Nope, just me.

Stop the world I want to get off. Not permanently, just in case someone out there is tuned it, perhaps for a month or two. Seriously I keep patting my life down into a soft manageable form and something comes along and blows it all back up again. STOP IT, I say.

As mentioned previously, my mother has moved from an assisted living home to a board and care recently due to a broken hip. I spent a week during the recent PG&E blackout at my mother’s old residence packing up her things. Items were placed in boxes marked Donate, Garage Sale, and Keep. What didn’t sell at our garage sale last weekend were on schedule today to be moved into storage. With some packing still left to do, I came up early to get a head start before my son-in-law and granddaughter showed up with the rental van.

As it turned out the lady living in the adjacent apartment was also being relocated by her family so the hallway was a mass of activity. Eight or so people milled about moving furniture out and carrying boxes back and forth to their cars. The door was open to my mother’s apartment so I didn’t feel claustrophobic. They keep the building on roast as elderly people lean towards being cold. Every time I have visited my mom I have nearly had to strip down to my skivvies to avoid getting heat stoke. People being curious, it didn’t take long for one gentlemen and then a second to poke their heads in and introduce themselves and ask me what I was up to.

I gave the Reader’s Digest explanation of the situation with my mother. If I’d offered the long version I would have had to ask them in for dinner. Looking around at the furniture and boxes they asked where my “crew” was. My crew? Ahhhh they were looking for rest of the packers. “Nope, just me.” They sized up my stature compared to what was in the room and exchanged a look. I explained the rest of my crew, as they put it, was on the road but would be arriving shortly. That seemed to mollify them. “No siblings?”, was the next question. “Nope, just me.” (I’m thinking of having a t-shirt made with big bold letters “NOPE, JUST ME”.) However, if these moves continue to pile up at the current pace I may begin to regret not coming from a larger family.

They went on to say they were brothers-in-law. One was the son of the lady moving and the other married to his sister. No not married to his sister, there are laws against that, but rather the son’s sister. Never mind. There are five siblings in all in their family the son explained. One, the middle child, was absent. Apparently this brother always had an excuse when it came to pitching in with anything to with their mother and this was a sore spot for the rest of the clan. I appreciated the update and get the part about family dynamics. Every family has bumps and sore spots no matter how picture perfect they appear on the outside. Next the wife of one of them popped in and filled me in on the rest of the skinny about the missing brother and his unpopular spouse. Though I wasn’t actually researching a book on their family history, both men and the wife were very pleasant. Since I had my head in a box and wasn’t easy to communicate with they excused themselves shortly to get back to their side of the fence. Funny isn’t it how people will entrust complete strangers with the most personal information about their lives and yet sometimes can’t share what they are thinking with the person sitting across from them at the breakfast table. Strange creatures, we humans.

Not long after they said their goodbyes my crew arrived. I’m starting to feel my age these days for the first time. Bending, stretching and lifting do not come as easily as they did twenty years ago. Muscles I haven’t called into service for awhile are beginning to complain loudly and my feet are telling me I’m asking too much of them. Yesterday I took my mom to the doctor. I had to take her wheelchair out of the trunk on my own for the first time. Getting it out of the trunk wasn’t so difficult. A good yank and it was over the lip of the trunk and dropped to the ground. Getting it back in was a whole different ballgame. I parked where I had lots of room to maneuver but the problem was it was like lifting a bag of cannon balls. It took three tries, some huffing and puffing, and a lot of serious swearing to get it back where it belonged. After the second attempt and fail, I strongly considered leaving it in the bushes and calling it a day.

If this is going to be a regular occurrence I will have to add some muscle. I am still working on fulfilling my New Year’s resolution of going to the gym. It’s only October I feel I still have some time left. If I procrastinate long enough it will be 2020 and that resolution will have past it’s shelf life. That is how it works isn’t it? Well that’s how I’m working it. It’s not that I haven’t tried to go to the gym. I keep making appointments that I have to either cancel or postpone. Life is very busy right now and making time for myself sounds easy but isn’t always possible to accomplish.

Last week I did make it to the opthalmologist. This was the third appointment I’d scheduled, having changed the first two, so they were beginning to think I was a figment of their imagination. They put me through the usual series of tests. Of late driving at night has become a problem for me. I am seeing stars and reflections like I did before I had my cataracts removed. Since I never know if I might be called to come out in the wee hours this is concerning. In 2010 I surgery on both eyes. I had developed premature cataracts from taking Premarin for my asthma. Funny, or not, how a prescription to cure one ailment can be directly related to creating another? I took an antibiotic once that gave me tennis elbow. Who knew? Considering I haven’t played tennis since I was a senior in high school no one was more surprised than me. At any rate after nearly blinding me with that lighted instrument they use, he informed me the lenses never have to be replaced after cataract surgery but in rare instances the lenses can develop a film around the exterior that will mimic the symptoms of cataracts. Naturally I have to be an over achiever and get something everyone else doesn’t have. Sigh. I got a referral to a laser surgeon who will grind the edges down and return my night vision to what is was before. Now, I’m not usually a baby but when it comes to my eyes I can be a big blubbering mass of goo. My right eye, naturally the one with the problem, is 20/20. My left eye, lazy since birth, sees only half that well. The idea of impacting my right eye scares the hot rocks out of me so I will approach this with caution even though I know it is done successfully every day.

So mother is officially moved. I have ticked another to-do off my list at the eye doctor and new glasses are ordered. Life is temporarily patted down to a manageable configuration and I am taking a breath and enjoying the glorious weather.


At last writing I was getting ready for a garage sale. I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve orchestrated over the years. Neighborhood sales are the perfect way to get rid of all that stuff you haven’t laid eyes on since Reagan was president and a nice way to get to know your neighbors and make new acquaintances.

My daughter and I woke up at 4 a.m. Saturday to get things set up. Thankfully they had electricity over the week, where I did not due to the PG&E outage, so she was already ahead of the game. Traffic around her area was totally impacted on my way to her house the previous night. I believe the mass of vehicles was because they live in Roseville, a northern California city about twenty minutes north of Sacramento, which is a major shopping hub for the Sierra Nevada foothills residents. Many people living in the mountains and lower foothill communities were without power for multiple days. Though living in the tall trees is a lovely place to be, if you’re looking for malls and the larger chain stores you will not find them up there. Presumably the endless lines leading into the big box stores as I made my way down one of the main drags was a direct result of people needing to replace spoiled food lost during the outage. I know in my refrigerator unless you can come up with a recipe using catsup and ice, you need to look elsewhere for your dinner plans.

Garage sales to me are reminiscent of the outdoor markets popular in medieval times where people congregated to buy, sell, or trade their items. Not to say I have first hand knowledge of such places. I am getting a bit long in the tooth but not quite that long. However, from what I’ve read about feudal communities back then, these markets were a place for people to gather and exchange goods and services, pass on news from one village to the next, and sell their produce or livestock or perhaps barter in exchange for something they themselves needed.

At most garage sales you price items low but a little above what you would secretly hope to get for them. People like to dicker. Makes them feel, or it does me, like I’ve gotten a bargain. However, I have to say I never cease to be amazed at the need for some people to haggle on an item originally purchased for $90 now on sale for $3 still unwrapped and in the box. Do we really have to have an offer and counter offer on such an item? One lady wanted to buy a brand new blender marked at five dollars for $1.50. It works perfectly and I offered to plug it in and pulverize an apple if it would ease her mind as to the condition of the appliance. Now bear in mind she drove up in a very expensive Mercedes sporting Ferragamo sunglasses and carrying a Michael Kors handbag. Somehow I didn’t get the impression she was sweating where her next meal was coming from. She went on to explain she only had $2.00 and wanted another item marked $3.00 for $.50 to complete her purchase. Wow spending the whole wad at my sale. Really? I was terribly tempted to give her a brochure from the local food bank I volunteer for in case she could avail herself of their services, but held my tongue and watched as she packed my blender in her trunk along with what appeared to be dozens of other purchases. Uh-huh. Truth is it’s not that I’m an easy mark, but I went there to come home lighter and with that intention in mind I accepted her generous offer with a smile and tucked the $2.00 in the till. Later I found the rubber o-ring for blender on the floor behind the display. Karma, as they say, is a well, you know. I would have happily forwarded the part to her if I knew which street corner she was carrying her sign on.

Between the three of us in the garage we all did our share to unload the bounty. My daughter was born to work with people. She has a warm and welcoming personality and would take off her shoes and give them to you if she felt you didn’t have any to wear. The expression “she never met a stranger” definitely applies to my oldest child. A cancer by birth, she throws herself into her interactions with fellow humans with passion and verve and has an innate sense about people paired with keen intuition. I, on the other hand, am a scorpio. Though hardly a shrinking violet, I am a little more cautious when meeting people, being more likely to size them up first before approaching. Once comfortable though I am very good at working a crowd. My son-in-law for his part just wanted to reclaim the half of his garage that has been storing all my excess household goods as well as my mother’s and their own so would happily have packed up the whole kit and kaboodle in the back of any taker willing to drive off with them. Between the three of us we managed to talk to lots of interesting people while unloading about 3/4 of the items by the end of the day. Yay.

I am glad the garage sale is behind me. The past two weeks have been an exhausting blur of activity and I am pleased to see another to-do item completed. Slowly the left side of my list with numerous items to be accomplished by the close of the year is whittling down to a more manageable size. Perhaps there will be a day coming up where I can put my feet up, pour a cup of pumpkin spice tea, and catch up on my book marked at the same page since my mother broke her hip.

Sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I’m grateful for every day I have with my mother. She has been there for me and I will always be there for her. Someone told me the other day I had good manners. Automatically I attributed that to being brought up in a household where manners were considered an integral part of everyday life. Thank you Mama. Thank you for so many things you have taught me over the years. Certainly to be strong is at the top of the list. The women who shaped my life were all strong in their own way. My two lovely aunts, my grandmothers, and my mother each brought different things to the table for me to draw from.

The bit of self indulgent whining is only tired feet and a tired mind. Taking care of yourself is a big enough job in this unsettled and complicated world but adding another person to the mix makes the job two fold. Sometimes even when performing a service with love, you need to give yourself a pass if you occasionally get cranky or wish you could just crawl in the closet with a bag of Double Stuf Oreos and close the door. Nobody can be everything to everybody every day. Can’t be done. All you can do is show up and do the best you can, remembering to throw in a little self love here and there for good measure. Take a breath, pick up that book, and if even if just for a moment draw in some deep cleansing breaths. The glorious thing about life is that whatever you are going through right now will not always be the template for the way your life looks. This, like so many situations, is only a temporary state of being.

I have learned so many things about myself over the past year since Rick passed away. I can stand alone, perhaps sometimes on wobbly legs, but I am standing. I wake up every day and do my best to make it count even if it’s only in small measures like cleaning my house or pruning my flowers. As the months pass I have recovered my joy again and a renewed interest in living a full and fulfilling life while I am here.

So here’s to clearing out the clutter both figuratively and literally. To starting fresh and traveling lighter.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.”
………Dr. Seuss

Finally an end to a three day siege in the dark here in Northern California. Sigh. PG&E in it’s infinite wisdom decided the need has arisen to once again to shut down our electrical supply in deference to predicted winds and the parched undergrowth prevalent in our area this time of year. Perhaps if they had actually maintained their lines in a proper manner over the years, or possibly modeled our electrical system after those overseas with the wiring underground, we wouldn’t be forced to do this every time there is such a weather event.

My power went off around 3 am Tuesday morning which is why I woke up at precisely 3:05 with a rather plump white cat draped across my face. Boo is not a fan of anything not written precisely in the script, and weather of any kind other than sunny and warm, seems to set her tail on fire.

Murphy’s law in full force, I decided last weekend to do what I call “big shopping” at the grocery store. Since Rick passed away I tend to shop in smaller increments but felt it was time to stock up. As usual, my timing is right on the money. Money being the optimum word here as I was unable to save 80% of what was in my refrigerator due to the fact every available source for ice was sold out in the area.

All appliances unavailable for use at the house, I ventured out early Tuesday in search of a much needed cup of coffee. After waiting in lines at intersections with lights not working, and hitting all local coffee providers, I found no place open to buy a cup of Joe. A girl has gotta have her caffeine, so I actually merged on the freeway and traveled twenty miles south locating a McDonald’s with lights on and a line circling the building. Pulling in line behind the last car I caught a glimpse of my hair in the rear view mirror. With no hair dryer available it looked a bit like a cotton candy blowout. I pulled on my ball cap in deference to other drivers around me who might have gotten the impression I was getting a head start on Halloween.

To add to this mixed bag of goodies, I am in the process of moving my mother to a board and care. This is the fourth move I’ve done on her behalf in the last eight years. If you add the two I’ve done for myself that brings me to six moves in nearly as many years. Personally I am up to what I believe might be a near record for non military personnel of thirty-nine moves. My mother I’m sure is working on nearly half that. Often I have thought perhaps I am missing the signs the universe seems to be sending my way. Perhaps I should consider opening a packing business. Certainly I have enough experience at this point in the game. Give me a couple of rolls of tape, a month’s accumulation of newspapers, and some boxes and I can pack a twelve room house plus garage in about two hours. Kidding naturally, so please no requests, but I am both fast and nearly breakage free when it comes to getting the job done.

This power situation couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. My daughter and I have been planning a garage sale for this weekend in an effort to get rid of all the excess household items left over from my move, my mother’s move, and their last move presently taking up space on one side of their garage. With people running around trying to find places to charge their phones, get gas, or simply figure out what to do with themselves while sitting in the dark for twelve hours every night, perhaps going to a garage sale isn’t sitting at the top of their to-do list. Fortunately the power was restored to most of the area this morning so perhaps we can still pull this off.

I have been staying at my mother’s assisted living apartment while the lights have been off. As such facilities cater to a large population of elderly people, some requiring oxygen or other medical devices, they have to have an alternative electrical source available should the power go down. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, was left at home to man the gate. This had me running back and forth between the two living spaces making sure she has fresh water, a good dose of loving, and some kitty treats in her bowl.

Sometimes I wonder when life is ever going to settle down. I’m not asking for a boring flat line existence, but a slow rippling roll would be most welcome. Some days it seems like it’s been spiking and dipping like a roller coaster for years on end. I find my mind drifting to white sandy beaches and clear azure waters as I fall off to sleep these nights.

Sleep is another thing that seems to be evading me. I go to sleep no problem, but can’t seem to maintain a deep sleep once I have dozed off. Often I find myself looking at the ceiling two or three times during the night sometimes giving up completely and getting up and pushing brew on the coffee machine in the wee hours of the morning. My diagnosis of this phenomenon is that my subconscious is ticking off everything going on in my life and telling me there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend any lying down so I’d better get up and get something done.

Someone told me the other day I need to slow down. Really? How do I do that exactly? I do try to find me time to put my feet up and have a relaxing cup of tea, but usually in the middle of that the phone is ringing or something comes up that needs my attention. Perhaps I should put in a panic room and lock myself in it for an hour each day? Panic being the optimum word here

Yesterday I ran back and forth for my kitty, met with the home health nurse and went to the store for my mom, stopped to pick up more moving boxes, met a friend for her birthday lunch, stopped at the store on the way home for something to throw in the microwave, and retrieved my credit card from the pharmacy where I left it earlier in the day. Pulling into the assisted living facilities parking lot around dinner time I found the lot full of hay bales and bustling with activity. A sign attached to a scarecrow read, “Halloween Party in Progress – Parking Lot Full – Please Park Across the Street and Take The Free Shuttle”. Good news my hair was all ready for the parade. Yay. So I parked across the street and asked the very nice shuttle driver if he would mind if I loaded up the back of the van with moving boxes Not only did he oblige, but loaded them both on and off for me. Most probably he got a good look at my hair and felt I needed all the help I could get. I told him I would bear his children. Dropping me off in the parking lot with my load he suggested I go over later and collect my vehicle lest it get towed. Okay. My angels continuing to show up when needed he was kind enough to pick me up at the street corner two hours later trying to figure out how to get across the busy intersection.

Today I am out getting signs for our sale and change for the customers. I have sorted through most of my mom’s things and put them in three boxes, KEEP, DONATE, and GARAGE SALE. Again, I state from my previous blog about caretaking for an older parent, making decisions on their behalf such as this is not an easy undertaking. She has kept every card and letter given her over the years but there is no place to store these nor does she remember she has them anymore really. So, those memories will have to be kept tightly in her heart and find another home as we sift through her life. Sorry Mama.

I am off to get started. Wishing you a day filled with illumination.

I’m Falling

A lot going on in the news of late. Very unsettling way to spend an hour first thing in the morning before consuming your allotted amount of caffeine. Sometimes I just tune it out, opting for something easier on my brain before it gets revved up to its full momentum for the day. I’ve been thinking seriously about exploring meditation or yoga as forms of relaxation. So far these remain in the thinking stage, but at least they are floating around up there with the rest of the things I’m thinking about doing probably tomorrow, maybe the next day, or perhaps this coming weekend.

Usually I am not a procrastinator. Many of the things I was taught as a child were thrown against the wall and ended up sliding back down, but some suggestions actually stuck. One, from my grandmother, was do the thing you least enjoy doing first rather than placing it at the end of the list. That way you get it over with and it doesn’t hang over your head while you’re doing whatever else came before it. I adhere to this in most things. Take bathrooms, for example. I find nothing stimulating in any way about scrubbing the toilet bowl, pulling hair out of the shower drain, or removing soap scum. Do I enjoy a clean bathroom? Certainly. That being said someone has to clean it and low these many years I’ve never noticed any hands going up when I suggested it might be someone other than myself.

At the moment I feel like I’m trying to manipulate an eight man scull with one oar in the water. To begin with, my mother is in a skilled nursing facility recovering from a broken hip. Being an only child, and with my two kids and their families scattered about and busy, this requires a heavy commitment of time on my part. I have groups and appointments that have been moved around and juggled to the point my day planner looks like a five year old scribbled the entries with a kindergarten pencil.

My house, though not large, continues to distribute dust and crumbs at an alarming pace, and though I am taking a stab at keeping up with this progression, sometimes it feels as though I’m losing the race. The thought has occurred to me to hire someone to clean the house, but this thought is generally overridden once I consult my bank account for available funds to make this happen. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a dainty eater insists on removing each kibble from her bowl and chewing it to shreds over the floor creating a pile of large and small debris suitable for keeping a cat shelter going for several months. Yesterday I stepped on a particularly large chunk and spilled coffee all over my pants trying to right myself before I ended up in a bed next to my mother.

Something I have observed when your schedule starts to blink “overload, overload”, is you begin to do really stupid things. Now, I am the first to admit I often do dumb things as a rule of thumb, but I mean really mind numbing idiocy. Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store after being unable to think of one meal I could pull together with yellow mustard and sour cream. Racing though the aisles I piled on whatever looked good, was two for one, and I remembered I was out of and went through the checkstand. It had begun to rain at a fairly heavy pace when I pushed the cart out the front door. Locating my car I pushed the “open trunk” button on my remote and attempted to do just that. Nothing. Fine, now the remote was broken. Again I pushed a button, this time for the car itself. Nothing. Stupid remote, stupid manufacturer, why is it pouring? Finally I looked inside the car to see an In n Out cup sitting in the cup holder. Hmmmm. The last time I’d had an In n Out burger was a year ago. A light blinked in an otherwise dark chamber in my mind allowing a cognizant thought to emerge. “This is not my car.” Got it.

This vein of stupidity has run through my entire week. It’s like a wicked fairy tapped me on the head casting a spell where 40 IQ points were immediately erased from my intelligence quotient, leaving me with the brain capacity of a domestic turkey. This yet another reason you shouldn’t leave me out in the rain. Duh, and more duh. I put my trash out on Thursday which would have been excellent was it not for the fact that was the trash pick up day at my old house. The new house has trash pick up scheduled for Wednesday mornings. I’m sure the gardener will be pleased to note the clippings from last weeks trimmings are still poking nearly to the top of the compost bin. Sorry. Don’t hate me because I’ve been struck stupid. Hopefully, this will pass.

To add to my prefrontal cortex malfunctions, I have a head cold. This means I either need to abstain from visiting my mother or wear a face mask. If you have ever tried to breathe with one of these masks over your nose when your nasal passages are tighter than Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s abs, you would understand why this option is not at the top of my list. That being said, I have opted to rest in place for the day, binge on old movies, and face the mask tomorrow after two or three dosings of Airborne and some rest. Check please.

On another note, I have to say it was wonderful to see the rain. Thankfully summer in the Sierra Nevadas didn’t dole out it’s usual bounty of sweltering days this year. Summer passed on a somewhat milder note keeping devastating fires off the front page as often and making for more tolerable days outside.

With the rain accompanied by the first dusting of snow in the mountains fall is dropping hints it’s just around the corner. There’s something about autumn that stirs my soul more than any other season of the year. The glorious colors bursting forth on the trees, the rich earthy smell after a good downpour, and my three favorite holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas lining up on the horizon.

Cooking begins to cross my mind this time of year as well, Delicious meaty stews, comforting soups, and the king of the birds (at least to eat) the turkey. Yum and more yum.

As the calendar rolls over to October I will begin digging in the storage shed for the Halloween decorations tucked away in their orange bin. Since I have enough bins to start a department store I have found color coding preferable to spending an afternoon opening one lid after another trying to determine what lies beneath it. Red and green for Christmas, orange for Halloween, well you get the idea.

Monday has arrived on the scene again. The week before me is jam packed so I am gearing up to prepare for it armed with the industrial pack of Airborne for my cold and a mega sized cup of coffee to get my blood moving. Have a great week. Take a chance or two, hug your kids often, say hello to a stranger, and discover something new about yourself.

Bouncing Back

Well here I am standing at the year mark since Rick passed away. Seems impossible at times to realize 365 days have passed, yet on particularly difficult days it can feel like so many more. Much has happened, so many changes have taken place. Sometimes when I see my reflection in the mirror it’s as if the outlines of my face have altered and shifted, as though I am still asleep and dreaming.

Was I to encapsulate the first year I would say grief has a way of defining you in those early days. Caught up in a whirlwind of emotions you soar up into the clouds then catapult down over mountains of memories assaulting your mind and clawing at your heart. Then slowly, ever so slowly, the storm subsides. Like the morning after a heavy rain, there is a gentle stillness as the earth absorbs the nourishing water, and animals hesitantly peek out from their dens to see what the day is to bring. Your tears begin to diminish, feelings return to a more tolerable level. Life, once again, begins to stir beneath the surface.

People say odd things to you after someone dies, sometimes insensitive. “Time heals all things”, “he’s in a better place now”, “it was his time”. In retrospect I do not believe they do this out of a lack of empathy, but rather they really do not know what to say. Even though as human beings we are beginning to die with the second breath we take, we still haven’t come to terms with dealing with it. To begin with death remains a mystery. No one, at least as far as I know other than Christ, if this is your belief, has returned to tell us about it since time began. That alone might make it the biggest mystery on earth even than discovering what lies beyond the universe, and don’t even get me started on that.

Even as we avoid death we are drawn to the subject. Stories meant to scare and excite us are often centered around the afterlife. Dracula, zombies, Frankenstein, poltergeist, and on and on and on. Edgar Allen Poe wrote about death as a rule, not an exception. The House of Usher, about a woman entombed while still alive, kept me up for weeks  in high school after I chose it out of the assigned reading list in English. Dark tales of people rising up from the grave or the undead feeding on the hapless townspeople captivate television and movie audiences. The ancient Egyptians erected the great pyramids as an homage to their deceased rulers, going so far as to entomb live servants and pets with their dead masters to accompany them on their journey.

Where do our souls travel when our bodies wear out? Will we join our loved ones when our time here is through? As with many unknowns in our world, these questions linger unanswered as one century folds into the next.

For me, I am struggling to recreate myself as a single woman of a certain age once again. Not that I haven’t been single before, one cannot be married four times and not find themselves single at one time or another. This is the first time, however, I have been totally on my own without the responsibility of children living at home or a roommate to fill a bed in another room. Just me and Miss Boo, the Queen of cats, who though fond of me would never let on she actually needs me around.

When a year or so has passed following the death of a loved one people want you to get over feeling the loss and move on. Death makes us uncomfortable I believe because it shines a light on our own fragility or that of our loved ones. So many times lately I’ve been asked if I’m ready to start dating. You cannot replace a loved one like you would a goldfish that had met a soggy end in your fish tank.

The thought of beginning again building a relationship with someone new is daunting at best. To start at the ground floor learning whether he likes blue cheese or ranch, has anchovies on his pizza, prefers jazz to classic rock, or goes to bed early and gets up late or is a night owl nearly makes me break out in a sweat. It takes years to build the foundation of a strong and lasting partnership, some people never achieve it. I wonder at times if I’ve had my time in the sun. Do I have the energy to bring someone new once again into my world? This remains to be seen I would guess. I do not have the ability to peek into the final chapters of my life. Hopefully someone will come along who I can enjoy a meal with, watch a movie next to or do a little traveling alongside.

I have reached a point where the extreme sadness has eased and I treasure the time I shared with Rick. The memories are the gift he leaves behind and the love he gave me unconditionally always believing I could do whatever I set my mind out to accomplish. If he were standing here I would thank him for the twenty years he shared with me. No one can replicate or take that time away.

I will keep my mind open as I move on alone. Should I find myself loving someone again it does not mean I lose Rick but rather gain someone new and totally unique from him. Can you ever welcome too much love in your life? Looking forward I hope to discover more about myself as each day unfolds. Standing on my own isn’t always easy but I am taking one step, one day at a time.

So I begin a new year full of new hopes and dreams praying this year brings some relief from the strain of the three behind it allowing me to find a little peace. There are unconquered hills to climb, new valleys to explore and paths yet untraveled for me to look forward to. Life will never be a flat line. Always you must deal with disappointment, heartache and unrest but they are balanced out by moments of pure joy, genuine happiness and peaceful contentment. In the end it how you react to what is placed in your way that makes the difference in the quality of your life I believe.

You will be missed, dear Rick, while I light a candle on our one year anniversary apart. I love you. Thank you for all the magic moments, silly laughter, intimate shares late at night, and accepting me for who I am without question. May you too have found peace wherever good souls go.

Ending on a light note, I would like to share the wisdom of a 103 year old helping her 107 year old sister celebrate her birthday on a TV news show. When asked what the secret to a long life she wisely answered, “just don’t die”. There you go. Words to live by. Reply

Life in the Bin

As mentioned in my previous blog, my elderly (sorry mom) mother fell and broke her hip three weeks ago. Since then life has been pretty much devoted to getting her back on her feet, both literally and figuratively, and figuring out a plan of action on where to go from here once that has been accomplished.

This will mark my second round of care giving responsibilities. When Rick, my significant other passed away last year, I was warned to pace myself as the mortality rates for caregivers are alarming. Thirty percent of caregivers will die before the loved ones they are caring for do. I have heard higher numbers but 30% is sufficiently worrisome, thank you very much. Emotional and physical exhaustion can lead to a compromised auto immune system as well as a myriad of other health problems. I am so thankful when I was coming down the assembly line I was right behind the Energizer Bunny thus blessed with the same full tank of boundless energy and a high octane metabolism. However, the bunny was constructed of cotton and fiberfill, where I am flesh and bone so I am mindful of how thin I stretch myself.

Three nights a week and a good portion of the days I am at the skilled nursing facility where my mom is housed. When I walk in the building I hear the staff saying “Susie’s here”, which gives you a good idea the amount of time I am around. Last night I settled down in the bed next to my mother. I thought the chairs they provide for the visitors were quite possibly the most uncomfortable furniture ever constructed, but I have to admit they went the extra mile when putting the beds together. I hold to the notion they tied a stack of sheet lumber together, wrapped a layer of bunting around it and called it good when making the mattress. When you turn on your side you literally rebound off the top like a rubber ball hitting a cement driveway. The pillows are constructed of a plastic like material which glues to your hair like rubber cement and the linen smells vaguely like a mix of urine and bleach. For me I brought my own throw and pillows and would have brought in an egg crate cover for the mattress if I didn’t think that was a bit over the top, no pun intended.

Last night I was back to sleep for the second time after the staff came in to check vitals and make a toilet run for my mother. Slipping back into a deep sleep something must have triggered my eyelids to open revealing a well wrinkled face peering into mine. The woman looked to be well into her nineties. Seated in a wheelchair she was resplendent in bright pink flannel pj’s with penguins marching across them accessorized by a lime green travel pillow curled around her neck. “You are sleeping in my bed”, she announced loudly. Coming up from dreamland I felt for all he world like Goldilocks. For a minute I wasn’t sure if I was actually awake or simply dreaming I was awake. Groping around for the damnable call button the penguin lady zoomed off knocking my glass of water to the floor prompting my mother to sit up. Mother and I watched in fascination as the lady did 360’s in her chair in the middle of the room and then zoomed into the bathroom closing the door behind her. Finally a nurse came in to retrieve the poor lady apologizing for the disturbance. I could still hear the woman screaming going down the hall “she’s in my room, she’s in my room”. I’m beginning to think my mother is right when she says “it doesn’t pay to get old”. Life in the bin I guess.

Another thing to consider is that any hospital or nursing home is a witch’s cauldron of germs brewing and stewing on every surface you come in contact with. I have washed my hands so many times now I had to buy the industrial sized moisturizing cream to combat the skin simply cracking and falling off on the floor. Rick contracted C-diff while in such an institution. As you can imagine germs travel quickly with staff moving in and out of rooms and people in the halls and communal areas spreading the wealth. Bleach is used for washing clothes, linens, floors, and every surface in an effort to keep this under control. C-diff by definition is a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Oh, yea.

When you get this bacteria you are sequestered. Visitors are suited up from head to toe in protective clothing each time you enter or leave the room where the infected person is housed. With Rick, I spent many days seated across from him looking like an extra from Outbreak. Poor guy. He said he felt like a leper. Even the cleaning staff gave his door a wide berth. I had to bleach my clothes when I got home and be careful again to wash my hands often and well. Growing up in a doctor’s household, (my grandfather was a urologist, my grandmother an RN) this was not unfamiliar training for me.

My kids come in and spend some grandma and me time on the weekend giving me a little time to myself. Today I intend to remove the dust from my own life and see if there’s still something left underneath it. The yard, the cat, the house, are all ready to go on strike if I don’t give them some attention. Boo, the Queen of Cats, stands guard on the floor by my feet when I’m home shooting me a glaring look with one eye from time to time should I make a move towards the front door.

I shall always consider myself blessed to have had my mother all these years. Like most mothers and daughters we’ve shared moments not suitable for a Hallmark greeting, but we always mended and came together again. You are given one mother in this life and that is the allotment. Some of us fare better than others under this system, and I feel I’m one of the lucky ones. All of us who are parents probably can be seen as needing improvement by our offspring but she always let me know I was well loved, and you can’t do better than that. Hug your mom today. Today is what we have, fill it with the important things.

The Incarceration

Since last I wrote a new wrinkle has been added to my already untidy life, my mother fell and broke her hip. For a woman in her nineties my mother is somewhat of an amazement. The last time I took her in for a visit with her primary care physician he commented on how well she continues to thrive for a lady of a certain age. (You can’t see me but I’m knocking on wood this continues. We are betting she blows out the candles on her 100th birthday cake.) After running a mind boggling battery of standard tests checking everything from the length of her earlobes to her how well she flexes her pinkie, he could not find anything concerning……..well, physically. Mental prowess, I’m afraid, might earn her a lower grade. Mother’s short term memory has been declining steadily over the last four years. Though we continue to share conversations where both parties contribute, often when I tell her something it quite literally goes in one ear and immediately exits out on the opposite side. Repeat, pause, repeat, is the mantra at our house.

Certainly memory loss when plowing through your nineties is not unexpected. Like a trusty old vehicle things begin to corrode and function less efficiently as time passes. Interestingly enough, no matter how degraded her short term memory has become her core being remains intact. Her well appointed apartment is neat as a pin with all things folded neatly and a place for everything and everything in its place. Every Thursday at 11:00 she gets her hair done, and whether or not the earth is facing imminent destruction at 5:15 that Manhattan with one cherry and three ice cubes needs to show up in her special glass at 5:00. Some things, despite the complexities of life, never change.

Aside from the dementia dogging her heels my little mother (I use little only in reference to her stature, as she’s huge in attitude and personality) does battle with OCD. As of this writing I am unhappy to report that it’s Mother 1 – OCD 2,460,910. Most likely she should have been treated for this years ago but again I point to her sometimes obstinate nature, in-born pride, and the lack of information they had about such things in her younger years. Thus, we all deal with the consequences of incessant tidiness and a need for perfection, but this is balanced out with her sweet disposition (most of the time), undying love of family, indomitable determination, and generous nature.

Though I don’t allow the internal conversation to bubble over and fester, my mind can’t help but conjure up the what if’s of a parent getting older, a serious injury, and the statistics surrounding such a fall and break. I am still processing the loss of my significant other last year and the thought of losing another person close to me might trigger a full on anxiety attack if I let it have its way. Often I have told Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, I expect her to live to be at least thirty, as I couldn’t imagine a world without her silly face staring at me over the laptop in the morning. I choose to hold on to positive thoughts, enjoy as much time as I can with my mother and my dear kitty, and be thankful for all the years, good and bad, we have shared on this planet. Someone said to me somewhere along the way “Death is an integral part of life. We all suffer loss. If you can’t learn to handle it, it will make the act of living far more difficult.”

Mother has put the surgery behind her plus three days in the hospital and is now occupying a bed at the local skilled nursing facility where they will rebuild her stamina while her leg mends. This process, or so I am told, is a combination of rest, attitude, and general level of health and unique to each individual. The State of California legislators passed a law a while back banning the use of railings, bed alarms, or any type of restraint in extended care facilities such as mother is staying in. Struggling to comprehend the reason for such a law, because to me these safety measures are needed, I was given to understand some patients have been injured by the railings. People have gotten tangled in the railing apparatus thus prompting such legislation. The bed alarms, or anything restricting the movement of the patient are now viewed as a form of mistreatment. If dealing with a heavily sedated patient or someone with less capacity to understand what is and is not safe for themselves, it seems to me there might might be room for some exceptions to such a ruling.

When she was transferred I was told by the charge nurse that in cases where dementia has been diagnosed the family is expected to be at the facility 24/7 to watch their loved one. Once I closed my mouth after that statement, I said “really”? What do people do who have small children, jobs, school, …….um lives? What do those people do with a request like that? What do people like myself who aren’t blessed with a large extended family or a large bank account do in such a situation? We are not talking a couple of days but rather several weeks or far longer. I adore my mother and would happily do anything for her but even I, in spite of the large red “S” emblazoned on my J Crew tee, do not have enough stamina to pull that out of my hat without some consequences to my health.

I was told by one of the CRN’s they are short staffed and she works long shifts. Apparently they fill out their staff with family members to make up for the lack of manpower. For anyone going through such an ordeal set up a case meeting immediately such as I did. At that meeting I explained my situation and that I could not “live” at their facility. Alternate solutions after the meeting such as a CRN from the facility checking her at regular intervals, keeping her bed at it’s lowest height, and putting pads on the floor have been put into place, when I am not on the premises. These are not optimum solutions certainly but better than instituting no precautions at all. Also a caregiver (at our expense) has been brought on board three nights a week to be there so I can get some rest. This at the suggestion of my cat who had placed an ad in the paper looking for a new home with a human who lives there once and a while.

The food is another beef I have. (I use the term beef here in the loosest sense, because what they have been serving thus far hasn’t been anything even closely resembling beef or any other meat I recognize.) Though I realize their food can’t be heavily seasoned or spicy due to dietary concerns, at least it could be palatable. Yesterday, I swear to God, lunch looked as though someone had regurgitated on the plate. That being said, I bring in the food. I label it and it is put in their fridge for her use. After three days it is tossed. Somehow I suspect someone is participating in some of this bounty because I left a to-go container with a baked potato and delicious gooey ribs in there clearly marked and dated and mysteriously it opened the refrigerator door in the middle of the night and escaped to wherever uneaten ribs go to avoid the inevitable. Huh.

The food issues, like any health issues, require you advocating for your loved one. Over the past ten years I have been called into duty to be a caregiver for someone I hold dear on more than one occasion. They are ill and can’t do it for themselves so you essentially become their “voice”. If a procedure seems wrong trust your instincts and speak up.

Another tip is to get to know the staff. I have gotten to know a lot of the nurses personally. They bend over backwards to keep my mother safe and well tended to. One nurse, Rowena, has been on shift often during my mother’s stay. Originally from a poor village in the Philippines, Rowena is one of thirteen children. She seems fascinated with my only child status. When I told her I had no siblings at first I think she thought I was kidding her. Nope, just me. The tallest, the shortest, the best, the worst, and yes, the one and only princess on my block. The matriarch of her clan is her 105 year old grandma. “Grandma” was described as a tiny woman with silver hair down to her waist who enjoys squatting on the floor of her modest home and sharing the wisdom of her many years with her offspring. One such pearl, according to Rowena, was that the eldest of the clan are tasked with showing the younger members how to care for their parents as they age. In other words how I treat my parents will be a guide for my children as to how to treat me when I may need their help. Interesting. Hope mine are paying attention.

So another chapter opens up in my roller coaster life, and just when the dust was beginning to settle on the last one. Guess I can honestly say that above all things I am rarely bored, which I believe is a good thing. As usual life offers up new lessons to ponder as the days unfold. I try to keep my eyes and ears open to what is coming my way and either tuck it away for future consideration, pass it on, or release it. I had a friend a long time ago who had a tee shirt that read “keep the best and leave the rest”. Guess that’s kind of how I view all this information coming my way each day. Take with you what is relevant and leave behind you what doesn’t pertain to your life. Have an excellent day!!

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