Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rollin' With the Oldies

It's been a troubling week in Elderland.  My aunt seemed determined to not behave, and to thwart as many well-laid plans as possible.  She did call me at the first of the week to ask if I was mad at her, and of course I'm not.  I worry.  I stew.  But I'm not mad.  She was hoping to move to a larger room that had become available, but sadly (and probably because she waffled) it went to someone else.  It was a bitter disappointment to her, but I have a feeling it was meant to be.  She was fretting about the extra money, and I was already wondering how I was going to talk her into spending more money on some (in my opinion) needed medical consultations.
I've become friendly with a couple of the caregivers at her residence facility, and they are worried about her as well.  They regularly tattle on her when she insists on walking the quarter mile to the pharmacy for her 2 weeks overdue blood pressure medication (and she wonders why she's falling so much!), or when she refuses to come down for meals or other activities, or when she insists on taking the stairs.  We've had full-on snitch-fests, trying to come up with ways to tempt her to take a bigger part in things socially.  Whenever I'm there, and she sees other residents, they are always drawn to her, and she seems so well liked.  But she won't let herself be completely inclusive.  She sits in her dark stuffy little room watching Fox News. (She likes Fox News, she says.  But... ALL DAY?)  Sliding door closed, blinds drawn, even though she has a lovely balcony overlooking the patio and a large fountain.  Her complexion is pale and pasty because she almost never goes outside unless it's to trek to the pharmacy because it seems she'd rather die than go on the facility bus with others.
Yesterday I went to go visit.  Most of the residents were downstairs listening to a musician who had come to perform for them.  They were having a great time.  Was my aunt down with them?  Of course not.  So up I went to her room.  Knocked on the door.  No answer.  The door is usually locked, but yesterday it wasn't, so I opened it a crack, and could see her struggling to get up.  Looking confused, as usual.  I asked where her cane was, and she didn't know.  It was over by me, by the door.  She looked right at me and said she didn't need it, yet...she wasn't able to pull herself up very well...
I lost it.  Right there.  Looking at her defiant face, I grabbed the cane, threw it down, and told her that I couldn't take the ridiculousness anymore.  Actually, you don't want to know what I said, because it was a little salty, but that was the jist of it.  The picture of Christ-like love and patience.  And I left.  I huffed down the hall, (and my kids are probably laughing right now because they know how I can HUFF) and then got control and went back.  Did I apologize?  No.  Not then.  I scolded her some more, and shook my finger at her, and told her that her behavior was pathetic, and what was wrong with her anyway?  (Clearly, I missed my calling as a master therapist...)
This good lady just looked at me with a straight face while I was mid-tirade, and said "I'm going to start locking my door." Well - that just broke me up.  I laughed and laughed.  And I apologized.  And THAT is what keeps me going back to try and help.  As if I was any good at it.  She is a trial - stubborn as a mule.  She is severely depressed.  And it's killing me to see her decline.  But she has a sense of humor that is so clever and quick, and she's still in there.  Somewhere. By the time I left she had shaken off the frail old lady act and had become a little more sparky.  Showing me her determination and how speedy she had become with her walker, because she was mad that everyone had ratted on her.  She sped all around the room and out the door and up the hall.  It was impressive, actually.  She even held on and went up and down on her toes.  Doing her new tricks.  I would like to kiss her new physical therapist.  He is working a small miracle here.
Now, if we can just get her to talk to someone about her "feelings" (the thought actually horrifies her) I think we could get somewhere.  I tried to get her to agree to let me make an appointment but she said she wasn't ready.  So okay.  Maybe a new physical therapist and speedy tricks with a walker are enough progress for this week.  We'll address the issue again next week.  In the meantime, I think I owe the lady a tall hot chocolate at Starbuck's.  With whipped cream.  Luckily, she realizes my temper rants are just badly disguised love.  This is when I behave like my dad.  We only lose it when we don't know what to do.  When we're frayed with frustration and fear.  But I can't give in to that frustration again, because it's mean and self serving.  It blows off steam, but it's not constructive.  Or maybe it is, a little bit.  It sure snapped her out of acting helpless, but I think I can find a better way if I think about it long enough.  And pray about it a lot.
So there you have it.  My week so far.  Work and meltdowns.  Computer work and bad behavior.  I need to get out more, I really do.  Fresh air would do me good too.  Oh, and I started a Paleo diet without actually reading the book.  Protein, vegetables, and fruits, and avoiding grains and bread like the plague.  So far, so good.  I've felt really good, and have lost 6 pounds since Friday.  I think the protein keeps me going steadily for a longer period of time.  It's been a little bit hard to pass up bread, and pasta, and make do without, but I feel so dramatically better than it's easy to stop temptation.  We'll see where this leads.  L and I have been pedaling every night on our stationary bike.  I hate it.  It's hot and I sweat buckets (Dainty?  Not me...) but I've done it, and been glad I did afterwards.  So I guess it's been a week of work, frustration, and worried concern, but also better health and feeling lighter.  A little good, a little bad.  Mia read me a book about a girl named Pinkalicious with great expression and feeling.  (Maybe she will love to read like Mema.)  And Saturday I get to get my hair done, and L has started to look for good flights to Boston for me, AND he totally researched a trip to Hawaii for the two of us for a time to be determined.  I think the sun just came out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wishing for Dolphins in the Bahamas

Along with the slower pace of January, it seems I've become a slacking blogger.  At first we (along with the rest of the country) were having (for Southern California) some incredibly chilly weather.  And then last week, the skies cleared, the sun rose high in the sky, and we were at 80 degrees all week.  Our son Andrew came for a long weekend visit, partly because we hadn't seen him in about 6 months, and partly because he needed a break from freezing cold Utah.  We had fun taking him to walk along the beach, to eat at his favorite Mexican restaurant, and to a movie.  Amazingly enough, he likes hanging out with us oldie oldsters, although after dinner he liked to hole up and watch movies, so L and I were free to do what we wanted in the evenings.
I honestly have nothing incredible to report.  Life has been no ball of fire around here, that's for sure.  L and I were in a quandary about what to do about our bike riding of late.  So cold at night, it just wasn't fun to put 3 layers of clothing on just to go out and ride, sweat a little because of all the layers, and then get cold anyway because of it.  We solved our hot debate this weekend: we bought a stationary bike.


It's a little different workout from our regular bikes.  As you can see, the handles go back and forth like an elliptical machine.  Because you're inside, it really makes me sweat.  TMI?  Maybe, buts it's always an issue with me because I am a horrific head sweater - just like a kid.  That's another reason I love our regular bikes so much - because you're out in the fresh air that blows against your face and makes you cool again.  Anyway, this little bike is just the thing.  Because of the arm action it makes your core a little stronger.  Hopefully.  I know my lower back is a little sore as I'm adjusting, but I think it's going to be a good thing.  I finish my work, turn on Ellen, and pedal away for 30 minutes.  I will work up to more, I promise.  I'm encouraged that we've found a good solution to the winter doldrums and it's accompanying less activity.

Other than that, my friends, I've started driving my dad to his one day a week work on Wednesdays.  The chemotherapy is making him so tired, and it's a long drive, yet it's good for his moral to continue to go in once a week, run reports, and then go with my brother for a huge lunch.  He and my mom drive to my house, I come out and jump into the driver's seat of the Cadillac, and off we go to Corona and Larry's Thunderbird and Mustang Parts.  (No, my dad is not Larry - he bought the biz from Larry)  Then my mom and I come back to my house and spend the day, thus saving her the horrible fate of spending the day at Larry's.  Picture greasy parts and a business full of car guys and you've got it.  During my years there, I kept wanting to make it the nice and attractive, but car guys will have none of that.  It was good I moved on when I did.  But I digress...  At the end of the work day, my brother brings Dad back to my house, and he and mom can go home after I feed them dinner.  So far, we've only done it once.  This week, my dad had a little emergency that landed him in the ER until 3am, and he wasn't up to working the next day.  Good thing, because I was so worried that I didn't sleep, and woke up with a huge headache which lasted ALL DAY.  So there were 3 of us on Wednesday that were worth nothing.
Besides being interfering and bossy with my parents, I've also been a royal pain to my aunt who lives nearby.  She is in kind of rough shape.  Depression and advancing age, combined with taking poor care of herself for the past 30 years has taken a toll on her.  She falls.  A lot.  I can see what she needs: complete physical workup, possible physical therapy, once a week session with a therapist for the depression, having someone monitor her meds and help her shower for at least the next month until we have a better handle on what's going on.  Encouragement to get out of her room and see some sunshine.  But will she agree to any of this?  Of course not.  So we argue and have the same debates every time I see her, which is several times a week.  It's a little wearing, and I did get a little angry with her the other night when she was particularly belligerent.  But I love her and want her to be happy and healthy.  But I can see I need to change my tactics and be a little less commandeering.  Give her more time to chew on new ideas before insisting on them.  Not my strong suit, that's for sure.  But I did want a year of chances to serve, didn't I?  A year of growth?  Yes. And that's exactly what I'm getting, so far.
And so, because the past week has been a little worrisome and turbulent, I've avoided blogging.  I shouldn't have, because this is exactly what I needed.  Put on my iTunes and just let it all out.  I put it on "shuffle" mode and it alternates between Fun pounding out "Some Nights" and Ludovico Einaudi's moody and ethereal piano beauties.  With a little Lady Gaga and Colbie Caillat, and Vienna Teng thrown in for good measure.  For some reason I love listening to music I love, but having no idea what is going to come next.  Will it be something to make me want to get up and dance, or something that makes my heart peaceful?  Sometimes it's both.



My daughter sent me this old picture of Mia running across the sand to meet the approaching waves, hair flying in the light of the setting sun.  It fills me with that indescribable feeling of summertime - when you're excited, but you don't know what for.  When just seeing the ocean waves pulls you towards them with hands outstretched and eyes closed, and the smell of salty air filling your nose.  Today Katie and I looked online at a vacation destination in the Bahamas with real longing.  They had a cove where you could swim with dolphins.  That's on my bucket list.  But it could just as easily be Hawaii or Puerto Rico or Cape Cod.  I just want sun shining on waves that tumble in to kiss my toes hello.  Soon.  Soon...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lucky Thirteen

Dear LaMar,

Thank you for the past 13 glorious years together.  You've brought so much to my life: the great joy you can get only from loving someone who loves you back.  You are always my loudest cheerleader, and together we have seen the heights of the greatest joys life has to offer.  You trust me enough to let me see your deepest despair, while courageously teaching me how to work through it.  You constantly tell me of your love for me, but more importantly, you show it in a million different ways every day.

In thirteen years we have experienced 4 high school graduations, 1 son's successful church mission (another son served a mission before we were a couple) 3 college graduations resulting in 4 separate degrees, 4 children happily married, and 5 grandchildren, with another one due this summer.  The happiest of occasions.  The most joyful of memories.

We've also loved and supported each other through the death of a brother, a son's mental illness, our own chronic conditions, and 2 job layoffs.  We've had our house rocked with earthquakes and have learned to start preparing for disaster - natural, career, or otherwise.  Because if we're prepared, there's no reason to fear. At least that's what you tell me, and I choose to believe you.

I've learned to go light on perfume, and you've learned to give me plenty of time and space to get ready to go somewhere.  In fact, we always give each other plenty of time and space, but at the end of the day it's so very comforting to give each other a hug, share our days' events, and cuddle up for our favorite TV shows.  It's not an action-packed life, but neither of us would like that.  We take our excitement in travel to see our far-flung children and grandchildren, and small doses of leisure time in romantic, idyllic beach destinations.  Together we've seen Puerto Rico, as well as much of the Caribbean, Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas,  (we love our beach-themed vacations!), and we're learning the ins and outs of Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Massachusetts.

It's a wonderful life, heavy on the good stuff, but with enough adversity thrown in to keep us agile, and on our toes.  And never once have I felt alone, like I was ever carrying the burden myself.  (I suspect, actually, that you carry the heavier portion, but never EVER complain - until it's time for quarterly taxes, and then together we curse the Feds and crusty old Jerry Brown .)  You are my true companion in this life and beyond.  Every day offers a sweetness only gained from knowing each other so well, we can read each other's expressions from across the room, as well as work together in a small kitchen harmoniously.

I could never have imagined that life could be so wonderful, or could be lived so fearlessly.  Because with you, I am never alone - and there is safety in numbers.  There's also safety in faith, which you've taught me through example to build on and increase.  We are growing older and grayer together, and with any luck we will get a lot older and grayer.  Sometimes I am sad about my fleeing youth (well, it's mostly fled) but you make it clear that you only see the part of me that's good and beautiful.  As I do you.  Thank you for your quiet strength, your steadiness, and most of all, your never ending love.  It's been an amazing ride, and I couldn't love anyone more.

Love,

Your 13 year old Bride

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When I Get Older...

I'm staying holed up in my little office.  I have the space heater going, and it's nice and toasty.  I could always turn on the heat, but then it seems too hot when I go down to cook dinner.  California doesn't usually get this chilly, but we're enjoying some rare nippy weather.  I like it because I can put boots, scarves and sweaters to good use.

It's been a busy week as far as work goes.  That's a good thing.  In my case, more hours worked = bigger paycheck.  I haven't received my first paycheck of the new year - that will happen tomorrow - and I'm curious about how much smaller it's going to be.  If you hear a loud wail from my direction, you'll know the tax hikes found their mark.

This week (today actually) is my aunt's 79th birthday.  She's had a rough few years, first being my Grandmother's caregiver, and then suffering her loss and learning to deal with that.  I feel that we're starting to see some light at the end of that tunnel on some days.  Her health really suffered for several years while she took care of Grandma but never herself.  Consequently, she is physically weak, and her memory is spotty.  Good days and bad days, basically.  She lost her driver's license recently because she drove her car through some barriers and into a local parade (yes, I still laugh when I tell the story, but it's a nervous laugh).  Luckily, no one was hurt.  The only damage was to her pride and sense of independence.  And today, on her birthday, she had her final laser surgery to correct the failing eyesight that failed to notice the oncoming parade.  Or the barriers.  She still talks about getting her license back, and I just change the subject.

It's a delicate subject, this thing of getting older and deciding when it's just not safe to be driving anymore.  I think she knows in her heart of hearts that she shouldn't be driving, as she's frequently confused, and it wouldn't be good if she were to become confused while behind the wheel of a large-ish Mercury Marquis.  But I can also keenly feel how difficult it would be to give up the idea of being able to run to the drug store for your own prescriptions, or to Target to pick up a few things.  She has never wanted to be dependent on anyone - EVER - and it's killing her to depend on rides from friends and family, and/or to schedule transportation through the facility she lives at.  So when the subject comes up I just smile and change the subject.  Bob and weave.  Because her driving reminds me of Mr. Magoo.

But this is the aunt who bundled my brother and I into the front seat and boot area of her Triumph circa late 50's and would take the top down while driving down to the beach.  She would read us stories, and help us with our homework.  She is the aunt who sat in a dark living room with a headache when my friend Marion flitted in and began dancing her modern dance routine to a supposedly empty room - and neither of them has ever forgotten that magnificent moment.  She has been involved with my kids, donated money to the cause over the years, and now keeps up with THEIR kids.  She's been the Best.Aunt.Ever.  And it's hard to see her health decline.

Oh, I do my best to go over there and give her pep talks.  I had to tell her that it wasn't appropriate to get mad when people wish her a happy birthday, but instead to smile and say "Thank you."  I encourage her to get out and mingle, I tell her it's not okay to skip meals because she's depressed, and that she must must must take her medication.  I remind her to take walks to strengthen her legs (but with a friend, PLEASE, with a friend!  She falls a lot...) and I just generally boss her around horribly.  My husband jabs me and tells me to stop it, and I've tried to get better.  Luckily, she takes my unsolicited advice in the spirit it was given, and has never ordered me out.

Some days I feel like we're getting somewhere, and other times I feel like a complete failure.  I'm honestly not sure what I should do.  How much to control, and when to let go.  I feel that I really will have to put my foot down about her driving, but I'm trying my best to avoid the subject.  I just keep dancing, hoping to distract her.  She is in an "active senior" facility.  Their meals are provided, their rooms are cleaned, their laundry done.  They can come and go as they please.  So many activities and outings are provided, plus I only live 5 minutes away.  A quick phone call and I'm there.  For whatever she needs.  (Working from home is proving to be a very very good thing.)

I don't know why I'm telling you all this.  I guess I needed to vent, because I'm worried.  Some days I decide I should be more aggressive about accompanying her to doctor's appointments and the like (to ask questions that she never remembers to ask, and to just find out what's really going on) and other days I revert back to thinking that she needs the dignity of doing it herself.  I'm in a quandary.  Wanting to do the right thing, but not quite knowing what the right thing is.  If anyone has had experience with this, I'm willing to listen to suggestions and ideas.  She does actually seem happier than she did at this time last year.  Her sense of humor is back most days and she seems happy to be living close by.

I suppose if the biggest problem I encounter is the persistent wish to go get her driver license, I can continue to "smile and wave, boys...smile and wave..."  and then distract her with a Starbucks hot chocolate.  It's her new-found guilty pleasure.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Weekend!

What is it about a weekend stretching in front of you?  Full of promise, the possibilities beckon enticingly.  Even though we worked a short week because of New Year's, it's been a busy, packed three days of work.  So much to catch up on.  So. Much.  Today, at the end of the day, my eyes actually hurt because of all the computer work.  (And yet, here I am, back at it, working in the bright glare of the screen...)

About 3 months ago I bought a coat on one of those super discount sites.  I think it was $45.  And then after Christmas I bought a dress on sale at one of my favorite websites.  Today was the magical day when the planets aligned and both items arrived on my porch.  I was starting to worry about the coat - I ordered and paid for it in about early October, but I think it was ordered from China.  Hence the long wait.  And for the money, it's a decent little coat.  A beautiful mustard yellow, detachable black/white polka dot bow, and little belt.  It's a wool/poly blend - perfect for Southern California.  I was afraid it was going to be huge - sleeves hanging over my hands, etc.  I ordered an extra big size thinking that I could have it altered down if need be.  Well, I needn't have worried about it.  Seems the Chinese like to skimp on their sizing and fabric, so the size was actually about right.  The sleeves could be a little longer, but I'll live.  And the color is gorgeous.



Tomorrow is my not-a-day--too-soon salon appointment for cut and color.  A guaranteed good day.  I've been growing my bangs out, and now I think I want to cut them again.  I realize it will all come down to what kind of a mood I'm in tomorrow.   I've had my hair about an inch long after getting a sudden yen to cut it.  I'm impulsive like that.  That's the fantastic adventure of the hair salon - sometimes you come home with a complete surprise, although I've practiced more self control in recent years.  Not so many sudden moves, which tend to startle the husband.  Bangs or no bangs is not a hot button issue, so my home life should remain stable no matter what.

And then, after the hair issues are dealt with, what next?  A movie?  Dinner out?  A trip to Target?  Our lives are an ever-evolving ball of fire, I tell you.  We did see "Les Mis", and it's a must see.  If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?  The music, the acting, the boohooing at every inspirational song.  It was awesome.  But take Kleenex, because I promise you that you'll need it.  We also saw that movie "Hitchcock" and it was better than expected.  Especially if you're of my vintage and can remember the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series, and, of course, "Psycho."

Throw in church and some bike riding, and call it a weekend.  Oh, but wait - L is working from home on Monday, so that will be a half holiday too.  Yes, I do need to work, but somehow we'll find time to sneak off for a nice ride on the bikes - especially if its a nice day.

Our 13th anniversary is next weekend, and we're going to have a mini getaway.  A nice dinner, a night in a hotel, and a nice Sunday brunch.  I'm looking forward to sneaking off with my favorite beau for a night of revelry.  Dinner, some smooching *wink*, and probably snoring by 10.  We are party animals.  But we're party animals in love.  And that's a great way to spend your days (and nights).

A glossy brochure from the Westin in Kauai came today.  L and I drooled over it a little bit.  Maybe later in the year.  I'm thinking it would make a lovely Christmas, personally...  First there are children and grandbabies to visit.  Katie and the girls are first on the list.  Katie and I are plotting and planning dates as we speak.  Winter dates or summer?  Katie is pulling for February, but I think I'm leaning more towards warmer days.  All I know for sure is that one night we are having a girls' slumber party in my hotel room.  It's long overdue.

So that's what's been on my mind today.  A lot of scheming how to get myself spruced up and shiny for our anniversary.  How to propel myself across the country to Massachusetts.  How best to spend the current weekend.  I think I'll start with wandering down the hall and cuddling with that cute boy I live with while he watches the Laker game.  If that's not romance, I don't know what is.

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