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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Structure - Who Knew!

I knew structure was important to me.  After all, I am the queen of list making, I like things orderly, I hate being late to ANYTHING and I live by my calendar as if it was a bible.  (And as I write those words I am not sure I want to be a person like that, but it is what I am.)

But the end of this month I got broadsided by the realization that the major constructs of my life - the big "gorillas" that were layered over and created major structure in my life  ... are gone.

You know what I mean - things like The Big Three: a job, raising a family, being a caregiver.

The big things in life that sometimes define you ...
from my life!


Oh, I didn't really notice any difference at the beginning of January.  After all, I had a funeral to manage, and some estate duties, and then we had several social engagements that I had responsibility for, and I finally put my own health front and center and saw a few doctors.  I cleaned up after Christmas, and set up my weaving station and my lego station (more on that later.)  You know, it has been a busy, busy, busy month!!

BUT ... it is grinding to a halt.  My "to do" lists have shrunk.


Ok, I am a goal oriented individual.  So I have a few ideas bouncing around in my mind.  But those ideas were always there, and I always managed to squeeze them in-between The Big Three!!

The Big Three are GONE!
Are those few ideas worth taking center stage in my life now??

So what few ideas am I talking about ...

To begin with I need to move more.  OH . MY . GOD!  I sooooo need to move more.  I am not talking about exercise (exercise would be good too, but how about just keeping my butt off the couch where, by the way, I am sitting right now! *sigh* )

I did start tracking of my movement with my FitBit.  Again, I am not talking about exercise. I just wanted to know what my "normal" was without focusing on walking.  I discovered that I averaged 6,500 a day in January.  That is my baseline now.  New Goal - Do more than 6,500 average a day during the month of February.  And some day I just might see 10,000 steps again!!

In truth, I am pretty far away from my movement goals!  Sadly and embarrassingly so.  For example, I went for a walk today and mostly what I wanted to do during that 30 minutes of walking was find a bench and sit down!  Pathetic ... I was brutal with my self talk. "Keep those 67 year old feet moving forward you lazy thing, or you will find yourself sitting in your mother's wheel chair ... which by the way is now available."  Stuff like that!

I did sign up for a Yoga class.  I need to stop walking like an old lady and getting more flexible will help.

My Hobbies
I have a long love affair with yarn based hobbies.  I have enough yarn in my yarn room (yes, I have a yarn room - doesn't everyone??) enough yarn to knit like a banshie every day until I am 98 years old and never run  out of yarn - even if I stopped buying yarn this very minute for the rest of my life.  (Which, by the way, won't happen ... the not buying yarn part.)  Another embarrassment.  Now I find have the time, the tools and the desire to knit and weave and maybe even spin ... but I also have a little voice in my head that says things like, "Don't you have something better to do with your time."  And then I think hard and I answer myself, "No, apparently not."

I am reading more and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Kindle.  I love zombi books, and end of the world books and stories of destruction (hmmm .... is that healthy?) but can I build a life around reading?

And .... ok, pretty much the list stops there.

So dear readers, only 3 lonely ideas are bouncing around in my brain (avoidance of wheel chairs, yarn hoarding while listening to the voices in my head, and tales of destruction.)

Maybe Psych should be my next doctor visit!!

Until next time ...

Retired Knitter.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sleeping with a bar of soap!

Not just any soap! 
No, I have standards.
  I am sleeping with a bar of "Irish Spring."

And now for the remarkable part of that idea (as if sleeping with a bar of soap isn't odd remarkable enough) ...

I am sleeping with a bar of soap on Doctor's Orders!
"Put it between the sheet and the mattress down near your feet."

Bet you weren't expecting that!!  Even the brand name was recommended.

I guess I could just end this blog post here ... just to see if anyone is really reading my posts!

But I am not that kind of girl.  :-) I will explain, and who knows, maybe you too may start sleeping with a bar of soap.


Recently in my quest to get caught up on my own health issues, I visited a Podiatrist.  I have a chronic issues over 15 years with my feet.  Mostly I have Plantar Faciitis which probably plagues most of the modern world today. About 7 years ago I stated using prescription orthotics and the foot pain mostly went away.

But new pain started recently (like for 2 years or so ... I know, I know ... no lectures please.  I was busy with someone else's body during that time and tabled a lot of the "me" stuff) ...  recently with pretty bad leg cramps and terrible terrible foot cramps (the foot cramps were the worst - those suckers would hang around for 30 minutes or so.)  I have had to pull off the side of the road while driving due to foot cramps that threatened to cause a car accident!!

So I self-medicated because that was what I had energy for ...
  • bumped up my water - 32 to 64 oz of water a day - bumped up from almost no water at all.
  • increased my potassium - bananas, coconut water, vitamin water, etc.
  • took an over-the-counter product called "Leg Cramp PM" - the title says it all, don't you think? It was suggested by a pharmacist.  (I would recommend this product.)
These interventions worked some - but the foot cramps were still an issue.

And my feet were also starting to get generally sore.

So off to the podiatrist!

After an examination and a review of what I have already done (including seeing my general doctor for blood work - normal!), she admitted that these kinds of issues were hard to diagnosis.  She recommended creating new prescription orthotics and bumping up my water intake.  Agreed.

And that is when the interview sort of went off the rails!

She asked me if I had ever slept with a bar of soap.  

I considered putting my socks and shoes on and walking out.  Clearly this woman was having a break with reality!  But in that moment  I decided that this line of questioning would be good fodder for a blog post!  (Yes, guys, I am always thinking of you.)

I think my reaction was pretty normal ... eyes unblinking, jaw slightly open, quiet, assessing how far I was from the exam room door ...  and she had the good grace to laugh sort of self-deprecatingly, and then she plowed on with her story.

She read an article on this phenomenon of sleeping with a bar of soap and quickly dismissed it (so thankfully she is not a quack.)  But then she started having patients report spontaneously to her success with cramping using the bar of soap method.  And not just a few patients either, but a substantial number.  So now she suggests it - even though it is still an "old wives" tale in her mind.  She says sometimes it is discovered that old wives tales have a thread of truth.

So last night I slept with a bar of soap!  Irish Spring as prescribed.  Not a great success for me.  If I do start getting success, you can be sure that I will buy a case load of Irish Spring and start taping them to my legs, the peddles of my car, the side of my couch and maybe grind up a soap powder to put in my shoes.  But no success thus far, so I am saved at present from having my own "break with reality."  :-)

Tonight I will try 2 bars of soap.  Maybe ...

This morning I googled this topic to see what the "experts" have to say, and I found this link.  Interesting reading.

So my question to you is this ...

Do you have leg and foot cramps?
  What do you do to prevent it?
  Have you slept with a bar of soap?
(Enquiring minds want to know!!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Someday" and brain shifts ...

I am going through a fairly intense period of "brain shifts."

Here are a few of the biggies ...

"Never enough time" to "extra time."
  I finally feel retired 7 years after my actual retirement date.  
That is a major "wow" moment for me.

Mind filing! 
 Ideas pop into my head ... 
things I would like to do, to read, to see, to experience, to play with, on and on and on ... 
and it all gets automatically filed by my brain in the "Someday File."
  Is it possible that "someday" has finally arrived?

Whole days at home!
  Many whole days in a row!!!  
That little reality is a sweet pleasure. 

Fast food begone!
  I used to pick up one meal a day on the road.  
Wow, my health might actually improve if I eat only food from my house. 
(ok, I had one little tasty, sugar covered, jelly filled donut today, but just one.)

Ugh on ringing phones!
  I still cringe a bit when it rings, but I have learned to back away from the "panic-cliff" of bad news before I get across the room to answer it.
  No bad news.  
Just pain-in-the-neck junk callers!

Joy at true friends!
  I am honored that I was given the space I needed the last year without losing friends,
especially since I dropped out of so many friendships without warning.

Still shifting ... but not falling over.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Caregiver takes off her mantle ...

Not much time has passed since my mom passing.  Looking over that short period I find that I am a little surprised.

I miss her, but I am not mourning her!  And I feel there is a big difference between those two words.

Maybe I should explain.

I heard all the well meaning sympathies - all offered by people who care for me and shared their best advice from their own experiences and expectations.

Take your time with recovering ...
Only time will help this process ...
Don't try to do too much ...
I am worried for you because she was so much a part of your life ...
Those daily little reminders of her life will be difficult to get passed ...

And these statements are all generally true, but how can I explain not mourning my mother now.

Today on my walk I realized that my mourning began long before she died.

Thinking back I mourned her in a million small ways over the last 10 years.  The first tug on my heart happened when I realized she was really no longer completely viable living independently.  Moving her into my home 8 years ago made me happier - she was safer - but I remember sadness too knowing she needed this kind of help.  In 2011 her frequent hospitalizations and in-house rehabs created another jarring realization. Yes, her mind was failing, but her body was too.  In December 2011  I remember standing by my kitchen sink crying like she had already died - she was leaving my home and being admitted into Assisted Living.  Watching her leave me mentally and physically this last year was a terribly mournful time for me.    I mourned at each and every decline for too many years.

So I am not in a state of mourning today.  It sounds almost sacrilegious to say that.  But for me, my time at my mom's side was like one long goodbye.  And as I lost pieces of her through the years, I mourned and made my peace with those losses every step of the way.

I miss her.  I am not mourning her.  I think she would be happier about that.

I think each individual goes through the process of losing a loved one differently.  I had years and years of little goodbyes and periods of sadness and mourning.  There is nothing left now to mourn.


I have two last memories to share - and then I am moving on in a different direction for the blog.

About 4 days before mom died, she had a few wakeful periods.  She was not eating or drinking much.  She was not speaking.  I knew she was dying.  I think she knew too.  That morning when I came into her room I bent down to say good morning and kiss her face - something I did every time I visited.  This time, however, she slowly lifted her arm and put it around my head as I kissed her.  Her message was simple - I am saying goodbye.  I will remember that embrace for the rest of my life.  That same day my sister arrived and mom did exactly the same thing again.  A simple action and yet so meaningful.

My last memory caught me by surprise.  I expected her actual death to be hard.  I was prepared.  I was not prepared for the last moments at her grave site.  The priest had performed the last blessing and had left.  It was a cold and rainy day - too dismal to linger.  The small gathering was breaking up.  At that moment, I couldn't seem to leave.  I finally walked to the end of her casket and placed my hand on it trying hard to understand this emotion.  I think the realization that I was finally no longer needed even for the shell of her body had finally hit me.  I turned quickly and left.

I left my caregiver mantle at her grave site.  I didn't need it any more.


Next time I post ... and there will be a next time ... I will focus on what the "new" me is doing!  Hopefully you will stick around for that.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Through My Caregiver Eyes: And thus we part

This is the last entry in a continuing series called 
Through My Caregiver Eyes.  
The full story of 8 years as my mother's caregiver 
can be found under the label "Through My Caregiver Eyes."
 (Label Section to the right of my blog posts.)  

My mom was 88 years old at her death.
The rocky path from independence to living with me, then assisted living
and finally nursing home care is documented in this series.  
While our journey together is peppered with joy-filled moments,
 it tells of many losses for her and sadness for me. 
For anyone who is a first line caregiver of a loved one, 
you may see yourself in my story.

A last letter to my mom.

Dear Mom,

How I miss your sweet smile.

Every day I think about you and wonder how you are doing.  Every day I think it is time for a visit with you and then remind myself, you are no longer on this earth.

My time at your side began 8 years ago when you moved into my home.  Neither of us fully understood how difficult this last journey would be.  Thankfully we didn't dwell on what could happen.  Life is a process and we just kept moving forward through it.

You were there during my growing years when living in a dysfunctional family was very hard - and I was there during your declining years when increasing age took so much away from your joy of living.  There is no one I have shared more of life's struggles with than you.  Through it all you showed how to keep moving forward through the hard stuff while still enjoying the simple pleasures.  I feel so much in your debt.

I am changed by this whole experience.  How remarkable is it that my personal plans and desires could be so dramatically altered by taking this journey with you.  Nothing I could have imagined for myself would have equaled the the importance of what I learned at your side.   The real diamonds of life are time with family and giving of yourself when it would be easier to walk away.  I wasn't born knowing that stuff - learned it from caring for you.  

Oh, the last 8 years were not without our personal disagreements.  Those bumps in the road were rocky at times.  But it never derailed you and me.  I lived the last 8 years knowing this day would come when you would be gone.  I worried that I would look back and wonder ... could I have done more or something different.  My motto became - Have no regrets!  I have looked back.  There was nothing left undone or unsaid between us.  I loved you, mom, without reservation or conditions.  I accepted your strengths and weaknesses and learned from them.  I met every challenge and pushed every boundary on your behalf.  No regrets.  I am now at peace.

I know you would be happy to know I am fine today.  Sometimes missing you suddenly catches me unawares and the tears begin to fall, but that is normal.  You have moved on and so must I.

Thus we part company in this life.

You are loved, mom.  You still hold a place in my heart that no one will ever dislodge.  You were there when I took my first breath at birth and I was there for your last breath in death. I hope when I take my last breath, you will be there with that sweet smile to help me find my way.

Love you always,
Retired Knitter

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hello again!

It is probably safe to assume that I am talking to myself in this post especially after such a long absence from blogging.  That is ok.  That is how this blog started out.  Just me and my keyboard.

The last six months have been hard.  Maybe I didn't blog because my focus was aimed at just putting one foot in front of the other ... day after day.  Or maybe I lost my blog mojo.  Just don't know.

Here is a snap shot view of how I spent my "blogging break" - similar to the school child's assignment of "What I did last summer" only less enjoyable.

  • In July Meathead, my dear dear grand dog died, without warning.  He was a very old bull dog and we knew his days were numbered, but it was a shock.  I still feel that loss deeply.
  • In August Grimace, my other dear grand dog, developed a series of seizures that took some time to get under control.  Probably not epilepsy.  Probably a mass or lesion.  He is doing fine for now.  I treasure my time with him.
  • In September Milo, yet another dear grand dog, developed spinal issues causing weakness in his rear legs.  Left uncorrected, he would become paralyzed.  He was scheduled for two surgeries - one in November for air way obstructions, typical of pushed-in-face breeds, and one in December for his spine. He is doing well.
  • And then the most intensive loss of all began to develop.  In November my mother began to fail ... sleeping all the time with loss of appetite and weight loss.  She died in December, just after Christmas.  That loss is beyond measure.
So it goes without saying that I am pretty much physically and emotionally spent. 

I will do one last Through My Caregiver Eyes post at some point later this month to honor my mother and to close out that long series of posts.  Beyond that it is too soon to know if or when I will be back to blogging.  I need to figure out how to live in my own life and not inside my mom's life.

If you are reading this post, I thank you for visiting.