Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Magical Journey Through 2009: Personal Edition

This is part II of a three-part series.
Part I is here.


I started the year working a job I hated, as an aide with autistic kids. I loved the kids dearly and loved having the chance to help them, but the constant fear that I would get hurt - or worse, that one of them would get hurt because I wasn't strong enough to restrain them - was too much stress. I remember having a huge emotional meltdown on the weekend of MLK Day and deciding to quit. Unfortunately, financial difficulties meant that I had to stay another couple of months.

I did have some distractions, however: Obama's inauguration, coupled with constant airings of The Presidents on the History Channel, sparked a big interest in presidential history. Suddenly I needed to learn everything I possibly could about all of the presidents, though I particularly focused on Lincoln and Jefferson. This interest took me from about January to mid-April, which is amazing when you consider that if you'd asked me as recently as 2008, I would've insisted that I hated history.

I also had a new hobby in January: making bento lunches! Mine were pretty simple, but I had fun making them anyway.


I can't remember much of February. I was still working that job - as I recall things had gotten a little better and I was now waffling on the idea of quitting - and I remember worrying about the Australian bushfires I mentioned in the previous post. I also remember getting mono and missing two weeks of work. See, I have chronic/recurring EBV - a diagnosis which my doctor confirms but which apparently "doesn't exist" according to scientists. Anyway, I seem to get mono anytime I allow myself to get worn out without a chance to rest. And this was a physically exhausting job, so naturally, I got sick. I spent about half of February and part of March kind of lying around.


I was still recovering from mono in March, so I didn't do much the first half of the month. I did finally quit my job*, however, and I recorded what I did the first three days after quitting. I also made peace with my cat, and tried to start a garden, but some workers backed out over my potted plants. Grr.

*Note: I didn't actually go to Beltainia. It turns out I was actually invited to a different event, but that was cancelled due to weather.


By April I was beginning to feel better both emotionally and physically. I had some awesome days and learned a lot of stuff. I got a new library account (take note of that Douglas Adams book - it started something later) and we traded TV for Netflix. I gave my old computer to my mom and showed her how to look up videos on Hulu so she could watch Miami Vice. On the downside, my room got infested with moths, but at least killing them was kind of fun. I also downloaded Google Earth and became fascinated by looking at, and learning about, all the tiny communities in Greenland and the far north of Canada.

Finally, April was the month I joined my local unschooling group. I didn't realize it at the time, but the people I met there would become a second family to me within just a few months.


In May, we said goodbye to our sweet old cat Lady Blue, and said hello to a new kitten who needed us. Incredibly, little Dot showed up in our yard just four days after Lady Blue died, and it was only by pure chance that I heard her mewing out there. Of course we checked with all the neighbors to make sure she didn't belong to anyone, but no one knew where she came from, so we kept her.

Lady Blue Dot, at about 3 months

Also in May, I went with my mom, my friend, and her mom to see Star Trek. It was a wonderful night out, and everyone had a great time. (I go to the movies maybe once a year, and my mom went substantially less than that, so this was a big deal for us.) Now, remember how I told you to keep that Hitchhiker's Guide book in mind? Yeah, I'd just read that in April and loved it, so this was the perfect time for me to get into Star Trek. Way into Star Trek, which consumed pretty much my whole summer... but not in a bad way. I went into some detail about its benefits in this unschooling meme.


After a pretty enjoyable spring, June kind of sucked. I went into more detail in that post, but some of the lowlights were a tiny house fire (my mom fell asleep with a cigarette - she wasn't hurt, and only the couch got burned, but it was still really scary), and my mom getting hospitalized with pneumonia. To make my already bad mood worse, I didn't react well when Michael Jackson died. In retrospect, I think what made that so hard was that he was born the same year as my mom, and with her in such poor health, the "1958-2009" I saw on every news site scared me. I remember praying I wouldn't see it again. Unfortunately, as most of you know, I did.

June wasn't entirely bad, though. I spent the first half doing crafts, exploring different music, and making vacation plans for later in the summer. At the time I didn't think those would pan out, but they were fun to think about anyway.


I have no idea what I did in July. I'm writing this mostly by referring to my blog and Twitter posts from the year, but for July the best I can tell is that I watched DVDs all month. I'm sure I was doing a lot of vacation planning in there too, though. And I observed Learn Nothing Day, ironically possibly learning more than I had the whole rest of the month.

August and September

August was probably the best month this year. I made money for my trip by housesitting for a week and selling old textbooks, and at the end of the month I went to the Northeast Unschooling Conference, followed almost immediately by Dragon*con (which is why I've put August and September together here). I'll just list the various posts this trip inspired:

Boston/NEUC 2009 Highlights
Shit happens. Even to unschoolers.
Gender Sanity
Best of 2009: Best Trip

Unfortunately, the rest of September was not good. I wish I could say that my last month with my mom was harmonious and happy, but we actually spent a lot of it fighting, mostly over my unwillingness to give her money to buy cigarettes with. It pains me to write that I spent the last bit of my mom's life fighting over money, but it's true. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what was coming.


This was the worst month of the year, for obvious reasons. On the night of October 3rd, Mama was having trouble breathing, so we went to the ER, which thankfully had no line. After a couple of nebulizer treatments she was feeling better, and they admitted her for the night only to monitor her sodium levels, which were on the low side. I came home and decided to use the time to myself to take care of some household cleaning. I wanted to surprise my mom when she came home, partly as a way of making amends for the crappy few weeks before.

Unfortunately, she never did come home. I got a call the next morning saying she'd had a heart attack. I rushed to the hospital, filled out paperwork in a blur, and they did a double bypass. While the surgery was successful, she had suffered brain damage during the heart attack, and never woke all the way up. She was diagnosed with brain death, and on Saturday, October 10, I signed an AND to allow them to take her off the ventilators. Gail and Broc were with me, which made the whole thing a lot easier, but it was still the hardest day of my life.

Somehow, though, I managed to do a couple of fun things toward the end of the month. I went ahead and participated in Thrill the World, as I'd been planning on, and the Bannisters invited me to go with them to ARGH, which was technically in November (we went to Atlanta for a couple days before), so follow me to the next section, won't you?


As I was saying, ARGH was great. Unfortunately when I got home my internet was cut off, so I never got a chance to blog about it. Some highlights were trick-or-treating (I went as a zombie), climbing to a point in the mountains where we could see both Tennessee and North Carolina, doing an Indian dance in the talent show, and just generally soaking up the gorgeous fall weather. Fall is my favorite season, and we don't really have much of it in Florida, so I was pretty much in heaven at ARGH.

The rest of November was kind of lonely since the internet was out, but on weekends I did manage to get out some. I spent a lot of weekends at my friend Sabrina's house, and one weekend I went with the Bannisters to India Fest. I also went with Sabrina's family to Titusville for Thanksgiving.


In December, I had my internet back, and spent much of the month just reading: about religion, about organization, about the seasons, and about Christmas. I also got a job at a daycare, but quickly lost it again for reasons I am still not clear on. Either way, I still managed to have a good Solstice and Christmas, thanks to awesome friends who treat me kindly. I even got about as many presents as my mom would've gotten me - not that that's the point, of course, but it did ease the pain of being alone.

2009 was still probably the worst year of my life, simply because losing my mother kind of overshadows everything else. But in other ways it was a great year, full of excitement, love, and adventure. Hopefully having it all written down will help me to remember that.

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