Author Archives: admin

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May You Live in Interesting Times

I love that the title of this post is a curse, not a blessing. Because trust me, it is so true. Not that I am happy when my life is boring, but it is a little less overwhelming. :-)

Lately I have been flitting between a state of frenetic energy and complete and utter exhaustion. I kind of groove on the frenetic energy part of the show. I love having mojo and being able to have a feeling of accomplishment when I fall into bed exhausted at the end of a busy day. What I hate are the days of exhaustion that follow. I know it would be better to pace myself. I just don’t do moderation well. I never have.

Life always feels more overwhelming to me when I am tired. My coping points go in the red and I have an overwhelming desire to crawl under my bed and hide. But I can’t. Mostly because my freaky-deaky, neurotic cat Nom Nom usually beats me under there. Actually, that is not the only thing I can blame Nom Nom for. He is also stressing me out with his complete and utter fear of all humans.

David and I are very fussy about taking care of our feline beasties. We always take our cats to the vet for their annual checkups and when there is a sign of illness or injury. We have seen 3 cats through lymphoma, including dispensing medication through subcutaneous injections, multiple pills and feeding 3 cats 3 different diets simultaneously. I would say that we are skilled at taking care of neurotic cats who have negative associations with humans in general, and us in particular.  But Nom Nom has taught us about a new level of feline neurosis. I mean, this is a cat who still runs in terror when we open the shades in the morning. After 4 years. And in all of that time, we have never tried to capture or pet or interact with any way when we open our living room shades. Which we do daily.

We have been very patient with Nom Nom for the past 4 years. Even after all this time, we only pet Nom Nom on his own terms (by which I mean, only when he approaches us and by moving extremely slowly). We have done everything we can to prove to Nom Nom that we have no intention of eating him (which is how he got his name in the first place) or doing anything to hurt him.

But recently we discovered that he was leaving a blood trail throughout the house because he had a mysteriously swollen back paw. So, we used up all of our earned trust by capturing him not once, but twice to take him to the vet. The first vet shrugged her shoulders and tried to put a cone of shame on him. We vetoed that move very strongly. When he was still bleeding a few days later we took him to our regular vet. She thinks he has pillow foot, which is best treated with a daily dose of oral medication. We kind of laughed at her, but we decided to try doing it anyway.

Despite getting the meds chicken flavored and mixing it with chicken baby food, Nom Nom has staunchly refused to take his medication. His two siblings have both offered, numerous times, to take his medicine for him. They think both the medication alone and mixed with baby food smell mouth-wateringly delicious. But not Nom Nom. Even when I put the food in his dafe, happy place and left him along for a while. I returned to find him huddled in the corner and the food (both with and without medication mixed in) completely untouched.

David keeps trying to reassure me that we have done everything we can. I don’t really believe him. I keep thinking that if we only spent enough time thinking of a creative solution, we would find a way to medicate Nom Nom. So now I spend my spare time thinking of ways to torture my neurotic cat. No wonder I am exhausted.

We will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.

Barring anything catastrophic (p’tui, p’tui), I have achieved my goal of traveling absolutely nowhere during the month of March. That makes this the longest consecutive period I have been home since mid-December 2013. As much as it has been nice to be home, it will only last until mid-April when I travel back east for Passover. I can hear my father in the back of my head commenting on the use of the term “back east.” Figures I wouldn’t get away with letting that one slide.

I also think my cat is now channeling my father. When I was a kid, my father used to wake me up for school by ripping the blankets off of me. If that didn’t work, he would start clapping. Let me assure you that there are few things more annoying than being woken up by clapping. It is making me cringe just writing about it.

In the 4 years we have had our cat, Dancer, I can count the number of times he has come up on the bed on one hand. But this week something changed. Now, if I am not up by 7:15, Dancer jumps on the bed and starts nudging the blankets off me with his head. I am fairly confident that if he could figure out how, he would also start clapping to get me up. And all of this effort is just so I will sit on the couch and give him a lap to sleep on.

Being the ridiculous cat person I am, I am taking Dancer’s new behavior as a sign of love and affection. That maybe he really did miss me when I was gone for so long. David then reminds me that Dancer is just doing it so he can get his human to do his bidding. I agree with David’s assessment of the situation but the fact remains I have been Dancer’s human for years now and this is a new behavior.

There may come a time when I want to sleep in and the behavior that I now find endearing will become obnoxious. But that time is not now and I am going to enjoy it while I can.

We The People

In Which Eva Rants About the State of Civics Education

Last night I went to a focus group that seemed to have something to do with politics. First we had to complete a survey of our impressions of various candidates, both real and hypothetical. Then we were shown a series of images, ranging a benign image of the capitol building in Salem to emotionally charged images of pro and anti choice protests, same sex marriage and the NSA.

The group was comprised entirely of Portlanders, so unsurprisingly, we all leaned to the left politically and the potentially most divisive images raised very little comment.  That was all well and good, even if it did surprise our British facilitator.

The kind of comments that raised my hackles were things like “People make decisions without enough information. After all, I’m not very political” and my favorite, “the government should have to make the budget open to the public the way corporations do.” After being told that a particular issue on the table was the responsibility of a federal agency and we were talking about state and local government, one person responded, “State, local, federal, they’re all the same.” Arrrggghhhh!

There were two babblers in the group who were content to ramble on regardless of whether there was a question on the table or if someone else was speaking. That made it hard for me to tell whether any one else shared my horror or not.

It has been years since I did any work in civics education. And, I must admit that the last mayoral election left me very burnt out on local politics (I still think Eileen Brady and Steve Novick would have made a dream team). But, last night’s discussion riled me up in a way that made me want to shift gears completely and devote my life to restoring civics education in the public schools.

Sadly, when I woke up this morning the fire in my belly had cooled. I still think civics education is critical to an effective democracy (and yes, I know we are technically a republic, nevertheless). And I think ignorance is largely to blame for the mess that is the US political system. It is why my focus has always been local politics. It is much easier to make a difference at the local level.

I look forward to the day when I have overcome my burn-out and I am ready to wade back into the sphere of public policy. I hope it comes soon because clearly there is a lot of work to be done.

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3 Weeks of Unintentional Practice

As part of my personal observance of sheloshim (the 30 days after my father’s burial) I have chosen not to listen to music or watch TV (that includes Hulu) or movies. While I am permitting myself to listen to NPR during this period, so far I have chosen not to.

These past three weeks my world has been much quieter than usual and that has created space for me to notice other things. I’m finding that my mind skips around a lot when I limit the external stimuli. Earworms come and go. Long forgotten memories of my father have been rising to the surface. I am also finding myself thinking a lot about my high school best friend Rachel, who we all lost to cancer over a year ago.  The combination is bringing me back to my teenage years and the intensity of that period in my life.

There are also moments where my mind just feels still. This is very unusual for me and I really enjoy them. They are like little pauses in my day, a time when I get to just check out of the world around me.

When I walk around our neighborhood, I usually listen to music, news or a podcast. Until now, I had not realized how much my focus turns inwards when I am listening to something while I walk. Walking in “silence” feels a little like Dorothy walking out of her black and white house into all of the colors of Munchkinland. I am much more aware of the details of people, animals, cars and houses around me. I normally keep tabs on the cars around me for safety reasons. But now I seem to be noticing the make and color of the cars going by me (which is totally out of character for those who don’t know me well).

I have also been driving in silence. That is a completely new experience for me. Normally I have something, anything playing while I drive. And to make matters even harder, we have a free trial of Sirius XM radio that expires before the end of sheloshim. And I love, love, love the First Wave channel on Sirius XM. Maybe it is because I know it is only for a set period, but I am even enjoying driving in silence.

In fact, I am finding the quiet somewhat addicting, but I don’t want to get too used to it because it feels like it might be a hard habit to break. And it is a habit that also has a great deal of impact on David. He has been great about not turning on the TV, but I suspect he will be more than ready to comes the end of sheloshim.

 

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Coming Back to Life

I have been working full time this week as I slowly try to get through my backlog. While based on the feedback I have been getting, the work I have been doing has been good, it has been taking a huge amount out of me. Even with a daily 1 1/2-2 hour nap, I have been ready to go to sleep at 8pm. This morning I woke up and felt kind of like myself again. My brain felt like a fog had lifted and I suddenly remembered how to think.

I attribute this amazing turn-around to my dear friend Aja and the shiatsu massage she gave me yesterday. Aja is a Five Element Acupuncturist who specializes in grief and loss (among many, many other things). Aja has been my acupuncturist for years and I have always said she has a magic touch. But this is a new high for her. I could never in my wildest dreams imagine that I could go from feeling the way yesterday to the way I feel today.

Between my near constant travel from mid-December through last week, my father’s relatively rapid deterioration and passing I had pretty much shut down both emotionally and physically. I could do the basics and nothing more. That was true for grieving as well. I felt like I just didn’t have the capacity to process what had happened.

I couldn’t get past the image of my father struggling to breathe during his last couple of days. But that wasn’t my father as I knew him. That was my father’s shell putting everything he had into simply drawing breath.  Aja’s gift to me was reopening my mind to the father that I knew and loved until the end. My father as he has always been to me: beard, glasses and all*.

*Although my father shaved his beard during my adolescence and switched to contact lenses when I was in college, when I picture him in my mind he always has his beard and glasses.

 

We Want the Fun(k). Give up the Fun(k).

Don’t ask me why I have George Clinton running through my head, because I couldn’t tell you.  Just like I can’t explain the other random tunes and lyrics that have been going through my head for the past couple of weeks. Perhaps they have been my subconscious trying to clue me in. At least, that is how I am choosing to think of this little earworm.

To date, 2014 has been an odd year. It started with an extended stay in Hawaii, was shortly followed by a work cruise (and no that is not an oxymoron), then a few days after my return I went to the east coast to spend may father’s last few days with him him followed by his funeral and shiva. All in all, I have spent less than 2 weeks at home in the past 2 months.

Looking backwards at 2013, it seems like I spent much of it in suspended animation. My father’s health was precarious enough that I spent a fair amount of time waiting for the inevitable call that my father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Whether consciously or not, I put a part of myself on hold. And I am now realizing that the part I put on hold was my creative side.

The one knitting project I completed was kind of a disaster because I didn’t have the focus to notice the glaring error that turned a lace scarf into a Barbie runway. Although I spent much of the year wanting to weave, I never did get around to doing the necessary work to warp my loom. Nor did I ever pull out my lap loom which is a cinch to warp.

I also stopped reading. I took interesting sounding books out of the library, but they sat, unread, on my bookshelf. I still keep renewing them, but the pile keeps shrinking as other people put holds on them and I am forced to return them.

My father often complained of boredom at the end of his life. He was never much of a tv watcher and his dementia made it hard for him to retain the plotlines of movies or books. He and I had way too many conversations where he tried to live vicariously through me and all I could tell him about my life is that it was as boring as his. My intention for the coming year is to do things I enjoy to honor his memory.

I still occasionally find myself tensing up in anticipation of that dreaded call, until I remember that that time has come and gone. Now it is time to bring the fun back into my life. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday soon. I am reading again. True, I am reading books that I have already read, but it is a start. I don’t feel up to pulling out my knitting today, but who knows, I might tomorrow. And if it takes me a year to finish a simple project, so be it.

 

Getting Back on the Horse

Yesterday I was complaining that there is no users manual for grief. We used to default to the 5 stages of grief, but that proved to be based on people’ responses to facing their own death, not coping with the death of others.  I’m not saying that there aren’t commonalities between the two responses, just that the 5 stages are not the norm we thought they were for a long time. For more on the topic, read here.

Right now, I feel like I am going through adolescence again. My moods are volatile. One minute I hate the world and the next I am literally in tears because of how great my friends are.  I started re-reading Harry Potter at my brother’s house for both distraction and comfort. Right now I am up to The Order of the Phoenix which is the book where Harry is dealing with the worst puberty has to offer. The first few times I read the book, I remember feeling like Harry needed to just get over himself. This time around, I am feeling much more empathetic towards him and his moods.

In my more rational moments, I am ready to get back to work. It has been several weeks since I did any real work and I am missing it. The beauty of loving what I do is that I am eager to get back to it. I took my first steps back into the working world when I met with a client yesterday. It was an easy gig, but it still went better than I had anticipated. I was able to slip back into my old self and feel like a professional again.

Today I am planning on getting myself down to inbox zero. Because I wasn’t doing any triage through shiva, I have hundreds of emails to go through. I suspect I will probably only need to respond to a quarter of what is there, so I should be able to get through it in a single day. And if not, I will just do what I can.

Several people have advised me that over the next few weeks I may have to fake it until I make it. Rationally, I know that I will have days where I won’t feel like getting out of bed or get easily overwhelmed by simple tasks. I also know that when that happens, it is unlikely that I will be feeling particularly rational. Nevertheless, I will have to find a way to find a balance between giving myself permission to grieve and moving forward with my life.

Emerging from the Bubble

This is another post that I am struggling to write. This is the first time I have been on my computer since mid-February and it feels like it has been ages. As you know, my father’s health has been an issue for years, a couple of weeks ago it took a precipitous turn for the worse.

After a brief stint in the ICU and 30 hours in a hospice care facility, my father left this world on February 13th, 2014. My brother and I were there until about half an hour before he passed. My mother was with him through the end.

As difficult as this process has been/is/will continue to be, there were some blessings. First and foremost, my father was always adamant that he never wanted his dementia to get to the point where he no longer knew who we were. That never happened. Although my father could no longer speak the last few days of his life, he was conscious and listening to everything going on around him. He knew that we were there and that we all loved him.

I have spent the last week at my brother’s house with my mother and uncle sitting shiva for my father. Shiva is designed to create a bubble of community support for the most acute stage of grief.

It was very heartening to see just how strong my brother’s community is and we are all very much appreciative of all of the emotional and practical support (as in food, lots and lots of food) they offered. I am also very grateful for the comforting words from my friends.  I had no idea how important they would be to me.

This morning we ended shiva with a walk around the block to symbolize our re-emergence into the world.  But, as I am learning, the re-emergence is gradual. Nobody turned off the grief switch. I still feel like my brain is functioning at half speed. The other half seems to be occupied with processing that my father is gone.

As I am sure you have surmised, I was a bit of a daddy’s girl (actually, we called him Abba, which means father in Hebrew). Although I am a fairly functional adult with all of the associated trappings (business, mortgage, etc.) I am not quite sure how to be in this world without my father around. Obviously, losing him was an inevitability, but one I was not prepared for. But, I now have no choice but to learn how to live without him over the next days, weeks, months and years. I know it will be hard, just as I know I will be ok.

A quick update

Thank you to all of you who have sent me good wishes. Although I did not acknowledge them all individually, I do appreciate them.

I am working on a longer blog post on the subject, but the punchline is that my father is going into hospice care. We are just taking it a day at a time and trying to juggle visiting him with the responsibilities of real life. But to be completely frank, right now I care much more about seeing him while I can than pretty much anything else.

Please bear with me and any balls I may drop during this extremely challenging period.

Focus, Focus, Where’s the Focus

No real news updates on my father’s condition. Suffice it to say the prognosis isn’t great. Its kind of a rock and hard place situation. None of the options are particularly appealing. But no matter what, this is the situation we are faced with, so we will collectively just find a way to deal.

I fly out tomorrow at the crack of dawn, which does mean I arrive in New York at a reasonable time. My brother is picking me up at the airport, but we still don’t know if we will be heading right to the hospital or going back to his house where my niecelettes will be eagerly waiting.

The girls are super excited that I am coming out much sooner than anticipated. They have an important school assembly on Friday and it is a huge deal to them that I will be able to be there. They have even told me what clothes I should wear, which is something I appreciate. I am a little intimidated by the need to pack for some unknown period of time. I may even break my own rule and check a bag this time so I can maximize my options. Plus, everything I need to bring is fairly bulky. Even though I am planning on going the layering route, I have gotten spoiled by packing for tropical weather for my past 2 trips.

I was sort of hoping that my focus would return today because I have a lot to get done before I leave the house at 5am tomorrow morning. So far, no dice. I have several emails in process and I have 2 meetings scheduled for today. I thought about canceling them like I did with yesterday’s meetings, but I am hoping they will just force me to pull my head together, even if it is only for a little while.

It is still early, but the highlight of the day has been a 20+ minute conversation with my niecelettes. My brother has taken to calling them The Distractions, because they have proven to be the best distraction there is. At a time when neither my brother not I are able to focus much on anything, it is good to have something (or in this case someones) who can take our minds off of what is going on.