Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Time Machine

Recovery from care giving is taking longer than I thought.

Not recovery from mourning a loss - although I still miss mom every single day.  No, this particular "recovery" is more related to my current life ... more of a constant discovery of where I am in the aftermath of care giving.

Don't get me wrong ... I can't imagine making different choices for the last 10 years.  Nope!  I would do it all again.  But I must have naively thought when all this care giving stuff passed into my personal history, I would just pull up my "big girl" panties, square my shoulders ...  and move on with  life exactly as I planned when I was 50.

Reality has been different.  It is more like a time machine experience.

When I stepped into the care giving time machine I was in my late 50s.  I was working and looking forward to all the free time and activities of a planned retirement.  Now I have stepped out of the time machine. I am ten years older.  The landscape of my life has changed - inside and outside.  My previous plans seem to have drifted away like a puff of smoke.

And strangely that is ok!

I suspect that this is nature's way of slowing down the "busy-bee mentality of living" and making space for a more mindful life.  Instead of running around checking off my retirement list of to-dos, I find my days naturally shifting in a different direction.

***

I can hear the comments rattling around out there.
  
"Huh oh!
She has lost it.
What the heck is she talking about?
Did she read this in a book somewhere?
Is she drifting into a esoteric space?"

In my defense I guess this is what happens when you have the time to think about things.  Weird stuff pops out.  :-)  But stick with me a bit longer.

***

Looking at the arc of my life from the 30,000 foot perspective - it looks like this:

Rocky childhood
Good health
Education
Stable marriage
Wonderful kids 
Professional success
Good friends
Nice abode
Dedicated care giver
Retired.
Good health (still)
Family Longevity

In the grand scheme of life, I am one of the luckier individuals on this planet.   Other than my early years and my care giving experience,  my life followed a predictable and satisfying pattern.

So the real question is ... what now?

I thought I had the answer to that question - I had retirement nailed!  Topping the list of activities was travel, volunteer work, a fun part time job, hiking .... just to name a few.  But I don't have this period nailed down at all.  My retirement plans seem jumbled and not in sync with where I am at right now.  And I think I know what happened!

 Mother Nature stepped in while I wasn't looking and said ...
 "Hey you, listen up!
You have slipped into the arc of your life
where things are processed differently
 in your mind
 and in your body.
You need to respect that.
So get over yourself!"

Ahh, thank you very much, Mother Nature, for that in-your-face reminder!  I didn't build any of that into my retirement planning.

Now my retirement has a more realistic focus:

Stretch those muscles every night so you can walk upright every morning.
Gently greet the new day and don't expect too much before coffee.
Keep walking so you can stay on your own two legs.
Eat carefully so your stomach doesn't punish you.
Drink water - dehydration is not your friend.
Simplify. Simplify.  Simplify.
Enjoy friends and family.
Read.
Knit.
Think.
Gracefully accept the gift of a long life by respecting the body that got you there.
And thank Mother Nature.  She really does know best.

If I could still have a wish list ... it would have only one bullet point:

  • Live in a world where the elderly are respected and relevant.


(Hmm... thinking, thinking)

Balder Dash!
Get rid of wishes.  They are a waste of time!

 I don't care about what the world thinks.
Respect your self, I say.
Don't see my worth?
Good riddins to you!
Your loss!
Step aside.
 You are in my way!
:-)

Yep!  That time machine has changed ALL my landscapes!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Silly Season - A Rant!

I can't believe we are approaching the very early stages of another election season.  The "silly season" is what I call this time of year, but I won't bore you with all the reasons why I picked this label. Elections are a necessary function in a representative government, even if our particular process is flawed and frustrating.

In fact,
 this post is going to be
 "A RANT!!"  

Sorry, I don't rant here very often.  Actually my only other rant was October 2010 - same topic.  Guess two rants in 5 years isn't too bad.  But if you want to skip this post, I don't mind.  However, when a blogger warns that their post will be a RANT, I find it hard to turn away.  Like a car wreck ... I feel the need to slow down to see what happened, but I really don't want to see what happened, but I look anyway, but I wish I hadn't, but I would do it  ... and so on and so on.  Oh well.

You were warned!
Here I go.

OH . MY . DEAR . GOD!!

How I totally hate the circus our political election process has become.  Lost are things like civility, fact finding, balanced and fair exchange of ideas, comparison of issues,  respect for different positions, intelligent research, and polite debate.

All of the above have been replaced by insults, belligerent name calling, and slanted opinions that slip into outright lies about political figures and their positions.  Enormous sums of money are wasted on attack TV ads, hand outs, and campaign signs that end as litter on our roadways.  Really??  Does anyone make up their mind on who to vote for based on a card board sign with a name on it??  Let's not forget the invasive political robo phone calls that squeeze themselves into our lives between with other unsolicited calls.  I don't even understand how the huge TV spectacles of conventions promote anything useful beyond whipping up the electorate into a frenzy.  All that money and time wasted just to draw attention.

It is a nightmare to me.

On top of that, even when the election is over, we have become a nation of disrespectful, finger pointing citizens who seem to take joy in saying simply awful insulting things about our elected leaders.  It seems in the eyes of some of us, our current leaders can do absolutely NOTHING right.  If we don't agree with their political positions, then they must be wrong about EVERYTHING.

That particular national trait makes me nuts.

I am not a Democrat or Republican.  I proudly identify as an independent because I don't believe one political party has all the answers just as I don't believe any one person is all good or all bad.  All of us are shades of gray with some sterling moments tossed into the mix.  Sure, there are a rare few elected officials who get caught putting themselves above the law or in unethical situations.  But generally people enter public service with good intentions.  At least I like to think so.

Another frustration for me is social media.  Wow.  How entitled and free some people feel as they slam our leaders in the "Public Court Room of Facebook."  Some postings are so unbelievably ridiculous.  Comments generated are completely appalling!  All that poison get shared with thousands of people, usually bringing out the worst in us.  How can reasonable thinking people identify a sitting president as an "SOB, hateful, Evil, the worst president ever," just to name a few terrible labels.  Come on, folks!  These are completely unacceptable labels for a person who was elected to the office by us, the citizens.  You may not have voted for him or her, and you may not agree with the current leader's ideas, but "evil?"  Really?  And as for "the worst president ever," I doubt the general public knows enough presidential history to make an educated guess at who is the worst.   While I do recognize that some elected officials have been caught in discretions that are wrong or shameful, the vast majority of our elected officials are citizens just like us doing the best they can in impossible situations.  So Social Media folks - back the heck off - and use words that don't make you look ignorant.

I try hard to keep my own personal criticisms of the Presidents limited, as being President is probably the hardest job ever.  I don't have access to all the relevant facts on many decisions to qualify me as expert enough to take cheap shots at the person we have put in charge.  Staying on top of and coordinating all the details of national decisions is a full time job that most of us don't have the background or time for.  That is why our government has a full time job for doing just that ... it is called "President."  And if you don't think this job is difficult, just look at each retiring President as they leave office.  They age considerably doing what we elected them to do - that aging didn't happen because the job was easy.

And how about all the criticisms we send towards our elected Congress!  I will agree that they have become stalled along party lines and really aren't earning their salaries.  But how can we expect congress to come together and work for the common good if we, the people they represent, have become stalled and derisive, and don't feel committed to working for the common good either.  Sometimes I wonder if Congress is just a mirror image of us.

Depressing.

Maybe it has always been like this ... but to my eye, it seems to be getting worse with each year.    Maybe the curmudgeon in me is coming out.  I don't know.

But I do know this ... if we don't find a way to be civil and work together effectively during and after an election - then our country is mostly bluster - not substance.  And "bluster" cannot be the leader of the Free World - at least not for long.  It will be our Achilles heel as a nation.

I know I have painted a sad picture in very simplistic terms.  Not everyone behaves as badly as I have described.  Otherwise I would consider packing my bags and moving to Canada (Canada would let me in ... right, Delores??)   :-)  But the "badly behaving individuals" are the loudest.  They overshadow the quiet majority.

Ok,
I think I am done now.
Rant is over.
It didn't change anything, but 
I feel lighter!
Everyone needs to do that once in awhile.

If you stuck around to the very end, thank you.  Feel free to vent back, agree or disagree, etc.  This post was my personal opinion and I know opinions vary.  I would love to hear yours.

While you do that - I will be building my virtual hibernation hole until the "silly season" passes in late 2016!


Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20 - A Five Year Blog-a-versary.

Today is my 5th Blog-a-versary!

Gosh.  Five years!
Has that much time passed
 since I sent a first post out into the blog-a-sphere??

I recently paged through a few old posts.  I changed a lot inside since those early days.

A bit of naval gazing seems appropriate now.

My blog was launched in 2010 during a busy and sad time of my life.  I was buried deep in elder-care issues for my mom having slipped into that role in 2006.  But by 2010 I was drowning in it.  Solitary  full time elder caregiving can devour you in a way that is hard to put into words.  It is a slow depressing slide down hill for the senior and the caregiver.  In 2010 I felt I was waving a white flag in the battle to maintain both our lives.   I was looking for a safe place to hold the "me-things" that were slipping off my radar.  This blog was my life preserver ... literally a preserver of a life I was putting on hold.

And it worked.

I wrote about everything including things important to me - not me, the caregiver, - but me, the "used-to-be" working professional, wife, mother, crafter, walker, friend ... the me who was still interested in everything life had to offer ... but had to put it most of it aside to be me, the caregiver and daughter.  That receptacle of "me" was this blog.

But even with that goal, in 2011 my mom started to take center stage here as well.  I felt compelled to share the struggles and the emotional turmoil I was holding inside.  I needed to let go of some of it in a controlled bleed rather than an explosive eruption.  That slow controlled bleed of pressure was a  series of blog posts called Through My Care Giver Eyes.   Writing allowed me to put some space between me and the life I was leading.  It helped me to look at things through my mom's eyes and see that all this struggle was ours together.   It cemented my love and commitment to her even after I had to let let go of her primary care to Brooke Grove Assisted Living.  I felt closer to her in the writing process.  We were walking this path together ... to the end.

In hindsight, I am glad for other reasons that I wrote about that journey.  Now that she is gone ...  those posts and memories serve another purpose.  The blog holds the story how I changed as a person because of her.  It also holds those precious life experiences that would fade from memory with time unless they were written down.  What started as a coping mechanism, became a tribute to the woman who was my mom.

The decision to bring mom into my home have far reaching impacts to this day.  Some of life's opportunities have passed beyond my reach because of that decision. Delaying things so many years at my age does not allow much wiggle room in achieving bucket list accomplishments.  But I don't mourn that loss.  Some life goals we choose for ourselves are frivolous with no real value.  The role of caregiver that I naively adopted with an open heart ranks up there for me with motherhood.  I made a difference in the life of someone else.

And I learned like never before about myself.  The world did not end when I pushed back on authority, when I let my rough edges show, and when I walked away from unsupportive relationships.  A black hole did not swallow me up when I fired a physician, demanded accountability and questioned medical opinion.  I am now more results-driven, less worried about what others think, stronger in relying on my own decisions,  and more reflective on what is really important.

Did all these changes make me a more like-able person?  Probably not.  I still have trouble filtering the comments that escape from my brain.  I have less patience and understanding for some people.  But I am more at peace with myself - because my life has value in my own eyes.  My life had value to my mom especially towards the end when she had lost everything else.  

This blog holds all that for me.

In other five years, what will be housed here, will there be another evolution of me tapping on the computer keys ... hard to know.  I might not even be blogging.  I don't focus as much on the future.  I try to live in the "now."   But I am so grateful to have captured a small important part of my past in this space and a small part but important part of my mom's past resides here with me as well.

Something to cherish.

Happy Anniversary, dear blog.
Thank you readers for being there.






Sunday, July 19, 2015

Love runs deep ...



... when you give your heart to a pet.

On this day a year ago, we lost a piece of our soul ... our family's soul.

Meathead, my son's English Bull Dog and my grand dog, passed away at his home a year ago.  He left such a big hole in all our hearts.  To this day we still mourn his death.

A looker!!
Meaty as a younger guy - charming, yet a stud muffin even from day one.
A few pictures of a short life well lived as a devoted family member.  

Cared for.
Struggled with bath time, but don't we all.

Pampered.
His grandmother always made sure there was a pillow to rest his chin on.

Devoted.
Recovering with his Papa from a near death illness
one year before he died.
One of my favorite pictures.

Adored.
Tucked firmly away in his Aunt's heart.
Such an old old guy in this picture.

Dear Meathead,
Rest in peace my sweet grand boy.
Your time with us was too short.  
But I know you stuck around as long as you possibly could,
  even though the last years were hard for you.
  Although I have many questions surrounding the afterlife
 I never doubt for a single minute that you are there waiting somewhere
for your family
 in whatever serves as a "heaven."
The thought of anything else is just too painful to bear.

Love,
Grandma  



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ten on Tuesday - Home

I follow Paula on Smidgens, Snippets and Bits.  She participates in a few writing prompts blogs.  I enjoy reading these but seldom feel inspired to participate.  This Tuesday was different.

Ten on Tuesday is found at CaroleKnits.net.  She knits.  :-)  So do I.  She also is Photographer, and so am I, except she is good and I am just a point-and-shoot kind of girl.  She is a Photographer and I am a photographer.  (see the difference??)  hmmm ... me neither.  She is a Photographer.  Period.

Anyway, on Tuesdays she hosts Ten on Tuesday and this week's topic is home.  I was hooked.  I recently blogged a lot about my home.

So here is my entry for why I love my home.

View from my living room window.
I love ...
  1. that I have lived here for 30 years and so much of my life history is tattooed on the walls of this abode
  2. that my townhouse sits up from the street - on a terraced hill that gives beauty as well as space from the road - unusual for a townhouse - and that my townhouse backs to woods - again, rare for townhouse living.
  3. that my townhouse is in a well maintained quiet community with good neighbors
  4. that my kitchen is small by current standards - small but big ... functional
  5. that my mortgage has been paid off since 2002 - that saved us when both my husband and I got laid off from our jobs at the same time in 2003 - hows that for timing
  6. that after 2 years of effort - the house is painted through out, hardwood floors put in (heaven) and majorly decluttered creating space and peace in my brain - YES!
  7. that my back and front yards are small - mulch, no grass - so no mowing either.
  8. that my townhouse was big enough to provide temporary shelter to 5 family members at separate times when they needed help
  9. that my townhouse has a room totally dedicated to (and filled to the brim at times) my passions of knitting and weaving and spinning. Ok ...  spinning is more of a future passion but you get the idea.
  10. that my 68 year old legs are strong from climbing all the steps inside and out for years and years and years.  I hate the steps on grocery day, but when I am 80 I will hopefully be able to stand on two legs - not three (cane) or four (walker) or no legs (wheel chair.)  I think of it as a personal gift from my house to me
So, there you go.

That was fun!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sons of Anarchy or The Tale of a Biker Family

Tonight I will be watching the the finale of The Sons of Anarchy.

I typically "watch TV" using Netflix, which means I hardly ever watch shows when they are aired.  I love to just sit down and watch 2 or 3 episodes of a TV show for an evening's entertainment while I am exercising or knitting.  And then repeat the next night and the next, until I am done.

Typically I seek out series that run for multiple seasons and have 4 or 5 stars in the rating system.  I figure if a TV series has been renewed over and over again - it must have some kind of drawing power, quality, high entertainment value ... and so far using the criteria of high ratings and long runs has not failed me.

But back to The Sons of Anarchy.

I am not into guns or motorcycles or violence. And I passed over watching this show several times because I am just not into stories that focus on an outlaw motor cycle gang/club family.  I couldn't imagine that it would be anything I would want to watch.

BUT, I am here to tell you this series has been totally absorbing.  Last night I was up until 11:30 and would have watched the final episode - but I was just dog-tired.  So I saved the finale for tonight.

The cast is amazing.

Katey Sagal (Married with Children fame) plays Gemma Teller Morrow and is phenomenal in this part.  She plays the matriarchal biker mom to a "T".  A very beefy role for her.

Charlie Hunnam
Charlie Hunnam plays her son, Jax Teller.  He steps into the role of leader over the course of the series.  He starts out very normal-ish for a biker club member with the goal to make the club more legitimate, but he eventually evolves into a violent, sad and tragic person.  He is also extremely extremely handsome, don't you think?  :-)  Ron Perlman plays, Gemma's husband, Clay Morrow, and is the club leader at the beginning of the series.

I am not upset by blood or violence or nudity or sex - if you are ... this is not the show for you. But the drama and story are incredibly compelling and those elements are totally fitting in this story.

On the up side, there is talk that there will be a prequel to The Sons of Anarchy which would be great!  But right now it is just in the planning.

So now I am looking for future viewing suggestions from you.

I have already seen all of (or all that is currently available:)

Dexter
House of Cards
The West Wing
The Walking Dead
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
Outlander
Bones
Castle
Scandal
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Sopranos

As you can see, my interests are very very broad.

So let me hear what you think is good.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

In an earlier post I recommended a web site called Miss Minimalist.   As the title suggest, her focus is the minimalist life style.

She has written several books on this topic.   The Joy of Less, A minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, by Francine Jay is the book I just finished.



My overall impression - this is a good reference book on minimalism.  She writes very well.  She has a practical organized approach.  She doesn't swing to extremes in her advice.  Of course, if you are new to this idea, you might find some advice daunting - like emptying your closet of everything as a first step to minimizing your clothes.   But that advice is consistent with all other authors and it is an effective first step.  For folks new to the topic of simplicity and minimalism, this is a great book.  For everyone else, it is an informative and organized approach worth your time.

I wouldn't say there were any magic bullets in this presentationfor achieving your own level of minimalism.  Clean out your stuff, manage what comes in and "walk the talk" every day.  Just like dieting - no magic bullets - eat less, move more.

It is just too bad it isn't that easy.  That is where the book helps greatly to organize your efforts and increase success.

There are 4 basic sections:

  • Philosophy
  • Streamline (Trash, Treasure, Transfer)
  • Room by Room
  • Life Style.   
I feel the most important section is Philosophy.  Once you understand and adopt why minimalism makes life better, efforts to reach it are not so hard.  Rather than expounding the details - I have listed the chapter headings - as they describe the high level points better than anything I could write.

Philosophy
See your stuff for what it is
You are not what you own
Less stuff = Less stress
Less stuff = More freedom
Become detached from your stuff
Be a good gatekeeper
Embrace space
Enjoy without owning
The joy of enough
Live Simply, so that others may simply live - Mahatma Gandhi

While I totally recommend this book - it is just a guide.  It all comes down to "the doing."  After the Philosophy section - the rest of the book is about "the doing."  Good advice in a logical package.

The act of doing (rather than reading about doing) is where people get tripped up.  It is not the owning or the reading or the talking about the book that gets you to the goal.  It is the doing!  And doing takes time.  If you can't devote the time, nothing you read will make a difference.  And there really are no short cuts to devoting the time.  No magic bullet.  If you devote the time and change your life style, you can do or be anything you want.

A short personal story that illustrates this point.

When I was a young stay-at-home mother, I had a friend and neighbor who was a stay-at-home mother too. We were about the same age.  We each had two children about the same ages.  Our townhouses were exactly the same.  We visited each other's houses, regularly share lunch together, let the kids play, etc.   Her house was always immaculate, organized, comfortable and (most importantly) simple.  My house was pretty much the opposite.  One day I was sitting at her kitchen table while she prepared lunch, and I really watched what she did.  She continued to visit with me as she worked.  She was engaged with the kids.  But she was also not idle.  She put things away, she wiped counters, she kept puttering and she did this all automatically while we visited.  I never noticed how much she got done while she visited.  I doubt she was aware either. It was her default movement around in her own house.  When I left - everything in her house was picked up and clean.  When she visited me, I usually spent about an hour or more after she left doing what she did naturally as part of her routine.

A minimalism life style looks a little like that.  Just part of your life style.  It is part of your everyday decision making.  It is not a separate action (except for the initial purge.)

Hope you will take the time to check out Francine Jay's book.

Get educated.  It is a very good resource and an excellent step 1 if you are considering this journey.

"Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is far more conducive to a minimalist lifestyle. 
 If we recognize the abundance in our lives, 
and appreciate what we have, 
we will not want for more.  
We simply need to focus on what we have,
 rather than what we don't have."  
Francine Jay

Post script:
I did read another best seller called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.   While I feel Ms. Kondo's book was ok, it did seem to slip into what I consider excessive attention to minor details.  For example: the organization of a sock drawer.  I can get on board with keeping the quantity of socks to a reasonable limit - and I agree that all socks should be in one place (i.e. a sock drawer.)  But she goes to some lengths to recommend the proper folding and arrangement of socks in the sock drawer.  That level of detail was too much for me.  I suspect cultural influences are at play here.  My own bias also shows in my reaction I guess. My mother-in-law lived her life in excessive levels of detail.  If you opened her kitchen drawer you would find her spoons, knives and forks all lined up carefully placed on their sides - spooning.  If she was still alive, she would be very comfortable with Ms. Kondo's methods.

It has been awhile since I read this book.  But it didn't make the same impression on me that The Joy of Less did.   However, no one resource has all the answers.  And no one style of minimalism fits everyone.   Ms. Kondo's description of the management of a sock drawer must have resonated with a lot of people - it is a best seller.  Different strokes ...

Read it and decide for yourself.