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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

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I am approaching the midway point of the second year since Rick, my significant other of twenty years, passed away from lung cancer. Since the second week I have been regularly attending a grief group. Such lovely people they are, each special in their own way.  Though the cast varies as new people are added, and old ones fade into the distance, the message resonates, “you can do this”. Our facilitator, a lovely woman in her early eighties, lays out a roadmap of what to expect as the months unfurl. Those participants involved the longest prop up the newest ones, providing wisdom they acquired on their journeys and hope for a brighter future. The familiar faces have become more family then friends. Together they provide a bridge to help you make your way to your new life. I highly recommend finding a group such as this should you be faced with a loss. It may take a few tries to find one that suits your particular needs but if you take the time it is well worth the trouble.

The first year, for me at least, passed in a blur. The first weeks even months I dealt with the details one has to tie up when a person passes away.  A sort of protective numbness slips over you during this time deflecting or at least blunting some of the deep soul wrenching pain involved with such a loss. The second year, where I find myself now, our facilitator says can sometimes be the “lonely” year.  The numbness now worn off, the spotlight shines brightly on how life is going to look now that your loved one is not in it. Acceptance often arrives during this phase. Accepting that the person you love is gone in the physical sense and you are left to plot out your future on your own. The third year is when you begin to build on the foundation you’ve begun in the first two years. You cannot circumvent the feelings and bypass the grieving process or whatever you have tucked down deep inside will simply resurface at another time and place. Of all information I have been given during this process this is the most valuable. You must work through the pain to get past it.

Today illuminated this for me quite clearly. My doctor ordered a fasting blood test. Hate these. I tend to roam about in the middle of the night with the owls and spirits. Fasting means waking up to no coffee in my cup and no breakfast forthcoming until the lab is open for business. Needless to say I am not always a good sport about this. Uncharacteristically, as I said I tend to move the things I least like to do to the first of the line, I put this off until the last possible day. Looking up the labs available on the Internet I found one in my network open a 7 a.m. That’s for me. Outside the temps hovered just above freezing. My breath proceeded me down the walkway toward my cold car. Cranking the heater up to broil I wrapped my fingers around the icy steering wheel and headed towards town. The sun was up but had not made it’s full presence known yet, so misty shadows hung about mingling with the remnants of yesterdays winter storm. Several clouds parted allowing a few glimpses of daylight to shine through as I drove along the backroads without many other vehicles for company. “Coffee” my mind chanted along with the ZZTop song playing on the radio. “Yes, yes. I’m working on it.” What a nag my mind can be when it doesn’t get it’s creature comforts.

Reaching my destination I pulled my puffer coat tightly around me and scurried into the warm building. Three other brave souls were ahead of me so I picked up a magazine. As usual the date on the front indicated it had been printed when Eisenhower occupied the oval office. No other reading material in sight other than Field and Stream, I opened to the first page to catch up on what Mamie was up to. Shortly a young woman in a lab coat called my name. Pumping a dollop of disinfectant in my palm, I followed her through the door. That magazine looked like it had seen a lot of love since it came to reside in the waiting room, wanted to be sure I didn’t offer any of it’s germy inhabitants a ride. Coming from a doctor’s family this seems to be permanently ingrained in my brain. Perhaps it’s a good thing.

Poked and bandaged I was in and out in ten minutes. Hopping into my car I noticed a chain restaurant across the street Rick and I used to frequent.  Seemed like another lifetime ago, and I guess in truth it was. We owned the restaurant back then, and lived an hour and a half away from where I am now. Breakfast out before the roosters crowed was always a fun if both of us were up early. For a moment I considered going in and getting a table, then thought better of it. My mind was now screaming at me, “Get me some coffee, and I’m not kidding here. I will punish you”. Still, I slowed down at the driveway and then continued on my way. Not today. Not quite ready yet. Gave myself some prompts for going and getting my blood work done and getting as far as I have with my grief work. When I got home I pushed “brew” on my coffee maker and poured some cereal in a bowl. There’s a learning curve to all this and some days are harder than others. The fact that the hardest ones are now behind me helps me to get through the ones that still show up periodically to tell me I’m not through the mine field yet.

To add to the pot I worry about losing my mother. Time with her has dwindled as the dementia continues to deepen making it less safe to take her out of her environment for long periods of time. I grieve this as well and try to wring as many memories as I can out of each visit to hold me when the visits cease to be. You cannot dwell on death, however. As they say, “life is for the living”. Neither can you avoid it or pretend it isn’t there. As we get older time begins to take on more importance because there is less of it left. The need to do or say what we have not feels more urgent then in younger days.

In a state of gratitude is where I try to find myself. I am blessed in so many ways. Gratitude is something I practice every morning before beginning my day.  You don’t have to look hard to find something to be thankful for. If you can see the computer sitting before you, you can begin there, for some people cannot.

Some things we have no control over such as death, but others we do. Beginning our days on an optimistic note or choosing to look for the dark cloud on the horizon has everything to do with how the day unfolds. I read earlier if you expect only good things, only good things will come your way. Being a bit of a realist I will have to work on this one. I did find it a lovely thought though and a great way to jump start my day. So, I expected the 49ers to win and guess what they did!! As usual they offered up a bit of a nail biter at the end of the fourth quarter, but our boys showed up and that’s all that counts. Rick did not want to leave before the 49ers went to the Super Bowl but he had to go so those of us who loved him shall represent in 2020 when they go against Kansas City, How exciting.

I wanted to share this ridiculously simple dip that my dear friend shared with me. I have taken it twice to football parties over the past month only to have it disappear nearly before I set the bowl on the table. It’s easy as to be embarrassing when asked to share the recipe. With minimum effort and maximum crowd appeal I guarantee you will be a star if you serve it. I tripled the recipe for the last party and was looking at the bottom of the bowl before I got the second bag of tortilla chips open.

Avocado Salsa

2 ripe avocados large diced
1 container Rojos Restaurant Style or Homestyle Salsa (Hot to Mild depending on preference-I use mild)Tortilla chips

About one hour prior to serving, dice avocados in bite sized pieces. Gently fold in salsa. Serve with chips.

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Recently I spent the weekend with a dear friend of mine in the San Jose area. Packing the car it seemed there were an excessive amount of bags for a three day trip. Starting to think I’d have to rent a trailer, I called her jokingly suggesting she add a wing to her house before my arrival to accommodate the load. In my defense we share different tastes, so extra items had been added to my list of usual personal carryalongs. My preference in bread is wheat, she prefers sourdough. Thus, a loaf of wheat bread was tucked in a bag along with various snacks like my Salt and Vinegar Pringles, an absolute necessity for any decent road trip. A couple of honey crisp apples were included for an afternoon pick me up as my pal is not a fan of fruit and I can’t leave home without it. Since she drinks only tea, it became clear a coffee maker would be necessary if I was to provide adequate company. Naturally, if I included the coffee maker I’d need coffee, filters, and creamer. My landlords were peeking through their drapes as I went back and forth from the house to the car most likely wondering if I was moving out. Surely I could have gone three days without my early morning cup of Joe, but as we age the patterns we’ve established during our lives become more firmly etched in our personalities and in my case the word coffee is emblazoned across my forehead.

We all have certain indefinable traits stuck to us like a bug to flypaper. If you asked my family to describe me they might choose any number of adjectives (some I can’t use here), but they might also include neat. Piles of papers stacked around, or layers of unaddressed dust make me twitchy. Most likely this trait was passed down from my mother, and will be one I’ll carry though to the end. Mum is neat to the point of obsessive. When in the hospital for her fractured hip, dementia or no dementia, she still sat in the bed and folded everything she could get her hands on from bed pads to extra paper towels and placed them neatly in her drawers. That need for tidiness surpassed all the misfiring pistons in her memory center because it is part of the core of her being.

Over the past year with only Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I in residence I have probably begun to establish a sort of loose schedule of my own. At around 5:30 you could lay some safe money on finding me seated on my couch with the cat stretched out beside me, cup of decaf in hand, watching David Muir detail what is happening in the world. I usually put a plate in front of me around 6:00 and begin getting ready for bed around 9:00. Not really set in my ways yet but setting the stage for what could be described as that at some juncture further on down the road.

Several of my single friends, both single for many years, tell me they are so set in their ways they cannot imagine anymore having someone else under their roof. I can not only imagine it, but hope the universe chooses to direct my life towards another relationship when the time is ready.  I enjoy sharing my life with someone and waking up in the morning to a loving face over coffee. I just do, but that is me. Each of us plots our own course (to whatever control we have). It has only been a year and a half since Rick passed. For now, I am definitely not ready to share space with anyone new on anything other than a casual basis.

Companions come in many forms. Some people get roommates, others like myself enjoy a furry friend to hang with, and perhaps some people find contentment looking at a tank filled with fish. I do wish our pets had a longer time on earth, but the plan didn’t include that and I don’t know where to find the suggestion box. Earlier a friend called to tell me his old dog had passed away. Feeling his pain, as I have some experience saying goodbye to beloved animals, I did my best to provide something by way of comfort. Love comes with a price no matter who the love is bestowed upon. Another friend told me recently she didn’t want any more animals because losing them is too painful. I feel differently about this. For me they give us so much of themselves and provide such comfort I think as hard as it is to let them go I will always choose to have them near for whatever time I am allotted. My animals have often been with me well into their senior years. I feel blessed for that. Kitty, the oldest of my many felines, was twenty-one when I had to have her put down. Over the years she traveled all across country with my ex-husband and I. Settling herself in the back window of the car she took turns sleeping or sitting watching as the states passed by beyond the glass. When she needed out she let us know with a distinct meow and we would pull over to allow her to do what she needed to do. I always say a little bit of Kitty has been left behind in nearly every state in the U.S. Truly she was a seasoned and excellent traveler and I will always treasure those crazy road trips with her and my Shih Zsu, Sushi, who said goodbye at seventeen. Lifelong companions, my heart likes to think of the two of them walking along together wherever wonderful animals go and I’m always thankful for them gracing my life for the time they were here.Even though in the physical sense people or animals no longer populate our lives, their “beings” and lingering presence always remain close by. This, at least for me, provides much peace.

While down in the Bay Area I grabbed the opportunity to visit an old friend diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. This was a very personal visit for me because it was Rick’s diagnosis as well, and Ruth, my friend, is a dear and lovely human being. Last I saw her she was a robust healthy lady who avidly pursued a tennis ball every weekend with her tennis club and sang in the community choir. Always Ruth struggled with her weight but I’d been forewarned the disease had reduced her to a much smaller version of herself. In my grief group they stress putting on your game face when visiting someone who is terminally ill. The person you know rests inside the shell but sometimes the disease can redraw your image of them. Certainly in Ruth’s case the bone thin woman who answered the door looked little like the friend I remembered. Sitting with her for several hours I forgot completely about the physical change rather being amazed at her upbeat attitude and the light that shone on her skin and in her beautiful blue eyes. We shared memories and pictures before it was time to go. Hugging her as I was going out the door my body was instantly covered with goosebumps head to toe. Pulling back she felt it too. “Someone is here”, she said softly. The heightened energy sort of hung in the air between us. Perhaps one of our friends already gone ahead had returned to take her hand to guide her to next adventure? Who knows? Certainly not I, but I would like to think it so.

With life coming in and going out I try to be in the present. Embracing this concept is sometimes a struggle for me. Naturally, I believe our minds drift to past mistakes, or wander into the misty unknowns of what is in store for us tomorrow or next week. Since the past will remain unchanged and the future is yet to be written, it would seem the only logical course would be to make the most of the moment you are presently inhabiting.

My thoughts on this gray day in Northern California. Make it a good one.

 

 

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Well now we’ve stepped in it, 2020 I mean. Here we are in a brand spanking new decade with the days laid out in front of us pristine and untouched. Such a heady feeling. Can’t hide my curiosity about what 2020 will bring. Diligently I try to keep my thoughts focused on the journey rather than concentrating on the outcome. Sometimes I have to admit I fight an overwhelming urge to skim to the back of the book and see how the story has unfolded. This is not for us to know, of course, only to speculate. Would I open an envelope if I knew the outcome was concealed inside? Probably not, but I can’t help but wonder how the heroine makes out towards the end of the story.

A new year with new discoveries. What new technological breakthroughs will we enjoy this decade? Someone with a bright and curious mind is sitting somewhere as I write this hatching an idea destined to change the way we do things in the future. There will always be that group of forward thinkers able to conceptualize what isn’t and bring it into what is. Thank God for these creative motivated people or we’d all still be sitting in the dark whacking each other over the head with wooden clubs or, God forbid, be functioning in our offices without Post-it Notes.

Interesting to imagine further down the road what our world will look like at the end of this decade. 2030. Seems inconceivable. Will hovercrafts be floating around overhead, perhaps a manned mars expedition, an alien sighting, androids in the workplace or at home, or phones implanted in our ears at birth? The latter is almost here I feel, as most people I know maintain a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their phones then they share with their spouses or life partners. I have a friend who misplaced his IPhone the other day and nearly broke down in tears when he finally located behind the tissue box in the bathroom. You’d have thought his child had gone missing. This attachment I have to say baffles me, but I am also working on not judging this year so I will table that conversation for another day. It is so much easier to see other people’s flaws I find then to identify my own.

I plan to stray off the path a little this year. Life is too short to maintain the same course for the entire trip. Definitely I have a list of places I want to see. I do wish the powers that be would move my travel paperwork along but they seem to be following that government snail path that any form they issue has to adhere to so I may have to be carried by litter by the time my replacement card arrives.

Our littlest member, Zeppelin, now a year and three months, has discovered that his legs as well as bending in the middle will also support him when erect. This has led to much exploration on his part and added a new wrinkle to his parents and grandparents life. Up until the time they walk little ones are limited by the space they occupy unless transported by another human being. Once they figure out how to make this happen for themselves their world expands to everything they can reach, throw, insert in their mouths, or disassemble. Constantly I am amazed, however, at his sweet disposition and endless curiosity about the world around him. Each day is full of new information for him to process and new things to see. Childhood truly is, or can be, a wondrous experience which little beings are kind enough to share with the adults in their arena so we can revisit it once again ourselves. I shall find it fascinating to watch his progression as the decade moves forward.

Seems hard to believe a year and a half has gone by since Rick passed. Funny how slowly the time seems to move when you are young and yet as you age it seems to disappear in an instant. My mind is still going through the grief brain period when it gets muddled at times and a bit overwhelmed. Add this to the sheer fact that this brain has been processing information for some years now, and I find myself doing some really dumb things of late. Day before yesterday I had to take Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to the vet. For several days she had been sneezing, a behavior I had never seen from her before.  A vet visit requires precision planning as if the cat sees the carrier before I get her in it she will find a spot under the bed to plant herself and I will spend the next hour or two on my knees trying to coax her out of there.  That morning I retrieved the carrier and left it on the top step outside the back door. I checked to see where the cat was and found her in her usual napping spot on the pillow at the end of the bed. Stealthily I picked up the carrier and entered the door quietly. The only flaw in this plan was that I’d forgotten I’d left a brand new bag of cat litter on the floor by the cat box. Whoops. Tripping over the bag and unable to get my footing I face planted in the middle of the kitchen floor throwing the carrier into the bedroom with a huge crash where Boo made her exit stage right. Game over. Thankfully as God takes care of drunks and fools (I rarely drink but considered it at that moment), I was uninjured.

That same day I was making a meatloaf for guests coming over for dinner. It was one of those days where the clock got away from me and I found myself throwing ingredients in a bowl at the last minute. Naturally, I was short a half a pound of meat so I washed my hands and left the bowl with the dry ingredients on the counter and headed for the store. While at the check out counter I noticed my bracelet with “Fearless” printed across the band was not on my wrist. Not an expensive piece of jewelry certainly but I wear it every day. For me it is significant in my healing process by way of an affirmation reminding me I can handle whatever comes along. I retraced my steps in the store to no avail so stopped to ask the customer service clerk if she could contact me if she found it on my way out. Feeling sad I came home and tossed the remaining meat on top of the other ingredients. Moving my sleeves up my arm I began to knead and squeeze to get everything well blended. Placing the loaf in my loaf pan I noticed something protruding from the top. On closer inspection I saw a silver object with the letters “arle” visible on it. Mystery solved. Could have been worse I could have served the bracelet to my guests cooked in the meatloaf. That would have been a conversation starter. Maybe I could have passed it off like the baby in the cake in New Orleans. How I do these things I have no explanation. If Rick was here he would say, “you need to sloooooooow down”. Probably had a point.

So as we begin this new year my plan is to sloooooooow down, stop and smell the roses, look before I leap, and generally take some long deep breaths and enjoy the moment I am in. Happy New Year to all.

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Rain is sheeting down my windows, my Christmas trees are twinkling, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, is curled by my feet, steam is rising from my coffee and all is right with the world. I’m enjoying one of my “near perfect moments”. They happen here and there when the stars align with the moon and the planets and everything, in spite of the strife and hard angles involved in existing on this earth, falls into perfect alignment. For just that moment in time life is totally, undeniably, beautiful.  If I could bottle this precious commodity therapists would be taking down their shingles and looking for another line of work and Boo and I would be languishing on a gloriously warm white sandy beach somewhere drinking Mai Tai’s and watching buffed, tanned young men arrange the lawn furniture.

I know I experience these soul touching snippets of time but wonder if others do.  Perhaps when a parent watches their deaf child react to hearing their voice for the first time, or a tired driver turns a corner on a rural road to find fields of lavender spread out before them, or standing at a window watching the first light snowflakes of the season drift slowly down to earth. Whatever your idea of perfection, I would be interested to know.

More and more of these special moments have been revealing themselves as I begin to come up out of the fog of the last year or two and look towards the future. As I’ve mentioned there is a coring out associated with losing someone dear to you that clears the road for a new and different version of yourself to emerge. Possibilities for what could come to be as time unfolds began to take form.

People ask me so often if I have met anyone, or if I am interested in exploring a new relationship. My best answer to the former “too soon”, and to the latter, “I don’t know”. Right now I am trying to discover who I am. If I don’t know who I am how can someone else hope to get to know me? This got to me wondering what type of person I would want to meet. Over the years I may not have zoned in on exactly what I needed in a partner, but I certainly have crossed off a lot of what I did not need.

Partnering is not for sissies. It is difficult enough just to be you but to be “us” with someone else takes patience, compromise, and perseverance. How do you know what type of person is the best fit for you? Do you choose a person with like interests and tastes? Possibly. However, for all that we humans seem alike, we are all so vastly different.  Watching a ballet troupe perform Swan Lake might move one person to tears while at the same time leave the person next to them longing for a No-Doz. Where our physical construction remains basically the same our emotional makeup is so much more complicated and unique. Often I question whether relationships with two like people work better than those where the pair are polar opposites. In my case someone just like me might either cause sparks to fly or snoring to ensue. I might be less than stimulated to have a partner who agreed with every premise I supported rather than offering me opposing views to mull over and consider.

So, will I have another serious relationship in my life? This remains to reveal itself. Certainly I have had my share of relationships. Being somewhat of a nester, I seem to naturally gravitate to setting two places at the table. I hear opposing views on the subject. Though I have many happily attached friends, I also have single friends who would rather cut off their own foot than immerse themselves in another serious relationship. These friends prefer their own company cherishing the freedom to do what they want when they want to do it.  I have to admit there is a sort of heady feeling to being able to move about unencumbered. However, I do so miss having Rick at home waiting for me with a smile when I arrived at the door or worrying about me if I was running late. I like sharing my day with someone interested in hearing about it, and settling in for a cuddle and a little TV before getting ready for bed.

There are a lot of activities I find more fun with a companion. This does not mean I can’t have fun alone, I most certainly can. However, there is also something special about sharing the experience with someone who I enjoy spending time with. Travel, for example. I prefer to travel with someone, though traveling alone is not alien or frightening to me. Part of my job description in my last job in the Bay Area was being flown about the U.S. orchestrating trade show details for the product our company manufactured.  Usually first on the scene, my job was to secure a hospitality suite where I would set up shop as home base for our executives to do business with and entertain prospective clients and investors. This would include ordering lavish spreads, preparing giveaway bags, and selecting high end wines. Often these rooms were pricey units on secured floors with all the amenities afforded those who can foot the bill. Though there was lots of work involved in promoting these shows, certainly it was not a difficult perk to swallow that I went back after a long day to an exquisite suite and was provided a carte blanche room service agreement. Where some would have been dining on the deck enjoying pate or lobster bisque washed down with a fine pinot noir, I could often be found bouncing on the bed, ordering a cheeseburger and fries with a beer, and stuffing all the little toiletries in my suitcase to add to my collection at home.

Traveling is high on my list of things I would love to do more of with or without someone to hit the road with. Greece and Italy beckon me all the time, and though I have seen Paris and London there is so much more of Europe I would like to leave a footprint on. A return trip to Nova Scotia is definitely on my “Things I Must Do Before I Can’t” list. No matter how many years spread out between my last visit there, I still yearn to see it again. Home, after all, will always be home no matter where you hang your hat. Also, I am looking forward to meeting my dad’s tribe, many of which I have never met, sometime next year. Deep down below these brown roots I will always be Canadian with a healthy mix of American now thrown in for good measure.

With the new year about to arrive I have begun thinking seriously about how to use 2020. Where do I want to go and what do I want to do? I believe, again referring to my heritage, after living so many years in the U.S. it is time to apply for dual citizenship. With the present atmosphere around citizenship in this country I don’t want to be waving at my family from the back of a truck headed north of the dividing line. I do wish it wasn’t so expensive to get this done. I just paid nearly $1000 to get my Canadian paperwork up-to-date. I’m told this could take upwards of fifteen months due to the high volume of applicants. Whew.

Also my thoughts have turned to reeducating myself perhaps in a different field. You are never too long in the tooth to learn something new. I know I have some snow on the roof but I’m still capable of putting words together in a sentence and having a cogent thought from time to time. Surely I can still be retrained? I think older adults should be given life credit for lasting this long. Hopefully, unless you cruised through your life with your eyes and eyes on mute you have picked up some knowledge along the way. I like to think I have, though there are probably some out there who might argue this point. I have fallen on my face on many occasions but managed to pick myself up and take a lesson from why I tripped in the first place. Having been married four times one might say I was a slow learner, but I prefer to think of myself as optimistic about love. Makes it easier to sleep at night.

So as I ponder my world and what is to come, I am happy to report almost all my holiday shopping is done. I have made an early resolution that next year I will not do this amount of shopping. Instead I will try to pick out something small but meaningful or make something for each of my loved ones. Most of my friends have opted to tuck a check in their Christmas cards to those relatives they give to, but I needed one more year of shopping and wrapping under my belt before I handed over the baton. It was most fun and my tree skirt is happily covered with brightly wrapped gifts. Boo, who believes everything in this house is actually hers only being on loan to me as long as I feed her, works on undermining this effort every day.

Have a great one. Learn a new word, try a new food, say hi to someone who looks like they might not say hi back. Make it count.

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Holidays, when you’ve lost a loved one, can prove very difficult. I am so grateful this Thanksgiving I was surrounded by my family and their families on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure for those grieving a loss alone, the added pain of everybody celebrating around them can be almost unbearable. I have made great strides since Rick has passed. Fourteen months have come and gone and each day I find more strength and purpose returning to my life. This does not mean I still don’t stumble, I do.  Yesterday for example, Black Friday, was a difficult one. The turkey now eaten and leftovers tucked away in the fridge, left me drifting about the house with Boo, the Queen of Cats, wondering what to busy myself with. I try not to always clutter up my days with “doing”. Sometimes it is important to sit with your feelings while they are stewing and work your way through them. However, yesterday I needed air and people around me so I headed for the stores looking for a way to keep my mind occupied.

Expecting the usual crush of holiday shoppers littering the aisles I was pleasantly surprised to find only an average amount of shoppers milling about making it painless to select the first Christmas presents I’ve purchased this season.  In one store, the bank of extra cashiers ready to ring up holiday customer’s orders were lined up along the check out aisle beckoning customers to their stalls like barkers at a sideshow. Interesting.  Guess everybody was busy filling their carts on line. Makes me wonder if someday there will be no stores to shop in, with everything being done with the click of a mouse. I hope not. I am an old dog, I guess. I like to hold my book and read it, turning the pages as I go. I want to feel the fabric and explore the fit of a bathrobe before purchasing it, and I enjoy the lively conversations and colorful Christmas goodies displayed in the stores. Woof.

Although change is always a process, change life will, and continue to do so. Either you hop on board and change with it or the train will pull out of the station and you’ll still be standing on the platform. A lot of my friends are still circling their computers trying to figure out what makes them tick. They approach their laptops like a haz-mat team might creep up on a ticking box. Because I have quite a bit of experience in my pocket I have become sort of the It-Girl for my friends still working on the difference between portrait and landscape. Thankfully I have kept up with my skills for the most part so as things changed I moved forward with them keeping me somewhat “fresh” with the new technology. Um, with one exception I’m afraid, phones. Even my best friend who still had a flip phone until the beginning of this year now has an IPhone she devotes a great deal of her time to. I have one response when asked why I am so stubborn about this, “I don’t wanta”.

I suppose at some point I will cave pitifully and get myself a smart phone. There is something intimidating about having a hand held device that is so much more intelligent than you are. Next I will be on a first name basis with Siri not listening to anyone around me anymore except her soothing voice. I watch in fascination as my friends speak to her in their phones asking advice about everything from directions to where the best deals on toilet paper can be found. Some, I have observed, seem to have an uncomfortably personal attachment to these digital beings which at times can make my skin feel a little squirrely.

Over Thanksgiving dinner we older adults were discussing with the younger members of our clan what life was like when phones were still attached to the wall. When your ability to walk around with it attached to your ear was directly controlled by the length of the cord you purchased for it when you picked it out at the phone store. Mouth agape they stared at us as if we had just landed and walked down the ramp with ET. When I went on to explain we didn’t have APPS, voicemail, personal computers, video games, and only limited channels on the TV I swear one of them crossed himself.

To further shock these young beings, in particular the girls, I explained that if you wanted to do your hair you didn’t just plug in your blow dryer and curling iron. Oh no. You washed it, rolled it in curlers and either endeavored to sleep on the miserable things generally finding them all over your bed in the morning or plugged in a portable hair dryer and sat underneath it until your hair was dry.

Looking back so much has changed over the years. When my children were born there were no seat belts. Kids floated about in the car roaming from front to back, sticking their heads out of the windows, or sitting on your lap and helping you drive. Amazing we ever made it this far.

So, we look toward another year. This one should be interesting. With everything going on in the political arena certainly this may prove to be a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall for an election. I don’t usually get political in my blogs leaving it to others to sling mud where they may, however I would hope we breathe some dignity back into our government. My relatives in Canada tell me we have become the source of many jokes up there and I’m sure that rings in true all over the world. Time to clean this up and restore some civility to our world.

For my part I’m still trying to figure out who I am as this new person evolves from the ashes of my old life. The new year is both exciting and a little intimidating. I know I have to go back to work which makes me want to go in the closet with a bag of fiery Cheetos and pull a blanket over my head, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

Hope your holiday was special. Most of you are heading home today or out in the stores frantically trying to scratch names off that holiday list. Take a breath, enjoy the spirit of the season. There is much to be thankful for.

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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

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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.

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