Debra Moore

The World According to ME


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Into the Sun – Whidbey Shines

So today it was glorious and shiny here on Whidbey. The Boof and I decided to head north to Ebey Landing, a delicious spot to enjoy the beach and hiking.

Our watchful guides for the day

Our watchful guides for the day

Along the way we were also greeted by the sight of Mt. Baker lit up with a reflective snow topping.

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This is the field behind the Greenbank Farm. The old buildings are now used as shops (my favorite cheese shop is there), restaurants and galleries. This is the off-leash dog park which includes acres of fields to roam and also trails into the woods. But we had no time to stop today as Ebey awaited.

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Finally we arrived at Ebey’s Landing. This shows both beach area and the BIG HIKE. It is 5.6 miles round-trip. You can see the folks traipsing up the beginning of this arduous but stunning trek. There are no guard rails or warnings that you are walking on a trail about a foot wide in some areas and a steep drop down to the beach. Not for the timid.

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Despite being such a perfect day, clear, still and 48 degrees, the crowds were not too bad and we began our adventure. This is a pebbly place and many folks come to hunt for agates. I would not know one if it hit me square, but I do love the action of the water on the smooth pebbles.

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We came across this fine old tree stump which had been fashioned into a monument of sorts by the elements. I was captured by the shape and intricacies of this marker, as you can tell.

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Rocks become trapped inside of the tree’s smooth and wrinkled skin.

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I actually got some color on my cheeks this day! Glorious and well spent afternoon with the Boof. We stopped at our local grocer for supplies for dinner and I needed to remind everyone just how determined locals are about the upcoming football shenanigans.

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Appreciate your time!


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Acceptance, The Final Act

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama

I began my career as a house cleaner.

The first few weeks were tough. There is physical work involved, although it is not too challenging. I was overweight from care giving and a lack of drive to improve my physicality. Why should I? I wouldn’t be in another office any time soon and cleaning does not require a spit-and-polish appearance. That, I liked. Office clothing is expensive and is a pain, at least to me.

At my first meeting with my lovely boss, I sat at her kitchen table and cried. I was so conflicted. Grateful for something to do, somewhere to go, a way to get some cash together to have my poor little car tuned up since I would probably be heading back down south anyway. After that first meeting her assistant followed me outside and gave me a check to help me with my car. She is a single mother going to school and struggling as I was. More tears.

So I forced myself to soak up the cleaning protocols for their business and learned that these homes were lovingly owned and maintained by folks who were off-island much of the time. I would have seven homes that became my responsibility. Most were close to me and a couple are not. Cleaners are paid as consultants, per house, every two weeks. Most people who can afford to stay in these wonderful homes are also very neat and tidy. The job itself has an almost ‘zero’ ick factor. Nice.

When I began, the season was in full swing. People coming and going, checking in and out every day. Lots of work, lots of running around. It was quite warm for me to be schlepping up and down stairs with a vacuum cleaner and loads of wash. I was regularly breaking a sweat by the time I finished. I also noticed that I was sleeping better and not eating as much. Hmmm.

So I pressed on and began to see some positive feedback from owners and guests. Who’d a thought that spending a few hours making the place desirable and welcoming would result in some unexpected payoffs. I began to see cards and……MONEY left for me by grateful visitors. When I found Suzy’s retainer and sent it back I received $50! Another guest sent me a generous gift certificate for sending her Aunt Maizie’s special pillow left behind. Several owners now routinely leave me tips when they come to visit and appreciate my efforts to notice problems and make suggestions as to neglected maintenance or just a possible problem in the works. Since I had made it clear that I was available for any extra work I became the go-to gal to pick up houses whose cleaners were ill or unable to complete the job alone.  I became master of my own schedule, working as much or as little as I wished. Boofie settled into my new routine and since she had been coming with me to care for Harvey in my previous job she also had some adjustments to make. And she did not disappoint me. She learned what it meant when I said I had to work, without her. She remains unfenced and in our yard until I return. She is always waiting.

Friends, I am happy. I have learned to find joy again in the simplest of professions. But getting there was not a one step process.

I had to:

Alter my preconceptions and see myself differently.

Accept the work and apply myself to doing a good job.

Jettison the anger, LOTS of anger at the conspiratorial establishment that would not hire me for the work I was most anxious to continue. Probably the toughest thing in this process was to forgive the miserable manager who fired me and also forgive myself for allowing that setback to so destroy my grace and peace.

But the main constant in all of my rediscovery and acceptance was to realize that staying on Whidbey was all that I wanted. This is a place I have visited for years and every time was invigorated in the experiences here. The thoughts of being here kept me sane and strengthened me when my Mom’s care darkened my days with emotional overload.

So I am here! And I am making my modest ends meet with this unexpected opportunity. Along with early Social Security I am doing fine, thank you. And another gift: since beginning this job I have lost almost thirty pounds! And it is not coming back. I have given away bags of larger clothes and will not shop again for anything unless it is smaller. I am happy, feeling great and relishing my life here where I belong with like-minded folks who adore the island lifestyle.

I clean houses for a living. And I am good at it.tday12013


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Acceptance – Act Two

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Disappointment is another enemy. If you are cruising along in your reality,  how you see your ‘normal’ situation is a comfort. I had formulated a reality based on my work experience and how I would earn my living. And it took so many months of applying, interviewing, following up; I refused to understand that something was happening that I could not change.

I stumbled on. I raged and blamed and threw responsibility to an unseen force that was out to ruin me. And another thing: was I not entitled to some sort of positive karma for caring for Mom for all of those years? The pride I took in getting through that experience was held in my pocket like a lucky charm. I simply deserved to have an uncomplicated and positive future.

By this time my dear cousin was helping me to make ends meet. It filled me with shame; I felt so worthless. I received a bit of unemployment, for the second time in my life, which also helped. But where I was living would not work: the place was too expensive (a decision based on a salary that was no longer there), it was cold and damp with wind that sucked whatever heat the little wood stove threw out. So I moved. To a charming and remote little cabin in the woods. But if I did not find work soon my only option was to pack up and go back to Sacramento to stay with my dear cousin. I love her so much but it would have been a huge adjustment for her and her little old pupdog. The Boof would quietly go mad in her tiny yard. So I answered an ad in the local paper from a family seeking someone to assist their father, Harvey, in his home. He had early-onset dementia/Alzheimers and I accepted the position.

Harvey is also notable as being the only other human who received the Boof’s undying affection. From day one she allowed head rubs and scritches from Harvey. Unreal. He was eminently lovable, an ex Ferry captain who knew everyone on the south island. When we drove somewhere Harvey was quick to point out stories of island lore: that is a cranberry bog, they used to raise game birds over there for hunters, I used to pasture my horses over there. He was a font of knowledge that was fascinating to me. But in next 8 months Harvey went downhill. He stopped talking completely. Harvey became a mess, needing total care by this time. And his family were dolts. This poor man was incontinent, confused, unable to dial the phone and they expected him to be fine at night. They did not want to pay for overnights but on some evenings when he was restless I stayed. They changed my hours, shortening the time Harvey had help. My paychecks became unreliable, a few bounced. One chilly morning I found him outside, in his bare feet leaning against a brick wall. He had gotten out of the house, walked around and could not get back inside because he forgot where the spare key was. He was shaking so badly that he could not stand. I called the fire department and we got him onto a guerney and off to the island’s only hospital.

And the family was furious. Why? Because the social worker at the hospital was onto them. And since I was the one at the hospital most of the time it was up to me to answer the questions she posed.  And therein was the dilemma. I had allowed this situation to go on far longer that it should have. Harve needed much more help at home, not less. This was under-the-table income, my favorite kind! And it had been so difficult to find work that losing it was terrifying. But Harvey’s face on that morning that I found him was devastating. He remained in the hospital for about three days.  During that time I received advice from many sources, friends and family. Some suggested that I keep that job no matter what. When I was home, I worried about Harvey. When I was with him, I was consumed in keeping him safe. We walked every day and I had to be prepared for any bathroom emergency. Yup, I had an entire change of clothing and cleaning supplies in the back of the car because there were accidents. Plenty of them. This was not a fun job anymore but I could not abandon Harvey! Could I?

But I did. I sang my song to the social worker and she acted. Harvey’s family had to find appropriate care for him or he needed to be moved into a home. For the first time in months I slept through a night, at home, without worry about his safety. It was done. And I was unemployed again. And that blasted family made me wait for a week before paying me. But I felt better. I knew I had done the right thing, and his welfare trumped my need for a job. The old money worries returned with a fury. Savings would be depleted, gone.

I was at Harvey’s shortly before he was taken to his new digs, collecting some of my possessions I had left there. I stopped at a coffee kiosk and was chatting with one of the gals serving. She had a friend of a friend who found work cleaning vacation rentals on the south end. NEVER, I thought. Cleaning? Me? But I stopped and picked up an application and sent it off, forgetting it almost immediately.

Two weeks later I got a call. Was I still interested in working, cleaning vacation rentals? It was very nice weather outside, this was late spring, and I accepted with defeat. My old reality was almost gone now. I had lost my zeal for pursuing office work. And the reality in living on a small island is that many are faced with a change in attitude toward work if  staying is their wish. Well, this would not be forever; I could at least make enough to travel back to California in late summer.

Since I had hardly any money I prepared a ‘cleaning kit’ composed of a couple of spray bottles, a few sponges, some paper towels, a soft scrub product and lots of vinegar. I was now a cleaner. And I was beyond humiliated.


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Acceptance: First Act

boof1113She will not come inside the house. It is twenty eight degrees outside and all is crusty and stiff. I cajole, I bribe, I BEG her to come inside and sleep in my room with me. It is too damn cold for anything to sleep outside! If I attempt to force the issue and leash her up to drag her to the warmth then she dashes to one of her bloody hiding spots that require a machete to breach. Never mind that she has a new bed as thick and large as my own festooned with carefully selected blankets for maximum heat retention.

But look at her. If ever there was a dog equipped for the cold it is the Puff Butt. When it rains she appears soaked but not one drop of water makes it to her skin. She has enough fur between her toes to knit a baby cap! And doG knows she expects me to understand her wishes and accept it. Easier said than done and does not reflect my Virgo-driven need to make everything go my way, no matter whether it is wanted or not.

When I found myself free of responsibility to Mom and traveled to this island I was high with the possibilities. Never without a job for a week, max, I just knew that this was to be another coup for my abilities to shine. I would be hired, quickly, and settle into a comfortable routine with a great bunch of coworkers and my financial situation sound. I was hired within a month to work at a community clinic. I would start as an ‘on call’ employee. I would be one of the two receptionists to manage this extremely busy outpatient facility for the south island. Salary was a dream and I eagerly fell into the work. Wasn’t that challenging and I was the oldest on the front desk staff, but who cares? I gained the reputation as a very quick learner and began doing the job on my own within a week. Enter the manager who had been gone during my hire.

She was a problem. Her management style was intrusive, she was a hovering presence and I was in the cross hairs of her ‘leadership’ from day one. I always try to ignore what coworkers have to say about others in the office; I trust myself to form my own opinions. But this woman suffered with her own issues of control and communication. I was constantly called into her office for ‘chats.’ These consisted of petty items that she ‘observed’ or ‘heard’ were problems for me and therefore for the clinic. My attempts to streamline office procedures were delightful to my compadres but only fueled her need to remain the boss at any cost. I was a threat.

As the end of my three month probation approached I was hopeful but guarded. Physicians, nurses, social workers and lab techs loved me, as did the patients. At this point one of my coworkers decided to move to Texas and she recommended me for her position. A step up, more cash, more responsibility. Most importantly a full time-with-benefits gig. I was home after I had applied for the job online and received a call from the manager. She seemed in a good frame of mind and said that we needed to ‘get you in here for your interview.’ We set up the time for that Monday, first thing in the morning. I was elated and came early, shaking off the negative thoughts of my experiences with the manager thus far. Why would she call me and invite me in for an interview if she was not sincere?

I arrived early, feeling so high and grateful for my situation. No matter what happened I had come so far in a short amount of time. I was so proud. She opened her door with a smile, invited me in and fired my ass. I truly do not remember what was said, what her ammunition was and did not think to look at my paperwork until much later. I was gobsmacked. I spent the next week in disbelief, turmoil and finally white-hot anger. I foolishly believed that those in the office who supported me would now join me in my quest to bring this woman down. I wrote a five page letter to Human Resources outlining my experiences with the manager and received kind smiles and sad eyes from the HR officer. My allies disappeared, fearful of repercussions.

It is difficult to find words to express how lost I was. And the additional horror of knowing that this was now on my resume shook me badly. I pulled myself together, or so I thought, and began the process of scouring the ads and interviewing.  I was interviewed every single time I applied for work. And each time I was denied. I could not figure it out, other than the blight of the last job and maybe, maybe something else. I finally began applying for things I never would have considered: sales, private legal offices, coffee kiosks (for God’s sake). Nothing. I slid down that dark trail of self-doubt, paralyzing depression descended, money almost gone, desperation. Selling jewelry desperation. Friends stopped calling and so did I. Who would want to hear my miserable tale of failure, over and over? I stopped applying. Made friends with Vodka and Tequila again, sought out the pot dude and found I could still go lower in my spiral of wretchedness. My walks with Boofie were my only activity. She remained steadfast and I looked to her as my only source of comfort. I have never shared with anyone that this was the only time in my life I wondered whether or not I should check out (can’t even say the word). Except for my responsibility to the Boof, I was that low, I was that angry and defeated. And I would love to be able to say that everything returned to ‘normal.’

But that is not what happened.


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My Story

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Everyone has a story, one that they are known for. One that always comes up at parties and get togethers. ‘Deb! Tell the story about the …….’

Can’t give it away that easily, can I? I have had complete strangers approach me to ask if it was really me in that story. So you shall just have to do some reading.

We have discussed poo, things pulled from poo, and various other topics that leads me to believe that you are ready for my story. And no, there is no poo, just a story of a woman seeking her privacy and not finding it. At least, not on that day.

The house I lived in before coming to the forest was right on a huge bluff overlooking Holmes Harbor. Holmes Harbor is a lovely inlet, picturesque as it gets with a dramatic and dangerous drop off directly in back of this house. The deck is also back there and was one of the main reasons I chose to live there. The little house was a rectangle, and the ‘front’ door was actually on the side of the house behind a cyclone fenced yard. No one ever bothered me, the Boof was on task. Result? Wonderful privacy. Because of this cliff I was eye level with many eagles, hawks, owls and other birds soaring along from the beach far below. Many days I had a bald eagle level with me, hanging on the wind, effortless and hardly a feather moving as the updraft from the cliff kept him afloat. And close enough to see those searing eyes on me. Transforming stuff.

So on this day, a glorious summer with a soft breeze barely there, the view was spectacular: all the way down the bay and into the strait with Baby and Camano Islands clearly visible. These are the days north westerners live for: the clarity of sky, water and sun come together illuminating the mountains in the distance producing striking vistas of impossible beauty. I cannot say this enough. This place alters your chemistry.

I was in the shower and as I toweled off I heard a sound. Odd. Rather loud, but a rather muffled and rhythmic ‘bop bop bop.’ It seemed to go right through my ears and up through my feet. As I got dry and started up the hall to the deck to investigate here came the Boof, ears back, slamming her puffy butt through the dog door, ears flat on her head. Without slowing she scooted to the bedroom. Hmmm. Now I like my privacy. Above all else I like the idea of being sans clothing with no possibility of being disturbed or seen. Call it a quirk, that’s fine. No one on either side could see me as I was protected by large cedars, a perfect screen. The view over the deck is almost unfettered with two large picture windows, one being a slider.

I approached the slider and stood there, hands on the window, peering around trying to make sense of the sound that was now slightly familiar. And yes, I was completely naked. My mature body type is rather generous, not as obese as many, not as thin as many more.

Within two seconds, without warning, the sound became a roar and as I continued to watch I saw the unmistakeable rotors of a helicopter coming straight up below that bluff like a flying saucer, quick as a hummingbird! And there, as I stood and observed, were two helmeted Coast Guard trainees staring right at me from the open hatch. Took me about a second to drop like a boulder to the rug and begin a maneuver much like the training exercises for marines. You know the one, dropping down and crawling so as to avoid the barbed wire? I began to squirm and gyrate to move myself from sight but there was no way that chopper was going anywhere. And I am fairly certain that my movement was not smooth enough to encourage anything other than gaping mouths and extremely wide eyeballs. I finally made it over behind the couch where I lay, rug burned and mortified. And those Coasties? They stuck around for about 2 more minutes before making their escape. I can only imagine the conversation on that aircraft.

There were no reports of seared eyeballs or emotional trauma so I will assume they did not suffer permanent damage.

But somewhere, at another party or gathering, I am certain there is a story being told from their unique perspective of the unfortunate incident during a training run on Holmes Harbor.


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Descent

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How in the hell did we get here? And what could I possibly do to learn from this and go forward, with her, as she became an alien in disguise of my mother, the worst kind of deceit.

She had been in trouble for some time, anyone could see that. I had quit my part time work and focused on researching, joining dementia support groups, defining my mode of attack because, by God we would be fine. No Mom of mine would suffer: we would be different, we would conquer and she would melt into a sweet but doddering new version of my beloved. Debra was the oldest, the smartest and most willing to drive the beast into submission. Failure was not an option I ever accepted, and would not begin now.

This night would alter everything. So far she had been able to sleep in her own room with me on Dad’s side of the bed so that I could be there for any stirring or fright she might experience. Mostly, she slept right through the night, maybe with one or two bathroom trips, no problem. On this night she awoke screaming. There was something at the foot of her bed that absolutely terrified her. Her face contorted, and gurgling in fear she fought to climb over me to escape the monster.

With some effort she recognized me and I took her hand and led her to the living room beside the wood stove, her haven, where she studied her Bible and held court with songs and tales from life on the road with a bus full of Texas Playboys. I offered juice, stroked her hair and succeeded in breathing slowly, encouraged her to do the same. In this moment of calm I left the room for a bathroom break and came back to hell. She was in the kitchen, sandwich baggie in hand, as she stuffed it with rubber bands, a fork, some salt shaken right in. I asked her what she was trying to do and she simply said she was leaving. Packing. Would I please grab her car keys and put them in the bag? I obeyed, grabbed another baggie as hers was already full of essential items. She added a couple of fridge magnets and her favorite cup. Her face, that face I knew better than my own was now thoroughly alien.

Suddenly she made for the door, and this being November, she in her nightgown without shoes she opened that door and headed out. I forgot all of my carefully learned dementia-management techniques so fast it alarmed me. I grabbed her arm and not too gently attempted to bring her back inside. She began to scream. She fought me, scratched my arms as I firmly held her and dragged her back into the kitchen. Now I was trying to kill her, steal from her. And then there was a knock at the door.

The sheriff deputy stood there, alerted by a neighbor that something was going on that needed attention. And my mother transformed herself into a perfect picture of calm. Yes, she said, my daughter is trying to kill me. She takes my money, she lives here without helping her with anything; please could you take her away so that she would be safe? I could see the deputy was conflicted and, lucky for me my brother was living just two doors away and came immediately. It took three hours to restore calm with the help of pharmaceuticals and soothing redirection. But this was only the beginning.

I always replay this scene in my darker moments of recollection. There would be no victories. My Mom’s journey would continue and I would mark each lower plateau with confusion and then acceptance. But it was this night that showed me more about her disease, this hideous transformer of little southern ladies into foreign creatures than anything else. This was the night she became a stranger. She showed me, that night, that my love for her was not going to make one bit of difference in the face of her madness. And onward we went, together.

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