Friday, July 31, 2015

August: "I'm SO Goth..."

Okay, I have NO idea who these guys are, but this is funny...


Ahh, I just discovered they are the Damned.  Thanks, KitKat!  :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"All shall be well, and all shall be well..."


"... and all manner of things shall be well."

Julian of Norwich was a very wise woman, I think.  She knew, probably from experience, that there are times in our lives when we just need someone to tell us that "all will be well".  It doesn't usually matter who says it; when our world is falling down around our ears, we just need to hear that everything is going to be all right.  And it sounds just as good to me coming from a woman who lived in the 1300s as it would from a close friend.  You can feel the love and peace coming from her words.  She reminds me of a mother whispering in the dark to her child who is ill or has had a bad dream.

Very little is known about her life, including her real name.  Here is part of what is written about her in Wikipedia:

"Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil, but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God's love in terms of joy and compassion, as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved everyone and wanted to save them all. Popular theology, magnified by catastrophic contemporary events such as the Black Death and a series of peasant revolts, asserted that God punished the wicked. Julian suggested a more merciful theology, which some say leaned towards universal salvation. She believed that behind the reality of hell is a greater mystery of God's love. In modern times, she has been classified as a proto-universalist, although she did not claim more than hope that all might be saved.

"Although Julian's views were not typical, the authorities might not have challenged her theology because of her status as an anchoress [an enclosed nun who never left her cell]. Her theology was unique in three aspects: her view of sin; her belief that God is all-loving and without wrath; and her view of Christ as mother."

This is probably why she was canonized as a saint.  People felt comforted by her words, that there was still hope to be found in the midst of misery and fear.

Earlier today, when I talked to my mom, she asked me to call the Social Services person at the nursing center and speak to her about when my mom might be able to go home.  She was annoyed because they had told her she wouldn't be ready "for at least a few more days."  I promised her I would call the woman tomorrow.  As I hung up the phone, I felt my stomach clench.  Huh??  I DO want my mom to go home, right?  Of course I do.  So why did I feel like the bottom was about to drop out of my world?

After thinking about it for quite some time (in between doing various work things, of course), I suddenly realized that it didn't matter what the verdict was; my stomach clenched because my world is going to change yet again.  Whenever my mom goes home, I'll have to go up and spend a few days with her to get her settled, which will totally change my schedule, and then I will go back to worrying about her living alone.  If she doesn't go home soon, I will have to deal with listening to her anger and frustration at having to stay there longer, and I will also continue to worry about possibly having to switch her from Medicare to Medi-Cal and all the red tape and money issues that go with that.  Either way, I will still have to deal with new issues, and I don't want to.  I'm just barely coming to terms with the situation as it is right now.  

But when Julian of Norwich calmly and gently tells me that "all shall be well", I can take a deep breath and relax.  Whatever happens, all shall be well, because she said so.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sometimes the Grass is Greener Right Here

Some days it's so easy to forget that others have stress in their lives just like we do, it's just that theirs is probably different from ours, and they may not choose to share it with us.  Other days, we are reminded that everyone has at least a few weeds in their yard.

This morning I got a Facebook message from a friend I haven't seen in a while.  That's a good thing, right?  But it wasn't...  She was letting me know that another friend, whom I'd totally lost track of a few years ago, recently died of a sudden embolism.  She was, I believe, younger than I am.

Later this morning, I called the nursing center to talk to my mom.  I was chatting with the lady who answered the phone; she was the admitting clerk last year when my mom and grandmother were there, and we got to be very friendly.  Normally she is laughing and happy, with a huge smile for whomever she is dealing with.  When I asked her how her weekend was, she paused... then told me that she was exhausted because her son, who has PTSD and lives too far away for her to just drive over there, had an episode yesterday, and she was up half the night on the phone with him and his girlfriend, who is having real trouble dealing with this issue.  I can't blame her; I don't know how I would handle it, but it probably wouldn't be very well.  

I feel so blessed right now.  Yes, my mom had heart surgery last year and broke her hip this year, but the first is healed and the second is healing, and we expect her to go home sometime next month (fingers crossed).  Yes, my husband has permanent physical and neurological issues that have caused him to be classified as permanently disabled, but overall he is still functioning "normally" in the world and does not need someone with him all the time.  Yes, I'm not really happy in my current job/career situation, but at least I have the ability to work and function in a variety of positions, and the people I work with are pleasant to be around.  And my son, who nearly died from a subdural hematoma when he was 14, and who turned 25 this year, did NOT go into the Marines when he graduated from high school, as he had planned, and for that I am extremely grateful.

So, I just want to say, spend some time today thinking about the good things that are happening in your life right now, today, this week, this month.  Because sometimes the grass really IS greener right here where you are.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Is That My Headstone You're Cleaning?

Today I had a real treat, one that I've been waiting almost two years for:  the Headstone Cleaning & Maintenance Workshop!  Sponsored by the Hayward Area Historical Society, this workshop was to teach us how to do basic cleaning and care of headstones in the San Lorenzo Pioneer Cemetery.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  

The morning was taken up with a basic lecture on various types of stone and which kinds of cleaners, tools, etc. to use on each.  Then we went for a walk around the cemetery, with our instructor pointing out different problems, what might be the cause(s), and various possible solutions.  After lunch, we were directed to three headstones that became our "guinea pigs" for the hands-on portion of the workshop.  My partner and I had the privilege of working on the headstone of a two-year-old boy; it was probably taller than he had been.  Here is a picture of it before it was cleaned:

Walter Ludwig Shiman 
See all that yellow-brown gook running down just off center under the break?  That was old epoxy that ran down the stone after someone used it to glue the top back on.  I spent quite a bit of time flicking it off bit by bit with a scalpel; there's not much left of it now, and what is still there is much lighter and harder to see.  I'm very proud of that!  We also did a general washing and scrubbing of the stone to get as much dirt, mold and the other blackish spots and stains off.  (I didn't have a camera with me, so I don't have any pics, unfortunately.)  The last thing the instructor did was to fill in that hole in the bottom right corner of the stone, just under the poem.

To see a larger and clearer view of the stone, go here:  Walter Ludwig Shiman

Note to Self:  Never read the poetry on a child's headstone until after finishing the work on it, as it's really hard to see to work through the tears.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Gift

Today when I got home from work, Martin had a surprise for me... a tiny, one-inch long baby alligator lizard!

Martin found it just outside our sliding glass doors by the walkway to the pool.  It was just looking around, but in danger of being stepped on by people on their way to the laundry room.  He got it into a jar, and put some leaves in to give it some shelter (and a few aphids in case it wanted a snack!).  Then he poked holes in the lid, and waited for me to come home.

I LOVE lizards, and this was one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen!  I admired it for several minutes, then we took it out to my garden and let it go next to my big lemon balm bush.  But it didn't leave right away, instead it ran out of the jar and onto my hand.  After a minute, it continued walking up my arm, looking at me.  We finally realized it was going to stay on my arm, so Martin took a leaf and gently guided it off onto the dirt.  It stayed for a bit and looked around, then finally it disappeared under the bush.  I used to have lots of lizards in my community garden plot, but I have never seen one here at my home garden, so this was a special thing for me.  I believe they bring good luck and prosperity.  A garden with lizards is a healthy garden.

This isn't the lizard I met, but it's about the same size and coloring:

What a lovely end to my week!  Definitely a gift to treasure...  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nightmare in Clearlake, Part 2

I wasn't even going to write this post, then decided I owe it to myself to do so.  I'm not sure if it will be a catharsis or a curse, but whatever.

On the 23rd, around 4pm, I got a call from my mom's helper, Tee.  My mom had fallen at home, and was on her way to the hospital because something was wrong with her left leg.  Turns out her hip was broken, and she had to have surgery to repair it.  NOT a replacement, thank goodness, but just two pins and some kind of joint thing to put everything back together.

So off I went to Clearlake, with NO idea how long I would be gone or what would happen.  Of course, it was the first week of the summer quarter at work.  I had all sorts of things I was supposed to do, AND we are short-staffed.  But my supervisors both said GO, so I let them worry about that, as I certainly couldn't.

The surgery was successful, and she is now back in the nursing center she was in last year.  Needless to say, she is not happy about it, and as I sat with her that first day, labeling her clothes and lingerie with her name and room number, she was laying in bed moving her leg as best she could.  She was hoping to go home within a week, but since the doctor said it would be at least two weeks (and implied it would be longer), I wasn't surprised.  I'm rooting for "sometime before the end of August", myself, as I think that's a more likely estimate.

There are going to be some other changes this time, as well.  I can still only go up once a month, although I will be going twice in August as it's her birthday then.  And, with Tee's help, I intend to monitor her condition and medications much more closely than I was able to last year.  We are not going to have a repeat of the medications fiasco!!  

I'm also not going to let myself be overwhelmed by her problems.  I think this will be easier since I won't be there every other weekend.  I do have my own life, and I'm going to work helping her in around it instead of letting hers take over.  It wasn't anyone's fault, least of all hers, but I allowed it to take over my life; this time I won't.  Fortunately, I still have a fantastic spouse and a great group of friends to give me moral support, not to mention eight cats who won't hesitate to remind me where my REAL loyalties lie.  ;-)

That last paragraph was easier to write than it is to live.  I wrote it two days ago, but I have been fighting heavy-duty depression almost ever since.  The whole nasty mess of last year keeps rising up in my head, and I have a tremendous feeling of deja vu, that it is all happening again and will never stop, like a giant evil hamster wheel.  I spent most of this morning at home in bed, trying to make it all go away.  When I finally dragged myself to work, I let my supervisor know exactly what's going on.  She was very understanding and very supportive.  I'm now going to start looking for a therapist of some kind to get some professional help with this, because I don't think I can continue to do it by myself.  

In the meantime, I will continue writing stories and posting here about other things, so that at least I can pretend that I have a life outside work and my mom.  And keep looking for that dream job...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It's Not JUST "the Fourth of July"...

Today is Independence Day in the United States of America.  I'm not sure I've ever called it 'Independence Day' before; usually we all just refer to it as 'the fourth of July' or 'July 4th'.  But the date has little to do with what should be THE most important holiday in this country.  Just like calling Christmas "X-mas", calling Independence Day by its calendar date takes the whole point of its existence away.  And to be honest, how many of us celebrate, or even think about, the point of this holiday's existence?

Here is the preamble (first two paragraphs) of the Declaration of Independence in its entirety:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

Have you ever actually read the entire thing?  I hadn't, until today.  And I had no idea that the next part of the Declaration goes on to list very specifically the "repeated injuries and usurpations" that King George had inflicted on the colonies.  (It's far worse then just taxation without representation; if our government tried pulling that crap on us today, we'd be impeaching them at this moment.)

Finally, this paragraph declares that we are no longer subject to England's rule, but are now a free and independent people:

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

 It would have taken guts to sign this document; if they had lost the war, those men would all have been hanged for treason from the highest point King George could find.

Now, here is my real reason for this post.  How many of us actually THINK about why we celebrate this day?  How important is this country's independence to you?  Here are some of the things that are important to me for which I am grateful for on this day:

~Freedom of speech, both oral and written - We can say and print pretty much anything we want in this country, other than inciting to riot or threatening people's lives; I understand they still can't do that in Britain.

~Freedom of (and from) religion - We don't have a state religion, and we can choose to join any religion we wish; we can also choose to leave a church, and to not be affiliated with any religion, if we wish.  (There are those who would like to change this, but so far they have not succeeded.)

~We are not and cannot be forced to join the military, unless Congress votes to open the draft, which would only happen in a wartime situation, and perhaps not even then.

~ALL citizens 18 years and older have the right to vote for our political leaders.  We also have the right to refuse to vote without penalty.

~We have the right to join (or not join) any political party.

~We elect most of our nation's leaders, including the president, and no one person is allowed to lead this country for more than eight consecutive years.  We can also move to have them removed from office earlier if we feel it in the country's best interests to do so.

~While our justice system is by no means perfect, we do have the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty by a jury of our peers, and we cannot be imprisoned without legal representation or held without trial.

~For those of us who choose to follow alternative lifestyles, we have the right to do so without being harassed or arrested, and if we are fired from our jobs or otherwise assaulted because of it, we have the right to seek justice and restitution in the courts.  (Again, it's not a perfect system, but it's better than most.)

Too many of us have forgotten what Independence Day represents for our country.  It's not just about picnics and store sales and fireworks and a day off from work.  A lot of people fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today, including women, children, and men not enlisted in the military, and we should NEVER take those freedoms for granted.  If they were ever taken away from us, this would no longer be a country worth living in.

Happy Independence Day!!!  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015