childbirth classes. I loved that job. That job felt right. I probably used the word like a few times during my dental assisting career as well, although I suspect that I liked the doing of the actual job more than I ever really liked where I worked.

I also don’t really know why this admission strikes me as rather incongruous. I suspect that we can all find something about our work to complain about. The commute, a co-worker- or two or three, overtime, workplace drama, etc. I would be surprised to find anyone who would say that their career, and the inherent aspects that surround doing that career, is perfect, but I do assume that many/most of us like the path we have chosen or the career we have ended up in. Yet again today, as I spent time educating a father about what I was doing and why, the revelation popped quietly into my head: I really like this job.

Those extra shifts that I picked up when we lost one of our screeners haven’t been a burden at all. I could literally do this job five days a week. I don’t remember feeling this way when I worked at the same job five years ago. Just like the dental career, I liked the doing, but the place and people- no connection, no sense of belonging.

New parents haven’t changed. I meet them when they are bleary-eyed, sleep deprived but high as the sky eager and anxious and terrified humans contemplating the new person in their lives.

Babies certainly haven’t changed. The babies are the most predictable aspects of my job in so many ways…most of the time…until they aren’t. Babies will surprise you when you least expect it. They will force you to adapt and to think on your feet. Their job is to challenge and I am finding that amazing and humbling.

The job really hasn’t changed with the exception of a few procedural differences. Autonomy, self control and responsibility, the aspects that I craved last time around, still give me a sense of purpose, and self-worth, and feelings of capability and ownership in my work.

So with so much the same I wonder why I am so much in like with my job. Could it be because the facility is smaller with a calmer atmosphere, or that the staff is simply more welcoming and so I feel more grounded; more of a team member; perhaps even more valued. I remember always feeling intimidated when I had to enter the NICU to check on or screen a baby. Now, with my desk just 4 feet from the NICU, I am building a rapport with the nursing staff who feel like colleagues rather than strangers. I am greeted regularly by the housekeeping staff and nutrition staff delivering breakfast. I even got a physician (maybe anesthesiologist) who is always there on my shift, to finally smile and tip his head in greeting.

I’m sure that all of this is a factor, but I also wonder what’s different this time around with me. Five years ago I had just ended my career in dentistry because of arthritis. Five years ago I was beginning my role as grandma. Five years ago I knew that my marriage was over, although I had no idea that I would actually come to the decision of divorce. Five years ago it was difficult to take a job that had me working weekend evenings, even though I was beginning to welcome being out of the house more and more. I think in some ways guilt led me to take that job five years ago. I felt a need to still contribute, maybe even to prove something about my place in a marriage where it was becoming clear that my not working was frowned upon, and the reason I stopped working was implausible in the mind of my ex-husband.

Today, I hold this job for myself. I still feel a need to contribute, but the contribution is to my own sense of self, my own well-being, my own desire to learn from and interact with other adults. Of course, I am also contributing to my finances, and I won’t deny that the extra money every 2 weeks is a bonus! Selfish reasons maybe, but there is no burden of proof that is owed to anyone anymore. I get up and go to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings because I want to. Because I like to. Because it is necessary for me to forge a sense of ownership about myself. Because I do not have to think of how my days and nights are, or are not, making someone else happy or content.

I do this job for me, and that makes all the difference.

 

 

How we do autumn in my house

The mini pumpkins have taken their place on my outdoor window sill. They get to overlook part of my new garden planter. I have a matching set on the other sill, but I think you get the idea.

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The very first pan of vegetables is ready to roast. I’ve been waiting all summer to get back into the roast veggie routine. This tray was supposed to include some red skin potatoes as well, but I let them go a bit too long. They now have a place at the bottom of the garbage pail.

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There was spicy, Market Spice tea a bit earlier, but I missed taking a photo of that so you have to settle for the generic view.

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and, finally…

I have pulled out the first of the pumpkin scented candles. This one is Pumpkin Cider

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We’ve had on and off rain showers today as well. That’s a sure sign of autumn in the Pacific Northwest.

What about you? How are you doing autumn around your home?

Not a day over 40

I am 58 years old today. That doesn’t seem possible. How is that in two years I will be sixty? I swear to god that just yesterday I was graduating high school. Only a few years after that I was a brand new dental assistant, already coming to understand what working for a sexist a**hole was going to mean.

My children are adults, like real adults, not just beginning the “newly out of college phase” but actually marking their own year by year climb up the age ladder. Okay, I have to give Alison a little leeway- she’s only 24 so still just a toddler in the adult world. I can remember every moment of labor with each of them. How can I be almost 60 and remember those events, but forget where I put my phone only seconds after setting it down?

I have two grandchildren. Aren’t grandma’s supposed to be all round and cushy and wearing a full head of white hair while carrying around lined faces and crepe-skinned necks and saggy jowls and chicken wing arms? Alright, I will admit to a degree of round, but hey, I carried and birthed 3 children remember. I do have some crepe-ish skin, somewhere under my drooping eyelids, and I will admit to a few fine lines, but those are mostly on my well-worn hands. Chicken wings for arms–yeah, it doesn’t take much to get some flapping to occur under my arms, but white hair- no way! Garnier Nutrisse 5RB will never allow me to look like a snow queen.

I wonder, on the day I turn 68 and realize that at that time I am just two years shy of seventy, if I will finally be able to acknowledge feeling mentally the same age as my body tells me I am. My head consistently tells me, on these annual birthdays, that I am somewhere around 25. I used to say 18, but that’s pushing a bit these days. I’ve had too many life experiences to claim to be the mental age of a naive 18 year old.

I wonder when the mental clock will finally catch up with my chronological age. Perhaps we always imagine ourselves to be younger. Maybe it’s some sort of self-preservation mechanism, a way to stave off our mortality. If that’s the case, then today I’m going to hop back to about 40. I think that was a pretty good year.

Am I the only one who experiences this? How old are you- in your head anyway.

Off and running

As of today I have been cleared to perform my new job, although as in the last post, I still only partially exist in the system.

I screened babies this weekend, although it was a slow weekend and there weren’t many babies. More babies=more practice before going it alone. I screened four babies today, at two different locations, with my coordinator. Everything went well, much better actually than my last baby Sunday. I was having all kinds of issues, but luckily the screener I was working with is a screening wizard, and pulled out passing results when I thought all was lost.

I have a small notebook full of notes, although I never think to refer to them when I’m in the room with patients. Seems rather anxiety inducing if your screener has to refer to her notebook…although I would if really necessary. I’ve learned a lot since working this job five years ago. Invaluable stuff that no one ever told me before.

Next weekend those babies are all mine…

Alleyways…Part 2

If you’re wondering what the heck this post is all about, go to this post first.

Well, I hate to say it, but I think this second part has been a disappointment in some ways. Now don’t get me wrong in any way. I really had no desire, as I wandered through various alleyways, to find myself in the middle of some crime, or stumble upon a body. I already clearly knew that I wasn’t going to encounter that locked off barrier sort of feeling that comes along the alleyways at my oldest daughters residence, but I suppose I had hoped for something– different maybe, something unique perhaps.

What I found was what I suppose most would describe as a common alleyway. Nothing grand, nothing treacherous, nothing really unexpected.

What did surprise though, was that what I thought to be a rather extensive amount of alleyways in this little community really isn’t. I ventured off in mid afternoon and after only about 2-3 blocks from my apartment, I ran out of alleyways. Ultimately, because I was walking and had the time to observe what was happening, I realized that the discontinuation of the alleys also marked a change in housing style.

The alleyways were a feature of the core of this community. By that, I mean the original core neighborhoods within a very specific distance from Main Street. I live on the south side of Main, and the original, historic homes, mostly Craftsman style, only encompass about 2-3 blocks off Main. It was clear very quickly that the neighborhoods further out held homes that were clearly built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Ramblers, some brick, some conventional siding, most with bigger lots, and none with any alleyways in sight.

I began to realize that the majority of connecting roads, all labeled avenues by the way, opened to this south side of Main. The north side of Main Street is one long connected set of storefronts. Only a very few roads go north from main, at least until you reach the much newer part of town. There is one exception, and that is the land that now holds the high school and athletic fields. Perhaps this space, years ago also held onto the custom of alleyways. I suppose, if I want to really delve into this towns infrastructure, then I’m going to have to do some research on what was situated on the land that now holds this school complex.

It is pretty clear though that this community was created around a central street of commerce and for unknown reasons at this point, grew southward originally. I suspect, knowing what I do about this general area, that anything farther south, the area that now holds all the ramblers, was likely farm land, and perhaps that is what the northern side of Main was utilized for as well, although that side is much farther from the river. The alleyways were an integral part of the early development, but by the time the farmland was being developed, alleyways had likely become a thing of the past.

Anyway, I promised pictures, and I did take a few, but as it turned out each alleyway I traveled was much like the previous or the next. They tend to follow that pattern of gravel laden access for the garbage service. I did run into one rather unique sight, but unfortunately that involved a human person and I really didn’t think they would appreciate my blatantly snapping a picture. Try to imagine a wooden deck, very large, that had been built onto the back of one of those Craftsmen homes. It looked rickety at best, but sitting up on it, and it was probably 20 feet off the ground, was a lady who was lounging and reading. Not too odd, until you notice the very large gargoyle statue perched next to her. We exchanged hello’s and I moved on, but that has to be a story of interest.

So, a few things I saw as I wandered:

The typical look of the alleyways I encountered. About 1/2 and 1/2 as far as fenced off versus open to back yards. There were a lot of stand alone garages as well, many desperately in need of repair-

Then a few slightly more interesting ways to keep one’s privacy intact: a mammoth laurel hedge, and just a small part of what I estimate to be roughly 20 feet of very natural bamboo “fencing”-

A small peak into someone’s garden, and no- this picture does nothing to show you the detail. I was pretty impressed with their agricultural skills. I wasn’t willing to risk getting caught, but they had some pretty impressive carrots growing close to the fence just to the left of this picture…

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A few random flowers-

And finally, way up there-perched on the wire, a pair of mourning doves. I hear these doves calling every morning, “Coo-ooo…coo, Coo-oo…coo” Every time that I tried to get closer to get a better picture, off they would fly farther down the alley.

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I realized after all this that my apartment site was once the site of a home. the very old, original driveway entrance is still visible along the front avenue. Everyone living on either side of this building, including our tenants, all put their trash out along what once would have been an alleyway, but what now adjoins a public parking lot and the back of the municipal building.

I wonder what my alleyway was like, years ago. I’m going to imagine that it was the grandest one in the entire town.