grinninfoole: (Default)
Today it's been six months since my brother died. His cat has warmed up to me considerably, and is now flopped against me, purring. I have accomplished some important stuff in that time, mostly taking care of MU's estate. I have been coming back to Andover to stay with mom for a couple of days almost every week. This has started taking a toll on me. MU was the one who was good at taking care of routine business in an orderly manner. I was the one who handled the crises. Now that he's gone, and been gone awhile, things aren't in a crisis anymore. There's just the soggy, grey slog of normal life, with wealth and privilege smoothing over the worst problems that come with old age, Parkinson's, nerve damage, and a resultant confinement to a wheelchair. Or, if you're me, having a mother in that position, and wanting desperately to help her stay happy, active, and connected with friends. Since most of her friends have either died or moved away, this isn't easy.

I haven't handled this well. Mom has a script in her head, from long before I ever existed, that tells her that no one really values her, and she's reacting in ways that are really codependent. Or maybe it's better to say ways that make me codependent. Anyway, the more time I spend in Andover, the more I'm staying up all night and sleeping all day, like I did when I was a kid, and the less time I spend actually doing stuff I care about, and the worse my depression gets. I don't want to cut mom loose, but I can't keep this up. I want to spend my energy changing my home, getting fitter, dressing better, writing more, gaming with friends, starting another radio show, and maybe even going on a few dates. Plus, my cat now has hyper-thyroidism, so I need to make sure she's OK.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
OK, I found a work around for the glitch in the LJ app on my iPad, so I can write this post and see it at the same time. Much better.

I'm in Andover, visiting with my mother and brother as has become my wont. My brother has another chemo appointment tomorrow, and I'll be accompanying him. Assuming that he find this as tolerable as the last one, it will be the start of an ongoing series of treatments.

I have spent about three months of this year back here, lending what support I can. Besides cutting into my income, it's changed the situation at the store significantly. Back in May, when my brother was first diagnosed, I was here for most of the month to rally round the flag, and then my father died, so I wound up not working that entire month. While I was away, it became clear that the fellow managing the store was derelict in his duties and, worse, lying to the board about it. So, the first day I came back, he was fired and Lefty took over again as store manager (he's been coming up every week from New York), and we began this intense process of damage control to get the delinquent bills paid. It was a difficult couple of months, but we got things back on track, and we started grooming me to take over as store manager.

And then we found out that the doctors at MGH had been really wrong about Dave's condition. September was tumultuous, and we tried to find a way to tag-team running the store with each of us doing it part-time, but it just didn't work. So, while I'm still working at the store, I have stepped down as a manager, gone back to working hourly, and taking a pay cut. We have put out a call for applicants to manage the Northampton store, and I'll help train them up to the job, when I'm not out here.

I hope that my brother and I might take some fun trips together soon. I'm particularly thinking of Hawaii and then New Zealand, but sojourns to New York or Chicago also sound good.

I have been thinking about what to do with myself, given that I have more time on my hands, and what sort of goals I should pursue since throwing myself into work isn't really an option just now. It's lead me to wonder what it is that dedicated creative types have that I don't. One answer that has occurred is a social infrastructure that promotes writing, drawing, etc. and I think I might have stumbled into one just now around my new radio show.

Yes, I have a radio show, Civil Politics, on Valley Free Radio (WXOJ-LP, 103.3 FM for those of you in western MA) every Friday at 7 PM. I'm the host, and George Claxton and Susan Timberlake are the commenters, and we talk about political issues. We're less concerned with the tribal squabbles of our two parties, and more with what politics is about: competing interests, social problems, moral values, and finding ways to get along with each other. We must have 3 or 4 listeners already! (The show is available for streaming, and we're recording them as podcasts, which are online at civilpolitics.wordpress.com) I quite like doing the show, and I think it's an important set of discussions to have, one that more widely known media don't actually do. I have yet to listen to any of them again, but I will do, because I want to get better at it.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
In the beginning of May of this year, my brother was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in his stomach.  Scans showed a tumor near his small intestine, small enough that it still be in early in its development.  I spent almost all of that month at home in Andover with him and my mom, taking him to the hospital, setting up radiation and chemo therapy, and trying to offer moral support. I was just about to go back to work when my father died, and we had the memorial service for him, and all that.

MU finished the radiation and chemo in July, and had a follow up scan in August.  The results were, according his oncologists at Mass General, the best possible.  Plans were made for surgery on 9/9 to cut out part of his stomach, where the tumor had been, to prevent it returning and spreading.  Once the operation began, however, the doctors observed little spots of cancer spread across his stomach and into his intestines.  It was too late to perform the surgery, or to hope for a cure.

My whole family is stunned by this, and I can only imagine how terrible this must be for MU, given his tendency to assume the worst and worry about what can go wrong.  Imagine going to sleep before an operation to cure you, only to wake up and be told you're going to die?

We got a second opinion at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and we're going to have them take over MU's treatment.  He likes their facility and atmosphere better.  In a couple of weeks, he will start more chemo therapy, which we hope will hold things at bay for a while.  How long, we don't know.  If I understand that statistics correctly, the five year survival rate is 10 to 20 percent, which is pretty bad, but hardly a fait accompli.

I'm going to switch from salary to hourly at work, so I can take off whenever I need to, and they have promised to do everything they can to give us all the time and support we need.  I can't properly express how grateful I am for this, not just for my family, but for me.

I have never experienced anything like this before.  When Mom had cancer ten years ago, it was clear that they were both new and hadn't spread.  The operations to deal with them went smoothly, and she needed little follow up treatment.  I didn't truly appreciate then how ridiculously rare and lucky that was.  Now I do, because I just want to curl up and hide from this.  I'm going to be away for much of the next week, and I plan to do useful stuff at the old family home, and I really don't want to go to work.  It feels like such a burden to be there and deal with the challenges we face right now.  (It's a whole separate post, but basically Lefty and I put our faith in the wrong guy to head up the Northampton store when Lefty went to New York.  It's emotionally very draining, and by far the biggest mistake of my life, as well as the worst misjudgement of character I have ever made.)  It feels like a weight pressing on my chest.

I'll try and post about some of the other noteworthy stuff, like my fun vacation to DragonCon, my failed attempts at romance, and maybe even gaming or something.
grinninfoole: (Default)
I left myself a note the other day to post about my monthly accomplishments. Now that I'm trying to do it, I'm staring blankly at this screen, wondering what the hell I could possibly have had in mind. Still, never let it be said I won't blindly follow the orders of a small-minded tyrant....

1) Negotiated a 10% raise at my job, and chose a career path.
I guess that's pretty big. I'm still making 20% less than the average for Sales & Related employees in my area. But, as I mentioned in another post, I like what I'm doing, who I'm working with, and why I'm doing it. And I think it's enough for my needs.

2) I got Howard Cruse to come to the store last week for book club, and it was fantastic. (Read more on the store's Facebook page, if you like.)

3) I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and went to the Burlesque show a couple of weeks ago. It was fun, and I got to socialize a bit with new people, which I'm not doing all that much. I wonder if I should try joining another game, or perhaps starting one?


Eh, this doesn't seem all that amazing to me. Still, I did do these things, and I'm proud of them, so what the hell.

OH, and these aren't MY accomplishments, but they're still pretty cool:

Time lapse photos of star formation.

Some clever buggers at UC Riverside have figured out how to convert acids into bases. Assuming that isn't a mistake, that strikes me as the kind of fundamental discovery that wins Nobel prizes. (But I'm not a chemist, and maybe it will just be a parlor trick.


EDIT TO ADD:
A fish that lives on land! (With gills and everything.)

A diamond planet! (Please, Doctor, can we go?)
grinninfoole: (Default)
Or, in my case, not so much.

Hurricane Irene, which did enormous damage in the Caribbean, was barely a tropical storm by the time it got to my house.  Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, even nearby towns in Massachusetts, have all had dangerous floods.  Fortunately for me personally, my house is near the top of a hill with excellent drainage, so I'm basically OK.  M and I got some groceries and extra batteries, and spent a few hours making food that we could have if we lost power for a while. 

And we did lose power at about 9 AM. 

It was back on before 10 AM, and we haven't had any problems since.  For us, it was just a cloudy, blustery, rainy summer's day.  It cleared up after  4 PM, and we went for a walk.


Some more general stuff about me and my life:

1) I hemmed and hawed from March to July about my job. On the one hand, I have a job that's reasonably fun, at which I'm reasonably good (and experienced) and which has several attractive perks (wholesale cost graphic novels and games, running D&D games professionally, serious nerd cred, lots of time around things I love), but which pays poorly.  On the other, I love teaching, almost any teaching job would pay at least 40% more (and could easily reach 100%), and teaching has a social cachet that retail store clerk does not.  However, searching for a teaching job requires the same mental and emotional resources as research did in grad school, and that's hard for me.  Plus, this is a bad job market.

After careful reflection, I decided to ask for a raise at Modern Myths, and to stay if i got it.  After some awkward negotiations (salary negotiations require a somewhat different approach from home purchasing negotiations), I got a raise that met my minimum requirements.  After a month of the new regime, I am pleased with my choice.  I have found MG a pleasure to work with/for, I'm getting more free weekends (and more latitude in my hours in other ways), I'm finding the new mix of responsibility and autonomy energizing, and the opportunities for personal and professional growth open at the store right now (as JC starts up a store in New York) must be seized now or not at all.  Everything that's appealing about teaching will still be there in, say, two years (assuming society doesn't implode).

2) Millari and I continue to share the house we bought together.  We continue to be best of friends, and good housemates.  She was away for about a month this summer, visiting her girl in Germany, and I found living alone to be difficult at times (especially when I got sick), but also to have its attractions.  The biggest surprise for me has been that I would often prefer to go home and watch TV alone, rather than go out and see people.  I don't know if that's a genuine personality trait (given my father & brother's dispositions, it might be), or if that was an effect of depression.

Anyway, now that M is home, we have begun to discuss the painful subject of furthering our separation.  I know that it's something that I need to do, but right now it's difficult.  I'm not dating anyone yet, so I have a very comfortable home life with a beloved family member on the plus side, and no real drawbacks.  It's different for M, because she's got a girl (who is actually pretty cool), so she's got an emotional stone in her shoe to prompt her to make changes.

I have, for now at least, made a firm professional commitment, which has in turn reinforced my sense of identity.  I am loathe to undo the other mainstay of my sense of self (and, really, the best decision I think I have made heretofore in my life), but I know from experience that if I don't keep moving on this, I'll regret it later.  I just hope that I don't have to let things turn into an ugly confrontation in order to proceed, as I have seen that happen to others.  (in particular to Fran, a woman I have known since college, who used to have a lovely relationship with the woman she married, but which has curdled, to say the least.)  I would find it deeply painful if my friends found it necessary to pick sides.

3) My parents continue in declining health.  I visited on Friday and Saturday, and in addition to helping my brother make (as it turned out, unnecessary) preparations for the storm, I gave my dad a short test I found in a book M gave me about living with and caring for people with Alzheimer's.  The idea of the test is that, if the person does well, they most likely don't have it, and if they do poorly, they might.  Dad did poorly on one element (naming as many animals as he could in a minute--he got 10), but had no trouble remembering the month, day, date, year, who is and who was president; telling time on a clock face; and little trouble remembering four images of common objects that I showed him (which is fine, since he is 82).  So, it's possible he doesn't have Alzheimer's, which is great.  Except that I have no idea what the hell is wrong, or what to do about it, if he doesn't.  My loins, I must gird them.

Phew!

Aug. 3rd, 2009 10:35 am
grinninfoole: (Default)

This past weekend was connecticon. Several thousand fans of anime, manga, and other geekery got together for a socially awkward good time. There were hundreds of cosplayers (lots of pretty girls in very skimpy clothing of course, but also lots of guys too, and people in full furry gear and Jedi and lots more. Highlights were Hunter S Thompson, Jurassic Park rangers, and Sokka & Katara disguised as fire nation parents.).

The show is very demanding, but this year it went more smoothly than ever and I think we did well. It was still exhausting, though. I basically did nothing except work for the past two weeks. The one exception was I made time last Wednesday to run my Midnight game. Even though I have jobs to hunt and a birthday to plan, I couldn't help myself. I had to get in some gaming. :)

I am sad now though because my sweetie is away all this week. I must use the time wisely, and not mope.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

grinninfoole: (Default)
It has been quite a while since I last posted. There's a lot on my mind, so I shall just throw stuff at the screen and see what sticks.

1) I'm annoyed with FA because I have been surcharged for an auto accident she was in in February. Now I am facing a significant increase in my insurance premium because of it. I'm very upset, not least because, even though we aren't friends anymore, she may have actively lied and said I was driving when I wasn't even in the car. I hope that this is not true, and that this is simply a mistake by the insurance company and/or the Merit Rating Board. I would like to think better of her.

EDIT: Happily,it is simply a bureaucratic mistake. As I wrote, we aren't friends anymore, but I'm pleased to validate FA's honorable behavior.

2) I have done little on my school work the past couple of weeks. I have had the time, but not the motivation. I find it difficult because, even though this is a project for which I pick the topic in a program in which I chose to be, it still feels somehow imposed upon me. I am not 'owning' this work, so I resist focusing my energies upon it. Which is rather distant prose, I notice. Basically, I don't feel like I'm doing this for me or for MY reasons, but for somene else's. It reminds me of my childhood experiences of grown-ups telling me that I wasn't living up to my potential, which always seemed to mean that I wasn't doing what they wanted me to do as well as they wanted me to do it. These feelings don't fit the facts of my current, adult sitaution, however. I chose to go back for the MA, and the point of the project on which I am stuck is to define for myself what I would like to do and start to do that, in my own way. It is as free of the imposed expectations of others as any situation I shall ever find in my adult life, short of sitting around doing nothing all day (which, as it happens, is how I have been wasting all too much of my time, recently).

3) I really appreciate Sydneycat. Not only is she helping me with some of my comps prep burden, she is also one of the few friends who has paid back money borrowed from me. (Also deserving praise in this respect are Millari and JR.)

4) Last Sunday we had the first session of what I hope shall be a long and fruitful new D&D game set on the Cloth. Lefty and Millari were the only ones who could actually make it, but we all had a good time (though having Lefty xp whore at me after stonewalling me so much in his game seemed irritatingly unfair.) Next time, a fuller PC roster and a bit of a mystery.

5) My brother turns 40 this weekend. It hurts me that he seems so unhappy in his life, though when I spoke with him on my last visit, I asked him if he was living the life he wanted to live, and he said 'pretty much'. I hope so. M suggested that what he really wanted for his birthday was more time with me, so I shall take her suggestion and offer him a vacation together. We last took one about 5 years ago in Montreal, which was pretty fun.

6) My mom seems to have finally physically recovered from her cancer surgeries, and the doctors have found no signs of metastasis or recurrence. She's still so tired all the time, and my dad's inability to deal with his own emotions seems to be exhausting. I wish I could do more to help.

7) Currently, far too much of my life is funded by my parents. This will change soon, and I am wondering what I will cut out. Clearly, a lot comics will have to go, but beyond that, I may well drop one or both of the therapies I do, because while I get a lot out of both, I don't want to do anything which I don't pay for myself. This will mean earning more money, of course, but I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.

8) Millari really is wonderful.

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