From Old to Young, Wills to Homework

I think working at a nursing home is getting a little, well, old…no pun intended.

I actually am in love with several residents, and I really enjoy working with them. The first week, I was seriously depressed. I imagine it was the whole dealing with the mentally/physically disabled aspect, not to mention the near-dying part, but I cried every day. It broke my heart to see the the old husband come in every day to eat lunch with is wife who barely remembered him.

However, in about my second or third week, I talked to a different couple: this one includes the most adorable old man (who always kisses my hand!!) on hospice (sad) and his wife who faithfully comes in every day right after breakfast and leaves right before dinner.

The wife and I were chatting as I cleaned the dining room, and I got to asking how they met.

“Oh we met in California, got married a few years later, and lived happily ever after,” she smiled, patting his shaking hand. The husband is in his late 90’s, barely talks (although when he does he’s the sweetest guy ever) and is on hospice with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a host of others issues. His heart is beating so slowly he shouldn’t be alive. Yet his wife still considers it “happily ever after.”

That sort of changed my mind about my job, and I began bonding with all the residents (the elderly seem to find my incessant questions and talking charming) and as I said, I love ’em.

However, the close proximity to death is what’s getting to me.

My residents are often right at death’s door and present the great fear of our society: the inescapable destiny we all face. While “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” (thank you, Albus Dumbledore) our society still carries a stigma attached to death.

This week, one of the aides brought up paperwork for a recently deceased lady accidentally…which was met by some amusement when the story of the mortician asking if said  lady would need her glasses was told.

(Perhaps she needed them for her paperwork…it’s nursing home humor).

To continue the theme, my grandparents were also visiting this week and discussing their will. They’re probably the most organized couple ever (perhaps they relate to Dumbledore’s above quote). I’m sure we’ll all be grateful when they do pass and everything is tied up in a neat bow; for some reason when I fast forward 50 years and see myself going through my parents’ stuff, I see an image from this episode of Friends (“The One Where Nana Dies Twice,” if you’re interested) where Ross finds his grandmother’s collection of Sweet N’ Lows.

I’m not sure what I’ll be getting in the will (not that I’m terribly concerned)–they were just double checking my middle name (which should be easy as my younger cousin has the same one, and there aren’t that many grandchildren, plus I was the first granddaughter, so you’d think that would command some space in the brain, but whatever, they are 80) but I do know I won’t be getting the antique beer steins my great-great-great-great something brought over from Germany. (Aw, bummmmmmer).

My mom thinks that her youngest brother (younger by the rest by at least 11 years) will get all the “good” stuff, since he got all of her grandmother’s interesting items. I pointed out that he did help clean out her house, and from what I can tell all he got was a weird rocking chair that for some reason my mom and her siblings all really wanted.

I lost the point of this post–mostly that I’m not used to being around death so much–it’s weird. Every day I am consumed with thoughts of how short life is, and so every decision becomes quite weighty.

Well, not every, I don’t think that picking out which shirt to wear is that monumental, but even spending a year with a job in Denver seems long and I am constantly questioning whether I should just head back abroad.

In the fall, I’ll begin working as an AmeriCorps member with the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

courtesy of

Which will be an incredible experience. Which I will in no way regret doing–but it’s still a tangible decision and direction.

Despite my contrary nature, it will be fun working with the young. Although I’ve enjoyed working with the old (and I won’t be finished until August) it will be nice not to have to PROJECT my voice at decibels my vocal chords clearly find uncomfortable.

There are many more benefits–that’s just the start. The great thing about working with kids is the amount of hope and innocence they still retain. (Although if I recall my 7th grade year, I remember a lot of brats…maybe that was just my personal experience?)

In conclusion, though, my residents seem to like me a lot more than any kids ever have…so wish me luck.


I have an exciting announcement, loyal blog readers! I realized upon “cleaning” out my hard drive that I have quite the accumulation of lists. As the world clearly is dying to be privy to the lists of one Amy McMahon from Montana, I decided to do a weekly post featuring my TOP TEN: they’ll be both themed and random. Look for them every weekend! Also, if you have any ideas, feel free to send ’em my way!

Now, without further ado, I present to you this week’s TOP TEN:

The List Of EUREKAS! I’ve Found During The Lifestyle Change, The Long Days, My Obsession With Recipes and Travel Sites, Walking My Dogs, and Other Daily Activities, At Least In Recent Memory:

1. Greek yogurt: 14 grams of protein. Mmmm, especially with fruit-on-the-bottom!

2. Netflix Instant Queue: I’m a little behind on this, but I am addicted and have been watching ridiculous made-for-TV movies from my childhood I never thought I’d see again (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, anyone?). Hey, makes the cleaning seem less bothersome at least!

3. Whole grain pasta. I loooooooooove pasta but unfortunately, I always feel slightly guilty for eating so many carbs that aren’t packed with nutrients (thanks for that one, Mom) but HALLELUJAH for these babies.

4. Peanut Butter Fingers. Another health and fitness blog…great energy and ideas!

5. Mod Cloth. Not that I can afford any of these adorable dresses, but there’s usually no harm in looking…except for the times when I find one that’s almost out of stock and perfectly flattering for my curvaceous form. You can’t say no to that kind of perfection, my friend.

6. Idealist. Check it out if you’re looking for a job in the nonprofit sector!

7. Raclette.  This awesome, traditional Swiss dish that my friend recently introduced me to. The original recipe involved melting the cheese on rocks, but we used a modern Raclette grill, with little slots to melt the cheese, and a grill on top for the sausage!

8. Moleskin. Just like Hemingway. Except I finally found a not-too-expensive one that’s the perfect size with calendar space AND list space. Aha! (The bright spot to the demise of the local Borders: sales!).

9. Spring skiing. Mostly because there are $25 dollar days where you don’t freeze your butt off, you get some fresh tracks (albeit in, well, April snow) and there’s nobody on the mountain!

10. Dark chocolate Cadbury eggs: One of my favorite things about Easter–now in a slightly-healthier flavor! (Had to throw this one in honor of said upcoming holiday).

(If you hadn’t guessed, I still remain unemployed, except as a drudge for my dear mother).

Spring Cleaning

Although it doesn’t feel much like spring here (Montana in March…lots of slushy, flurry fun) it’s still time for some major cleaning in my life.

My cousin is coming to visit (yay! I just spent two months with her in Southeast Asia and the separation anxiety is rough) and in this household, every time a visitor comes the house must be scoured from top to bottom, a.k.a everything shoved under beds, into closets, and the guest room (at the moment, my room, but whatever) will be scrubbed and vacuumed.

You should know this about me now: I hate cleaning. I especially hate cleaning at my parents’ house, which has accumulated the massive amounts of crap left behind by three in-and-out college students and my pack-rat parents for almost twenty years now, which makes any kind of cleaning twice as annoying due to the need to shift the endless piles and piles. It’s definitely hypocritical of me to hate the cleaning because a lot of the piles are certainly mine, but I hate it anyway.

(My parents have always given me a lot of flack for being a pack-rat…but after helping my dad clean out his office and helping my mother clean out their closet, I have full proof of my genes screwing me over when I was still a twinkle in the eye).

So, in between interviews (still no job, although I actually have a few strong leads and might be getting paid to write soon) I have been dragging myself around the house, cleaning and organizing. I proudly filled an entire tub full of give-away clothes, many of which were unfortunately “why did I buy this?” or “when did I buy this?” or “is this seriously the shirt I was wearing in my yearbook picture when I was a sophomore in high school?”

One thing I’ve found to make scrubbing part of the process easier: Kaboom. It’s probably a little immature that I bought it just because it changes color (from purple to white) when it’s clean, but hey, it makes me actually do the cleaning, so that’s something, right?

Another reason for the (somewhat) deep cleaning is my impending relocation. I’m not officially moving yet, but it WILL happen (rah rah rah!). And when I actually get a job and do move away, I want the process to not take the entire summer, and I definitely do not want to merely shove my leftover belongings in the basement like the rest of my family, a crime I have also been committing for awhile now…is there any hope for me?

Okay, now that I’ve procrastinated some more, I feel guilty enough about not cleaning to propel me into working for oh, half an hour or so, nonstop!

Talk about rah, rah, rah!

Insider Interviews

I’ve had quite a few jobs in my young life–partly because I was a student for a good chunk of that, and ended up with a lot of seasonal jobs, and partly because I am always wanting to try out new things.

As you might figure with one who’s had over ten jobs in less than a decade, I’ve had about 3 times as many interviews. I’ve had wonderful interviews, weird interviews, mediocre ones, and terrible ones.

One interviewer said, at first glance, “You don’t look very outdoorsy,” which should have been a clue about what kind of boss he would be–it was an interview after all, so I pulled out all the stops, my red trench coat and brown boots included, even though it was for an outdoors magazine. (I did end up writing for him for a time, and still freelance for them occasionally, so the rest of the interview wasn’t awful, despite the fact, being a novice writer, I hadn’t thought to bring any writing samples. So at least I learned to bring those samples, and to take into account your audience before dressing for an interview).

I’ve also had an interview where the manager angrily interrupted everything I said; yet another where the boss mentioned he’d already met the person he wanted to hire, but his secretary forgot to cancel the rest of his interviews (which he neglected to mention until the interview was over…nice). One interview recently, which I thought went well, ended with the secretary hastily (and quite rudely) hanging up on me when I called later to inquire. Another recent interview, a job I didn’t want but had been convinced to interview for as it’s “good practice” ended with me shame-facedly saying I didn’t want the job, after it was offered to me within five minutes of my arrival.

Lately, I’ve had a million phone interviews, which to me, have pros and cons. For the pro column, I can pace my room and wear my pajamas (although quite a few people I’ve talked to dress up for phone interviews to get in the mindset, but I still prefer my jammies) but a major con is that I’m so much more charming face-to-face. Not that I can’t charm over the phone, but for some weird reason I always have better interviews over the phone with women than with men. Maybe men just aren’t as comfortable on the phone…or maybe my laugh just doesn’t tinkle through the line as prettily as I imagine, and fellow females can overlook that. One of the men also unfortunately heard my mother repeating “fun, fun, FUN!” in the background when she thought I was describing myself, and in actuality I was describing my ideal supervisor. I’m not sure the he knew what to think of a random voice hissing loudly in the background…another definite downside of phone interviews, especially when you live with my mother, who has zero respect for closed doors.

Speaking of fun, my latest interview–just taking place today, for a job in my home town I actually would enjoy–was a new experience for me. I was interviewed by four women who worked there, one of whom informed me it was “the funnest interview they’d ever had.” (No, I didn’t correct her grammar, although I desperately wanted to–it’s a compulsion).

It is a compliment, of which I am very grateful for (it’s nice to be fun after I spent many of my adolescent years painfully shy–I guess traveling has beaten that out of me) but I’m not sure what this means for the job. It’s a coveted position–over 200 applicants–and I don’t have specific experience, just the general variety, so I’m not sure what kind of chance I have. And I’m don’t know if “fun” is an adjective many would use to describe their ideal receptionist (even one at an animal hospital), but when I think about it, that’s really the only kind of receptionist I would want to be, anyway.