Things I Miss About Summer When It’s Not Summer; Also, Things I Hate About Summer When It IS Summer

I’m so sick of writing about work, I don’t even want a post about work at the top of the blog right now. Let’s talk about something else. ANYTHING else. And ideally something where it’s not just me talking, and the only thing for anyone else to say is Something Supportive, do you know what I mean? Like when someone is on new diet or fitness program or has a new baby (OR HAS A NEW JOB) and they blog ONLY ABOUT THAT, and how many times can you write something supportive about it without feeling like you could just cut-and-paste your comment? You guys have been so kind as I obsess and adjust and agitate, and I can’t say I’m going to stop doing it, but at least I can write about ANYTHING ELSE once in awhile.

A list I keep meaning to make is “Things I Miss About Summer/Winter When It Is Winter/Summer.” So that I can use it in the OPPOSITE season: that is, so that in summer, when I am missing things about winter, I can look at the list I made in the wintertime and remember what’s good about summer.

I know ONE thing I miss about summer when it’s winter is the ability to just walk out the door without boots, jackets, etc. I also miss the feel of air conditioning, which is totally different than winter-chilliness and which I love. I know some people hate the feeling of air conditioning, but I find it delightful. So cool and dry, like the exact opposite of hot and sweaty! I also like having the windows open, especially when it’s hot in the daytime and surprisingly chilly at night. I like the feeling of all that FREE air-conditioning coming into the house and starting us nice and low at the beginning of the day, so that we’re even a little shivery. And I miss eating ice cream: I realize it CAN be eaten in winter, but what happens all winter is that I think I don’t really LIKE ice cream anymore. Then it’s summer again and I realize I DO like it.

But right now I’m mostly noticing the pissy things about summer. Like, we have a LOT of motorcycles that ROAR past our house: we happen to live right at a good roaring place. I can try to empathize about how nice it must feel to…—but that’s as far as I get before I end the sentence with uncharitable things such as “…deafen/annoy the whole neighborhood just because you think it sounds rad.”

And the bugs. THE BUGS. They are nuts. Why bugs. Why.

And I hate sweating and being hot. Haaaaaaaaaaate it.

And I hate sandals, and I hate dusty feet, but I also hate how it looks when I wear sneakers with short pants / long shorts / I don’t know what to call this length but it’s below the knee and above the ankle. I hate having to shave my legs so much. I don’t like skimpy clothes.

The expense of the air-conditioning. That deserves a mention.

Having the kids home is not as oppressive as it used to be, AT ALL. And there are upsides to having them home, like not having to deal with homework and catching the bus and other school stuff. But. I’m still putting them on the list, Grinchily, with that wrinkled-face headachey look about the noise noise noise noise NOISE. And they want ice cream, too, so everything is always sticky.

Going to the grocery store when it’s hot. Dragging everything to and then from the car when it’s so hot out, and everything is melting.

Taking the kids to swimming lessons and BAKING outside while they splash and shiver and then they don’t want the air conditioner on in the car and I’m DYING OF HEAT.

“What Do You Do?”

Something good happened, something I wanted to tell you, and now I can’t remember what it was. Honestly, my mind is like a butterf—OH! I remembered! It was that someone asked me what I did, and I had an answer other than “I’m home with the kids.” That question, with its “home with the kids” answer, was one of my many reasons for GETTING this job. Whatever I personally think of the job of stay-at-home motherhood, it’s an instant conversation killer.

Saying “I do in-home elder care” is AWESOME. Everyone wants to talk about it. EVERYONE! They want to know what sorts of things I do, and they often have a reason for asking, such as aging parents/grandparents. People ask if insurance covers it, if we do hospice care, if I, like, have to, you know…change diapers.

And it seems to give a very positive impression—like if I said I was a teacher, or a nurse: it strikes people as A Good Thing To Do.

And it’s something that even if people don’t know precisely what I do, they get the GIST of it right away, so can immediately make comments and ask questions. It isn’t like “I’m an accounts receivable clerk” or “I’m an HR analyst,” where people aren’t even sure enough to ask a starter question or make a starter remark. It’s the sort of job people are aware of, and may have wondered about.

It has been so pleasing to be asked, and to have a good answer, that it seriously enters into my decision-making process about whether to keep the job.

More Job Agitation

I am having a day where I don’t think I can keep the job. I woke up at 3:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep, lying there hating everything about my job one detail at a time. The physical care (I CAN do showers and wiping, but I dread it), the housework and cooking (I don’t like those activities even in my own house doing them my own way), the constant shift-filling emergencies and the implication that we’re all expected to “do our share” of extra work, the heat, the dealing with so many new unknown situations that take so long to get familiar, the confusing out-of-date paperwork (so that I go in expecting a client who is new to us and still has trouble accepting care, and I find someone we’ve been helping for three years—with two large barking dogs who weren’t mentioned).

But then I think about how when I wasn’t working, I was seriously starting to go crazy. I don’t want to go back to that either.

So then I think, well, I’ll have a job, but a DIFFERENT job! But this was the only job I thought of that seemed worth the sacrifices and inconveniences. I didn’t think of ANY OTHER good possibility, not in literally YEARS of thinking about it and talking about it.

I feel stuck. But I also felt stuck before. But before, at least I didn’t feel so agitated. And I didn’t have so much trouble figuring out how to manage the schedule.

And when I LEAVE a shift, I often feel pretty GOOD. That is, the anticipation is the worst part. Once I’m there, working, I sometimes feel agitation/horror, but something I think it’s going fine. I have two clients I’ve been to repeatedly by now, and when I’m working in their houses I usually feel pretty okay, and sometimes even feel relaxed and competent with only periodic feelings of agitation/horror. One of the two clients is exactly what I had in mind when I took the job: very little physical care, quite a bit of reading aloud, helping to write letters, finding things that are lost. But even that one makes me upset. Sometimes I can’t understand what she’s saying: her medications make her a little confused sometimes, and she’ll call a dustpan a hairbrush and be upset that I can’t find it. And the thought of them asking me to do one of the bedbath shifts makes me feel like running away.

I’m getting quite a bit of comfort from the thought that a decision doesn’t have to be made right away. My inclination is to make the decision and get it over with, but there’s no need for that: it can wait. Doing one more shift doesn’t mean I can’t quit after that.

Caregiving: Children vs. Elderly

Here are some ways in which experience in caring for people who are children can be helpful/applicable when caring for people who are elderly:

• noticing when someone is cranky and snappish because they’re tired and/or hungry and/or in pain, and not responding the same as to regular crankiness/snappishness

• the “two choices” method, saying secondly the one YOU’D prefer they choose

• pee and poop are not particularly surprising or upsetting

• messes related to eating and bathrooming are not particularly surprising or upsetting


Here are some ways in which experience with children doesn’t help/apply, or can even work against the caregiver:

• babies and small children are generally not self-conscious; adults generally are

• tone of voice: I find if I’m doing Care Activities, my Mom Voice (which until now has always been appropriate when I’m doing care) can click in automatically

• things that are supportive and cheerful to say to children (“Good job!” “You did it!”) can sound patronizing/infantilizing when said to an adult—but it’s hard to know what to say instead

• I find it easy to give instructions to a child, harder to give instructions to an adult


Here are some ways in which experience caring for people who are elderly can be helpful/applicable when going back home and caring for people who are children:

• it’s common for people to like to get a say in how they’re cared for

• people’s preferences can be respected even if they can’t be honored: that is, if someone wants something they can’t have, or wants to do something they can’t do, ideally there can be a regretful explanation rather than a brusque dismissal

• it’s common for people to like to feel included—in the conversation, in the plan, in any incoming news/information

• with physical care, there can be a fine line between “efficient” and “brusque”

What It’s Like to Have Your Child’s Wisdom Teeth Removed

I talked about this a little back in March, when I wrote about the COST of having wisdom teeth removed, which varies widely. That was a post where the comments were too different to be helpful: they ranged so VIGOROUSLY. “Absolutely under no circumstances should you get general anesthesia!”/”Absolutely under no circumstances should you skip general anesthesia!” “DEFINITELY go to an oral surgeon!”/”DEFINITELY don’t go to an oral surgeon!” “It was EASY!!”/”It was HELLISH!!”

There was some hand-wringing, and then I decided to stay the course: we were going to go with an oral surgeon because that’s what our dentist said to do (he didn’t give us the option of having it done in the dentist’s office, so maybe he’s not that kind of dentist or maybe these wisdom teeth were in a position where only an oral surgeon could handle them), and we were going to go with the general anesthesia because that’s what the oral surgeon recommended for children and it’s what Rob preferred (and it was $400, which seemed reasonable). If any of those were the wrong decision, I took heart in knowing there was no way to predict what the right decision WAS, considering the unusually oppositional opinions on the subject.

The widely-varying opinions is one way to know you’re in a situation where EXPERIENCES vary widely. So I am going to tell Rob’s experience, Rob being a 16-year-old having four wisdom teeth removed (two sideways/impacted, two normal/emerging), by an oral surgeon (rather than a dentist), at an office visit (rather than a hospital), and using general anesthesia (rather than only novocaine and/or laughing gas)—but it’s to add to the assortment of stories, not to try to predict how anyone else’s experience will go.

Rob was scheduled for 10:30, so they asked us to arrive at 10:10. Rob was supposed to eat/drink nothing after bedtime the night before, and they told him to wear comfortable pajama-like clothing and secure shoes (i.e. no flip-flops or sandals). We paid in full when we checked in at the desk. At about 10:20, an assistant called him in and gave him four pills to swallow. Rob said she told him what they were, but he didn’t remember. “Antibiotic?,” I asked, when he returned to the waiting room. “Sedative? Painkiller?” “Those sound like the sort of thing,” he said, unhelpfully. Later the discharge nurse mentioned that he was given an antibiotic among those pills, so we have confirmation on that at least.

After maybe ten more minutes in the waiting room, they had us both come in. I re-initialed some papers I’d signed before, because it had been awhile since I signed them the first time. They had Rob sit in the chair, and an assistant walked me back to the waiting room. They said they’d call me in when he was in Recovery.

I’d brought a bucket with me, because my OWN wisdom teeth experience was general anesthesia, followed by feeling horrible and having a hard time waking up and spending a couple of hours in the hospital before I could stand up, followed by barfing. But the oral surgeon said, “We use very different drugs now than we did back then,” so I had high hopes. (These were justified.) (And explained why so many staff members gently teased me about the bucket.)

About 45 minutes later (the surgery itself was estimated to take 30, but they still needed to place the IV, and also they let him wake up a bit before calling me in), they came to get me. Rob was sitting upright in a comfy chair, looking very intently at the wall. His mouth was stuffed with gauze. I was glad I’d remembered to warn him about that: when I woke up after having my wisdom teeth out, I didn’t realize I had gauze in my mouth and thought that WAS the inside of my mouth. Gross.

The discharge nurse told me everything had gone well, and then started going over the instructions that were on a printout. She also gave us a prescription for acetaminophen/hydrocodone. She showed me how to change the gauze. Periodically Rob would lean forward to look more closely at the wall, and the nurse would say, “Just sit back and relax,” and he would obey for a few minutes. Rob, peering at the wall even more intently: “Are there TWO machines on that wall? or one?” (It was one.) Or, patting at the IV on the back of his hand and fluffing the tubing: “What…IS…this?” He was a little loopy.

The nurse told me to go bring the car around to the front, and she would meet me there with Rob. I drove it around, then waited long enough that I went mentally through half a dozen scenarios where I would be the idiot for waiting there. (“Er, no…I meant, come back inside after you moved the car.” “Er, that is not the front entrance.” “Er, you still have to sign him out.”) Rob told me afterward that the nurse used a wheelchair with him right to the door of the building, and then he stood up and walked. “Were you…supposed to?,” I asked. He didn’t know; he said he just HAD. When I saw the two of them, she was walking alongside him and didn’t look alarmed, so that was probably how it was supposed to go.

I drove him home, and he gradually became more and more with-it. “I’m feeling clearer now,” he’d say, or “I’m not seeing double anymore.” By the time we got home (about a half-hour drive), he was pretty normal, though he was a little shaky/weavy walking into the house. I settled him onto the couch and read the print-out, which I hadn’t really processed when the nurse was telling it to me.

The first thing to do was the gauze. I was supposed to take it out as soon as we got home, and determine if it was red or pink. If pink, he could be done with gauze. If red, put more gauze in. Repeat every 30 minutes. I think I did three or four gauze changes—so by the time we’d been home an hour and a half or two hours, he was done with gauze. I’d thought “Huh. This is going to be kind of INVOLVED,” but then it wasn’t so bad.

He was also supposed to put ice packs on his cheeks for 20 minutes out of each hour, so we were doing that at the same time. Right after changing the gauze, I went to a nearby pharmacy and got the prescription filled, then hurried back home just in time for the next gauze change.

The nurse told us he should take 800 mg of ibuprofen (i.e., four regular 200 mg tablets), with food, as soon as we got home, during a gauze change. But his mouth was so numb, he couldn’t manage it: he couldn’t eat or drink or tell if the pill was in his mouth. After a couple of hours, with him still feeling totally numb and me getting increasingly concerned that we weren’t following the instructions, I had him drink an Ensure and take the pills ANYWAY, just holding a washcloth under his chin to catch any Ensure that dribbled out (not as much as we’d both feared). If I’d realized it would still be this way 2 hours later, I would have had him do it right away instead.

The oral surgeon’s assistant called to check on us around this time, so I asked her if it was normal for him to still be so numb; the paperwork hadn’t said anything about it. “Oh, YES,” she said. “It should be wearing off on the top half of his jaw by now, but he won’t start to feel anything on the bottom for at LEAST a couple more hours. It could easily still be numb until after dinner.” Well. Good. I’d been fretting that he had permanent nerve damage.

Two hours after the ibuprofen, he was supposed to take his first acetaminophen/hydrocodone, so he had it with a little bowl of pudding and some sips of water. I was hoping it wouldn’t make him queasy, and it didn’t. I’d been hoping it would make him amusingly loopy, but it didn’t.

We continued the ice packs. I kept setting my phone alarm for 20 minutes (on) and 40 minutes (off). The nurse told us that the swelling would likely be worst on Day 3, but if we were diligent about the ice packs it wouldn’t be nearly as bad. I went back to thinking “This is KIND OF INVOLVED.”

For dinner I made him mashed potatoes and some applesauce. He was feeling pretty good: up and around as normal, except for toting around the ice packs. I think he was only on the couch for the first 2-3 hours we were home.

He had another dose of acetaminophen/hydrocodone (every-4-hours dosing) and another dose of ibuprofen (every-8-hours dosing) during the evening; I had him stay up a bit later than usual so he could have a last dose before going to bed. And that was the end of Day 1: The Day of Surgery.


In the morning of Day 2 I was inclined to wake him so he could get right back to painkillers/anti-inflammatories and ice packs, but he wanted to sleep so I let him. He got up around 10:00 and we started right back in on the routine. First some food (the nurse said not to take any painkillers on an empty stomach). Then the ibuprofen. Then the ice. Then two hours after the ibuprofen, the acetaminophen/hydrocodone. He said he wasn’t having hardly any pain at all, so we considered skipping the acetaminophen/hydrocodone, since that one was “as needed”; the ibuprofen is anti-inflammatory as well as painkilling, so the nurse said to continue giving it to him for three days whether he had pain or not. We decided to give him one more dose of the acetaminophen/hydrocodone just in case, then do REALLY “as needed” from then on.

For lunch he had soup, the Lipton chicken noodle kind you don’t even have to chew. For dinner I made pasta, and he also had some applesauce and some ice cream. He continued to do the ice packs for 20 minutes out of every 60. He continued not to have much pain or swelling, so we didn’t do any more acetaminophen/hydrocodone. Another dose of ibuprofen, and that was it for Day 2.


Day 3 was even better. He did take a dose of the acetaminophen/hydrocodone early on, because he was having some more pain when he woke up, but not a second dose, and I get the feeling he didn’t really need it but just enjoyed the drama of taking it. He continued to take the ibuprofen: the nurse said he should continue to take it for inflammation even if he didn’t need it for pain. I made pasta for dinner again. He was getting tired of pasta and yogurt and Ensure and applesauce.

The paperwork said he should start rinsing with salt water after eating and before bed. He DID do it a couple of times, but I don’t think he did it as much as he was supposed to. I reminded him that he was supposed to brush, but not too far back in his mouth. (You’re supposed to avoid disturbing the…sorry, I’m just going to use the word they used: …clots.)

At the 48-hours-past-surgery point, we were suppose to stop using ice (to prevent swelling) and start using heat (to reduce swelling). I had a plug-in heating pad, so we used that. He looked quite silly holding it to his face. The paperwork said that the swelling would peak on Day 3, but there was only a faint swelling on one side. I wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t known to look for it.

Day 3 was the first time he asked me if he was supposed to be wearing his nighttime retainers, and I didn’t know. I said, “Er…try it, and if they don’t hurt, wear them.” He said they didn’t hurt, so he wore them.


Day 4 was basically normal. He kept taking ibuprofen as instructed, no more acetaminophen/hydrocodone. We had tacos for dinner, and I told him he had to have soft shells, no chips or crunchy shells, because the paperwork warned against that kind of thing. He protested a little but not much. He rinsed a couple of times.


Day 5 was even more normal. He went down to a normal dose of ibuprofen at normal intervals (i.e., 2 tablets every 4-6 hours). He had nachos. He rinsed, maybe, I don’t know, probably not. I pretty much stopped thinking of it, except that I had to write something for this post.

A Little Overwhelmed

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. The new job continues to take up about 75% of my mental processing power, even when I’m not working that day. Edward needed a TB test, and I forgot to bring him back to have it checked; I NEVER forget appointments, and was mortified even though the nurses were nice about it—and of course, it meant he had to have the test done again. And then the cat’s paw got infected, and now I have to force medicine down his throat twice a day, and use a special cat litter, and remember to soak his paw. And then Rob got his wisdom teeth out and needs ice packs on/off every 20/40 minutes, and two different medicines every 4/8 hours, and it’s hard to find foods he can eat. And at Edward’s annual check-up, the doctor said we should actively work on getting his weight up, so I have to keep that in mind and make changes to what he eats. And I’m trying to exercise more and practice good body mechanics so I’ll be stronger and less likely to get hurt at work. And Paul is taking two of the kids on a 5-day vacation, so laundry and shopping and various other preparations need to be done for that. And there are still swimming lessons and so forth, and now we’re out of milk.

I’m reading books on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and so forth, which is helpful for my job but I think it makes my mind even more agitated.

Periodically I panic and think “I SHOULD QUIT THE JOB. THIS ISN’T WORKING. I NEED TO QUIT. I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS.” But then I’ll have a really good shift with someone and feel good about the whole entire thing and start having fantasies about eventually being The Best Caregiver Who Ever Gave Care, and I’ll remember how BEFORE I got the job I was pulling my hair out and thinking “I NEED MORE TO DO. I NEED SATISFYING, USEFUL WORK.” I’m sticking with it until the wild swinging back and forth settles down a bit. It’s only been a month.

Plus, this is SUMMER. Summer is ALWAYS overwhelming. The children are talking to me ALL THE TIME; my ears are SO FULL, and I’m SO DISTRACTED. I start to think a thought, and then I get interrupted, and then I can’t remember what it was I was thinking. The error here was in getting the job at the very beginning of summer. On the other hand, that’s part of why I got the job: they were hiring because of all the employees who can’t work as much during the summer because the kids are home.

You know what one of the worst parts has been? Older people tend to be chilly, so their houses tend to be hot. And I tend to run hot, so I don’t like things much warmer than, say, 70 degrees—and 70 feels a bit stuffy, and too hot if I’m doing chores. So I’m spending a lot of every shift all sweaty and uncomfortable in an 85-degree house, and there’s not much to be done about it. Someone who tends to be chilly would be a better fit: FINALLY a working environment where they didn’t have to shiver in two cardigans!

Last night I sleep-walked: I found myself in the bathroom at 11:30 at night, about to take a shower. Luckily I woke up in time: it’s much worse to wake up already IN the shower so you also have to figure out if rinsing is required, and dry off and so forth. I had trouble finding my pajamas, and still don’t know what I did with my pajama top; I had to get a fresh one out of the drawer. It was a extra upsetting in light of all the reading I’ve been doing about dementia: it felt like a vivid peek into what that’s like.

I saw the movie Spy and really liked it. I think Melissa McCarthy just keeps getting better. I’m watching Gilmore Girls with the kids, and it’s very odd to keep seeing her as Sookie, now that she mostly plays completely different types of characters.

Miscellaneous: Thanks, Cats, Summer, Sixth, Hair

OMG, do you even, do you even KNOW how life-changing your comments were on the post about turning down extra shifts? I just. It’s not even. Listen: the part about how if you say yes more, you get bumped up the list and they’ll call more? The part about the caller going for what’s easiest? The part about how if I say no more, they might still CALL, but with managed expectations? The part about how if I keep taking shifts I don’t want, I’ll not only be resentful but also be keeping them from doing what they OUGHT to do, which is to hire another employee? Gold. GOLD. These are not things I had understood, and as soon as I read them they clicked into place. Life-transforming. Really. They called TWICE MORE yesterday, and both times I said sorry, I couldn’t, and already, ALREADY, there was a change in the tone of the response—like she was already assuming I’d be saying no, so she wasn’t disappointed. And by the third request, there was even a change in the tone of the request: as if she was just checking just in case, instead of that she thought there was a large chance of success. And all that aside, I went from thinking the only benefit of saying no was about my own character development, to thinking that saying no would actually change for the better the way things would happen. YOU IMPROVED MY LIFE SUBSTANTIALLY.

Let’s see. I know I had one million little tidbits that were NOT about jobs, and this would be a great place for them. My mind is still almost completely preoccupied with Job Thoughts, but I’m getting tired of it. I appreciate the mental stimulation, but enough is enough.

Okay, the cats. The cats have twice recently had these big howling spats. One cat had a bleeding paw after the last altercation. Now that paw doesn’t smell great, but I can’t see what’s wrong with it. Maybe something with the nail? He won’t let me get a long look at it, and it’s hard to tell what’s a little spike of matted fur and what’s not. Nothing looks obviously infected or gross. Well, nothing looks that way to ME. I’m a little worried I’ll take him to the vet and the vet will say, “Um, Idiot: there is a big splinter sticking right out of the paw pad. Just. I mean. You keep me in business, so thanks, but.” Yesterday I dipped the paw in some hydrogen peroxide for a minute or so, and then he spent a lonnnnng time cleaning it, so I’m hoping that will help.

Summer! Summer is flying. I don’t usually say that. I’m not going to say the J-word, but I think that’s why: I’m home less, and I have something stimulating to think about, and I’m much more appreciative of time at home with the kids now that there is not quite such plentiful abundance of it, and now that I am thinking, “Ooo, good, I don’t have to work today!” Also, every year the kids are older, and every year that improves my summer.

The children are mocking me for the way I say sixth. I say it as if it were “sixed”: no “th” sound. I CAN say it with the “th” sound, but only very carefully/slowly: “Six…th.” I can’t go from the x to the th without changing mouth gears. And when I do, it sounds wrong, like I’m pretending to lisp the word. I admit, I’m hoping here for “HEY ME TOO, I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME!!”

Hair. I still haven’t cut it. What happened was, it got Too Long and I decided to cut it—but I couldn’t decide if I just wanted a couple of inches off or if I was sick of longer hair and wanted it to the jaw line or so. I asked Elizabeth, and she said, “Whatever you do, don’t just get it cut to, like, here,” and indicated her jawline-to-shoulder area. I laughed since that was EXACTLY what I had in mind, and I said, “WHY?” and she said, “It’s so MOM.” Me: “…But I AM a mom.” Elizabeth: “STILL.”

So then I was even more unsure. It’s not like Elizabeth is the boss of my hair, but. Well, I was influenced. And then I ended up waiting so long, it went out of the stage it was in, and into a stage where the extra length was good again. Hair always seems to do that: it goes through little awkward In Between stages. Laziness and procrastination means I get through those stages and then end up with what feels like a new style without getting it cut.

Mental Exercise and Coping Thoughts: Saying No to Extra Shifts

One disadvantage of this job, or perhaps I should call it a Character Development Opportunity, is that it is the kind of job where if someone calls out sick, someone else MUST cover the shift. In my experience, jobs are in three categories:

1) The kind where if you’re out sick or on vacation, you have some work to make up when you get back, and maybe someone else has to do a couple of extra small tasks, but no one has to cover your workday for you (Paul has this kind of job; my greenhouse job was like this in the off-season when we weren’t filling orders)

2) The kind where if you’re out sick or on vacation, the boss calls around to find someone to replace you, but if no one is available, everyone else has to work harder and less pleasantly that day, because the same total amount of work has to be done no matter how many employees are there to do it (my pharmacy job was like this, and so was my bakery job)

3) The kind where if you’re out sick or on vacation, someone else MUST be there to cover your shift, for legal/contract reasons (my daycare job was like this)

My current job is the third category. The upside of this category is that I can adjust my hours very quickly and easily: if Paul were to lose his job, or if he had a midlife crisis and quit and went to work at a job earning 1/4th his previous salary, or if he left me, I could start picking up extra hours that very day.

The downside…er, Opportunity, is that getting a call asking me to work is a nearly-daily occurrence, and I hate saying no. My impulse is to FIX it, to Make It Work: I feel so sorry for the person who has to call around finding a replacement. But…that’s why I’m not working the job where I have to call around and find replacements. I have to use that as one of my Coping Thoughts, as I’m saying no to an extra shift with the client I can barely handle, when in order to do that shift I’d have to call and cancel an appointment. Obviously I shouldn’t call and cancel the appointment. But it feels as if because it’s POSSIBLE to do so, I should Make It Work. I can FIX this problem! I have to squeeze my eyes and use another Coping Thought: “This is not my problem to fix.” Another is: “I don’t want to. I don’t have to.”

I think all those Coping Thoughts sound cold and rude and unsympathetic, but they’re designed to counteract an imbalance in the other direction. Overly sympathetic stress about not going to extreme lengths to rearrange my schedule at the last second have to be counteracted with the overly unsympathetic “This is not my problem.” Overly empathetic feelings for the person making the hard phone calls have to be counteracted with the overly unempathetic “That’s why that’s not my job.” Overly frantic feelings about needing to do something I don’t want to do have to be counteracted with the overly shruggy “I don’t want to. I don’t have to.”

Paul adds that it helps to think differently about how the person doing the calls is thinking of it. They’re not thinking, “SWISTLE IS OUR ONLY HOPE” (probably); they’re thinking, “Let’s quick go through the list of everyone who isn’t already scheduled to work.” They’re not thinking “Well, Swistle isn’t scheduled to work, so all we have to do is call her and she’ll be able to work!”; they’re thinking “Swistle isn’t scheduled, so maybe there is a tiny chance she’s also not doing anything else.”

Anyway. It’s good mental exercise. Those muscles are getting a daily workout.


When I was hired to be a caregiver for elderly people, the boss told me it would not be TOO different from my experiences caregiving for children (mother, daycare worker). In my experience with the job so far, it is VERY VERY DIFFERENT. For one thing, I get THANKED.

The first time it happened, I thought it was a fluke. Like, “Oh, this particular elderly person is extremely conscientious about politeness, and how kind of her to unnecessarily thank me!” But it has happened now with two additional clients—and that’s out of four clients total, and the fourth one is not in a state of being able to thank.

Also, sometimes there are family members around, and THEY will thank. Sometimes it’s casual, as part of a departure: “Okay, thanks, bye!” Even if we don’t count those, there are other times it is more intense: “Thank you. Thank you for everything you’re doing for us.” “We really appreciate this. Thank you.”


Those of you who said this job could be a good stretching experience even if it didn’t pan out career-wise: that has been a very comforting thought. When it is time to figure out dinner and I am realizing as I open a Surprise Refrigerator how much I rely on my own recipes and familiar staples and the knowledge of my own pantry supplies and cupboard contents, I think to myself, “This would be an excellent assignment if I were taking a class on being more flexible and thinking on my feet. In fact, this would make a good game show.” And I am already getting better at it: instead of pure rising panic, I think, “Okay! *clap clap* Let’s see what we can do!”

I am also learning to think things such as “If this one meal is not great, or not what she likes to eat, or not cooked the way she likes it, or not seasoned the way she’d prefer, or not nutritionally ideal—it will nevertheless be okay, and it will be balanced by all the other meals that are cooked by all the other caregivers.”

I am also carrying my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook in my work bag. I’ve had this cookbook since I was in college, and it is like a security blanket. It’s the kind of cookbook that will even tell you how to boil an egg, or how to bake a potato. It’s surprising how many cooking things I’ve never done: I’ve never baked a sweet potato, I’ve never taken rib meat off the bones, I’ve never made corned beef hash, I’ve never cooked a chicken thigh, I’ve never worked with liverwurst, I’ve never worked with horseradish, I’ve never made franks-and-beans. It’s not that I can barely boil water or whatever: I can cook. It’s just that there is a large circle of foods and food processes I’m familiar with, and there is also a large circle of foods and food processes I’m NOT familiar with. Another cook in my kitchen might be saying she’d never made baked macaroni and cheese, never made shredded crockpot chicken, never worked with sriracha sauce, never used ground turkey, never made couscous, never made cinnamon rolls, never made granola, never used a rice steamer, etc.

Summer Activity with Kids: Creative/Academic

The kids and I are doing a new summer activity this year, and I really like it and so do the kids, so I thought I would mention it in case it’s a good fit at your house as well.

I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but I think it started when Rob and I were talking about how there were things we WANTED to do but somehow it was hard to make ourselves do them—and yet if we were SUPPOSED to do them, we’d enjoy it. …This needs an example. So, like, let’s say you would really like to practice sketching/drawing. But every time you think of it, you’re kind of like “Mehhhhhhhh, but then I’d have to stop playing Candy Crush.” But you think that in the LONG run you’d rather you did the drawing. And you think that if you HAD to do it, like if you were back in school and they made you, you’d enjoy it.

Or let’s say you keep thinking you’d kind of like to freshen up your high school French, because you enjoyed that class back when you took it. But you just never seem to get around to actually logging onto the computer to find one of those language sites. Maybe your library has even subscribed to a language program so you could take a cool online course for free, but….well. I mean. Somehow you don’t do it. And yet if you were suddenly back in high school, you’d be looking forward to French class.

Or maybe you feel as if you ought to have read A Brief History of Time, but it drifts right down to the bottom of the book pile underneath all the lighter fiction books. You kind of wish a teacher was MAKING you read it.

So, that’s what Rob and I were talking about, and it was during the first week of summer vacation so I ALREADY had on my list to do some Enriching Activities: like, let’s not just sit around playing Minecraft all summer. (…again.) And so that’s how we came up with the idea.

Here is what we do. Each day, we spend two 30-minute periods all working quietly, plus we have two short (approximately 5-minute-long) talking/reporting times. For the first 30 minute chunk, each person chooses if they want to work on something “academic” or “creative.” You can see how sometimes a category might be difficult to assign (or the same activity might fit into both categories, depending on how you’re doing it), but here are some of our examples so far:

• learning/practicing a language (we’re using
• doing multiplication facts flashcards or Brain Quest Q&As
• doing online quizzes (
• playing an educational game
• watching YouTube CNA/LNA-skill videos
• watching videos on art history or biology or brain chemistry or history or whatever ( or
• reading an educational book such as The Selfish Gene or A Cartoon History of the Universe
• reading about a subject on Wikipedia
• writing a computer program

• writing a poem
• writing a story
• drawing a picture
• doing a craft project
• doodling
• coloring in coloring books
• writing a blog post
• writing a computer program
• working through Lynda Barry’s drawing/writing book Syllabus
• doing perler beads
• making a stop-motion animation

The goal is to work QUIETLY. If two people want to work together on something (flashcards, for example, or perler beads), they must go as far away as possible from everyone else, ideally behind a closed door, and they must still keep their voices low.

When the timer rings, we gather together in the living room, and we go around the circle: each person says first if they chose to work on academic or creative, and then briefly reports on what they chose to do. If they want to, they can show the picture they drew, or tell an interesting fact they learned about woolly mammoths. It takes about five minutes to go around the whole circle.

We take another few minutes for going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, walking around. Then we launch into the second 30-minute chunk, and each person does the OTHER thing: if they did creative for the first 30 minutes they do academic for the second 30 minutes, and vice versa. Then we gather in the living room to report on THAT.

It’s been QUITE satisfying. Henry (age 8) has the hardest time thinking of what he wants to do; everyone else (age 10 and up) seems to find it relatively easy—and it gets easier as we do it longer, because we get ideas from each other (“OH! I could use perler beads!”) and because we’re starting to notice ideas and file them away for the next session. If more of my kids were the younger age, I might do 15-minute chunks of time, and I might make Idea Lists, or have ideas written on pieces of paper that could be chosen out of a jar, or maybe we would all work on the SAME thing together.

While it’s NICE to work on one thing for the entire 30 minutes, we don’t make that a requirement at all: if for your creative time you want to draw a picture and then write a poem, that’s just fine; if for your academic time you want to watch one video on clouds and another on art history and another on Bach, that’s just fine too.

Or if you start reading The Selfish Gene and then discover you are only 8 years old, you can put it down and pick up a book on Mongol Warriors instead.