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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Run Away Rant!

They say we can't run away from our problems, and that's true if our problems are intestinal parasites that travel inside us, or psychotic delusions which do the same. 

But if our problems exist outside of our bodies, such as shit-ball husbands, or sadistic bosses, or a creep sitting next to us on the bus, or a hostile editor, or a crabby-appelton girlfriend, we can absolutely RUN AWAY!  

Yes, the jilted husband may trail us with a messy divorce and staggering legal expenses, and running away from the lousy job could leave us broke and terrified. But there's a lot to be said for escape. 

It changes the picture, knocks the needle into the next groove, cracks the future open.

Town is haunted by painful memories? We don't have to buck-up, or come to terms, or make our peace... We can RUN!

(You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

Roommate annoying and petty? Landlord aggressively evil? MOVE! 

Soul-sucking, dead-end career? Nasty relatives? We  don't have to work it out, or suck it up, or bite our tongue, or compromise. We can RUN! 

Working on a miserable project that grinds joylessly along? QUIT!

Have people in your life who you wish weren't? BREAK UP! DUMP THEM!

True, I'm an unemployed drop-out who has been quitting and running from things since I could walk, but still, so many of us are making do, making the best of lousy situations, biding our time, denying our own happiness, postponing joy. Forgoing that piece of pie a la mode. 

But having spent the last few months among the elderly and infirm, I'm here to say: There is no time to lose! We should be having as much fun as possible while we can! 

Let's leave no room for regrets!

xo Amy 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Take Care!

Just because it was in the newspaper first, doesn't mean it can't be a blog, right?
xo Amy
(Writing from Michigan where the colors are in full end-of-season-glory.)

From the bedside to the nurses' station, dutiful daughters of the world, take care

When friends heard I was in Michigan to help my elderly, macular-degenerated, moderately demented mother who had fractured her hip and been moved to a rehab facility, they told me not to forget to take care of myself. I've given other caregivers the identical advice. But now, after several weeks here, I wonder what it even means. How does it translate into reality?

I'm taking my calcium and eating my greens, but addressing my emotional needs would require taking time away from my mom's bedside.
I picture myself meeting a friend for lunch, while back in rehab my mom lies shivering on the bathroom floor as her call button goes unanswered. Could I linger over coffee, in the name of self-care, knowing that were I at my mom's bedside, her caregivers would be more … careful?

My mom and I have been at the rehab joint long enough for the overworked, underpaid care staff to have sorted itself into individual people and positions, some kind, some not. One aide sends a hunk of her $8 an hour home to Jamaica to pay for her own mother's care. An Albanian aide says she hasn't seen her mom in 11 years. They often work back-to-back 14-hour shifts.
I'm now familiar with some of the patients too, especially the screamers and fall risks, the troublemakers whose wheelchairs are parked at the nurses' station so the staff can keep an eye on them. There's the Russian woman whose hand flutters up as she apologizes to everyone who passes. I originally hoped she was saying "I'm soaring," but it was just her accent. Next to her is the man who chews bloody sores on his arm and then cries out in pain.

I've gotten to know my mom's nonspeaking roommate, or at least I've learned which TV shows she likes to have on at full volume while she sleeps. I hear that she was a nurse before her stroke.

The regular visitors, a coven of dutiful daughters who arrive daily bearing fuzzy slippers, favorite snacks, photos, have become my commiserators. I see them spooning food into their fathers or combing their mothers' hair. When we find ourselves in the empty hall simultaneously seeking the elusive aide, we remind one another not to forget to take care of ourselves.
To that end, I don't eat the leftovers off my mother's tray. This doesn't require much self-control, however, since even the cake looks nasty.

My mom has an hour of physical therapy daily, except when they are understaffed and sessions are canceled. This happens frequently, as if the administrators are caught off-guard by their rehab patients actually requiring rehab.

On the occasion when someone from therapy does appear, I burst out of the building as soon as they wheel my mom away, thrilled to have a precious, guilt-free hour. Giddy, I drive with the windows down, gulping the fresh breeze. I admire my fellow drivers and the beauty of the day, wondering what would be the most taking-care-of-myself option for my 60, now 52 minutes of freedom.
Loath to squander the moment, I pull into the closest parking lot.
The shelves of the CVS are wonderful! Colorful and bright! The staff cheerful and ambulatory! I buy a light-up Hello Kitty toothbrush that will remind me to brush a full minute each, top teeth and bottom. Now that's taking care of myself.

I overstay a bit, and when I return, I see my mom's call light on in the hall. How long has it been lighted? I hide in a doorway to spy, check my watch and begin to fume. When an aide finally appears, I creep closer and watch her grab my mom's wheelchair from behind without a word.
If I'd been there, the aide would have asked my mom what she needed. She might even have called her "honey."

When my mom sees me, she inflates. She'd been worried that I might not come today.
I remind her that I was with her all morning, until her PT. No matter. Now that I'm here, she's happy, she feels safe and protected.

I drag myself back to her apartment at night, longing for a hot bath, but weighing it against equal time spent sleeping. Which one qualifies as taking care of oneself? I decide to allow myself a glass of wine. As I open the bottle, I imagine my mom as I left her, sleeping calm and cozy, dreaming of better times. But then the phone rings. It is the head nurse. My mother is not hurt but she is confused and agitated. She's trying to stand and walk. She's anxious and uncooperative. "Perhaps it would help if you come back?"

I no longer find my fellow drivers delightful, nor do I enjoy the breeze. I seethe with resentment toward the world of people not sharing my misery. I'm sure that everyone but me is taking care of herself.

I find my mom at the nurses' station parked beside the I'm Sorry Lady. Mom looks small and shaky. She doesn't know where she is or why she is being punished. She does not know what she did wrong or why these strangers are mad at her. But the second she recognizes me, she relaxes.

I marvel at my power to bring peace. But as any superhero can attest, powers come at a price. If my presence can soothe and comfort her, then how can I withhold it? Who am I to take myself away? And that is when I understand that I can't take care of both myself and her. It's one or the other, one at a time.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Friday, October 10, 2014

AmyKossBlogThang: Eye Eye

AmyKossBlogThang: Eye Eye: Dears, My eye hurt. I figured some air-born bit of garden must have blown in there and would get itself out.  But it didn't.  So, ...

Eye I Aye


My eye hurt. I figured some air-born bit of garden must have blown in there and would get itself out. But it didn't. So, I made an appointment with the eye guy. 

On the way to his office I realized that I might soon be able to definitively answer the age old question of what was and what was not better than a sharp stick in the eye!

This would be a new line of demarcation, like the ever-popular childbirth line. 
The only thing I've heard fall on the other side of the pain of childbirth is the pain of passing a kidney stone, but I remain unconvinced.

As proof, someone should do a graph showing the size of a kidney stone relative to the size of the average pee hole, to compare to one illustrating the size of a baby-head compared to a vagina. 
Perhaps the roughness of the stone should be factored in, pain-wise, vs the smoothness of the baby-head. Although obviously some consideration has to be given to the baby's nose.

As I inched through traffic pondering this, it occurred to me that I may actually have eye cancer, and that these exhaust scented miles might stand as my last moments of pre-eye-cancer-innocence.  

My beloved nephew-dog Jacob recently succumbed to eye cancer, but not before he had his eye removed and took to oozing a smell a lot like raw hamburger gone bad. 

I figured that unlike Jacob, I'd wear perfume and a patch. Not a white gauze and tape  medical looking patch, but a classic pirate style in black. 

I knew I would not look sexy and mysterious, though. It seems that women of my age and texture can do absolutely nothing to look mysterious and very little to look sexy. 
Practically any fat old guy in a patch could pull off swashbuckely however, which further pointed up the unfairness of everything, including whatever that was in my eye that made it hurt to blink. 

Pre-pissed, and looking for a fight, I drew my pirate sword and soon learned that 
the owie thing
in my left eye, 
was just a sty!  

XO Amy 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

AmyKossBlogThang: Judgement Day

AmyKossBlogThang: Judgement Day: Dears,  I just finished slogging through the synopsis and first ten pages of a couple dozen YA book manuscripts, and I am here to say ...

AmyKossBlogThang: Judgement Day

AmyKossBlogThang: Judgement Day: Dears,  I just finished slogging through the synopsis and first ten pages of a couple dozen YA book manuscripts, and I am here to say ...

AmyKossBlogThang: AmyKossBlogThang: Third Floor

AmyKossBlogThang: AmyKossBlogThang: Third Floor: AmyKossBlogThang: Third Floor : Dears,  My mom fell and broke her hip so while she's in rehab I've been staying in her apartment in ...

Judgment Day


I just finished slogging through the synopsis and first ten pages of a couple dozen YA book manuscripts, and I am here to say that plot is overrated.
As the (anonymous) judge for this manuscript competition, I was left with a big pile of "Feh" a medium pile of "Not Entirely Terrible" and nothing at all in my pile of "Wow!" And this overwhelming underwhelmingness has paralyzed me before. 

Because the characters were a snore. 
Many of them had the survival of the world, (the sector, the village, the family, the tribe, the universe) in their hands. Many had unique powers which they reluctantly came to accept, but NO ONE was anyone in particular. 

I'm not one of those readers who needs to like or be able to recognize herself in the characters, but I do need them to be more than just bland victims of fate. 

Clearly, many of these writers worked very hard and put lots of time into these stories. But does effort count?

Perhaps I should quit the judgment biz and leave it to those who take delight in intricate plots with predictable outcomes, and generic characters, but even if I decline the next request, what do I do about this one? 

It is a conundrum for a curmudgeon

Meanwhile, here is a picture of my dogs, who never disappoint.