A Dream

FullSizeRenderWednesday, August 15, 2018

This morning I woke up sobbing. And I had two thoughts about that: 1) That has never happened to me before, and 2) I didn’t actually believe it was possible. But, it is, and here we are.

Daddy has appeared in at least two dreams of mine since he passed away. In the first one, he asked us about the last days of his life. He wanted to know about the dosages of the medicine we gave him, the interventions, the final moments. He told us we did everything right, and we all felt so comforted.

In last night’s dream we went to visit him in a condo that overlooked the ocean. It was beautiful and white inside and there was an ocean breeze through the open windows. He opened the door and he gave me the best hug – he lifted my feet off the floor and I never wanted it to end.

When we went inside he asked us about everything that had been going on. He wanted to know about Mom’s kitchen renovation and if she was going to be a school nurse next year. He wanted to hear about Patches and how our lives had changed in the past few months.

And he told us he was getting better. He was walking again and was starting to feel more like himself. There was a woman there – dressed in all white, sitting quietly in the corner. She was helping him recover. And in true medical-family fashion, we asked him so many questions. Are you eating again? How are you walking? Are you getting stronger? He answered yes to all of them, but we still doubted that it was possible. I woke up feeling so sad that we doubted him, so sad that I missed him, and so sad that he couldn’t hug me like that again. But I also felt grateful that he was getting better and that we got to tell him about our lives. He’s still connected to us.

I watched this video about grief a few months ago, where a woman drew grief as this big mess of black lines inside a circle that was your life. Instead of the grief shrinking over time, the circle of your life just gets bigger. The amount of your life that the grief takes over gets smaller and smaller. Sometimes I hate that my life is getting bigger without him – that things are changing and he’s not a part of it. But, I think this dream helped me feel like he is still a part of it. He’s happy that our lives are growing and changing. It’s okay.

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10 Things We’ve Learned from Our First 50 AirBnb Guests

IMG_2378.jpgWhen we bought our home, we knew immediately that we wanted to make the downstairs master bedroom into an AirBnb. Even though it has a beautiful ensuite bathroom, it’s lacking the closet space and privacy that we wanted in a master bedroom…so our bedroom is upstairs (with two closets) and the downstairs bedroom is a dedicated guest bedroom. Curious about our listing? Look no further than here.

Being an AirBnb host is so interesting and often really rewarding. We love opening our home and sharing our love of Dayton with people who are passing through. It’s definitely not without its challenges though! Here are 10 things we’ve learned so far after hosting our first 50 AirBnb guests.

  1. You CANNOT communicate enough. I thought I was pretty good at explaining things thanks to my years as a teacher, but with an AirBnb listing, there’s no limit to the amount of simplification, clarification, and repetition you can do. People will gloss over things or just plain ol’ not read them, so if something’s important, it’s worth repeating.
  2. People are equal parts weird and great. We’ve had amazing guests who would be our friends in real life, and we’ve had some really strange guests. You just have to shrug it off and move on to the next one.
  3. People love extras. We have some little extras in the room (granola bars, mini toothpastes, tampons, etc.) and people really like that they’re there, but they almost never take them. It’s great because it makes people feel welcomed, and it’s super minimal work/money since they hardly ever need restocked.
  4. Ask yourself: What would a 4-star hotel have? This is advice we read early on from another guest. When thinking about the types of amenities you want to offer in your AirBnb, think about what you’d get from a 4-star hotels. Extra pillows, blankets, hair dryer, USB charging ports in your lamps…yep, we offer those.
  5. It really helps to have a partner with a flexible schedule. I work 9 to 5. If someone checks out a noon and someone else checks in at 3, they’d be out of luck without George. Without the flexibility of his schedule, we’d have to rethink how we did check-in/check-out.
  6. It really helps to have a partner who’s super organized. Ha – that’s me in this R&G partnership. There’s a lot of managing logistics, communicating with guests, updating the calendar, and staying on top of who’s checking in/out.
  7. Track everything. AirBnb does a good job of tracking your reservations and income, but I track everything myself as well. When we have to pay estimated quarterly taxes, make tax deductions, or just figure out how much money we’ve made that month, it really helps that I also keep a system that makes sense to us. It may seem redundant, but it’s so worth it.
  8. The AirBnb community is incredible. If we have a question about anything there’s almost always an answer on the community message boards. You can ask questions and find answers from hosts who are more experienced, and it’s so helpful!
  9. Set boundaries. We never wanted a roommate and we didn’t want our life to be *too* disrupted, so we set some boundaries. We don’t allow guests to stay over 7 days, we don’t allow guests access to our stove/oven, and we generally keep to ourselves unless a guest is especially friendly or has lots of questions. That’s not to say we don’t like meeting people, we just want to live our normal lives too.
  10. Have fun! And try not to take yourself too seriously. I’m a naturally overachieving person, so having my home reviewed by others is kind of anxiety-inducing, but we have to remind ourselves to take everything with a grain of salt and to enjoy the relationships we’ve built and funny stories we gathered. If you treat people well, offer a comfortable, clean place to stay, and communicate clearly, it’ll all work out!

Sometimes

Sometimes I just want to ask things. Like the name of the milkshake place where they put butter cookies on the straws. Like how it felt when he did his first solo surgery.

Sometimes I just want to tell him things. Like, “Did you see the news about that plane crash? What happened?” Like, “Tonight we went to the Root Beer Stand and George got ghost pepper cheese on his burger. Did you even know they had ghost pepper cheese?”

Sometimes I just want to remember things. Like strapping on roller blades for the first time and him insisting that we wear all the protective gear. Like watching he and Mom sit on the front porch catching up on their days.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I want to remember things. Like how it felt to hear Danny’s voice on the phone and knowing that we’d come to the end of a long journey. Like getting in the car and my body shaking because we didn’t know if he would still be alive by the time we got there.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard. And I feel like my heart is physically breaking. I feel actual pain that I can’t talk to him. It feels like life should just have frozen when he died.

Sometimes it’s not hard. And I feel normal and go to work and go on walks and things don’t feel different. We laugh and we plan and we don’t feel guilty because we know he’s proud of us.

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More Time

This idea of having “more time” has been floating through my head for the past few months. I think when we wish for more time, we often think about tacking on time at the end of our lives. Humans have figured out pretty well how to prolong our lives – through medicine and surgery and medical interventions. We read articles to figure out if we should have a glass of red wine every day, or maybe we’re supposed to only be eating rice, or maybe chocolate? (Please, let it be chocolate.)

But, what I’ve realized is that adding on more time at the end of our lives is really hard. It’s exhausting and expensive. It requires incredible flexibility, a willingness to be vulnerable, and lots and lots of support. That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for every minute. Every single second of extra time is so so precious. But it’s not without its costs.

And the real cost is that I feel myself wishing for more time – not at the end, but in the middle. I wish for morewaffle breakfasts and car rides with the windows down. I wish for more movies and hugs. I wish for more long talks and afternoons rollerblading.

When Daddy passed away on Thursday, we found ourselves grieving two people: 1) My father the doctor with ALS, the fighter, the man whose body let him down, the patient, and 2) my father the macho orthopedic surgeon, the world traveler, the history buff, the pilot. As the days pass, I have more memories of him singing to Paul Simon and fewer memories of him hooked up to machines. More memories of him taking me on rounds at the hospital and fewer memories of him struggling to breathe. I know we’ll always remember him both ways, but I’m trying my hardest to remember him as he felt most like himself. When he could drive his convertible and fly his plane. When he could hug us and give us flu shots in the kitchen.

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There are no words to describe how grateful I feel now for the extra time we got with him. For his willingness to try new interventions and maintain control over his care. For my family’s immense patience and teamwork as we went to the trenches every day.

The night before Daddy died, we had a family meeting, as we had so many nights throughout my life. Daddy was sleeping, but he’d been communicative that day with all of us. We talked for over an hour about the decision to remove his mask – something the Hospice doctor had said we might need to eventually do. ALS patients have trouble expelling carbon dioxide, and Daddy’s trilogy machine helped with that for over a year, but it wasn’t really doing it’s job any more. We wrestled with what he would want us to do and ultimately decided that we’d ask him the next day.

The next morning around 6am, the nurse from Hospice was dabbing his mouth with water and had his mask in her hand. When she went to put it back, he pushed her away. She tried away with the same result. She looked him in the eye and said, “Wait. I’m getting your wife.” Mom woke up and knew it was time. She called to Danny and Phil, and Danny called me. George and I got over there in less than 10 minutes.

We surrounded him, everyone was touching him, and even Patches was right there on the bed with us. We told him he was safe and how much we loved him. We asked if everyone was ready to remove the mask. He breathed on his own and I knew he needed some strength, so I did the one thing I could think of – I started singing. And it was impossibly hard, but this song had been stuck in my head for a week, and I knew it was meant for him.

With all of us holding him, I got through two verses and he took his last breath.

My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run;
My strongest trials now are past,
My triumph is begun.

O come, angel band,
Come and around me stand;
O bear me away on your snowy wings,
To my immortal home.

I know I’m near the holy ranks
Of friends and kindred dear;
I brush the dew on Jordan’s banks,
The crossing must be near.

O come, angel band,
Come and around me stand;
O bear me away on your snowy wings,
To my immortal home.

Even to his last breath, he was totally in control. He made the decision so we didn’t have to, and he gave us the gift of being there with him when he passed.

Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

My Millennial Office

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A multigenerational workplace is a tricky subject – it’s a big task to accommodate everyone’s different values, goals, and work habits. I read this article recently, and although it’s geared specifically to legal practice, it’s so applicable to other office working environments.

So – as I’m making the transition from classroom to office, and from a workplace with mostly young people in their 20s & 30s to a workplace with an older average age, I’m finding my own generational values and goals are pretty transparent. Especially when it comes to the environment that helps me work best.

When I first got this job offer, I immediately hopped into my college graduating class’s Facebook group and asked my fellow Scotties for advice: How do I work in an office all day?! How can I make my sterile office environment feel more welcoming and calm? As always, they gave great advice: from getting lamps to offset the fluorescent lights to using lots of pops of color to incorporating “homey” accents like plants and family photos.

I’m happy to report that I successfully incorporated their advice, added some of my own elements, and my office really has become a calm haven where I can focus and work really efficiently.

And so – some of my decorating/office life tips:

  1. Pick Color Scheme: The color scheme I chose was black, white, and gold, with pops of green and blue. It was a perfect, simple theme for finding black frames at Goodwill, some gold accents from around my house, other little pops of color like my green tea mug and some colorful coasters a friend made. These colors matched my personal style (I mean…our wedding colors were “neutrals and naturals”), so entering my office immediately makes me feel like it’s mine.
  2. Frame Some Stuff: I finally framed my diplomas and my Phi Beta Kappa certificate, so I can rep my alma mater – plus, it helps me to look just a little more official when I have visitors. I also framed a couple of family photos and made some Dayton-themed graphics for a gallery wall (I found a set of 5 matching frames at Goodwill – yes!). I also finally have a perfect place to display a portrait that a family friend had commissioned of me holding my viola. What better place to display it than my office in the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance?
  3. Make Your Body Happy: A comfy chair, a gel wrist rest for my keyboard, and a salt lamp are all ways that I’m trying to keep my body happy while sitting in front of a computer for most of the day. My most ridiculous/best purchase was a pair of blue-light blocking glasses. They have a slight orange tint and they’re not prescription, so if I’m not working directly at my computer, I just take them off. They’ve worked wonders for helping my eyes not to get as tired and improving my sleep after I’ve been looking at a screen for hours and hours. And although this isn’t exactly office decoration, my watch reminds every hour to stand up and do some stretches, which is a good break when I’m losing track of time.
  4. Get Some Better Lighting: Fluorescent lights immediately make a room feel sterile and they do not promote the calm feeling I wanted to have in my office. We found some lamps on Craigslist and Target and now I don’t even have to turn on the fluorescent lights in my office. I know it’s not doable for everyone’s office situation, but it was certainly a game-changer for me.
  5. Organize the Heck Out of Everything: I’m naturally an over-organizer, so in my first week on the job whenever I had extra time, I would clean out drawers, rearrange files, and just generally make things more usable for my work style. It helped to spend that time at the beginning organizing, because now I mostly know where everything’s located, and stuff I use frequently is within grabbing distance.
  6. Yes, I Have Some Fidgets: I have a glitter jar and a fidget spinner and although it’s completely ridiculous, when I’m stuck on something or need a little mental break I bust them out. I feel absurd (and like a traitor to every one of my teacher friends), but it’s nice to have some tools to take a little brain break.

What advice do you have for working in an office environment?

I Work Downtown

Monday, July 17, 2017

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New office with happy “first day” flowers.

Every day for the past 4 weeks, I’ve gotten in my car around 8:44am. I drive downtown. I park in a parking garage. I walk a couple of blocks. I swipe a key card. And at 9:01 I unlock my office door and flip on all my lights (floor/desk lamps are essential when you hate fluorescent lights). And then around 5:07, I walk out of my office and join the throngs of other downtown workers on our trek to the parking garage. It starts all over again.

I have a checklist. I cross things off and they’re legitimately done. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that day at work, or something that happened, or something I forgot to do to prepare for the next day. Compared to the past 4 years of my life, my routine seems so much predictable. So much more manageable. I guess that’s what happens when you take a teacher out of the classroom.

So! Big life changes abound. I’ve been settling into my new role as the Director of Education for the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. Although my job looks different from day to day – I could be meeting with musicians or teachers, I could be out at schools observing, I could be in the office working on programming, I could be welcoming kids to a concert, or I could be at a donor lunch – my worklife has settled into a general routine. George and I spent 4th of July weekend organizing and setting up my new office, so now it’s a happy escape from the fluorescent lights of the cubicle maze in the main office space. And that instinct to “nest” never took over when I was working at any of my various schools. I mean, yeah, I would organize things, but I never really felt like any of my classrooms were mine. I think it’s a pretty darn good sign that this office feels like me.

How to Make A New City Feel Like Home

IMG_7534When George and I moved from Chicago to Dayton, we talked a lot about how important it was that we make an effort to engage with our new city, get to know new people, and start to make Dayton feel like home.

Now, it certainly helped that I grew up in Dayton, but a whole lot has changed in the 10 years that I’ve been gone! Although the roads are familiar and we have a built-in support system here, Dayton feels so different (in a good way!). It’s grown so much, has super trendy restaurants and breweries, and since I’m older (and my new favorite thing is mulching our front yard) I’m seeing Dayton with new eyes. George and I decided it was really important to get to know this mid-size city again as a couple and we’ve had a lot of fun exploring over the past few months!

So, here’s my advice for making a new city feel like home (especially a manageable city like the DYT after living in a huge city like Chicago):

  1. Go on walks around your neighborhood: We’ve found that walking around our neighborhood makes us feel like we’re part of something bigger. We see the same dogs, check out the new houses for sale, and stop by the high school baseball games. We feel part of a community without actually having to talk to many people. 😉
  2. Read the local paper: We read both our small neighborhood newspaper (which is hilarious and the best) and follow the articles on Dayton.com to keep up to date with new restaurants opening, events downtown, and just general knowledge stuff that makes us feel like we have some inside knowledge about what’s going on.
  3. Use social media: When we first moved, I immediately started following Dayton restaurants on social media and joining local Facebook groups. And I learn so many things this way! I learn when a restaurant’s trying out new menu items, when one of our favorite bar’s is having a free “crafternoon,” and when there’s a free concert in the park. It’s amazing the stuff you can get for free when genuinely engage in social media.
  4. Volunteer: George and I made a pact to volunteer at an event at least once a month this year and that’s been an incredible way to feel a part of our greater community. We don’t have stipulations on what kind of event it is, it just has to be something we care remotely about. So far this year, we’ve volunteered for an LGBTQ+ Youth Summit, two beer festivals, a trails symposium, a pancake breakfast, and announcement video for a local political candidate. We’ve met some incredible people, gotten to know leaders in the community, and had a lot of fun seeing how all of the different events are organized (ok, maybe that’s just me who likes to see how events are organized).
  5. Go to stuff: Seriously, just getting out of our house and going to events downtown has been our biggest source of Dayton-inspiration. We’ve been to lots of grand openings, open houses, and free events around the city. Our move also coincided with a political climate that lends itself to lots of protests, so we’ve attended quite a few local protests downtown. It makes us feel like we have something in common with our neighbors and makes me say to myself, “I love this place” about 10,000 times.
  6. Learn about the history: I love teaching George about the history of Dayton, and we’re working on a radio project right now that’s making us dive even deeper into Dayton history. Going to the museums, driving around historic homes, and just talking about the history of the city has given us deeper ties to this place.

Got any other ideas for us as we approach our 1 year anniversary of living in Dayton?