Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How do people get this smart?

I visit a number of blogs that use quotes as part of the postings.  I always enjoy reading them.  But on occasion, I read something that  makes me pause.  Here are a few that I thought worth passing on.  What do you think?



"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
Winston Churchill
Here is a man I admire greatly.  He really did "walk his talk."  I believe greatness exists within each person but is often hidden or not tested.  For Mr. Churchill, he was tested on the world stage with his country's future hanging in the balance.  I bow to such greatness.



"When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, remember, 
the teacher is always quiet during the test."
    Unknown
This quote speaks to me personally.  I have felt exactly this emotion in caring for my mom.  I still feel it now at times, but the real test was the last few years of my mom living with me.  I hope God was paying attention then and recognizes that I did the very best I could during the hardest test of my life.


This last quote is a bit long and there is some controversy as to its source.  But regardless of its authorship,  it is worth a read.
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage."
Alexander Fraser Tytler, 
Scottish Born British Lawyer and Writer 1747-1813

Ok - if that last quote/thought/reference (whatever) doesn't scare you a little bit, then you haven't been paying attention to what is happening in our own "great civilization." 

Hmmm.....

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Through My Caregiver Eyes: The "Stuff" of life

It has been just over 2 years ...

Two years since my mom left my house for good - to move to Rehab and then to Assisted Living.

While mom lived here, she had a small suite of rooms: a private bathroom, a bedroom and a den.  She squeezed the stuff of her life into those rooms.  She was happy to do so because she had the things that mattered to her - and the security of living with family.  She had her "stuff" ... and everyone needs their stuff.

During her 5 years with me her stuff remained constant - never growing, never shrinking. She wasn't a spender and really needed little.   But other elements of her life shrunk and declined.  Some loss of independence, reduced ability to manage her small responsibilities, loss of driving, and finally declining health.  Eventually she even lost her ability to live with family.

And what of her stuff ...

Well I kept all her stuff just as she left it in her rooms for awhile.

Eight months after she moved, I decided to sort through her belongings and repackage them so that they fit snuggly into her bedroom.  It was time to reclaim the den for our use.  I downsized for her: for example she wouldn't need a Forman Grill, or craft supplies that her arthritic hands no longer could manage, or that mountain of papers she tucked away like a squirrel hiding nuts.  The downsizing was hard because it was an acceptance ...  she would not be returning. Still I kept her bedroom unchanged.  I couldn't seem to let that go.

After a year I removed the Chair Lift off the stairs.  It was a trip hazard for my husband who has limited vision ... and with mom not here, it served no purpose.  That was another small heart ache for me.

Now on the 2nd Anniversary of her life in Assisted Living - I decided to reclaim her bedroom.  Fortunately we have space in the lower level of our house to store her things.  But they no long reside in her room.  Her room is no longer "her room."  I have spent several nights boxing up her stuff and carrying it downstairs.  While that act has made me sad, it is not the worst.  Her total belongings have reduced to the size of one closet - exactly one closet of "stuff" left from a long life.  Her bedroom furniture will remain.  I downsized and packed away small stuff but not big stuff.

I know this sadness is mine alone.  Others may not understand my feelings.  Even mom wouldn't understand because she neither wants nor remembers any of these things.  In fact, the few things I brought to her Assisted Living room she did not want displayed.  It was like she had no plans to put down roots in that place.  Her roots were in my home and now they are in boxes.

The "stuff" of life can bring joy or sadness - even if the stuff isn't yours.

So I am fighting to focus on those things that aren't "stuff."  Her Thanksgiving was filled with family  - not things in boxes.  I fight those sad feelings since I can't control this decline and loss.  It is just a normal part of life.  I focus on "being there" for her.



Here she is with her family on Thanksgiving when we all gathered together to watch the parades and to share a Turkey Meal.  It was not home but she really enjoyed the visit.

Dear mom,

My home will always be your home despite the fact your legs will never carry you into it again.  You will always belong within the loving arms of your family.  Your stuff is just stuff.  Your real achievements are the great family you built and supported over the years.  You are much loved.  There is nothing else that matters.

Love,
Retired Knitter
Daughter and Caregiver



Monday, November 18, 2013

The run up ...

So for a change ... I am going to be a big girl ... a responsible and courteous blogger ... and announce that I will be on a blog break (short one) until after Thanksgiving.

We are in "the run up" to the busiest time of the year. I don't multi-task well anymore.  Juggling multiple priorities just isn't as seamless as it used to be.  Blocking time and being focused is the only answer.

For example, here is a sampling ...

This year we are having two ... yes, two ... Thanksgiving dinners - spaced about 4 hours apart.  And I am not cooking either one!! It should be, however, a crazy day.  First we are heading out to see Mom in Assisted Living to have a meal with her.  It will be great fun as almost all her family will be coming.  Most residents are mobile enough to go home for a brief visit on the holidays, so mom's building will get very quiet and somewhat empty.  Not the best place to be when it is Turkey Day.  We are hoping to fill mom's morning and early afternoon with family and fun - so that her Thanksgiving also has some zest to it.  The plan is to get there early enough to watch the parades and then share a meal - Thanksgiving dinner #1.  It isn't ideal - but it is the best we can manage when she is so immobile.  Then we are heading into Baltimore City to have Thanksgiving dinner #2 with friends.  We are really looking forward to this.  They live in an old Victorian Townhome - built before 1900 - and it is always great fun to visit them.

Then there is my upcoming physical therapy that starts this week.  Intense but short in duration, thankfully.   And my weekly exercise classes, and my daily walks and my soon-to-start exercise videos on off class days.  I hope I don't kill myself in the name of good health.  Wouldn't that be ironic!!  My walking routine is going great guns!  I am averaging 11,000 steps per day and climbing.  I am so grateful that my body responds so well to exercise and the transition from inactive to active is always pretty fast.  Guess it is nature's way of saying ... no excuses, just do it!!

I haven't started my Christmas shopping - and since I am an online shopper, that really needs to start happening this week.

I need to decorate early for Christmas - since our usual "after-Christmas Christmas Party" will be a "before-Christmas Christmas Party" this year.  My decorating is markedly reduced but it will still take a few hours.

And although I significantly slimmed down my Christmas "to-dos" last year - and will continue to do so this year - there are things that need to be done - starting now.  I enjoy the holiday way more if I get my Christmas tasks done by mid-December.  Then I can focus on a relaxed and happy holiday.

This list doesn't end there, but it is a start.

And although I said "happy holiday" in my previous breath, the truth is I find this time of year stress filled.  I hate the deadline feel of the month, the sad memories of a few holidays recently that were not so merry, the loss of the old way of celebrating because mom is so limited and unable to fully participate.  Times change and so do traditions.  Building new traditions and happy memories takes time.  

But, for now, during this time of year, "happy" is still a relative term for me.  Getting to January is my goal.

So welcome to the flavor of my life right now.

Back in mid-December.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thankful

In Blog World it seems like November is the month for giving thanks publicly for all of our blessings ... and everyone's life is filled with blessings if they just look!

This process of giving thanks is a way to honor our American holiday of Thanksgiving.

I visit a number of wonderful blogs - some devote one post to gratitude, some do it all month long, and some do it periodically throughout the year.  What a wonderful way to create a "gratitude journal."  I have heard from many sources that a gratitude journal is a very effective method of making your own life joy filled.

I clearly have not done it at all.

So here goes. My list for November 2013 - and I will go for 20!

The big things I am grateful for:

  1. This blog.  I would never have discovered my love of writing without it or discover such wonderful blog friends.  Without this blog I'd have had no place to vent pour out my thoughts. They would pile up in my head and leak out my ears and generally make my life constipated. (hmm ... better stop that line of imagery now.)  
  2. For my wonderful body.  It responds soooo well to exercise ... like when my knee gave out.  It is healthier than many of my peer group - without much help from me I might add.  It continues to run problem free (knock on wood) despite the fact I don't always fuel it with healthy things.
  3. For my mind.  So far ... so good - at least that is what my mind is telling me about itself today. 
  4. For my family.  Really ... my "by-chance blood relatives" are great.  Sure, there have been a few bumps in the road, but a loving family makes the struggles of life easier.
  5. My retirement.  I have been known to say that "someday I will really get to retire."  But truthfully, without retirement almost 7 years ago I wouldn't have had the time or energy to be there for my mom.  She was and is my first retirement project.
  6. For my mom.  I am so lucky to have her still with me.  At 87 (next February she will be 88), I know my time with her is limited. Her struggles with aging have put perspective on my own older years.  I also discovered a level of compassion I wouldn't have seen in myself without her.
  7. For my town home.  This town home has housed so much of my life over 28 years.  Kids, mothers, deaths, weddings, friends, parties, hobbies, sadness and joy.  I discovered just this year how important all that was.  Yes, we were thinking of moving, but when that decision was tabled ... relief!  I guess I wasn't ready to give up these 4 walls and the memories they hold just yet.
  8. My room full of yarn and stuff.  Nu'ff said!  :-)
  9. My grand dogs and my cats.  Meathead, Grimace and Milo.  Wally and Max.  Just last November my dear Meathead was so sick (at 10 years of age - old for an English Bull Dog) that euthanasia was a thought looming in all our minds.  One year later (now 11 years of age and very old), he is doing just fine.  Dogs are such great companions because they make you feel pretty special.  Cats are such great companions because they tell it like it is - "Think your pretty special?  Think again."
  10. My husband.  Who drives me crazy some days, who is losing his vision all days, but who has stood by my side for 44 years worth of days - through some pretty dark times.  
Now for the smaller stuff:
  1. My computer, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle - wow, am I on board with the electronic life or what!
  2. My Subaru - such a reliable car. 
  3. My water bottle - that reminds me all the time to "Drink more water!"
  4. Coffee - my first friend of the day
  5. Wine - my last friend of the day - the friend that rewards me while I cook dinner and gets me through this process 365 days a year.  Thank God one glass is supposed to be heart healthy.  Thank you God!
  6. Veggies - my new best friend. Thank you Mother Nature!
  7. My FitBit Flex pedometer - that keeps me off my butt a little bit more.  A Mother's Day gift from my daughter.  Thank you Kris.
  8. My causal wardrobe - if I had to wear heels and dress clothes everyday I would puke!
  9. My lists - that keep me from day-dreaming my time away.
  10. My quiet time - time to look "inside" yourself and see how things are going.
You know, when you do this process - look for the things you are grateful to have - the list can be endless.  And the stuff that seems to be lacking - fades away for a bit.

A good thing to do!  And I do feel more joy-filled!



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

First let me say ... have no intention of living to 100 years of age.  If it happens, ok.  But it is not a goal!

Far from it!
Photo curtesy of Amazon.com
But what is a goal is being active and engaged in all the years of my life that are left to me.  And over the last 5 years I have sadly discovered that I cannot just slip freely through life at the same level of function as I did when I was 20 or 30 or even 40.  Really, staying normal now appears to take way more work on my part ... if I want "active and engaged."

And after taking care of my mom ... and still involved in elder care first hand ... I most definitely was to be active and engaged!!

In this regard I can highly recommend John Robbins' book - Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples.

To be totally honest, I didn't expect all that much from a book with the title - Healthy at 100.  It sounds too much like so many of those self-help books that really helps no one but the author who benefits from the proceeds of the sale.  Why I bought it I will never know!  But I am so grateful that I did.

To begin with the author is the son of one of the founders of the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream empire.  No, he doesn't support the eating of ice cream, and he did include a rather unbiased story about how the author's life style choices went over with his father ... not well!  But John Robbins' background is certainly interesting in light of the fact he comes from such a well known ice cream company.

To summarize the book as briefly as possible - the book begins with a look at several of the world's most long lived peoples.  That section is interesting all by itself.  Then he isolates the characteristics that enabled these peoples to live long and joyous lives, and applies these characteristics to our culture and the choices we make.  As the back cover quotes, "With an emphasis on simple, wholesome, yet satisfying fare, a manageable daily exercise routine and the cultivation of strong, loving personal relationships, Robbins gives us the tools for making our later years a period of wisdom, vitality, and happiness."

Yep!  That says it all.  After listening to the audio version, I promptly visited two books stores seeking a hard copy because over and over again there were sections I wanted to underline, refer to again and practice.  I needed this book in my hands and not just in my ears.  I can assure you that has never happened before in all my audio book listening.  Never.  One store was sold out and the other copy had one copy (Now they are sold out too.)  :-)

Yes, I do plan to re-read this book and mark it up so that I have reminders when I forget or lose my way in trying to stay active and engaged. That also doesn't ever happen.  I never re-read books.

Now I will say - there is no magic pill offered in the text.  It all comes down to eat good, keep moving, stay connected.  Really, it is not a new premise.  But John Robbins does such an excellent job of convincing you that it is worth the time to make the effort ... including the studies and human history to support the premise ...  that you can make a difference to your own older years and that it is never too late.

I will close with a statement from the book that is so true.

"Many people in modern societies today succumb to the belief that aging means
 becoming the helpless victim of a slow, tortuous, and inevitable deterioration. 
 They live in fear, believing that with each passing year
 they will only feel worse and suffer more.  
They do not exercise.
  They eat unhealthful foods.
  They shut down emotionally.
  Eventually, their fear becomes self-fulfilling, 
and they create the very tragedy they believed would occur."

This book is worth your time!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Steak or Beans

Seriously
 if 5 years ago someone said
 ... you will consider going vegetarian ... 
I would have laughed them out of the room 
(and then locked the door.)

Lately, my body just doesn't seem interested in beef or pork or poultry or lamb. Even fish seems to be on my endangered list of things going in my mouth.

My body is just changing (along with those recently discovered arthritic knees) and it doesn't desire meat.  Even bacon ... that heavenly, tasty, mouth-savoring bacon ... maybe 2 pieces are fine, but not the fist full I used to be able to ingest before it registered in my mind I had swallowed that much.

In fact, that BLT sandwich (Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich) I so loved ALL my life - that fed my pregnant body while I grew my son .... that sandwich I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner back then (and for snack if no one was looking) - that sandwich now sounds really better if I toast a hearty piece of bread, spread on full fat mayo, and layer on lettuce and tomato, skipping the bacon.

Something is changing ... I think it is a positive change.  Really ... at 66 how many positive changes can you really expect with regards to your body?  From where I sit ... watching my mom age and decline ... the answer to that question is NONE!!

So I will take it!  If I don't need meat - if that love affair has come to an end - so be it!  Onward - and fall in love with something else.

Like vegetables!

Does this mean I will become a zealot regarding the "wonders of a vegetarian life style."  Oh my no.  I still love and eat things like cheese and eggs.  I will continue to use chicken and beef broth in cooking.  I am not looking to go "low fat" or "low carb" or low anything else.  And since I am married to a "meat and potatoes" man, I will still cook meat - so at times - I will probably still eat a little of it.

This change is not the result of political concerns or environmental issues or animal rights.  I abhor the way our meat producing industry treats the animals, but I also accept the reality of that industry.  There are one heck of a lot of homo sapiens on the planet - and I believe we are both meat and vegetable eating beings naturally.

But I will make a sincere effort to understand the "no meat" point of view with regards to healthy options.  I have already started getting educated.  Here are a few titles I currently have in my arsenal to support my new food choices.

The China Study
 by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell
Comprehensive Study of Nutrition and the implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health.

Bean by Bean: A Cookbook
by Crescent Dragonwagon
An introduction to beans and other legumes with 175 recipes


Healthy at 100:

The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples
by John Robbins
This is not a cook book or a diet book.  This author takes you around the world to meet pockets of people who routinely live healthy active lives - typically over the age of 100 - many to ages of 120 and 130.  He examines their life styles and the foods they eat.  It is extremely well-researched.   He finds common themes that can influence and improve our own lives.  I am currently listening to the audio version and it is fascinating.  

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00
by Mark Bittman
Mark Bittman is a prolific food writer.  
Six years ago he was overweight and pre-diabetic and was told to go on a vegan diet or go on medication.  His solution was to become a "flexitarian."   He adopted a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits and grains following a healthy vegan diet (no meat, dairy, or processed food) all day. After 6:00 pm he'd eat what he wanted, though mostly in moderation.  Beyond that, his plan involved no gimmicks, scales, calorie counting or point system.  There were no forbidden foods. Although the Vegan focus is not on my radar, I look forward to reading this book published in May 2013 - as his point of view seems to be similar to my own goals.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
This is a 3 inch thick book - and, yes, it seems to cover everything.

I have a few more books on my Amazon Wish List as well.  I really love the Mark Bittman books and will be getting more.  They aren't the glossy picture filled type of cook book, but they are filled with so much information that each volume almost feels like the encyclopedia of that topic.

If you are in-the-know with regards to other good authors or sources - books, pod casts, blogs,  web sites on the vegetable based diet - please let me know.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Walking, the obstacles and truth!

I started back to walking again in October.  It was a stumble of a start.

So here goes the saga of the stumble.

First I had to find time to squeeze it in the hours of my life.  As a retired person that should be a piece of cake. It wasn't.  I persisted.  And the walking sessions became more frequent.

Really.  If it is something that is worthwhile doing - you find the time.  That is the simple truth.  And that is what I kept telling myself.  So I found the time.

Then I discovered that my FitBit battery was dead - and I couldn't find the cable recharger anywhere.  Yes, yes, yes, I know!  The walk still counts even if I don't know how many steps I am taking.  But it sure puts a crimp in my enthusiasm when I can't confirm just how active I was or wasn't at the end of the day.  So I sat down and order two cables!  Problem solved  .... until I lose those! (Maybe I will order a few more.)

Then yesterday I visited the doctor.

You see, I have noisy knees!  They click and crack and generally talk to me!  I generally don't listen!  They talk.  I ignore.  It was a "marriage" that worked for years.  Then the beginning of September the noise got louder - added to the clicks and cracks was the occasional pain.  One morning I couldn't walk down my stairs very well.  The left knee was talking in a very loud voice.  I assumed injury.  No matter.  Most things get better if you just give them enough time (ignore them).  It did get better.  Then it didn't.  More time.  Got better again.  Then it came back.  The noise level was louder and more frequent.  But I had perfected ignoring to a masterful skill level.

I am the Black Belt of Ignoring. Ninja Ignoring!

And there was Advil ... my best friend ... !  It cured things some!  I was happy.  Until 6 hours later when I wasn't happy!

Crap!

And so I made a doctor's appointment 2 weeks ago - but the knee got better before the visit - so I canceled it.   Then it came back again.

So ... yesterday I visited the doctor.  I actually stepped into the office ... thinking the whole time ... "You only gave this knee two months to get well.  Maybe you should cancel this appointment."  This is a Ninja technique.

I talked.  He listened.

He looked first at my good knee - the right one.  Said ... "Sounds like a little arthritis in that knee."

"Hey, doc ... it is the left knee that hurts ... leave my good right knee alone!  It only 'talks' some.  It is not a problem."

He looked at my left knee.  "That knee is swollen."

SWOLLEN!

REALLY!  

I looked down and sure enough.  My left knee was bigger than my right knee.  Hmmm... Was I born that way and just never noticed?  Would he believe me if I said that?

Would he commit me if I said that???

I looked again.  Yup!  Swollen!  I never actually looked at the knee.  So much for being "in tune" with my body.

He tried to bend it - it bent - mostly - just not as much as the other one!  Has it always been that way?

Don't go there, I said to my mind as I searched for other lies.

And it hurt when he bent it.   Well ... in truth ... it was hurting before he bent it!!


Truth ... 
that is what is missing in my relationship with my body 
it appears!


"Definitely bilateral arthritis of the knees,"  he proclaimed.

Double Crap!  I was hoping for an injury! You know, maybe take a few of those miracle pills, strap on a knee bace, heat, cold, maybe a little surgery ... whatever.  Crap, crap, crap.

So ... an xray was ordered, an orthopedic surgeon appointment was recommended, start taking glucosamine chondroitin, maybe injections into the knee, physical therapy and painful conversations with my knees seem to be in my future.  And he thought time spent in a gym keeping my muscles strong would be a good idea. Just Great!  I really don't like gyms.

Am I surprised by any of this?  Not really.  I am a cookie cutter copy of my mom who has struggled with arthritis in her knees for many more years than I will struggle.

But I have hung up my Ninja Ignoring Black Belt.  Can't ignore the knee any more.  I will do everything they say and will remain active because that is what works with arthritis - once you stop moving you freeze up.  I have seen that first hand in my mom.

Ok knees, I am listening now.
A walking obstacle?
I think not!






Friday, October 25, 2013

Yikes!! An Amazing Halloween House



The story begins in early October 2012.   The most interesting full sized Halloween displays began to appear in a neighbor's long driveway.  Daily I saw ghosts, skeletons, tomb stones, rustic wood fences with stone pillars and all sorts of haunting displays magically popped up - I say "magically" because I never saw the home owner.

Then, once the spooky display was complete, the unthinkable happened.  Hurricane Sandy came to  town just days before Halloween.  Over night  all the displays disappeared.  I didn't see it go up and I didn't see it go down.



Now it is October 2013.  Last week, like mushrooms popping suddenly out of the ground, I noticed the haunting displays growing.  Again, no homeowner was in evidence.

Several days ago I noticed a startling expansion.  There was scaffolding on the front of the house at the end of the driveway.  Walls were being built about 6 feet out from the house's exterior - two story walls - with spooky looking windows and a painted stone front to match the drive way's stone pillars - and still, I saw no homeowner!

Yesterday I walked by again - and there he was - a flesh and blood person (THANKFULLY!).  I just HAD to walk down his drive way and talk with him.  A very charming (and normal looking) man.  :-) His favorite holiday is ... of course, Halloween.  He's been building these Halloween displays for years starting when his kids were little.  Each year he saves up and expands his creation.  This year
he decided to "haunt-i-fy" his house.

What an understanding wife he must have!  Can you imagine ... your husband showing up with scaffolding and a plan to make the outside of the house look run down and haunted?

So here are just a few pictures.  My camera is not really good enough to capture all this Halloween fun.  But you get the idea.

Enjoy!

The entrance to the drive way.
Normally the drive way is just grass and a few bushes.

The next area beyond the entrance.

A charming welcoming!

A very scary image in the dark drive way.
I was very brave!  :-)

Guess this soul was a bad bad person in life!

The blue lighting was very effective.

And then there is this guy - coming out of the ground.

The House!
The blue light area is the opening to the garage.
The lights move and change colors.
The orange doorway to the left is the door to the house.

The windows above the garage opening!

Garage close up.
Now the garage lights are pick -
and, yes, there are displays within.

No hurricanes are predicted this year 
so this Halloween should be a real hoot for the kids of our neighborhood.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An empty nest ... finally.

I know this blog is supposed to be focused on my "next 20 years."  But my thoughts have been focused on the last 20 years a lot as late.  And those years have been filled with changes that staggers my mind as I review it.

Now I am facing the newest change - an empty nest - the literal description of one's life when all the kids have left home for good.  I have eagerly looked forward to this time and now that it is here I feel a bit numb to the prospect.

For me ... my empty nest describes more than just the kids growing up and moving out.  In the last 20 years the scope of life that kept my nest full was broad.  Most of it has pealed away.

The late 90's were filled with my husband's grandmother, and then his mother, during the last years of their lives.  My husband and I were laid off from jobs during this time ... both at the same time and both from long time employers.  My two adult kids both left and returned home more than once during those years.  They are now flying through life with their "adult wings."  My daughter recently purchased her own property ... a kind of adult passage.  My son married officially stepping out of our "nest" to build his own.  I lost a level of intimacy and trust with a close person or two - a sad reality, and I may never return to that blissful naive state again.  My husband was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that cannot be cured and will lead to blindness - changing both our lives in ways we never could have anticipated.  My mom lived with me for 5 years and the heart break of moving her out of my home and into Assisted Living pretty much ate up the last of my personal care giving reserves.  And this month my son and daughter-in-law who had temporarily lived with me for 10 months, moved into their new home - taking my grand-dogs with them.  There are still a few "remnants" left in my role as "nest maintainer" ... I am still overseer of mom's care as she slowly drifts out of this life in assisted living.  But the "nest" I tended so carefully is pretty vacant now.

There is one glaring reality.  I did not really prepare for this state of empty nest.

The last few days I found myself cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  Cleaning has always been a coping mechanism when I am upset, or unsure or just numb.  I am not upset - as all of these changes are the way of life.  But I feel numb ...  open and empty.  I worry about when the house is clean.  Then what!

So I need to focus more on me.  I have been pretty good at looking the other way - but my being says now it is time to focus on you.  I have talked about that in the past - but the hours of the day were always filled with the needs and desires of all those things that filled my nest.

Yesterday I went for a walk.  It was one of those "first day" of a walking routine that I hoped to build.  I have a long, long history of "first days.".  But lately I have noticed my legs have various aches, my knees are giving me problems and my energy levels are pretty low.

I have seen this before.  I have seen it in mom!  Fear sent me out the door on that walk - and now that my nest is pretty empty, fear is as good a motivator as anything.

I have also signed up for a strength training class starting in November.  I believe a Yoga class will also become part of my routine.  And these knees may need a professional evaluation because I don't want them to become an "excuse" for not moving.  I have seen that as well - in mom!

Fear!  Whatever works!

Finally, blogging as been a struggle lately.  That is actually a good sign.  My blog kept me sane during some pretty tough and unhappy years, but now it feels like just another thing on my "To Do" list.  The need is just not there to write and vent and chatter on.  I considered stopping the blog - thought about it many times over the last 2 months - but I could never "do the deed" and say goodbye.  Guess I was not ready to end this ... after so many other endings.

So here I am blathering on to you! Guess blogging will be part of my empty nest after all.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  I'll be back again - just not sure when.  My blog will join so many other blogs that I follow where posts crop up now and again, but never goes away!

Cheers!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

365 Slow Cooker Suppers by Stephanie O'Dea

Let me say right off ...

I am totally STOKED about presenting this cook book to my readers. 

365 Slow Cooker Suppers by Stephanie O'Dea



I am such a fan of her previous two cookbooks and this time, I was lucky enough (and totally honored) to receive a review copy of her newest cookbook prior the release date of September 24.

Long time readers of my blog know that I reviewed a previous book of hers on my blog back in 2010 -  and she most graciously commented on that blog post.  You can imagine just how shocked I was to hear directly from an author - especially an author who I admired.  What a kind thing to do!!  I never forgot that.

Anyway, when she offered bloggers an opportunity to receive a review copy of her newest book, 365 Slow Cooker Suppers, I jumped at the opportunity! Thank you so much Stephanie.

First let's get the less interesting stats out of the way on 365 Slow Cooker Suppers:
  • Stephanie O'Dea is a blogger. Crockpot365.blogspot.com.  I have a weakness for bloggers.
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  -  www.hmhbooks.com
  • 3rd Crock Pot Cook Book by Stephanie O'Dea (Make It Fast, Cook It Slow and More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow).  I have both books and they are great.
  • 336 pages
  • $24.99 retail
  • Book organization:  Soups and Stews, Beans, Poultry, Beef and Lamb, Pork, Sandwiches, Meatless and Fish and Seafood.
What I love:
  • Beautiful photography! Her first two books had no photos.  I didn't think that it was a minus, because when I cook, my results seldom looks like the picture.  Food photography is an art.  It takes a special kind of person to make beef stew smile.  There were many smiling foods in this book.  
  • This book focuses on suppers only.  Perfect!!  Most cook books spread themselves a bit thin by having samples of all the possible food options (breakfast, side dishes, desserts, and main dishes).  When it comes to the Crock Pot, I am a main dish kind of girl.  Throw it all in the crock pot, turn it on and 8 hours later dinner is done.  I have never made breakfast or dessert in a crock pot.  Those sections of other crock pot cookbooks are wasted on me.
  • Don't you hate recipes that have 25+ ingredients and just as many steps of preparation. Or how about the 3 ingredient recipes ... I get so turned off by the swings of extremes in recipe creation.    Stephanie has an average of 10-15 ingredients in a recipe (a few that have more.)  In my mind this means this is not an over simplified slow cooker cook book - that uses 3 or 4 ingredients (one being canned soup) and then calls the results "great."  Nor is it a recipe that take 30 minutes to collect all the ingredients before you can do anything.  I have a few books in both categories and they are heading into my recycling because I never make anything in them.   Steph's balance of ingredients and preparation steps are perfect and realistic for the every day cook. 
  • In her first 2 books she used "The Verdict" to report family reactions and other observations on each recipe.  She has continued this practice in book 3.  I totally love these snippets.  I feel like the author is talking directly to me ... giving me the inside scoop on this particular dish.  Obviously she wouldn't have included recipes that were duds, so you don't have that kind of feedback in "The Verdict."  But if you are interested in how well a specific recipe was received by kids and other members of the family, or how light or filling a meal was, or will it freeze well, or kudos to others (with websites referenced), "The Verdict" provides this feedback.  To be totally honest, sometimes I read The Verdict before I check out the ingredients.
Things that could be better?  Well, I prefer to characterize my slim list of improvements as "wishes for the next book."  Really, there is little that could make the recipes better.  But the publisher might consider these options:
  • Spiral binding - cook books that lie flat while you are using them are user friendly. I am considering have all three of her books punched for spiral binding at a local office supply store.  
  • Nutritional information for each recipe - health and weight conscious folks would really appreciate this added information.  
Next week I will be preparing two recipes from this book and I will report back on the outcome with pictures and comments.

And just for the record, it took me all of about 2 minutes to find those two recipes.  In quickly checking out the options for meals, I think I could have closed my eyes and just picked two at random ... they all sounded great!




Friday, August 30, 2013

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Memories


This is the latest entry in a continuing series called 
Through My Caregiver Eyes.  
The full story can be found under the label "Through My Caregiver Eyes."
 (Label Section to the right of my blog posts.)  

My mom is 87 years old and is in Assisted Living. 
The rocky path from independence to living with me and finally to Assisted Living
 is documented in this series.  
While our journey together is peppered with joy-filled moments,
 it is mostly losses for her and sadness for me. 
For those of you who are caregivers of elderly loved ones, 
you may see yourself in my story.


Memories are intangible things that can make life worth living, and at other times, sad to recall. Memories can fade and be lost, and in the elderly, sometimes the loss is permanent.  I believe it is the loss of memories that is the cruelest loss of all in aging.

I got the idea to recover some of mom's happy memories by bringing one of her travel albums with me on a recent visit.  The album I selected was from May 1990 when she traveled in Europe.  It was filled her typed and handwritten notes of scenes and the people pictured.  I thought she had done an excellent job of documenting the trip and it might be fun for her to see it again.


She was initially happy to see the book - recognized the cover right away.  She seemed surprised to see her own handwriting - recognized it as hers - she said it looked like my handwriting.  I guess it does.



It made me happy to watch her page slowly through the book.  She was quiet, however, and did not make many comments.  I asked if she recognized any of the places and people.  She said, "some" ... and that was all.  It was the first sign that maybe some memories of this happy time were lost.  I felt a little saddness at that thought.



At times a small smile graced her lips - I assumed she recognized a scene or a person - maybe one of the pictures prompted another memory.  She did mention the name of the man who led the tours - so she did seem to connect with the images.

Then she suddenly turned to me and said, "This is your book, right?  There are some nice pictures of you in here."  No ... no pictures of me. The book was entirely of her travels.  Later it occurred to me that she was seeing pictures of a much younger self.  We are always told how much we look alike.  I guess she got confused. Another little red flag on memory lane.



She reached the end and closed the book, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes.  After a bit she mentioned that she did travel a lot at one time. But 1990 was a very long time ago. The comment seemed like simple confirmation of what the book represented.  She sat quitely some time.

It was hard to tell how these pictures impacted her.  Did they make her sad at the passage of so much time?   Did it confirm that some of her memories were lost because she couldn't recognize some of the images from her book?  Was she just reflective?  I will never know because mom finds it hard to put her thoughts and feelings into words at this point.

I hoped she would keep the book with her for a few days to enjoy and remember.  But she clearly wanted me to take the book back home that day.  She said she was glad that I brought it, but she would not keep it with her.

My heart hoped she had a few moments of happiness paging through the photo album.  But the small voice of my mind wonders if these pictures had another unpredictable outcome.



Memories are fragile things.

Handle with care.


Retired Knitter
Daughter and Caregiver

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

V-Day

We are owned by 2 cats.  Our two boys are "cat-cats," not "dog-cats".  Over 40+ years we have had cats that acted more like dogs. We assumed that all cats were dog-like.

How can two reasonably intelligent and educated people be so wrong!

Preamble:
We spare no expense for our four legged family.
  Soap box comments aside,
 I strongly believe that if you can't be a responsible, caring, loving pet mom or dad,
 you shouldn't have the privilege of being owned by pets. 
(please don't comment if you feel other wise)
AND if you mistreat them,
 you should have the word "Scum" tattooed to your forehead
 so that we can easily identify you!
  Opps!
  Slipped briefly onto my soap box.
  Stepping down now.


Today was V-Day ... Vet Day!  We kept it a secret as long as possible from the participants.  But at some point the jig is up - and V-Day becomes common knowledge.
Our story starts with the two very fancy travel cases on wheels that we have for these yearly trips to the vet.  They were pricey, BUT they are worth every single penny.  The cats seem calmer while traveling and it is easier on our aging backs.

It also allows us to make a snooty entrance into the vet's waiting room - making a positive impression by looking spiffy, calm, cool, collected and blood free.  We always get comments on the cases.

Money well spent, I tell you!

But loading our boys into the cases at home can be tricky!  We haven't totally mastered that yet.

Wally
The first cat is usually easy.  This time the first cat was Wally.  We pick him up, he is happy, purring ensues, and then ... plop ... we drop him into the case and zip him in.  Easy, peasy.  We are feeling masterful and in charge at that point.  Then Wally yowls a long loud cry, raising the alarm for his brother, Max, who gets the message with lightening speed and dives under the bed. (And it makes no difference who is picked up first.  They are brothers.  They work as a team in crisis situations.)

Max
*sigh*

Now our focus is Max under the bed. We begin with softly worded cajoling (which never works, by the way), and then we move on to the "cookie technique" - cookies placed artfully in a line leading out from under the bed (which worked exactly one time 6 years ago and never since), and then the "catnip offering" which he dearly loves (making him totally manic if he imbibes, but on V-Day - he doesn't.)  We are finally reduced to the "broom technique" - sweeping it against his body to push him out where we can grab him (picture two 66-67 year old codgers laying on the floor beside the bed - one codger has markedly reduced vision - an elephant could pass by and he might miss it - the other is swearing mightily - totally annoyed at how dirty it is under our bed.)

Really, it is not one of our finer moments!

At some point, however, we succeed - but not without many swear words and sweat!

The trip by car it uneventful ... if you agree that pitiful cries from the back seat and cat drool (due to motion sickness) are "uneventful."

The vet's exam is also fairly quiet.  The cats are docile making us look totally ridiculous as we stand there looking damp, layered with cat hair and carpet fuzz.  I guess the vet has seen worse.

It is only once the vet take the cats to the back lab for blood work, urine samples, shots and nail trimming that the true state of affairs become evident.

I mean, after all, imagine just how much fun it must be to take urine from a cat.  For example this time we had this scenario:  the technician returned with Max after the visit to the lab using one hand to wipe the side of her face.  I was immediately worried.  There didn't appear to be any scratches or blood.  She said things got kind of exciting in the lab.  While preparing to retrieve some urine (don't ask how they do that),  Max started to pee all over the place.  I had visions of a vet tech holding sample cup here and there - moving left and right - trying to catch the urine stream before it hit the ground.  What she was wiping off her face was cat urine.

Some people are just not paid enough for what they do!!

The return trip is always quiet.  The cats are exhausted and we much poorer!

And every year on the return trip home I have the same nagging thoughts ... will they remember us when we come next year?   ... do we need to change our names?   ... is there any chance that there will be new staff who don't know us?  After all, those fancy travel cases can carry you only so far in the "positive impression" department.

We know things could be worse.  Been there - done that!  Many years ago we had a cat named Alex whose chart was covered in very big red ink letters with stars and arrows - inside and out - pointing to one over-riding message.

***ATTENTION***
***STAFF***
Release cat to owners
 before 
totally recovered from anesthesia.

Yes, Alex had issues!

The vet frequently asked how we were able to manage a difficult cat like this at home.  He cautioned us that often cats with this kind of extreme behavior are euthanized.  I sincerely doubt he believed us when we told him that the cat was a cream puff at home. Oh well.  I prefer to think that Alex was just misunderstood.

Rest in peace dear Alex.  We miss you.

August 2013 is now under our belts.  No worries until August 2014.

And between now and next V-Day I reaaallly need to clean under our bed!!!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pithy and Inspiring!

I was visiting at a blog called Great Balls of Wool (shocking I know - visiting a web site that features wool - nuts - I wish I had thought of that title myself), and I made a REAL shocking discovery.

While perusing her blog list of blogs she follows, I saw my blog listed!  Not listed near the top of the list that was updated 2 hours ago.  Not near the middle of the list that was updated 2 weeks ago.  I was infamously located in the 4 week-ago section.

Balderdash!  Stupid BlogSpot is counting wrong. Then I visited Spinning First.  Her blog said the same thing?


FOUR WEEKS!

 Really??
Is that possible?
  I said nothing for four whole weeks?
  Did I black out?
  Did I have a four week out-of-body experience - and that person didn't blog?
Did I time travel?  

I quickly visited my own blog in total disbelief.   Cripes!  July 28th housed my last sterling words of wisdom - and what were those words??  "Old School Blogging" where I participated in a blog prompt event at Paula's Place - about blogging.  It was a fun event, but realllllly!  Should those be the last words on my blog?

Most definitely not!

If I were going to end it all ... it would look very different.


I would take a bow, have a big splashy ending, make a long speech (like I am doing now), thank all the "little people" (and since this is an independent effort - I guess the little people would be my imaginary friends - there, I said it!),  and wish everyone well!  Maybe blow a kiss or something!

So I am not doing any of that ... but I am blathering on about not blogging ... again!

*sigh*

So here are some true statements:

  • During my black out, other life, time travel (I like that possibility best), I was visiting the blogs of others.  You guys rock!
  • I will not be giving up blogging (even if you begged.)
  • I will not be blogging every day (or every week apparently.)
  • I will be happy with my episodic writing ventures - and not obsessed with blogging just for blogging sake (like I am doing now!)
  • I have pictures of stuff that was planned for the blog - so what else will I do with those images if I don't blog?  (Sorry, that was a question - not a statement.  But I digress.)

I will be back in the next day or so with something pithy and inspiring.

 (Ok, maybe just pithy, as I cannot be inspiring on command.)
 .... 
(Maybe just wordy as I am not sure what pithy means.)

I will be back in the next day or so with something wordy!
There ... that sounds right!


Wordy Blogger's Note:  Be sure to visit the blogs I have linked.  Paula is on blog-break and will be back.  But her story of caring for her dying husband is at times intense, touching, gritty and real.  Check out her posting history.

Wordy Blogger's Second Note:  Now I am at the top of everyone's blog list!  Ha!

Wordy Blogger's Third Note:  Well, maybe not "everyone's" list! I am pretty sure I am not on President Obama's list ... well, mostly sure!!



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Old School Blogging

I stop in regularly to visit at Paula's Place.  She has the most interesting topics on her blog.  During the month of July she had one topic called Old School Blogging that drew me in, and so ... here we go with the big 5 of everything ....


Five things I have a passion for:
Family 
(husband, children, mom, sister, cousins, 
they would eat up all of my 5 - so they are under the big topic of "family")
My cats and granddogs
 (they are 5 all by themselves)
Knitting and related crafts
 (knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning - again, too many to list separately)
Walking
(it is a passion but I wish I was doing it more.)



Five things I'd like to learn before I die:
How to be a more forgiving person.
How to spin wool enough to make a sweater.
How to say "no" without feeling bad about it.
How to take my pills everyday - the way they are prescribed.
How to be more quiet, separate, just "be."


Five Things I say a lot
Sh** on a stick!
Crap!
You know ...
Give me a break ...
Actually ...

Five books and or magazines I have read lately
These will have to be Audiobooks mostly.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Wool by Hugh Howey
The Stand by Stephen King
Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck
Separation of Power by Vince Flynn (a series of books)

Five Favorite Movies
Ben Hur
Alien (first movie)
Aliens (second movie)
The God Father Series
Tucker and Dale verses Evil
(Seriously, check this last movie out on Netflix. It could be described as a corny bad movie.
 Probably is.
 It starts slow, but it builds to the funniest series of mishaps I have EVER watched.  
I laughed so hard I was choking and tears were running down my cheeks. Just amazing.) 

Five places I would like to travel to:
England/Ireland
Canada
Alaska (return trip)
The Grand Canyon
Hawaii
(little chance of any of this happening, but wishful thinking is allowed.)

Five people I invite to do this Meme:
I typically hate this part of any blog event or award -
the inviting of other bloggers to participate and they really don't want too.
So here is where I invite all of you to pick one of these topics
and just share it in my comments section ...
or not!
I'll still love you anyway.

Well ... that was fun.  Try it.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nothing to blog about ...

... she says after another brief blogging absence.

Could it be that my life is just that boring?  Probably.

Oh wait, there was the stunning multi-car accident that I happened upon while I was going out to pick up Chinese food!  Just 1/4 mile from my house.
Yes, that SUV is on top of and crushing another car!

The car with the missing front end was the third one in this accident.
There were 2 fire engines, 3 ambulances, 4 police cars, and 2 large tow trucks all gathered in a very small intersection.  Looks like someone was traveling just too fast in a effort to make the light and two other cars were in the right place at the wrong time.  Amazing ... and never seen on this quiet little intersection. No way to know about injuries, but I am just hoping no one was killed.

Not boring I guess.

I did, however, visit a new Community Center just 10 minutes from my house.  Just 10 minutes away, only 2 years old, and I had absolutely no idea the building was even there.  (Do I live in a paper bag or what!)  They have a great indoor walking track and in this muggy hot weather, an indoor air conditioned track sounds just fine.  I prefer being outside but when conditions are so terrible that I can't take a deep breath - indoors I go!  They also have a state-of-the-art gym with great looking equipment.  Seniors (which I am), can use the gym for $25 a year!  How's that for a deal?  Use of the walking track is free!  Can't beat the price.

My walking has taken quite a hit this summer.    Walking and breathing at the same time is kind of important!  But I am still loving my FibBit Flex.  That is why I am eager to find a viable option for walking indoors on these terrible days.

At my dad's grave site.
Several weeks ago I had a chance to visit my Dad's grave.  My sister and I were doing some planning on mom's behalf and it took us to his grave site.  He died in 1970.  Even after all these years, and after all the bad memories of my upbringing, it gave my heart a tug to see his name on the tomb stone.

Rest in peace, dear dad.  Sorry I don't visit more often.  I know you were ill with alcoholism and when you lived there wasn't much help for that.  At least I have a few good memories and mementoes of your life.  I wish you had lived long enough to meet your grandchildren.  You would be proud of them.

Finally, here is a picture I have been holding on to a bit.
Easter at Brooke Grove
I love this picture of mom with one of the activity coordinators dressed as an Easter bunny.  They really try to make the holidays grand for the residents.  Easter was a good day for mom.  Lately she has had days when she mostly sleeps.  Then other days she seems more alert.  She has Congestive Heart Failure and these up and down periods are fairly normal.  We just take each day as it comes.

She has started to ask me again when she is "going home."  It breaks my heart when she says that as I want to think she is content where she is.  Coming back home now is next to impossible.  She can't climb even one step and I have tons of them.  And her care has reached a level beyond my abilities.  So technically she is "home."  During our last Family Meeting, the staff reported that mom seems "content."  Maybe she is content  at times, but there must be a small part of her that is not content.  It continues to pain me.

Guess there were a few topics to blog about after all!  :-)

Hope you all are doing well this hot summer.  Be back again soon.