Becoming Jill: Adventures in Adulthood


I’m Still Here!
January 9, 2012, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Primal, Uncategorized, Updates

So, my blog has been on hiatus for quite some time. What can I say? Life has a way of happening, often in extremely unplanned ways.

Here’s a quick review of 2011 in The World of Jill:

  • Number of hospital stays for dad: 3
  • Number of hospital stays for mom: 1
  • Number of hip replacements for Papa Coats: 1
  • Number of hospital stays for Nana Venter: 3? (Could be losing track, here)
  • Number of hospital stays for Papa Venter: 2 (Plus in-home hospice)
  • Number of trips to Missouri for Jill: Innumerable
  • Number of pounds lost since October: 36!
  • Number of jobs found: 0
  • Number of EF-5 tornados narrowly avoided: 1 (hooray!)
  • Number of first dates: 4 (I think? I may have blocked a few out)
  • Number of second dates: 0 (Trust me, you wouldn’t have gone on one, either)

So, yes, rather a momentous year for Jill And Family.

***

My Papa Venter passed away in July, following several months in the hospital, and a brief stint at home and on hospice. I first experienced hospice with my Grandma Denzel before she passed away in 2010, so when Papa came home from the hospital, I already had a lot of knowledge of how to take care of him, which was very helpful. My aunt and I took care of him at the Venter family farm, and while it wasn’t easy, we were glad he passed away peacefully in his home, on the farm where he was born.

A handsome young soldier!

Since Papa had dementia/Alzheimer’s, taking care of him was more difficult in many ways than taking care of Grandma D was. It’s hard to get used to bossing around your stubborn and confused grandfather.  On the other hand, you get to have some pretty entertaining conversations, like trying to convince him that he doesn’t have to go deliver a wagon-full of turnips to town. One rather scarier interchange involved trying to convince him that we hadn’t been gassed by the Germans (he fought in WWII). All in all, I was glad I was able to be there with him, and we all miss him very much, especially my Nana, who is in very poor health, herself.

***

I was in Joplin, MO helping my dad through his recovery process following his motorcycle accident when the city was devastated by an EF-5 tornado on May 22nd. Thankfully, none of my family members were hurt, and my step-sister Jana had only some minor damage to her house. Lots of other people weren’t so lucky.

I still have very strong emotions about this event, and it’s hard for me to write about. I won’t say much, other than it really helped me stop focusing so much on the things that are “wrong” in my life and start seeing the bigger picture. It’s an ongoing process for me.

Joplin, following the tornado

Due to my many extended stays in Missouri through the past year, I have gotten to see the process of the city rebuilding, which is nice. I am glad that the images from the weeks following the tornado are slowly being replaced in my brain.

November 2011: New buildings! Trust me, it really does look better

***

In more positive news, once things calmed down a bit in my family and I got to come home to Minnesota, I was able to focus on myself and start making some positive changes! By far the biggest change so far has been discovering the Paleolithic or Primal lifestyle, which advocates eating the diet that humans evolved eating before the introduction of agriculture. I stopped eating grain, sugar, and processed food, and I feel GREAT! Plus, I have lost 36 pounds total. I’ll definitely write lots more about this in future, because I feel like it’s the best thing I have ever done for myself. Not even exaggerating. Goodbye pasta: you are NOT missed!

***

So… in the year ahead, here’s what I want to do:

  • Continue following the Primal lifestyle, and start increasing my exercise and activity level
  • GET. A. JOB.
  • Spend more months in Minnesota than Missouri (sorry, mom)
  • Move to a slightly larger apartment once I have had said JOB for a while
  • Write more, both on my blog and my very neglected fiction writing
  • Be a better friend, which includes keeping in better touch with people
  • NOT HAVE ANY FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE HOSPITAL
  • Find some volunteer work that I find meaningful. I miss volunteering.
  • I am sure I am forgetting something.

Happy 2012 (Slightly late, but that’s how I roll!)

Pip celebrates the new year with his favorite pink toys!



Chapter 20: In Which I am Thankful My Dad Didn’t Die
January 6, 2011, 7:34 pm
Filed under: Positive Thoughts, Uncategorized

So, remember back in early November when I said I was going home for 2 weeks to help my dad recover from surgery? Well, that 2 weeks turned into 6 plus 2 major holidays, and my dad nearly died of septic shock.

I’ve been putting off writing about it, because I have basically been in recovery mode since returning to MN about a week ago, plus I’ve been sick. However, today seemed to be the right day!

Basically, when Dad’s catheter was removed after a month, he got a really bad bladder infection, which put e. coli into his bloodstream (sepsis). Being a man, he was refusing to let me take him to the doctor until he was bad enough that he had to go to the ER. He was then admitted to the hospital on IV drugs, and we thought he was going to be fine. The next day, his fever spiked to 105, his oxygen levels dropped to the 60 percents, and he really almost died. Luckily, my aunt was spending the night in his hospital  room and was able to run and get help, and he was transferred up to the ICU and changed to different drugs. He spent a few days in the ICU before returning back to a regular room and finally getting discharged a few days before Christmas. After all that, he still had to have IV antibiotics 3 times a day for 12 days! That e. coli sure doesn’t mess around…

So, needless to say, the holidays were a bit stressful and chaotic, but we were all really glad that dad is making a good recovery! He went back to work on Monday, and is doing great, although he’s pretty tired. So, public service announcement: if you suspect you have sepsis, get thee to the ER!

 

 

 



Chapter 18: In Which I Feel Like Crap, But Fall In Love With A Vacuum Cleaner
January 4, 2011, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ummm, yeah. The title pretty much sums up today’s post! I’ve been fighting with a sinus infection since mid-December, and it reared its snotty green head again today. I’ve spent most of the day in bed, and was having trouble coming up with a positive thought… All the things I knew I should be grateful for (food, shelter, comfy bed, etc) were overshadowed by the OMG, MY FACE IS GOING TO EXPLODE!

But THEN! But then… I thought back to yesterday to the miraculous thing that occurred: I fell in love with a vacuum cleaner! I know you are thinking that I probably need a bit more excitement in my life, but YOU try living in 250 sq ft with 2 long-haired cats, and then see how you feel upon the purchase of a vacuum that actually vacuums!

Since the place is so small, I couldn’t bring my quite nice real vacuum with me, and have been getting by with an aging handheld doohickey. I finally got fed up with the thing conking out after 3 minutes of use, and decided to use a little bit of my Christmas money to buy a corded handheld with more power. It arrived yesterday, and it was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. It has a 20 ft cord and a motorized brush built in, which is excellent for getting fur out of upholstery. I vacuumed an entire cat out of one couch cushion! I cleaned up an entire litterbox worth of litter from the floor! It even straightened my hair! OK, not so much on the hair, but the thing is really great. No more fur everywhere and litter underfoot! That’s a positive thought I can get behind, even after my face explodes.

the Eureka 71B, or as I like to call it, my new BFF



A New Chapter
September 9, 2010, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Denzel Barkley 1914-2010

My wonderful Grandma Denzel passed away this evening. She had been very peaceful all afternoon, and as her breaths came more slowly, she simply drifted away. My mom, step-sister, and I were all in the room with her, and it was so quiet that it took a while to realize that she wasn’t going to take another breath. While I am sad for us all to lose her, I am so glad that this long journey is over, and she’s on to a new chapter.

At one point in the afternoon, she looked up with a wonderful smile, and lifted her hand to the ceiling. While I wasn’t there to witness it, I feel better knowing that she saw something that made her so happy and peaceful. I am so glad that her death was quiet and calm, and that she didn’t linger any longer as a shell of her formal self. I hope everyone I love will be so lucky.



Chapter 13: In Which I Care for the Elderly. Back Spasms Occur.
September 6, 2010, 8:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Wow, quite a lot has been happening in my life since my last post… Here’s a brief summary:

  • I spent a week on the Coats Farm, helping take care of my Papa. He had hip replacement surgery in May, and hasn’t been recovering the way he should. I helped Grandma around the house, and drove them to many, many doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions. Thankfully, Papa is doing better now! Word on the street is that he can even get in the car by himself! He’s also back to driving, so if you see someone driving 40 mph on the interstate, wave hi to my Papa.
  • While I was hanging out on the farm, my cousin Adam got married! While I feel that I am not old enough to have a cousin who’s diapers I changed get married, apparently he doesn’t agree 😉 His new wife, Ashley, is lovely, and we are all so happy to have her join the crazy family.

freshly married!

  • I went back to Minnesota for about 2 weeks to try and find a job. My stupid laptop crashed AGAIN, so one week of that time was spent computerless, with no access to my files, which were floating around in online backup storage. The good news: computer is again fixed, with no cost to me. The bad news: this laptop is not even 4 months old, and has had 3 motherboards, 3 hard drives, 3 sets of memory, and 3 power cords. Blarg.
  • While I was in MN, my awesome friends Karen and Sarah ran a triathlon! I am so incredibly proud of both of them– they finished right under 2 hours, which I think is amazing for first-timers!

me with my favorite triathletes!

  • I came back to Missouri a week ago to help Mom and Larry take care of Larry’s mom. She’s definitely in the final stage of life, but there’s no way of knowing how much longer she’s going to hang on. She’s essentially bed-bound, and barely eating anything. It’s a 2-person full-time job caring for her, so it’s easier to have 3 people rotating. Unfortunately, I had a bad back spasm after lifting her on Saturday, and have been pretty much useless ever since. On the upside, this means I get to take my mom’s excellent muscle relaxers, so I spend lots of time giggling and meowing at my cats. Gotta take your excitement where you can find it in this house…

Grandma Denzel has an airing on the porch

  • I drove up to the Venter Farm yesterday to spend time with that set of grandparents. Had a good visit, but the drive made my back worse! Alas.
  • Not sure how much longer I’ll be here, but at least through next weekend I think. The job search continues in my downtime, and I keep crossing my fingers that I’ll find something soon. The bills keep mounting up, and I have no way to pay them. It’s rather stressful. I heard on NPR that unemployment in my age bracket is 39%. Yikes!
  • My mom’s chickens and duckies are growing up! Here’s a pic of my favorite ducky. I named her Jemima Puddle-Duck! She is very bossy, and likes to chase Rocky The Rooster.

Miss Jemima Puddle-Duck



Chapter 5: In Which I put myself on a schedule. Things Get Done.
March 20, 2010, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, remember how a few weeks ago I decided to become an adult? One of the first things I decided to do was construct some sort of daily schedule, because as much as I hate to admit it, I really do function best with structure. Lame, I know. In the old days (ya know… two weeks ago…) my mornings went something like this:

6:45 Snooze

7:00 Snooze

7:15 Snooze

7:16 Mmm, the bed is nice and warm, maybe I’ll just stay home!

7:18 No, I really should get out of bed and go to work. OK, here we go!

7:21 OK, I’m up. Now, I need to get in the shower immediately.

7:22 Maybe I’ll just check my email right quick

7:29 Well, it’s important to know the weather forecast

7:31 Maybe I should get in the shower… Oh, look at this article on Slate.com!

7:45 Really should take shower

7:55 OK, seriously

8:00 Oh, look, time to call mom!

8:15 SHOWER!

8:25 Make breakfast/lunch

8:35 Feed cats, give Pip his insulin

8:45 Leave house to walk to bus

Clearly, this is not a very useful way to spend one’s morning. So, I reformed the entire system, and now I basically do the same thing at the same time every day. Let me tell you, it’s REALLY boring. I get up the moment the alarm goes off, something I have never done in my ENTIRE LIFE! I get immediately in the shower, and then I take care of kitty litter, kitty food, and kitty shots, and then make breakfast and lunch, and then it is 7:30, and I don’t leave the house until 8:45!!! Being an adult is quite dull. Of course, I have infinite capacity to entertain myself, so I spend the rest of the morning reading the news online, sweeping kitty litter, washing dishes, and the like. But still, it’s a big change, and I’m not quite used to it yet.

***

My schedule also contains lists of chores I have to do every single day, OR ELSE! Things like checking the mail, and actually opening it and dealing with it, instead of checking it weekly and then leaving it sitting on the table. Weird. Also, I have to make sure all the dishes are washed before I go to bed. I’ve been a little lax about that one in the last day or two, but I’ve generally been doing pretty well! Since I don’t have a dishwasher, I really need to stay on top of the dishes, or I won’t have anything to cook or eat with, which is how one ends up eating bagels for dinner for a week. Not that I’ve ever done that… So, anyway, dishes get done, and then I am actually motivated to cook because I don’t have a pile of dishes staring me down! You might think that living in a studio the size of a shoebox would mean that you need to clean LESS, but it actually means you need to clean MORE. Since it’s so small, it gets cluttered very quickly, and there’s no where you can go to escape… which leaves you the option of staring at the clutter, or cleaning it. I’ve discovered that if I do some basic chores every day, I don’t have to spend the entire weekend cleaning! I still give everything a good going-over, but it’s not nearly as arduous as it used to be.

Before I go to bed at night, I try to make sure I have everything ready to go for the next morning: veggies and fruit cut and packed for lunch, clothes picked out, work bag packed, clutter dealt with appropriately. I am finding that I am sleeping better, which is probably a combo of knowing that everything taken care of, and not having the constant dread of not knowing when I am going to run out of money. Now that I know I don’t have enough money, I can stop worrying about it! 😉

I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of girl, so while it might seem really ridiculous to put myself on this kind of routine, it works for me. Things actually get done, I get to work on time, and my whole life functions more smoothly. I do sometimes struggle with motivation, but I know that if I cut myself some slack, the whole system will go to hell, so that tends to keep me going.

***

I also made some financial rules to go along with all of this. I know that I need to give myself a little leeway in my very tight budget, or I will soon be a VERY unhappy camper. Since I am not really the world’s most cheerful camper to begin with, that could be a situation! So, here are the little indulgences I am planning to allow:

  • Pizza delivery once a month, from Pizza Luce. If you’re going to go, go all out!
  • A yummy scone from my neighborhood coffee shop every other Friday morning
  • Netflix subscription that gives me one DVD at a time, plus unlimited online streaming
  • High-speed internet– I negotiated a pretty sweet deal with Comcast!

Of course, when Karen and I run the numbers again, some (or all…) of these might need to go away. That would be sad, but I guess part of being an adult is dealing with not having what you want. I am really reluctant to get rid of the internet, because it’s pretty much my chief source of information and entertainment. The previously mentioned coffee shop is only a block away from my apartment and has free wifi, but I have never been comfortable with using wifi without purchasing something, and that’s not really an option. Sigh.

***

In summary, being an adult is kind of a drag, washing dishes daily is a useful thing to do, and I love the internet. Also, I love everyone who sends me encouraging messages and comments! Thanks for being so wonderful and supportive– it really helps me get through the hard moments! 🙂



Chapter 4: In Which I am Frustrated With Judgmental People
March 16, 2010, 9:39 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I found out this weekend that my re-application for food support was accepted, which was a huge, giant, enormous relief. I don’t earn enough money to purchase food and pay my bills at the same time, and the VISTA program prohibits any additional forms of income, so without food stamps, I would really be up a creek.

Which is why when I read an article like this one on Salon.com, I get really frustrated! Yes, I choose to use my food stamps to buy healthy, fresh foods. Sometimes I even buy organic ones if the regular ones don’t look very fresh.  Since the point of the program is to allow people to purchase food and stay healthy, I can’t really see what is wrong with buying fresh fruit instead of fruit roll-ups.  I also purchase dried beans, rice, flour, and oats and cook nutritious food from scratch. I don’t do it to be a “trendy hipster,” but to be healthy and eat food that I think tastes good. Maybe my notions of what tastes good are informed by growing up eating fresh, healthy food from my mom’s garden, but that hardly makes me an “overindulged slacker” as one of the commenters on the article wrote.

I just don’t understand why people judge each other for the choices they make, but I find it to be especially irksome in this instance. I take my benefits and spend them in the way I think will best feed me for the month. I always keep in mind that this money is not some hand-out, and I try to spend it responsibly. Do I buy the occasional chocolate bar? Of course I do, but I try to keep indulgences to a minimum. If I choose to eat beans for a week so that I can also afford to buy a bar of high-quality chocolate, why should anyone care?

I am conscious of the fact that I am not the “typical” food stamp user, but if my income qualifies me to receive them, why should I be judged for coming from a middle-class family and having an education? Yes, my parents paid my tuition in undergrad, but I also had scholarships. All of my graduate degrees were paid for by a combination of scholarships, assistantships, and student loans I took out myself.

Should my high level of education mean that I should be earning enough to NOT qualify for food stamps? Believe me, that’s my goal. I chose to do a year of service with AmeriCorps for many reasons, not least among them with the intent of establishing myself in the non-profit sector, and gaining valuable work experience. When my term of service is ended, I hope to find a job that will pay enough so that I no longer need to rely on food stamps to feed myself. I eagerly look forward to the day when I can pay my own way, and I see this blog as a valuable tool to help me get there.

Luckily, the primary people in my life are smart enough to understand all this, and certainly haven’t made me feel like I am ripping off the government. Unfortunately, my food support case worker has lectured me for “taking money away from people who actually need it.” I guess this is just my silly way of saying, I do need it, and please keep your nose out of my business. The End.