How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane.....

Received an email tonight from Nirvana travel agency. I am scheduled to leave Atlanta's Hartsfield airport on August 8, 2012  at 1:45 p.m and arrive in Chicago at 3 p.m. I then have a five and half layover at Chicago's O'Hare.

I board an Etihad airlines flight in Chicago at 8:30 p.m for a fourteen hour flight to Abu Dhabi. I will arrive in my new home August 9, 2012  7:25 p.m UAE time.

As instructed, I confirmed receipt of itinerary immediately 

I am relieved to know my exact leave date so I can plan the coming week and not be in this maddening limbo any longer.

Still have a few last minute details to take care of:
*install Buffalo router onto my laptop
* pick up medication letters and copies of RXs from my rhuematologist
* schedule an esophageal dilation for THIS WEEK! (Almost choked to death on watermelon tonight..not fun)
* phone airlines and get verbal confirmation on baggage allowances and costs (trying to decipher the baggage allowance information on the airline websites is like trying to read hieroglyphics)
* assist Mom with home arrangements for Dad's release from hospital
* take one entire day and do total jackshit with my dear husband (watch old movies on T.V, eat junk food, talk..)
* go by Emory hospital and spend time with dad..

 Guess I'm going to really do this.

Now I'm scared.

All systems are go...

The Alzheimer's Daughters

Mom and I went to Atlanta yesterday to see my dad at Emory Hospital. My daughter, Lara, who is six months pregnant, went also. It was the first time I had seen my dad in over two and half weeks. I was shocked by his appearance.

Emory is taking good care of him, and they have managed to reduce his extreme anxiety and paranoia, but it came at a cost. He is not eating, not sleeping well, and as a result of each of these, he is weak and in a wheelchair. We were told it might be two more weeks before he is released.

When he saw us walk into the day room he started crying. It was all I could do not to turn around and run away. My eyes didn't want to see. My heart didn't want to know. But I also needed to hug him and be near him.

A friend of mine, who lives in another town, is going through the same issues with her dad. He has been battling Alzheimer's for years. She, like me, is an only daughter. Her dad is at home, but hospice was called in this past week.  I emailed her late last night trying to make sense of what Alzheimer's and Parkinson's has done to my dad. I cried as I wrote and knew my friend would understand, like no one else can. She has had to sit back and watch as her "daddy" has slowly been taken away from her a piece at a time, over several long grueling years.

 I know of no other way to explain what was running thorough my head and heart last night than share the email I wrote to my friend. I took out several lines that might breach my friend's privacy, but I left everything else in as written- mostly...

Dear Friend,
My heart breaks for you.. simply breaks- because I know the depth of your sorrow, as only an Alzheimer's Daughter can. I wish I could hug you right now and we could sit on the floor and cry together..

Me, Mom, and Lara have been in Atlanta all day at Emory visiting dad. It is the first time that Lara has seen Dad since he was admitted two and a half weeks ago. It has hit her very hard, so I know what you're going through with your daughter... they both love their granddaddies so very much.. Those strong men who loved those little baby girls from the instant we placed them into their grandfather hands.

Dad has developed dystonia in his neck and cannot hold his head up any longer. He is down to about 150 pounds (from 188 in June), is so weak he can't stand or walk, is in a wheelchair, is unable to feed himself, and is experiencing random hallucinations. BUT he still knows who I am and tells me he loves me.  He even smiles at me once in a while in that devilish way he has always had.  I fed him ice cream today and that really made him happy.

Lara and I left Mom at Emory with Dad for about an hour and a half.  I was able to buy Dad new pajamas and a very soft lap blanket at  store close by. I feel so ineffectual. My Dad is going through a hell not of his making, and I buy pajamas and a lap blanket.

When I got back to Emory, Dad was in his room and Mom was feeding him. Afterwards, when it had cooled down outside some. we took dad into the hospital courtyard for about 15 minutes and actually had a wonderful time. I saw so many flashes of my "old" Dad- he even leaned over and gave Mom a big kiss... and then right when we were wheeling him back into the facility he had a seizure of some type. Thank goodness a male nurse was standing right there and was able to keep Dad from literally sliding out of the wheelchair.  I mean, Dad went rigid.. Totally rigid.

Oh, honey, I know what you mean about wanting your dad here but also wanting him to go. The tug of war in my heart is profound.  For Dad's sake, I don't want this hellish nightmare to go on any longer. For my sake, I want him here forever so I can touch his skin, hold him, and say the word “Dad" and have him glance my way. I don't even know how to feel anymore. I can't cry in front of Mom, and I don't want to upset Lara.. I am slowly drowning in a salt sea of tears on the inside.

Before we left Emory (Mom and Lara had stepped out, so it was just me and Daddy)  I climbed into the hospital bed with Dad and curled up beside him. I put my nose to his skin and inhaled. I was attempting to sear the smell of his skin into my memory.  I placed my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat, I held him, I kissed him, he patted my hand softly, I told him "I love you", and he told me that he loved me... I don't know how to let him go.

I leave in a little over a week for Abu Dhabi..  I now know that Dad will not be released before I leave.  I guess I will come up the day before my flight departs and spend a few precious hours with him, and then walk away and not tell him goodbye. He wouldn't understand anyway..  I will step onto that plane knowing that I may never see him again.

How can I just leave? But what would it help if I stayed? God, sometimes I just don't know what in the hell to do. I NEED this job so badly. There are no teaching jobs for me here, and even if there were it would be nowhere near the money I will be able to make in the UAE. Plus, since I only have twelve years paid into my retirement, this job could help pad my nest egg a little   I am no spring chicken. Hell, I received an invitation to join AARP the other day. Fuck them. Is this what it comes down to? Putting the practical over the heart?? Choosing a job and an income over family?

My mother is an emotional wreck. Her entire world is going away and she is powerless to stop it. She has loved my Dad since she was fifteen years old. He is the only man who has even been intimate with her. The only man she has ever loved.  The man with whom she has had so many high highs and low lows. The man she followed all over the world while he carved out a military career. My heart is so heavy for her, and then I find myself being "bossy" and trying to tell her how to handle everything, but it's only because she seems so lost and confused by the turn of events.  It seems every time I open my mouth I say the wrong thing. She is holding on by a thread... and I don't know how to help her.  Even if I stayed and didn't go to Abu Dhabi, I wouldn't know how to help her.

I do know Mom and Dad's house is going to have to be modified before Dad comes home. A ramp needs to be installed at the back door, bathroom issues have to be worked out (the bathrooms are both down a long narrow hallway), sleeping arrangements are going to have to be decided (hospital bed or his own bed way in the back of the house). I know that Mom is going to need 24/7 assistance if she is to keep Dad at home. I know that this is the beginning of the end.

I am tired of crying too, dear friend. You are NOT alone. I promise.
Sisters in Tears,

So, that email was my way of trying to work it all out in my heart and my head. It helps to have my friend only an email or a phone call away, but does nothing to lessen the grief, the guilt, the tug of war going on inside of me.

Some of the newly hired Abu Dhabi 2012 teachers received their airplane e-tickets today. They are so excited, and I can't muster the same feelings, although I pretend to.. My anxiety over my leave date is based on my wanting to know how much more time I have left to help Mom, and what day I can go back to see Dad at Emory. 

I want to pull the covers up over my head and disappear from everything right now, and I still have so many small travel tasks to attend to before my flight leaves..

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jeeps, trains, and teacups.....

July 22, 2012
My husband and I woke up this morning, packed up the Jeep and our four-year-old granddaughter, Miley, and hit the road for Cherokee N.C. We stopped in Eatonton, where we had a picnic lunch and swatted bugs, then back on the road.

Six hours and about fifteen million questions from Miley that all began with the word “why”, my ears hurt, my patience was becoming brittle, and my eyes were starting to cross. 

We arrived at the hotel room only to discover that I had forgotten the bag that I had so carefully packed for Miley that contained her books, toys, and other items of diversion.
A quick trip to WalMart (Thank the baby Jesus for WalMart) yielded up a Barbie doll, a Rapunzel doll, a coloring book, and markers. 

Tomorrow a train ride through the Great Smoky Mountains, and perhaps the last remaining bit of my sanity. The “whys” are starting to fizzle my brain cells..

Every time we have left the hotel room Miley has insisted that someone is going to go into our hotel room while we are gone and take our belongings.  I can’t convince her otherwise.

July 23, 2012
Miley was so confused this morning. She kept insisting the Mayor was coming and we had better leave the hotel room. I finally figured out that she was talking about the maid. Then she started saying, “The nurse is going to come in and we have to go!” I corrected her about three times and then gave up.  She’s four- why am I arguing with a four-year-old?

After a breakfast of “panny cakes”, the making of which purely delighted us both (a little pancake machine that works like this:  the pancake lover presses a button, the machine whirls to life and almost soundlessly and seemingly effortlessly, makes a pancake and spits it out on a waiting plate! I have got to have a pancake maker all my own now), we headed to Bryson City and our weeks-in-the-planning train ride.

Bryson City

The train journey was all I had hoped it would be; not too crowded and the weather almost a made to order 86 degrees.  Miley was a real trooper and loved lurch walking back and forth from our swaying air conditioned 1940s era styled car to the open scenic watching cars.   

At one point, a dark haired, rather personable man plucking on a banjo entered our closed car and led the passengers in a round of “Oh, Susannah” and five rounds of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”, after which Miley dramatically threw her arms around said banjo player’s legs, gave him a quick hug, and proclaimed, “I love you” (God help me if she grows up to be a groupie- it’ll be all my fault).

 The train stopped for a one hour lunch, and while Jim stood in line to buy us lunch, Miley tried to feed some bread to the ducks paddling around in the little river. 

She ended up falling into the water face first.  Poor kid, but she DIDN’T cry, a fact I was rather proud of. After we re-boarded the train, I had to strip her down in the restroom and put Granddaddy’s extra shirt on her, which hung to her ankles. I held the wet dress and panties over the open rail car as we watched the scenery clankity clank past.

Miley, again the little trooper, rode commando the entire way back.

After the train ride, Jim had the hotel change us to a suite, so we would have a fridge and a microwave. That also placed us on the second floor instead of the first, a fact that Miley loved because we have been able to ride in the elevator all evening.  I wanted to go eat at Johnny Rocket's in Harrah’s Casino, but they wouldn’t allow anyone in under the age of 21 (huge signs saying so were stenciled on the doors, but Jim had to go inside to make sure). Personally, I think Miley has a case for the ACLU on the grounds of age discrimination.  I felt like telling the security guard at the door, “She won’t cost the house too much and she only drinks a little”. 

We ended up eating at a tiny diner next door to an Indian Tattoo Parlor.  I had pinto beans and cornbread. Miley had a grilled cheese sandwich.

And now, as I write this, Miley and Jim are playing Little Red Riding Hood in the hotel room. She keeps insisting that he play the part of the Big Bad Wolf, but he has to be a “Good Bad Big Bad Wolf”. 
I promised Miley we would go swimming in the hotel pool and I really don’t want to go because there are about a million people out there. But I promised, so I guess I have to do one of those things which I really don’t like to do but will do in order to prove my undying love and devotion as a grandmother: put on a bathing suit and walk out in public… The things I do for this child are ever surprising and amazing. 

July 24, 2012
After a day spent at a small amusement park in Pigeon Forge TN, where riding the teacups with Miley nearly kicked my fifty-year-old ass (they go around and around and around and around…), we rode up into the mountains of Tennessee and stopped at Newfound Gap and explored the scenery and the trails. 

 Miley gathered her courage and climbed up the side of the mountain for a ways, until she looked back and realized how far below I was (about 15 feet!) and got scared and came back down. 

Miley even made a friend. There was a family there who had a son who appeared to be around ten years old. The boy was walking a huge brown dog and Miley started following the boy, asking him, “Will you be my friend?”  She meets no strangers, much like her Gigi.

view from Newfound Gap

We wound the Jeep down the mountain toward Georgia. Miley watched "Stuart Little" dvd's on my computer and was a very sweet little girl the rest of the ride, even when Granddaddy and I stopped to gape at some elk beside the road.  She wasn't too interested in the elk, merely giving them a cursory glance out of politeness to her obviously excited and demented Gigi.

We finally made it to Mom and Dad’s cabin in Hiawassee around 10:30 p.m. Miley was geared up and I wasn't able to get her to sleep until after midnight.  Jim ended up sleeping on the couch because Miley was scared to sleep in the living room by herself.  She kicked me half the night and cuddled the other half.

July 25, 2012
Miley spent the morning running around in her panties, and I spent it fully clothed shaking out rugs, mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, washing sheets, and blowing off the deck and driveway at the cabin. I wanted it all spic and span for the time Mom is able to come back for a visit.  

Afterwards “Arthur” decided that enough was enough, what with the trip, the teacups, and the physical labor, and he bit my ass. I took half a pill and curled up in bed. 

Sweet Jim entertained Miley while I took a restorative three hour nap.  

 When I woke up I felt a little more human, so we drove to Hiawassee town to get an ice cream at Dairy Queen (Jim had a Georgia mudslide blizzard, I had a pineapple/strawberry sundae, and Miley had a vanilla cone) and then with ice creams in hand we stopped at The Towns County playground and “beach”. We sat in the swing together and watched the antics of the ducks and one lone hobbling goose while we made short work of the treats. I tried to get Miley to play on the playground, but she ignored it, and she and I spent the next two hours building a sandcastle using our leftover ice cream cups to pack sand into.. we didn’t leave until the moon was high overhead. 

Before we got into the car I had to strip Miley down to her panties because her clothes were so wet and sandy.

Half way to the cabin Miley stated, “You gotta try this!”
“Try what?”,  I asked her
“This riding in your panties. It’s fun!”
I bet it is. 

July 26, 2012
We headed for home late this morning, after a tour of the dump where we had to take the cabin trash.  Miley was fascinated by the dump. Go figure.
We stopped off in Helen and walked around and then had a huge country style lunch at a Mom and Pop roadside diner. The waitress brought around a tray full of fresh-from-the-garden cantaloupe (I swear I could taste the Georgia sunshine) and she let Miley have all she wanted.  Next door to the diner was a consignment shop and Miley and I wandered over. Out front were these very cool pink sparkly shoes. Four dollars. Tags still attached. And in Miley’s size. The shoes are now in Miley’s possession.  Pink? Sparkly? You’re damn right they’re in her possession.

Miley watched Ghostbusters I and II  the entire way home, and five hours later we pulled into Cochran safe, sound, tired, but happy.

 July 27, 2012
I am back home and somewhat rocovered. It occurred to me today that I have about ten days before I leave for Abu Dhabi. Miley leaves next weekend to go home to Florida and I won’t see her again until Christmas… So many changes will take place in those short five months. Children change so quickly at this age. She might even be reading by then. I’ll blink and she’ll be grown. She may not ever even remember our little vacation, except from the photographs, but I’ll remember it as long as I live..

Next summer when I come home for summer break, I am flying out to Arkansas with Miley in tow, and kidnapping little Emma and Payton for a Gigi vacation to truly remember!! Wonder if I can sneak three kids into a casino???

Friday, July 20, 2012

First offical word on leave dates for Abu Dhabi

An email arrived today from Nirvana, the travel agency that ADEC is using to get all of us 2012 teachers to Abu Dhabi next month. The email stated that we should be prepared to leave anywhere from August 6-11, and that they would follow up with an itinerary next week..
Getting close, I guess. 

The exact wording of the email is:

Nirvana Travel and Tourism is one of the leading Travel Agent in U.A.E., in the capital city of Abu Dhabi working closely with Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). We offer the best holiday package deals for destinations around the globe. Through our various services, we offer visitors unique opportunities to enjoy world's beauty. We assure you of our undivided dedication to provide all customers with our finest personal services and facilities, quality work and maximum value and ensuring the highest service is being delivered at all times.
Please find our service!
§    Meet& Assist service from the Aircraft to the Hotels
§    Luxury Transfers
§    Pre-booked accommodation for easy check-in
§    Ticketing and worldwide hotel reservations
§    Holidays tailor made Packages
§    Groups Camping in and outside of the UAE
§    Travel Insurance
§    Corporate travel services
§    Tours, excursion and safaris

Having said all the above, kindly find below the important notes for your travel arrangements:
Are you Ready to Travel! Travel dates for all the teachers and families will range starting from 6th – 11th August 2012. Please start preparing your arrangements accordingly.  Please note that by next week ADEC will finalize processing your visa.  We would like to inform you to prepare yourself for your travel.

Confirming Ticket Travelling to Abu Dhabi U.A.E.
Once your ticket is booked Nirvana Team will send  your travel itinerary and entry permit visa to your   e-mail, please check them and make sure the below is in order:

·         your name and family members travelling with you  on the itinerary
·         Date of travel
·         Departure City and Airport
·         Picture on your Visa and etc

To confirm the itinerary please reply back to the same person who sent the itinerary to you that you and your family members are able to fly on these date to be able to issue the ticket. Once we receive your confirmation e-mail we will send you the e-ticket with ticket number.

Important Notes:
·         Baggage allowance is as per airlines policy
·         Meet and assist will be available upon arrival at Abu Dhabi Airport
·         Transportation is arranged from Abu Dhabi Airport to your hotels
·         Hotel has been booked for you and your family (if coming) on Bed and Breakfast) only

Thank you for your cooperation and wishing you to have a pleasant trip!
Yours sincerely,
Nirvana Travel Team
With Regards,
Semhal Ukubamichael
Asst.Project Manager

Looks like it’s really going to happen.  I am very excited, yet a little sad because Dad is currently in Emory Hospital undergoing medication adjustment and evaluation.  He doesn’t understand why he is there, and time has so little meaning to him anymore that he can’t gauge the passage of it accurately. I’d give just about anything if I could have my pre-Alzheimer’s dad back for five minutes so he could share my excitement and tell me he is proud of me. It’s going to be the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life when I get on that plane and leave him behind… but my dad wouldn’t want me to stop my life. He understood about making dreams come true, creating one’s own adventures, and enjoying what life offers. That’s what I am going to try and remember. Sometimes I feel like it’s damned if I go, damned if I stay. 

But I will go, and I will live a little bit extra each day for my dad.

As far as physical preparations go, I am almost finished. I still need to decide which items I simply MUST have with me in Abu Dhabi, weed out any un-necessaries, pack my three bags, make sure the bags don’t weigh over 50 lbs each, and pick up my medication letters and medical records from my doctors.  Almost finished? Yeah, right.

I am so ready to get back in the classroom and teach. Ready to feel useful again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My One and Only Political Manifesto...Ever.

I am a Liberal Republican Conservative Democrat who gets a little pissed off when hard core Republicans and Democrats try to bend and twist, lie, and misrepresent facts to suit their own little power tripping agendas.  A few well publicized political incidents this week forced me to do a little research. And I didn’t want to have to do that. I just bought a new ZZ Top CD and all I wanted to do was listen to it while I danced around the living room in my socks and Dr. Seuss sweatpants. 

One incident was from a speech that Obama gave on July 13.   This is what Obama said:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires". 

Now you go interpret it.. don't allow the media to tell you what he said. Republicans twisted it, took it out of context, and tried to turn the speech into a missive directed against all hard working small business owners. They are trying to appeal to the average Red, White, and Blue Joe Blow American and convince him that the Big Bad President is turning this country into a socialist one. Republicans stretched it and went too far. But I had to research and dig a bit to come to this determination.

Democrats require their hard earned equal criticism too, because they are in no way innocent when it comes to underhanded sensationalism. The Obama Camp recently accused Romney of committing a felony because they insist that he misrepresented his position at Bain Capital (which he left in Feb 1999).  There is no evidence, only baseless conjecture. To quote: “Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter laid out the issue as the Obama team sees it ‘Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony. ‘Or," she said, ‘he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments,’ including layoffs and the outsourcing of jobs”. (

And a new Obama television campaign commercial screams, “Tax havens, offshore accounts, carried interest. Mitt Romney has used every trick in the book.” The commercial ends with: “Makes you wonder if some years he paid any taxes at all” (   Democrats have stepped over the line and are really tossing the proverbial clothes basket in an attempt to locate a grease stained shirt. And, to continue this inane laundry metaphor: it will all come out in the wash.

So both Democrats and Republicans have cookie crumbs on their pursing little lips and chocolate chips on their breath. And that leads me to the logical solution that both parties have been dipping in the cookie jar and trying to insult the intelligence of the American public. Well, maybe not “insult” because can you really insult the intelligence of a people who gather all their facts and opinions from sensationalistic media headlines?  I mean, we get what we deserve, right?

And just what, pray tell, is the point I am trying to make? Just this: The Democratic and Republican parties are both filled with self-serving, hypocritical power monger whores who will say and do ANYTHING to get your vote in November. They will twist facts, create facts out of opinions and thin air, blast quotes out of context, and accuse one another of all sorts of horrible actions from tax evasion to killing baby kittens to having sexual intercourse with ostriches, and oh my, I am so waiting for one camp to accuse the other of that last one.

So in November.. VOTE FOR ANYONE BUT A DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN. Both are starting to smell like stale fish left on the counter far too long. Neither represents me or what I hope and wish for this country. And, believe me, you are not required to drink the Kool-Aid.. you can have pink lemonade if you want. Really, you can.

My fifty-year-old menopausal self is just getting a little tired of voting for the lesser of two evils... it's become a contest to discover which political party will fuck up the country the least. And they aren't handing out Vaseline at the voting booth.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Tao of AC/DC

“It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”

That has become my mantra and the extended metaphor for my life the past three years. It can be applied in almost any situation.

Student: “Ms. Adams, I forgot my homework.”
Me: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”
Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon Missionaries: “Do you know God?”
Me: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”
Car mechanic: Yep, the hinggy me doodly on the gadget butkus  is shot. Gonna cost $700.00 to fix.”
Me: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”

Most often, people just look at me in puzzlement, then walk away wondering (I know they are) if what I just said made any sense whatsoever, and if it did why didn’t they understand it? It sounds a little Taoist, after all. Then they start questioning their own intellectual abilities. After a few hours they are just pissed off at me because they realize my statement was totally out of context and could only be used by an English major who enjoys the hell out of analyzing vague lines of texts and arguing for a meaning that the author never contemplated.

But for me it works. For me it makes sense for all of life’s ups and downs.

I have been told, by the teachers already in the sandbox in Abu Dhbai, that the word “InshaAllah” is tossed around quite often in the United Arab Emitrates.  The phrase translates to “If God is willing.”
As in, “Are you coming to the party tonight?”
“It looks like a sand storm may be coming.”

To my line of reasoning anyway, this means about the same as “It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.”

Yesterday, news of late departures for Au Dhabi started filtering around on the 2012 Abu Dhabi Facebook page. The scuttlebutt is that some groups will not be leaving until the end of August to the first part of September. These rumors have started a mild panic. After all, some of the teachers have given up apartments, jobs, and scheduled utilities to be turned off for mid-August (when we were told the first groups would be leaving).  Some of the teachers have moved in with friends and relatives and have just enough money to get them through to mid-August. If you want to view it literally, these teachers are unemployed and homeless at the moment.  To them the leave date can’t come soon enough, but it’s out of our hands. We leave when ADEC says we do and not a minute sooner.

Fortunately, for me, in the past year, I have developed a very strong “whatever” attitude towards life’s little curve balls.  In the past, I have worried, paced, wrung my hands and made myself sick with my impatience and need to control every situation. No more.  And because of this new and improved attitude (also known as having your Give-a-Shitter break), I am better adapted than I was in my other incarnation to deal with the uncertainties and inconsistencies that I know I will have to face over the next two years. 

By agreeing to work in an Arab country where Western attitudes of timeliness only exist on the peripheral, I have agreed to abide by their rules and cultural attitudes.  Having my Give-a-Shitter break is perhaps one of the most fortuitous occurrences I have experienced in quite a while.

Of course, it helps that I am not technically homeless. Since Dear Husband is staying behind I am not faced with having to pack an entire house’s contents, and figure out storage and temporary living arrangements.  All I have had to do is make sure I have my three bags packed, and it’s mostly done. I spend my days writing, hanging out with Dear Husband, playing with my granddaughter, talking to friends, and reading. I am in a zone. 

When will I leave to go to Abu Dhabi? I don’t know.
How long will I have to live in a hotel before I am assigned a place to live? I don’t know.
What school will I be placed in Abu Dhabi? I don’t know.
What type of apartment will I end up with? I don’t know.
Will I have a long daily commute to the school I am assigned? I don’t know.

So, I don’t think about it all. You know why? Because it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, baby. 

Bon Scott would be so proud of me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Four and a Half Weeks to Abu Dhabi: Suitcases or Naked?

This week, thus far, has been a complete waste of time. 

I have slept late, played with my four-year-old granddaughter, wrote, and spent time with good friends.  The only thing I have done that could be considered halfway productive is research on how to obtain a “travel override” for my Blue Cross that will grant several months of my prescriptions to be filled at one time. I will need several months’ worth in Abu Dhabi because I don’t want the first thing I HAVE to do upon arrival is locate a doctor to write RXs.  And if I weren’t fifty years old I wouldn’t have to worry about this at all because the body wouldn't be going to hell in a handbasket. … Ce la vie.

Funny how the little things that make life so very good are viewed through a societal lens as wasting time, and all the busy crap that stresses us out is viewed as productive and valued by our society.
Kinda screwed up.  I should have written more about what fun it was to play with my granddaughter and not about my prescription medications.

And I apologize for my preoccupation with my medications, but, blood pressure pills, doxycycline, folic acid, HRT, Enbrel, and methotrexate have become such a large part of my life. So I tend to stress out a bit when my supply is threatened.  Even in the abstract.

I received my Buffalo router in the mail last week, but I have yet to even take it out of the box. And I really need to do this. The router is so I can connect multiple devices to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that will allow me to access censored internet sites (Netflix, Skype)  while I am in the UAE. I need to take the router for a spin before I leave so if there are any kinks to work out I can work them out here where I have Dear Husband to assist.

See? Not even opened!

Every night I go out into the Depot where my three bags are stored and take a few items out. The take- out-and-leave-at home-pile is growing quite large.  

These items didn't make the cut...

Maybe I’ll just fly butt ass naked with a toothbrush in my hand and buy all new stuff when I get to Abu Dhbai.  Don’t laugh; that’s starting to sound like a good idea. My stress levels over the weight of the bags, what to take, what to leave, what I need, what I don’t need is making me go a little nutso here. Sometimes I find myself just sitting out in the Depot staring at the bags.. Not thinking. Just staring.

New idea for a movie script: Teachers Who Stare at Bags (okay, that is really lame so I must be tired..)

Now I have to get myself in gear and get the million and one little (and I do mean little as in nitpicking and I should have done this stuff by now..) things done that need doing in the next four and half weeks. FOUR AND A HALF WEEKS???  WTH?

The 2012 Abu Dhabi teachers were told to be ready to depart anywhere from August 8th on.. I am going to be locked and loaded by August 8th.  I'll either be ready to go or I will be arrested at the Atlanta airport for indecent exposure.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Realization About Dad's Alzhiemer's

It was nice to get away from the real world for a while, but now I am back in the real world and trying to adjust.  That’s the bitch about leaving the real world: sooner or later one has to return to it.

Mom has a sitter for Dad now who comes to stay a few days a week so Mom can take off for a little while.  Mom came over today. We were sitting on the porch when a neighbor phoned and said she saw my dad walking toward the railroad tracks.  That’s a good quarter mile from the house. Mom called the sitter on her cell and the sitter said she was keeping an eye on dad. About seven minutes later the phone rang again and the sitter said she didn’t know where dad was. Mom bolted out of the front porch chair and took off in her car.  Not long after she left Mom phoned me and said a neighbor had seen dad at Bohannon’s, a building supply store on the highway across from the tracks, and the neighbor had brought Dad home.

Mom wants Dad to go into Emory University geriatric unit for a full evaluation on an inpatient basis for a week or two. I think she is seeking permission to start thinking about placing Dad into full time permanent care. Her sense of duty and guilt preclude her making the decision on her own; she needs affirmation and support that she is doing the right thing, from the doctors, the counselors, the family. I will support whatever she decides. After all, it is not me who can’t get a good night’s sleep because dad is up and down out of bed four or five times a night. It’s not me he argues with about taking his belongings and hiding them. It’s not me who has to go behind him pushing in drawers and closing closet doors over and over again because he is fixated on plundering.  It’s not me who has to make him take daily medications. It’s not me who has to help him dress or shave. It’s not me who has to make sure he eats and assists him in eating.  It’s not me he yells at and takes his frustrations out on. It’s not me who has to watch him every minute to try and intervene when he can’t do a task as simple as putting ice in a glass.  It’s not me who has to go behind him and make sure bathroom water facets aren’t left running.

And, really, my mom won’t be placing Dad anywhere because my Dad isn’t here anymore.  I find myself talking about him in the past tense: “Dad used to love the song “Silver Wings” or “Dad used to watch Andy Griffith every evening”. But then again, he’s not totally gone, only the part that made him who he was is gone. His body is still here.  He still hugs me.  He can still say my name. He still knows who I am.  And I talk about him in the past as if have already buried him. 

I have to struggle to keep my feelings of betrayal at bay. I can’t betray him any longer. The man who I loved, my Dad, has been gone for a while.  He knew he was leaving when, three years ago, he told  me he could hear a whisk broom in his head sweeping across his brain.  He knew he was leaving when he begged me not to let his Alzheimer’s exhaust and kill my mom. He knew he was leaving when he told me to make sure he was placed somewhere when the time came.  He just didn’t say how I’d know when it was time. And I have come to realize, it is not my decision. Dad placed far too much responsibility on me because ultimately it is Mom’s decision, not mine. She is an adult. She knows where the line is. I have to leave it in her hands.  This isn’t my journey, but hers.  All I can offer are brief sojourns from her burdens, my love, and a listening ear.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Last Fourth of July in the U.S.A Before Heading to Abu Dhabi

I am sitting on the front porch of my parents’ cabin in Hiawassee, Georgia enjoying this late morning Fourth of July. Today Jim and I will grill shish-k-bob on a disposable grill I bought at Ace Hardware in town yesterday.  I will make deviled eggs, split pea salad, and scalloped potatoes. I will slice a cold fresh tomato and arrange the slices on a paper plate. We will celebrate the Fourth of July together, just the two of us. I retrieved dad’s American flag from the cabin basement and it is positioned in its rightful place on the deck where it flutters in the July mountain breeze. 

 Yesterday, it occurred to me that this will be the last Fourth of July in the good ole US of A that I will participate in for two years.  Sure, I can celebrate in my own small way in Abu Dhabi, but the fireworks, the American flags flapping from every street corner, the small town parade resplendent with red, white and blue will not be part of my celebration next year. The realization makes me wish I had mustered up my last bit of strength last night and enjoyed the fireworks display at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, but quite honestly I was just too physically wiped out from riding the roads of the Appalachian and Great Smoky Mountains all day.   My wander lust was satiated, but I was too tired to oooh and ahhh as the banging colors and booms turned the night sky into one of celebration, joy, and patriotism that transcends political lines for one brief evening. 

My yesterday:
Jim and I set off for Rabun Gap and the train museum that the students of Rabun Gap School built. After a self-guided tour of the museum, impressive in the fact that it is, and was, built and maintained by high school students, we stop at the The Dillard House to eat a late lunch. After we are seated, I keep waiting for a menu that never arrives. The waiter finally comes to the table carefully balancing a huge tray on which bowls upon bowls of food sit: butter beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, steak, ham, fried chicken, string beans, squash casserole, sweet potato casserole, cabbage, biscuits, yeast rolls, corn bread, and chow chow.  The waiter places the bowls on the table until the table top is covered.  Jim and I heap the food on our plates. As soon as we empty a bowl a waitress appears to fill it back up. For dessert I have hot blackberry cobbler a la mode (but I scrape the “a la mode” off and give it to my ice cream loving Jim).  Afterwards, we decide to meander and just see where the road leads.  No plan or destination. Just drive. 

We take a long route heading into North Carolina that leads to a small pit stop of a town named Cowee, North Carolina. The town is surrounded by pastures on which cows graze lazily. Old farmhouses dot the scene haphazardly breaking up the pasture land, and the most amazing old houses stand proudly, albeit vine covered, weathered, falling victim, as everything does, to time, but standing nonetheless. Still bearing testament and truth to the historic signs that relate their history.  Like ghosts out of a past that refuse to die completely.  Jim and I park, tromp around, read the markers, take photos of the houses, and wonder aloud about the lives of the people who once inhabited them. I get bitten by mosquitoes. I swat at my legs, wish for bug spray, and explore a stream with a stone covered bridge shading it. 

I love this old farmhouse in Cowee

A school teacher once lived in this old house in Cowee, North Carolina.

After leaving Cowee  we continue on highway 28, a twisty mountain road toward Lauada, North Carolina, which sits at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Highway 28 was originally established as a state Hwy 286 in 1921. In 1934, it was renamed Hwy 28. The two lane road curves and twists upon itself, sometimes making almost complete sharp U turns. The wall of the cut mountain and the thick forested back regions blanket one side of the road and the sheer drop off of the Great Smoky Mountains graces the other.  Small clapboard houses and dilapidated trailers cling to the sides of the mountain at almost every U curve.   Old junk cars are scattered about, laundry dries on porch railings, and power lines are draped heavy with kudzu. There are no discernible yards for children to play in, and I know there are children because I see bus stop signs posted every few miles, and on the porches of some of the homes I see toys scattered here and there. But I see not one living soul as we transverse the mountain.  Dwellings are planted wherever the mountain offers up a small, flat parcel of land.  If a scenic driver happens to miss one of the sharp U turns he or she will end up inside the living room of one of these homes. 

A trailer precariously perched on the side of the mountain.

 Laundry drying on a porch

 The mountain keeps curving upward and upward. My ears pop and stop up from the altitude, and no amount of gum chewing or yawning helps.  Fat raindrops begin to plop on the windshield. The sunlight slants through the random openings in the canopy of trees.  The road keeps turning and spiraling. We pass no touristy scenic overlooks. No antique shops, no fruit and vegetable stands, no cutesy motif theme generated “General Store”. 

 The narrow two lane, curvy patch of highway we are traveling was not built for tourists, but for linking the generational hearty and stubborn Appalachian residents to outside conveniences and necessities. Imagine how cut off from the rest of the United States the people living on this mountain were ninety years ago, before the narrow, dusty, bumpy dirt road was paved over and turned into a real road.   This past helps explain the oftentimes stereotyped clannish ways of these people and their suspicion of anyone who isn’t “from ‘round here”..  There were five counties in North Carolina that did not secede from the Union during the Civil War. They didn’t have a reason to.  The fight was nothing to them.  It didn’t encompass or effect their way of life. They lived according to their own set of rules, and still do.  The story of these people is told in the calm majesty of the mountain, in the way the varying shades of foliage hold and bend the sunlight, and in the quiet, kind manner of the people who have made the mountain their home for untold generations. Generations of these people have adapted, survived, and flourished in relative self isolation. To some extent, they still exist on the fringes of the American Dream, but are proud and self-reliant almost to a fault.

Darkness will be arriving shortly.  Jim and I agree that the day was a good one, but is now over, as we point the rented Tahoe in the direction of the cabin, over an hour and a half away. The sudden burst of rain has opened the pores of the land. I roll down the truck window and catch the scent of the earth; rich, dark, green. We are tired and weary, but filled with the peace of exploration, crisp air, and good food.   The sun slowly begins to settle over the ridges of the mountain tops and the sky turns purple and pink tinged with gold. The colors melt to pastel.  

A sunset whose colors rival a Monet

 Who needs Fourth of July Fireworks? 

July 4th, 2012
Jim and I spend July 4t painting the new covered porch that my mom had carpenters add on a few months back. At the end of the day I am covered in barn red paint and still have dinner to prepare if we are to eat. The shish-k-bob have been marinating since last night. I fire up the disposable grill, but soon give up, take the shish-k-bob inside the already hot cabin, and broil them.  I take a shower while the potatoes cook.  After three shampoos the red paint is finally out of my hair. Jim and I eat, and I sit on the porch and listen to the strains of a band coming from a nearby campground.  My ear picks up the pure notes of a steel guitar.  I close my eyes and allow the chords to work their magic. 

Twilight arrives quickly, and the sounds of children and the music drift my way louder and more insistent. I walk to the campground.  Some people sit in lawn chairs, others on the bare grass. I pick out a solitary spot on a lone bench. The band isn’t very good; the singer is off key and the lead guitar is one beat behind the bass.  But I am happy and I clap to the music and laugh when the singer tells a corny joke. I am in the midst of people. People who say “hello”, who smile, who make me a part of who they are by their simple acceptance of me..

Jim the painter. Only one of his many talents

 Me covered in paint, trying to cook shish-k-bob on a sorry excuse for a grill. Major fail.

 And that quietly and uneventfully ends what could be my last Fourth of July in America for quite awhile.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cowboy Church, Trains, and Lady Liberty

Dear husband and I went driving this afternoon around Murphy, North Carolina in search of a WalMart where we could buy a box fan.  In this furious heat we need to be able to pull the cool mountain night air from outside to INSIDE the cabin. I’m tired of standing at the door fanning the air toward Dear Husband (yeah, right…). 

ANYWAY, On our way to THE WALMART I started noticing things like a green hand painted JESUS sign hanging from a pine tree.  I couldn’t get a photo of it because we were driving along when I saw it and there were a line of cars behind us. Was this one word the beginning of the message? The entire message? What did it mean?

I took my camera out of my bag and prepared myself for more. There just had to be more. I became deliberate in my observations. I yelled at Dear Husband to turn around and “Go back!” several times.  Almost scared the poor man into the next life too. 

One turn around was for a, I’m certain, one of a kind church: The Cowboy Church. And they serve BBQ the first Saturday of every month. I just might have to go get myself baptized there.. I wonder if they serve cole slaw with that BBQ? 


Another stop was an abandoned train track by an old depot, not strange in any kind of way, just eye catching. We walked down to the river to get a view of the old train trestle and I did steal a huge river rock. I am now a wanted rock thief.  I made Dear Husband carry the rock back to the truck, so he is now an accomplice to river rock thievery. I didn't post a photo of the river rock because I don't want there to be evidence on the internet that may be used against me in a court of law. I figure Dear Husband can't testify against me in court, so he's cool.

 And for all of you Patriotic-Let’s-Celebrate-The-Hell-Out-Of-The-Fourth-July types, I give you Haysville’s own Lady Liberty, resplendent against the simple beauty of her mountainous surroundings.

Also spotted this old barn and fell in love with its quaint mountain/country charm. And I so hate the word "quaint" but no other word will suffice...

And that's my ramblings in the North Georgia mountains for July 1, 2012. Now it's time for a good book, a little bit of Beth Hart and her aching blues, and relaxation so all-encompassing that it's going to turn my bones to near jelly.

Dear Deer, I Hate You.

I used to think that deer were cute and Bambi like. I could not understand why anyone would want to take a gun and blow their little Bambi heads off. I understand now. Give me a gun. Hunting season should be extended to year around. I don’t care if PETA puts me on their Most Wanted Animal Hater List.
The night before last a Bambi deer almost killed me and my husband, came thisclose to completely destroying a pretty cool car, and put an extreme crimp in my one and only vacation I'll have with my husband before I leave for Abu Dhabi.

I fucking hate that deer, and she’s dead beside the road somewhere near Tallulah Gorge, Georgia. 

Jim and I set off for the mountains to enjoy some much needed time away. We were so excited to be able to just sit and talk with no interruptions that we didn’t pay much attention to the road and got a little off course. I looked up and told Jim, “This doesn’t look right”. He pulled over and got out the map. He studied it for a second and then told me we had missed a turn off a few miles back. No big deal. We weren’t in any hurry. Even though it was a little after nine p.m, the sun hadn’t set yet, but it was getting to be a little twilightish.
We turned around to get back on track and I got out my droid to check Facebook.  Jim yelled “Shit, a deer!”. I looked up and all I saw was a huge side of brown fur covered carcass imploding the windshield. One deep brown eye stared at me for a flicker in time, the windshield seemed to breathe in, and thousands of tiny shards of glass flew at me. I looked down to protect my eyes. Jim pulled over to the side of the road quickly. We looked at each other. He brushed his hands over the lap of his shorts, nicking his hands on the glass, and asked, “Are you hurt?”  I took a second to access the situation and told Jim I was okay.
The windshield was caved in. Glass glittered on my lap, at my feet, on the front of my shirt. I opened the door, got out and shook most of it off.  Jim punched the BMW roadside assistance service button and proceeded to get help.  The lady on the other end of the call asked Jim if there were any landmarks around. I told Jim, “Tell her LOTS of trees.. that’s all, just trees”. 

The front of the car, if you didn’t look at the windshield, didn’t look too bad: a missing driver’s side headlight and a missing front grill. Blood and fur covered the shattered glass, but the hood of the car was untouched. The only sign on the hood that anything was amiss were the  fluffs of fur that were scattered like a shedding  German Shepard dog had curled on the hood for a nap. 

I walked back to find the deer lying in the ditch dead about 50 yards behind the car. She looked like she was asleep.  My guess is by the time she hit the ground she was dead.  I wanted to kick her dead carcass, but I had sandals on.

Twenty five minutes later a deputy showed up and wrote up his report. After about thirty minutes he had to leave us on the side of the road to respond to a kidnapping.  Jim had talked to the tow truck company who said they were sending assistance, but since the driver was coming from Norcross, Georgia, it would be a while before he arrived. We waited and waited. I spent the time digging shards of glass out of my shirt and bra, and then carefully searched for stray pieces in my hair. Two hours later Jim’s cell phone rang. It was the tow truck driver who told Jim that he was about sixty miles away, but he was “hauling ass” to get to us. Thirty-five minutes later, the tow truck driver phoned again to say he had just been pulled over by the police for speeding and would be later than he first told us.  A car zipped past in the dark, and then turned around heading right at us. The headlights blinded me. I told Jim, “Great, it’s a meth dealer and he is going to bash our heads in with a tire iron and rob us of the $25.00 cash in my wallet.” Thankfully, it wasn’t a crazed meth dealer, but another deputy. He stepped out of his car, “You folks still here?”. He had heard about the suicidal deer on his radio shortly after it killed itself, and had assumed we’d be long gone by now.  Twenty minutes later the tow truck driver pulled up. 

So, three hours after we hit the deer, the car was loaded onto a tow truck and we were on our way to Duluth to drop the car off at the BMW dealership. 

We arrived at the dealership  a little after two a.m, and after unloading  the car, the driver then very kindly dropped us, and our entire bevy of vacation luggage, off at the nearest Holiday Inn.  Jim and I hauled everything into the deserted lobby, but there was no one at the desk. A little sign did read HAVE STEPPED AWAY FROM DESK. WILL RETURN SHORTLY.  We waited and waited. Jim rang the little bell on the desk. "Shortly" wasn't arriving. I was sleepy, I was tired, I was stressed, and I was pissed off at a dead deer. 

I started walking up and down the adjoining hallways, banging my hands loudly on the walls, yelling, “Hellooooo? Anyone here? Anyone at all?” No response. I was beginning to get a little freaked out and was starting to imagine that I was inside the novel, “The Shining” and that the Holiday Inn was in reality The Overlook Hotel.  I was almost expecting to see the words “REDRUM” appear in dripping crimson blood on the wall, when a Gwinnett County police officer entered the lobby. My relief vanished when I realized that he was just using the Holiday Inn as his potty pit stop. He came back out of the men’s room wiping his hands on his pants.  Jim and I explained that we had been in the lobby about twenty minutes and couldn’t find the desk clerk.  The police officer started pounding on the doors in the hallways (I already did that, sir!) and he was about to open the door behind the hotel desk (what if the clerk was inside, bound with rope, his throat slit by a crazed meth addict???), when the clerk walked around the other corner as if nothing had happened. “May I help you?” he asked.

 I wanted to scream, “Damn right you can! A suicidal deer threw itself into our windshield tonight, law enforcement abandoned us in the middle of nowhere to respond to a kidnapping, I thought a meth addict was going to kill us, our tow truck driver was pulled over for speeding, and I thought you were murdered!”  But I didn’t. I just smiled at him, sat down on the couch and waited for Jim to check us in. 

Yesterday morning, after a night in The Wannabe Overlook Hotel, we rented a SUV at Enterprise, which we had to exchange an hour later because the air conditioner wasn’t working and it was 104 degrees outside. We ended up with a Tahoe that makes it feel remarkably as if I am riding around in a double wide trailer.  It has a great air conditioner, by the way. We ate bad Korean food for lunch and then headed to mom and dad’s cabin in Hiawassee; our Friday night intended destination. 

I am staying in the mountains until Tuesday or Wednesday. I might not go home for weeks.  And I dare a deer to jump in front of that Tahoe. It’s a freaking tank.