Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Change Is Good, Right?

Mergers are a bitch.
I am finally able to write this without tears falling on the keyboard after spending the afternoon on the deck with Pearl, Ms. Flipper's dog.

I have been involved with an (unnamed) animal rescue organization for about a year now.  I love it.  Two of my brightest days of the week are when I go to spend time exercising and socializing the animals.  The organization has provided excellent training so that I can do whatever is needed to make the animal a good candidate for adoption.

There was a sudden announcement of a "potential" merger - apparently it was already a done deal.  It is actually a good move for the organization. I don't quibble with that.  What I do mind is the constant changes that are occurring as the organizations involved with the merger "align their procedures".  This alignment apparently consists of "my" organization completely revising it's procedures to mirror the other organization - also not a bad idea.

The way that it is being done is painful in the extreme - because of new rules limiting volunteer hours, "revising" volunteer procedures, and animal handling protocols. There are rules, rules, rules and more rules that appear to be a moving target.  There are no real explanations for the rule and protocol changes, just a "this is how we are doing it now" no matter how nicely you ask.  Many popular senior volunteers have "moved on" - some leaving on their own and others asked to leave.  Many volunteers who have become my friends have given up in disgust and left the organization.

I am a little bit angry and a lot sad.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Frankie and Annette get Summer Jobs

The summer Idyll is over.  Sigh.  Stubble got a job at a Nationally Known Pizza Chain and Ms. Flippers is working at a Nationally Recognized Zoological Park.  This means that they are finding out what it means to have a job that does not wrap itself around your college class schedule and is onlly 5 - 10 hours per week on average.  Just enough to buy gas and a movie (if you don't purchase from the concession counter).  Their friends are distraught.  No more fire pit!  No more marshmallows!  At least not every night.
We have yet to get used to Frankie and Annette's schedules.  They writhe like snakes.  My understanding was that Ms. Flippers was working Thursday - Saturday and Monday - Tuesday from 11 - 3.  She now closes.which means that she doesn't get home until 8 PM.  She is regularly called in on Sunday when she has stayed up late on Saturday anticipating a day off.  Luckily they have only called her in for afternoon shifts.  Stubble started working Thursdays and Fridays and Sundays (I think).  His schedule (I think) is now Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Except that he got called in on Saturday AND Sunday.  And as for the TIME of the shifts.  Oh, sometimes it is 11 - 2.  Sometimes 3 - 6.  Sometimes (for Stubble) 11 AM to 11 PM).
On Sunday, Stubble had made plans to "play in the pool" with The Bearded One.  Literally a "date" to get into the pool together to play basketball and/or volleyball.  When Stubble was called in, the date had to be cancelled.  The Bearded One was sad, "He won't be here much longer and we used to play in the pool all the time.  Is that silly to be sad because we can't do it today?"
I assurred him that it wasn't silly.  I am sad when one or the other of them is not home for dinner.  I am doubly sad when both of them are not home for dinner.
They won't be home much longer.  It has begun.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frankie and Annette Embrace the Summer

You know summer is here when the "children" arrive.  Other peoples children.  Released from the repression of school (college) and unable to find a summer job, they descent on our house like a swarm of yellow jackets at a picnic.  Except that they are no longer children.  They are turning 21 at a rate that continues to astonish.  Just yesterday they were excited munchkins headed for kindergarten in their new clothes with their new little backpacks holding their pencils and paper.  Yes, they were anxious, but now they were "grown up" and didn't have to just play school anymore.  They were there.  They were BIG kids now.

Fast forward to this summer.  They no longer arrive in their parent's car.  They no longer carry a note with their parent's cell phone number.  They no longer run back to the car to hand their parent a note with our cell phone number on it.  No.  Now they arrive with a 6 pack of Schmirnoff Ice and a foot long sub sandwichThe rule at our house is if you have been drinking, you do not leave the house unless you have a designated driver.  More than once I have had to break that news to gigantic hulking young men - who, gratefully, have always said "Yes Ma'm, Stubble already let me know that."  God Bless Stubble.

Now that it is summer they do not continually congregate in the game room like lumps on a couch with a controler and a headset (which allows them to be international lumps).  They head to the backyard.   To the pool and the hot tub.  I would be appreciative if someone would explain to me why they did not want to use the hot tub when it was 50 degrees outside but now that it is above 90 they want to get in.

And then there is the firepit.  Thoughtful previous owners left us a gift.  A fire pit on the deck area near the pool  The kids (I mean young adults) now have a huge wood habit (they prefer leaping flames to glowing embers) and are going through a bag of marshmallows a day.  I did thoughtfully provide the fixings for s'mores, but they are into "just plain burned" marshmallows.  Of course after their pilfering of every skewer in the kitchen, we went on an extended search for our camping toasting forks.  Could we find them?  You already know the answer.  A quick trip to a National Sporting Goods Store solved that probloem.

It is really nice and I do mean that sincerely, to fall asleep on a Friday or Saturday night listening to the crackle of logs, the sound of young voices, and music played over someone's smart phone.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Looking for the Little Things

I wrote this post quite some time ago - as my slide into mental "stuff" began.  I couldn't post it.  Now I am strong enough to look at it and laugh.  I hope that you laugh also.

Last month was a drippy month.  The kind where the "drip, drip, drip" of life begins to get to you...

Starting with a dented bumper.  Another car needing a new radiator.  A cold.  Recurring nosebleeds.  A "sick" cat.  A "barfing" cat (not the same one).  A pair of ruined "favorite" bluejeans.  A "flu like illness".  Another "flu like illness" but accompanied by a fever and intestinal symptoms.  The sprouting of the post rain "sea of weeds" in the garden.  The "missing" loaner text book that was actually turned in (we have witnesses).

Now, mind you, all of these things did not happen to me personally.  I wasn't the one with the nosebleeds - I was the one who got to soak the pillowcases to get the blood stains out.  I wasn't the one with the "flu like illness"(es) - but I was the one who got to run to the store for gatorade and immodium.  I wasn't even the sick or barfing cat - but I was the one who got to take a half of a vacation day to run the sick one to the vet and the one who got to step in the (cold wet) barf in the dark.  I was the one, however, who sat on a railroad tie and got tar on my favorite jeans.  And I am the one who is working my way through the overgrown dandelions in the vegetable garden, one small section at a time so that by the time I finish I will be able to start all over again at the beginning.  And I am not the one who has to fight with the bookstore about the book.  I am just the one who has to pay the bill when the fight is unsuccessful - as there is no "return receipt".

This leaves me looking for little things to be grateful for:

  • They now make enzyme pre-soak so that the blood will come out of the pillowcases.
  • The flu-like illnesses where short lived and not so terrible.
  • The "sick" cat was just fine - just a little bruised and tender from being pushed off of some high object by one of his sisters (they think).
  • The "barfing" cat is not sick - she just has a "delicate tummy" - she should never be plagued by hairballs.
  • In our area rain is not a year long phenomenon and soon the weeds will die off by themselves and the only things growing will be what we actually irrigate (so the current weeding is more of an esthetic exercise than a necessary one).
  • The bumper can be fixed.
  • The new radiator took care of the coolant leak.
  • My old gardening jeans were so ragged that a new pair was actually welcome.

I am not normally a "positive" person who sees the good in everything.  I have to really look for it - after being reminded to actually look.  Last month was good exercise.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


I fell off the world about 2 months ago.  I could feel it coming - my brain had gone all "kerwhacketty" and all of the things that I have learned to do to halt the slide were not working.  The list includes prayer, new projects in the house or garden, spending quality time with family, seeing my doctor...and on and on.  My family referred to me as "Bungee Cord Mom".  One minute I was crying and the next I was racing around like a banshee with more energy than I knew what to do with.

Nothing Worked.

I became suicidal.

I wound up in a psychiatric ward for a week.

I am still seeing that psychiatrist.  Weekly.

I feel like a giant human Chemistry Experiment.

The medications are being adjusted each week depending on what is happening::  "Let's give you something to regulate your moods - that is the first priority."  "Your manic side is breaking through - that is cause for alarm" - "We need to add more anxiety medication, lets' add a new medication to those you already take and increase the dosage of the others."- "You aren't sleeping, that needs to be addressed."

Yes, after years of being treated for Major Depressive Disorder I have been "rediagnosed" with Bipolar Disorder...

At least it can be treated and in another month or so I should no longer be Broken.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Comfort of a Nice Cheery Fireplace or "Lucy Ricardo gets the Utility Bill"

We got the gas bill yesterday.  To be completely honest, I was horrified to a state of shrillness that I usually only achieve when I look at the kid's rooms.  I understand that my face turned white and then red and then white again while my lips got all "squinchy and wrinkled".

Over Christmas, when we were "on vacation" we used our gas fireplace often - it was so warm and cozy - the cats were ecstatic.  They lounged in front of it for hours (see title picture).  It was a wonderful vacation.  We went back to work and school as relaxed and cheerful as a body ever is upon leaving vacation for work (or school) knowing that there will be at least 200 emails to answer and a full voice mail box.  We were living on a separate plane of reality from the rest of humanity.  All was sunny and cheerful and flower-filled.  There may even have been a unicorn or two.

Then we got the utility bill and our my alternate reality suffered a quick and painful death.  I stomped about blaming everyone but myself.  How could you turn the daytime temperature above 65?  (Well, the thermostat is only set to 68.)  How could you leave the house and not set back the thermostat? (We were only gone for a half hour - it wouldn't have done any good.) We're going to need to economize starting right now! (We already eat fried rice twice a week - what next? My answer:  Wrap up in blankets!)  We were going to get our gas bill down or freeze in the attempt! (As much as you can ever freeze in Southern California only 30 miles from the coast but we can always chop down the palm trees for warmth should it become necessary.)

All the wind was taken from my sails when The Bearded One pronounced, after doing  "analysis" -that it cost us the same amount to use the gas fireplace as it did when we were burning DuraFlame Logs...

The only leg that I have left to stand on is "I'd rather see the money go to Home Depot than to SDG and E".


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Loving Them Isn't Enough

The following is a quote from Family Circle:
"As kids get older, it becomes harder and harder to spend time with them. Consider inviting their friends to join you....just hanging out at home.  You'll strengthen your relationship with your own children and also get a sense of the company they keep."

This happened to us completely by accident.  The boy across the street, just a little younger than Stubble, took to arriving at the house on Friday just after we arrived home.  He would head back across the street on Sunday evening (or when his Mom called him to do chores).  His problem wasn't his parents who are wonderful, but the fact that he was home schooled.  Stubble was his brother of another mother (his mother returned the favor for us).  Stubble's school friends were his "school" friends of another school (if that makes sense).

And that is how it started.  We would generally have 2-3 teenaged boy guests on the weekends.  All weekend.

Here is how to go about this in your own home (should you want to):
  1. Say, "Yes".  When your son/daughter calls or texts to say "Can so and so come over for dinner and the evening." Don't say, "No, your Dad and I have plans."  At least not all the time - down that path lie unsupervised parties and trouble.  If you need the company of your friends, invite them over and spend time in the living room while their offspring and yours (assuming that they get along) take over another room.  If you are going out to the theater, INVITE THEM TO GO WITH YOU.  For dinner and the theater, concert, whatever.  It broadens their perspectives, teaches them what a quality evening (without "clubbing") is all about and they invariably rise to the occasion, holding their own with other adult guests.
  2. Feed Them.  And not just pizza and soda.  When Stubble had guests we set the table for company and insisted that they join us.  We served real food (it is surprising that London Broil is cheaper than pizza or hamburger and if you serve it with tater tots and steamed fresh broccoli the guests think that you are serving steak dinner and comment that they wished their parents cooked like that).
  3. Talk to them. We had "real" dinner conversations and wound up sitting around the table conversing for as much as 45 minutes to an hour after the meal.  There is a trick here - treat your child and their friends with respect as thinking adults.  Respect their opinions and don't "pronounce" and you'll be just fine.  Assure them that their opinions are valid at your table as long as they resepect other points of view and you will be amazed at what the next generation has to offer. I will admit to being much relieved that they will be in charge of my "declining years".
  4. Give them space.  We regretfully gave up the family room to sleeping bags, pillows and gaming consoles.  Many of the boys would arrive with an X-Box or Nintendo (or whatever) and controllers - we provided the sleeping bags and pillows.  We always knew where they were and as long as they weren't making noise, let them stay awake.
  5. Expect them to help out.  If they were staying the weekend, when we needed "crew" to help weed the garden, move construction supplies, or lay a floor - they would put down their gaming controllers and help - willingly - for free.  Of course we were feeding them "steak dinners" - so it was quid pro quo.
I have never been Mrs. Bearded One to any of them.  At best I was Ms. Christie and was really ready for becoming just plain Christie as they got older.  I took my cue from "Fran", the wife of a professor at college.  When I was but a wee scruffy college student, Christmas shopping after a particularly awful exam week, she introduced me to one of her country club - type friends by name with the description: "the girlfriend of one of my husband's colleagues" - that boyfriend was The Bearded One when he was also just a wee scruffy college student and a student worker in her husband's lab.
I have never forgotten that courtesy.  She could have just walked by and nodded rather than stopping to greet me just as though I was someone who mattered.
Your kids (and their friends) are going to grow up.  It has been a privilege being a part of it and watching it happen (and maybe even contributing to it - just a little).