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Archive for the ‘dementia’ Category

Well another fourth has been put to bed. As it happens, the fourth was also my maternal grandmother’s birthday. She always requested strawberry shortcake for the occasion. I think of her each year as the fireworks explode in the sky, and hope she’s slathering a mound of fluffy whipped cream on fresh strawberries somewhere in the universe.

I made plans to go to a local Fourth of July parade with a friend, and then attend a pancake breakfast at the Elks Lodge immediately following. It was warm, but thankfully not hot like in the past several weeks. We waited with other enthusiastic onlookers in the semi-shade about an hour and a half for the parade to begin. The first car carrying the “Grand Marshall”, a local celebrity of sorts who owned a string of car washes, went by followed by a small but merry group of flag twirlers. After the flag twirlers rounded the corner, three ladies came into view riding palominos each with an American flag painted on their flank. (That would be the equines with the flags not the ladies.) A few stray cars went by next, not associated with the parade itself, and then two fire trucks and some beautifully restored classic cars. The whole performance lasted about eight minutes. Well worth the wait, lol.

After the parade had passed us by, we made our way across the street to the Elks Lodge to stand in line to get tickets for the much touted all you can eat pancake breakfast. Breakfast, we were told, included scrambled eggs, unlimited pancakes, and sausage. Yum. My stomach had begun grumbling as soon as it smelled the maple syrup. Purposely, I had held off on eating before I came, so I could enjoy a stack of unlimited pancakes to my hearts content. Yay. The Elks had it set up so you gave your name to the ticket lady, who, in turn, handed it off to the volunteers in the kitchen. Orders came out one after another for about an hour with names being called to identify the table they belonged to. My stomach finally gave up the vigil and quieted down to a dull roar settling for a glass of orange juice until the pancakes arrived. About ten people before us, one of the runners announced they had run out of food. Really? We were told a tri tip and hot dog barbecue would commence in about an hour and a half. I was first in line for that one I guarantee.

Turns out while we were waiting for lunch to be served, a band was setting up in one of the great rooms inside. We milled in with the others waiting with us, to listen to what they had to offer. They weren’t bad actually. I wore flip flops because, a) it was warm, and b) I was wearing shorts, and my invitation to go dancing must have gotten lost in the mail. Dancing in flip flops is not the ideal footwear situation, but for the next hour I found myself doing exactly that. Turns out these Elks can actually bust some moves on the dance floor. At one point, 80% of the room got out there and did an amazing line dance that would have been impressive even in a Texas roadhouse. Wow. Must be taking lessons on the weekend. I’ve never learned to line dance. For some reason I can’t seem to hold on to the choreography. My ex-husband was from Odessa. There I believe line dancing and cow wrangling are required courses in grade school. He taught me a lot in the ten years or so we were together, both good and bad. I’ve forgotten most of the dances over the years but it was fun to watch. Made me think I might sign up for a class somewhere along the way myself.

I came home early before the fireworks because I had driven back from the Bay Area the day before, where I visited my son and his brood. After four days of busy activities my behind was beginning to drag along the asphalt. I’ve been riding myself pretty hard lately and the old bones are beginning to feel the strain.

Yesterday was my first eight hour day on the new job. For those of you who didn’t read my blog saying where I was working, I took a job at an assisted living and memory care facility two days a week. It continues to surprise me how much my mind is fighting this new development. I keep hearing phrases like “Where oh where is my prince?” swirling about in my head. Once I officially retired I think my mindset was to keep that employment designation, but as I’ve said sooooooo many times life doesn’t always read the agenda you have written out for yourself.

My official job title is Concierge. I know, very flashy, yes? Actually, administrative assistant more accurately describes what I am doing. However, I rather like the title they assigned me. Rolls nicely off the tongue. I spent the day seated in an incredibly hard folding chair in front of a small laptop watching videos. In order to work in such a facility you are required to be somewhat versed on the conditions at work in the people living there. In this case, that would be mainly dementia and Alzheimer’s. Because my mother had dementia in her nineties, I am fairly well versed in how the condition manifests itself as it moves along in it’s progression.

Being the “new girl on the block” prompted a procession of sorts by the door to my temporary office comprised of the men living in the facility. Men will be men, I have observed, no matter the age group. One after one, they circled the hallway most pushing walkers to get a look at the new face in the building. It’s probably one of the few places I could show up for work these days where I would be considered a member of the younger generation in the population.

After about four hours in that chair my body began to complain. By the time I rolled into the eighth hour I had assumed more positions in that miserable little chair then a professional ballerina performing Swan Lake. I go back to work tomorrow, and they are going to have to find me a softer place to land or I’m going to end up in traction by the weekend. I do feel like I am learning a lot in between the squirming, however. It is a little scary to think that most of us will develop dementia on one level or another, and many of us Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, medical science will come up with something to reverse or stop the progress of this disease. Makes you wonder though. The average age in nursing homes now is 80 years old. Used to be people didn’t live past sixty. If we live to be two hundred, I do hope they also combat the physical effects of aging or that might not be a sight I’d like to see facing me in the mirror every morning. I’m just saying.

Well, happy hump day to you. I lost a very dear friend suddenly day before yesterday. Thankfully, we had lunch several weeks ago and parted by saying “I love you. See you soon.” You never know, capture each moment, appreciate the clouds and the stars, taste the food on your plate with all your senses. Live every day to the fullest.

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My mother will be celebrating another birthday milestone birthday in a few weeks. She has been on hospice for about a year now. That word always feels so ominous to me, but they have been wonderful in overseeing her care and I am glad to know they have eyes on her when I do not. There is no doubt she is slowing down. For me, this means getting as much out of each visit as I can to deposit in the memory pot.

While talking to my cousin in Canada last night we got into a conversation about flying. She related a story of hers where she boarded a plane with her ticket in hand. Locating her assigned seat, she found it already occupied by a gentleman. Explaining to him he was sitting in her seat and showing him her ticket to emphasize her point, he explained to her she, in fact, was on the wrong plane. Whoops. This brought to mind a story about my mother. Any of you who have read my blogs in the past, would know I do seem to get myself in messes. Telling this story last night made me think “the acorn does not fall far from the tree” in our family.

I will preface this story by starting with another. My mother was born with no internal sense of direction. For her, getting from the kitchen to the bathroom involved a map and a St. Bernard with a keg of Heineken strapped to its neck. As a child, I can remember riding shotgun with her and being given a map and expected to guide us to wherever our destination was supposed to be. No wonder I sucked my thumb. That’s a lot of responsibility heaped on an eight year old.

The first year we came to California my mother and new stepfather purchased a house in Fullerton, which is in Southern California. I was enrolled in fourth grade in the neighborhood school, and one of the first things I wanted to do was to visit Disneyland. Growing up in Nova Scotia, our perception of California was sun washed beaches, movie stars roaming the streets, orange groves, palm trees, and Disneyland. I didn’t see my first movie star until I was in my early twenties, but the rest of it was pretty much right on the money. After being in the area for several months, only Disneyland was left to fill out the list.

Anaheim, where Disneyland is located, was at best a fifteen minute drive from our house. I was so excited about going my mouth was moving a mile a minute. Back in those days you bought books of tickets at the gate ranging from A-E. The A tickets were for the less exciting rides, moving up from there to the premium rides which took an E ticket for admission. My mother spent $50 that day on the whole visit and went on about how expensive it was for days. Now that would barely cover parking.

After a fun filled day of rides, park food, and souvenir shopping our feet were tired and we were ready to head home. Again, home was a fifteen minute drive with traffic. As usual, I was handed the map. Mother had never driven the freeways before that day. When she merged into traffic she became totally unglued as cars and massive semis careened by us on either side. Orders were being hurled in my direction faster than a chef calling out meal requests on a bustling food line. Somehow we missed our exit. For whatever reason she never got off the freeway again until we’d merged onto several others and were totally lost. When we finally pulled off an off ramp, it was dark, and we were in Burbank an hour’s drive from our house. Thankfully, a police cruiser had pulled over to the side of the road. My mother pulled in behind him and explained our situation. I remember sitting in the car getting my thumb prepared for insertion lest she get arrested. We made it home well into the evening. It was a long time after that before mother ventured onto the freeways again, but I retained my job as navigator well into adulthood.

There are many funny stories in my mother’s repertoire. The one triggered by my cousin’s wrong flight story was one for the books. Mother was living in the Bay Area when this silliness transpired. Plans had been made for her to take the one hour flight to L.A. to visit a friend of hers who lived in the L.A. area. Not wanting to leave her car at the airport, she asked if I would drop her off on my way home from work. It was a Friday night, and the airport was packed. I asked her several times if she needed me to park and see her to her gate. Each time she said no, she would be fine. As I remember, it had been a long week, and I still had to fight the commuter traffic home, so with some reservations, I retrieved her bag from the trunk, gave her a hug, and told her to call me when she arrived on the other end.

Several hours later a distress call came in from my mother’s friend. It seemed she had waited at the gate where my mother was to arrive, but mother never got off the plane. Asking at the gate an airport employee said she had never boarded. What?

Before I could alert the media, the phone rang again. This time it was my missing mother on the other end. She was laughing so hard, I could barely get the gist of what she was saying. Seems she had gotten on board the plane after I’d left her. After taxiing down the runway and in the air, the pilot came on the P.A. to provide the passengers with a weather report for Seattle. Finding this odd, my mother asked the lady in the seat next to her why on earth he was telling them about the weather in Seattle. The lady replied, “because that is where we are going”. Amazing. So, the airlines, realizing they had a passenger on the wrong plane and they didn’t catch the mistake, put her up in the Holiday Inn and booked her a return flight to L.A. the following morning. Dinner was also provided. Good going, Mom.

Someone pointed out the other day when you have lost both parents the feeling comes over you you are now an orphan. Never thought of that before. I don’t know how I will feel when at last she leaves us, but I’m sure I will miss her more than I can say.

Thanks for the memories, Mom. It wasn’t perfect, but it most certainly has been an interesting run. I hope we have a dozen more years of memories to make together.

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Looking out my window this morning, the patio chair closest to the house is barely visible. A heavy bank of fog has moved in making the landscape murky, and trees and bushes but shadowy figures moving in and out of view in the background. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the arm of the Halifax harbor, fog was an integral part of my world. At night, tucked in my little bed in the my room on the second floor of my grandmother’s large comfortable home, the fog horn was often the last sound I was to hear before drifting off to sleep. As I’ve said, repeatedly most likely, I do enjoy a little weather. I would not be content in a place where one season looks like the next, and a bit of inclement weather less likely than developing a case of smallpox. Change, in all things, is what, to me, makes life interesting.

Even if you must go to the same job every day year after year, I believe it is important not to follow the same route every morning in order to get there, or to bring the same lunch to put in the fridge in the break room you’d eaten the day before. Once I dated a man who had his clothes lined up in his closet according to the days of the week. There were his Monday pants, hanging next to his Monday shirt. On the floor beneath them sat his Monday shoes and socks waiting to be put on once his Monday clothes were in place. I dated him for two years and never saw him in other than his Monday shirt on a Monday in the time we were together. If he removed a catsup bottle from what he referred to as his “staples shelf” a bottle of catsup was immediately added to the list hanging on a clipboard on the wall to be purchased at the next trip to the store. Each moment of his life was neatly organized. I like my surroundings to be neat, but I don’t want my life too tidily in place as to not have room for movement.

Now, let me preface this writing by saying I am by nature a very organized person. I do run a tidy ship in my home and don’t find comfort sitting around in a bunch of clutter or disorder. That is just me. If you wish to sit in your house with old McDonald’s bags tossed in the corner, piles of unfolded laundry on the couch and your last dish sitting in the sink dripping maple syrup, it is not my business, nor would I judge you for doing so. This is simply not how I choose to live. Each of us has our own way of plowing through life, and I believe whatever works for you, is precisely what you should be doing.

I had a friend who went through a twelve step program for an addiction he was fighting. As his friend, I went to a meeting with him on several occasions by way of support. The speaker on the first visit was talking about how important how you keep your personal area is to your overall well being. I believe there is truth to this. Most likely if your living space would be suitable for Porky and his pals to take up residence in, your life might well be a reflection of this. But who am I to say? My house is clean, but my life has been untidy often and had many chaotic spaces in it. I’m just throwing the information out there. You may chew on it any way you might like.

Speaking of chewing, there is good news on the cow flatulence front. Cows pass gas or burp, it would appear, at an alarming rate which is negatively effecting our ozone layer. A farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan living in Prince Edward Island (PEI to us Canadians) discovered by feeding his cows organic seaweed it made the animals far less gassy. Go team Canada! They are still investigating how to make this seaweed accessible as a food source for all the gassy cows presently strewn across the globe, as well as determining whether this is a short term fix or a long term one. Either way it is quite an amazing discovery. Right on Joe.

I think of this, because yesterday I went to visit my mother. No, she does not suffer from gas. However, she is presently living in a board and care in a rural section of a Sacramento suburb. It is a lovely area, populated with large ranches situated on huge chunks of property. While driving along the back roads, I passed a flock of wild turkeys deciding whether or not to cross the road, a bee farm (I guess you’d call it that) and a huge flock of cows grazing in a pasture. There you go, the much needed connection to the previous paragraph. Having just read the article about the farmer in PEI, my mind naturally went to the the bovine gas producers as I drove on by.

There are currently three residents and not a single cow in the board and care where my mother stays. There were four, but one lady passed away several weeks ago. My mother and the other female resident both have varying stages of dementia. The third resident, the other woman’s husband, lives with her but is in fairly good health. He moved in to be close to his wife. I find that terribly sweet as I write it. He is always by her side. It is my understanding they have been married for years and when she needed more significant care he opted to join her without hesitation.

Last week, I went to the dollar store and purchased Christmas stockings and all kind of goodies to stuff them with. Then I went to another store and found warm socks for the ladies, and a wool cap for the gentleman in the group. I had noticed on my visits there were perhaps four hairs remaining on the top of his head. Rick, when I met him, was totally bald and always favored wool hats in the winter months to cover this exposed skin in the cold weather. The gentleman was so excited to get the hat, it immediately went on his head and was still in place when I was saying goodbye several hours later. He also told me he had never had a stocking in his life and was most pleased to be able to hang one up. I don’t know his story, perhaps it’s a religious preference, or just a personal one, but all in all it was really fun and a big hit on the other end. Funny how a little something like that can bring a smile to someone’s face. Small acts of kindness, really do have big impact.

The hat made me think of Rick, not that I don’t often have him on my mind. We were together nearly twenty years. That is not a vacancy you fill easily. As I said, he was bald when I met him, having begun to lose his hair in his thirties. With all the stress I’ve had in my life over the past three or four years my hair has taken a hit. Fortunately, I had quite a bit to begin with, but it certainly is less lush then it used to be. Once the hair went, Rick cultivated the middle aged manscape on his face, basically a moustache which was attached to a neatly trimmed goatee. The hair shows up on the face, I believe, as it begins to disappear on the top of the head. I thought he looked wonderful without his hair, and as I never knew him with it in place, never noticed the loss of it. He told me it was devastating for him, however, when his hairline first began to recede. I can feel that. I had a very dear friend who was much older. His hair had completely disappeared on the top of his head but he still had a healthy growth around the sides. His solution to this problem, was to grow it really long on one side and draw that up over the vacant space on the top. Once in place he sprayed it into submission. A comb over. Let me be the first to say, this is not a good look. If the wind comes up, for example, or you go swimming? The hair on the side either stands up or droops to one side and the empty field is revealed. Seriously, I would much rather see a cleanly shaved bald head any day then that. I’m just saying. In the end it is the person existing below the hairline is who is important not what’s growing on their head.

As we age, the things that seemed so important when we were young seem to fade into the background. People gain a few miles on them and aren’t as shiny and factory fresh as they were in their twenties or thirties. The good news unless we invent a magic elixir, all of us are going to age. As yet, I have heard of no effective cure for it. Oh, there is plastic surgery (sometimes scary), and there are a myriad of products out there touting youthful results if you use them, but in the end aging must be faced and accepted as part of the journey.

So, I am inside and cozy on this foggy, foggy day. Have many projects on my table in various stages of production so lots to keep me busy. Christmas is on the horizon and a new year with hopefully more exciting prospects and great bounty for all of us.

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Hamburgers are on the menu for dinner tonight at our house. You can pretty much gauge my mood by what I’ve got planned for the evening meal. Right at the top of my comfort food list you would find in bold capital letters and underlined, “cheeseburgers”. Funny isn’t it, how comforting food can be? Perhaps that’s why so many people in the country are overweight? Being handed a bowl of hot chili in the winter, is like being offered a warm blanket on a frigid night. Food is the obvious solution for so many problems to my mind. Your boss is an idiot? A Kit-Kat will make it all better. Your husband ran off with the cleaning lady? Wolf down an entire bag of double dip Oreos and that will mend a few holes in that broken heart. If we’re not eating away our problems, we are numbing them into submission with alcohol or drugs. It’s the American way. Let’s face it, none of us want to feel the pain in our lives, particularly when it becomes oppressive. So much easier to drown our misery in a caramel frapucinno or bury it in a couple of oversized tubs of brownie batter ice cream. I know for me, simply saying the words “I’ll have four number three’s please, oversize it” into a microphone, makes a bad day feel better. Easy peasy. Please believe me, there’s no finger pointing going on here on my part, simply making some observations. Why do you think cheeseburgers and home made fries are on my menu tonight? My hands are definitely not clean, if you get what I’m sayin.

Believe me I am hardly one to talk. I am a good pusher of feelings. Push, push, push. It wasn’t until things were spinning out of control in my early thirties, I realized this method of handling my innermost turmoil, was not proving to be an effective way to manage my life. Now, I didn’t exactly come to this conclusion on my own during an epiphany over my cheese omelet. Noticing my life was taking on water, and the boat slowly sinking, I sent up a distress signal. This resulted in me soliciting the help of a wonderful therapist who guided me through some of the rougher currents. With her assistance, I began to figure out why, though I was paddling really hard, I wasn’t finding my way to the shore. I hope you didn’t get seasick with all those ocean analogies. Please understand, going through that soul discovering journey does not mean I found all the answers to my problems. Not even close. I work on plugging up the holes every day (Sorry, I can’t seem to help myself today.). It only means, I took the time to stop and take a look at what I was doing, rather than just doing, and began to explore which behaviors worked for me and those I needed to cut loose and allow to move away from me. As I’ve said many times, I am a creature of many flaws. The difference being, now I can examine my flaws daily and manage to love myself anyhow, and have learned to make friends with these dents in my armor. Along with my finer qualities, these less desirable traits are an integral part of the whole that makes me who I am.

Though I may still enjoy a good juicy cheeseburger with all the trimmings when my life is threatening to overwhelm me, I try also to deal with what is on my plate, aside from consuming the perfectly seasoned ground beef. This isn’t always easy for me. For example, in the last two months four boils have risen up one after another on the lower half of my face. Fortunately, we are wearing mask, so no young children have been traumatized by these events. Also, thanks to a good dose of antibiotics, my facial features have returned to their pre-eruption smooth landscape. Whew. I am not subject to boils as a norm. However, skin, being the largest organ, as well as one we can see, it is often the first to reflect signs of stress in our bodies. Though stress definitely effects all organs in our body, skin is the only one where the effects become immediately obvious. When I was going through a particularly angst filled time with an ex-husband, I ended up with psoriasis over 70% of my body. Never had it before, nor have I experienced it since. It took me a year of light treatments, nightly soakings, a myriad of creams and prescriptions, and releasing the ex-husband, to right that ship. Not boarding that cruise again, so deal with my feelings I must and will do. Dramamine anyone?

Yesterday began like a Monday, and continued to behave like one all the way through the day. At 8:00 I showed up at the DMV to complete my application for my California ID. There are extensions in place for getting this done in place due to Covid, but I like to move things off my to-do list as quickly as possible, that way I don’t have to think about them. On the DMV website it was suggested you make an appointment. Right. You click on “yes, make an appointment” and are redirected back to “yes, make an appointment”. Fine. So, I completed my application, gathered the necessary supporting paperwork, put a bottle of water in my purse and headed to the DMV with no appointment in place. The seats were fairly occupied but there were several in the back with no one seated directly next to them. Everyone was wearing a masks except one couple. There is always one in the crowd. Also there was one guy who had a mask on, but it was pulled underneath his chin. I haven’t read the CDC guidelines word for word, but I don’t believe this is the suggested way to wear one. Just sayin.

My number was G12. The PA voice was calling G01 when I sat down. Didn’t seem like too long of a wait, but that was before I discovered there were “B” people waiting as well as “G” people. K. All about letters and numbers at the DMV it would seem. About an hour later, my number was getting close to the starting gate. The “G” man before me totally lost it with a clerk about a registration snafu with regard to his mother’s car. I know this, because he was yelling loud enough to trigger a car alarm in the parking lot. After enjoying a meltdown any two year old could have been proud off, he tore his mask off, threw it on the ground, and stomped out of the building throwing all his paperwork up in the air on the way out the door. We all watched as the papers floated to the ground, nobody saying a word, as if this is what one does when exiting the building. Love human nature. Fascinating really. “Next.” Oh, that would be me. I had to produce my actual green card. My name is listed on my immigration card with my middle name, as that is what is required by their office. All good. However, my driver’s license has only the initial. Apparently the DMV system didn’t like this, so it kept spitting out the application. Forty-five minutes later, it finally decided M was a good enough equivalent for Maureen and we were off to the races. Sigh. Next, the clerk had me stand in front of a blue screen to have my picture taken. She told me to smile, so I did. It won’t matter, I will still look like a felon when my card arrives, but what the heck, I’ll play. Holding the smile for what seemed like fifteen minutes, my lips were beginning to get stiff. Relaxing for a moment, I asked if we were done. Exactly at that moment, the flash went off. Should be an interesting shot. Anyhow, done and done.

Before leaving the house to go to the DMV, I changed the sheets on both beds. Love clean sheet day. There’s nothing like climbing into clean sheets after a long hard day, particularly if they were hung on the line to dry. Nobody does that anymore, I don’t think. When I was growing up, my grandmother always hung her sheets out “to get some fresh air” during the summer months. Coming home this morning with my California ID mission completed, I went in my bedroom to change and get on with the business of the day. Dead center in the middle of my freshly clean blanket was a huge mass of ewwwwww. At first I thought it to be some sort of creature that had possibly crawled up there after meeting a nasty end, but on closer inspection, I realized it was, in fact, a hair ball. Ewwwww, again, and it had friends. Friends on the pillow, friends on the carpet. Sigh. Last week I had taken Boo to the vet to be checked out for a suspected UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). They gave her a shot of a long lasting antibiotic that works on 65% of animals. Leave it to Boo, she has to be an over achiever, she obviously ranks among the unworkable 35%. The next step would be a urinalysis, and a culture. Those babies amount to $325 and change. She’s my cat, and I love her, so, of course, I’m going to do pay the ransom, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain while I’m writing the check. Sooooooo, I called the vet and made an appointment for Boo to get further evaluated, then stripped the bed and threw the sheets back in the washer. Monday, Monday…….can’t trust that day. Go, Cass. That woman knew something.

Finally settling in with a soothing cup of chamomile tea, I picked up the stack of mail I’d brought in earlier. Second envelope in the pile had printed clearly in the left hand corner in bold letters “Internal Revenue Service”. It was addressed to my mother at this address. I believe I mentioned some blogs ago I was doing a couple of rounds with them over some unfiled tax returns of my mother’s. I spent $600 to get everything straightened out months ago, refiling the missing years. Before I opened this letter, I considered just burning it and not bothering to look at the document inside. The better side of me voted to go ahead and take a peek. Remind me not to get my better side her pumpkin spice latte next time she asks for a treat as we pass a Starbuck’s. Damn. After all the trouble my tax accountant and I went to, it was yet another demand letter for thousands of dollars which my mother doesn’t owe printed on half a ream of paper. Wow. Don’t they have more to do than to hound an elderly woman with dementia on hospice who’s only income is Social Security? I could give them a few leads to follow that would guarantee a much more satisfying end result. Let’s see Trump, Bezos, come to mind. Gets my Irish up.

So, Monday was a bit of a wash. Tuesday seems to be shaping up to look much better, but it’s early yet. We are all praying for our beautiful Lake Tahoe. Please put your good energy in the pile for the people living there and the glorious lake and landscape surrounding it. That gorgeous piece of California/Nevada real estate is now under siege by the Caldor Fire. So much of this lovely state has been devastated by the incessant and relentless fires, and fire season is just getting warmed up.

Keeping your chin up lately seems to require two men and a ladder. Have a great Tuesday.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.


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Last night we watched Nomadland. Though beautifully acted and directed, let me just say this is not a movie choice you want to make if you are having a particularly bad day. Steeping you quickly into the darker side of the human reality, Frances McDormand takes the viewer on a realistic and poignant journey of loss, homelessness, and isolation. Got to give it to her. She put forth her most unadorned self freely, with no apology, which for me, who has difficulty going to the grocery store without make up and hair in place, was so refreshing.

I understand full well the feeling of not having a roof overhead. Back in the early 1990’s I spent two weeks with no residence to call my own, no money in my pocket to rectify the situation, and only a case of Vienna sausage, two large bottles of water, and a bottle of Chardonnay with which to sustain myself. In my case, I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel, but still was it was a life lesson I shall never forget. The experience allowed me to appreciate even the smallest of creature comforts such as flushing a toilet, or slipping into a warm, comfortable bed each night.

I believe our time here on earth to be a series of connected lessons. Perhaps this is not true for others, but my life certainly has been. Often, when I did not take heed of the message the universe was trying to convey to me, the same lesson repeated itself until I fully understood the point of the information being transmitted. Sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Hopefully, I have waded knee deep through most of the karma I created in my younger years at this point, and shed the bulk of it in the process. I try to be the best version of myself possible each and every day. This does not mean I always attain that goal, but that is my intention when waking up in the morning.

Many of the earliest lessons I learned from my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother, gone for many years now, left many life lessons behind for me to lean on. She was a steady, consistent force of nature and she taught me much in the nine years I lived under her roof. My mother, before the dementia claimed much of her memory, showed me both what to do with my life, as well as at times, what not to. Both paths helped me to find my way. Mother is getting along in years, there’s no denying. Sometimes, I don’t want to look at this, because when I do, I have to imagine my world without her in it. As she loves to say she is my biggest fan. No matter how badly I screwed up, my mom still insisted on digging around in the detritus, until she found the good in me. Together, we’ve shed tears, laughed until we cried, shared grief, helped raised my children, been a part of raising theirs, and never allowed miles, however many spread out between us, to break our bond. Always, I knew my mother to be a safe port in the storm. When lost, unhappy, sad or just in need of a hug, her door would be the one I would knock on, her number the one I called. In her eyes I was infinitely special. Though I have often viewed myself as a highly flawed being, somehow to her, I was perfect. No one, I am sure, will ever love me again quite the way she does. When I think of saying goodbye after traveling these many years together, I recognize the pain will be great. Along with the sadness, there will be such gratefulness for having been allowed to spend this time with her.

Certainly, it would be a fairy tale to say our relationship existed without bumps. My mother was a helicopter parent before the term was ever coined. I was her “only chick” and if I didn’t give her something to worry about, which I often did, she’d look around until she found something she could land on, and worried about that. Mothers and daughters, the eternal struggle. I know I feel this at times with my sweet daughter. I wonder on occasion if I should simply initiate our conversations with “I’m sorry for everything I’m going to say or do wrong before we hang up”, just to cover myself prior to opening my mouth. I hear this from many of my female friends with adult daughters. Perhaps it is that we still perceive these wonderful strong women as our little girls. I really don’t have the answers, but I do know it’s not without peril this mother and daughter dynamic from time to time.

So, this Mother’s Day means a lot to me. Sunday we are coming together as a family to honor our oldest member. Thankfully, the pandemic has begun to release it’s tight hold on us. With everyone freshly vaccinated, there will be opportunities for hugs and I’m sure a special time spent together. Life seems lately to move forward at a record breaking clip, with adjectives such as fast and furious setting the tone for how we barrel through our days. There is little time for quiet reflection, or being in the moment. Sometimes we forget to stop and actually see the people populating our world, to hear them, or touch them. The virus offered up a gift with all the pain, surprisingly, allowing a spotlight to shine on this missing connection, the forced isolation highlighting how very important those we love are to our well being and peace of mind.

Today I agreed to allow hospice to begin to share in the care of my dear mother. As the doctor explained, this is not a death sentence, simply an additional layer of personal attention to promote her well being. Uh-huh. I can feel her hand slipping out of mine. People will say about older people, “they lived a long life”, or “they had a good run”. No matter how many birthdays they’ve celebrated, I’m not sure if it ever feels like it’s time for us to them to go. I can see she’s beginning to get tired, so I will allow the universe to unfold the story in whatever way it must and simply be content to be a player on the stage.

If you have your mother still with you, give her a hug and remind her how much she means to you. If you do not, then lift a glass to her, I’m sure she’ll get your message. Have a good one. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.

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The thermometer is going to push 90 degrees here, in what feels like perpetually sunny California of late. Another drought plagued season in this beautiful state will not bode well for what our firefighters will face as the inevitable summer heat presses down on us. Sigh. Already we had the first power outage of the season in our area Sunday. Predictably, the power went off right around dinner time. Not late enough in the day to have dinner prepared and on the table, but rather right in the middle of cooking time for my pork loin in the oven, and pot of corn on the cob happily boiling on the stove top. Fortunately, it came back on before we either had to order in, or label our dinner an early breakfast. Typical. If not in the middle of the meal, the power is guaranteed to go off immediately after I’ve purchased a large amount of groceries and meat at Costco. It’s like a signal goes off from the cash register directly to the power grid reading “Susie will be storing $300 worth of perishables in her refrigerator. Initiate two day shutdown protocol”. I have a generator my son gave me to use when when an outage occurs. They seem to be coming more and more often which each passing year. Summer before last, I threw out an entire refrigerator full of food three times. At least that is not a worry I will have going into this summer, hopefully. I have never used a generator before. From what I understand, you have to be careful how you use them, because if they are too close to the house or are used in an poorly ventilated area, they can prove lethal. This, I have to say, makes me a bit less enthusiastic about a trial run with the damnable thing. Being one of those people who can get her finger stuck in a manual can opener, anything with the word lethal in the precautionary hazards, is a bit worrisome to me. I am working hard on holding my grateful place so rather than complain, I will look for a positive spin to this. Let’s see, I am thankful I am blessed to have a new generator with which to off myself with. I’ll leave it at that. Good old PG&E.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at my house for some unknown reason. Though not in a bad mood, I also haven’t been my usual sunny self. Could be spring fever, or cabin fever, or simply part of emerging like a pupa from a cocoon after a long period of hibernation, I don’t know. Seems a lot of friends and close acquaintances I’ve talked to lately are going through some transitional pains while beginning merge back into public gatherings again as well. I went out to lunch with a friend of mine on Friday. Both of us noted, sitting inside at a table felt both familiar and strange at the same time. Certainly it looked different. Notably, while we waited for our order to arrive, there was nothing on top of our table but our elbows. No napkins, utensils or condiments, as I would have expected to see pre-pandemic. When my friend asked for salt and pepper, a pile of small packets on a plate were delivered to the table. I’m so glad we didn’t own our restaurant during something like this. Restaurant ownership on the best of days is a stressful existence, but trying to work with these kind of restrictions must be like trying to do up the laces on your running shoes with your hands tied behind your back.

People ask me often if I would want to own a restaurant again. That, I have to say, is an answer requiring little deliberation on my part. NO!!!! Sorry. Was that too loud? Now, my response would be much different was I asked, “are you glad you owned a restaurant”? That answer would be a resounding, “yes”. It was an experience like no other in my life. I am both thankful to have been a part of it, and even more thankful to have come out the other end. Rick was the one carrying all the restaurant experience both going in, and going out. What knowledge I had about restaurants was limited to where to go to get the best Cobb salad, or where not to go for bad Chinese. However, by osmosis, I soaked up information along the way and managed to learn some of the ins and outs of the business for the two years we were open. Who knew? Not I certainly. I didn’t even have the usual street creds young people have on their resumes like “Waitress” or “Server”. Other than a brief, and might I add highly unsuccessful, Memorial Day weekend cocktail waitress debacle on Martha’s Vineyard in my early twenties, I was totally a restaurant virgin.

You know, rethinking my answer about ever owning a restaurant again, I have to say I have day dreamed about a little place that just served breakfast and lunch somewhere by the sea. Even perhaps a lunch truck of some description. I’ve also thought I’d like to work or run a bed and breakfast by the coast one day, but these thoughts are definitely can be found under the “dream on” column of my to do list unless I either hit the jackpot or marry well in the future.

Lately, the ocean has really dominated my thoughts. How I miss it. Sometimes it is an actually longing, like missing someone you love. For me, growing up smack up against water on all sides, it became a part of me, and, I, in turn, became a part of it. The Atlantic, where I grew up, is a far different beast than the peaceful Pacific here on the west coast. That is why people flock here, I would suppose, to enjoy the endless coastline decorated with long stretches of white sandy beaches, warm waters, and gorgeous sun soaked vistas. If one can afford it, of course. In my case, one can’t. Both oceans, to my eyes, have their own style of beauty and mystery.

The Atlantic always felt to me a far more angry stretch of water than the Pacific, harboring (no pun intended) darker moods and deeper hues. The sea, depending on you location, shows itself in many ways. The waters surrounding Hawaii, for example, have a light and yes, tropical, feel to them. Almost as though they know they are playing in paradise and wish to reflect the mood. The ocean there is a clear azure blue. When walking into the surf on Waikiki Beach the water was so translucent my feet were clearly visible on the sand below me.

I also enjoyed the beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, during my one and only visit there. Florida offered up some prime coastal experiences. If it wasn’t for the extreme humidity, frequent hurricanes, outrageously large insects, and flourishing alligator population, Florida undoubtedly would be a great place to live. If I was disposed to move to that part of the U.S., which I am not, I would prefer to live on the Keys. Key West is the only one I’ve visited but that would suit me just fine. Each night I would find my way down to the beach and sit with the locals enjoying the glorious sunsets and possibly indulging in a little cracked crab washed down by an icy margarita. My mouth is watering simply imagining it. Massachusetts had some nice coastal stops as well. Cape Cod waters are far more brooding and dark, the beaches there wearing a more windswept and scruffy look. Cape Cod, I believe would be a lovely place to write a novel or find oneself after being lost.

If I cannot be there right now, I can at least remember times that I have been. Memories are such lovely parts of our makeup. I’m glad whoever shaped our existence thought to include them in the factory rollout package. At times they can be both a curse and a blessing depending on the content, but being able to bring up the pleasant times in our lives like slides on a screen and to recall the smells, feelings, and colors of our experiences is a wondrous gift I have to say. Like pictures in an album, our memories lose their clarity and richness as the years pass. Still, they can be called up to be revisited from time to time and bring us joy. Often, I feel sad for my mum to have lost so many memories over the last few years, but dementia knows no master. Truly, I am blessed I am one face she never seems to forget.

So with thoughts of the sea on my mind, I am definitely adding a trip to the coast over the summer months. It’s about a four hour drive, which isn’t too much of a stretch. Rick and I often went to Little River, one of my favorite spots. Situated atop the craggy bluffs south of Mendocino, Little River is more a dot on the map than a thriving metropolis, only boasting a bustling population of 117. I have not gone there since he passed and am not sure how I will feel when I do. I do know I will go again when I’m ready, because it is such a beautiful place to visit. When we are left behind, it is up to us to find joy in the time we have, and I know he would always want me to do that.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with thoughts of sea breezes, calling gulls, salty smells, and foghorns until next time.

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What a picture perfect day it is here in Northern California. I would be celebrating the glorious spring weather was it not for the wind rustling through the freshly sprouted tree leaves, distributing a fine layer of dusty golden pollen now covering my freshly washed car. I am an allergy sufferer, so each spring I pay the price for enjoying all the lovely early blooms popping up in my garden, and reveling in the happy dance of the bees hovering over my azalea bush. Last year I went in for a series of skin tests to narrow down what, in fact, was triggering the endless bouts of sneezing and perpetual drip, drip, drip of my nasal passages when April and May roll around on the calendar. When the results were in, it would appear I have checked all the boxes. Cats, check, dogs, check, mold, check, trees, hay, check. Check, check, check and on and on.

The doctor’s first suggestion, one which I have already implemented, was to use air purifiers. I put one in the living room, and the other one is happily humming away in my bedroom. Unfortunately, a full-nature model covering the planet at large isn’t available on the market as yet, so this only alters the indoor environment. Also, he told me to be sure my heater/AC vents are properly dusted, and to replace the filters often. Vacuuming and dusting regularly will help as well, something I already do, and keeping the cat outdoors if possible. Done, done and, um, not done. These suggestions have been a big help, up to to the outdoor cat situation, which simply which isn’t doable. Noticing I ignored the outdoor cat invitation, my doctor took a different tack, this time pointing a finger directly at my cat. He felt it would be better if Boo slept somewhere other than my bed and if I wished to keep a pet, I should keep her out of the bedroom entirely. Right, Dr. M., you tell Boo. She’s pretty sure that’s where she is going to be. As for me, I’m not comfortable sleeping with both doors shut to my room, nor am I inclined to get up twenty times in the wee hours to remove a reluctant feline from the bed. I’m already up three times for other reasons, if you get my drift. I mentioned casually to Boo she might consider using the lovely fleece lined cat bed I purchased for her last winter. I can’t be certain but I’m pretty sure the extended paw I got in response had only one middle claw pointed upward for emphasis. Let’s say I was getting a lot of cattitude. In her defense, this is a standard of behavior we have established over some thirteen years, and neither of us is looking to change it any time soon. The third choice he gave me, which I liked the best of the three, was for me to begin a series of allergy shots. Apparently, these shots can prove very effective in lowering a persons allergic response to irritants. That is, of course, unless I prove allergic to shots, which isn’t entirely off the table. Where do I sign up? I start in two weeks. Have to wait until the Covid shot effects are completely out of my body. So, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, will continue to sleep on the pillow next to me in my new bed, and I will continue to regale her with her much needed belly rubs and brush her eternally molting coat. Life is good.

Aside from the allergies, I have asthma. Essentially I signed up for the whole litter of the breathing spectrum kiddies. I went to pick up my inhaler the other day, my first refill of 2021. $285 lighter, I received my teeny tiny small bag from the pharmacy clerk for my donation and went out in my car to weep in private. My deductible allows for one whopping price tag at the beginning of the year, and this was the one for 2021. Don’t get me started on drug prices. I pay a small fortune for health insurance to fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn’t pay. On top of that, I pay a prescription drug plan costing another third of a Hamilton to cover my medication, and yet still lay out $285 for an inhaler. It is not like this is a face cream where I have a choice on which one I select, or the option to not to select one at all. I need my inhaler to breathe. What do people do who do not have $285 to lay down on the counter? Gets my Irish up.

As I said one can choose or not choose how much to pay for beauty products. My mother, for example, always did her shopping at the Lancome counter at Nordstrom’s. If we were shopping of a day we’d often drop by to pick up her latest batch of high priced beauty products as well as the little gift bag usually handed to her by the copiously fragrant and perfectly put together sales girl at the end of her hefty purchase. You can tell you are in the high rent section of a store when you get a gift bag for buying something at the counter. In my case, I generally get my beauty products at the local drugs store where they charge you $ .10 if you wish to have a bag for your items, and it is plastic not pink or lilac, and doesn’t come with a little fabric tie. What I’m saying here is I could live nicely without any beauty products, though undoubtedly I would live alone, but an inhaler isn’t an opt in or opt out kind of decision I can make. The drug companies have us backed in a corner and they know it. It’s like the oil companies. Unless everyone is going to run out and purchase a Tesla, we are going to continue to have to pay whatever the price is at the pump that the traffic will bear. It would make me nervous I think to have an all electric car. What if you’re driving in the middle of the desert and you can’t find a place to recharge? A bad memory I have is going over the grapevine once in the dead of winter across snow packed highways. I had borrowed a friend’s diesel Mercedes to make the trip as my car was in the shop. At the time diesel wasn’t sold as readily as it is now and I found myself on a steep grade late at night with the gas gauge needle pointed directly at E. Thankfully, a huge amount of commercial trucks travel that particular route so I located a station with a diesel pump before I had to pull over to the side of the road and wait for my extremities to begin to go numb.

Well there’s my hump day hump. I’m done now. Thank you for allowing me to vent. I hope your week is without frustration and running as quietly as a Tesla on a deserted country road (hopefully with a recharge station). Talk soon. Stay safe.

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People, I have noticed, seem comfortable to offer their opinions freely whether their input has been solicited or not. Sometimes, I think there should be a automatic five minute delay feature in our brains, allowing us to contemplate what’s about to exit our mouths prior to actually releasing the words from our lips. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my first pregnancy, I naturally had some apprehension about what the actual birth process would be like. Already nervous, other women already through their pregnancies stepped up to fill me in on what to expect. Women, at least I found, were very forthcoming when it came to sharing their birthing experiences, not leaving out even the most graphic of details. Ladies, there truly is such a thing as too much information. Less, as they say, definitely can be more. One lady, as I remember, shared a story about a young pregnant woman who believed she was pregnant but in the end gave birth to a large growth with hair on it and a full set of teeth. This, as you might imagine, was the story choosing to bounce around in my head right after my body registered the first labor pain.

When speaking to my daughter about this topic she said she calls this the “Four Second Rule”. Never heard of it. Looking it up, I discovered this four second rule applies to many situations. Broken down it’s basically, “think for four seconds before saying something you might regret”. Don’t feel you need to open your mouth and spill out whatever exactly is on your mind every minute of the day without filters. Sort of goes back to the old adage, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Mark Twain, said it so eloquently, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” No kidding, I’m right there with you Mark.

Everybody has an opinion. I assume that is why the brain was included in the total package.Without the command center under our skull we wouldn’t be of much use to ourselves. In the absence of any innate logic to guide us,we would be running into walls, or getting up in the morning and not comprehending we needed to swing our feet over the side of the bed and sit up before we stood. We are supposed to think over and ponder on life’s options and quandaries, and then form opinions on them. All I’m saying is it isn’t always mandatory to express every single opinion you have developed. Believe it or not, everyone doesn’t want to hear each and every thought that might originate in your gray matter. Being given the incredible tool of the Internet, has allowed us to say what we feel 24/7 without any buffering. I’m not dissing the Internet. Actually, I love the Internet. It has opened up so many portals for me to learn new things and offers so many available sources of seemingly unlimited information. Also, I like social media, well, to an extent. I’m not tweeting every five minutes nor do I constantly record every minute of my day on Instagram, and I rarely have posted or taken a selfie. That being said, I often spend twenty minutes or so puttering around with friends and acquaintances on Facebook and, for the most part, enjoy my time there. There is little political action or derisive content among my groups. Mainly the groups I follow, post a lot of silly inane pictures of cats behaving badly, beautiful sunsets, pandas doing somersaults and delicious looking creations from cooks all around the globe. I like it that way. There is enough bad news to go around, I prefer to stir a little happy in the pot from time to time to even things out.

This train of thought comes up because I am going this morning to get my first Covid shot. As mentioned in my previous blog, it took me a couple of days to secure an appointment, so I was relieved to get my name on the books. Saturday, I celebrated my Valentine’s Day with my Mom. Suffering from dementia, her mind still functions for sure, but there are a lot of disconnects in her wiring. Always, though, when I walk through the door, she gets a big smile on her face and knows exactly who this face belongs to. I am so thankful for that. Her caregiver, Veronica, does a great job with the five charges she has under her wing. Taking care of one person with memory impairment issues is no walk in the park on the best of days, but taking care of five elderly people with comprehension problems I’m sure can be really taxing. Let me preface by saying she is a lovely woman, but not a woman short of opinions. Whether you have asked for her input, advice, guidance or whatever, she seems compelled to help you find your way down the road. As an aside, it did occur to me that when dealing with people who cannot really hold up their end of a stimulating conversation, it may lead to feeling the need to interject yourself in whatever conversation you find yourself privy to. When discussing my mother getting her vaccination with her, I mentioned I would be getting mine. This opened the floodgates, allowing her to bring me up to speed on the side effects everyone in her sphere of relationships was enjoying ranging in severity from being in bed to two to three days with flu-like symptoms to foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog (not really, but I believe there were locusts mentioned in there somewhere). Thanks, I’m sure I’ll be reliving that conversation as I’m getting jabbed in the arm. My bad, not hers, shouldn’t have mentioned it. Brings to mind what my ex-husband was fond of saying, “information is power”. His premise was, with each piece of personal information you offer up you open up a door to allow people to root around in your life. Now, he is a man. Men, I have to say, are not, at least in my experience, particularly strong in the information gathering area.

This lack of information gathering chops has been pretty consistent in the men I have had relationships with throughout the years. Women, when discussing a particular situation, will squeeze every bit of juice out of a conversation. When done, we will know every nuance and finite detail of what happened right down to the color of the drawers worn on the parties involved in the story. As an example of this lack of detail, Dale, my partner in crime, was telling me the other day about a very good friend of his who was giving up red meat. Hearing him out, and being an attentive listener, I asked why. “Why”, he replied?” “Yes, why did he stop eating red meat?” No clue. Really? I would have known why, when, what his new diet choices were, as well as having already looked up chicken and fish recipes to suggest to him if these were to be his new food choices. Sigh. A little while later he got off the phone once again and told me another close friend had been in a motorcycle accident. Both the man and his girlfriend were hurt. OMG, says I, what hospital are they in, are they seriously injured, what happened? Nothing. I’m surprised, frankly, he knew they were on a motorcycle when the crash ensued. Never mind. This to me is like publishing a book, a love story shall we say. When you open to the first page, it reads, “there was a man, who met a woman”. That’s it, brief and to the point. No fat in that story line. Also, no reason to explore beyond the first page.

Update from yesterday. So, I got in line and got shot in the arm yesterday with the Moderna Covid vaccine. Pictures of locusts swarming out both ears cruised through my mind (remind me send a thank you note to Veronica) when they asked me to pull up my sleeve. Because I have had a moderate reaction to flu shots in previous years, I had to cool my heels for thirty minutes to make sure I was okay. CVS was very organized. After checking in, I stood in a socially distanced line for about twenty minutes before my name was called. All in all, I am doing pretty well with the side effects. The main one is exhaustion. Unbelievably tired, but I’m told this passes in 3-4 days. Also my arm has swelled up. Other than that, I am one step closer to however much immunity this provides. Yay. I was given to understand the second shot is a bit harder on the body. I won’t mention either shot to Veronica as I don’t want any gory details before my follow up appointment.

So, I hope this information encourages others to step up and stick their arms out. Perhaps one day if we all do, we will be able to receive and give hugs again and go back to enjoying family and friends at gatherings. Have my fingers crossed. Stay safe, keep those masks on, I believe we will get there.

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Here we are four days after Christmas and my holiday decorations are still happily twinkling away. So not like me this behavior. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, and comes down the day after Christmas. My best friend asked me why I feel the need to this. Why? There has to be a why? If I were to hazard a guess it’s because I’m a bit of an order hound at times. Order and having things where they are supposed to be is important to me. I’m not sure why actually. I don’t perform at my optimum when chaos abounds. My children remember me doing this when they were young so this has been my mantra for as long as they can remember. So firmly is this ingrained in me, I’ve thought of having a tee shirt made to wear for the occasions. But for this tradition, as with for so many other “normals” in 2020, it seems I have thrown the playbook out the door. The tree has brought me great joy over this unusual holiday season, and I intend to hold on to that happy feet feeling at least until the new year is rung in.

There’s always a little depression that settles over me once all the decorations are tucked away in their boxes for another year. The hustle and bustle of the holidays, with all the memories (good and bad) behind me, and a fresh new year unfolding with all it’s expectations and disappointments waiting to be revealed. I missed Rick especially this year, not that I don’t always feel his absence. I can’t imagine what he would have thought of all that is going on, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted him to go through a cancer battle with all this other stuff floating around in the air.

I got to thinking this morning. I know! Sunday is my thinking day. I try not to immerse myself in too much heavy thinking the rest of the week. However, I have to devote at least one day a week to actual deep thinking in order not to fall off the edge of reason completely. It seems to me we have a harder time fighting or believing in the dangers of Covid mainly because it cannot be seen. In this case we have to have “faith” in our scientists and medical personnel to guide us in the right direction. Webster defines faith as “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof“. In the case of the virus, we do have proof. Our scientists and medical professionals are detailing the facts of the seriousness of this pandemic for us on one channel or another all day long. Hospital wards are overflowing and our loved ones are getting sick, or worse case scenario, dying. More proof. Still, the “enemy”, if you will, remains invisible. An opponent so small as to not be perceived by the naked eye, yet capable of pervading every part of our world with the sole intent of infecting human bodies and disabling it’s hosts. Not a good actor, not a good actor at all.

It seems hard to remember a time we weren’t either talking about the virus or hearing about it in the media. I feel like a sailor lost at sea for months and yearning to see dry land on the horizon. I am looking forward to sticking my arm out for my vaccination (hopefully with minimal side effects) and getting on with it.

It will be interesting to see how the transition from one president to another transforms. I surely wouldn’t want the job, and admire anyone with the willingness to serve signs up.

On the home front, admittedly my home front, I am dealing with several after Christmas dilemmas. First, my mother is in a bed and board twenty-five minutes from the house. I visit her once or twice a week. When I do, I have to follow strict Covid rules including maintaining a safe distance from her and having both a face mask and shield in place. Though the dementia keeps the threat of the virus quite far removed from her on an emotional level, it still manages to create some ripples in the water on a physical level. Because they have to follow state guidelines in these facilities to the letter, the residents, or inmates as I prefer to call them, are unable to eat together in this facility as they don’t have a large enough space to accommodate them if seated the required six feet apart. This lack of socialization is exacting a toll on them in the same way children are experiencing isolation symptoms by being virtually schooled without benefit of classmates. Also a difficult wrinkle, I cannot hug her. This is something we were used to doing, and used to doing often. To add another nail to the board (sorry, the word coffin gives me goosies) she can’t go out with me for our weekly lunch and hairdresser appointments thus shrinking her world to an even tighter fit. Truly she amazes me. She breezed through Covid with the other residents, with only one of them, the only male, showing any significant symptoms. Even he, has returned from the hospital and is on the mend. Wow.

Dementia patients display all manner of symptoms as their confusion deepens. In Mother’s case, she has developed a fascination for Kleenex. Her enjoyment of the product is to such an extent, the manufacturer sent us a holiday card saying, “Thank you for your patronage. Your family’s support has managed to allow our company to remain afloat during these trying times.” You’re welcome. How one small woman can manage the tissue consumption she does, almost defies comprehension. If I didn’t know it not to be true, I would believe she is either consuming the sheets or running a black market Internet tissue site on the side. Not only does she put the tissues to the obvious use, but she also stores them in drawers, crevices and pockets, folds them, and generally just loves the stuff. Puzzled about such strange behavior, I looked this up and was surprised to find it not unusual for someone with dementia to have tissue issues (if you will). Some sufferers prefer paper towels, and many like to fold and refold dish towels or simply enjoy manipulating pieces of paper. According to my reading, some of this bizarre repetitive behavior may be attributed to boredom. Makes perfect sense to me. Mother has always been a very active person. A “doer” one might say of her. For her it must be absolute torture to be trapped in a wheel chair as well as being limited to the walls of the house she lives in. Her thinking may be a little askew these days, but I’m sure she still has well defined feelings going on inside. Poor Mama. It is terribly difficult to watch your parents lose their independence. While visiting I discussed my concerns about the boredom with her caregiver. Surely, there has to be a way to stimulate these shut ins? From what I looked up, games, music, reading to them, anything is better than sitting in a chair waiting for the grass to grow. Soooooo, we’re going to embark on some new ideas, imbue a little fresh blood such as I suggested in the paragraph above about Washington D.C. Sometimes when you have cooked the same recipe over and over it helps to have a new chef taste it add a new spice or two to liven things up. I even suggested music or dancing. This suggestion immediately got a negative response. “Why not”, I asked? They may have a few wires crossed but are not incapable of understanding simple concepts. Dancing, or so I’ve read, and music, are good for the mind and soul. I looked at my mother and raised my arms over my head. She watched me curiously for a moment, then put her arms up over her head. “That’s the spirit, Mama”, I thought! I moved my arms from side to side, then wiggled my fingers back and forth next adding a little foot tapping for emphasis. Quickly she got the idea and before long we were dancing. Perhaps Fred and Ginger weren’t turning over in their graves, but at least we were bustin’ a few moves as my grandson might say. Hah. So, keeping her interested and engaged is high on my to-do list for 2021.

The second dilemma concerns returning gifts to the stores. I’m feeling blessed this year my friends and loved ones gave me some lovely gifts, but a few have to be returned due to size issues. According to gift receipts included, these exchanges must be done in-store. In a normal year I’d just go to the store, get in line, and return them. This year I’m not sure that’s the plan I want to follow. Even though I’ve already had the virus, they really don’t know if that insures you can’t be reinfected. With the vaccine out there tantalizingly near I don’t want to take the chance of getting sick again before I have access to it. Not exactly a weighty problem, however, one I’m mulling over in my head this morning.

As we step hesitantly into this upcoming year I carry in my backpack a bag of hope. Hope for a rainy season to soak the ground and keep the fires at bay. Hope the vaccination is received by enough citizens to establish herd immunity and keep this damnable virus as bay allowing us to get back to a semblance of normal. Hope that this new administration helps to heal the wounds this country has sustained, and hope that people will come together once again in spite of their differences and work for the good of the whole.

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