All posts by GeorgiaGeis

Trip to the VA Clinic

This morning my mother mentioned to my son we were going to the VA Clinic. “That is where they take care of the soldiers and veterans of the war like your Grandfather.”

“I want to go! Please Mom can I go? Is that where the people from the Army Wars are at?” asked my son.

It took me some time to convince him that he would have more fun at school than a doctor’s waiting room.

He usually wants to do anything that his mom and dad are doing. He just knows he missing out on some fun adventure. And add the part about the “army wars” and forget it. He has been saying that he wants to be in the army for the last few weeks. I really hope this and his wish to be a wrestler with the WWF (don’t ask me when he saw that!) will pass.

So after getting the little army guy to school, my parents and I were off on our “fun adventure” to the VA Clinic. When taking my Dad out I brace myself for anything happening. The clouds were a dark grey and the rain was constant, yet not heavy.

Despite stereotypes and other past experiences at other VA Clinics, everyone at this clinic is very nice and helpful. The doctor seemed to be overwhelmed with my Father’s situation. Flipping through his large stack of medical records, she took notes and made comments. “Why hasn’t any of the other doctors given him something for his dementia and memory loss?” she asks.

Good question. It is like the other doctors acknowledged that he was having problems and that he was confused, but didn’t say what could help. More like a rhetorical statement, thrown out there that doesn’t need a response. Now, I’m really not sure what this doctor can do either, but is what is refreshing that she was at least thinking that way. She said that any medication they give him at this point may slow the memory loss, but won’t help recover what he has already lost.

Today, more than any other day, I realized how much my dad’s mind has deterated. He was so confused and at times looked very scared. Minutes after giving blood he asked if we had checked in already. He said, “I haven’t given any blood yet.”

I wonder if I’m strong enough for this situation. I’m sure everyone asks that, but keeps on going whether it is caring for a sick child or a confused parent.

In the car on the ride home he sang one of his favorites, “I love that hillbilly music…” and we stopped for the usual fast food.

Yes indeed, we did have an adventure today.

Those silly chickens

I recently finished Nicolette Hahn Niman’s book, Righteous Porkchop: Findaing a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. And I can no longer ignore how my meat (or eggs, or cheese, or butter) got to my plate.

I like so many Americans just take my food for granted. Blindly walking into my local grocery store and bringing out some piece of meat to fry up on the grill. Animals are put through a living hell just so I can get the butcher’s special. Like so many other products for sell we have compromised our values, our ethics to save the almighty buck. I’m just as guilty as the next person, buying the cheap tennis shoes from the big box store.

I know I sound a bit harsh, but I’m so mad.

Today while I was on break at work I happened to catch a Perdue Chicken commercial on TV. A goofy-looking drill sergant is making his way through a chicken “coop” calling the chickens to order. The room is extra roomy and the chickens all have nice wooden perches lined with fresh clean hay. The sergant confenscates packages of candies in one hen’s nest.

THIS IS SUPPOSE TO REASSURE ME. I’m so releaved that the Perdue company takes that extra time to inspect their products. I wouldn’t want any of those silly chickens spending their days eating bon bons.

Factory farming is not the only way. There are many other family farms that produce higher quality meat, eggs and dairy products without being inhumane or harming the environment.  A great place to start to find food you don’t have to feel guilty eating (or get some horrible flesh eating staph infection from (see Kristof’s Nytimes column or Mother Earth News article) is The Eating Well Guide online. I know that I have not completely made the jump to humane and healthy foods but I hope to.

For those of you with strong stomaches here is a video that shows reality for so many animals raised in the US. And this in a country where we buy cute outfits and gourmet treats for our pets.

Winter of His Life

I don’t know how I ever lived somewhere that didn’t have changing seasons. Growing up in Arizona I never saw the fall leaves or the winter white blanket of snow. It was either really nice out or just too damn hot. At Christmas time we would use spray-on “snow” for our window sills and of course here in the Midwest we have plenty of the real stuff.

The transformation from Winter to Spring is even more bittersweet with my 90-year-old Dad living with us.


This truly is the Winter of his life, the slowing down and shedding of ambitions and thoughts. Last month my father lost both of his surviving siblings, his 94-year-old sister and his 96-year-old brother.

He told my mom, “Now I’m the only one left.”

Like my father, I didn’t shed any tears when I heard about their passing. I had only seen my aunt a few times when I was a child and we visited the small town where she and my Dad had grown up. And I don’t think I ever meet my father’s brother, except for possibly at a funeral I never committed to memory. I think the reason my Dad did not shed any tears was because he thought they were better off with no more suffering.

I have tried to imagine what my Dad feels like being “the only one left.”

He was such a force to be reckoned with when I was young. Always on the move selling something or buying something. I remember an acre full of bicycle parts and poodle puppies. He was so strong it was rumored that he lifted a car off the ground once. He raised four very different girls. He never had time for museums or parks. He fought in the second World War and had his own auto dealership. His life has indeed been long and filled with old-tyme songs and stories that he still recites.

dscn0579Now he shuffles more than walks, going from the bedroom to the bathroom and back again, during this long and cold Winter.

Bringing home the bacon

I can’t help but feel I’m not living up to my potential. At least my financial potential. Come on,  I have a college degree (that I still owe mountains of cash for in student loans).

I have been using the bad economy for an excuse. No one is able to find a job these days, especially writers. But honestly, I don’t know if I want to get a full-time job.

Part of me does. I can picture myself wearing fashionable semi-professional clothes, carrying my commuter cup and sporting a really cool hair style. I’d be walking downtown Chicago to some hip office. After work I would meet up with my like-minded, extremely creative and fun coworkers for a couple drinks before catching the South Shore train home. People would appreciate how witty I was and they would swear they couldn’t believe that I was turning 40 on my next birthday.

But really how likely is that scenario.

I’m trying to find that perfect balance between work, family and passion….the topic that countless theses have been based on.

I love being with my son, especially at this age when he still wants to spend time with his mom. And I appreciate being able to spend time with my own mom, who has always been a good friend. So now I just have to figure out how to fit making money into my life too. I work a part-time retail job and I’m even trying my hand at selling Tupperware (which will probably just mean that we have some new shinny kitchen containers and gadgets). As far as freelance writing, I just have to start writing. I need to send out those all important and intimidating query letters. The ideas are flowing but translating them into nice pitch letters is another thing.

Eventually, my husband and I want to open a Bed and Breakfast on a small farm where we will grow heirloom vegetables and beautiful flowers. We will have classes on home-brewing and crafting.

But until then…

It pays real money at least

The alarm clock rudely wakes me at 3:15 a.m. I lay catatonic for at least ten more minutes before I stumble through the dark trying to be as quiet as I can. I grab the crumbled t-shirt off my dresser.

I can hear my dad in the bathroom so I rush down to the basement to avoid a loud conversation with him (see One Day at a Time).

I really don’t know what I was thinking getting a job that starts at 4 in the morning. Four or five months ago it seemed like a luxury after getting up at 2 in the morning to deliver newspapers. But, now it just seems crazy.

I work in the backroom of a popular department store several blocks from my house. I won’t tell which store except that it is not the evil Walmart. I was excited when I first got the job. “Hey I love shopping there it should be fun to work there. And I’m sure I’ll get an awesome discount.” I told my husband.

Well, it is as far from fun as a stroll through the Sahara Desert…barefoot. It is definitely not the cool job I had in college working in the stockroom of the campus bookstore.

Now that I’m starring down 40 years old this year, working in the backroom stocking toothbrushes and baby bottles is just not a great reality.  And the discount is only a measly 10 percent and that is if you pay with cash (like that ever happens) or you charge your purchase on their high interest store card.

I really can’t complain. I’m off early enough to do some writing before I go get my son from preschool. And it is a real job that pays real money.  Unlike the play money I get paid when my son and I play store or the check for a freelance project I finished months ago that I just know has to be in the mail.

Winnie the Pooh is gone

My son broke his Winnie the Pooh bowl today. He wasn’t sad about it, but I was.

The days of Winnie the Pooh dishware, brightly-colored plastic spoons and Sesame Street seem to be over. I beg him to watch Word World or Wow Wow Wubzy but he insists on Iron Man and Spider Man (which includes the countless ads for AirHogs and Bendaroos). I know it is clique to write about, but really, where has the last four and a half years gone?

I look through pictures and short movies of him on my computer. God, he was such a cutie.


I used to hold him while he napped. I insisted that that is the only way he would sleep and if I put him in his crib he would wake up immediately. I really don’t know if that is true because I never tried. I knew that nap time would be over soon and he was just so precious.

Last week was momentous for my son and for myself. He slept through the night in his own bed. The WHOLE night! This is big, really BIG. For his entire life he has come into our bed. Sometimes it would be 5 in the morning, but usually it was 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. He and I would share a pillow and needless to say I didn’t get the greatest shut eye.

But we enacted a star reward system, tied to exciting prizes and he has been staying in his room! I used to lay down with him and then sneak out after he went to sleep. Now I sit  on his bed for ten minutes and then go out. It is truly amazing.

And it is hard. Hard to walk out and know that he is getting bigger and bigger. And the driver’s permit is just around the corner.

Just like holding on to him (literally) when he was a baby sleeping,  I realize that each stage needs to be treasured. Everyday he makes me laugh. Whether it is him acting out a scene from Kung Fu Panda or if it is a long thesis about the origins of Optimus Prime. And he is becoming a real person concerned about others. The other day he said he wanted to give some of his money to people who were hungry. (I couldn’t resist a little bragging…sorry.)

I guess I’m okay with throwing out his Winnie the Pooh dish. And honestly, I don’t think he ever really liked it. However, neither him nor I are ready to give away the extra small Spiderman underroo shirt though.

One day at a time

I hear the water running.

I check the alarm clock and it reads 3:13 a.m. I hope my dad didn’t forget to turn the water off again. Then I hear my mom.

“What are you doing?” she asks my dad. She has to repeat the question about a half a dozen times before he figures out what she is asking.

“I was just washing my hair,” he replied as if everyone washes their hair in the middle of the night.

My dad is 90 years old and “day” and “night” have ceased meaning anything to him. His age-induced dementia has been getting worse over the last couple months. He seems to have what they call the “Sundowners Syndrome“(although his symptoms are not violent, but sometimes extremely grouchy). My mom, who is 82 years old and suffers from Parkinson’s and diabetes, has been my dad’s caretaker well for all his life actually.

My parents newly married in 1947.
My parents newly married in 1947.

When they were younger she had to make sure he had hot meals, clean laundry. Their relationship was probably not unlike other post World War II relationships. Now she has to make sure he has hot meals and clean laundry, she also has to watch him like a child to make sure he doesn’t eat too much, leave water running or hurt himself.

My parents moved in with us in October of last year. It was suppose to be for a few weeks maybe a month at the most. But like so many people in today’s economy their house deal in Arizona fell through and they couldn’t go ahead and buy a place close to us. And now it is becoming more and more apparent that my mom just won’t be able to take care of my dad on her own.

My dad is a bit like the dad from Everyone Loves Raymond or King of Queens. Let the hilarity ensue.

My 4-year-old son asks why Grandpa doesn’t use his manners and why he yells at Grandma. Questions to which my answers just don’t seem sufficient.

I’m just thankful that my parents are here with us and not by themselves. Of course a bigger house and more resources would be nice. We are just taking it one day at a time (hey great title for our sitcom, oh darn that was taken already).

Who do I think I am?

So I have decided to embark on this blog adventure. Join the millions, maybe billions of bloggers across the globe. The amount of new content that gets posted on the web each day boggles my mind.

Who do I think I am to start yet another blog?

What will I write about…my 90-year-old father and 82-year-old mother who recently moved in with us in our very small cape cod home, living in the suburbs and pining for the downtown life, my obsession with tomatillos, my husband who makes his own furniture, bread, beer, cheese and even sake, or my genus 4-year-old son (OK I exaggerate, but he can count to 50, almost).

I even dreamed about it last night. I was sitting at the computer for hours. And in true horror-movie fashion I had written something similar to “all work and no play…” I have to get new content up there right away I thought as I woke up this morning. My audience of at least 20 people is waiting and I don’t want to disappoint.

As a writer, especially a freelance writer, I struggle with the self-confidence to believe what I write is making a true contribution. I always say to my husband, “That has been written about already.” or “There are at least five books written on that topic.” In his wise way he responds, “So!”

I guess he is right. What if James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates or Octivia Butler thought that? What if I could never have been inspired by these writers?

What if those people who write blogs about getting into freelance writing like freelance writing gigs, and Angela Booth’s Writing Blog or blogs about juggling motherhood and writing, such as the writer mama, mommy writer blog, and creative construction thought no one cared?  I wouldn’t have gotten all that great advice.

I have to get over the idea that I will come up with something that no one has ever wrote about or even thought about. I have to, like all writers out there, just put myself and my writing out there. Kind of like putting that proverbial note in the bottle. It may never wash up on the shore, but like my husband says, “So.”

Getting my creative writing mojo back

My good friend Julie is visiting from Phoenix this week. She heard about the minus 10 degree weather and just couldn’t resist.

view out my front door
view out my front door

I first meet Julie when I had a one-line part in a friend’s play. The play was about whether gay people should be allowed to own house plants.

We soon found ourselves hanging in the same circle, you know the non-paid but highly creative underground theatre crowd. I was in my late twenties and it finally felt like I had found my tribe.

Surrounded by creative, fun, free people I found my voice. It started with a piece I did called “Random Thoughts” for a late-night coffee house show. I just put a bunch of thoughts on index cards and rattled them off. To my surprise, I was a big hit.

I went on to write, direct and produce a one-act play called “Cindy Sparkles.” Before an attentive standing-room-only crowd my words came to life. It was truly one of the best moments of my life. OK, it was only seen at a small gallery in front of 100 people, but I was on top of the world.

Next came a monthly performance night called “Take Out: Emotional Leftovers”. Comedy skits, monologues and poems were just flowing out of me. But now, like the sink in our upstairs bathroom, it has slowed to a trickle, really just a drip.

Where did I lose my creative mojo?

I moved from Arizona, got married and had a son. I have continued to write non-fiction pieces for work, but I lost that creative groove. Without knowing people in Denver and eventually Chicago, I just reverted back to my grade school-introverted self. I understand now how important it is to know supportive like-minded people, like Julie. But mainly, it is just me feeling self-doubt about putting myself out there again.

I’m determined, with the dawning of this new year, this new hope-filled Obama Era, to get out there and get my creative writing and performing mojo back.

Cautiously Optimistic

The stories of financial and personal ruin are everywhere.

Countless foreclosures, millions laid off and stores like Circuit City shutting their doors. It is almost too much to take. On NPR yesterday they told about a man in Osaka, Japan who starved to death. He had lost his job, was three months behind on his rent and he ran out of food.

Of course, I was on my way to Costco when I heard this news. And although the plasma televisions are out of grasp and even the premium dried fruits and nuts seemed a bit too luxurious for this trip, I was definitely getting plenty of food for my family to eat. I had to push aside the images of this lonely hungry man, while I strolled the expansive isles.

I also had to push aside any thoughts that my own family may not be insulated from these current events.

Could this be one of the last trips to Costco? The university where my husband works as a scientist is cutting a 100 million dollars of their annual budget. The last couple weeks have been filled with emergency budget meetings and terms like RIFs “reduction in force” have been thrown around. Needless to say these have been some stressful times at the old workplace.

My husband has been told to be “cautiously optimistic” about his position.

And that is what I was, cautiously optimistic, as I put the four pack of butter, the case of yogurts and four gallons of cranberry juice in my cart.

And I’m cautiously optimistic that I will be able to get my freelance writing biz off the ground. And cautiously optimistic that President Obama will be able to help our country in these difficult times.

Before going to bed tonight my four year old son reminded me that when he grows up he is going to live in one of the penthouse apartments he saw advertised in the New York Times Magazine. (He has offered to let his mom and dad live with him there.) He said the kitchen will be huge and so will his room.

Thank God he has thrown caution to the wind.