Thursday, November 9, 2017

So called volunteers

"Did you know that so called 'Volunteers' don't even get paid?" Why, yes, Mr. Simpson, I know that all too well.

This entry touches on something I posted on Facebook the other day. Given that I've been working for a heavily volunteer dependent non-profit, I started to think a lot about volunteering. I really got thinking about the different sides of it. The way people treat volunteers and the expectations people have of volunteers.

I was updating a spreadsheet that is a list of the adoptions for the year. There were over 600 entries. That is over 600 animals who have been saved. Mostly cats and dogs are on the list, but who can forget the pigs, chickens, homing pigeons, snakes, turtles, guinea pigs, rabbits, and more that I'm certainly forgetting. Then, it got me thinking about what is involved in getting those numbers on that spreadsheet. Yes, obviously my typing get them in the spreadsheet, duh. I'm talking in the broader sense.

I'm sure I will forget things because, well, me. The list below includes the work of a handful, like toddler sized handful, of paid staff and volunteers. Just pointing out that I'm fully aware of actual paid staff.
  • There's transport: driving a box truck to rescue animals from other states; the hours to do this; the wear and tear on the truck; the listening to whining and mewing; the smell of piss and shit and animals; the cleaning of the truck 
  • There's maintenance: the truck; the house we work out of; yard work; repairs; building a pig pen and chicken coops
  • Receiving transport: corralling all the dogs in the backyard; taking cats in kennels down to the care center; vetting the animals (vaccinations, preventative care, microchipping, and anything else they need based on paperwork); oh, and doing all of our own paperwork
  • Fostering: coming to a transport arrival to pick up the dog they are fostering; taking them to vet appointments; keeping them until they decided to adopt them or until they get adopted; taking them to meet & greets that hopefully end in adoption, but not always, so they have extra wear and tear and gas for their cars; sometimes bottle feeding if they take on the tiny cats or dogs
  • Cat Care Center: cats are housed in our office building until ready for adoption at a PetSmart or the Denver Cat Company; I could go downstairs but I'm lazy so I'm guessing we have 30ish cat cages; the cages house multiple cats if there is a litter of kittens; there are 2 shifts of cleaning out the cages and feeding the cats; sometimes there is the additional task of steaming the cages; there's medication to be given sometimes; their an isolation room of cages when things like ringworm breakout; cleaning kennels; and cleaning litter pans; laundry from blankets and towels; washing food and water bowls 
  • There's office work of various types. That's my "specialty". Things like spreadsheet updating; microchip registration; adoption packet creation
  • There are adoption events: they involve fosters bringing the available dogs; means more travelling; leash holding; people selling our merchandise; on the spot adoption application processing; the "go home" paperwork review and fee payment; putting up and taking down our fences and tents and tables and such  
  • Adoptions that aren't at an event: reviewing of applications; processing of applications which means phone calls for landlords & vets, sometimes, and personal references all the time; scheduling of meet and greets to finalize the adoption, or sometimes to have the adoption fail; the meeting needs to have the adopter, the foster, and the volunteer or staffer who will finalize the adoption, yeah, try coordinating all those schedules; more travelling for the foster
  •  Other fund raisers: all kinds of work that I've never really been a part of, but I'm sure lots of volunteers are involved
These are all the things I could think of off the top of my head. These are all things people do in their spare time. So, if it seems like a lot, I'm pretty sure there is much more. But, it is what goes into those 600 plus adoptions.

After all of my thinking about volunteerism and Homer Simpson's profound wisdom, I thought about volunteers being people who do favors, lots and lots of favors.

If you need something from a volunteer, be kind, be patient, and be appreciative.


Monday, October 30, 2017

What'chu talkin' 'bout, everyone?

It's about time for another trip down amnesia lane. This is such a part of my life, yet I still manage to be surprised by it.

The combination of the electroconvulsive therapy and my very strong reaction to anesthesia just wreaked havoc on my memory. My life right now involves watching "Stranger Things" 1st season for what I think is the 3rd time. Things do seem familiar this time, so progress? I check with Shawn to see if I'm responding the same way this time. Did I cry like I did now? Back when we watched "Captain America; Civil War", I think it was that, he said I said the same things. It's so bizarre to experience your lack of experience around something.

I wonder if things will get to a point where Shawn doesn't preface statements with, "You probably don't remember...", or "Do you remember?" Will my memory be sharp again? Will it always be slightly off when it comes to present moments, present information retention?  It's certainly not what it was before this shit went down.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Life is better for whom?

Earlier this year, I started volunteering for the animal rescue where we got Jarvis 4 1/2 years ago. It was kind of an idea that Shawn, my PsychNP, and my therapist were all pretty much no board with. My PsychNP and Shawn really didn't think I was in any shape to get back in the actual workforce. Actually, this conversation may have started at the end of last year, you know, the time of my life that is lost to me. For some reason, I think my ECT psychiatrist was in on this whole thing, too.

It took me awhile to work through my anxiety enough to contact Life Is Better Rescue. Then, I think it may have taken some extra drugs to actually go that first day. The first few days involved cleaning out the cat cages at the Care Center. I had this super skinny, super tall, young kid showing me the ropes. One day, I was slated to go solo, I grabbed Shawn for the assist. As the part of my DNA that is strong within my siblings and I kicked in, I was gagging to dry heaving to being on the verge of vomiting. For some reason, taking a little green poop bag and grabbing Jarvis' shit isn't so bad; but cat boxes and kitties covered in the shit they shat is more than a Kendel (or maybe Sawhill, it might be my mom's genetic contribution) kid could bear.

So, I sucked up my overwhelming sense of failure and additional anxiety, and confessed to my ineptitude.

There was still other work to be done. I didn't have to deal with people or shit (it's hard to tell which of those things is worst) nearly as much. I was doing spreadsheet updates and microchip registrations. Officey, nerdy, anti-social stuff. I was fitting into my niche. But, anxiety still reared its ugly head because, well, fuck my life. I am still filled with an overwhelming sense of ineptitude.

New challenges have been added to my plate. I wish I was talking about a nice piece of chocolate cake, but this is the proverbial plate. So anxiety is kicked up yet another notch. My intolerance for idiocy and assholery is strong. I take the comments of bitches and douchebags too much to heart. I need to get stronger. I need to get harder. But, I also need to be tactful in covering up my disdain for those telling me to "contact me ASAP!" about their application; telling me they'll just go to a breeder; and, telling me I have taken their potential "Savior" away.

With all of these things that probably sound pretty miserable, I manage to muster my way through...still with breakdowns because I am still the mentally fucked up person I've been for much of my life.

The rescue's name is Life Is Better. It's about making life better for the animals we bring into the organization. It's about saving Fallon from euthanasia because grass awns (google it! YIKES!) were in all four of his feet and the shelter couldn't handle that. Now, he has a family ready for him and he walks just fine. Or, there's Gabe who was displaced from his shelter due to Hurricane Harvey and managed to survive treading water for 2 days. And, my loves! The Rottweilers Carl and Chloe, a 1 year old male and 6 month old female who were impounded when their owner was busted for drugs.

But, in my time volunteering, I've come to learn that the name applies to the human animal. Life Is Better. I get to play with and just hang out with dogs and cats of all types and ages. I'm almost a cat person, if the litter box isn't involved. I have syringe fed kittens who don't even have their eyes opened yet. I've learned cats have lots of breeds. I've felt the choke in my throat and the tears in my eyes when a dog I've come to love finds the exact family he/she is meant to have. The happiness that comes when a person emails me about the joy they feel knowing his/her application was approved.

So, yes, all of my issues pop up and almost win the fight; inadequacy, anxiety, and all the other shit my medication cocktail should be helping, come at me full force. But, a lot is better for this human animal's life.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Different World View

The other day I was at my gynecologist's for my routine, annual exam. It struck me, again, just how differently I see the world these last few years. There are a lot of things that happen in the world that show a sort of denial about the existence of the infertile. Perhaps some people would call me the "snowflake" of infertility. So, who knows, maybe this post will convince everyone of that.

Getting back to my appointment at the gyno. Since my failed attempt at infertility and my hysterectomy, I have to take a deep breath and brace myself for my appointment. The waiting room is filled with professional portraits of newborns here, toddlers there, and families, too. Then I wade through all of the women in various stages of pregnancy. I think to myself, "Can't they make separate waiting rooms?" How about a waiting room for obstetrics and a waiting room for gynecology? There are more people like me, I think...maybe.

Another place that doesn't always have a view of infertility is the grocery store. I remember when the struggle was fresh and real and I was still getting my period. I went to buy tampons. Where did I have to go to buy them? The baby aisle. I had to walk by diapers and wipes and baby oil and all the other stuff to get my box of tampons. I believe I teared up the first time. Not every grocery store is set-up that way, but I've managed to be in the ones that were.

The world view I really wish would change is the view some people have of people without children. People think it is okay to ask questions and imply things. There's the times childless people are holding a baby, "Oh, that looks good on you?" Or, "The clock is ticking." Those questions/comments are so intrusive, not funny. There can be a number of reasons for not having children and people should start to realizing they should keep their noses out of it. Also, if you do know that the situation is infertility, don't ask about adoption or surrogacy or embryo donation. In my case, not that it's anyone's business, my trying to get pregnant was for Shawn and me to have a baby together. I wanted a piece of me and a piece of him to come together for me to carry. It was about us coming together in the closest way possible.

So please, just think about someone else's silent struggles.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My favorite color's green except that one shade

Last weekend Shawn and I were at a comic convention to promote his comic, The Specialists. Conventions are always an interesting experience, and this was no different.

As I was sitting there and as I walked around, I took in so much. At the end of it all, I had a mix of emotions. I wouldn't call it envy, that green eyed monster, because I think that has anger behind it. I wasn't angry. I admired the creativity that was expressed; the art and the writing. And then I felt sad. It was a sadness about my wasted talents.

Years ago, I did draw. Not the black & white doodles that were worth framing and displaying in my own house, but realistic images in pencil. The last one and one I'm most proud of was a little over 20 years ago. I did a drawing of my nephew from a photograph I had. Is it convention worthy? No. I probably wouldn't be able to get any money for it, but it was good. I look at it and I know it is him.

Why did I stop taking art after 9th grade? Why did I stop doing it on my own? I don't know. I guess it wasn't on my life's trajectory.

Then, there's the writing. College papers and my creative writing course about wrap up my use of writing. I never wrote very long papers. Really was a minimum requirement kind of gal. The longest story I could manage was a single page. Why didn't I do more with that? I was an English major....I was an English major who didn't want to teach and was headed to the convent where something would be figured out.

These thoughts about my undeveloped talents are happening in the midst of some of Shawn's thoughts about himself as a writer. His doubts about his talent. His thoughts that when he writes nothing good comes out.

Shawn is amazingly talented. His creativity with the wedding vows he wrote put my vows to shame. I mean, Mad Libs and Dr. Suess? Who does that? Who does that well? Then, he writes The Specialists and has a vision of the story that will culminate in 12 chapters. He also comes up with these vignettes about himself and our dog, Jarvis. They are so funny. He is, indeed, gifted.

In thinking about all of this stuff, I've come to realize that my brain doesn't work in fiction. I don't have imagined stories to write with made up characters and places heading toward some plot point to resolve. My drawing needs to have an actual, existing thing for me to follow. And now, my hands get the shakes at any old time they feel like it, so that's not conducive to drawing.

Maybe, if I did more way back when, my brain would know how to make stuff up.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Should have

There's the old "coulda, shoulda, woulda" adage of life. We all have moments of our lives that we wish we had played out differently. There are some times that are filled with more regret than others. It's life. But, that doesn't make it easier.

When I was a kid, there was this woman from our church who was active in some of the same groups as my parents. She was an Italian woman who was part of a Pre Cana group for engaged couples. She cooked for them and wore her "Signora" apron. Her husband had his matching "Signore" apron. That was my first memory of Mrs. Scotese. I was still pretty young when Mr. Scotese died, so I don't have many memories of him outside of his apron wearing.

Mrs. Scotese was a grandma, literally, but also in character and personality. She wasn't an older person toward whom I felt awkward. I would approach her without hesitation. With some of my "shyness" (read as "anxiety") it was nice to have someone who made me comfortable.

Her name was Eleanor, but to most she was, "Ellie". To me, she was Mrs. Scotese since I was a kid. My parents probably would have laid into me if I tried calling her, "Ellie". She drove a Cadillac with vanity plates that read, "Elle", if my memory is right. I can't remember the order, but one Cadillac was a burgundy color and then there was an cream color. Seeing that car parked at church brought a smile to my face.

She lived down the street from us. When she would drive by our house and I was outside, she would honk and wave. I loved that. She was also a school bus driver. Her bus route took her by our house and, again, she would honk and wave. I looked forward to it.

Then, I grew up. Then, I moved away. Then, I wasn't so good at keeping in touch and visiting. Then, we became Holiday greeting card exchangers. I would hear things here and there from my parents.

Two weeks ago, I was in Cleveland. Mostly to spend time with my parents. I thought about Mrs. Scotese. I asked them about her. She wasn't down the street at her house anymore. But, she was down the street in the other direction at Hospice. She was in her 90s and she was declining in health. I kept thinking I should head down to see her. Maybe take my dad with me. My mom was still recovering from some stuff and I figured it wouldn't be wise to bring her. Visiting kept popping into my mind, but I never did. I shoulda.

This morning, I found out she passed away. I wish I would've visited. But, I can picture her honking and waving her way out of this life.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three years since the day I thought I stopped being a woman

I can't believe I am 3 years post-hysterectomy and that I still have to look up how to spell "hysterectomy". I think I am making progress from year one  and year two. I take that back. I think I'm doing better most of the year. This day still makes me an emotional wreck.

However, time moves slowly, especially without a period to measure it by. Seriously, the lack of having a period isn't the worst thing. But, I was left with my right ovary, which, in case you were unaware, still functions along with the endometriosis. This ovary is kind of getting its panties in a twist which isn't helpful when you are trying to move on from your infertility. Ovaries are assholes.

Here are my first two posts that I wrote just a few days post surgery. They may give insight to how far I may have come.


Things still aren't how they were supposed to be

The sting still stings. The hurt still hurts. I have moments when I wonder what things would have been like if we started things earlier. That's partially because I'm at an age that, before all of this, I didn't want to get pregnant. The "what ifs" can make you mad and I already have enough madness in me.

Hey, SCORE! I don't always cry at baby related things. The gut kick from seeing a pregnancy announcement/photoshoot/ultrasound; a baby shower or a gender reveal; the most adorable baby clothes or furniture or pictures is now a little twinge of discomfort. I will say, I do get choked up at baby and young children cosplayers at conventions (unless it's Deadpool).

For real, things are sort of better. I know that my female reproductive system isn't what defines my womanhood. Steps toward healing are being made. Life is going on, even without a "Happy Period"!