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, May 31, 2013

Through My Caregiver Eyes - the Law of Loss

It has been some time since I did a post on my mom under the continuing series of 
Through My Caregiver Eyes.  
New readers can find other posts in this series under the Through My Caregiver Eyes label
 (Section to the right of my blog posts.)  

The short summary:
  Concern for my mom started when she was around age 78.
  She was independent but red flags began to flicker in my awareness.
The path from independence to living in my home, and finally Assisted Living is documented in this series.  
While our journey through mom's aging is peppered with joy-filled moments,
 it is mostly continuing losses for her and increasing sadness for me. 

For those of you who are caregivers of elderly loved ones, 
you will see yourself in this story.
We are all sisters and brothers under the skin. 

There should be a law...

I propose that as we age our age-related losses be limited to a fixed number ... let say 5 or 10 ... and no more.  More losses than that from a life spent building and growing is a cruel and unusual punishment for the aging person and the caregiver.

My case in point:

The sky is blue, the wind is calm:
Forgetting names
Thoughts that frequently escape in mid-sentence
Ornery left arthritic knee is more ornery

The horizon gets cloudy:
The checkbook won't balance
Decision making becomes a major hurdle
Learning how to do new things like email is never achieved.

Clouds obscure the sun, the wind is picking up:
Social circle shrinks because friends either move away or die
Outside activities become limited
Family begins to worry about your driving
Living independently becomes a question in the minds of loved ones
You begin to prune down your belongings for a future move.

The prediction is for stormy weather:
You move in with family -  independence is lost forever.
You require oversight for paying your bills.
You take a fall but no major damage is done.
Reaching out to distance friends and family is less frequent.
Your car is finally not your car any more - that freedom is lost forever.
Health problems cause hospitalizations and rehabilitations - trouble free health is lost forever.
You become a familiar face at the local hospital.
Emergency Medical Technicians become more frequent guests.
You walk with a cane.  Walking without assistance is lost forever.

Thunder and lightening begins to fill the sky:
You fall again.  This time you injure yourself.
You move into Assisted Living - seeing family becomes less frequent.
Your daughters take over complete control of your medical and financial affairs.
Making new friends is harder and harder.
Hobbies and past times like TV and reading no longer hold your interest.
You walk with a walker. You are labeled a "fall risk."

The storm is here and intensity is growing:
The recliner now is your best friend - even more than your TV.
Sleeping is your main activity - even staying awake for company is very hard.
Medical issues become the major focus of your family.
Walking even short distances is tough.
The wheel chair is the safest way to travel.

This much loss should be illegal.  

Last Sunday as mom and I were leaving Mass, she said she wasn't sure she could make it to the car.  The walk was painfully slow, with many stops to rest.  I suggested next time we take the wheel chair - she weakly nodded.  We made it to the car.  She then told me she didn't think she could go to church on Sunday any more.  

I am not a church-going Christian, but for 15 years I have taken her to church every Sunday because going to Mass was so important to her.  Her words made me want to cry.  As I write these words my eyes fill with tears.

Another loss. 

      Retired Knitter
      Daughter and Caregiver

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today is special

Today is a special day for me.

Linda - left
Elaine (me) - right
This is the day that my dear cousin Linda was born.

For all you folks out there who have large extended families, who get together regularly at holidays or  family reunions, who live near to each other and share the fun things of life together,  ... for all you folks out there ... you need to know that not everyone is a lucky as you.

As children Linda and I enjoyed playing together.  We were friends.  Our parents were related (our fathers were brothers) and had been close.  Her father was my God Father.  Growing up I was several hundred miles away from my cousins.  Somewhere along the years, family issues separated us.  We continued to grow and change, but separately.  As adults, that cousin relationship seemed lost forever.

Then one miraculous day, the distance and years seemed to disappear.  The story and pictures of our reunion thanks to my sister can be found here at this link.  Joy, love and companionship has grown from that reunion and it still remains a miracle in my mind.  We lost probably 40 years of sharing in each other lives, but we are once again loving family and friends.  We are living the life now we were meant to live so many years ago.

 It was meant to be!
 Things that are meant to be cannot be deterred.

Happy Birthday, my dear cousin. 
You are much loved! 
May we continue to build many wonderful memories together going forward.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chats on the porch

Everyday Ruralty

Although you cannot tell from where you are sitting, our chat today is not on the porch but under a big shade tree.  It is the day after Memorial Day and comfortable - not too hot, not cold.  The days will only get less comfortable as the heat builds, the humidity drips, the earth dries out, your car gets so hot you get burned getting in, you can't take off enough clothes to cool down, the bugs become annoying, the sun never seems to goes away ... (can you tell I am a "winter" person?)  LOL  

Oh where is my beautiful winter!

No matter.  It is another day visiting with friends at Everyday Ruralty.  And there are questions to be answered ...

  1. When you were a child, what age did you think was "OLD"?
  2. How often do you have dessert?
  3. What's your favorite kind of exercise?
  4. Do you watch movies on TV, movies from a rental or the library, or movies online?
  5. Tell me something you remember about your grand mother's/grand father's house? I'm thinking of something you saw all of the time, like a picture, clock, statue, teapot. or some thing that was always there.
1.  How old was "old" when I was a child?  I think considered 40 to be old.   And if my son happens to be reading this post ... it still is old, my dear boy.  Oh, and I hope you have a Happy Birthday this September.  You will be how old?  Now let me think.  I was there so I should know.  Oh, yes, I remember now ... 40!!!
That felt good. 
 Glad that was one of the questions!!

2.  How often do I have dessert?  Every darn chance I can.  I don't want to get to the end of my life thinking - oh, why did I pass up that Boston Cream Pie for boiled carrots!

3.  What is your favorite kind of exercise?  Walking.  I should be doing it more.  And second to that is knitting.  My fingers get such a work out.

4.  Do you watch movies on TV, movies from a rental or the library, or movies online?  We mostly watch movies from a rental.  No commercials, on when I want it to be on, and no trips out of the house to get them - delivered by the post office.  Sometimes we watch movies online, but it seems like the ones we want to see are most readily on disk only.

5.  Tell me something about your grandparents' house?  Gosh, I had to think about that one a bit because I only saw them at their house - maybe once a year.  I think the thing I most remember (and sometimes dream about) was my grandparents' porch.  It was a screen in porch - not all that remarkable, but when our family would come to visit (we lived in another state), my dad would sleep out on the porch.  I think they had a big rocker.

Well that is it for this Tuesday chat.  I don't always participate, because I am trying to become more of a free soul - not tied down to stuff like I always seem to do.  There are things in my life that tie me down in a big way, so on the little stuff - I like to keep my options open.  But these questions were fun this time, especially #1!!! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I am naive!

I just made an unsettling discovery.

Last year I joyfully deleted my Facebook account.  I was frustrated with Facebook but mostly I needed to just get away from a few "time wasters" - Facebook in my life was a time waster.

For those who are curious - there are two levels of Facebook separation.  I can't remember their exact names but here is what I remember from last year:

  • First level: you have put yourself in a "temporary time out."  You aren't really serious about leaving.  You want a breather.  You might want to come back again, just not sure.  You want to hold onto your account and all the contacts and information ... but you might want to say "Good Riddens" .. just not sure!  I did that once and came back.
  • Second level: you are permanently deleting this account.  You are done, done done with Facebook forever.  Your screen name, friends, pictures ... all the details of your account will be gone . permanently . not to be recalled . not ever not never again.   This is a final action that cannot be recalled.  You cannot change your mind!!  Be sure you want to do that before you hit the "submit" button.  I hit that button last year.  I was done, done, done with Facebook.

Facebook lied.  
Apparently Facebook isn't done with me.

My account was never gone AND just the past month I started getting Facebook updates from friends in my email.  I didn't pay much attention at first.  I saw the word "Facebook" in my in box and I just deleted it.  I was done done done with Facebook!  I was deleted . permanently . finally, forever and ever.  Facebook told me so.

Then I discovered that not only is everything still out there, but my account was ACTIVATED and not by me!!

Everything is still out there and shows just like it did before.  

Very very odd.  

So I promptly went out and changed my password - 'cause maybe I was hacked!  BUT there shouldn't have been anything out there to hack!  My account was deleted . permanently . finally . forever and ever! Done!!

it is now terribly evident to everyone reading this post
 that I am very naive
 and nothing on the Internet is ever totally gone.

I'll try again later to delete this account.  Right now I am afraid to go out to my account - because I will get sucked back in to that "black hole" that I call Facebook.  *sigh*

Thursday, May 23, 2013

10 Years - Then and Now

Have you ever looked back to the person you were 10 years ago and pondered,

"Wow, who the heck was that person?"  
  • I was 56 and didn't like it. Aging was a negative thing. 
  • My retirement was planned to be travel, crafts, friendships, and fun.
  • I was more interested in pleasing everyone - keeping the peace, putting other's needs first, submerging my opinions and ideas to those offered by others.
  • I was a "yes" person - without regard to the impact it would have on me and the quality of my life.  
  • I was a working full time professional with respect, higher income and responsibility ... at the cost of my personal time and my family's needs.  
  • I was not a caregiver. My inner voice believed that mom would age gracefully and remain independent keeping both her mental and physical status in tack.
  • I loved my townhouse even then and didn't desire a bigger and bigger home.
  • My body and mind were sound - I assumed only the best in the future.
  • "Today" was only a path to the "future:"  things to buy, future vacations to take, to-do lists to manage.  I never seemed to think "in the present!
 10 years has changed my perspective:
  • 66 is pretty darn young!  I like 66 a whole lot!!!  It is as young as I am ever going to be. Aging is my reward for not dying!
  • My retirement is filled with friends and some pretty good stuff  - but travel isn't one of them.  In fact, even day trips are problematical due to disabilities.
  • "Doing more" is highly overrated!  Less is better.  I enjoy the present more when less is on my plate.
  • My working life is history. My personal life is my focus. Thankfully not too much damage was done by my obsession with work in the past.
  • With the exception of my mom, I am less interested in pleasing anyone.  Sounds stunningly selfish, I know, but healthier for me. No one looks out for me, better than me.  
  • "No" is a good word, if I am over committed, not interest and/or "just don't wanna."  
  • I am my mom's caregiver.  Her decline and loss of independence is the hardest thing I have ever watched.  
  • I still love my townhouse.  Fewer stairs and less space would be nice, but nothing is perfect.
  • My body?  In my 60s I got a more realistic view of the nature of the human body - what it can do, how long it is meant to last, and how much work it takes to keep it up.   I don't assume it will last forever and I accept the fact it will look different.
  • Today, this minute, is the most important time! It is all I can count on. 
What a difference 10 years can make!
 I don't think any other 10 years in my life have taught me so much.
I can hardly wait to see what my perspective is in 10 more years.

I am glad the person of 10 years ago is gone. 
 Whatever was she thinking?
Maybe she was thinking this ...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Retired Knitter's Corner of the World

Boy, when you don't blog daily, stuff backs up.  Hard to know if any of this stuff is of interest ... but no matter.  Here is an update from my corner of the world ...

The Year of House Improvements
After years of putting off, and putting off, and putting off  - we have finally decided to do more than just clean the house!  It started in the spring with trimming the yard and mulching.  Mulch makes everything look better.  And then a new front storm door was installed today.  Coming up we are replacing 3 bathroom floors and some window screens.  Let's not forget the defective bathroom mirror upstairs that has to go, and the light over the kitchen sink that was cheap and ugly (and new) when we moved in 28 years ago - and has not improved with age.  Finally the aluminum siding is DIRTY and GREEN (neither color is light gray the siding was born to be) so a pressure wash is in our future.  Who knows, if I get on a roll this year I might do some of next year's things - interior house painting, 28 year old carpeting that needs to go, kitchen cabinets that have out lived their usefulness.  We put so much stuff off for so long that we are now facing change after change after change.

This year I added some color to my simple uncluttered external environments.  I have bushes, trees, mulch and some brick.  That is it!  Simple, uncluttered, easy to maintain.  But I love nurseries.  I love picking out plants, putting them in pots, watering and fertilizing them, pinching off the spent blossoms, talking to them over the morning coffee - I haven't done this for awhile but it lifts my spirits.  After my frustrating Mother's Day ... I needed a little spirit lifting.  But I do feel sorry for these small gentle blossoms because they were adopted by the killer of green things ... just saying.

The Mother's Day that wasn't ...

Mother's Day was an "up and down" event for me. It was Sunday so that meant church with mom, which was an "up" because it is so important to her.  And lunch with her at Assisted Living was an "up" - the food there is great.  But her allergies were making her miserable - a "down," and I discovered her allergy meds were discontinued at some point in the worst allergy season in years - a "great big down" for both of us, and her legs seemed to freeze up at times making her very unsteady - another "down" that worried me quite a bit.  Then there was the sour "icing on the cake" -  I discovered that a beautiful hand woven wool shawl (shown in the picture) I made for her a few years ago had been accidentally machine washed and dried by the staff.  It was now a napkin!  You can't machine wash and machine dry wool.  Big fat "no no" unless you want a felted napkin.  Mom loved that shawl when I gave it to her and she enjoyed it mostly during the winter months when she would get cold.  She doesn't know it is gone.  Reduced mental functioning has saved her from this disappointment.  I was, however, upset enough for both of us. By the time I got home my kids were on to other commitments - that was OK - I was focused on getting some of mom's medical issues corrected.  And I had the company of my kids earlier in the weekend.

My daughter ordered me a FitBit Pedometer for Mother's Day which will come in June and I am totally excited about it.  And my son and daughter-in-law made a lasagna for our Sunday dinner before they left for the evening.  That was totally yummy and I didn't have to cook. Big thumbs up on that!!

I guess the ups and downs finally balanced out this Mother's Day.

My Crafing Life ...
I treated myself to a new set of Interchangeable knitting needles by Knitter's Pride - LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these needles.  Go out and buy them.  Buy them even if you don't knit.  :-)  I started a new shawl for mom right away using these needles, and I love the feel of them.  I am using the same yarn as the woven shawl for mom's new shawl - except I added a strand of purple yarn to boost the color.  I am pleased with the product so far. But the knitting list has got to stop growing.  Here is my 2013 list:

My Walking World ...
Walking is going ok - in a not-so-ok sort of way!!  :-)

Ok ... in that I am not giving up, and I am walking at least a few days a week, and I am getting my step counts up, and I feel better now than that day several weeks ago when I went for the first walk and felt like death!

Not-so-ok ... in that I am not yet walking 5 times a week and I don't reach 10,000 steps every single day.  But I hit 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day most days.  That is better than the 4,000 to 5,000 I was doing.

So this post is the iceberg of my life - the pieces that are showing.

Hope your corner of the world is treating you well.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making Room

The constant internal theme of my life seems to be "Make Room."  It has almost become a mantra.

Clear those counters.
Pick up those items.
Give away stuff.
Pitch that clutter.
Step down from leadership.

The last example is the newest in the ever expanding theme.  

When do you feel that your stuff and your life's activities
 comfortably equals the space and the time given to you? 

Over the last few years I have focused on the obvious!  Make my environment less cluttered.  As I look around my kitchen I have a long way to go.  It is hard to wrap my mind around what life would be like right now if I held on to everything I discarded over the last 4 years.  Flashes of The Hoarders - a TV show about folks who can't let go of anything - pops into my mind.  The "de-clutter bug" is starting to eat away at me again.  I can feel another purge coming on soon.

Today I am focusing on the less obvious.
Time and guilt.  

Today I will be telling my Knitting Group that I am stepping down as their coordinator and handing over that role to another member.  This group holds a special place in my heart.  They are fun, interesting, non-judgemental, supportive, creative (big time creative) and welcoming.  They supported me through my most difficult days in caring for my mom.  My hope is that today ... after I tell them this news, they will be happy for me.

This change will allow me the flexibility to "drop in" as a fellow participant rather than be the linch pin that connects everyone.  I've missed too many meetings this spring - time continues to be a commodity  in short supply.  I need to make room in my life to participate in this wonderful group - without the guilt that comes when I miss meetings.

They are wonderful people.  They will understand!

Fingers crossed!