#JCFridays & JC’s West Side Holiday Craft Market!

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Jersey City’s Twiddlin Thumbs 

My effort to discover (or rediscover, as my ex-husband grew up there and I’d spent much time here in the early aughts) the city I live in continues.

On Dec. 4th, I attended #JCFridays, a city-wide celebration of the arts in chilltown included different exhibits and more throughout the different neighborhoods.

In true ‘I’m-gonna-get-to-know-this-city,-damnit’ fashion, I rode a Citibike from my corner of the Heights to the Grove Street area, where I saw art by Janyewest, Awol, Denai Graham, and Cheese (who, no shit, was written about in the New York Times back in ’96!), at the very spacious and chic Blow Out Society salon.

Later, I mozied (via LYFT, using one of my five free rides via a promo when I downloaded the app) to the JC Fridays event put on by the folks at “A West Side Story” over at the New Park Tavern. I checked out a photography exhibit by Scott Sternbach. Chatting with the photographer and filmmaker, I learned he’s attempting to document as much of the West Side as he can before it gets changed through gentrification. Let’s face it: that time can’t be too far away.

There were also two cool bands: the Penniless Loafers, a ska band, and the Twiddlin Thumbs, a folk band featuring a washboard and a banjo!

So, what’s next? It is December, so I might as well shop at the JC West Side Holiday Craft Fair.

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The cool think about this market is that it’s in a neighborhood outside of the uber-popular downtown area, and it aims to serve all, since it was very reasonably priced for vendors to join. I have to believe this means lower prices on items, which is better for shoppers!

Taking place Saturday, Dec. 12th and Sunday, Dec. 13th in the Gallo Center in Lincoln Park in Jersey City, this fair will feature over 20 local vendors selling food, crafts, and holiday presents.
Visitors can expect a festive atmosphere, and offerings from vendors such as Hot Lollies (who will be selling packs of homemade candies made from daring ingredients like tamarind and ghost peppers), Metal, Cloth and Wood (who will be showcasing their elegant women’s jewelry), and Type A Fibers (who sells handspun yarn from local wool providers, along with knit and woven items).
Plenty of ready-to-eat food will be available from Andy’s Modern Kitchen and other vendors, making this not only a shopping event, but a complete and fun afternoon for everyone who attends. WMFU personality and poet Jim Behrle – from the show Sportsy – will be in costume and handing out free candy canes to children of all ages.
West Side Community Alliance (WSCA) president Jodi Drennan says, “It’s really exciting to welcome more events like this to our neighborhood! We’re delighted to give our residents more opportunities to shop locally and support independent artists and artisans, and at the same time spend a fun day out in our community.”
Event co-organizer Amy Wilson notes that she’s put together several such events in NYC, but is “thrilled to finally bring this kind of creativity and experience to my neighborhood.”
The fair is sponsored by WSCA, Rising Tide Capital, and the Jersey City Parks Coalition, this fair will present a fun and festive holiday celebration that is free to attend and open to all, inside beautiful Lincoln Park’s Gallo Center.

 

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The JC West Side Holiday Craft Fair wants to see you!
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My dog is dying.

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Skunky & I went on a long, 2.5 hour walk the other day. Yes, I brought water with us. He’s not the quick walker he once was, but I think he enjoyed walking along the Hudson River from the other side. Some of his best years were spent walking along the Hudson from the Washington Heights/Harlem side.

My dog is ill. He is dying, and I think it might be time to let him go.

Last month, when I found out the tumor on the roof of Skunky’s mouth was malignant (with hemangiosarcoma, a cancer that most often affects dogs), I felt numb to the news, in part, because, aside from being a little less active (he is 14, after all), he seemed fine. He was still eating normally and happy as ever to get out of the house and go for a walk.

The vet, who told me he would advise his own mother against putting the dog through chemo, radiation, or cryosurgery, told me to spoil him rotten, make him comfortable, and to monitor his quality of life as I’d know when it was time to let him go.

As a kid, if a horse or dog had to be put down in a book I was reading or a movie I watched, I never understood it. Why couldn’t the doctor patch them up?

But in the vet’s office that day, I recalled a time when I took Skunky to Inwood Hill Park when we lived in northern Manhattan some years ago. It was late fall, an absolute beautiful time in that park, and during our walk, we passed by a man wheeling his German Shepherd-mix around the trail on a dolly as, presumably, his elderly dog could no longer walk. That was no life for the animal, I thought to myself. That’s selfish. That’s keeping the dog around for the owner, and I won’t ever do that, I thought.

And now, I find myself at that fork in the road. Yesterday, one side of his snout began to swell. Again, he is still eating and will go on a walk, but the swelling looks pretty bad. And he knows that I know something is up. When I look at him, or pet him gently, he starts to wag and gives me that look of shame he so often gave me as a pup if he thought he did something wrong.

I think it’s time to have him put to sleep. I know I will miss how he greets me when I get in. I will miss his extreme loyalty that ensures he never leaves my side. He’s part of the family, and that’s why my mom, brother, brother’s girlfriend, and the other pet living in the house (a shorkie!), don’t seem quite ready for him to go.  (This is partly why I feel guilty about having to make this decision.)

I spoke with a colleague about this a few weeks ago, as he worked at a veterinary technician many years ago, and he said, more often than not, owners wait too long. It’s not like a pet can tell us if they’re really suffering, right? He assured me the dog wouldn’t feel a thing when being euthanized. That gave me some comfort.

But it’s still tough.

You see, this is happening at a time when my own father is nearing the end of his life. A very strong man who never had any health problems aside from his Parkinson’s disease, he’s been living in a nursing home for the past seven months. My father is not suffering, per se, but I wouldn’t say he has a great quality of life.

He is incontinent. His limbs are contracting. He is fed through a peg tube. He relies on nurse’s aides to reposition him every two hours. His ability to speak is pretty much gone. He does attempt to let us know when he is in pain. Sometimes, it’s not that, but it’s tough to understand what he is trying to tell us.

The best we can all do is make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. I thank the staff at the nursing home for doing that as best they can.

In many ways, it feels like he is already gone. I always loved talking to my father (he’s a very jovial and funny man) and I haven’t been able to do that in a long while. But, he’s not gone, and this is why 2015 has been a limbo year for me. I am constantly waiting for a shoe to drop. I cannot, I will not, enjoy myself. Being social is the last thing on my mind because it doesn’t feel right.

I control that, and I know I can make a better effort to “live my life” while my dad is at the nursing home, and while Skunky lives his last doggie days. But right now, I can’t seem to find my footing.

Riding with the wind

Photo taken today in Central Park: http://scenebygina.tumblr.com/post/122200618607/great-ride-using-my-jamis-commuter-bike-around
Photo taken today in Central Park: http://scenebygina.tumblr.com/post/122200618607/great-ride-using-my-jamis-commuter-bike-around

My father has been doing somewhat better. He continues to stay free of any infections, and I’ve been sitting him up whenever I visit. It’s tough, his arm and leg muscles seem to get more contracted as he’s been bedridden for six months now, but I don’t care; I see him more alert and awake when I help him sit up.

In the meantime, a hobby that my father enjoyed in his 20s is something I’ve picked up: cycling. I use a Giant Sedona CX (2005) for riding around Jersey City, and various New Jersey parks. I had a great two and a half hour ride along the Hudson waterfront, from Newport in Jersey City to Weehawken this past weekend.

I also have a a Citizen Tokyo folding bike for shopping at the produce market nearby. It’s ideal for short trips only.

And I just bought a 2011 Jamis commuter 3 bike for CITY riding! I rode an hour through Central Park today, up to 110th street and back to the Columbus Circle area. It was hot today, but that doesn’t stop the action in Central Park, which was full of runners, cyclers, roller bladers, and more.

I can see why my dad loved to ride his bike. (I remember he rode a Gazelle.) Like running, it clears the mind, but it’s much more relaxing. Something about that wind hitting your face. (I imagine it’s what people who ride motorcycles love, too.)

And, of course, I’m doing something I know my father loved.

A well-being experiment: the Facebook-free summer.

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The Facebook.

It was a long time coming: I’m taking a hiatus from Facebook.

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There are plenty of reasons people announce (on Facebook, of course) that they are quitting. More often than not, they come back. And, there’s nothing wrong with that; It’s good to take breaks.

For me, this hiatus has nothing to do with those studies that say Facebook can cause depression, jealousy, and so on. It’s not over any relationship drama. I don’t use Facebook for that kind of thing, especially since that would require someone to have a dating life. Ha!

On the contrary, I happen to think it’s a brilliant way to communicate to a wide audience at once. I have lots of fun on Facebook, sharing funny, odd, or depressing news stories in order to engage my 1200+ Facebook “friends.” Not only do engaging debates break out on my Facebook profile, but the funny commentary often has me in tears … laughing.

Sharing important news, as always.
Sharing important news, as always.

But … I work in news and media relations. SO much of what I do is tied with constantly surfing the web, reading, and communicating: watching news trends, checking in with my ‘clients’ (faculty) and urging them to write OpEds or matching up their academic expertise to media outlets for commentary and interviews, then sharing these hits with various social media outlets. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

I’m always “on.” And I’m tired, especially with everything going on with my dad.

With the advent of the smartphone (the Blackberry was my first) years ago, it became clear that even though one wasn’t in the office, work could still get done. Emails could get answered first thing in the morning when I wake up, or at 1 a.m. in the morning, when I’m in a cab on my way to the next social event: Why not look at my phone and respond to that email, or surf Twitter for the latest breaking news? And with that news in hand, it’s only “my (self-imposed) duty” to share with my Facebook friends, right?

To put it simply: I’m burning out.

In addition to putting this sometimes undo pressure on myself to constantly communicate (sometimes necessary for work, but definitely NOT necessary to the point that others remind me [jokingly; I know] that I’ve missed a weird news story), it’s become a massive crutch when it comes to friendship.

Earlier I mentioned 1200+ “friends.” Let’s be realistic: I do not have that many friends. Some of these are networking acquaintances. Others were friends in high school and college who, these days, make me cringe with their racist, sexist, and misogynist, (yeah, I said it) statements on Facebook that it’s no wonder we do not hang out in person.

But among that list, are real friends who I have neglected because life gets in the way—and so does Facebook. Check out this excerpt from a Matthew Warner blog post that explains what I mean perfectly:

“When we see each other’s status updates every once in awhile, it gives us the illusion that we’ve “kept in touch” (even though most family and friends don’t see our updates — they aren’t on Facebook, don’t check regularly or missed it in their feed). It’s a poor substitute for meaningfully keeping in touch with our loved ones, but we compromise and settle for it anyway because it’s easy. When it comes to allocating how much energy we put into which relationships, it builds in a bias toward convenience vs importance. And, again, we end up doing so at the expense of time we should be spending on more personal interaction with our most important relationships.

“It’s made me into a lazy friend and loved one.”

So why not keep Facebook and just not log on and engage? Um, duh: I’m a communicating junkie; I can’t do that. (For more on that and other reasons to quit or take a real break from Facebook, check out “5 Things I Learned When I Quit Facebook” over at ABC.com.)

And why choose Facebook out of all the other social media? Well, I can’t quit Twitter: too much of the news world is there, so it comes with the career. And Instagram is easy: it’s just pictures. Since Facebook is more of a time suck, it’s the natural choice. And, remember, this is not a permanent thing. It’s simply a hiatus. An experiment, if you will.

The one worry I have on taking this break from Facebook is that it’s an excellent way to keep in touch with family and friends in other United States and overseas. This is especially crucial at a time when my father is in poor health and living at a nursing home since his hip fracture in late January. But I have to think of my well-being first. The less time on Facebook, the more time being present when I’m with my mom and dad. So, although it will take more effort, we’ll have to communicate via phone or email.

Sharing family news on Facebook: definitely one of the many reasons it's a great social media channel.
Sharing family news on Facebook: definitely one of the many reasons it’s a great social media channel.

So this is it: the hiatus is on, and so is the challenge: I feel the need to reconnect with people and return to my hobbies (writing about South American culture and music for Sounds and Colours) the good, old-fashioned way.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter: @ginavergel7, Instagram: @ginavergel, and on this blog, of course!

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Tweet, tweet!

Get me wheelchair, damnit!

Stock photos for nursing homes? Not a thing of joy.
Stock photos for nursing homes? Not a thing of joy.

Once again I find myself at a point in time when something has to be decided on regarding my dad’s care, and I’m still incredulous at the reality that he has to be cared for at a nursing home. At a nursing home!

As I’ve stated on this blog before, living in a home was a thing of the movies, or the soap operas I’d watch as a tween on summer vacation. You know, uber wealthy soap opera family puts grandma away so they can start planning how to get all of her money, stocks, and high-end art. It’s certainly not something our family would ever do. But here we are.

My father gets his nutrition (and Parkinson’s medication) through a peg tube. He receives nebulizer treatments three times a day. He is wearing a catheter because, as he is incontinent, urine could make the bed sore he has on his sacrum that much worse. Oh yeah, he’s wearing a vac machine to drain the wound. It’s a lot.

But it gets worse.

As physical therapy pointed out to us last week, the regimen they have for him isn’t showing any improvement. And then came the warning: insurance is going to cut this plan of care.

So now the social worker at the nursing home (review to come later; I’m not happy with several things about the culture there) is trying to find a long term care facility that will accept my dad’s health care insurance (an Aetna plan administered via the Medicare program. It’s not the best, but it’s something).

I asked physical therapy if there’s any way we can get a wheelchair so we can take my dad outside when the weather warms up. (This weekend, we’re supposed to get above 60-degree weather!) They stalled (as usual) with an excuse about having to order it. But the thing about this experience is that it has made me a major league demanding (yet nice; no yelling!) bitch when it comes to my dad’s care at that facility. So, it’s GOING to happen. I don’t care if I have to make 100 phone calls and knock on every single administrator’s door.

Wish me luck.

On nursing homes, family visits … and resentment

Screen shot 2015-03-17 at 11.07.18 PMI should be happy (?) that my father is OUT of the hospital and back into a subacute unit of a long-term facility, aka a nursing home. But this, his third round back, is more depressing for me. He sleeps more, interacts with us less, and it seems to get thinner by the minute. There’s no other way to say it — it feels like I’m losing him.

I’m also slightly, ok maybe definitely, losing my [was it ever normal?] mind. I’m angry. A lot. It doesn’t make me want to punch anyone; it makes me want to check out and stop speaking to everyone (except my parents.)

Life goes on and, more and more, it’s only my mother and I who visit and spend hours with my father (my mother more than all of us, as she has been forced to retire as a result of my dad’s fall and hip fracture.)

My brothers, both who have children, visit less and less. Two and three days go by and no visit. And I resent more and more. I have to be there every day. Throughout this whole ordeal, I’ve missed two days. I can’t see this going any other way for me.

I’m not going to lie; I’m pissed about their lack of devotion. I do not understand how you could not visit your father, the sole reason we were even born into this country, and became the people we are today. And checking in with my mother? Not so much.

Am I going crazy?

I actually met with a friend recently (something I hadn’t really done since my dad fell and became very ill) who also has a father in a nursing home. The situation is different. This person isn’t close to death, but immobile, and being in a nursing home is because the person’s spouse simply cannot handle the complicated care.

But this friend, one of five, told me that only one other sibling visits their father. “What can you do? You can’t get mad at it. And you can’t keep asking them to visit.” That’s true, I guess.

It’s hard to accept. I feel like I have anger, acid, or vomit, hanging at bay at the pit of my throat lately. I’m so disgusted. How can people be like this? Why are people like this? How dare they live their own lives? How dare they go out and have fun? Get a haircut even? Anything, all while my dad is stuck in a room. He can barely talk. He’ll probably never feel the outdoor air or direct sunlight again? How can you not just want to sit there with me!!! Aaaarrrrghhhh.

The anger and resentment affects so many other things. It’s like a bad domino effect. (Only I’m not reacting. As per usual, I’m bottling it all in.)

For instance, I posted a story on Facebook about a guy who walks 21-miles to and from work in the suburbs of Detroit every day because he doesn’t have a car. An old friend (Let’s go with acquaintance. If we were once friends in high school but haven’t spoken since then, don’t hang out in person, are we friends, really?) comments that the man is stupid for walking that far for a job that pays $10 per hour. -__-

I want to de-friend and block this person FOREVER. But not before insulting the person’s ignorance, of course.

A nurse’s aide at the nursing home gives me a look when I nicely ask her to do something. Nothing monumental. Just, oh, I DON’T KNOW, turning and positioning my father — something that should be done so he doesn’t develop another pneumonia and worsen his bed ulcer. She then s-l-o-w-l-y obliges. I want to throw a shoe at her.

A tourist slows down and then stops short in front of me when I’m on my power walk to work in the morning? Yeah. I lied. I maybe want to punch this person.

I need a break.

I know what I need to do is just live MY own life the way I want to (which is visiting my father as much as I can) and realize that maybe my brothers are experiencing my dad’s demise differently than I do. Maybe visiting is hard for them. Maybe.

But being angry about it, which I am not saying this blog post absolves me of, isn’t the way to go. I WILL TRY to let it go. I can’t promise I will, but at least it’s out here on the record, right?

On ‘working’ from the hospital or nursing home.

Screen shot 2015-02-11 at 4.24.53 PMWhen I am in the office, I feel distracted by wondering how my father and mother are doing, phone calls to and from doctors, insurance companies, social workers, and attorneys, and the dozens of relatives calling, texting, and Facebook messaging me from overseas to check on my dad.

When I am working from the hospital, and now, nursing home/rehab facility, I am often interrupted by speaking with my mother, trying to figure out what my father wants/needs (his difficulty speaking due to Parkinson’s was made worse by his hip trauma), and calling on nurses and nurses aides for help.

This is tough. My brain feels like scrambled eggs.

Still, nothing compared to what my parents are experiencing. I feel very faint today, and almost guilty for admitting to it, because sitting around worrying, or pacing while making phone calls, doesn’t exactly add up to rigorous exercise that would warrant being dizzy. :/