Things I’ve thought way too much about while home sick

I hate calling in sick to work. That’s a new thing for me, because for the first time in ages I love my job and miss it when I am not there. Mind you, a day off here and there is welcomed, but generally I’d rather not miss out on anything. Work doesn’t FEEL like work most of the time, and I enjoy all of the people and the animals I’m surrounded with on a daily basis.

Serious moments at work:

 

 

Contrast those moments with this:

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Me, at home sick. Not fun.

I used to look for any reason to stay home sick when I was in school. I was a good student, but I was painfully shy. Staying home was much better! Back in the day, when my single mom was at work, she felt it was safe enough that, when I was in about 3rd grade I think, she could leave me home alone. This was the 1960’s in a middle-class suburb on a street of mostly retired people. My older siblings would be home at various points in the day, and mom could check in at lunch. Nothing bad ever happened. The things is, Mom was almost too sympathetic to my dislike of being at school and often let me stay home when I clearly wasn’t sick. I never had to resort to any Ferris Bueller antics to convince her to let me stay home.

 

I graduated (with good grades), went on to college, and survived just fine. Then I ended up at some point in a job that I hated. I’ll never forget the morning I burst into tears, threw my hairbrush across the room, and wailed to my then-husband, “Don’t make me go!”  Was that the first time I called in sick to work when it was really just that I was sick of the job?

Things got better. I switched careers after an interlude of graduate school (I hated school through high school, but I loved college), and spent quite a few years only being sick when I was really sick. And then along came the University of California and 12 years of me wishing to be sick, of fantasizing about breaking my leg in the shower so I could go to the hospital instead of work, of reading hopefully about the sysmptoms of appendicitis. My work ethic had died a slow death. I wasn’t so obvious as to call in sick on a regular, clockwork basis, like a colleague in one past job who we all knew would call in sick the day after pay day. Nothing predictable. But maybe calling in sick when I felt a little under the weather but not really sick. I would even gladly go for jury calls and hope to get onto a jury so as to not go to work. I wasn’t precisely a bad employee, just a not very dedicated one. Note to any of my former UC colleagues: there were many times I was genuinely sick. Please don’t think I ever took advantage of you to get out of anything!

'I'm going to be sick on Monday.  I'm telling you now so I don't have to call in.'

That’s all changed now that I am working in animal rescue. Every day brings new rewards and happy endings. Sometimes there are sad endings, too, but I try to keep moving as cheerfully as possible and toast the successes.

I wish I could say I never get sick, but I have whatever this gross lung crud is that’s going around at the end of 2017. I’m coughing like crazy, no energy, sounding like a dog with kennel cough. This would be bad enough in any case, but in addition to animals, I also work with potential adopters, and how bad would it look if I started coughing and wheezing in their faces? That would not bring good customer service marks on a Yelp review. I went in last Sunday and it was not pretty. Nobody ran away screaming, but a lot of hand sanitizer was passed around. I’ve stayed home since then.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to think. Too much. Here are some of my reflections.

Cats are better nurses than dogs.  They are sensitive, and pick up on subtle things. Or they just really love blankets and warm bodies. But dogs have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), like “Aw, hey sick buddy, let me cuddle with you…SQUIRREL! Gotta go!”

 

 

Watching television during the day is no longer fun. When I was home sick as a kid, or even as a teenager, the majority of that time was spent in front of the television. I’d watch anything. Even though we only got 4 channels back in the dark ages, I’d find something. I watched cooking shows, exercise shows, reruns in syndication, old movies…Maybe watching Julia Child and Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) contributed to my love of food and cooking, but I also watched Jack Lalanne and have no love of exercise. Note that I watched Jack Lalanne, I didn’t ever get off the couch and do any of the stretches or exercises.  I adored Bewitched reruns. At a young age, I got hooked on soap operas, especially All My Children. My favorite movies were those with Ma and Pa Kettle or Henry Aldrich.

It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left!

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Now we have TiVo, Netflix streaming, binge watching, endless channels, and I can’t stand the idea of watching television during the day. I feel like I have succumbed to true hopelessness if I watch. Nighttime is another story altogether, though. Which leads to:

Folding TV trays are a great 20th century invention. They don’t have to be for eating meals in front of television, although we use the old set we bought for $25 at the flea market for that pretty much every night. They are great for holding all of your medications, tissues, water glass, etc. next to you while you are curled up in your favorite cozy spot. I also use them to hold stacks of books and papers when I am at my desk writing and I run out of desk space.

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I found the almot exact set we have online, although the colors were less faded, where they were advertised as “vintage Eames era”. If you aren’t familar with the Eames name, Charles and Ray Eames were the noted mid-century designers who, by using their names, you add a gazillion dollars to the price of something.

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I really don’t think Charles or Ray Eames had anything to do with these.
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Ray and Charles Eames at home, LIFE magazine, 1950.

 

Life is too short to stick with a book you aren’t enjoying. This is a recent revelation for me. I always doggedly stuck to books I wasn’t enjoying as if it was somehow a virtue. No more! So many books, so little time. I’m not wasting that time anymore. The only time I can remember abandoning a book previously was in 2001, with German writer W. G. Sebold’s Austerlitz. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award that year. Sebald, who died at age 57 that same year, was considered by many to be a great author and possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature until his unexpected death in a car crash. The novel sounds like it ought to be great, but I found it inscrutable. I was about 5 pages in, and I think it was still the first sentence continuing from the first page, running on and making no sense to me. I threw in the towel, figuring I wasn’t smart enough for Sebald.

 

I was recently defeated again. Not because I wasn’t smart enough, I just didn’t care what happened to any of the characters. At all. Any of them. This time it was Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, winner of the Man Booker prize in 2013. Maybe I should avoid books that win critics awards? This huge tome (848 pages) was donated to the Little Free Library I steward. I was intrigued. It was free. I needed something to read that would occupy me through a flight to Iceland and back, as well as any down time in between. Never mind that I could barely lift it. We went to Iceland in the summer. It is now very close to January of the next year. I got about 200 pages in. I couldn’t keep track of who was who. I didn’t care.  Finally, common sense (well, actually it was Bob’s common sense) had me send the book back out into the Little Free Library this morning. I want to enjoy my reading time, and if one of the rare chances I get to lose myself in a book is when I am sick, it’s not going to be a book that is torture to read. I saw somewhere that The Luminaries was being made into a limited television series. Yippee.

Now I am free to read a book that sounds right up my alley: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It sounds utterly charming, quirky, and very British. I’m in!

 

 

 

Color coordinated clothing and clothing that isn’t pajamas are over-rated. I’m wearing might-as-well-be-pajamas clothes right now. Leggings, old stretchy cardigan, pulled-out-of-shape knit skirt. I am neither color-coordinated nor fashionable at this moment either. Am I warm and comfortable? YES! I figure I’ve always been more of a “fashion don’t” than a “fashion do.” Whatever. My sisters both have amazing senses of style and fashion. My mother despaired of my disdain for matching handbags and shoes, for scarves, for all of the little details that pull an outfit together. One of the reasons I hated high school was the judgment being passed based on appearances and wardrobe. I was smart and cute enough. Why wasn’t that enough? Not having the right label of jeans or shoes seemed (still seems) such a stupid basis for popularity and friendship.

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What Not to Wear. Unless you’re me!

In a brief moment as I was putting this sick-day outfit on, I thought, “None of the blue tones go together.” And immediately after that I thought, “Tell that to Mother Nature when a field of wild flowers of all different colors and tones is in bloom.” Colors go together. Period. Somebody told me once that the outfit I was wearing looked like a fruit salad. Cool, that’s what I say.

 

Take care of yourself. Stay warm. Eat healthy, whole foods. Remember to splurge on a bit of dark chocolate and other things you enjoy now and then. If you do get sick, stay home.  It’s best for you, your co-workers, and anyone you might come into contact with. If you are lucky, like me, it will be that much better when you get back to the job you love. And please, consider getting a pet from your local shelter.

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I don’t know about you, but I find punctuality to be overrated

Remember Andy Rooney, the crusty old guy who did the final segment on the television show 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011? Sometimes I feel like I am turning into him, even  getting old man eyebrows. Thank goodness for scissors!

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Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney, 1919 to 2011.
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Old man eyebrows. Great unless you aren’t old or a man!

Not to be confused with Mickey Rooney, the much-married song and dance man of the stage and screen. Although he might have been cranky and opinionated, too.

Mickey Rooney

I’m in an Andy Rooney kind of mood. You know, the “I don’t know about you but such and such really annoys me” kind of mood. Here’s a classic Andy Rooney rant, this one about public “art”.

 

I’m feeling feisty on the subject on punctuality today. I used to be a very punctual person. Really. To the point of always being early for everything. Not too early to the point of seeming crazy. If I was really too early for something, I’d wait outside or in my car until I could walk in just early enough to show I was paying attention to the clock. I got a lot of reading done in my car in those days. Or if it was for a job interview, pep talk time and reminders to breath. The other advantage of being early in the case of something like a job interview, you can squeeze in a trip to the restroom just so you feel that much better before you go in.

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The panel interview, nightmare of job-seeking introverts everywhere.

But I’ve decided punctuality is an overrated concept. Maybe I’m finally defeating my OCD tendencies!

I had an employer once who had the supposedly brilliant idea that for employee evaluations he would issue old-fashioned report cards with grades in various categories. I always got an A+ in punctuality. Mostly because I liked to get there before anyone else so I could make the coffee. No one else made it strong enough,so my motives were selfish, but it got me brownie points.

 

 

But the reality is that my good grade in punctuality was meaningless when it came to actually getting the job done. If I had been 10 minutes late every day, like the office manager was, I’d still have gotten my work done. She got C’s in punctuality but A’s in everything else, and everyone loved her. I was a younger, moodier, more anxious me then, and didn’t particularly play well with others, so low marks for me in attitude. I was oddly proud of that, too!

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Yep, that was me.

Needless to say, the office manager stayed on with bonuses and promotions, and I left by mutual agreement with the boss and went to graduate school (the first time). My philosophy–if life gives you lemons, go back to school and learn how to make the best lemonade ever!

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I love to watch competition cooking shows, but I always wonder why the insistence on the time clock down to the last second. Would another 5 seconds hurt? If you are eating at a restaurant, wouldn’t you rather have the dish that the chef finished the way s/he wanted rather than the one rushed to beat the clock? It shouldn’t be all about the clock, but all about the food. Within reason, of course.

cooking clock

 

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Okay, time is important. I don’t want to be this unfortunate diner either.

When adorable Cydney Sherman on Masterchef Junior dropped her vegan burger on the floor and there were only 60 seconds left on the clock, would it have killed Gordon Ramsay to give her a few extra seconds to wipe her tears and cook another one? (But I am glad there was a vegan challenge, and she didn’t go home as a couple of other junior chefs made bigger mistakes than she did.) Masterchef Junior makes me cry every week!

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Masterchef Junior contestant Cydney Sherman. Please don’t make her cry again, Gordon Ramsay!

In my school program this time around (remind when I finish the Ph.D. to stop going back to school, unless it’s vegan cooking school or sewing school), we submit all of our assignments online. The due dates are listed with whatever is due being due at 11:59 p.m. on the day. Really? If I turn it in at midnight, that not’s good enough? Will my coach turn into a pumpkin while I lose my glass slipper?

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Who in her right mind would wear glass slippers, anyway?

Being on time really doesn’t equate to doing a good job. Yes, I understand deadlines are important. Without them I’d never get anything done! And I do still aim for punctuality on things like doctor appointments and show start times. Some places won’t let you in until intermission if you miss the start of the show. Dinner reservations are important to honor; I’d rather give the chef extra time to cook than hold up service from my end!

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I don’t want to be THE annoying customer!

One of my professors this semester has the wonderful approach that assignment due dates are guidelines, not ultimatums. Thank you, Dr. P.! I am a busy person. We are all busy people. Let’s cut each other some slack when it’s not a life and death situation.

I keep a calendar, color coded with my class assignments and due dates. I was taking 4 classes this time around, but one class in particular was totally stressing me out. I had little blue post-its everywhere on my calendar! My old OCD self would have done everything to make it work, but maybe not doing as good a job on things in service to the deadlines. I made a decision that would have been unthinkable to me in the not-so-distant past. I dropped a class 8 weeks into the semester. And it feels so good!

OCD

paper

 

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All of the blue post-its are gone!

I feel much more relaxed and only slightly defeated. That will go away. It’s like not finishing  book you’ve started and aren’t enjoying. There’s a small sense of defeat, but you forget about it. Or not.

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Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. The book I couldn’t finish. Not forgotten, apparently!

And now I have 6 glorious days before my next assignment is due! At 11:59 p.m. on March 12. The clock is ticking.