Valentines Day Tree Idea

Valentine’s Day Tree

   With Christmas Decor around 75% off by January, it’s super cheap and easy to come up with Valentine’s decorations for literally PENNIES!  Not to mention the ease of simply recycling your existing Christmas ornaments, for Valentines. Why bother taking down the tree?


You can recycle white or red Christmas bows by simply removing the staples. 

 Alot of the marked down Christmas ornaments are absolutely perfect for Valentines. I picked up these masquerade masks for .50. 

  Or how about recycling gift paper and old clothes for a stunning Valentines Day centerpiece?

Add an empty wine bottle and a champagne flute….


The possibilites are limitless! 



Pulled from my sister site HOMEFREEKIDS

CNA’s and STNA’s living below poverty level

CNA’s & STNA’s are among the lowest paid workers in the healthcare industry, yet they face some of the highest rates of injury and illness. And when the pandemic hit, Covid 19 really enforced the need for many of them to reconsider their positions. This has had the backlash of an even bigger burden on an already short staffed workforce.

“U.S. Census Bureau Releases 2019 Population Estimates by Demographic Characteristics

JUNE 25, 2020 — The U.S. Census Bureau today released estimates showing the nation’s 65-and-older population has grown rapidly since 2010, driven by the aging of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The 65-and-older population grew by over a third (34.2% or 13,787,044) during the past decade, and by 3.2% (1,688,924) from 2018 to 2019. The growth of this population contributed to an increase in the national median age from 37.2 years in 2010 to 38.4 in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 Population Estimates.”

*65 and Older Population Grows Rapidly as Baby Boomers Age (census.gov)

Consider this….why do people go into care? Typically it’s because the family can no longer handle the load of caring for a grown adult with multiple health conditions. For instance, grandpa wanders off in the middle of the night. Or it’s a matter of not having the physical strength to take grandma to the bathroom. A lot of times it’s because people have to work and they can’t be in the home to care for them. Sometimes their family member is violent and they can no longer handle it. Other times…they simply have no family. There’s an endless list of reasons why someone may enter care. At the end of the day, it boils down to one person cannot handle it on their own.

And yet an STNA or CNA (both the same thing but the title changes based on the state you live in), are often times required to care for ten to forty grown adults based on the facilities staffing. The laws in place to protect them from physical injury are typically thrown out the window. “Oh…that person’s a two assist transfer? Sorry we have no staff and the nurse is busy”.

Injuries ranged from cuts and back injuries to black eyes and human bites, and resulted from a variety of causes, including lifting, bathing and handling residents; resident aggression; and accidents involving facility equipment.

CNAs in Nursing Homes experience High Risk of Work-Related Injuries | RTI

Picture this: You’re trying to wash up a resident. They are extremely confused, they weigh maybe 250 lbs and carry a contagious illness or a virus. Prior to you getting in the room, they have dug into their brief and now have feces beneath their fingernails. As you go to turn them over to wash their peri area, they reach out and claw through your arm scratching beneath your skin.

Here’s another: The resident is Hep positive, very confused and it’s your job to feed them. Upon tasting the mashed potatoes, they’ve decided they don’t like them and spit them out in your face.

Or maybe try this one: Family brought dad in because he’s extremely combative and can no longer handle his brutal assaults. He’s put on the unit to be cared for by whichever CNA/STNA has that set for the day. The aide who weighs around 110 lbs, now is tasked with caring for the 200 lb man. Fully undressing, bathing and redressing him…all while he’s lashing out and taking swings. If she walks away to keep herself from being harmed and family comes in to visit…the first question they inevitably ask is: “Why isn’t my dad wearing clean clothes? That’s why I brought him here so it would get done!” The family not taking into consideration that not only is that one aide tasked with handling the one man that they could no longer handle, but yet another 20 just like him in the same hall. While law requires frequent check and changes, every two hours to prevent bed sores…there is never enough staff or time to do so.

Yet oddly enough, the people taking on these long hours, excessive staff to resident ratios and physical injuries often cannot even AFFORD health insurance?!?! The same people caring for others on a daily basis, are neglected in their own needs. Many live below the poverty line, even qualifying for food stamps. Some have to frequent food banks in order to put food on the table. They’re typically treated as the low man on the totem pole. I’ve actually heard the words “they wipe asses for a living”.

STNA/CNA’s are predominantly female and minority. And years back, I truly didn’t grasp the whole fight for equal pay issue.

Over time…

I opened my eyes.

The truth is, if this were a male dominated job, the pay would be a lot higher. I’ve asked several men over the past few months if they would want the job, the response was the same “hell no”. That said, there are still men who do work as STNA’s and CNA’s all over the country, but it’s very few in comparison to their female coworkers.

And when everything went dark back in March 2020 and these workers were faced with COVID 19, they had no choice but to work through it. Their jobs were essential with the greatest amount of contact with Covid infected individuals. People didn’t just stop needing personal care due to Covid. And dementia units were filled with contagious adults who simply could not grasp the need for a mask. Six feet apart does not apply to the nurse aide who needs to feed and change them. It’s virtually impossible. And yet, McDonalds workers were making more then these workers who were actually working in Covid filled nursing homes. That’s not to say that McDonald’s was/is wrong. People deserve a livable wage. But look at the absolute insanity of the pay these healthcare workers receive. 12$ an hour to maybe 15$ an hour? And don’t by into the ads you read on Indeed. A sign-on bonus typically means one thing: You will be so overworked that you will never make it to that three month mark to collect it. Which is exactly why they offer it. It rarely gets paid out. Some companies offer Walmart or Target Gift Cards if the aide picks up an extra shift. But those gift cards don’t pay the now overdo electric bill. Sure they can save money by using the card, but only if they actually need something at Walmart.

Add to that, many of these healthcare workers were watching others from the sidelines, not only receiving unemployment, but an extra 600$ on top of that. Again, not saying that was wrong, but simply pointing out that these healthcare workers were told they could not collect unemployment as their job was a direct need. They were exempt from claiming their job was too dangerous, even though it was literally one of the most dangerous during the pandemic.

If you ignore Covid and throw it out the window, it changes nothing in this article. There are numerous contagions that these workers are exposed to:

People assume that PPE is the cure for everything. Have you ever showered somebody with gloves on? Or maybe you put them in the bathtub, where they had a bout of diarrhea in the water. Your gloved hands are submerged in the water. Maybe you have a cut on your finger. Water get’s inside your gloves and under your bandaid. And so does urine and liquid vomit. Of course you wash your hands, but at the end of the day your hands and any possible wounds, still came in contact with another individuals feces.

Now I realize that this article is blunt and to the point. Obviously STNA’s and CNA’s do the job as a calling. Nobody in their right mind would do it for the money. Reason being: The money does not match the work. You have to want to care for others. Your heart needs to be in it 100%.

When Mrs. A is in tears because she can’t see her family, you need to be fully present in that moment to reassure her that she is not alone.

You need pure empathy to lead you.

IE: You need to understand that when that 200lb man is trying to physically assault you, it is because he is afraid! His dementia makes him see you as total stranger whose basically trying to pull his pants down. You need to understand that he may have a history that triggers his aggression. And you will never know what that is, because even he does not remember. You need to have compassion in the face of his fear.

And all of this requires an understanding on par with a psychology degree and yet, STNA’s and CNA’s are nowhere near that pay grade.

I’ve heard it said that STNA’s/CNA’s are entry level jobs. I assure you….they are not. Those who do the job as a calling, they’re in it for life. And these are the people we want caring for our elderly. These are the people who genuinely want to help. And although younger kids attempt it and actually want to make a difference, sadly, after what they’ve witnessed in staffing and low pay…many never take a second glance at healthcare. I’ve met many aides who had initially became aides as a bridge into nursing, but found they simply didn’t make enough to pay for even one college class after their other bills. And during Covid, these aides along with other healthcare and housekeeping staff, stayed to care for total stranger’s parents… risking every single member of their own household. .

STNA’s/CNA’s are often single moms. And many went home from Covid units, not only to their children but to their own aging at risk parents. And what does it say about us as human beings, when we aren’t pushing to pay our countries caretakers an actual livable wage. Those who care for the elderly and ill.

Even if you don’t care about the elderly right now….what about when it’s your turn? Who will take care of you? Who would you want taking care of you? Someone with a smile on their face and is glad to be there? Or someone who is disgruntled and angry because not only are they covered in your latest bout of diarrhea, but they flat out are unable to feed their children. When you’re confused and disoriented…when your cocking back to throw a punch because you have zero idea where you are…which worker do you want handling that situation. Which worker ends with the best outcome? The angry and anxious one? Or the one with a decent well rounded home life with less anxiety and anger?

Let’s look at a similar situation and break it down:

Childcare ~

Causes of child abuse can include:

  • isolation and lack of support — no family members, friends, partners or community support to help with the demands of parenting
  • stress — financial pressures, job worries, medical problems or caring for a family member with a disability
  • unrealistic expectations — a lack of understanding about a child’s developmental stages and behaviour
  • intellectual disability or mental illness — parents may be unable to adequately care for their child
  • lack of parenting skills — parents may not know how to care for their child or may believe it is acceptable to use excessive physical force to discipline or punish a child
  • drug, alcohol or gambling problems — addiction or substance abuse may affect a parent’s ability to meet their child’s needs
  • low self-confidence — parents may doubt their ability to meet their child’s needs and find it hard asking for help
  • past childhood experiences — parents may have experienced abuse as a child in their own families, which could have caused them to develop an insecure attachment style
  • mental health problems.

If we mirror the typical causes of child abuse to the typical causes of elder abuse , we see a pattern.

*A parent struggling to put food on the table can be a catalyst for abuse. Then can it stand to reason, those same issues create a higher rate of abuse on the elderly? Bare with me. Low pay for a hard job, breeds frustration which leads to anger.

*Lack of skills = being an STNA/CNA should not be considered an entry level job. You do actually need to know what you are doing. When you don’t, you will make mistakes. And in healthcare, mistakes=injuries.

*mental health problems go hand in hand with flat out being unable to pay the bills. Granted, they’re considered an environmental mental health problem and not a biological mental health problem, but both are mental health problems. Consider that being able to pay for a fun night out (environmental) creates a boost in serotonin (biological)…and well I’d say they can often go hand in hand.

*isolation and lack of support = This is the same as not enough staff on the floor. And overwhelmed aide caring for too many residents. Why? Because the job doesn’t pay enough for what it involves.

Does this mean that nursing homes are inherently dangerous? Of course not! The vast majority have the best of intentions.

AND….Most elder abuse does not take place in nursing homes.

In almost 90% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member. 2/3 of perpetrators are adult children or spouses.[7]

11 Facts About Elder Abuse | DoSomething.org

(Which again points to lack of experience, financial burdens etc...I will say again: It is not an entry level job)

If anything, the above statistics reinforce the need for nursing homes….and PROPERLY TRAINED, PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY HEALTHY STAFF…. in order to give overstressed families relief.

The list goes on. We could mirror these patterns into hundreds of pages. The reality is our countries caregivers are not being cared for. And the vast majority are the most caring, considerate and selfless people you would ever meet. Often bringing in clothing, grooming supplies, shoes and gifts paid from their own pockets….for a resident who may have no family and their Medicaid isn’t paying enough. These are the people who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it, also making them the easiest targets to be taken advantage of by greedy corporations in the multi-billion dollar industry of geriatric healthcare.

In summary: It should be seen as an absolute disgrace to the healthcare industry, if even one of these workers cannot afford to keep their lights on.

Beneath the Tattoos…

You know, I think about all of my children daily. I can’t turn it off. If I’m at the libray, I think of my third. If a basketball rolls into my line of vision, I think of my second. When Myth Busters comes on, I think of my last.

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But my oldest child, my daughter…..when the world pops in panoramic hues, when the sun leaves behind a trail of colors, when the stars seem extra brilliant and the snow isn’t falling down, but rather swirling up….I think of her.

Just to see her… currently her hair trimmed in a lovely shade of blue, tattoos…each with a special meaning…many having to do with music, toting multiple totes and bags…each filled with purpose and determination, I can’t help but wonder….what adventure is she on in that moment. Her mind a maze, quietly but diligently, bringing the world around her into focus.

But its not the bigger picture that she sees. It’s everything in between. Somewhere, surrounded by the fog, a lighthouse beacon shines. Ignoring the fog, the tiny light in the distance becomes her magnet. From outside looking in, anyone would assume a person would be blinded by such fog. But not this one. Because this one knows, fog isn’t some nearsighted vision problem that can be corrected with glasses. This one ripped off, stomped on and burned those damn glasses at birth. This one sees the world in the full spectrum. And with the full range of human emotion at her disposal and her abilty to not only feel, but to articulate them on a dime, she’s a magnetic force surpassing even the strongest neutron star.

The way she picked up music, playing too many instruments to count, left me wondering if she was somehow channeling long dead musical composers. It didn’t matter if she’d never played a particular instrument, she had long mastered the art of playing by ear. Somewhere between mismatched socks, bubble gum and lighthearted sarcasm, she’d cornered the market on college scholarships.

And then, this one….this one who sees the world in all the colors of a Skittles bag…and then some……this one showed me WHY!

To Quote my very head strong daughter : “I’ve gotten criticism for this one particular “personality flaw” at least a dozen times over the course of my life: I have a hard time finishing what I started. This means pretty much everything from school, to hobbies, to crafts, or anything else. Well I’m here right now, telling you all why I’m PROUD of this flaw. It’s allowed me to learn and become so much. I can say that I have scholastic and hands on experience in: biology, public relations, marketing, entrepreneurship, veterinary medicine, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpting, photography, equine care/riding, motor sports, crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, hunting, cosmetology, retail management, restaurant management, cooking, clerical work, basketball, soccer, music (quick pause here – I play the piano, bassoon, saxophone, flute, oboe, and percussion WELL). There are a thousand other things I’ve done or tried but the list would go on forever. Because of this “flaw,” I have a certificate from an equine nutrition course. Because of this “flaw,” I received more scholarships than ANYONE else in my graduating class (simply because I volunteered myself in so many projects and activities it looked like I had no free time ever). Fun fact of the day: because of this “flaw,” I’m legally licensed to officiate weddings in the state of **** (if you don’t believe me, check out the **** Secretary of State’s website). I’ve learned more, done more, seen more, and experienced more than a lot of other people my age have. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’m proud of the fact that I can say that I’ve done so much. I’m happy to be the person that I am today. If you can’t accept me for who I am, then there’s the door. ~ End Quote

And bam! I saw it! Not only is she absolutely CORRECT….but wow….she hit the nail on the head. Life isn’t about slips of paper that say you are qualified to do one…and only one thing…for the rest of your natural life. Life isn’t about taking only that ONE mapped out path. Life shouldn’t be constrained by imaginary boundaries. And at 22, she has plenty of time to explore paths unknown. Lord knows, I did. I’ve been everywhere from the Garden District in New Orleans (yes….I begged for an autograph from Anne Rice….literally camping on the sidewalk in front of her house, till the security guard brought me one …although, he probably signed it) to Biloxi Mississippi…where I saw my first casino….while sporting purple hair…., to the Arizona desert and the chaos of LA. I was blissfully lost somewhere in New York….the subway, is NOT my friend, and I’ve swam at the cape in Mexico. And for some reason having long been settled, married, running kids to basketball and band….I had forgotten how strong that pull was. It was insatiable! Dancing on Bourbon Street, with my giant purple top hat and purchasing a love charm….yes… it seemed legit…..sipping on my first hurricane….don’t even get me started. That was MY world.

So quickly I had tossed out those moments that had made my heart beat faster, with every breath. But then …I realized, I feel that still, but in a different way. I feel it through her. She’s an adventurous story, waiting to be told and I sit eagerly as a child at storytime, waiting for the thrilling climax to reach it’s peak. It’s like reading a Stephen King novel and having to stop at Chapter 10 because some idiot moron, who doesn’t give a CRAP that ‘HEY…I’m trying to READ here!!!’, rings the doorbell. She’s an endless arhymmatic poem or a novel I can’t put down. And I  positively can NOT  WAIT to read the next chapter…..

(I wrote this when you were 22…8 years ago. I love you beautiful girl).

His painting…

(From my original site. Bare with me, I’m shifting things about).

He finally finished. I posted last week about giving him his first large canvas. It took him a bit. But he has poured his heart, soul and mind into this lovely picture.

Initially, it started with the birds. Then the shark. Followed by  the abstract idea of a brilliant red tunnel slide, jetting into the ocean. To add emotion, he created a storm.

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His painting is very thought provoking. There are multiple ways to interpret the grand design. Two simple birds, sitting on a perch, surrounded by an ocean. They’re seemingly oblivious to the danger below. With a storm kicking up, the eager predator is circling beneath….waiting to swallow them whole. And what of the tunnel? Humans sliding elegantly between both worlds.   Walking a line between eminent thrilling danger and a brilliant soulful beauty.

Again… his painting  could be interpreted in so many ways. But if you ask him….“I just like sharks and birds”.

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The River

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Have you ever noticed how a river can trigger every one of your senses? The color, the feel, the taste as you breathe in the smell and the sound of water rolling over the rocks?

As we walked along the shore of the river that morning, I couldn’t help but think how perfect it ‘all’ was. ‘All’ being spending the day with my oldest son.  I hadn’t realized just how big he had grown. He had just turned 14 and already he was an inch taller than me. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that just a few short years ago, we were watching Barney and dancing to the Wiggles.  To see him in that moment that day at the river…you’d never suspect he could have ever been that small or what he would become.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen him change and grow. But the times that I actually took notice, were few.  And then that day on the shore, I saw very clearly who this young man was fighting to be. With his daily teenage struggles and his overall confusion about life in general, at that age, sometimes it’s hard to see the man in the future. Yet that cloudy curtain of uncertainty,  lifted for a brief hour that day. As we talked about his close encounter with a snake and his near miss with a running deer, his voice had an unfamiliar ring to it. There was an underlying deepness, a foreshadow, of what was to come. His words had a wisdom that rarely presents itself when a teenage boy is in the room. We talked, we laughed and we shared moments of peaceful silence.  Words seemed almost unnecessary for a while.  One thing hasn’t changed in all these years and that’s our ability to communicate without words.  No matter how tall he grows, he’s my son. Words don’t create the bond between a mother and her son. Love does that all by itself….

When I originally wrote this, you were 14 years old. You’re turning 22 in just a few weeks…I want you to know, I absolutely love you without question. I am profoundly proud of the gentleman you have become. Maybe pride isn’t the right word. My pride implies that it was my accomplishment. In truth…it was yours. You’ve shown me that there are many ways of accomplishing ones goals. You taught me to think outside the box.

You hold my heart with an iron grip. And that will always transcend not matter where life may leads us…from this world to the next. It’s your heart that determines your true path. And wherever that leads you…it will always be the right choice.

It’s the little things…

So last week…I’m wandering about. I had a billion things to do and one day to do them. Typical. Throughout the day, I kept flashing back to my childhood. Random stuff. Not any one thing in particular. But our old yellow canary, Sunshine…popped into my head. That bird lived over a decade until he’d basically gone bald.

There I am…suddenly standing in Pet Supplies….staring at birds. Did I mention it’s been a really lousy year? See the post below this one…lousy isn’t even the word for it. Anyway…long story short…I bought a couple finches. I know right…I’ve gone completely mental. Birds don’t even belong in cages. And I just filled the demand for the supply, perpetuating the cycle. In the moment I was pretty much thinking ‘ah to be young again…death is nowhere around the corner’. At least, that’s what I assume I was thinking. From a psychological standpoint…it totally makes sense.

I’ve named them Coffee and Xanax. I was going to go with Ativan and Haldol…Ati & Hal. Maybe they’ll have middle names. (I work in healthcare…trust me…it’s hilarious on my end).

They seem content though. One is a bit of a spaz, obviously that one is Coffee. The other is chubby and lazy. That’s Xan. And they love hearing other birds. We sat outside today for several hours. That seemed to reinforce the fact…that birds don’t belong in cages. Guess I’ll be building an Avery. They’re too tame for survival now, if let go. But the guilt is propelling me to Home Depot at this point. Figures. But they don’t seem to begrudge me my sarcasm and overall negative viewpoint…on virtually everything. I mean I can bitch and moan endlessly, and they’re just like…”yeah chirp chirp…you’re totally right…chirp chirp”.

Seriously…can we just redo this whole past year?

Without further ado…here are Coffee and Xan…

So yeah…now I have birds….

What really went down up there…

I have started and restarted this journal entry, more times then I can count now. It always starts off one way, then gradually becomes something entirely different. And I generally avoid writing about my job. There’s zero point and 90% of the time…unless you live it…you won’t get it. I’m not even sure how to verbalize the whole scenario or put it into words. Maybe there are simply no adjectives for what really went down up there.

They called in a head shrinker for the staff. And while that’s all well and good…how do you describe something…for which no words exist? Handing me a piece of paper with tiny child like drawings on it and asking me to circle the emotion or emotions? Are you kidding me right now?

How did it feel?

I mean I could find a thesaurus throw a few words out there

..sad

…poignant

…love

…anger

…fear

…confusion

…coping

…strength

Oh hell…..maybe the words organized chaos….or disorganized madness….depending on the moment. And I do mean…down to the very second. Things were constantly changing…every hour…every minute…every second.

Covid hit our facility in December, approximately ten days before the vaccine was released. That’s just stupid bad luck right? I mean what are the odds? We felt like failures when covid got in. To this day, we have no idea how it got in. Non essential appointments were canceled. But emergencies were not. Signs of a stroke…off to the hospital….signs of a heart attack….off to the hospital…right when the county went purple. So they had to be treated at hospitals that were now… loaded with covid. Then they of course came back once treated for whatever the emergency was. We’d put them in the Q. Our quarantine hall. The problem was, the tests were not always 100% accurate. Those are just facts.

They were safe for nine months. NINE MONTHS…all they had to do was not see their families or friends for nine months and they wouldn’t get Covid according to the CDC. Seems like a simple task in theory…but these people really couldn’t spare nine months. Let’s be real. When you’re 65-105 years old, with CHF, cancer, diabetes, etc…nine months is an awfully long time to not see your children. And in truth…NOBODY…not the government, the CDC, the WHO….NONE OF THEM…seemed to actually have any idea what was going on or what the outcome would be.

Our facility was luckier then most in terms of virus treatment and staffing. And our administration didn’t pack up and work from home, like a lot of other places did. Ours stayed there. They didn’t tuck tail and run. Every single day they were in the building and on the floor. The conference room essentially turned into a mini apartment for the higher ups. And when Covid hit…they were right there with those of us on that unit. Constantly asking what we needed or how they could help. They were well stocked on PPE and everything else. Back in March 2020, they’d called other nursing homes that had been hit, just to learn what they could do to prevent the spread in our facility once it arrived. They were constantly having meetings and conferences. They were helping us on the floor when the staff finally started to go down one by one with covid. I appreciated that more then they could ever comprehend. Things were so nerve wracking, that had they left…morale would have seriously declined.

(I mean if healthcare administration went home to work on laptops in the safety of their own homes away from covid, while their staff stayed and toughed it out…well… I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if they lost staff as a result due to the fear they were in-sighting by leaving. But that’s just my useless opinion. What do I know?)

But…back on topic…oh yeah…the head shrinker. What’s weird is that in the moment….emotions were lacking or maybe that’s not the right words. Emotions were there, but there was no real time to focus on any one feeling. We were RUNNING! When covid hit…it hit fast. Three became six…six became ten…ten became twenty…twenty became thirty…all within a matter of days. If four left the unit, six took their place. It almost became ridiculous to even ask ..”did anyone else come up last night?”….We stopped asking after we put up the white board. We had three categories : Current, Graduated and Deceased. Believe me when I tell you….that board is still etched in my brain two months past. That board was both a blessing and a curse.

We’d all known these people for YEARS. And with families shut out, one side effect of that was….we got attached (even more then usual). We were attached before…but this was different. I’ll explain. In the past…pre-covid, when someone was dying…the lines were very easy to follow. We would make them comfortable and when family arrived, we left the room. We left the room to give them that moment… That final moment with their family. It was theirs and theirs alone. Private and sacred. We, the staff had our moments too of course. We would hug in the break-room or cry it out in our own little corner somewhere.

But covid came along and changed everything.

It became us…the staff. And what should have been a purposely forced unattached moment on our end….in order to not undermine or undercut a family members grief…became a hallway of pure empathy that we couldn’t shut off. Not sympathy…but empathy. Meaning…it wasn’t sympathetic viewing from the outside looking in, but something entirely different. We felt a profound loss with every death. Born out of nine months of isolation and attachment.

Overnight…in March of 2020…the world shut down and families were locked out. In an effort to stave off the residents depression…the golden rule of don’t get too attached….went out the window. Hugs, tears, smiles, laughter, joy, sadness…fear, worry, grief…everything became ours to deal with. And where do you put that? What box? Not to mention…oh…yeah…you might get covid and take it home to your family….that in the face of the media screaming on a DAILY basis…“omg…your all gonna die if you don’t stay home…. “ oh but wait….we can’t. I stripped my scrubs off in the garage and they went immediately into my washer in the utility room. My shoes were washed constantly! I went through three pairs of Sketchers in two months. Nobody was allowed to use my car under any circumstance. (And…Yes…I got covid within the first two weeks of it entering the building. Then I lived in my basement drowning my sorrows in Netflix and praying to God that I didn’t just kill my family. Fortunately, they stayed negative).

Anyway, the biggest misconception we all had…was what covid actually is. The reports were mostly focused on pneumonia. Yeah…no. Pneumonia is just one scale on the beast. Diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, fevers, sores, confusion, hallucinations, edema, kidney failure, massive changes in blood sugar levels, clotting, bleeding, pain…so much pain. On that note…for all the jerks who liked to write the comment : “they were old or dying anyway”….whenever they posted under an article on elderly at risk from covid.. NOT LIKE THAT THEY WEREN’T!

This thing took stage 1 or 2 dementia and kicked it into overdrive. Within ten days they went from walking and talking to forgetting how to walk, forgetting how to hold a spoon and eventually forgetting how to swallow. Covid crossed through the protective membrane and went to straight to the brain.

Those who didn’t have dementia, suffered even more. They’d been watching the news for months. They’d seen all the headlines about nursing home statistics and survivability during covid. Thanks a lot media. You successfully scared the hell out of little old ladies everywhere. Stellar job! They have televisions in their rooms you morons. Do you have any idea what it’s like to have someone clutching onto you for dear life…asking if they’re going to die?

And then I made a mistake. I’m utterly haunted by it on the daily. There was one…one that we all knew well and loved dearly. I tried to avoid the question. I changed the subject. And that worked…until Christmas morning. I had slept at work Christmas Eve. My daughter was home from college. She’s a third year pharm/med student. We needed the help and she came up on the covid unit. She worked third and I worked first. That night we had a severe snow storm coming. To save myself the worry of her driving on ice, I went home on Christmas Eve for four hours, then drove her back to the facility for third shift and I slept in the office on the covid unit. Then I flipped back up and traded her. On Christmas morning, this particular resident…asked me again and again…”Am I going to die?”….I finally just said…no….because saying I don’t know…had zero effect on her nerves. And nine months in to the pandemic, they had a better idea of how to treat it. Honestly, she looked ok that day. We sang Christmas carols, talked about her family, gave lots of hugs and told absolutely ridiculous jokes. Everything seemed ok.

Then it wasn’t.

I am a liar now. I can’t wrap my head around it. I know better then to give any response to that question. But this one got to me. She was terrified. I had some selfish need to calm her down….in order to spare myself the agony of her truth. Her truth meaning…there were too many variables at play. My truth being…I knew better. I projected my wish instead of the truth. The truth being…I didn’t know. She seemed ok. She wasn’t a classic failure to thrive. But in that moment…saying “I don’t know”….seemed so wrong. She was visibly shaking. She was terrified. And this damn virus spun on a dime. Saying no….calmed her down. It was CHRISTMAS FOR GODS SAKES! We were laughing five minutes later….and while I try to justify my answer with that….it was still a lie. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t begin as a lie. The end result is even if it had truth by intent when spoken, it became a lie the moment she died.

For dignity reasons as well as HIPPA, I don’t feel comfortable writing about everything I saw up there. But I can set the scene. We had multiple people in rooms meant for one bed. We were packed. We had people in beds in the halls. In order to lockdown our covid unit, we had to put all the negatives on one side of the building, the maybe’s (waiting on the PCR tests or positive on the rapids) on the other side of the building…and the covid positive upstairs. And then we were shut down from the rest of the facility. For a while we had our maintenance guys, but no housekeeping. But then the maintenance guys got covid. I now know how to fix an electric bed…sort of.

We were not allowed out of the covid unit and could not come in contact with any other staff members outside of the unit. And many genuinely WANTED to go upstairs on that unit, but they couldn’t. We still had people downstairs and the administration held back, trying to prevent any more staff from catching it if they could. So we ran a small crew up there. But we waved to them from the balcony and called each other constantly to check on our people. The staff downstairs wanted to check on the residents upstairs and the staff upstairs wanted to check on the residents downstairs. But the residents downstairs were obviously exposed at some point. They had to pop positive downstairs in order to come upstairs. The difference was space. Absolutely everything from covid unit was thrown away or sterilized. No personal clothing could be brought onto the unit. Strictly hospital gowns that could be sent out and cleaned. Food trays were made entirely of Styrofoam and plastic silverware was a requirement. The higher ups brought in case after case of Gatorade for the residents. and since those of us on covid could no longer use the breakroom, they brought in cases of snacks, k-cups etc…for us.

Fluids were a big deal up there. We pushed fluids like nobodies business. And the ones who were with it, were typically given this speech…”We know you don’t feel well…and you may throw up…but we need you to drink this anyway…and if you throw up…we need you to drink some more”. Which in reality, is harder then you might think….which is why IV fluids became the regular therapy within the week. Blood thinners, IV fluids and antibody infusions. And try keeping an IV in a resident who not only has dementia, but has covid confusion….let’s just say…that didn’t always work out. These were grown adults.

Sleep was all but gone during those two months. I think we all tried to sleep, but the unknown was driving us to insomnia. We never knew until we got there and checked the white board….. whose name would be in what category?

Current

Graduated

Deceased

Three words….three all consuming words. They don’t seem strong enough. Those words. They seem too simple. Are we as human beings…so small….that we can only fit into those three categories? I asked myself that question daily.

Then there was the cherry red tomatoes.

The perfect storm in those who were reaching a tipping point. The cherry red flushing of their skin, typically MINUS a fever. The fever had usually passed by the time the flushing came. I know right. Trust me…we were all scratching our heads on that one. I mean they had a day or two when we thought they were better…then boom. We knew whenever we saw that color, things were about to change.

It got to the point that I legit had a full blown panic attack one day over that wretched color. I’d come home to my 16 year old standing in the kitchen with no shirt on. His skin was red…a flushed cherry red. I freaked. I started asking him how he felt, trying to take his temp…asking him if he’d been anywhere (I’d kept him in homeschool because of where I work)…anyway. I was driving him nuts and he was ticked…it turned out he’d just gotten out of the shower. But when I tell you I spent the next two days taking his temp every few hours…take it as truth.

That almost perfect horrible hue of red. I say almost perfect…because the virus itself….was almost perfectly designed by nature.

It has one job…to multiply…to spread from host to host…to survive. And from a science standpoint, the design is almost flawless. I say almost…because sometimes the host dies, which serves no purpose to the virus itself.

Maybe that’s the adjective…maybe that’s the emotion. Can an emotion be a color? Not visualized as a color. But be the actual color. Because if it can…that’s my answer to the question….how did it feel? It felt almost perfectly and horribly…cherry red.

I could lie and say we’re all fine. But the truth is we’re not.

Did anything positive come out of my experience? Yes. I learned that human beings have an unlimited capacity for compassion, empathy, kindness and love…in SPADES!


Art and Empathy on the Younger Generations

I’ve used a lot of art mediums throughout my life’s journey. Honestly, I’ve scribbled…painted…glued…carved…molded…well, basically I’ve done it all. And I’ve come to the realization that my obsession isn’t with art, but more the freedom that it grants.

In any other avenue of life, there are rules and parameters.

How dull is that?

Rules and parameters mean…it’s been done before. Someone has claimed it. It’s theirs. They have shaped it to their liking, slapped a patent on it and now if you wish to re-create it…you are ‘borrowing’ an idea.

But with art there are no rules, regulations, parameters. Instead of a process void of thought and critical thinking, it’s the exact opposite.

People talk of the vanishing art programs. Education is slowly becoming strictly math, science, language arts and social studies. Such a strict focus on the ideas of others. Sadly, this is a mistake that will one day create a pit of regret.

The assumption is made that math creates a critical thinker. I propose that art creates critical thinking, enabling to use of math. It’s the reason why often time music=math minded individuals. It’s the ability the see the beauty in the numbers. Minus emotion, void of desire…who the hell actually wants to do all of those repetitive assignments created by minds past. If you love math…that’s an emotion. It’s a desire. Desire drives the art process. As well as the ability to calculate. These things take a sharpness. An ability to figure it out. As an artist can look at a blank sheet and envision a vast multitude of ways to give the paper a life of it’s own…So can too a mathematician, who views a series of random numbers and attempts to make sense of them.

Language arts, while teaching the works of others,  goes on the inclination that this will teach you how to create your own. True…Language arts does teach the necessary tools of the trade. But your creation comes from emotion. To grab the entire spectrum of emotion, you need to find the emotions first. You need empathy.

You need a trigger.

Triggers can be visual, heard, tasted, touched and smelled. And some people seem to feel an entirely new sense. A 6th sense. And in order to utilize these crucial senses, you must have an ‘artistic vision’. You need to become skilled at exploring your own mind. Unbutton the top button, so to speak. Basically…broaden your horizons. Be OF the world, don’t sit on the sidelines.

One of my most…if not the most, important lessons I’ve tried to instill in my kids is to keep an open mind. Experience the issue at hand, prior to casting judgement. And in some instances, it may not be possible to experience an event. Some events we truly wish to avoid! But we can relate out of empathy. Empathy can be awoken with art. It can bring tears and and understanding, as in these works by Bansky. His attempt to cast a light on the darkness that war brings to children, was sadly and  completely accomplished.

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Bansky
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While some argue that the photos are too graphic for children, I would argue that closing their eyes to history creates a path to repetition. Social Studies classes of today, are watered down ‘incomplete sentences’.  How about throw in some Bansky? 

Throw in truth…

Allow the future generation to visualize the consequences of their future actions. Allow them to empathize. It’s like the child who asks “Is the stove hot?” You say “Yes. Don’t touch it.” And of course, just to see if you’re jerking their chain, they touch it <—Insert screaming child here. 

They need to personally experience the sensation. Verbal or physical…they need a trigger.

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Bansky

You know… if I were a government hell bent on creating a generation of  loyal, non-empathetic and  unquestioning followers….I’d remove the art….

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Over 40 Fashion Sense…eh…screw it

Fashion Sense?  Mine is…well….hmmmm…..

It’s not that I don’t care what I look like on a daily basis. It’s more or less lack of time. It’s just easier to clip my hair up and throw on whatever I bothered to throw in the wash. Did I mention I have children?!? And honestly, I love them all dearly…truly I do… but how do I find the time for anything, let alone dressing up?

If you’re over 40, you know the struggle. Everything takes longer. It’s not as simple as it used to be. And 90% of the time, I’m driving kids from point A to point B. I’d make a fortune as a taxi service, if I started charging my kids for services. Add my job to the mix and forget about it! Zero time.

I mean …I’m currently writing this at 11:18 PM just so I can be alone for 10 minutes! 

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Basically…it’s just too much work to bother.. My hair is thinner now …

I am 41.

Did I forget to mention that?

Essentially, I have to ‘fake it’ with my hair. This typically requires curling and teasing, then a lifting spray. My hairs rather long, so it can be hard to get a decent lift. I have cut it in the past, but I hated it! Mostly because I couldn’t just throw it in a bun anymore. Styling takes time. I believe we have established…I have none. And just this year, I started finding  WHITE HAIRS! No…really….ugh. I pulled them out, but it was no use. The bastards grew back. You can’t really see them, but I assure you…

they’re still fricken there!

And my face….well….what do I not have to complain about here???

  • dry skin
  • age spots
  • crows feet
  • those weird forehead wrinkles…crap I hate those things!!!!
  • yellow bumps from skin damage…on my EYEBALLS! It’s called Pinguecula
  • receding gums…it’s mild, but it’s there
  • dark circles…ugh…just shoot me
  • red blemishes just below my neck…again…too much sun

Basically…a boat load of spackle is required, and I flat out don’t feel like dealing with it. I don’t want to deal with primers and foundations (and I don’t really give a shit how light and fluffy it is advertised to be)… glosses, mascara, powders and shadows. I’m not trying to go all ‘Rembrandt’  first thing in the morning. It’s hard enough to find the time to drink my required two gallons of coffee  just to function!.

As far as clothing goes…ugh…here we go again….

  • I’m thin…but…I’m saggy, so not proportioned.
  • My butt has either morphed or melted into the back of my upper thighs. Belts are now required!!!
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  • Where in the name of  Zeus’s pie-hole… did my boobs go?!?! And why do they feel the need to hide in my armpits when I’m laying down?!?! WHY????
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  • Veins…seriously….do I really need to elaborate here?
  • Feet…ugh..ok…four kids in and flat as the earth is wide. “Forget about it” <—this must be said in a strong Italian accent. 
  • It’s not that I have a gut. It’s that I have no lift. Because if I push my boobs up to their proper location…my stomach is flat as a board. Some of you will totally get what I mean. (This also works with my butt…my thighs basically fade away if I yank my butt up to it’s proper place…not that I’m running around yanking on my butt or anything…maybe). 

I mean …

why bother???

And did I mention the popping sounds? Yes…crap just pops for any reason at all. Standing up? Pop. Sitting down? Pop. Walking? Pop. Bending over? Pop. Everything pops…every-fricken-thing. 

And I haven’t even hit menopause yet?!?!

WTF will that be like?!?!?!

  • hot flashes?
  • mood swings?
  • weird hair growth locations?
  • Dammit….is this a cocka-may-mee mood swing?!?!?

Whatever…you know…I intended for this to be a post about  Fashion Over 40. As in; hot spring clothing trends and hairstyles. 

But now I just want a cookie and a glass of wine. (Wait…wine just means I’ll have to pee again in two minutes. I think I’ll try to keep the peeing at my usual 5 minute intervals tonight).

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Between Legos and LOLs

“What’s a conundrum?” …..”ummmm, ask your sister“.

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So my youngest turned 10 this past December. He’s in that ‘inbetween’ world. The one where fantasy begins to slowly slip away into reality. Mind you, there’s still plenty of fantasy….but not quite as much. I’d say around a 10% decrease in the past year. Functioning at a good 90% and still roaming the maze in ‘the Labyrinth’, along with Sting (yes…I’m that old), my son still clings to his childhood. And somewhere between legos and trading lols with his bff, there’s a tiny glimpse into his future…lurking…..

For quite some time, I’ve been quite aware of his ‘all boy’ psyche. Caution to the wind, shoes unlaced, to heck with the proper safety gear, ‘Mom, you’re paranoid!’, ‘this is gonna be AWESOME!’, ‘Mom…has anyone ever died skydiving with an umbrella?’, barreling full speed ahead, who really needs bones anyway? and then some…..this one…this last child, everything in him screams ‘Life is meant to be lived, not viewed from the bench’. His curiosity is contagious, his creativity has no boundaries, his ability to empathize…an anchor on the darkest day, with energy that could fuel a freight train and a heart to match….there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not truly thankful, for this one last ‘surprise’. And he hasn’t stopped surprising me yet.

When he was very small, he’d spent a good 3 years, in and out of intensive care. The worst of these admissions was a night…I will never forget. Life Flight Children’s Bus, a glass room, the child in the next room passing from a car accident earlier in the evening, her mother screaming, my son with blue fingers, pulse ox of 82, making a horrible grunting sound with every breath…me telling the nurse ‘he must be in pain, he’s crying’…her saying ‘no ma’am…he’s gasping for air’…being told to say our goodbyes…my husband and I each wanting to be the one holding him…if….then sometime after midnight… “He’s gonna make it!”  And in the midst of hugging and crying….that blasted roller coaster finally slowed down enough to let us the hell off! And we knew…we KNEW, we had just dodged the biggest heartbreak anyone could possibly endure.  The years of steroids that followed we HAPPILY excepted as the norm. (It is true: What doesn’t kill you…will make you stronger) And life moved on.

He has a best friend now, with energy to match. Just the other morning, they had breakfast together…7 am…over facetime….I was smiling inside as I walked by my son at the kitchen table. His iPad propped up in front of his cereal bowl and his friend at his home…also sitting in front of his own cereal bowl. And they were discussing ….’cereal bowl designs’….yup. In this new world of technology…their future….your best pal is only a click away. And at a moments notice, yes, you too can discuss cereal bowls! As I sat there, half typing…half listening….I realized...I mean it REALLY hit me hard..…Someday, I will absolutely…without a doubt…MISS THIS! I already do! Everyday it seems to grow closer….

“See you mom…I’m taking the car”…

“See you mom, don’t worry, my apartment’s not that far”…

“See you mom, I’ll be home at Christmas”….

“See you mom, we’ll call you when we get back from our honeymoon”….

“See you mom, we’ll bring the baby by sometime next week”….

“See you mom, I have to drive the boys to practice”

…..And the cycle repeats.

My brain gets stuck on overdrive and the years are fleeting away in seconds. Then there’s that brief pause..an intermission, when I snap back to reality….and it generally goes like this:

“NO! You may NOT put POP ROCKS in the LITTER BOX just because you saw it on Facebook!” .