Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going To The Chapel

Tomorrow, December 1, 2010, will be my 8th wedding anniversary. Much to my surprise, I have actually stuck with something for 8 years. Brian and I got married on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, a US territory. Which is a good thing. Marrying in a US territory makes our marriage legal and our many children legitimate. Not that it matters. We've been calling ourselves married for so long, in the eyes of Texas, we're married, with all the perks.

We eloped. No family, no friends, no fuss. Well, no people fuss. Except for the people who didn't appreciate the way we were doing things. Or the way we went about it. Oops.

Just a side note: Mothers, when your daughter finally finds someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with her, and they start to plan a wedding, butt out. It is not your wedding. She should not have to elope to get you off her case. The End.

We booked a fabulous cruise leaving Saturday after Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving, we were one-armed paper hangers. Picking up a dress, picking up a tux, picking up rings, dinner with friends. All on opposite sides of town: Houston-town. When night fell, we collapsed into bed. Our flight left at 705am, the next morning. It takes a long time to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Especially when you have a layover in Miami. And a traveling day feels very long when your wedding finery is a carry-on. Poor Brian carried that wedding dress all over 3 airports and stood in line at the cruise terminal with it. It was heavy. I was in charge of the tux. Much less heavy.

Boarding the cruise ship and getting our luggage to our room, we finally had a minute to breathe. (And rest our arms!) We attended a reception for people on the cruise who were either getting married or honeymooning. There was one couple there who had just married and had 700 guests at their wedding. I wonder if those folks are still married today. We had dinner at a one of the pay restaurants and I ate the best steak I had ever had and also got a bottle of complementary champagne. I set up an appointment to have my hair done with the veil. If I had had a traditional wedding, I would have had a couple of hair appointments: trial run with the veil, have bridal portraits taken and then the actual wedding. In this case, I just had to roll with it. I think it turned out okay.

On Sunday, December 1, 2002, I got up before Brian, took a shower and hurried on down the the hair salon. When I got back, he was ironing his shirt on the tiniest table ever. That's when I got nervous. What in the HELL was I doing? Married? Me? Today? Oh good grief. I ran outside to smoke a cigarette on our balcony and told Brian, "Do NOT talk to me!" If I hadn't gone through with the wedding, it certainly would have made the rest of the vacation a little awkward...

I want to move to the Caribbean because everything operates on Island Time. We waited in line to disembark the ship and to meet up with the wedding planner who was taking us to the courthouse to sign our marriage license. We were told to be there at 930am, but there was no guarantee the clerk was going to be there at 930am. Island time. While we were at the courthouse, it started pouring down rain and we got a little wet. Good for fertility, they said. As the first ceremony, we went straight over to the beach. The minister looked exactly like this guy:

This is Scott Glenn portraying Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs. The minister looked so much like this guy, I have no idea what I agreed to or for how long. It was so uncanny that we had just watched this movie a few days before! After the ceremony and during the pictures, Brian kept repeating lines from the movie and making me laugh out loud. Like, "PUT THE LOTION IN THE BASKET!"

It was so amazing being there, just us.

I was so thrilled to finally be Brian's wife. To dig my toes into the sand, feel the sun on my face, smell the sea air...a perfect day. Even with more rain. I kept staring at my engagement ring/wedding ring together. I remember thinking, "I'm the luckiest girl that this guys wants me." I really do still think that.

This is probably my favorite picture because I think it sums up what our relationship has been from start to now: him and me against everything else. A person I can count on when I don't/can't/won't count on anyone else. The other half to myself. My soul mate. A prince. And I should know. I kissed a lot of frogs before him.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ambition and Guilt

Lately, my blog has been full of my desire and plans to return to school and become a nursing home administrator. It'd be a fair assessment to say that working with and helping the elderly is a passion of mine. Becoming an administrator is something I've had in my mind for 15 years. As I've reported before, I feel compelled, to do this. To finally be moving forward, well, my excitement isn't easy to contain. The other day while explaining my plans, someone told me they sounded very ambitious.

And I knew it wasn't a compliment. Not for a woman, from a woman. At least it didn't feel like a compliment. It felt like a jab. But maybe it's because I feel guilty. Guilty because currently, I'm a stay-at-home mom of 4 children. And there are some people who would wonder why in the world I'm going back to school and making plans to go to work when I have all these Little People. They would argue that my calling is here, at home, to take care of them. Right now, I can't handle the little joke that I'm "abandoning" my children for my "ambition". There are those who might argue that ambition in a woman with children is misplaced. A bad thing. That her place is at home. Period. Paragraph. That God wouldn't have given her children if she were meant for any other thing.

But if it's a bad thing, why is it so fulfilling to me? Why do I feel so renewed when I'm working for the betterment of my residents? Why do I feel like I can mother better when I'm finished?

I did an informal internet survey by posting on my Facebook page this question: Is ambition in a woman considered a positive or negative trait? The two men who answered, answered unequivocally, that it was a positive trait. My husband was floored that I would even suggest that ambition was anything but a good thing. But there a couple of women who said it depended and a couple of women who said it was absolutely a good thing and even one person who pointed out that the aggressive woman is often labelled a bitch and the aggressive man is ambitious.

So is it a gender issue?

Does it even matter?

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines ambition as 1 a: an ardent desire for rank, fame or power; b: desire to achieve a particular end.

Seems even the dictionary can't make up its mind. What do we really think of when we think of ambition? Is it the general desire to achieve a particular end or is the ardent desire for rank, fame or power? Does it even matter?

But I'm not going to feel guilty about it anymore, whatever anyone else thinks. I was lucky enough to hear a sermon this morning about being wired for passionate living. That it challenges, fulfills both me and others and sets me free from the burden of comparison. That through grace, I have been uniquely gifted, as an individual, and I am empowered by God. I know that through serving others in the way I am wired, I myself will be refreshed and renewed. That, if I am serving in the right way and in the right area, I will feel compelled and driven to serve. I won't have to be manipulated or shamed into doing it.

It was as if I had received a divine sign from God to press on and do what He called me to do when I was 20 years old. No more guilt, and if you say to me, "That's ambitious!" I'm going to agree. No matter how you mean it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Slight Change of Plans

Like most college students, I have changed my major. Actually, I have changed my major several times over the course of it all. I started out, all the way back in the Fall of '95,with a declared major of Political Science. Then it was English. With a French minor. Then it was Sociology. And more recently, Social Work. But now...now I've got it. Business Management.

I've done a bit of research and checked out current job postings for the job I want. Careerbuilder.com is currently listing 50 administrator positions open in the state of Texas. Fifty! Most facilities are for-profit pieces of a large corporate pie. They want someone who is business and budget-minded balanced with a dedication to quality resident care and positive employee relations. A hard job. Hiring entities want someone who can assure regulations compliance and has a proven track record for success. One listed asked for a "quantifiable" track record. They want proof. A Master's degree is preferred.

I have a plan.

January brings with it my return to school. I'm a little anxious. I'm registered for 13 hours. Most are re-takes from my previous attempt at college. Pretty sad, I know. But I'm 33, not 18. But I have a fire in my belly that I never had all those years ago. I feel compelled to do this. To get this degree and do the thing I feel called to do. So here we are.

I took 3 years of French in high school and still remember much of it. So I think Elementary French I will be, in fact, elementary. Je m'appelle Jacqueline. Je deteste le tennis. I was kicked out of French I my first foray into higher education and professor-placed into French III, Reading and Composition. I'm hoping for an easy A. Also scheduled is Fine Arts Appreciation, Texas State and Local Government and Principles of Financial Accounting.

The next step is to send the paperwork that is further required for my financial aid award, receive my aid and wait for the semester to start.
Rinse. Repeat.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

She Works Hard For The Money

My very first job ever was in a nursing home. I was 16 years old. My dad got it for me. I wanted to work at the pool. At first, working at the nursing home was very uncomfortable. I was a kid. Everyone else was grown. And smoking. Oh, the smoking breaks these people took. I made $5 an hour, which was way over minimum wage, and I got to work in the air conditioning. Not too shabby for a kid like me.

I didn't really like it at first. I was in the activities department. There were 3 full time people in the activities department, and then me. I didn't really have many specific things to do. I just helped out where I was needed. I passed out newspapers in the morning, passed out cigarettes at smoke time, passed out the mail. I talked to residents coming and going and helped feed those who needed help at lunchtime. Sometimes I helped by doing nails or passing out juice. Other times I gathered residents up so they could watch a program or hear a speaker. I also made copies, answered the phone and did "light clerical" work.

I began to find that I didn't really care for the people I worked with, my colleagues, but I really did enjoy working with the residents, even as one resident did offer to kill me with a vase. Even as a man who was enjoying a manicure from me jerked his hand at the last second and I cut his nail into the quick. Even as that same man threatened to tell my father that I was trying to kill him. Which he did. I always felt like I was doing something. I felt like I was making a difference.

In college, I saw a job listing for an Assistant Director of Activities at a local nursing home. I needed a job and felt qualified so off I went. And I got it. Twenty hours per week doing in-room visitation and facilitating small groups. In-rooms, as the name would suggest, meant I had a list of basically room-bound residents that I would visit twice weekly and offer sensory stimulation by reading, playing music, asking questions, doing nails, putting lotion on their hands. My small groups helped residents with their large motor skills and we would play games throwing balls and tossing bean bags and using a parachute. Sometime I would help out with other activities, too. I still wonder what's become of one of my favorite residents. I'm sure he's died by now.

Nursing home administrators are hyper-focused on one issue: the census. Folks in the beds means money in the coffers and when it's low, cuts will be made. Budgets get slashed and people can be fired or laid off. People like the Assistant Director of Activities. People like me. I was laid off and then offered a position in the kitchen as a dietary aide. You can bet I thought this was beneath me. Blech. It was summertime hot and I was preparing food! And cleaning up after it. Scraping plates. Washing dishes. I had to take a pay cut, but I had more hours. And I didn't have to worry about my next meal.

But I have always loved old people. Except for that time when I was about five that I told my great-grandmother that I hated old people (and she qualified). Oops.

I have volunteered to visit shut-ins at my old church. I am currently a certified(!) volunteer ombudsman at a nursing home in my city. I plan to start visiting shut-ins from the church we attend now. But I want to take it further so I'm going to back to school. For real. I'm so excited about it I could bust. I have an appointment on November 19 to start putting my plan in place.

UNT offers a dual major program in social work and applied gerontology. You receive 2 degrees. They also offer a Master of Science in Long Term Care Administration through their gerontology department. That's where I'm headed. But in the meantime, I'm going to be begin work on the double major this Spring. I am also really interested in state survey work and investigations, and since I'm in no way interested in becoming a nurse or an engineer, social work is the way to go.

It's funny, this is not the first time I've had this plan. I had a social worker/administrator route mapped out for myself years ago. Life got in the way, I guess. But not this time. I'm clearing the branches and the path. Onward and upward.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lamentations of the Father, Repost

I found this a few years ago and thought it worth reposting again.

Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles;

Lamentations of the Father

OF the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

Laws When at Table
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke. Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.

When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you. Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that, that is why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.

Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.

On Screaming
Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch each other are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.

Concerning Face and Hands
Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head, there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.

Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Complaints and Lamentations
O my children, you are disobedient. For when I tell you what you must do, you argue and dispute hotly even to the littlest detail; and when I do not accede, you cry out, and hit and kick. Yes, and even sometimes do you spit, and shout "stupid-head" and other blasphemies, and hit and kick the wall and the molding thereof when you are sent to the corner. And though the law teaches that no one shall be sent to the corner for more minutes than he has years of age, yet I would leave you there all day, so mighty am I in anger. But upon being sent to the corner you ask straightaway, "Can I come out?" and I reply, "No, you may not come out." And again you ask, and again I give the same reply. But when you ask again a third time, then you may come out.

Hear me, O my children, for the bills they kill me. I pay and pay again, even to the twelfth time in a year, and yet again they mount higher than before. For our health, that we may be covered, I give six hundred and twenty talents twelve times in a year; but even this covers not the fifteen hundred deductible for each member of the family within a calendar year. And yet for ordinary visits we still are not covered, nor for many medicines, nor for the teeth within our mouths. Guess not at what rage is in my mind, for surely you cannot know.

For I will come to you at the first of the month and at the fifteenth of the month with the bills and a great whining and moan. And when the month of taxes comes, I will decry the wrong and unfairness of it, and mourn with wine and ashtrays, and rend my receipts. And you shall remember that I am that I am: before, after, and until you are twenty-one. Hear me then, and avoid me in my wrath, O children of me.

Ian Frazier