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

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Resorting" to launch 2012

Resorting ...
that is what my life seems to be about now.

A lot of time has been spent resorting
... like space ...
our upstairs den is a good example. It used to be mom's sitting room, but now it is my craft room.

The desk in this picture is mom's desk. We tried to get it into her assisted living room, but it wouldn't fit. So it now resides in my craft room. I use it to file mom's important papers and to do her minimal bill paying and bookkeeping.

There are no before pictures, but here are some after pictures.

This closet shows only half of the space my yarn stash occupies. Slide the door to the left and the other half is just as full - floor to ceiling. I was feeling pretty good about squeezing all the yarn into this closet ... very good, until I found another pocket of sock yarn stash that isn't in this closet. It looks like this ...

Yes, that is all sock yarn! Enough yarn to make 80+ pairs of socks!!
Where that bunch of yarn is going, I haven't figured out yet, but the closet is full up!!
Right now it is sitting on the floor of the craft room
making me feel guilty for having so much stash.

All my knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving books are gathered together in this new craft space. That feels pretty good. Easy to see and use.

On top of that book case is my weaving loom all folded up. Once the dust settles on all this stuff shifting, I want to set up the loom again. Beside the loom is a stack of magazines and patterns that need to be sorted and filed.

My filing system is loose leaf binders sorted by project type.
There is probably a bunch of stuff in there I could get rid of
given the time to sort through it all.

And my spinning wheel is now housed safely on a round table near the yarn and the fiber.
It is dusty and I need to give it a little loving attention. But it is nice to see it out where I could easily use it without interference from the various pets.
This picture also shows the other side of the overly full yarn closet.

And I still maintain mom's bedroom - the room that now houses most of her earthly belongings. It is ready for guests - since mom probably can never sleep there again. It still makes me a little sad when I walk in knowing that she doesn't reside there anymore. But she has adapted fairly well to her new room and home, so the "problem" of occupancy appears to be mine alone. It will fade with time I know.
But I fear the hole left in my life and heart, while smaller, will always be there.

I am spending a lot of time moving other stuff around as well.
Although I am not a hobby cook, I do cook every day.
My cookbooks have never had an adequate home.

Initially they were in a book case in the living room, then in a book case in the basement (a worse location), and then stacked in a kitchen cabinet ... closer to the action, but hard to see and harder to use. Our eat in kitchen no longer needs space for a walker,
so I brought up an old book case from the basement.
And for someone who doesn't care much about cooking, I have a lot of cookbooks.

I am "resorting" my alone time. I have really missed my walks. It is alone time and thinking time. So for the umpteenth time, I am heading back to walking. My little walking icon at the top of my blog doesn't show the 1.4 miles I walked today! I guess I am not working the app right. Or maybe the little person on the graph is bent over in laughter at the 1.4 miles I logged and can't catch her breath to show the total ... after all the goal is 1,000 miles by December 31, 2012. I only need to do 998.6 more miles! Only!! :-)

Other alone time is also changing. I used to value the hours between 8:00 pm and midnight. My mother and husband would have gone to their rooms for the night and I would putter around doing this and that. Now I find my body slowing down and settling into the quiet before sleep - around 10:00 pm. That evening time doesn't seem as precious as it once did.

Maybe I am focused on "just keeping busy" so my mind doesn't settle on stuff I can't control. Maybe I am finally free enough to do some long over due stuff.
Maybe I am resorting my empty nest to change the look and feel and push away emotions.

All I know is that at the end of the day I am very tired from all the "resorting."

Welcome to the new year everyone.

Welcome 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 In Sight

Every year I say: I am not going to make resolutions or goals. And I do it anyway!

I have come to accept that goal making, having to-do lists (which in reality is what a yearly list of goals), is part of who I am. No list, no goals ... no forward progress.

So a short look backward seems appropriate now.

In 2011 I had these simple ideas:
  • Get focused - Who the heck knows if I achieved that!
  • Use 5,000 yards of yarn - I had an embarrassing amount of yarn in January 2011. It is more embarrassing now. (Retail therapy is a terrible thing.) I used about 4,000 yards of yarn this year but since I obtained about 22,000 yards of new stuff, I lost ground. I enjoyed every minute of getting it, however. Yarn collector! That is what I am.
  • Get Spinning - *sigh* - I suspect this was not a good year to establish new hobby habits.
  • Get Weaving - better success there. I finished a hand loom weaving project for my mom, a scarf for me, and I have a Weave-It blanket about 1/3 complete. But I didn't make much progress on my new rigid hettle loom.
  • Complete Yarn Projects - here I accomplished more than I thought. I finished 1 pair of socks, but I ripped out the partially made sweater. I made Milo his dog sweater and completed both a shawl for mom and a sweater for me. I also finished some wash clothes and two brain slugs.
So as far as planned achievements go, I did ok. What is not showing on this list is all the stuff I plowed through with mom. Thank God I couldn't see into the future to add all that stuff to my yearly to-do list. I would have just closed up shop and left the country.

This year I am keeping it simple again - 3 goals.
  • Get Walking - I want to walk 1000 miles in 2012. While that number seems like a very big number, it isn't. Based on 3 miles a day, I could 1100 miles. I know initially I will miss some days and probably not even do 3 miles, but as the weeks pass I should be able to do more and reach that goal. And to that end, I have placed a little walking person at the top of my blog. It will help me stay focused on moving forward.
  • Keep knitting, weaving, spinning - stay connected to crafting so my emotional life doesn't stagnate like it did this past year. Five completed projects of something would be nice. Oh, and use 5,000 yards of yarn.
  • Empty Nesters - with mom's move to a new residence, our lives are changing. Some space within our home and our life has opened up. Hard to know what to-dos will evolve from this massive change, but it is a goal I recognize as important this year. Initially I have gained back a little living space. Mom's bedroom in my home is still hers. Even though she cannot physically reach that space, it contains the important things of her life that she chose not to take with her to assisted living. But her den has now become my new craft space. Too soon to report on that effort, but I hope to sometime in January. We are still sorting through the clutter (yes, I still have tons of it - even after the massive clean outs of 2011). New motto: Less is More (except for yarn, of course.)
So the "to-do girl" with the lists and goals still lives on. I am glad to see she still can look forward.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eve of Memories

A Christmas Eve like no other for me.

I can't help be disappointment that mom is not home for Christmas. Her inability to climb steps has changed so much for both of us. Although I am ready to shed the old habits and traditions, but I can't help but desire her presence in my home during this season.

When I look at my Christmas tree, I see reflected many past Christmases when my heart was heavy because of other missing family. But I see other happy reflections as well.

Meathead's picture on a ceramic ornament.

Our tree has symbols of all the things that are important to us.
Most are cat and dog ornaments collected over the years.

It may not be obvious, but that is a pug dressed as Santa Claus.
Pugs love to wear clothes!
Grimace would happily wear an outfit like this.

Several ornaments represent the years my son served in the military
and couldn't be with us. Those were very hard years for me.
My heart goes out to those family this night.

And cat ornaments have graced our tree for all the 42 years of our marriage.
In fact, for most years, cat ornaments were the entire theme.

We have the hand made ornaments as well.
Here is one made by mom many years ago.

We have the traditional Santas.

And the not so traditional Santas (a cat, of course)

The other not-so-seasonal beings that grace my holiday this year are my grand-dogs.
They care not one twit if things are decorated or what gifts are wrapped.
They are happy to be with their "peoples." The rest is unimportant.

And that is how I feel this season.

Thank you for visiting my blog this year during so much of my upheaval and turmoil.
I may not be able to gather all my "peoples" around me this holiday,
but I have got most them.

I am blessed!

Mom, you are missed.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookies and Sun Set

Today I did the only baking I planned to do for the holiday season - chocolate chip cookies for my husband. And while the cookies were cooling, he wandered through the kitchen and commented, "Ahh, chocolate chip cookies. A sign of the season!"

The kitchen is not my favorite room nor do my favorite activities occur there. But when I am working in there I usually get a small "gift" from nature out of my window. Usually the birds entertain me.

Not this time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter is my season

Christmas Newsletters have been sent, gifts are purchased and wrapped (finally), tree is decorated. Food shopping is done, a visit to the liquor store also completed (got wine and some Bailey's - a special treat for Christmas Eve).

We have barely 2 days left. Left on my Christmas To-Do list? Put away the groceries I bought (*sigh*), bake chocolate cookies, take mom for a Christmas Eve lunch at a restaurant, Christmas Eve dinner to make and Christmas Day morning Mass with mom. Then I am done!

Well, ... at least for the weekend.

We have a Christmas party in early January with friends and family at my house which is part of our holiday celebration.

After that party, the Christmas tree and holiday decorations get packed away and we settle into "Glorious January." Have I mentioned recently that I am a winter lover? Well, I am.

I love everything about winter.
  • I love the cold weather when you can snuggle down in your home or head outside bundled up in your long winter coat (mine is from L.L. Bean - I will feature my wonderful new winter coat in a future post) that covers you from the top of your head down to your ankles.
  • I love the threat and the reality of snow storms - everything looks so clean and simple covered in snow. I don't even mind shoveling snow. All the neighbors are out - it is a great community building opportunity.
  • I love being home bound when the roads aren't passable. Yes, I have a wonderful new Subaru that can easily handle the snow and I am a great snow driver ... but I choose to be snow bound!!! Don't challenge the logic of this thinking! :-)
  • I love wearing my hand knit wool items to keep warm. I especially love knitting them in my home while the winds are blowing strongly outside.
  • I love feeding the birds who have chosen to stay close to my home because I feed them in the cold weather. I feel a responsibility to those little lives.
  • I love the long shadows of bare trees caused by the lower level sun in the sky and the long cold winter nights sleeping under thick quilt. The darkness reminds me that I am on a massive planet with ebbs and flows of light and dark.
  • I love the comfort foods of winter: chili, stew, mac and cheese. I know, where are the fresh veggies of summer? Ok, you can't have everything.
Yes, I am eager to get past the pressures of the holiday season with its unending to-do lists and settle into the predictable, quiet, and cosy winter months.

I am a child of winter.

Winter is my season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lights, camera ... knit ... behind bars

Yes, I said behind bars -
not drinking bars -
jail-like bars!

I belong to a large local knitting group called Columbia Sip and Knit. Members number over 400. I know you must be wondering - how does jail and knitting link together!!

Be patient.

Our founder, Lynn, started with no members on that very first day several years ago and built Columbia Sip and Knit into the massive following she now coordinates. But no sooner did that endeavor take off, than she was looking towards another goal. She knew the value of knitting as a personal stress reliever. She saw the community feeling that this craft encouraged. And she was a dynamic personality with a big (and unusual) idea. To her mind, a "simple" challenge ... teaching male prisoners to knit and discover how calming and meditative the craft can be.

I can hear your thoughts now.

Guys on the wrong side of the law, guys who have tattooed messages on their bodies, guys who live in the challenging and sometimes ugly environment of prison - those guys - they would never pick up needles to knit. A girly hobby? Never. And initially she heard that from the wardens. Fortunately she marches to her own drum. She persisted. And she finally succeeded with one warden (a woman warden in a man's prison - let's hear it for women) and Knitting Behind Bars was born.

Her program is going strong after several years. She visits weekly for two hours with prisoners in a pre-release program. She quickly reminds new-bees that knitting began as a male activity - invented by males - and that male knitters are gaining in numbers once again. They knit comfort dolls for rescue workers to give to traumatized children and they have expanded their projects to knitted hats for kids in lower income city schools. These men are learning to give back to their community in a positive way. It is also hoped that this positive skill may help them cope when they step outside prison life and back into society.

And here is the real kicker of this story ... there is a waiting list of men who want to be a part of this group! It doesn't get any better than that.

Lynn, joined by her knitting buddy, Sheila are really making a difference.

At our Tuesday meeting this week, Lynn and Sheila were interviewed by a web based news group called Bus52. Bus52 is a year long project (52 weeks) for 5 individuals traveling around the US in a bus highlighting stories of people who have are making a difference. Knitting Behind Bars will be one of their stories.

Check out their web site starting in January 2012.

And so ... there were big lights.

There was a serious looking camera.

Sheila on the left, Lynn on the right.

There were mikes with wires attached to your body - just like a TV anchor!!

And there was Lynn sharing her story. This wasn't her first interview either. Here is one other link - there are others, but these two give you the flavor of the program.

I will highlight this wonderful story again - with the video, pictures and the interview when it launches in January 2012.
Child's hat made by a prisoner in the Knitting Behind Bars program.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Catching Up, "dumbing down!"

Life is starting to settle into a routine once again. (You know, I really envy folks whose lives fall into a routine - and stay there! Maybe that will be me someday!)

But mostly I feel like I am catching up and dumbing down!
  • My house is mostly clean. I would say that if the cats stopped shedding hair and we didn't use the toilets, it would stay that way. Some spaces are not up to snuff - but that is what doors are for - right?
  • My Christmas newsletters are done, stuffed in envelopes, addressed, stamped and in the mail box. WooHoo!! What is amazing is that I reached this stage before Christmas.
  • My Christmas shopping is complete. Yeah! And Double Yeah for the Internet. Man, I so hate shopping malls this time of year. Still need to wrap stuff, but I am not struggling to buy "just one more thing." No stockings this year either.
  • The Christmas tree is decorated. And mom's assisted living room is decorated too. And after Christmas, I am seriously going to discard any decorations that haven't been out of their boxes for years. Why am I keeping all that stuff? And I am seriously thinking of a smaller tree for next year.
  • Christmas cookies? I used to make several types, but it has come down to just chocolate chip cookies now - my husband's favorite. Last year I made liver cookies for my grand-dogs. I had them sitting out on the counter to cool down and I moved on to other things. My husband drifted through the kitchen and then found me in the living room. His comment? "Those aren't chocolate chips cookies are they," he asked while still chewing. :-) Liver cookies are pretty unremarkable cookies ... unless you are a dog! So chocolate chips will be made before Christmas eve. I'll skip the rest. Don't need the calories and can't resist eating them if they are made. I'll struggle enough with the chocolate chips in the house. And the grand-dogs? They aren't all that particular. They eat tomatoes for treats and are happy!

Really ... there is nothing wrong with dumbing down or simplifying!
Life is complex enough without adding additional layers to it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Empty Nester Fills Her Day

So it occurred to me a few days ago that I finally reached the status of an "empty nester."

Although my "children" left home many years ago, I always seemed to have others residing with me ... either returning children for short periods or another relative. And I have always welcomed those new residents. But now my kids are independent and other possible residents have thinned out. It is just my husband and I.

I guess my husband and I will get a chance to see if we can still make it together! :-) Actually the stresses of the last year have tested this 42 year old marriage in ways I never imagined ... and we are still together. I doubt our lives now will result in anything different. A comfort!

Of course, mom is still very much a part of my day. I see her almost daily for about 2 hours. Some visits are difficult with moodiness and anger - emotions unusual for her. Some visits, like today, are pretty good. She seemed happy to see me, we had a chance to visit privately, and we joined other residents for a game later in the morning. She will be riding out to see Christmas Lights with others from Brooke Grove this evening. She probably is looking forward to that.

I am busy sorting through the "caves of possessions" in my home for both mom and myself in an effort to clean out and thin out "stuff". Mom has boxes in her closets that she never unpacked 5 years ago. The time is right to go through the boxes - get rid of stuff she can't use and probably doesn't remember - and bring items to her that she might enjoy. My own possessions continue to "reproduce" at an alarming rate. Sorting through our stuff has been an ongoing activity this year (especially when I was upset - which was often), and shedding stuff will continue. The Den in my basement is so full, it should be considered unsafe. Now mostly what is down there is yarn and fiber - so a falling injury is unlikely, but a smothering event is possible. :-)

And yesterday I got a piece of mail I have been expecting. My Medicare Card from the Department of Health and Human Services. Isn't it wonderful that the Federal Government thought to remind me of my advancing age!!! Oh well, 2012 is the year when I turn 65. I guess it is time.

I am behind on Christmas stuff, but in my new mode of simplifying and stepping out from under the weight of traditions, I am not stressed by the impending holiday. For Christmas this year, we will take mom out for lunch on Christmas Eve. Our "big", but small dinner on Christmas Eve will be our family celebration with gift giving after dinner. Maybe my kids will plan to spend the night like last year. That was great fun. Of course, my son and his fiancee must balance the needs of 2 families now. Christmas morning I will return to take mom to mass. Christmas Day dinner will be left overs. I think this Christmas will work out just fine.

And for a change, I am looking at things that I can add back into my life instead of what I did this year - dropping things. Knitting and blogging have returned. I think about my loom with a newly started project on it from last May. Weaving has passed my mind frequently. I am thinking about walking again and maybe returning to Tai Chi in the spring. And when I get up in the morning I am so very stiff. It reminds me that Yoga was a part of my life at one time and it made a huge difference in how I felt. Yes, I can see a number of things in my future. In fact, it amazes me how many things I stopped in 2011.

My personal sadness is lifting a bit as I see mom beginning to adjust to her new home. Today the nursing assistant said that mom is a very pleasant and a happy person. So despite the occasional sad face she shows me, I know she is putting down roots.

My empty nest is fairly quiet now, but my brain is buzzing with possibilities.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coping ... and keeping busy.

I feel like my life now is all about coping!

I am coping with the loss of mom in my home. Nothing more can be said about that. It is a terrible place to be.

I am coping with my return to blogging. I took a peak at the blog posts I have missed - 668!!! Breath-taking. But I am committed to my blog and my blogging community. I will work through this - it will be a good distraction for me. I am down around 500 back log postings so I am making a dent.

I am coping with the upcoming holiday. At least this year we are more prepared than last year. Our holiday will be much quieter than in the past and very different. But curiously I am grateful for the quiet! The last few years have felt almost like a "habit" - everything was the same. And the traditional habits didn't provide the traditional comforts any more. It seemed more like obligations. Last year was a dreadful holiday because I felt the pressure of trying to maintain some sort of tradition while in the midst of dealing with mom's month long health issues. This year I feel a bit more freedom - no need to conform.

I am coping with my need to keep busy. Busy helps fill the vacant spots I now seem to have. I am cleaning my house (a sure sign I am upset), I am listening to my books on tape (having a constant voice to distract me keeps other thoughts at a distance), and I am thinking about all the personal physical activities I have abandon this year and want to take back so that I can deal with my emotions again (walking, Tai Chi, Yoga).

And I am coping better because I am still knitting. When things heated up again this fall, I resolutely continued to knit. I picked up those needles even if all I wanted to do was stab them into my couch. I didn't :-) ... I used them to create, to keep my hands busy, to force peace into my brain. Knitting, my dear friend. I really need to take some pictures of what I am working on and post them. I have one sweater almost done - that I started in October.

I am coping.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Through My Caregiver's Eyes - Christmas At Brooke Grove

Today was Christmas Family Day at Brooke Grove - Sandy Spring Assisted Living.

It is a good time to introduce you to this wonderful community.

Sandy Spring Assisted Living is part of the Brooke Grove Retirement Community. Set on 220 wooded acers, this lovely place includes Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Rehab. It is a continuing care retirement community. This means that as mother's level of care changes, she will remain "under their umbrella." Since I have seen the excellent care the nursing home residents receive, it is a comfort to know she is in a good place for the rest of her years.

The staff at both rehab and assisted living are excellent. In the short week she has been there, I have seen some of the sensitivity shown to her. Mom resisted some personal hygiene assistance and the assistant honored her wishes and backed off. But they continue to strive to gain her trust. Of course, they are strangers to mom. It will take time for her to feel comfortable with these new faces. But I know she will eventually. She had bonded with the rehab staff. On our last day there were genuine hugs all around. They were sorry to see her go ... and mom felt the same emotion.

One large improvement is the social opportunities available to her. On her second day she had a hand massage - something her old arthritic fingers really enjoyed. She attended a music and hot chocolate social, and met with a small group of residents and the chaplain for a talk. There is always something to do if you want to participate.

Today the holiday festivities at Brooke Grove are in full swing. Families are invited to attend a celebration with their loved one. There was live music and food. Mom made her way to the dessert table for her "second dessert." I think she really enjoyed it.

It was nice to meet some of the family members of other residents. It is not like home but today it felt just as festive.
Of course, tonight I am thinking again about her, wondering what she is doing. By 9:00 pm, she is probably in bed and maybe asleep. I can't help but wish she was asleep upstairs in her bedroom in my home. I know I shouldn't torture my self with these thoughts, but the nights are the hardest time for me. I know time is the only really healer.

Thank you all for you wonderful comments to my post yesterday. Each one made me tear up a bit. I am really trying very hard to look forward and see all the positives. And there are tons of positives. But there is also 5 years of care giving history I carry with me. It is going to take me a bit of time to adjust to my new role. I'll get there. I am a survivor.

But I am wearing a few "band aids" now on my heart.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hello? Is anyone out there still?

I sure hope so.

I have missed my blog home and my blog friends. I have missed writing. I feel like I have been un-anchored and set adrift. I feel like my previous life - my life before mom - is back and I don't feel comfortable with that new reality.

Mom went into Assisted Living 5 days ago. After 4+ weeks of sub acute rehab, it was determined that she could not safely return home. She could not get up the 20 steps she needed to climb to get into my house and she could not be left alone ever again. Although hearing that determination was hard, it was not surprising. I could see that she was not progressing as quickly as before. Her strength was still serious limited. Physical Therapy said that she had "plateaued" in her progress, and as a result must be released from therapy.

And so we worked to find a good place for her to live, one where I could rest easy that she was being taken well care of, and that she would have a social network to keep her occupied. Brooke Grove was the final choice ... the same community that provided her rehab. The setting, the staffing and the quality of attention to detail are outstanding in this organization. We were very lucky that she was accepted into this Assisted Living setting. Pictures and stories will still filter through my blog because I am still her regular daily companion, if not her primary caregiver.

But ...

I miss her more than you can ever know. The nights are the worst for me. I shed tears every night for what we have lost. I know she is sitting in her recliner watching TV in her new room ... just as we did together almost every night in my living room. But we are apart now and it weighs very heavy on my heart. I visit almost every day. She is angry at times, and she has a right to be angry. Her life has changed so much. And I am sad beyond understanding, and I have a right to be sad because this was not what I wanted. But our lives are changing and we both must adjust.

Tomorrow is the Holiday Family Party at her Assisted Living and I will have my camera handy. I will share our new lives with you. But please know that despite the smiling faces in the pictures, there is an internal struggle for us all.

Gosh ... I sure do hope someone is still out there!