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Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
12 January 2017 @ 04:59 am
Apparently I've skipped a year on my annual updates. Two, if you count the fact that it's twelve days into the new year and I have yet to do the update for 2016. It's likely that this is because we've had some major losses in the family these two years and I just didn't want to go back and review that. Yet, it feels like there's this gap I need to fill. I can't just jump over it and move on. So here I am, setting up for what could potentially become a very, very long post.


2015

-January, February, and March-

During January through March of 2015 I spent a lot of time helping other people and left very little time to myself. I made a decent amount of money cleaning out uncle Lyndon's apartment and helping him move, followed by a weekly job of taking him to run errands. I had some paying photo jobs (and one wedding which never paid at all), and I still had my job as Nanny McVana to Aydan, but on top of those I also had a bunch of obligations that sucked up my time and didn't pay. I attended meetings for volunteer jobs with Comicon and PTA, I babysat for Mo (one or two kids depending on the week), and I had my usual duties getting my own two kids to and from school and various appointments. Falyne's school was getting more and more intense and we started a daily routine of filling all the free time with homework and studying.

-April-

I spent a week in early April remodeling my bedroom. I painted the floor with a black on grey damask pattern and sealed it in concrete epoxy. We had a carpenter come in and install an L-shape permanent loft bed structure. I painted it purple and hung patio lights from the bottom. It took longer than I care to admit to get my waterbed refinished, but I eventually sanded and repainted it black (used to be stained dark brown... wood stain is not fun to sand FYI). Several months later Falyne and I got around to finishing the headboard and some of the drawers with mod-podged Sandman comics. I'm pretty proud of the remodel and now the blue room (bedroom) is right up there with the black room (office) in my list of favorite things/spaces.

In mid-April Mo and I escaped for a long weekend to visit Katie and family in Portland. Katie was unexpectedly pregnant again, so it was a great time to go and catch up. We made sure to see Caylee and Uncle Joe and family while we were there.

-May-

I spent the first half of May getting back to my simple routine of getting kids to school and watching Aydan, with a weekly job running errands with Lyndon. A couple of days here and there I helped Mo with her foster kid issues while she was getting used to being a part-time single parent now that Kenny had a job which took him out of town during the week.

Mo, Gloria, our mom, and I traveled to Vegas for mom's birthday weekend. Then we came back and finished out the school year before Phoenix Comicon started. Mo and Kenny left town for their bowling trip that weekend and so I got to bring Chelle to her very first Comicon, where I dressed her up as a tiny Chell from Portal and everyone loved her. I also had an ear infection (started at the end of April, actually) which became so severe that I was physically ill from it and missed most of the con. I believe I worked one shift at the photo booth and spent about an hour walking Chelle around to make good on my promise to her. That ear infection lasted over a year and a half.

-June-

June 8, 2015 was a very significant and eventful day. I woke to my sister (Mo) entering the room holding a small baby. She said, "Do you want to meet Chelle's sister Sophia?" When I was watching Chelle during Comicon weekend, she was delivered to my house via taxi after her visit with her family. Her older sisters were meant to be with her for that ride, they weren't but that's beside the point. So at first, I thought that for some reason Mo had arranged for my house to be the drop off point again and that the baby was riding along for whatever reason. I was groggy and had just been sleeping, you see. It took a few minutes of Who's On First questioning to piece together that there had been an issue with the bio-parents and Mo answered a call that morning asking if she wanted to take in the baby as well. (Of course she did, it's Baby Phia!) I was awake now! Spent some time getting to know baby Sophie, and then headed to the airport to retrieve Evie who was flying into town for the summer. It was also David Perez (Ethan's dad)'s birthday and we threw him a pool party at my house that evening. Like I said, it was a significant and eventful day.

We spent the rest of the month doing summer things with Falyne, Ethan, Aydan, and Evie. A lot of time was spent at the public pool while Falyne and Ethan did pre-lifeguard class things. We also obtained mermaid tails for the three who didn't previously have them (Falyne had received one for her birthday beforehand) and they amazed the public pool goers with their mermaid presence almost daily. Then, at the end of the month, Gloria and Megan and I took all four kids hiking and camping in the Payson area, complete with mermaid swim time at Water Wheel Falls.

-July-

My mom took me, Mo, Falyne, Ethan, Evie, Chelle, and Sophia to Disneyland in July. We also invaded a couple of beaches with mermaids. It was as exhausting but fun as it sounds. This was Sophie and Evie's first time to Disneyland. Sophie had yet to learn to smile (rough life for a baby) but Evie showed all the appropriate emotions that tickle Nonie Julie's otherwise cold heart. (I swear it grew three sizes that week)

We also discovered that month that Evie's dad had bedbugs... and that they traveled over to our house on her stuff. We spent the next year and a half fighting that war. I refuse to say we've won, for fear of jinxing it.

We saw a lot of uncle John that summer, which was interesting because he lived in Prescott for most of it. This only became significant once summer ended and we saw him no more. I'll get to that part, though I already posted about it when it happened.

-August-

The first week of August 2015 was super busy. I lived at Mo's for part of it because she was out of town with Kenny and I had to watch the kids and pets. When Mo returned, it was GISHWHES week. That was the first (and so far only) time we'd done it and it was crazy but fun. We met some good friends and had a great time.

The next week, the kids started school and not two weeks later Falyne was sick to the point of being hospitalized and she missed two weeks of school. I went to California with my mom, felt extremely guilty about leaving Falyne while she was sick, had several anxiety attacks due to crowds and my ear infection and being overwhelmed, and came home miserable and feeling bad for ruining my mom's trip.

-September-

September is hard to talk about. I spent the first week and a half in Texas, visiting Shannon and family. Before I left, I made plans to see Antman with uncle John... but I told him it'd have to wait until after I got back. Two hours after I returned he was rushed to the hospital. The next morning he was dead. I never saw Antman. I didn't see Captain America Civil War because Antman is in it and I wanted to watch them in order. I stopped watching Agents of SHIELD because I haven't seen Civil War. There have been brief periods of good, I'll admit, but for the most part, all the downtime has been pretty shitty since this. Jumping on the bandwagon, our cat Zoey died shortly after.

-October-

October continued with the regular routine, minus the random interruptions from John which apparently were helping to keep life more fun and interesting. I got the kids to school and back, I spent time hanging out with Aydan, I took Lyndon for errands. I also spent a week in Washington/Oregon visiting Katie again. This time the baby (Will) had arrived, so I got to meet him and we did Halloween things and it was, as it always is with them, a great time. We did Halloween stuff at home as well, including a small pumpkin festival in Mesa where Sophia finally learned how to smile.

-November-

During Thanksgiving break, I headed back to Disneyland with my mom, Falyne, Ethan, Mo, Kenny, Chelle, and Sophia. Fun was had, souvenirs were purchased, Sophie even smiled more. We didn't have a family Thanksgiving. Mom and I paid too much money to have an extremely limited menu at Claim Jumper and then we had a quiet night in. It wasn't worth it without the heckler's table and there's no heckler's table without uncle John.

-December-

I worked photo booth at Comicon Fanfest the first weekend in December. When I wasn't on shift, I was wandering the floor with the kids. Ethan won a sizeable costume contest with his KidPool (kid Deadpool) costume. Without John around, we decided to have a kid's only Christmas. A large number of people showed up anyway and, though it was not as well planned as usual, I think everyone still enjoyed the night. The rest of the month was a blur of regular happenings. We started shopping for a new kitchen design. I spent a lot of time running errands with Lyndon. The usual.

2016

I read A LOT of books in 2016. A lot for me, anyway. 51 books. More than twice my goal for the year and I thought my goal might be unattainable. I mostly credit this to Rue for introducing me to Lindsay Buroker (literally, but that's beside the point) and her excellent collections of fantasy novels. I read all but one of Lindsay's book series, and I've recently started on that one. On top of those, I read all of Falyne's school required books and any books that were suggested to me for any reason, including one called "Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney" which was recommended reading for anyone on staff for Phoenix Comicon. I actually really enjoyed that one, as it fit into a lot of the standards I already hold myself to on account of how my dad raised me, and because it allows me to rank customer service I receive and know which companies have obviously shelled out for the Disney training courses.

-January-

Since I spent a lot of time reading, I didn't do a lot of other stuff. In mid-late January my Grandma died. That was a whole lot of not-knowing-where-I-stand for me because I had mostly let her go a few years before, when lies and forced situations got the better of my anxiety and the bad depression took over and I had to make a choice. I'll never know if that was the right choice or not but there's no going back now so it's not worth the wondering. Regardless, I spent the entire mourning period wondering if I even had the right to mourn, or if I belonged in the resulting family activities. I ultimately decided to be there for them, because I had made peace with never seeing her again over the two and a half years leading up to this.

-February-

February started out low. I went outside to find my dog Elvis had died overnight. Olie was so upset about being alone, he howled nonstop anytime I left the yard. It got to the point where the neighbors were worried for his wellbeing. Though he'd never been an inside dog, save for maybe a couple weeks as a puppy and anytime the weather was too hot or too cold, I brought him inside and he quickly adapted to being an inside dog. While he was a urinating, trash digging menace when paired with Elvis in the house, he's actually a really well mannered dog when on his own. Or maybe it's because he fears the alternative. We still had some months to go before he'd stop howling when we left the house, and we had to take him with us wherever we went for several weeks, but he's adjusted well over the year and has resigned to just following me around nonstop when I am home.

In mid-February we held a funeral for Grandma and a BiosUrn tree-planting for John (doubling up since family was flying in from out of town anyway). The seed we planted that day eventually sprouted and I documented it as it grew, until the following month a giant storm came in and swept it away. We'll be replanting with a small but already rooted tree this spring.

Immediately following Grandma's funeral Mo and Kenny went and picked up three boys - Chelle and Sophie's brothers. It was a decision Mo had not-all-that-seriously considered making a year before when a two-year-old Chelle slowly revealed just how many siblings she actually had, and then she put more serious consideration into it once discovering that the boys would be losing their foster home and potentially separated. Even today we aren't sure whether five kids was really such a great idea... but it's not just five kids, it's five Chelles, so it's totally worth it. As far as the fifteen or so random foster kids Mo has had running through her house goes, Chelle is by far my favorite. Five Chelles is just fine by me.

-March-

March was starting to climb back up to where I was the year before as far as commitments go. I had weekly errand running with Lyndon. I was watching Aydan a few days a week. I'd started tutoring a friend every Wednesday, but then also had other miscellaneous things to do with her on other days of the week. I got the kids to and from school and spent most nights up late helping Falyne through her mounds of homework. I also spent a good deal of my time fighting with the school over unjust punishments and unnecessarily stressful attitudes. I took my mom to her doctor appointments to get her cast taken off and put on again while they checked the progress of her Charcot Foot. Then I took a break from all of that and spent a long weekend at Disneyland with my mom, Falyne, Ethan, Mo, Kenny, and their five kids. On the way home (out of the way home) my mom and I took Falyne and Ethan through Hollywood since they had never been.

-April-

In April it all came to a boiling point. I found myself with scheduled recurring events six days a week. The seventh day would always be filled with my choice out of the pile of requests I needed to decline simply due to not having any free time. I eventually realized I had to do some reorganizing of my life because I'm just not cut out for a rotating weekly schedule routine and I definitely needed to find a way to take back some of my free time. I sent out some requests to people who had monopolized my time, asking them to dial it back. Most of them did, one did not. While she was a great friend and a fun person, I had to basically break up with her and ask her not to contact me anymore. Being asexual/aromantic, I've never had to break up with anyone before (um, except that one time I stopped talking to Grandma but that was a walk out, no confrontation situation). So that was awkward and uncomfortable and made me feel like a terrible person. Ultimately it was a necessary thing to do to regain control of my time.

On a brighter note, the kitchen finally started being installed. We had ordered the new cabinets and countertops back in January and they were supposed to take a few weeks before install. A few weeks became a few months and a few phone calls became my mother screaming into the phone on a daily basis. So finally getting an install was a long awaited relief. Unsurprisingly, it took more than a few days to complete.

-May-

May was filled with a lot of Falyne stressing over finals at school and ALL THE BIRTHDAYS. Okay, maybe not all the birthdays but it sure felt like it. We had parties or celebration dinners for Alex, my mom, Ian, Aydan, and Kenny. All of them about a week apart from each other. There were so many birthdays, my mom's heart couldn't take it. Okay not really the cause, but she did have another heart attack (the previous ones were about nine years before). She went in for a couple of heart surgeries and they determined they did the best they could without taking serious risks and then left it there.

-June-

June started off with Comicon where I worked the photo booth again. Shannon and Evie flew in, both for Comicon and to surprise Evie's dad who was getting married. Immediately after Comicon, we moved into Mo's house for the weekend so we could watch the kids while she and Kenny could leave town for their annual bowling trip thing. My dad called while we were there to say that my mom's leg had swelled up way more than it normally does and he was taking her to the hospital. Turned out it was a staph infection she had likely picked up through a wound on her foot while in for her last heart surgery. The infection progressed to gangrene and became life threatening. The hospital staff told my dad to prepare himself because she likely wouldn't make it more than a couple of days. They ultimately decided to amputate the leg. It wasn't even the leg with the cast on it, it was the "good" leg. She slowly recovered once the leg was removed and she spent the rest of the summer in the hospital and in various rehab facilities.

-July-

In July, Falyne introduced me to this game called Pokemon Go. I was reluctant at first, but quickly grew fond. It also gave me a significant amount of popularity among the younger generation, if only because I had a car and could drive them to Pokestops. We visited a lot of parks and even ventured out to see some live bats take flight.

-August-

My mom came home briefly in August and we learned that was a terrible, terrible idea. She had C-Diff and was weak and was not at all prepared to be out of rehab. They only sent her home because they didn't want to approve her insurance anymore. She ended up going back to the hospital and then to a third rehab place after that.

The kids started school again and then also gymnastics, just to get them into something that wasn't strictly homework all the time. Mo enrolled her older boys in Falyne and Ethan's school and they started carpooling with us to and from school. It's allowed me to see Mo more often (twice a day nearly every day!) and has let the kids spend more time together.

-September-

Falyne struggled more and more with her school each day. I argued pedantic rules and negative attitudes with the school administration as Falyne grew more and more depressed and dejected. Most of her friends left the school over the same issues and she felt alone. I didn't do much that month other than help Falyne keep up with her school work, visit mom in rehab, and take Lyndon for his errands. I had put my job watching Aydan on hold earlier in the summer when I wasn't sure when mom would be home and how much help she'd need when she was.

-October-

Falyne's depression worsened over the month of October and she started refusing to get out of the car in the morning. They punished her for that by giving her detention. They also gave her detention for me refusing to allow her to go to detention for a different thing I knew she didn't do. I escalated my complaints and was not meeting with the superintendent at the district office.

I worked photo booth at Comicon Fanfest toward the end of the month and let Falyne, her boyfriend, and his sister run around the convention center while I was working. That proved a momentary relief but the depression had taken hold by then and wasn't letting up. We did traditional Halloween things, taking Mo's kids to a pumpkin patch, and Falyne perked up for that, but again it wasn't much. By the end of the month, she was pretty much resolved to no longer attend that school one way or another. We did not like the plan for "another" and pulled her from school at the beginning of November.

While we were at a park for Mo's boys' soccer practice, a guy abandoned his dog before walking off and being arrested. We're assuming he knew he was going to be arrested and so he left his dog in a park full of families in hopes for the best. The dog wandered over and found Falyne and the two became friends. It was significant considering how lonely Falyne has been. I told Gloria about it and she agreed to let Falyne bring him home to her house. She named him Ash and he's pretty well trained... except he chases cats. A week or so later I happened to stop by Gloria's house and I absentmindedly let Windsor (the cat) in while Ash was roaming free in the living room. I didn't realize he'd chase and attack. Windsor wasn't hurt as much as he was terrified. The dog suffered the most, with claw marks all over his nose, but I took Windsor home with me anyway jut to be safe. I didn't want to put him back outside and risk him running away due to fear.

My mom fought with insurance as long as she could and was eventually sent home just before Halloween. I got her a stuffed parrot, a cutlass, and a pirate hat to go with her new leg.

-November-

The first week of November was spent taking Falyne to the doctor and the counselor for her depression issues. We did not force her to return to her old school and we instead enrolled her in an online school that wouldn't start for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we just loaded up on doctor's notes and faxed them regularly to the old school.

The second week of November had been booked for a cruise since before all the drama started with my mom. It was a cruise with 50 of her nurse friends for the birthday of one of her besties. Against my better judgment, I loaded up the car with supplies and my newly released one-legged mother and headed to California. It was stressful to my anxiety, being stranded on a boat with a shitton of people who know me through my mother, and our stateroom steward who was ALWAYS THERE, popping his head in our room to see if we needed anything. I do have to hand it to him for bleaching our bathroom three times a day and staying on top of the laundry and such. I probably wouldn't have made it without him. I wish he were here now, actually. I also miss the free food. My ear infection, which had briefly let up a couple of weeks before, came back with a vengeance during the trip. But the cruise made a stop in Ensenada and we picked up some Mexican antibioticos and knocked it out. My ears have actually been fairly stable ever since. You'd think I hadn't tried several weeks of antibiotics the first summer I had the thing.

Thanksgiving was relatively uneventful. It was also pretty small. Amazing how a couple of deaths and a couple of cross-country moves could thin out your family gatherings. To be honest, we didn't plan anything for Thanksgiving. We ended up buying the traditional food anyway and I cooked it to make sure it was done right (you're supposed to BASTE a turkey, damn it) and then Gloria and her mom came over for dinner.

-December-

Falyne's new school was working out great. She got to skip most of the tests, since she was a new transfer student, and she got all of her work done in record time. She earned straight A's and impressed commentary from all of her teachers. It was a shocking contrast to the old school. On top of all of that, she gets to do her classes while sitting at her desk at home and holding her cat.

The rest of the month (and year) went without anything special. I took the boys to and from school until they were out on break. I spent the days guiding Falyne through her online school and driving my mom to various appointments. I spent the afternoons driving boys home and taking Ethan to gymnastics (parkour) once a week (Falyne decided not to reenroll after the first session). Christmas was Christmas. A lot of people in my house for not too long of a time. Gifts were given, spaghetti was eaten. Falyne had a birthday and the year reset.

Mo took us to Universal Studios Hollywood at the beginning of January, but that's this year. It was a Christmas gift for me, a birthday gift for Falyne, and a just because for Ethan and the rest of her family. We had a great time. We drank butterbeer, bought a bunch of expensive swag, and showed Mo's boys around Hollywood.


That's all for now. If you've managed to read this far, I'm impressed. You're all caught up until the next year (or two) when I get around to updating again.
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
I've been thinking about Judy a lot lately. Judy's been dead for about four and a half years now and I've mostly been numb-nostalgic about it the whole time. The past couple of weeks though she's been refusing to leave my mind. Judy Blue Eyes came on the radio the other day, but I was already thinking about her.

For those who are new, in 2008 I was hired by a friend to take care of Suzie, the family dog, while her mom (Judy) was in the hospital and later a mobility rehab center. Everyone else lived out of town and I was a student with part-time dog sitting gigs. Suzie and I spent some quality time together watching movies and going for walks, fighting over whether the laundry belonged strewn across the floor and furniture, and mostly becoming friends.

I would learn later that while Suzie and I were having fun, Judy was suffering through difficult physical therapy and living at a rehab center she absolutely hated. A rehab center which treated her as if she were an ornery dementia patient needing to be subdued and controlled. The very same rehab center that my mom is scheduled to be transferred to this week.

When Judy was finally released from rehab I was asked if the house/pet sitting gig could continue as super-part-time care giver role. I would just need to check in on Judy once a day for an hour or so. It seemed simple enough but I was nervous about it. I'm not good with people. I'd only ever met her once, surrounded by a bunch of people, moving my sister and friends into their respective dorms some six years earlier. I think I was polite but honestly I couldn't remember if we did more than acknowledge each other's presence in the room.

Despite my reservations I agreed to the job, and I'm glad I did. Judy had an easy routine and a fun personality. She knew when people were bullshitting her and it was fun to watch her call them out. We had similar tastes in TV and movies, so sometimes our hour would turn into a few hours. And on days where I had a lot going on, she was cool with rushing the necessities and pushing me out in fifteen minutes.

Judy was stubborn and I was a push over. She was a shut in, trapped on her couch with the exception of carefully scheduled bathroom breaks. She declined my offers to take her out on my walks with Suzie, or even to help her out to simply sit on the porch. We worked out a way of taking care of her gardening by having me take pictures of where everything was and she'd point to where it should be.

It became routine that I'd get there, bring in the mail, refill the small wine bottle by the couch (later it was a wine bottle and a jar of vodka), distribute her evening medications, put her Lean Cuisine meal in the microwave, and help her to the bathroom. While she was in the bathroom I'd straighten out the bedding on the couch and feed the dog. I'd help her back from the bathroom and serve her dinner before taking the dog for a walk. When I returned I'd lift her legs onto the couch for her, and sit down so we could go through the mail. If she was too tired, we'd save the mail for another day.

Sometimes, rarely, she'd feel up to doing her physical therapy exercises. The instructions were for her to lift her legs up and down fifteen times each, then out to the side and hold for a count, then back, there were also kicks and bike pedaling movements. The way Judy did them was to have me lift her legs up and down, to have me hold them to the side and do the pedaling for her. She insisted that was the only way they would get done, and the exercises were only to keep the blood circulating and promote flexibility.

Judy was a nurse. She was a good nurse. She could tell when I was sick from sound of my voice or the way I was walking. She knew what she was doing with her own health. She had Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, and they threw in some Parkinson's for good measure. She was depressed, and thanks to the hip surgery (or was it knee?) she had one leg about three inches shorter than the other.

Others could debate for centuries whether she was physically capable of recovery, or at least of vaguely improving mobility and quality of life, but in Judy's mind the answer was a dead set NO. It couldn't be done. That was her life, she'd come to accept it and everyone else would too.

There were professional care givers who came during the day. They would do more important things like grocery shopping, bathing, laundry, etc. Though after a while they caught on that the wine and the vodka were not doctor approved and were not acceptable side dishes to Judy's variety show of meds. My routine then involved twice weekly trips to the store to purchase alcohol on my way to Judy's.

I was paid to do what she wants, not to babysit and lecture. I did what she asked and I didn't push on the things that were ill advised.

Judy died on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012. Her kidneys decided they no longer wanted to take the abuse and they went out in glorious protest. She knew it would happen. In fact, she called and invited her kids home to watch the show. In a way, I helped her do it. I didn't stop her, I even provided the tools.

I'd like to say "it's what she wanted" or "it's for the best" but really that's a bunch of shit because what she wanted was to be healthy and physically active. She just knew that was never going to happen and she went with plan B.



It's been four and a half years and it's happening again. It's my own mom this time and her poison of choice is diabetes. All of you who know my mom know her as strong, in control, and even mean. That's all true... in regards to everyone and everything that isn't her own health.

Last year my mom finally went and got her terrible potato feet checked out. There was a bone protruding from the bottom of one foot and she could no longer ignore it. It was quickly diagnosed as Charcot Foot (both feet) and she was given six months before she'd lose ability to walk and need to make some decisions on how to progress.

After uncle John died she did some serious soul searching and started a new diet. She managed to keep her blood sugar low (good low, not just low for her) for a couple of months. Then grandma died and it all went to shit. We were back to "200 is really low for me" and "yeah but 450 is normal." You know what happens to diabetics who don't keep their BGL around 130? They don't heal, they become infected.

She suffered a heart attack at work and was taken for another stint surgery. They determined that half her heart is dead (insert jokes here) and wanted to reevaluate in a month or so. There were various foot surgeries in between which, surprise, weren't healing. Then the second heart surgery revealed that it was further blocked than they thought and they don't want to even try reopening it.

While she was there for the second heart surgery, her unhealing foot wounds picked up a MRSA infection. She was back to the hospital four days later. The infection was in her "good" (bad) leg, the one without the bone sticking out (which at this point had already been shaved off in one of the various surgeries but whatever, there was still a huge hole). The infection grew worse and threatened her life. They removed her foot instead, half way up to the knee.

She's been in the hospital, in a Scottsdale rehab, and back in the hospital for the past six weeks. The hospital monitors her food and glucose levels way more reliably than the rehab facility was, but she doesn't like them because they are mean and inattentive. The return to the hospital was because the amputation incision became infected (at least not MRSA this time) due to not healing as a result of constantly high blood sugar.

I don't get daily calls like my dad and sister do. Calls asking for McDonald's tea (and while you're there a happy meal and don't forget the cookies) or "better food than they have here" (read: Whataburger). Maybe it's because I was sick with horrible con crud for over a month there, but maybe it's also because I've shown to be a little less of a push over over the last few years. I'm not going to get into the debacle that was helping my grandma manipulate me and enabling her to be an enabler... there's another blog about that somewhere you can go read.

My typically strong and scary mother has been a crap shoot of emotions for the past month and a half. It ranges from clear headed and demanding, to needy and emotional, to scared and anxious, and even some times a bit delirious and incoherent.

I don't handle unpredictability well and it's already really difficult for me to chance a visit. I'm supposed to be preparing the house for when she comes back, but should I be raising the couch up on bricks and straightening the bedding? Should I provide her daily "wine and vodka" (sugar and carbs)? I'm supposed to be her live in care giver, but what does that mean?

I can't lift her without her help. I can't be here 24/7. I'm not going to help her kill herself. I've been there and I'm not going back.
 
 
Current Music: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills, & Nash
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
When I was a small child, I went through unpredictable phases switching off between being in awe of my cool uncle John and being utterly terrified of the man who claimed to have spiders living in his beard. As I grew I learned a lot from him, like how the best fish is always the big one that got away... which at the time I thought was just a bullshit story he'd tell us to buy our envy, but now I realize he meant to teach us that it's more about the fun you have doing something than the prizes you take away from it.

Uncle John had a drug problem through a lot of my childhood. Most people would hear that and think how terrible that must be for the kids, but the thing is, John always thought of us first. Maybe it was different for those who lived with him, but I didn't even know he had a problem until he was already in recovery. When I was about ten he moved away for a while and in that time he took the steps necessary to deal with his recovery. He always kept us in the loop, calling regularly to regale us with stories of the gutter roach he absolutely did not pick up.

Periodically throughout the time since then he has come to me with step 9 of his NA program, making amends. He'd come to me with things I didn't consider important but he did, or with things I never even realized he'd done... but they were never that terrible and I couldn't blame him. Nevertheless he had to do it, and I had to let him. It was awkward for both of us and he'd always have to make amends for making amends.

I was a teenager when he moved back. Newly sober but still very much the same cool Uncle John I remembered... sans the beard spiders. He'd make a frequent effort to find common interests to keep us close. Oh, you like art? We can tie-dye shirts! Is that a sci-fi reference? Check out these books! Sure I'll play that board game with you. You want to learn how to really play poker? Wait, you were on a bowling league with your mother while I was away... I'll get my gear.

My late teens through mid-twenties were spent with weekly standing Uncle John time. We spent a few seasons bowling on a league with strangers before we managed to rope Shannon and Tommy and later Annie and sometimes Jack into it. The two of us were the constant though, and that was just cool.

Our weekly bowling night turned into bowling and then dinner and games which later turned into a two day thing with bowling one night and games the next, because there was never enough time for everything. When he decided to go to school to learn how to run a craps table (Stick Man John) and deal poker, we threw on additional nights here and there to open up "John's Casino" and invite everyone over to play craps or Texas Hold'em.

We'd break from activities for a year when he went to Texas or a few months when he moved to Tucson and then resume when he came back. The last time he was in Tucson, we decided to just meet up at the casino in the middle and make fun of the realistically animated video Blackjack dealers who would lean over in their scantily clad tops and say "Dealer Busts" in a flirty voice. Yes, she certainly does.

A year and a half ago he moved to Prescott from Tucson. I was bummed that he was still not at all close to me, but it seemed like he managed to make it down more often than he did before. We met up at Cliff Castle a couple of times for bowling, sadly they'd taken out our favorite Blackjack machine by that time.

After being laid off a few months ago, John started spending more time down here. It seemed like he was driving down every other week at first, and then more frequently as he looked for work down here. He was applying for jobs both here and Tucson and we were playing the "yay!... noooo!" game as each wavered between being more likely to occur. If the job were found here, we'd start up a new bowling league. If it were found in Tucson, we'd have to go back to just meeting up every once in a while. Though last I talked to him, when a Tucson job was looking more likely, we decided we'd just find a place in between and complain about the gas money as part of the bowling experience. The only alley I could find in the immediate center had terrible reviews. I never got to tell him that.

In the most recent month and a half or so he'd been randomly showing up at my house two or three times a week. It became so common that no one was ever surprised when he just walked right in, grabbed a Fresca, and started talking like he'd already been there for hours.

John and I talked a lot in the last couple of months. Mostly it seemed like he was trying to get things back to the way they used to be. Even though most of our bowling and game night people had moved away, we made plans to get back to our weekly game night using the internet to bring everyone back together. It was all waiting on the new job, any day now. New job, new bowling league, new game night.

He talked about how proud he was of Annie with her job and her talents and her passionate arguing on the internet (even, and perhaps especially, when it was schooling him in something publicly) but most of all her affinity for video games and books because in that way she reflected him and that just made him happy. He talked about how much he liked Cassidy and was grateful to have her in the family. He loved how happy she makes Annie and how much she has been doing lately to turn her own life into something she can be proud to talk about. He talked about Drakon and fishing and crawdad traps. He'd even bring Drakon over to swim sometimes. We discussed our computer troubles and upgrades and sales at Fry's and what we'd be doing when we have money and could buy parts. He was going to build a whole new machine and send his to Glo, because she needs one and that was just the obvious solution. He talked about the books he was reading and took my suggestions for new ones.

I really wish I could remember the last book he recommended to me.

Or the restaurant he said I should go to in Texas.

He was at my house every day when I was in Texas last week. I was not.

I came home from Texas. I looked at my bathroom and said "No one cleaned my litter box while I was gone... and John was here." (If you've ever lived with John, you'll understand that one.) I took a nap. I went to Mo's house for Sister Date. Then I was called to the hospital.




Dear Uncle John,

What was that restaurant you wanted me to go to and the book I was supposed to read?

I love you.

-Your New Niece


 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
18 January 2015 @ 04:28 pm
2014  
My new year's resolution for last year, which I just had to look up, was to update LiveJournal more often. I even gave it a limit of "once a month if possible". So of course I had absolutely zero entries during the year of 2014. That's actually pretty descriptive of how the entire year went though, so it works.

Without updates to LiveJournal to remind me of what the hell I've been doing with my life, I'll have to piece it together from archives over at Facebook and Tumblr with help from my most reliable memory source - photos (both iPhone and camera) from my hard drive. Let's see...

January

I'm seeing a trend starting with how I spend the beginning of each year. I'm a week late in writing this post mostly because I just haven't been able to muster the mental strength to care enough but also because I've been helping uncle Lyndon move to a new house. Last January was the same, I spent the beginning of the year helping cousins Annie and Cassidy (Gremory) pack up and move to Minnesota. At least Lyndon was only moving a few miles away this week.

The move was hell on me health wise. It was the middle of the polar vortex and the Midwest was plagued with sulfur in the (very cold) air. I did manage to pick up six states that I had never visited before, even if driving to Fargo "on the way" to Minneapolis wasn't the greatest plan. Thanks to the Subaru we made it safely. Though I still feel like I was rude to Annie's MN friends (the ones I secretly idolize on Tumblr) who put us up for a few hours before I pushed to leave because I was out of breath from the sulfur and didn't want to appear lazy and out of shape.

Gloria and I drove down from Minneapolis to Chicago in the middle of the night. It took us about seven hours because of the major blizzard we were crawling through. By the time we arrived I had realized that my breathing problems were allergy related and not just me being out of shape. Gloria made me take some Mucinex and Benedryl and I spent a day literally hallucinating while trying to sleep in Laura's living room. I vaguely remember meeting Laura's Dave while deciding I don't actually like Chicago pizza. I also remember counting my own molecules as they floated around me rearranging themselves in an effort to cure my ailments. Gloria had to drive us out of Illinois and I was convinced I was going to have a stroke or heart attack from whatever the Mucinex was doing to me. "It's supposed to feel like that" I was told.

We made a stop in Dallas where I recuperated for two days being taken care of by both Gloria and Shannon. It was a good thing we were there when we were because I got to meet Shannon's cat Potato who died shortly after.

I spent the rest of the month putting in countless hours of under-appreciated work for the PTA and otherwise following the usual routine of shuffling kids everywhere.

February

I spent a lot of February with Leesah and Leo (Mo and Kenny's foster kids, incidentally also Aydan's cousins). Falyne and I finally taught Ethan how to ride his bike. I did a lot of under-appreciated work for the PTA. We also had a bunch of trips to various parks and the Science Center... which isn't out of the ordinary but I felt like my reporting of February was fairly light so I'm throwing it in.

March

In march I stepped up Ethan's tutoring. He was struggling with reading and so I forced him to do four whole Spectrum workbooks in 6 weeks and he hated me for it. Aydan and I frequented the train park, the zoo, and the Children's Museum. I ran a contest under the PTA name which ended in my mom, Falyne, and I making 400 laminated bookmarks from designs students created. Won't be doing that again. We had birthday parties for Gwen and for Ethan (I swear his friends are going to think his birthday is in March).

April

Twice in April I drove out of town with my mother (once with her and Gloria) to take pictures of the sky. Once was a lunar eclipse, once was a failed attempt at catching a meteor shower. Falyne and Aydan and I took a small trip to Rock Springs Cafe just for the hell of it. I guess it was a month for just-out-of-town trips. Train park, tea parties, toddler play dates... you'd think I was a stay at home mom or something. I didn't do much for my birthday, and apparently have no pictures from that week because of it. Facebook suggests I spent most of April editing photos from paid jobs.

May

Mo and Kenny bought a house in May, I spent some time helping them move. I started using Duolingo daily y mi español no es perfecto pero está mejorando. Deutsch war zu schwierig, um fortzufahren. Français me fait peur. I went to Vegas with my parents for my mom's birthday. I spent more time with Leesah and Leo (I miss them) and I did more under-appreciated work for the PTA. Zoey had a broken tooth which made her really really sick, we took her to the vet when we thought we might lose her. She's better now, but it was scary.

June

June was the first time I volunteered for Comicon. I wonder why I hadn't been doing that the whole time, it's the best way to spend Comicon and it even gets me in for free. Laura came to visit (okay, to finish packing up and selling Judy's house.. but I focus on the positive). Shannon had a sudden trip to the hospital to have pieces removed and Ma Duffy flew me out to Texas to take care of Shan and Evie while she was out of town. I had already bought tickets to fly out for Shannon's birthday in July so I brought Evie back with me for the two weeks between trips.

July

I finally sent my camera in for repair, it was gone for a painful two weeks or so. The first half of the month was pretty much an endless sleepover with Evie and Falyne and Ethan, sometimes joined by Aydan. The second half was spent in Texas with Shannon and Rue and one day of overlap with Bat who had just moved back to TX from what like South Carolina or some shit. Rue and I made a space whales cake which just became my most popular post on Tumblr... I painted it with cheapo frosting and a chopstick.

August

By August, Shamus's health had declined dramatically. He was never really the picture of health, but it had gotten particularly bad and was not getting better. We took him in to the vet where it was decided it was best to put him down. That was the first time I had ever made that decision for one of my own animals and it didn't sit well with me at all.

The thing about starting a month off like that though is that it could only get better. Shannon's cousin James sold me a new projector for super cheap. I had gone several months without a working projector (and thus no TV at all) in my black room and it's just so much nicer with one. Falyne and I were approached by a small cat (Windsor) wanting to move in with her at 2am after she had a nightmare regarding her cat who had died in early July. The Joss Whedon Biography I sold some pictures to came out. School started again for the kids. And I became a stowaway, crashing Mo and Kenny's trip to Newport Beach and Disneyland.

September

I guess technically the Disneyland part of that trip was in September because we happened to be gone the weekend that split the months, but whatever. September brought CSTS, where I ran the photo booth and also signed an autograph on those pictures that were published in the Joss Whedon Biography. I did more work for the PTA which was quickly shot down by the principal who apparently hates either me or free money for the school or both. I essentially quit the PTA staying on only as a figurehead to avoid appearances of flakiness for the group. I guess the principal has won with silencing PTA then because I haven't seen any correspondence from them outside of a few personal e-mails. (*breathes and steps back* not my issue anymore). Aydan broke my iPhone screen, I fixed my iPhone screen, and I got a new iPhone anyway and gave my dad the repaired one.

October

October wasn't very busy. I spent a lot of time helping Falyne get used to her heavy course load for sixth grade. We saw Barenaked Ladies at the state fair (apparently Ethan's first live concert). A hand-me-down monitor from uncle Lyndon brought my desktop back up to a three monitor operation (and my production back up to "somewhat productive" level.)

November

I have no photos on my phone from November. I really don't know how that's possible. I guess I helped Gloria and uncle Lyndon find a new house (they both determined they needed to move at the same time and realized it'd be beneficial to pool resources). The kids had like 3/4 of the month off of school due to the placement of holidays and breaks. It was another month with two weddings in the same month, so I know I spent a lot of time editing photos. I wrote maybe two chapters of a novel before deciding once again that NaNoWriMo isn't actuyally my thing. I bought and built a heated doghouse which my dogs refuse to use. It cost my entire earnings from one wedding.

December

I volunteered at Comicon FanFest in December. I liked it better than regular Comicon because it was more laid back. I enjoy the organized chaos of regular Comicon but Fanfest had the same organization but with more free time to sit and read or wander around and explore. I got to meet the newest little Browncoat, Amelia. I guess we celebrated Christmas or whatever. We celebrated Falyne's birthday with a full out party at the ice skating arena this time, rather than a separate party and only basic ice skating day of.

I regret that we failed to ring in the new year with a viewing of Eurotrip. The first time since the movie came out some 10 years ago.

----
Facebook archives aren't the best source for personal narrative blogs but they sure do make me realize how much fun my friends are. I'm glad I live-blog my interesting experiences so I can remember more than just possibly dying in Chicago.

I have a terrible memory, so I piece together these entries each year by going through archives on Facebook, Tumblr, LiveJournal (no such luck with that this year), and the picture folders on my hard drive.

My new year's resolution this year is to attend all Browncoat functions. I've already made it to the January shindig, so I guess I'm off to a good start with that one.

.
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
31 December 2013 @ 04:58 pm
2013  
Alright, here it is, time to review my year again. I'd say that 2013 was better than 2012. Well, I'd say any year was better than 2012 but... moving on. I had resolved to stop and think about whether I really wanted to be doing something and start saying 'no' to things I really didn't want to do. I also said I was going to finally graduate university. I think I was successful in both fields. There were very few things that I signed up for that I didn't actually want to do, and I was even able to quit things I changed my mind on after learning the facts. I did graduate, technically, even though I won't see my diploma until after I figure out how to pay the thousands of dollars I owe ASU. My name was on the list, damn it, and that's good enough!


January

In early January of this year my friend Megan was looking for a new daytime babysitter for her son Aydan. I happened to be jobless and in serious need of some cash so I jumped at the opportunity. I had only met Aydan maybe once before then, if that. It worked out for the best though because he's awesome and we became pretty good friends rather quickly.

I signed up for three online classes, Egyptian Art and Culture (which I failed by spacing out on time and completely bombing the final even though I had a B for the rest of the class), Music History: Blues through Heavy Metal which was a pretty awesome class to take, and Mapping London Through Fiction which should have been an awesome class except the coursework was way too confusing and although the books were fun, the midterm project was just not something I ever saw myself understanding.

I spent a lot of January reading books that were due to come out in movie form over the year (Beautiful Creatures Series, Warm Bodies, The Hunger Games series, Night Circus which okay isn't a movie yet but SHOULD BE.

February

In February I had a snooty photo client who sold expensive handbags in Scottsdale Fashion Square nitpick my work until I doubted my abilities. Against my personal policy of not publicly posting my paid work without permission, I posted one of them and everyone told me she was full of shit. It still made me less than enthusiastic about accepting photo jobs from just anyone anymore.

I also did photos for the Best Buddies charity walk in Tempe. They were a completely different kind of client who even asked my comfort levels with approaching people. I would most definitely work with them again.

We spent the end of the month at Disneyland for Ethan's birthday which was a lot of fun.

March

I spent spring break visiting Katie, David, and Autumn in Spokane. Katie even went out of her way to drive me to a few neighboring states so that I could find commemorative spoons for my collection and check more places off of my list of states visited.

At the end of March I did photos for my friend Tisha's wedding. For the record, the Alwun House is a really pretty venue for weddings.

April

At the beginning of April Falyne, Annie, and I went to a creepy neighborhood block party to see Steven Page in concert. Despite getting there really close to start time we found plenty of room right up next to the stage as the creepy suburban neighbors apparently didn't know good music when it was literally brought to their front yards.

While taking pictures at a wedding in the middle of the month my camera started to die. A wedding guest joking said "did I break it?" after I took his picture and the camera froze. I laughed it off but was actually terrified that I wouldn't be able to get it back. It only lasted a few seconds and I was able to get it back but the framing has been off ever since (and now it freezes up and refuses to work after only a few shots). I came to terms with it being time for a new camera and stopped taking important jobs for the next couple of months.

Mo, Falyne, Ethan, and I took up ukulele lessons at Bookman's. They were free and the teacher was really patient with us. Falyne learned the most, I picked up enough to pretend I know what I'm doing, Ethan and Mo at least enjoyed themselves.

Toward the end of the month Mo and I went to Famous Dave's with out mother to use one of our free birthday meal coupons. We explained to the server my anxiety problems and managed to avoid a singing presentation but then discovered the hard way that they bring out the birthday desert with a large sparkler... which I am horridly allergic to.

We had small birthday celebrations by meeting up with family for dinner both days. Mo and Kenny helped me buy an Xbox 360 from Bookman's for my birthday. Gloria got me the grammar posters I wanted and a Ninja blender so I could make my own Jamba Juice from home. Naturally I spent the summer drinking smoothies and playing games.

May

On my birthday I kicked off a Indigogo campaign to raise money to buy a new camera. It ran through the months of May and June. I spent a lot of May coming up with rewards and witty advertisements for the campaign.

The kids and I spent some time at the zoo and we threw Aydan a birthday party in the park, and I started losing my computer to Falyne after she discovered Minecraft and a world of online gaming friends.

June

In June I discovered that I can't last a day without my phone. The Otterbox case I had on my phone is so strong that the few times I'd taken the case off had managed to bend the frame of the phone itself. I sent it in for a replacement and, although Apple managed to get it back within 24 hours, I managed to fail at all of my obligations on the day it was missing.

Mo and I became obsessed (again, after several years break) with Tetris after I found a multiplayer download on the Xbox.

My Indiegogo campaign picked up a couple of high dollar wedding packages and combined with all of the smaller contributions, just barely made enough money to buy me a new camera.

July

When my money finally came in from Indiegogo I ordered the new camera online and had it shipped to Becka in Massachusetts because that's where I would be when it finally arrived. Gloria, Falyne, and I flew out to Boston to spend a week with Becka, Christian, and Amelia. Our excuse for going was that we needed to see the Barenaked Ladies and they had skipped Arizona on their tour. While we were there, Becka drove us up the coast so that I could knock two more states off of my places visited list.

Maybe a week after returning from MA, and still playing with my new camera, my mother and I went to drop something off at aunt Glo's place in Prescott only to keep driving and find ourselves in Vegas for the hell of it. We visited our friend Jill and her dogs (and I'm glad we did because Lady died a few weeks ago and at least I got to see her in good health for a while).

August

At the beginning of the school year Mo and I decided we would give the PTA one more shot. We had tried to join last year but found the board members to be exclusive and uninviting. I'm glad we went to the meeting this year because we met Gwen who is an amazing person and had managed to briefly take control of the board as vice president with her husband (Dale) as president. They showed promise and, more importantly, were enthusiastic about us joining AND helping. If it weren't for Gwen, I don't think we would have stayed after that meeting.

BNL did eventually come to Phoenix. It wasn't really part of their tour so much as an extra show at a casino, but it happened to fall on a Thursday and so Mo and I made a sister date out of it and went to the concert.

Still running on my new-camera-high I took lots of pictures in August. I had pics of Annie and Cass, of my and Mo's pets, and Aydan even discovered his love of taking pictures. He started to only let me get pictures of him if he could also get pictures of me.

I enrolled in the two classes I needed to graduate: Egyptian Art and Culture (again) and Shakespeare which was a physically-on-campus class but was easier than any of the online classes that fit that requirement. I did not have a way to pay for it this semester, but I enrolled anyway because apparently they don't kick you out for having a delinquent account anymore.

September

I started volunteering for the PTA as "Creative Committee Chair" which meant I got to do a lot of art and work on the website with Gwen.

Falyne and I tried to return to Ukulele lessons because Bookman's Mesa started them up this time (we were at the Phoenix location before). We had to complain about the age requirement to get Falyne in and then she felt judged for being a kid the whole time and it ultimately wasn't worth the drive out there so we quit after only one or two visits.

At the end of the month I got a job with Amazon working in the warehouse. I was really excited about the job and it seemed like it would be a lot of fun. I worked one night and realized that I just couldn't physically handle a job with that much constant movement and no breaks for ten hours each night. I quit after one shift.

October

We had a lot planned for the PTA in October but due to some people not wanting to share control or at least stop being horrible people (same reason we weren't able to join last year) the principal decided it would be best to just cancel the entire thing. I still think that reaction was blown way out of proportion and the kids lost out on an entire month of fun stuff we had planned because of it. We reorganized the group and met with the state PTA people to see if he was even allowed to do that (spoiler alert: not really) and we managed to get our group back but lost Gwen and Dale in the process. That sucked for me because they were the only ones I actually really liked. I decided to keep Gwen as a friend anyway, even if she's not working with the PTA anymore.

In early October I did photos for the Browncoat Ball. It got me into the ball for free, since the only thing I was interested in doing there was taking pictures anyway. When Shellei (who was running the merch table) needed to go, I managed to call in Annie as a reinforcement and we got to run the merch table while I periodically left to take pictures. It was great fun.

I took Aydan to the pumpkin festival and he brought home a free pumpkin, which I hope he eventually let Megan dispose of. I even threw a Halloween party which I used to do all the time but haven't done in years.

There were changes in the family dynamic too, Mo took in two foster babies at the beginning of the month. Leesah and Leo, who are coincidentally Aydan's cousins, and Gloria moved into a new house... still not close enough to mine.

November

In November I did pictures for one of the weddings that funded me new camera. I went to an Art Bazaar with Gwen were I did not sell anything but I did pass out enough business cards that I now need to order more. I took Aydan to visit his cousins at their family day at preschool, turned in the last paper of my undergraduate career, and didn't have a panic attack when people came over to plan Manzanas Con Manzanas on Thanksgiving.

I helped Annie throw a yard sale to try and get rid of the things she can't take with her when she moves. We sold about three things... all to the same neighbor who just happened to walk by with his dog.

When the PTA was brought back at the beginning of the year the moved some people around on the board and I ended up in the Secretary position. I'm still Creative Committees Chair, I just have more say and more responsibilities now.

At the end of the month Jill sent Lady down here to her vet because she was sick. Mo and I went to visit her in the animal hospital before she went back to Vegas. She didn't live long after returning home. I'm glad we went to see her.

December

December has been a full month. I passed my final, leaving me with a B in my last undergrad class ever. Now the only thing standing between me and my diploma is a measly $5k... which probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. Mo and I both graduated, she did the ceremonies and I took pictures from a safe distance.

The other members of the PTA (who apparently think they are the only members) tried to cancel the Bookfair at the last minute. I made some phone calls and got it staffed and Mo and I ended up doing most of the work for it. We earned the school over $2000 worth of books.

We had some family over for our traditional spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas Eve. Shannon managed to be here for it this year even because she needed to come take care of some things with her house now that Annie is moving out. No one told Gloria that Shannon would be here and she actually cried when she walked in and found her here.

It's actually been a full month of social events. I attended Megan's holiday party at her office with Falyne and Mo and her kids. I got to see Aydan there for a little bit and I otherwise hid behind my camera most of the night.

We threw Falyne a birthday party in the park for all of her school friends. A lot of family came as well. After the park we brought 6 of her school friends to my house for a sleepover. They ranged in ages from 10 to 13 and they stayed up all night long. I let them have free range of my musical instruments, including the electric guitar and drums. It got loud. At least one of them tuned both of my guitars for me. There were a lot of mustaches and I put up a photobooth. Gloria and Isis stayed for much of the night which was a big help.

Now I'm getting ready to go to Falyne's actual birthday tradition of ice skating to be followed by board games and a small new years party at my house.


---------

Now for next year's resolution. Considering the fact that I apparently only had four updates to my blog last year I think I'm going to resolve to update more frequently. Like, at least once a month if possible.



.
 
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
22 September 2013 @ 12:46 am
I started a job at Amazon this week.

I also, interestingly enough, ended a job at Amazon this week.

At first I was dreading, well everything about life, but mostly coming here to tell everyone who was so proud of me and so happy for me that I had quit so soon. I figured I should say something, rather than having to awkwardly answer that "so how's the new job" question that undoubtedly would come up ad nauseam, so I made a couple of brief comments on Facebook about terrible I felt after the first night of real work. The comments I got (not just on Facebook but also in person) ranged from encouragement and suggestions that it would get easier over time, to (and this surprised me for some reason) rumors about how Amazon doesn't treat their employees very well.

One comment in particular (thanks Cameron) linked to a nine page article about the horrible conditions in Amazon warehouses. It was written two years ago, but a lot of the information was still relevant to the experience I had on my single night in the warehouse. This article, I feel, completely validates my choice to not return for a second night.

I should mention, for those still considering employment with Amazon, that the people who work there are mostly nice folk who generally want to provide a happy environment. The benefits are great and the pay is nice. The HR department certainly knows how to sell jobs. If you are an athlete and need employment, this is the job for you.

However, not everyone is the athletic type. I am actually fairly angry that this made me feel ashamed at first. As if there were something wrong with me that I physically could not handle this job. I know the encouragement that I could do it, that it would get easier over time, and that I could treat it as an exercise plan were all meant to help me mentally prepare for keeping the job... but they really just came across as a reinforcement of the social stigma that says anyone who is not athletic/skinny/small is somehow doing something wrong in life. I felt bad about myself for the first time in maybe ever. I don't usually care about those things, but this time it was keeping me from being able to perform a task which, at the time, I thought anyone could do.

Then I read that article and realized... not everyone can do that job. It's not just me. There is actually a really small percentage of people who can physically handle this particular job.

The built-in medical office at the warehouse should have been a hint to me. The girl sitting by the lockers at break, sucking down her inhaler, should have tipped me off. The fact that the only employees over 30 in the entire warehouse were either new-hires or Human Resources should have been a clue.

When the application process asked several times if I was comfortable working in an environment that could reach high temperatures, standing for long periods of time, and lifting up to fifty pounds... I decided that was something I could do.

If instead they had asked if I could walk 15-20 miles a night, bending and lifting every other minute, while pushing a heavy cart...

If it asked if I was okay if my 15 minute break included the time it takes to walk 3/4 of a mile to the break room and back...

If it had said I would need to pick at least two items a minute and return over 1200 by the end of a 10 hour shift...

If it had mentioned there were no chairs and no sitting or stopping allowed for the entire 10 hours (excluding the unpaid 30 minute lunch)...

If all of that were mentioned in the application process... things would be different.

By the end of my shift I was beyond sore, I was incapable of moving my muscles almost entirely. I worried that I would fall down, and that would cause a scene, and people would think it was just that I was a lazy person who let myself get out of shape. I was dizzy, nauseous, and having blind spurts.

I was upset about a lot of things. I need the money. I need the dental insurance. I had a list of things I was going to buy that I legitimately needed, rather than just wanted. I have bills that are overdue, which I told collectors I was getting a job and would rectify soon. I have a semester of school that I'm enrolled in because I need to graduate but for which I have yet to pay.

I was most upset, however, at how unfair it was that I would certainly be judged for my lack of athletic ability. I am not a lazy person. I have been called lazy, numerous times by many people, but I am not a lazy person. I will put extra effort into things I care about. I am sorry to have to inform you that those things are not sports. They are not exercise routines, or gym memberships, or jogging, or cycling.

Why is it that skinny, athletic people are what is idealized in this world but anyone else is judged as being something negative? When you can't sing like a Broadway star you are not called out for not trying hard enough. You could sign up for vocal lessons and sing better just like you could get a gym membership and lose weight. Yet those who don't get the voice coach are not judged at all while those who don't care about the size of their body get all sorts of negative attention.

Why would I ever allow anyone to control how I feel about sharing information relating to my life? It is disgusting that I waited for another valid reason (such as an article deeming the working conditions of Amazon to be unjust) before being comfortable explaining my choice not to continue.

The truth is, it is not Amazon's fault that I chose not to continue. The environment they provide will work just fine for some people. In an ablest community, Amazon is the perfect choice for employment.

The real problem here is how society has become so widely accepting of the practice of judging others for who they are. Before you go and tell me you are just concerned about my health... please take a moment to realize that my health is not yours to be concerned about. Before you encourage someone to join a gym so that they can look more like what you would like to see... consider that maybe what takes you an hour a day in the gym might take someone else eight, and maybe they have other interests to fill that time which would make them happier.

Isn't being happy what's really important?

I had plenty of time to think during those 10 hours of walking without music (electronics are not allowed past security). As the protesting pain grew in my muscles I thought about what I would rather be doing with my time, about what I enjoy in life. I enjoy sitting at my computer and writing blogs (hi guys!) I enjoy taking pictures and turning them into pretty pieces of art. I enjoy learning new things. I like to help the kids discover what they enjoy doing.

I thought about how I had my schedule set to where I only had a few hours of sleep between work and doing these things I enjoy. I considered how if I kept the job, I might have to cancel other things to include time to recuperate. I wasn't about to cancel school. I didn't want to let Aydan down by limiting the things we could do together (and canceling on him never even crossed my mind, actually).

The natural reaction was to quit the job and be bitter about how it didn't work out. I called my mom on the way home because I knew she'd be up and I needed someone to talk to while I drove in what wasn't the best condition to drive. She was very supportive and said it was my choice and that I needed to do what would keep me happy and healthy. My dad didn't say anything but seemed upset at my choice. Other reactions I got were of disappointment or else trying to talk me out of it.

What I didn't even consider until just now though, is that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn't matter if they think that I am lazy or selfish. I am going to keep this privileged mentality that I can do what I enjoy rather than suffer through life. Eventually it will work out. Eventually it will pay the bills. Until then... I'll wing it.

.
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
08 September 2013 @ 07:50 pm
Somehow I've made it through eight months of the year with only two blog entries. This is entirely unlike me and I am somewhat confused. I guess I could blame Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter which get the blunt of my random and often meaningless updates. I could also blame my anxiety and the increasing frequency of being argued with every time I stated an opinion online last year.

Whatever the reason for my lack of blogging, I'm saddened by it. I love to blog. I love writing, and expressing my opinions, and being heard. It's a terrible thing, loving to be heard while hating to be seen or acknowledged. I mean, I love having my work acknowledged and appreciated, but I hate the attention it brings. Two completely conflicting things that make me a very complicated person to figure out. To those who have figured it out... You've done a great job and please explain it to everyone else, because I can't.

Anyway, this year has been crazy highs and lows in the depression/anxiety department. The first half of the year started off with me feeling reluctant and skeptical about pretty much every aspect of life. I felt unwelcome and annoying, even while maintaining the knowledge that my true friends and family never think that way of me.

Toward July, I guess it was, I stopped having anxiety attacks on a weekly (or more) basis for the first time in probably two years. I don't know if there were any factors that caused this change, but it mellowed out some and I'm not about to go looking for the difference. I've theorized that it's highly possible that I'm manic/depressive like several other members of my family, and that the swings for me just function in a months (or years) on/off schedule. Meaning that sometime around August I switched into a manic phase, allowing me to speak to new people and make plans to go out and do things.

This time though, I'm attempting to remain fully aware of the possibility of relapse on the anxiety front. I know what has set me off with overwhelming reliability in the past and I am avoiding those situations now, even if there's a chance that I could technically do it with no issue. I don't want to take the chance of getting back to where I was earlier this year, or worse... the whole of last year. So no phone calls, limited trips to the grocery store and other crowded places, and no blogs about highly criticized topics (that one is hard, I'll admit).

Where has that left me? It's left me not really writing about what is happening in my life anymore. At the end of each year I go through my blogs and my photos and I try to sum up what has happened with me through the year. Unless I really pick up the pace now, that's going to be tough come December.

So:

In January I began a new part-time job basically being a morning shift nanny for Aydan (who turned three in May and is my friend Megan's son). Aydan is awesome and during the cooler months we made trips out to the zoo, or to museums, or parks. During the summer months our time has been spent more inside watching TV or movies, which is still great because we have a lot in common for those things.

In February, my family took Ethan to Disneyland for his birthday. I think he had a great time, but I don't remember much of it because I spent most of the time clinging to walls and fighting off my anxiety while trying to hide it from the kids and not ruin the experience for everyone else.

In March, I flew to Spokane for a week to see Katie, David, and Autumn (who is a pretty fantastic one year old, if you must know.) I got some awesome pictures (which I just realized I never finished posting) and Katie made sure that I got to visit a few other states (for my collection of states I've been to) while I was there.

In late March an anxiety attack caused me to mess up the timing of my final exam for one class, and the midterm project for the other. It was a pretty dark time mentally, to have failed and dropped those classes, because I had to fight to get funding for that semester and it was supposed to be my last. I did not graduate in May, and was unsure of my ability to ever return to school again... two classes away from the end.

In April... I don't even remember April, which means it must not have been great.

Looking through my photos tells me that I had a couple of photography jobs in April. I recall having a really terrible anxiety attack right before one of them and forcing myself to go anyway because I desperately needed the money. It was awkward and I hope never to have that experience again. The other was a wedding for people who are pretty cool and it ended up we had a lot in common, which was a relief to me. My camera started to break down during that wedding, which made me realize it was stupid to take such important jobs without having a backup camera.

Because of that, and with inspiration from Amanda Palmer and her TED Talk about crowd sourcing, I started the Indiegogo campaign for my new camera. The campaign ran through the months of May and June and I actually had a good deal of support, including two prepaid weddings which provided most of the funding for my new camera.

In July, I flew to Boston with Gloria and Falyne to stay with Becka, Christian, and Amelia (another great toddler!) and to see the Barenaked Ladies in concert since they weren't coming here (and when they did schedule that small show for the casino, it was 18+ which made Falyne cry). That week in Boston was great, and even though I was traveling on a bum ankle and Becka was suffering from her own Anxiety issues at the time... I think it really helped pull me out of my own problems.

While we were there Gloria and I ended up having a serious discussion about raising children and the difference between letting them grow up and forcing them to grow up, or the issues with being honest with them versus telling them too much. I think we both still hold extremely opposite opinions on that and came to a silent agreement to just not talk about it anymore. Because that's totally the healthy thing to do (well, maybe it is at this point). I think Becka and Christian may have gotten more than they bargained for with us on that trip.

August brought the beginning of the school year and, conveniently, the beginning of what I guess could be classified as a "manic phase" for me. I knew I needed to keep my volunteering to a minimum to avoid a repeat of a few years ago where instead of giving a panel at Comicon I just flew off to Massachusetts at last minute (tornadoes are totally preferable to me than public speaking, I've decided), but I also wanted to be more involved in the kids' school because I hate showing up and having them not know who I am, or question my relationship.

The PTA flyer said they still needed a secretary (elections technically took place at the end of last year, but I was in no position to go attend meetings then, let alone run for anything). I've been secretary for things before... the journalism club at SMCC, my neighborhood association, I've even briefly filled in for secretary at Hazeyspets meetings back in the day (in MY day... you kids get off my lawn), so I knew it was a job I could handle. [Incidentally, they had someone at the first meeting who was super excited about the job, so I didn't end up running after all.]

I asked Mo and Gloria if they wanted to give it a second shot. We had attended the first meeting last year but were put off by all the obvious politics and favoritism being displayed. Mo and Gloria even gave up way before I did last year, as I spent probably the first two months of school sending e-mails to the president of the PTA and the principal and secretary of the school, listing the ideas and talents I had to offer (there were a lot of good things I could offer). I never received a reply, or if I did it was a deferral to someone else, and eventually I dropped it feeling unwelcome and as if I had annoyed them.

This year Gloria's been a bit busy, so I didn't remind her more than once when it was time for the meeting but Mo decided to go with me to give it a second chance. I'm glad we did. The new board members are completely different. They even started the meeting by explaining how it's all about the children... something the old regime never seem to get.

I also decided at last minute that I would just enroll in the last two classes I needed from ASU and figure out how to pay for it later. I'm taking Egyptian Art and Culture (again) and Shakespeare (a higher level than the last one I took) this semester, if anyone is keeping track.

September was a pretty busy month for me in my manic stage. I guess I needed to get everything done while I still felt like I could actually do it. I made offers for donated photography to a couple of groups, I got involved with the PTA, I spent a good deal of physical energy rearranging my rooms, I've scanned all of the paperwork in my office and made obsessively neat digital files out of them, and I applied for a job with Amazon. Amazon hired me, by the way, which I don't think I've clearly mentioned anywhere online because I didn't want to jinx anything. I start orientation in a week and a half and then I will be working 4/10's on night shift at the warehouse fulfilling orders. I hope to get many orders as weird as my own to keep the job interesting. [I'm also hoping that first paycheck hits in time for me to make a payment to my ASU tuition. Hurrah for living on the edge?]

------

Now for something I've debated talking about for a while. I haven't, worrying that it may offend people (and I'm sure it will), but I do feel strongly about it and I think I've decided that I'm pretty offended myself. I'm separating it from the rest of the post because I've gone back and forth on posting it for several months and even today I haven't been sure on whether it's in my character to vent about it online or not. I guess I've always had the "it's my blog, you don't have to read it" approach, so I'll just go for it.

I offered to do photography for the Browncoats, which I've done before (pretty much by my forcing it on them) and which I have offered countless times. This is a group I founded eight years ago, mind you. Many of them I consider friends and while there may be a few hundred members, those in charge definitely know who I am and what I do and how I am actually quite good at it.

Unfortunately, shortly before that Comicon I bailed on, there was a change in board members and the president position went to someone in Tucson who claims to be a photographer. Personally, I don't know her very well... and I guess it's my own fault for never initiating contact in any kind of social or friendly manner. That same year I was running the CSTS event for Phoenix and she was in charge of the event in Tucson and, I guess she decided that since I blew off my commitment to Comicon I must be a flight risk for CSTS as well. She tried to take over my job, to the point of making contacts for the venue and beginning proceedings without me. It was... tense. I had to argue and get more aggressive than I ever care to be to defend my position and take back reigns. She still showed at the event and made it feel like it wasn't really mine.

So there are some negative feelings there on my part, and I've admittedly never made an effort to learn who she really is outside of group politics.

However, I can't help but notice that she is still president of the group and she still ends up running a photo booth and pushing her own personal brand at all Browncoat events.

It. Bothers. Me.

It bothers me more than I care to admit, even. Which is why I haven't until now, except for in vents to family or close friends.

I have tried to throw myself in and take over. If you want a photo booth, I do AMAZING photo booths. I have great lighting equipment and now I have an absolutely fantastic camera to go with it. I have offered to bring a printer and sell prints TO BENEFIT THE GROUP. I have watermarked all photos I take for the group with the group's name instead of my own!

I AM OFFERING BECAUSE I LOVE THIS GROUP AND I WANT TO BE A SIGNIFICANT PART OF IT AGAIN.

I'm yelling and no one is hearing me. At least that's how it feels.

It does not feel good. I do not feel welcome. I feel pushy and annoying. Am I pushy and annoying? I really don't know anymore. I think I should just quit and move on, but that doesn't feel good either.

I made an offer in June to run a photo booth for the Browncoat Ball. I didn't want to be paid. I didn't want the exposure (that'd be great but I can do without). I just wanted to do the photo booth because I thought it'd be fun. I thought it was something the Ball could benefit from. I had ideas to make it great... it'd have props and options, I could even tone some of the photos to match the Space-Western feel of the theme.

... but they had already asked her to do it.

I guess I had blocked that answer out of my memory because when I got an invite to another planning meeting for the event last week I decided I would go and give my offer and ideas in person. Except the meeting fell on a day where I just had everyone go wrong and I decided it'd be a better idea to stay at home and not get into anymore trouble. So I emailed my offer for ANYTHING YOU NEED to everyone in the planning committee instead. I mentioned my ability to do photo booths, again forgetting the answer I got last time, and also mentioned a list of other things I could do instead, including more promos or roaming event photography.

The response I got was... not what I was looking for. Basically, they want my pictures (and admit that they are great) but they want them just as much as they want pictures from EVERYONE. It was suggested that they could be loaded to Instagram or Google Events (two services I do not use) and tagged for all to see. Other people spoke up about their enthusiasm to take pictures and how great their equipment was.

I'm sure to them it was just friendly offers and collaborative efforts and they didn't actually think of me at all in either favorable or unfavorable direction, but to me it sounded like they were pushing me back and saying they were better than me and I'm not really all that needed at all.

I read these e-mails on my phone from bed before I got up today.

Those of you without anxiety problems probably don't realize that those of us with them have this little voice (not always literally) in the back of our heads that tells us that people don't like us, that we're not good enough, that we annoy everyone. It's... not ideal.

So I made a decision to just stay in bed today and ignore the embarrassing mess I had made of myself by being so confident in my offer.

... then I checked my text messages and found out that the PTA had held an executive meeting this morning where I was nominated and unanimously elected for the Creative Committee Chair position. They think I'm great and are fully willing to take me up on all the things the Browncoats don't actually want me for... and then some.

I does hurt to know that a group I personally founded (even if I'm intentionally not part of the board because I didn't want to let anyone down), doesn't believe in be enough to let me do free things for them and acknowledge that I would do a better job. It hurts to think that they somehow don't know that I would do a better job. It hurts that when I offered in June, they asked me for a quote... like they thought I would charge them for photography at a charity event for a group I founded.

Yes, that hurts, but one text from the PTA made me not only able to get out of bed today, but gave me what I needed to realize that I am good at what I do, I am professional, and some people do recognize that.


----

So here's to me keeping up with blogging from now on. Feel free to nudge me if I don't get one up every week.

.
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
13 April 2013 @ 11:30 pm
The wedding I shot tonight was one of those where everything that could go wrong almost did. It was very nerve wracking.

My camera had error messages I had never seen before, several times. The flash stopped once. The bulb went out in the only work lamp I brought… I guess I had three other studio lights now that I think about it, but I hate those because they are too blue (daylight bulbs my ass) and way too weak to work on their own, let alone with my powerful flash.

The wind, which was not enough to cool down the weather, repeatedly destroyed my backdrop until the groom rigged it up with twine like a dying baby tree (this took an hour and a half and was luckily before the ceremony started). A bridesmaid stole tiny safety pins from the venue’s intern office and we spent an hour pinning together my huge-ass backdrop and all of the random pastel sheets and decorations the bride had picked out/made for it.

Worst of all, and possibly related to the error message, my camera decided the way I was framing pictures wasn’t good and so it re-framed all of my shots over and up a few feet. It became common enough that I started to purposefully frame down and over the other direction to compensate.

The whole night I thought the pictures weren’t coming out well at all. They looked amateur (at best) in the preview window. I decided to use fill flash (which I never do because it looks terrible usually) during the sunset times where it was a choice between horrible back lighting or my shadow in the picture. It still looked bad in the preview.

I have learned that you never delete anything until you see it on the computer, and there is a reason they say that.

You know that episode of How I Met Your Mother where they are trying to take a bad picture of Barney and no matter what it looks like in person at the moment, the picture always comes out with him standing straight up, smiling, and fixing his tie? Yeah, that’s what my camera did with 90% of those photos.

There are hundreds of photos I thought weren’t great at all and I look at them now on the computer and see glistening eyes and dramatic shadows… some even look fully edited right out of the camera. What the fuck. There was some weird voodoo magic going on at this Mormon wedding.

I will definitely be getting my camera checked out, and will probably be looking into buying a backup camera. I guess I should also find a new bulb for that work lamp.
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
02 January 2013 @ 05:00 am
Tags:
 
 
Ivana Olson  (also: hazey)
02 January 2013 @ 01:45 am
2012  
At the end of every year I am that cliché that reflects on the past, summing up events and making resolutions for improvement. Yes, that's me.

This year is a bit difficult. It's difficult for many reasons. I've contemplated composing this entry every day for the past month. There are things I need to have down for my own records. There are things that half the time I feel I need to publicly justify but all the time I just really do not want to talk about.

I found my 2012 to contain an above average amount of anxiety and, possibly as a result of that, a frightening lack of emotion. 'Lack of' is not exactly the correct description for it, maybe I should say 'displaced'? I have found myself overly upset about small things - something someone said on the internet, something someone did in a parking lot - and I've grown attached to fictional characters, clinging to their stories as if they were more important than my own story... but I have not managed to manufacture any kind of sentimentality toward major changes in my personal life.

There isn't a way to describe this that will make people understand exactly what it is, because I don't even know, and there definitely is no way of justifying into anything short of me becoming borderline sociopathic.

So I just won't.

I won't apologize. I can't focus on any of it long enough to figure out what I am to apologize for. I won't explain it for the same reason. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want comments about it. I don't want to fix it.

I want to continue with my life. I like how lately it is becoming more mine, and less... everyone else.


Reviewing my archive of journal entries has resulted in a realization that I did not actually compose my end of the year review last year. There were no resolutions, no summary or photo post to speak of. I can only speculate that I was exhausted and/or busy.

I will try to do my best to piece it together with pictures and documents.

---

January

The year began downhill. Judy, who to the best of my observation had been in a stable health condition (it wasn't ideal but it didn't seem overall immediate), just up and declared one day in late December that she was dying. It was a likely thing to say, but it had been a likely thing to say for the past few years, and there was no new diagnosis to bring it about. It was not a surprise, I suppose, but it was unfortunate. It was matter-of-fact. She made me call Laura and tell her. There was no “okay, I'll call her tomorrow” there was only calling her immediately so that what I said could be straight forward and observed. It was Christmas, or shortly before, and I was convinced that she was simply acting out of a jealous rage because her ex-husband's new wife had cancer and might beat her to it.

Judy does what she says though. If anything, she was always dedicated to follow through on her plans. Things progressed quickly. I continued to see her every day, spending more time when she would allow it. I spent quality time with Laura and we managed to engage in some of those strange circumstances you'd never expect to share with a friend. Valuable life experiences.

Superbowl Sunday. I left the ringer turned on as I slept. I did so most of the time during that month. It wasn't too early but Laura called, and I knew before answering. When I got to the house I made some terrible joke about how Judy must have hated the Superbowl.

The rest of the day was extremely quiet and strange. Laura and Patrick were there, Mo was there. Phone calls were made.

We moved a couch.

If you haven't moved a couch with me, we must not know each other very well.

If anything else happened in January, I wouldn't know what it was. I took pictures of trivial things: sunsets, pets doing cute things, small art projects.

February

I'm assuming I started some classes sometime during January as that is the typical start of the semester. By February I was enrolled in six classes, one of which didn't start until the very end of the month. A couple of them were quite enjoyable but extremely time intensive. One of them I knew I wouldn't like but was managing to keep up with regardless. One was mostly enjoyable and not entirely invasive of my schedule. I was keeping up with the load, but it was taking effort.

I learned to crochet again, for real this time, in my Fibers class. I made hats. In fact, for most of the year hats were all I could make... but I did them well. I took pictures of cats. I taught Ethan to trace drawings. I visited baby Autumn.

I kept to my mind-numbingly routine weekly schedule of Monday night TV with Annie and Cass, Tuesday often reserved for my mother, Wednesday night Castles and Crusades class, Thursday night sister date with Mo, Friday night dinner and TV with Annie and Cass, Saturday night dominoes with Grandma, Sundays were never “free” so much as “open for others to plan.”

In retrospect, I can not find an explanation for why I decided so many recurring weekly plans was ever a good idea.

Judy's memorial was the 26th. I learned that the sulfur surrounding inactive volcanoes will set off my allergies and provide my immune system with ample time for an extended vacation.

March

It's hard to remember exactly how things went down eight months ago without some form of written record. I guess I was attempting to maintain a proper amount of discretion in respect of familial difficulties because my blog entries seem to completely skip over the fact that I had all but moved out of my house and into Grandma's.

Druncle Jack had taken things to extremes and my mother finally drew the line for him. John had already moved out months before as a result of the violence and abuse. Tax season was approaching and when my mother went over the finances for Grandma, it came to light that Jack had been siphoning a considerable amount money off her credit cards for quite some time. She wasn't bringing in enough retirement money to keep up with the bills and her savings was becoming dangerously low.

It was time for Jack to go.

Of course, as usual she did not want to call police. It took two days and several people to convince him to leave, and it took several weeks and an unserved restraining order to keep him from forcing his way back.

The only way to talk Grandma into allowing us to remove him was to promise her that there would be someone there to take care of her. I more or less volunteered. I was the only one willing and able to do it at the time. I didn't have a choice. My mother didn't have to ask me to do it but I could tell by the way she eyed me when the subject came up that there would be no other way. There's a certain amount of distress, of desperation, that comes across a person's face when they just do not know what to do. It was there. I had no choice.

I wouldn't be able to start for a week though, as I already had a ticket purchased for me by the Duffy's to go and help them move from Massachusetts to Texas over spring break. The week went by too fast. I don't know if there is much I enjoy more than driving across the country with Shannon. I suppose doing so without time constraints would be better. I flew in to Boston and said goodbye to Monson. We got to visit Becka before leaving and then we intentionally drove across the middle states that I had left to check off on my map.

Immediately after returning to Phoenix, I left my home. I drove 50 miles a day to and from school. Twice a day sometimes. I fought for weeks to remove what I could of the cigarette residue which constantly bogged down my respiratory system. I woke up early and I stayed up late. My weekly lunches with Mo and Annie were at first interrupted by my mother calling and demanding that I was not allowed any free time for socializing because I needed to be back at Grandma's when I wasn't in class, and later they were canceled all together because I was tired of the calls and the judgments.

I dropped four classes by the end of the month. One of them was my favorite class that semester and I was doing well, grade wise, but it was at an inconvenient time.

April

Over the next month I became increasingly depressed. To clear up a popular misconception: depression is not sadness. It is not strictly caused by the actions of any one individual. Yes, I wanted to be home, I wanted to spend more time with my dogs and cats, I wanted to see my friends and my parents when they weren't just coming to visit grandma or simply letting me “escape” for an hour or two. I wanted my life back, and I'll admit that, as much as I denied it each of the several times a day Grandma suggested she was a burden on me.

I wouldn't say the depression was specifically caused by my being there. I am always struggling with concentration or finding interest in everyday life, it was not new. I called my mom often to check in on progress for how this “temporary situation” was going to play out. There was never an answer. Often there was a harsh reply accusing me of putting her on the spot or demanding too much. I told her I was having trouble and wouldn't be able to continue much longer.

When I escaped with friends for a few hours, my living situation was all I can remember talking about. I complained about stupid things. It was less what Grandma did and more what I couldn't do. When it was about her, it was the way she was always telling me things were her fault. She insisted that I felt terrible, even though kept it all to myself, and blamed herself for all of my troubles. Every day she'd loudly proclaim that she wished she'd just die so I wouldn't have to put up with her.

By the end of the month I was complaining via my blogs. The time for discretion was over. I was exhausted. I spent every day in bed. I had thrown my back out, but couldn't tell Grandma that because she told me every day that I would and I denied it. I was in physical pain. I couldn't get my mind to focus on anything in particular. I cried for no reason, no thoughts to focus on. A clear mind and endless sobs.

My birthday came around and my mom decided we were going to Disneyland. A vacation was a great idea. We brought Grandma, which was great, but I had to drive the van all the way there. I needed a break. Mo agreed to stay in Grandma's room and let me stay with the kids and Laura in our parents' room. I tried to distance myself, to get a break and recharge for when the vacation ended and we had to go back. Except even with so many other people, it became my default responsibility to make sure everything was taken care of properly.

I failed one of my remaining two classes. I put all of my remaining effort into the other. It was exceedingly difficult, more so than any one 200-level art studio class should ever be. I dyed fabrics. I sewed. I struggled.

May

I attempted to fill my time with things that were not simply laying in bed all day. It didn't work out so well. Laura was in town clearing out Judy's house, so I made as much effort to go help with that as I could. By this time I had a pulled shoulder muscle and could not bend more than 3 inches in any direction without my back and right leg spasming and radiating excessive amounts of pain. I wasn't much help.

Laura let me play with toys while she and Mo did most of the work.

I continued to call my mom for updates and get “why are you putting all of this on me” or “I don't have any answers, I'm trying.” Sometimes I even got the flat out blame shifting on how I was only calling to make her feel bad.

My depression worsened, if you could believe that, and the anxieties were flaring up as well. Between the back, leg, and shoulder pain, I was moving back and forth from my bed to the recliner in the living room, dragging along my heating pad as I went, just trying to find a position that I could stand to be in for any reasonable amount of time. I needed all of the preparation I could get between times that Grandma needed help standing or transferring to somewhere. I didn't have extra energy or muscle movement to waste.

I caught up on a bunch of TV. I watched the entire series of “Samantha Who?” and I even read a couple of books. I played a lot of Draw Something, and got really good at drawing things on my phone with a bandaged finger... a causality of war in the battle between apple and slicer.

June

Several things happened in the first four days of June that led to me leaving Grandma's for good. Laura offered to have me ride along with her on her summer tour, a tour that would be visiting a few of the states I have yet to check off. I didn't have the money for it at all, but the opportunity to do something that was just for me was certainly an eye opener.

I realized that through the past 6 months I could count on one hand the number of things I did strictly because I wanted to do them. I also realized that as things stood, there was no prospect of me doing anything I personally wanted for quite a long time to come.

My mother finally broke down and discussed serious options for Grandma with her brothers. It seemed promising, until there was absolutely no follow through on the matter.

Jack called. He had been calling frequently the entire time. Grandma would take the calls in the other room. I knew it was him because she'd be talking as quietly as she could, whereas she normally yells into the phone. When I was informed of his calls, she'd ask me to keep it from my mother, or if she asks, to lie about it. She'd intentionally not tell me things, though it was not a particularly large house and I'd hear, specifically because she felt I was “too honest”.

Jack called. He wanted me to take him to the grocery store. I hadn't talked to him since we pushed him out of the house nearly three months before. She came in to tell me while I lay in bed, attempting not to sob for no reason in front of her, and hiding my heating pad and wrapped ankle.

I said no.

It is a lot for me to say no. I am a push over. I will agree to do things I really do not want to do, because I hate the conflict of saying no and having the subject not be dropped then and there.

But I said no, because the discomfort of taking him to the grocery store would far greater than the discomfort of saying no.

She told me that I needed to tell him that, and she attempted to hand me the phone.

My phone anxiety kicked in, along with my great discomfort with turning people down, and my muscles were so sore and cramped that I couldn't move if I wanted to. I flat out told her I was not going to talk to him, I covered my head, and I waited until she left.

I had agreed to take Grandma to the store to get things she could only get during limited business hours. I was managing to survive on a night schedule which is my natural setting if left to my own schedule. Exhausted, depressed, anxious, and in pain... I slept through the day. Falyne was over, and had been sleeping as well when Grandma popped the door to our room open and yelled, in the angriest tone that I have possibly ever heard come out of her. She was upset that we didn't get to the store again, after having waited all weekend and missed a couple of planned outings the previous week.

It was obvious that she found this to be my fault, and that I had perhaps done it on purpose.

The entire encounter greatly disturbed Falyne. I was more or less unaffected by anything anymore, to be honest.
When my mom called on the 3rd of June, I was under the impression that she would be coming over to discuss options for the future with Grandma. When she came over the next day, she had enlisted my dad to do home repair jobs while she lectured Grandma on how I was not her housekeeper and should not be expected to do as much.

None of what she brought up accurately reflected any of what I had been going through, and most of it painted me as having been complaining about mundane chores and things I never actually minded doing, because they needed to be done.

I couldn't deal with any more confrontation on how she didn't intend to make me into her maid, and of course I didn't have to do these things, and oh maybe she'd just pay me more.

I didn't want the money. I actively tried to refuse the money. I felt terrible taking the money when I did. I only ever did so because I had bills to pay and no time, energy, or health to actually find paying jobs. The only time it was ever about money was when we told her Jack had to leave because he was TAKING HER MONEY.

I left. I sent a text message. I never looked back.

I don't handle confrontation well. I prefer not to handle it at all. I have no regrets. That is likely one of those things that makes me a terrible person. In the last seven months I have not dwelled on any of it. I prefer not to.

I need the space. I need the freedom. I enjoy not being involved in family drama anymore. I am so relieved that I am not the first person they come to with complaints or requests. They just don't come to me anymore, actually. It's nice. I guess I'm sorry that I'm not sorry, but I can't make myself feel what isn't there.

I don't have feelings one way or the other about what I did, only relief.

I didn't go on tour with Laura. I didn't do much, actually. I've been home, and that's nice.

There were recurring nightmares for the next several months. Anxiety based dreams with forced interactions, being chased, or confronted. The depression didn't go away immediately, nor did the increased anxiety.

The rest of June was fairly uneventful for me. Mo and Bil moved in to Judy's house, I helped only a little with that. They also adopted some dogs, of which I got pictures. I think my bird Sammi died late in the month, which would have been sad if I could feel proper emotions. My truck died too, although we struggled with trying to fix it for a few more months before finally throwing in the figurative towel.

July

Early in July I lobbied pretty hard for Falyne's educational freedom. She wasn't happy at St. Agnes. The kids in her class were precocious little bastards who were not good for her to be around, and the curriculum was not worth the price they were bleeding out of Gloria.

I found a school that was perfect for her, if fairly far away from us, a charter for kids with specific interests in art and music. No tuition, friendly students, and most importantly – freedom to be unique, rather than one of 30 identical children. It took some convincing, and she's still not thrilled about it, but Gloria agreed.

Mo and I spent every sister date for the next two months scouring the dollar day sales at Goodwill, to build up new wardrobes in substitution for uniforms for Falyne and Ethan. We even took Falyne to get the haircut she'd been begging for all year (much to Gloria's dismay, unfortunately).

July also saw the return of Shannon and Evie, if only temporarily. The kids spent some quality time together (though not enough, if you ask them). There was swimming and sleep overs. I definitely saw less of my computer that month, as it was hidden by three small heads constantly giggling at whatever they happened to be doing on the internet at any given time.

August

The kids started their new school pretty early in the month. Falyne loved her first day. Ethan makes friends extremely easily and thus saw no difficulties in the transfer. The only one having harsh feelings was Gloria, who I'm sure was relieved at not worrying about where the money was coming from for tuition, but would never be caught saying as much.

I didn't record much about the rest of the month. From what I can tell, I spent some time with Shannon, I spent a few days with Evie when Shannon was briefly out of town, I made a small amount of money on professional photo gigs, and I started school again toward the end of the month. We threw Evie a birthday party at Mo's place before she and Shannon left back for Texas.

September

Gloria had some issues with her landlords trying to raise their living expenses and finally decided it was time to move. They no longer live near me but are at least closer to the kids' new school. The new house came complete with a rather extensive scorpion collection and some nifty traces of parvovirus that we weren't aware of until I took the two little dogs to be spayed and brought them back with temporarily decreased immune systems.

Most of September was then spent both helping Gloria move, and taking care of Ethan's dog Sally who had parvo. I vaccinated the other dogs immediately but Gloria's oldest dog, Tina, was not so lucky and died shortly after.

I had a couple more paying photo gigs in September. I spent some time arguing with people on the internet, which never proves productive but at least makes me feel better some times. I spent an impressive amount of time doing homework for a class that I liked way more when it was over than I did when I was doing work for it.

October

I really didn't do anything significant in October. The only photos I have saved on my computer were from my Halloween themed photo shoot I did with Jetta. I did some drawings. I continued to help with Sally and her parvo situation (she recovered). Falyne smashed her finger open with some plates and we spent some time at the hospital and then attending weekly doctor visits for a while. We officially gave up my truck toward the end of October.

I spent Halloween giving out candy and watching Hocus Pocus with Annie and Cassidy.

November

I had two professional photo gigs in November and another where I took some pictures expecting they would sell but none did. I spent some more time arguing with people on the internet, again about subjects that matter greatly to me but not to most other people (except for when they disagree and then they are super vocal about it.)

I spent more time on homework for the one class that was difficult. By the start of November I had already finished one class that was a half semester long and the other class was about Elvis and super easy.

I attempted to be involved in the PTA for the kids school for the last time, officially giving up on ever being allowed in to what is apparently a pretty elite club of parents who already knew each other and prefer to do all business in person and on their own time.

I took pictures for the Browncoats, read some books, taught kids about the theory of relativity, played Facebook games with my sister, and spent Thanksgiving alone with the internet and a book. It was pretty relaxing and nice.

December

Falyne convinced me to put up Christmas lights this year. She did most of the work herself, but Gloria came over to help. Finals weeks were pretty tough, as I had neglected studying for that entire period between fall break and the beginning of December. I managed to pull an A on the final anyway and pass the class.

I read a larger number of books than usual during December, and not only because I bought a larger number of books than normal. I also began playing SongPop as a genuine time waster. I suppose it does increase my music history knowledge?

We didn't have a large Christmas Eve this year, instead some of the regulars visited in groups of two or three at a time to collect their gifts. Much less stressful, and beneficial to me as my anxiety issues haven't quite managed to subdue yet.

Gloria and I put together an early birthday party in the park for Falyne so she could invite her school friends without inconveniencing their parents by having it on a holiday. Falyne's actual birthday was pretty low key with just her and me hanging around the house for most of the day before heading to lunch with Mo and Bil, and then picking up Annie and Cassidy for the traditional ice skating.

After dropping Cass at work, we met up with Gloria and Ethan at my house for the traditional watching of Eurotrip and drinking sparking cider while ringing in the new year.

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I'm not one to usually pass judgment on an entire year, and I won't say I'm glad to see 2012 go because I know that the turning of a calendar page does not automatically fix all that is wrong in my life, but if I needed to classify the past year as good or bad I would weigh it more to the bad side.

I'm hoping that I can overcome my depression and anxieties. I won't expect them to ever be cured, and I'm not going to go so far as to “seek professional advice” because honestly, that makes me more anxious than anything else, but I think I can make some improvements if I continue focusing on me instead of worrying about what other people want from me.

Usually I do a separate write up for resolutions. I will list out other years and what resolutions they had then mention whether they were met and analyze why or why not. I think the way things played out for me in 2012 really made up for the lack of a resolution.

In a way, I created my own resolution over time by coming to the decision to stop worrying about other people and start worrying about myself. It's unfortunate that it happened the way it did, but I think in the long run it will make me a healthier person.

I have spent so much of my life wanting to be the perfect friend, the most supportive family member. I have had various people in the past tell me that my vice is letting people walk all over me. I didn't see it then, because I like helping people. I like making things easier on others. I enjoy going out of my way when it's really not a burden.

What I've discovered over the past year is that regardless of how much I think it's not affecting me, it is, and it's impossible to see what it is doing until it is too late and the damage is done.

So yes, if I am to make a resolution this year, it'll be an extension of that unintentional resolution that found its way to me last year. I'll consider the long run in my decisions and I will attempt to learn how to say no to people when I'm not sure I should be involved.

And I'll actually graduate university this time, because I need to.

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