In Quest of a Shingles Vaccine

close up of white syringe
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Time flies. It feels as if I only started this blog on sandwich generation living a couple of years ago. But in fact, my mom has been gone for more than three years. Lately more of my concerns have to do with my own aging. At the moment, I’m on a mission to get the shingles vaccine for myself and my husband.

Until 2017, the “correct” age to get an immunization against shingles was 60. That was the old — and still available vaccine, Zostavax. I watched with consternation as one of my older brothers was denied the vaccine at 59, told to wait a year. Then he came down with shingles only a few weeks later. I took note as a few other older friends and relatives also got shingles in their late fifties. I thought all we could do, the spouse and I, was cross our fingers and hope to cross the 60 line without an outbreak.

But now there’s a newer, better, longer lasting vaccine, Shingrex. The recommendation is to get it in your fifties. Hooray! We didn’t have to wait. Or so I thought.

There’s a chasm sometimes between what’s recommended and what’s possible. In this case, there’s a nationwide shortage of the Shingrex vaccine. I started my immunization quest in April. It’s now August, and my husband and I are on page seven of the waiting list at one pharmacy. I don’t know how many names per page. I decided to put us on a second waiting list at a different place, thinking maybe they had a better supply chain. Or magic or something. We’re at around number 500 on the list there.

It’s a 2-dose vaccine, so people who have somehow managed to get their first shot all have first dibs before we do. It’s been a minute since I had a math class of any kind. But I understood quickly that our progression up the list was not going to be steady and linear. Everyone in front of us waiting for their first dose would remain in front of us as they were prioritized for their second round. So 500th in line doesn’t mean you get the 500th dose to arrive in the pharmacy store room. It could be the 600th or 700th. The person who took our names bluntly told me they had none — zero — in stock at the moment, and it could be up to two years before we’re at the top of the list.

We’re trying to eat healthful foods and exercise regularly to bolster our immune systems. I’ve put reminders on my phone to call around to pharmacies every couple of weeks. Beyond that, I guess we’re back to crossing our fingers.

Here’s more information about the vaccine for anyone who’s interested.

A Different Version of Sandwich Generation Living?

Black cat
Top Seniority Cat, the grande dame of our household.

 

Can I consider myself back in the sandwich generation if my kid who lives at home is now 21 and the elder in my care is a cat?

The 21-year-old, M, is an adult who is working on starting a business. Yet I have to issue chore reminders, plus figuring him into groceries and meal planning. Also, he’s experiencing nagging health issues and likes for me to go to some appointments with him to take notes.  So there’s some parenting going on.

Meanwhile, top seniority cat, Luna, still has some spunk at age 17. But she is sometimes confused, about half deaf as far as I can tell, and increasingly needy. Her thyroid levels are up, so I have to administer a drop of cream to the inside flap of her ear once a day. She does not care for this and hides under a bed if she knows it’s coming. Luckily for me, her hearing loss means I can sneak up on her.

Unluckily for all of us, she’s taken to yowling at top volume at various times of the day and night, until someone shows up to pet and comfort her. She sounds like she’s being murdered. This happens if she finds herself alone in a room and/or we’re all asleep when she needs our love. It’s a lot like having a baby, really. “Who got up with her last time?”

Often, I’ll find her in what is now our spare bedroom, sometimes with her nose nearly to the wall, as if she can’t remember how to get out of the place. Maybe she wants to come to us, but can’t find the door?

We love her, but being awakened multiple times per night frays the nerves of everyone in the house. So I’ve started following her thyroid medicine with a “reward” of wet food containing tuna…and DRUGS. I drug her at night. After that, we’re good to go until around 5:00 in the morning, when the yowls commence. Getting up once at 5:00 — that I can do. So much better than the previous 3 or 4 times per night.

Not that I baby her. Oh no. Well, maybe. I really want to tear out the old, disgusting carpet in the spare bedroom and convert that space to my office/writing area. But I keep putting it off, because the cat spends so much time in there, and it might upset her. Poor thing is already confused.

Basically, she has her own bedroom. Where we cater to her needs and her whims, all day and all night, whenever we’re at home. She’s an old lady, after all. She deserves some comfort and ease.

 

 

Temp to Fire – Predatory Employers

silver macbook pro
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I don’t want to hear one more word about Millennials being entitled or having no work ethic or being snowflakes. Not a word.

My firstborn, who at 24 is at the tail end of the Millennial generation, has been working a full-time office job and a part-time retail job for a year with no benefits from either — no paid vacation days, no insurance, no retirement plan. No benefits because the full-time office job was on a “temp-to-hire” basis through an agency.

Several people started with the company at the same time, and their one-year anniversary came up this week, the point at which the contract stipulated the Corporation Who Must Not Be Named had to hire the workers themselves, providing benefits, etc. if it wanted to keep them on. The corporate overlords elected not to keep them on and cut them all loose to start over with a new batch to whom they could avoid providing benefits. It’s not temp-to-hire. It’s temp-to-fire.

This is the culture of employment we’ve built in our society. It’s predatory. 20-somethings who have done everything right get used for a while and then spit out. There have been many angsty messages back and forth the past couple of days between the son and me.

My silver lining is seeing how much he’s matured, and how much more resilient he is than he has been in the past in the face of unexpected set-backs. He applied for five jobs within 24 hours of being let go. And this morning he messaged to let me know he’d had a phone interview already and was on his way to fill out hiring paperwork for a call center job. He says he plans to take it not because he expects to enjoy it, but because it will pay the bills. He’ll keep looking for other jobs in the meantime. That really is a leap in maturity. (Hold that thought — I’ve already had to come back within a couple of hours to update that the call center job had complications and is not an immediate start. So he’s looking into other short-term options.)

As angry as I am at corporate American in general, and my son’s ersatz employer in general, it’s heartening to see my kid has grown into someone who handles adversity with a good attitude and a plan of action.

 

My Child Has Lapped Me in Dinnertime Adulting

My husband, younger son and I drove up to visit my firstborn this past weekend, and to see his new apartment. Here’s what’s in his kitchen.

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Those are binders full of recipes. This is a person who has always loved to organize information, and now has discovered the joy of cooking. He and his roommate couldn’t even recommend any local restaurants because they hardly eat out. “I can make better food at home cheaper.”

Wow! That feeling when your child passes you in the adulting thing.

Happy Mothman Day

My Mother’s Day started with this message on my phone from my oldest kid:
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Which makes me think I raised him right.

My kids both have birthdays this week. They will be 24 and 21, even though there’s a part of me that refuses to accept the information, a part of my identity that is permanently stuck at being the mom of a 4-year-old and 7-year-old. I’m not sure why that particular point in time. It’s just the feeling of who I am.

There’s a lot to be said for being the mom of adults, though. I never have to nag anyone to shower. I never have to do another parent-teacher conference. If I want to go on a bike ride by myself, I can just go.

I think that’s why parents and children can become friends as life goes on. Because the parents no longer have to be guardians and gatekeepers. Well, there’s still a little of that going on with the younger one. But for the most part, I’ve done what I can do to guide my children to adulthood, for better or worse. It’s up to them now to remember to shower. Meanwhile I get to reap the rewards of gaining a couple of new friends.

 

 

Mixed Feelings on a Beautiful Easter Day

Random thoughts on this Easter Sunday:

If I don’t pay attention to the news, I can be happy for a while. If I don’t think about the bombings in Sri Lanka today, or the continued shenanigans of our president, or climate change. While my heart breaks over all of that, and I know we need to be informed and take action, I also know we need joy. We need to remember what we want to work for, what makes it worthwhile to be here in this universe.

It’s no accident so many religions and cultures have celebrations in the spring centered around renewal, rebirth, resurrection, and promise for the future. This past winter seemed particularly long and particularly gray. But we came out the other side. I know I feel more alive. It helps that it’s a beautiful day here.

Locally, I am in love with my community. When I focus on my immediate circle, I have hope. I see the world as a good place. I went to a literary event yesterday and ran into a number of friends, all of whom are creators or promoters of the arts, all of whom use their energy to improve this experience we call life.

We’ve always been low-key in my family about Easter celebrations, compared to some people I know. We decorated eggs with the kids, hiding them on Easter morning for our children to find. And that’s about it. But it was a ton of fun for a lot of years. Even after the kids outgrew egg hunts, we still decorated, up until last year, when we did nothing.

This year, I decided it was time to try something new. I’m not a super crafty person, but I tried my hand at making some natural dyes last night, with decidedly mixed results. As I said going in, though, the worst that can happen is we get ugly eggs that are still edible.

Easter eggs

 

The blue eggs attest to the magic of cabbage leaves. The orange dye was a mix of onion skins and turmeric. In case anyone wants to duplicate my result of eggs that simply look dirty, I’ll tell you the secret. I achieved that with a combination of spinach and ground mace.

My sneaky husband got up this morning and hid these things, prompting my 20-year-old son and I to do our first Easter egg hunt in at least seven years. That’s a way to get me out of my pajamas and about the day, a forced scavenger hunt before I can have breakfast!

After my egg sandwich and coffee, I got out the chief emblem of my efforts to create my new me – my bicycle, which I’ve named Frieda. A value-added component of my life is the easy access I have to a fantastic walking and biking trail network. The nearest trail head is a five-minute ride from my house (three minutes for my husband. Maybe only two.) Frieda and I managed to get in a nine-mile round trip ride before noon. Along the way, I ran into even more wonderful friends, out walking with their one-year-old son. It was the perfect excuse to stop and rest my legs for a couple of minutes as we chatted and I got a baby fix.

 

Later, I’ll pay attention to the news again, to the problems that need to be solved, the pondering of what I can do about those problems. I’m in the restoration part of the cycle right now.

IEP/504 Meetings of Days Gone By

What’s the opposite of nostalgia? I’m pretty sure I experienced it yesterday when I came across some 10-year-old old paperwork pertaining to school evaluations for my son. My brilliant, sweet boy, who was ten years old at the time.

I have embarked on a project to purge and organized the piles of paperwork that have been accumulating around my house for, oh, ten years. It’s slow going because I keep stopping to read things. For instance a file full of print-outs I made of email communications with school personnel.

For context, my son, M, has auditory processing difficulties. His brain doesn’t filter sounds very well. We started the evaluation process thinking he would have an IEP (individualized education plan), but he didn’t actually need changes in the curriculum, only changes to ensure him equal access to the curriculum. So we ended up with what’s called a 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I had almost managed to forget the constant vigilance and stress involved in having a child in school under these circumstances. Many teachers and school staff were wonderful and amazing. But many others were not. I experienced a fair amount of lip service, some head patting, some gaslighting, and whole lot of hoop jumping on my part. I’m glad that experience is behind me.

The following is one of the emails I re-discovered, and typical of the kinds of things I found myself writing a lot in those days.

Hi Ms. K & Ms. L,

As always, thanks for all of your time and effort on behalf of M. I want to address two things:

1. Regarding the parent input statement I wrote to be included with all evaluation reports: I will make multiple copies for each of you so it can be attached to every printed copy of the report, rather than only in a computer somewhere. I understand the school district’s budget is extremely tight, but it is a part of the report that should be available with every copy. I will supply the paper and ink for that to happen. (I had been told that, of course I could supply a parent input statement to be added to teacher observations and everything else in the reports. But when I showed up for the first meeting, the statement I had emailed was not included and everyone seemed to think it was eccentric of me to believe it would be added to the actual report, which was already using so much paper. I was assured the email had been saved and that my painstakingly created contribution was “in the computer.”)

2. I am also attaching here a copy of more observations I have made including my classroom observations from last May. I sent these once, but was told they couldn’t be included in the report at that time because they happened after the date of the evaluation meeting. I’m sorry I did not bring this to yesterday’s meeting, but did not realize they could now be included until I read through the report and saw mention of staff observations that had occurred from the same time period. Now that I know the door is open again, I’m sending them. (If this isn’t obvious, someone lied to me about why they *couldn’t* put my classroom observations into the report. And I caught them in the lie.) This document should also be attached to all copies of M’s evaluation reports. In addition to attaching it here, I will supply multiple paper copies as a donation to keep district expenses low. 

Best regards,

**

If any parents currently going through the process happen to read this, please know you are not alone. You are allowed to have your voice heard. Don’t let them gaslight you or shut you up. Keep speaking the truth for your child. You will find advocates and allies within the system, though it can sometimes take a little while to figure out who they are. Work on building relationships with those folks. My son’s grade school speech therapist and his junior high counselor, in particular, were real angels who had his back.

That said, I look back on this and wonder about families who don’t have the resources I did. We’ve never been wealthy, but I could at least afford paper and toner. And this was before I started my sandwich generation gig, so I could carve out the time. How many kids fall into the cracks because their parents don’t have the resources or time or knowledge to stay on top of things?

I’m happy to say my son made it through and is now a brilliant, sweet 20-year-old who does what he can to make the world a better place. He made it through with his kindness and compassion intact, which is what I most wanted for him.