MY BEST-EVER JOB

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #30: MY BEST JOB EVER

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive. They have to look good while doing it without a break for lunch or even a trip to the bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken. When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made. We didn’t spell it out, but we both understood. We were social equals, but his job came first. Period. End of story.

One day, I got a call. A large HMO was looking for a technical writer to put together documents for their various computer programs. Aimed at users, this was entry-level stuff. For me, used to working on really complex software, it was a piece of cake — with icing. I went to the interview. Bad news? It was a part-time job, paying a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, which was less than my usual rate.

The good news? It was a retainer. All the freelancers out there know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours, depending on what was going on. I would not be required to go into an office. Ever. I would work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the summer-house on the Vineyard. It was half the money I’d been earning, but I could take freelance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job. This was a gift from Heaven. I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out, there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me and didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything was fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep. For five years, I got a steady paycheck for which I did essentially nothing. I did a bit of free-lance stuff here and there and was obliged to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case someone needed me. I was getting paid for free.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. I would have to stay there all day. What an awful thought! I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. Wonderful colleagues and a great boss, but it was work. I had to think a lot. It was like getting a masters in advanced database building using object linking. After I synthesized what I needed to know, I then had to use that knowledge to write and design documents. I was back to meeting deadlines. My 5-year paid vacation had not eliminated my skills. I was as good as ever.

I was spoiled.

Never again would I feel comfortable working a 9 to 5 job although I worked them for twenty more years. I got terribly restless. Merely having to be in one location for all those hours made me twitch. I got my work done and done well, but I wanted my freedom back. I wouldn’t get it until I retired and that was a long time in the future.

I was ruined for the real world.

FAMILY TOLL OF BIPOLAR DISORDER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never paid much attention to the Kardashian family and I certainly never thought I had anything in common with them. But now I suddenly have a connection with Kim Kardashian – we have both experienced the chaos of life with a bipolar spouse. I know this because recently Kim’s husband, Kanye West, publicly announced that he is running for president and gave several off the walls, extremely manic rants on TV. Kim later publicly apologized for her husband and asked for understanding because he was off his medications and suffering from a severe manic episode.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

Boy, could I relate to that! Most discussions about mental illness focus on promoting compassion and support for the person suffering from the mental illness. Fortunately, the stigma that used to exist around mental illness has diminished as we now understand the physiological basis of mental disorders and put them in the same category as other physiological ailments. We also understand that it isn’t the patient’s ‘fault’ and they can’t just ‘will themselves’ back to mental health.

Less has been written about the incredible strain and hardship suffered by the families of mentally ill patients. In my case, my ex was bipolar (or Manic Depressive as it is also called). He was more manic than depressed so most of my experience is with the manic phase rather than the depressive phase of this disorder.

Initially, many families go through a period when there is erratic, irrational, often volatile behavior but no diagnosis. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, this period with my ex lasted thirteen years because knowledge about Bipolar Disorder was in the dark ages then compared to what we know today. I insisted we go to a marriage counselor and she tried to analyze what I must be doing to provoke the unpredictable rages and paranoid fits my ex would have. I had a sense that his behavior was dangerous, but I had to go along with the idea that every marriage is a 50-50 proposition and therefore that  I had to be a big part of the problem.

One night my ex came home and went into an angry tirade about what a selfish, uncaring, inconsiderate wife I was because there were dishes in the sink when he came home from work, after I had fed my two kids. He threw a pot at me in front of the kids. The next night, the kids and I made sure that the dishes were done and the sink was clean when he came home. But my ex still went into an abusive rage, this time because the basement was cluttered. We couldn’t win.

The manic phase of Bipolar Disorder can manifest itself in many different types of behavior .This complicates diagnosis. Mania can show as paranoia, ‘irritability’, volatility, and irrationality. Extreme rages, way out of proportion to the alleged provocation, are often accompanied by verbal and/or physical abuse, the physical aspect applying to property as well as people. Mania can also be periods of unrealistic grandiosity, crazy schemes, uncontrollable spending of money or compulsive traveling. We once took thirteen trips in twelve months, many with the kids and many without, and many for just a few days each. It was very disruptive, as was the wanton spending.

The unpredictability of the manic phase was one of the worst features, especially for the kids who need consistency, security and routine. The kids and I would try to talk the their father before he came home from work so we could gauge what ‘mood’ he was in and figure out what to expect when he came through the door.

Family events and holidays are particularly fraught for families with mentally ill members. Our family stories revolve around which kind of ‘scene’ Dad created at which holiday and why and when Dad stormed out of which family gathering. He once left me and the kids stranded at my sister-in-law’s house in New Jersey when he impulsively drove the car to the train station so he could go back to NYC. My sister-in-law had to leave the festivities and drive with my son to the train station to pick up the car so the kids and I could drive ourselves home.

We were greatly relieved when my ex was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 1987. But the relief was short lived because, unfortunately, a common symptom of the disorder is a denial that you have it at all. My ex, as with many others, refused to believe he needed medication, though the Lithium he was prescribed actually worked very well and kept him significantly more level and stable and eliminated his manic phases. Also like other Manic Depressives, my ex refused to stay on his meds for more than a year or so at a time. He’d stop the medication without telling anyone, even his therapist, and he would gradually devolve into worse, more extreme and more and more frequent manic episodes until he was manic basically all the time. That’s when he would hit rock bottom and often had to leave the house because he was so out of control and destructive. Then we had to wait six weeks for the Lithium to kick in once he finally agreed to start taking it again. This is the roller coaster of life with Bipolar Disorder.

I understand exactly what Kim Kardashian is going through. She’s hoping to get Kanye back on his meds but knows in her heart that he won’t stay on it for long. How many times is she willing to go through this crazy cycle? I waited 25 years, until my kids were 14 and 19 before I decided that I had had enough. Knowing what I know now, I would not have subjected my kids to the irrationality, tension and chaos that marked their childhoods. But I was also traumatized and terrorized by the ups and downs of our lives as well, which limited my ability to be strong and confident and take charge of the situation. I was also financially dependent since I had given up my career when my first child was born, but that’s a whole other story.

So my advice to Kim Kardashian is: Get out now while your kids are still young and too much damage hasn’t already been done to them. You have the money to leave and continue to live your upscale lifestyle without the drama and trauma of Kanye’s mental illness in your everyday lives.

BIG WHITE HORSES IN THE VALLEY

We grow a lot of horses in the valley. Many are saddle horses. Quarter horses. Morgans and Tennessee Walkers. But mostly, we grow big horses. Belgian Draft horses and Percherons. They don’t do anything much. No circuses for these horses. They lounge in pastures and hope someone will bring them an apple or two. Big friendly horses, like those the knights rode into battle.

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HAIRY WOODPECKER AT WORK

I got up this morning and there was a hairy woodpecker working hard on a tree. He wasn’t where I usually shoot, but I managed to find a window that was clean enough to shoot through and I got some really nice pictures of a Hairy Woodpecker — that’s the medium size one — doing his job. It must be hard finding bugs right now because it has been so dry, but apparently he found quite the bonanza in this particular tree. He was beating up on it when I got to the kitchen and was still working on it when I moved on to coffee. Maybe he found a nest of something?

Portrait of a Hairy Woodpecker doing his job!

It was interesting getting sharp pictures because his little head was in constant motion, moving so rapidly you could barely see the movements. You’d think all that pounding would give him a headache! Don’t they have beautiful patterns in their feathers? Especially from the side!

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UNFILTERED: CULT OF FOX’S VIEW AS VOTING DAY DRAWS NEAR – THE SHINBONE STAR

UNFILTERED: THE CULT OF FOX’S VIEW AS NOV. 3 DRAWS NEARER

Following are comments to the Fox News coverage of the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wis., and the aftermath of that shooting where 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a former member of a youth police cadet program with an affinity for guns, shot and killed two protesters and seriously wounded a third. The comments were taken from the Fox News affiliate for Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson in South Carolina and Asheville, N.C.

One school of thought in journalism circles is that quotes from readers and interviewees should be edited for grammar and punctuation so as not to make people appear needlessly ignorant. We’re not doing that here because, with possibly the most important presidential election coming in the near future, the shattering ignorance on display here is kinda the point.

Source: Unfiltered: The cult of Fox’s view as Nov. 3 draws nearer – THE SHINBONE STAR

EVENING’S GOLDEN HOUR

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #29

Coming home from Mass General, we drove into the most golden sunset I’ve ever seen. My favorite hours of the day are dawn, just before sunrise when all the birds are singing and you can see the first rays of sun coming over the horizon … and then again twilight and sunset, as the sun sinks down, often leaving some amazing colors behind.

Today, while we were driving home, the sky turned gold. It was something else. The tops of all the winter trees changed color from green to gold. It was remarkable and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. It’s difficult taking pictures in the car. Windshield and all that, not to mention the annoying habit the dashboard has of popping up. Garry finally pulled off the road, grabbed his camera and took a few more.

#FDDA – Dog Days of August

SPARROWS, WOODPECKERS, AND CAROLINA WRENS

We got a bit of rain yesterday and today, but not enough. Not nearly enough. We are in a stage called “serious drought, ” but we may move into “dangerous drought” by the end of next week. Not surprisingly, living in the woods we are being very, very careful about fire. It’s tinder dry pretty much everywhere and there are a lot of brush fires. Lucky we got some new fire trucks and Uxbridge has the biggest and best fire department in the area, though all the fire departments work together when there’s a big one. Even so, the biggest fire department pales in comparison to the number of dry trees which desperately need rain.

Hairy Woodpecker and incoming sparrow

I now put out water for the birds too. I didn’t used to because there are rivers and ponds all over, but many of them are dried out. Our own little pond, which we can see, but have never managed to physically get to is completely dry. The good part is that there aren’t many mosquitoes. The bad part is the trees are suffering and I don’t know how we are going to get much of an apple harvest with such dry weather. I guess we’ll see.

VACATION MEMORIES: MAINE, VERMONT AND COOPERSTOWN

A Photo a Week Challenge: Vacation Memories

Our honeymoon was in Ireland and that was definitely our most memorable vacation. But I don’t have much in the way of pictures from those weeks on the Emerald Isle … and it really is emerald. It was the greenest place I’ve ever been. Everything was green. The grass seemed greener. The fields were brilliant and we saw a rainbow every morning.

Photo, Garry Armstrong
Photo, Garry Armstrong
Wildflowers in an empty field in upstate New York
Lake Otsego

ALWAYS AUTUMN

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #28: LOVING AUTUMN


New England has always been the best place in the world to see the colors of Autumn. We have always had “bad” autumnal years. There can be too much rain or an early snow in September or early October. A hurricane or serious nor’easter can blow the autumn leaves from the trees or wash them away.

The Blackstone River in the fall

The region which we live is usually the best place among many great places in New England, probably because we have more than 70% trees. Also, there is the beautiful Blackstone River and its tributaries running through it. Twisting and turning from it’s birth up in the Worcester hills until it exits into the ocean in Rhode Island.

The canal is most prolifically covered with fallen leaves
Stone bridge over the river and canal in Autumn

For the past two years, we’ve barely had any kind of autumn. It stayed warm so late into the year, the leaves just turned brown and fell off. In 2018, we got about three days of autumn and last year, we got one day. Maybe it was a day and a half. I love autumn for its colors and the crisp, cool weather. I would like fall back again. I want the season. Even a couple of weeks. Please?

#FDDA – Dog Days of August

WE ABOLISHED RECREATIONAL ALCOHOL IN 1920 AND NO ONE HAS HAD A DRINK SINCE

Once upon a time so many years ago, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness.We decided alcohol was the root of all evil. To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. and amendment which established a legal prohibition of the manufacture and consumption of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States. The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

VotedDry

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition. Those who had never imbibed before were so titillated by the idea, they had their first alcoholic beverage while it was illegal. This, no doubt, made it more fun Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy. Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of illegality. A whole criminal class was born from prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

prohibition-6

Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than voting for a better (or at least different) candidate won’t improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Take a look at our current GOP and you can see the results in full color with flashing lights. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created the underworld of crime. Now that it’s (mostly) legal, the prices have dropped and it’s not such a big deal after all, though it’s a great calmer downer for dogs. The knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes considerable pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before and quite possibly never imagined.

Throughout history, “morality” laws have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly. You’d think we’d have already noticed this, but ignorance being bliss, we don’t.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything, maybe it’s because no one recognized that history is repeating itself. Many people don’t know any history, so why would they notice?The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from a minor issue to a major social force. Now that is progress!

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment has been repealed. Today, whenever I hear someone declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of booze in 1919.

No one has had a drink since.

BLACK & WHITE – SHOES, FEET, HUMAN & ANIMAL

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Feet or Shoes, Human or Animal

This Cee Neuner, this week her topic is Feet or Shoes, Human, or Animals. Enjoy being creative if you feel like it, and have fun with the challenge.

Duke’s paws
Gibb’s paws
Summer sandal
Furry boots
Naked feet
Youthful feet
More summertime feet
Winter boots

Cee's Black-White

 

LIFE AS AN EXTROVERTED INTROVERT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I learned a new phrase recently, ‘extroverted introvert.’ I’d never heard it before but I instantly recognized that it applied to me and even explained some things about myself that had always puzzled me.

I have extrovert qualities but at heart I always felt like an introvert – so I could never figure out where I fit  on the spectrum. I would often be disappointed in myself when I didn’t feel as outgoing and social as I thought I should. I would beat myself up when I craved down time before and after bursts of socializing.

But that’s apparently natural for extroverted introverts. In fact, extroverted introverts are defined by their periods of sociability coupled with essential periods alone to decompress and recharge. This defines me to a tee.

Some people at our marina can sit on the dock and chat for hours. But after a while, I have to excuse myself and spend some time reading or writing. Extended socializing can be exhausting for me and often when I reach my saturation point, I mentally check out. I used to be upset with myself when this happened and I would worry about whether other people saw me as unfriendly. But now I can just relax and enjoy the amount of chit chat that is comfortable for me.

Another characteristic of extroverted introverts is that we crave deeper connections, with real substance. We don’t do well with much small talk. This means we are happier with a few close, meaningful friendships rather than many superficial ones. We feel rejuvenated and fulfilled when we have rich conversations and feel an emotional bond with other people.

I always felt bad that I had so little tolerance for idle chatter, but now I understand that since it gives me so little gratification, I should forgive myself for wanting to avoid it as much as possible.

We extroverted introverts are therefore better in small groups rather than large crowds and we actually prefer one on one conversations. I’ve always thought of myself as basically shy and insecure, though you would not think that to meet me, and in a crowd, I’m a wallflower. I tend to listen and observe more than talk. I hang out near the food or near the person I came in with and I’m wary about approaching people and starting a conversation. I’m often the one who offers to help the hostess set up or clean up to get away from the group setting.

But once someone is introduced to me, I open up and blossom and can form friendships with people very quickly. Also, if I sense a connection with someone, I have no problem asking a person I’ve just met for their contact information and inviting them to meet for coffee. I’ve come to realize that this is not the norm and that many people are reluctant to ask a stranger to hang out. That surprised me because I’m usually not that confident. But I think that my desire for deeper connections with others supersedes my shyness and anxiety.

The flip side of extroverted introverts’ need to connect is the fact that we are naturally empathetic and make us great listeners, a great shoulder to cry on and someone our true friends come to for comfort and advice. I pride myself in being that ‘sounding board’ to many friends and to both my children. I’m told that I am truly non-judgmental and therefore make people feel comfortable opening up to me. I’m thrilled about this because it’s something I’ve always striven to be.

My grandmother was fiercely judgmental and my mother always stressed to me how important it is NOT to be that way. My Mom turned out to be very judgmental too, though much more subtly. But somehow I achieved my goal of accepting people as they are and acknowledging that other people have different standards and values than me and that neither of us are inherently better than the other.

One of my best friends complimented me by telling me that I am one of the least negative and least judgmental people she knows and how much she appreciates that about me.

I don’t think that anything will change now that I know I’m an extroverted introvert. But it’s comforting to know that while I don’t neatly fit into the larger division of humanity between extroverts and introverts, there is a subset that fits me pretty well.

There are lots of other people who straddle personality modalities like I do. So I realize that I will never be the life of the party, but I am the person my friends will confide in after the party. And that’s fine with me.