Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meet Bill...

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently found work doing non-medical home health care which means I just hang out with old people all day.  I have all kinds of clients with various levels of ability and mobility.  They all have unique and individual needs.  But today I just want to give you an introduction to one of my favorite clients.  We will call him Bill.

Bill is 94 years old and a retired farmer.  His wife, who was apparently the belle of the county with prize winning jams, afghans and jewelry at the fairs, passed away a few years ago.  But Bill still lives in their home out on the farm.  He rents his farmland out to another man who farms it for him, but he still lives independently and maintains his two acres around his home including an extensive garden.

The first time I met Bill, I arrived at his house to be introduced by his present care-giver.  She let me in the door, showed me around the home, pointed out where the cleaning supplies were and then we started looking for him.  She called through out the house, but he was no where to be found.  This, she explained, was actually very normal.  Even though Bill wears a back brace, he is quite mobile between his cane and his golf cart.  So we started outside.  We finally found him, using a pitch fork for support and also using it to stoke a small brush fire, with a large cigar hanging out of his mouth.  This was Bill.

Bill's home is a sort of sprawling frame and stucco home, one of those you'd expect to see out on an old farm.  It started off small and then was added on bit by bit as his family grew.  This is actually the home he was raised in.  His father owned this farm before him.  At 94 years old, with a busted back, he still insists on working in his own yard, which he takes great pride in.  He admits the limitations of his body, but he still does everything he can.  He rides the riding lawnmower, but needs someone else to do the weed-eating.

When we were introduced, we both got in his golf cart and he showed me around the place.  He showed me the brush piles he had built up of fallen limbs that needed to be hauled to the brush pile.  He showed me the weed-eating that needed to be done.  He looked at me strait on and asked if I actually had any experience running a weed-eater.  To my readers who know me, or really know my parents, you know how absurd this question is.  To be fair though, my 5 foot 2 inches and 125 pound frame hardly present a physically impressive presence or impression of strength.  But I just smiled and assured him that I did in fact know how to operate a weed-eater. He nodded skeptically, but then went on to say I just needed to be careful around the trees and large yucca plants and flowers because of the damage a weed-eater could do.  I just agreed with him.  After showing me around we worked out a day and time when I would come back and work with him, what we would be doing.  Upon parting he said we would give this a try and see how it worked out, still obviously skeptical of my ability to work, much less do the kind of outdoor work my employers told him I could do.  But we parted ways and I returned 2 days later, my own gloves and hat in hand.

When I arrived at 9 am, he was having coffee with a neighbor, but we immediately set out to work.  The goal for the day was to pick up all the stacks of fallen limbs, load them into the back of his truck and haul them to the brush pile a mile away at the back of his property.  Bill is really big on doing work right and doing work slow.  The last thing he wants is for someone to rush through work, he'd rather it take all day or multiple days and be done right.  So we began to work.  I set into a consistent pace of loading the limbs, while he sat in the truck smoking his cigar.  Pile by pile we made progress all down the length of his yard until the truck bed was full.  He drove us out to the brush pile, explained that he wanted the brush thrown up onto the middle of the pile as opposed to just dumping it on the ground, backed up to the pile and I began to work.  When I finished, he commented that I finished that pretty quick, but since the work was done to his liking, he had nothing to complain about.  We drove back and continued on with this work.  There were several loads worth of limbs, so through out the morning we repeated this process a few times.

At 94 years old, Bill actually doesn't have to take very much medicine, but one of the medicines he does have to take is a diarrhetic, so he has to use the bathroom often.  We had the truck in his yard and I was loading limbs when the call of nature came upon him.  His golf car was parked across the dive way and he started making his way in that direction.  When he was about 20 feet from me, I looked over my shoulder and saw his cane get stuck on a rock while he was trying to walk forward.  The result was his cane stayed in place while his forward momentum just kept moving him forward.  And he went down.  I dropped the limbs in my arm and ran to him.  Miraculously, nothing seemed to be broken. His nose was bleeding from a cut on the bridge of it from his glasses and he had a few scrapes on his face, but other than that he seemed to be alright.  After a quick assessment, I ran to retrieve his golf cart and pulled up right along side him.  Together we got him turned around facing the passenger side of the cart with his feet in that direction.  I got behind him, squatted down, hooked both of my arms under him and (with my back strait) lifted him right up so he could catch hold of the frame of the golf cart.  At this point, I think his amazement at my ability to lift him won over the pain he was feeling.   He just kept saying "you're a good girl, good girl" which made me laugh to myself.

I drove him to the house, but despite the blood and drips and scrapes, we still had the initial problem to deal with. He still needed to go to the bathroom!!  I got him to the bathroom and then I went in search of the first aid kit.  When he came out of the bathroom, I noticed a big red spot on the knee of his pants and asked if he had cut his knee too.  He looked down and then looked at me and responded "well, I guess I did!"  I sat him down in a big recliner and started methodically cleaning up his cuts and scrapes with alcohol and neosporin.....

This story goes on and certainly get's funnier, but I will leave you here at this stopping point and will continue on tomorrow.  Stay tuned for the next adventures of Bill and Scarlett!!

 - Scarlett

Monday, March 30, 2015

Post Bar Depression

Ok I know I've been off the grid for a while, and I know that a lot of my friends have been worried about me....and rightfully so.

For anyone who has never taken the bar exam, or been very close with someone who has, you just have no idea.  The intensity of the experience is really incomparable to anything else in the "lay" world.  I am not one of those people that walks around thinking I'm just so special because I went to law school, but really, the Texas Bar exam is a beast on a whole other level that most people just can not relate to no matter how hard they try.  The only thing I have seen that comes close is the STEP exams medical students take during their second year to become licensed physicians.  At any rate, it's rough.  And after you make it through that hell, after the studying, after the test, after the mental break downs, you suddenly wake up and you really just have nothing to live for.  I know that sounds bleak but think about it.  For the past two months, you have eaten and slept and studied at your desk.  Your every waking minute is spent studying.  It consumes you.  It is your world.  You spend three days taking this exam and then suddenly, your schedule, your life, your purpose that has consumed you for the past two months is just over.  It's done.

So now what? 

Well right before I started to study for the bar exam, my industry just collapsed.  I was working in oil and gas, and making good money, but as you all might have noticed at the gas pumps, prices are WAY down.  When the market experiences a drop like that, my position (a landman) is the first thing to go.  So what was I to do?  Here I am, with multiple degrees, one of which from law school, with really a lot of experience in several different things and a resume that more than proves that I am ready and willing to work and work hard.  So I started applying for jobs.  All kinds of jobs.  Management jobs, non-management jobs, sales jobs, law jobs.  You name it.  Because I am not yet licensed, law jobs are off limits.  And because I have a J.D. I am way "over qualified" for any other job.

Personally, I am now very offended by the term "over qualified."  I feel like if you have a desire to work, and work hard, and you have a relevant skill set to the position, then you are qualified and that's the end of it.

Sadly, that is not the thought processes behind employers today.  I looked everywhere. I called everyone.  Still nothing.  So take the depression I was already facing after the bar exam and compound that with the impending doom of financial failure and the inability to find work despite my very best efforts.  It was more than a little disheartening.

I had a few good leads.  I interviewed all the way up through the chain of command with a car dealership for a Finance Manager position.  Things looked great.  Then I find out they decided to hire someone else.  All this back and forth just hauled me further and further into this pit of bleakness.  It got to the point where I would wake up every morning and from my bed search for new jobs, apply for any jobs I hadn't already applied for and follow up on jobs I had already applied for.  After that with no success, I went back to sleep.  I woke up at lunch and did the same thing.  Then again at dinner.  It was so bad that I didn't leave my bedroom for almost a month with the exception of the few interviews I could get.

I had no desire to be around friends or to work out or to really do anything.  I just hid from the world with the exception of my job hunting.  I wouldn't even answer my phone unless it was a number I didn't have saved.  If you weren't calling to talk to me about a job, then I didn't want to talk at all.  It finally got to a point where friends would just show up at my house and make me shower and get dressed and take me to eat, or take me to a movie, or make me meet up with them with our dogs at Starbucks and go to a park.  And I thank God for those friends.  They were not going to let me fall through the cracks, no matter how much I pushed them away.  They forced me to rejoin the world and I'm glad they did.  Thanks to them I got back out into the sunshine.

It finally got to a point where if I didn't find a job by the end of the week, I was going to have to borrow money from my parents just to move back home with them 300 miles away.  I was facing that potential reality and still praying that something would come up.  I love the fact that I can depend on my family, and that they are present for me if I need them.  Ready and willing to bring me back in and protect me.  But I have always taken pride, maybe too much pride, in the fact that I've been able to stand on my own two feet.  I've always been able to hustle and fight and scrap and make it through the tough times.  But I will be honest with you, those tough times I went through, God has always had a hand of protection over my head.

God has been teaching me a lesson, and clearly I haven't learned it because He's still teaching it to me!! haha  God has been teaching me the lesson of dependence.  Dependence on HIM.  As much as I like to take credit for my ability to hustle and find work and just "make it happen" as my sister would say, it has always been Him, coming through for me in the eleventh hour.  He makes me wait until the last second, when I think there is no hope, and then He swoops in and saves me.  As I've gotten a little older I have started to see this pattern, and tried to teach my self to rely on it.  The whole time I have been looking for work, I've been saying "I know God will take care of me. He always does".  I just have to be patient.  But still, having that knowledge doesn't necessarily mean you have that faith.  And even with this knowledge, I still fell into a deep depression as things looked more and more forlorn.

BUT...In true form, He did once again come to my rescue.  It was my last week of independence or so I thought.  I had told my mom that if I hadn't found a job by the end of the week, I would come home. We had already made the Uhaul reservation.  That Friday morning, a friend of mine suggested I call some people she had previously worked for doing non-medical home health care for the elderly.  So on a last ditch effort, I called.  I spoke with the manager, went in, filled out an application,  interviewed that afternoon and suddenly, I had a job!  They acknowledged that I was "over qualified" but they saw my willingness to work.  The owner of the company had been in the same place herself and decided to not over look me.  And I couldn't be more grateful.

At first, they didn't have a ton of hours for me.  At the beginning of the week they only had me scheduled for 14 hours, but because I was willing to work, I started picking up more and more hours. Once the first week was over, I had worked over 40 hours just by being available and picking up shifts all over the place.  And the job itself is so rewarding.  Pretty much what I do is hang out with old people all day and I do whatever they need me to do.  For some that's house keeping and laundry.  For some that's outside yard work.  For other's it's jus sitting and watching TV with them, occasionally helping with little things, but just being a presence in their life.  But I have been truly touched by all of the clients I have been privileged to work with and I can't wait to tell you some of their stories.  Because of federal regulations I can't, of course, mention their names, so they will all have an alias.

I will begin to tell you their stories one by one, because each one is unique and beautiful.  But even  after just this first week of work, these people have touched my soul.  They have brought me out of the deepest hole I have been in (to date) in my life.  Hanging out with these little old people has increased my perspective and awareness in this life, has given me new things to think about, and most of all has allowed me to truly begin developing the heart of a servant.

I know (well hope really) that I have many more years to go, and that my life will be touched by tragedy and heartache far worse than anything I have experienced so far.  But, having the privilege to care for these wonderful souls has given me a bigger picture to look at.  I am learning wonderful lessons, some of which I know I won't realize until a later time in my life when I'll need that lesson the most.  Either way I am grateful and please to be here working with these people even if it is just a temporary position.

Stay tuned....there are some wonderful stories to come!

 - Scarlett