Family Steps Up Wednesday, Sep 5 2018 

A year ago this month my father fell and broke vertebra in his back.  The actual damage was fixed, but his overall functionally has not been regained.  The rollercoaster ride  the family has been on since then has taxed us all.  Dad, because he cannot accept his change in situation, Mom, because she cannot function at home by herself, and us, their adult children, because we are trying to take up the slack.

DAD:  His back is fixed, but he didn’t do well in rehab.  Physically, there is not a reason he cannot walk, but mentally he is so afraid of falling, most of the time he will not try, even with assistance.   He is showing signs of ‘sundowners’, which is less cognitive ability as the day wears on.   He wants to go home, but doesn’t try to handle any of his personal needs on his own.   Tends to be angry during visits.

MOM:  Can no longer follow through with regular tasks such as medication, consistent meals and personal hygiene.  But doesn’t think she needs help of any kind.  All conversations are circular.

BROTHERS:  Have committed to helping both Mom and Dad and have been instrumental in me keeping my sanity.   Taking Mom to see Dad.  Making sure she has regular meals. Agreeing she needs a helper and allowing one.

The world changed last September for all our families.  I hope we can continue to withstand the stress of both our parents becoming unable to care for themselves.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Discount Childhood Baggage-Pack Carefully Thursday, Feb 1 2018 

Back in the days when the Hubs and I were assisting his Mother, I discounted the impact of having spent one’s childhood with the person you are assisting being your ‘authority figure’. While everyone has different types of childhoods, rarely does a child come through their childhood without some emotional baggage that carries over into their playing adult. The Hubs didn’t have much childhood baggage with his Mother (another story with his father, for another time), so we didn’t bump up against many historical emotional issues between him and his Mother while caring for her.   Since she was not my Mother, I carried even less emotional baggage into the situation, as my relationship issues with her started after I was an adult. (Let’s not pretend that all humans have perfect relationships with their parents or mother in law, shall we?) Don’t misunderstand, there was plenty of emotion, but it wasn’t tied to the four year old that resides within us.   You know that child. It’s the flare of anger or other emotion you feel at a basic level when triggered and your adult responses just aren’t available to that inner child.

My relationship with my Mom growing up was rockier than the Hubs with his Mother. While Mom had the best intentions of not allowing her upbringing to impact how she raised me and my brothers, it crept in. I was an only child for 5 years, so I got the brunt of the learning curve.   Before her illness was firmly in place, Mom often referred to me as her practice child and the joke was she improved her parenting skills with my younger brothers. The result of this situation, as my youngest brother and I have discussed, is that I was raised with a different set of the same parents than my brothers were.   And this created for me some emotional baggage that I carry around with me. Like a little emotional suitcase.

This suitcase is not in the forefront of my life and many of the things that I unpacked and allowed myself to react to as a younger person no longer have impact. I was able to let them go.   At times, I even thought I had lost the suitcase. I was wrong. I am finding out, as my Mom progresses down the dementia path and Dad becomes more physically and mentally disabled, that remnants of that childhood suitcase, now pretty tattered, remain deep within me. I feel its weight these days, as I am opening it more often than I should when dealing with my parents. Funny how that happens.

My parents are in their 80’s, live in their home and are basically home bound. It takes a creative balance and effort to keep their household running, their appointments kept, and their medications on schedule. Although I am the primary handler, and the first on the call list, I’ve started enlisting the help of my brothers and the Hubs. I cannot physically do all that is needed to assist my parents. I work a full time job, and live the farthest away from my parents. I’ve also discovered, that emotionally, I cannot always deal with them, as their actions or needs open my suitcase.   The Hubs has stated I am showing increased signs stress which probably adds new levels of packing in my emotional suitcase.

I wonder what baggage my kids carry around, and if they will unpack it when I need help in my old age. I wonder if I will ever be able to discard the suitcase I am shifting back and forth in my grip as I walk this path. I wonder why, when I created this suitcase, I didn’t put rollers on it, so it would be effortlessly dragged behind me or shoved aside.

I wonder what tomorrow holds.

Walking on the Moon Monday, Jul 21 2014 

The summer of 1969 was one of changes for me. My parents had, from my point of view, ruined my life. They had uprooted the family, and moved from Orange County California without previously having located a place to live or secured any means of support. So, we went to my Grandparents farm outside Westville Oklahoma. The Allied van that carried our belongings across country unloaded everything into the unused milk barn where all was to remain until we had another home. Our city toys, like skates, skateboards and bikes, went into storage too. There just wasn’t anyplace to use that type of thing on a dirt road farm in Oklahoma. Life in Oklahoma in 1969 was very, very different from life in southern California. Mom and Dad went to various towns within a day or two drive to check out jobs and the cost of living. My brothers (age 5 and 3) and I stayed with our Grandparents.

The only good thing about the summer was that one set of my cousins lived in a nearby town. Their Mom, my Aunt, was a school teacher, so she was off for the summer, and they visited often that summer. We, two 11 year old girls, one 12 year old boy and one 13 years old boy, had free run of the 200 acre farm which included a spring fed ice cold creek. We picked blackberries, played in the hay, swam in the creek, caught fireflies, and dodged June bugs.

Vintage TVOn Saturday evening June 20, 1969, we were playing outside in the dark, the best type of hide and seek ever, when the adults in charge called all of us inside. On a TV that barely had any reception on a good day (not at all like SoCal), we all watched as the first man walked on the moon. I don’t recall thinking it was some great moment in time. What I recall is a bunch of kids squirming around on the braided rug, picking at each other, waiting for whatever was on the TV to be over so we could finish playing outside. When enough time had passed that the adults felt we had absorbed the event, we were released into outside freedom once again.

It was years before I realized what I had been forced to watch on the hot summer night in Oklahoma. And it was a truly great achievement. But what I really remember is one of the best hide and seek games ever was interrupted by a man walking on the moon.

Best Ride in Town Friday, Jun 13 2014 

Some memories stick out from my childhood so clearly that I wonder how that is possible after all this time. How can something that happened 45 years ago, and did not having a life changing impact on my life still be running around in my head? And why am I thinking about it now? So many questions, only one of which I can answer. I am thinking about Ft. Smith Arkansas, the smells of spring and riding a bike because my doctor told me to get exercise to ward of the increased levels of sugar and cholesterol in my body. Evidently, I have some borderline issues.

The year I was in 6th grade, my family moved to Ft. Smith Arkansas. Having spent the previous 6 years in Southern California, moving to a relatively small Arkansas town created culture shock for the adults in our tribe. Even back then Southern California (Orange County) was a hopping place with 24/7 availability and multiple non cable TV channels, which is how civilization was measured in the 1960’s. Ft. Smith Arkansas had one rabbit ear channel that combined the major networks (remember that?) and the sidewalks of downtown rolled up at 5pm. While my parents tried to adjust to this drastic difference in lifestyle, my brothers and I hardly noticed. I made friends at school and in the neighborhood. (My elementary school had a cafeteria inside, not just picnic benches!) Across the street from our rental house lived a family with three kids, including two girls, in 5th and 4th grade. The Culp sisters, Julie and Cindy. We started playing together, including riding our bikes (I had a big white Schwinn with pink pin striping) in big circles down our block, then down the alley behind their house and around again. (My house backed up to a field with grazing cattle even though it was the middle of town and did not have an alley.) The alley was dirt and had little hills that would create puddles after a rain, which in Ft Smith that year occurred frequently. We always rode those hills and through those puddles as fast as we could making mud streaks on the back of our clothes. White 1965 Schwinn

But that is not what this entry is about. Surprised? Mr. Culp was a hands on guy that ran/owned a go-cart raceway on the weekends. I don’t know if that was his full time job or just a weekend thing, but I went with the family from time to time and got to drive a go-cart. I recall liking it very much. But what I recall about hanging out with the Culp sisters the most was that Mr. Culp built, for his family’s enjoyment, a bicycle built for 5. He used parts of other bikes, and built this multi colored homemade bike that was completely wonderful. He was the leader, seat number one, with the three kids in the middle in order of age and Mrs. Culp at the back. But on many occasions, I filled in the trailing seat. On warm evenings or Sunday afternoons, 4 Culps and I would ride all over Ft Smith Arkansas on big one bicycle.

Mr. Culp had confidence and would locate streets with hills to race down while we all hooted and yelled, encouraging the fun. A bike of that size draws attention from everyone including, well, dogs. Besides people smiling, pointing and waving at us I recall more than once I had to raise my feet from the pedals to the handlebars of my section of the bike to keep from being nipped as a dog would chase the end of the homemade ride. Riding around on that bike is one of my best memories ever.

So why am I thinking about that now? I am wondering if I can talk my husband into a tandem bike. Exercise. Outdoors. I swear, it won’t matter if it is just the two of us, I will be 11, and riding with 4 others, if at all possible. It was the best ride in town.

Random Acts of Kindness Thursday, Mar 13 2014 

It had been a long day. Last Friday was full of multiple issues and I was tired, as I headed out into SXSW and spring break traffic to try to get home. Man, was that a mess! I arrived home (finally) to finish my light packing for the drive to East Texas for the weekend. The Hubs was already in East Texas, having driven over from a conference in Houston earlier in the day. I could picture him tapping his foot, waiting.

By the time I reached Bryan I was hungry, and decided to treat myself to fast food. (Yea me!) I used the drive thru of a burger place, placed my order and bopped to the itunes playing through by speakers while I waited. When I pulled up to pay, I was surprised to find out that the lady that had been in line in front of me had completed a ‘random act of kindness’ and paid for my meal. She had told the cashier that she liked to give back from time to time. It was a small gesture, but nice. After the day I had had, it struck me as just the right thing.

There is not a reason in the world that I cannot give back more than I do. The hubs and I, mostly during the holidays, but sometimes at other times, will pick out someone who has waited on us or performed a service and tip them a larger amount. And I’ve contributed to the person in front of me in line when they’ve fallen a bit short and were going to put something back. A few times, I’ve tipped a bartender more than the cost of the drink, stating ‘I’ve had a good day, you should too’. But I have not randomly purchased something as a random act of kindness before, and I like the idea. I felt good receiving it, and I’d like to pass that feeling along.

So nice lady in the drive thru in Bryan Texas last Friday night, you did more than buy me a burger and a drink. And that’s a good thing.

I Did Not Win the Mega Millions Lottery Wednesday, Dec 18 2013 

You heard it here first. Or maybe second because they announced where the winners live and I do not live in San Jose California or Atlanta Georgia and you knew I’m in Texas. I tried to win. Really. Well, what I mean is I bought a ticket or two, so that the dream could live for a day or two. And I did dream, mostly while driving on my long work compute, what it would be like to have that much money, or ‘enough’ money. I know money doesn’t solve problems but it would solve my lack of money problems. Money also doesn’t buy happiness. We’ve all heard that one. I’d like to give it a whirl myself, before making any snap decisions on its ability to make me happy. I bought my tickets early Saturday, just after the Friday night drawing that yielded no winner. I did not wait until the last minute. I had four days of hope that I could beat the odds and win. It was not to be.

In the meantime, my life continued as of nothing was pending. My grandson turned 6 and I survived his birthday party with all the other 5/6 year olds. Some Christmas items I ordered arrived. My hubs crunched the fender and removed the side mirror of his car by close encounter with a construction barrel in a construction zone, therefore damaging his pride more than the car. (Everything around this town seems to be under construction.) I talked my mom (over the phone) through changing the battery in her smoke detector. I am still working on getting the Christmas tree decorated. I work in little bursts and have the living room in complete disarray. Winning the lottery would not have changed any of this real life activity. Would today have been different? Yes. I think so. But how different, I will never know. I am like everyone else (except two people) in America today. Deep sigh. Life goes on. And even without winning the lottery, life is good.

Holiday Letter Thursday, Dec 5 2013 

What have I/we done all year? Something, hopefully, worthy of repeating to others. Each year, with our Christmas cards, (YES, we still mail them!) we send a short letter of what we’ve been up to during the year.  I know, I know, for some folks a letter like that means an exhaustive list of accomplishments (I won the Nobel Peace Prize and American Idol!), or line after line of expensive vacation details (the sheets were soooo soft, the beach was just for us!) or a page of the awards their super over achieving kids received (Lettering in all sports, plus a 10.0 grade point average, and still has time knit prize winning sweaters).  Our letters have never been like that and it is not because we don’t travel or our kids, when in school, didn’t get good grades.  That type of letter just doesn’t reflect us.  Heck, we used to joke that the letter would say just things like, yep, we are still married, for those of you that said it wouldn’t work out.

I sat down this year to write the little letter and kinda drew a blank.  What have we done all year?  Worked.  Slept.  Worried.  None of that is anything but life and certainly not letter worthy.  Well, we are still married, so there is that.  Maybe it is time for THAT update.  Although it has only been 37 years, so it is possible it may not work out.  Bad if the haters won after all.

2013 was a year of working our butts off, trying to gain a better foot hold on if we might ever be able to retire sometime before we die.  We are lucky to both have good jobs, and some savings, but the last few years have not helped with any retirement plans.  So, how does one put that in a holiday update letter?

Maybe I should wait and bit and see how December goes……

I’d Rather Be A Redneck Than…….Whatever You Are Thursday, Oct 17 2013 

I’ve been labeled!  And we all know that labeling people isn’t nice.  So why do people do it?  If one listens to TV commercials, it’s to separate the zombies from the rest of the living beings.  If one attended the wedding I attended last week, it’s about New Yorkers and Rednecks.

My beloved spouse and I recently traveled with friends to an event out of state…that event being a destination wedding. (Lord, help us)  We, along with a small group of friends, stood for the groom’s family.   We had a wonderful time, in general.  Only one thing marred it.  Being labeled and the trappings of such labeling.

The ‘other’ side of this equation, a.k.a the bride’s side, was mostly from New York (not the city).  Prior to meeting any of this ‘other’ group, I had no preconceived notion, or predetermined issue with how they might think or act based on anything and certainly not on where they might reside.  They were just people going to a wedding, just like us.  They weren’t lucky enough to be from Texas, live in Texas or even get to visit Texas, but that was entirely their problem.  It’s a wedding, so let’s all be happy, right?

It was readily apparent from minute one (that’s a New York Minute) that the New Yorkers, before meeting us or speaking to us, thought that we were a bunch of hillbilly rednecks that did not warrant even the slightest instant of civil politeness.  They were flat out rude.  Repeatedly.

I do not for a second want to imply there is a thing wrong with being a Redneck.  Some of my best friends are Rednecks.  Hard working, deeply honest, loving Rednecks.  And not one of them would hastily assume that just because one might be from New York, one might be a rude jerk.  It could be proven fast enough, but they’d never assume it.

But here we were, with the label of Redneck pasted on us, sneered our direction, and used in a clearly derogatory manner, merely because we were different from them. Yes, some in our group wore cowboy boots as appropriate footwear (dress boots, polished and all), but not a one of us rode a horse anywhere (or even own one for that matter) and we all made sure we’d combed the hay from our hair and the dirt from under our nails before slicking and gussying ourselves all up for the big hoedown. Shucks and golly gee MeMa, we didn’t even use the cement pond to bathe.

After this experience, I wonder, are all New Yorkers over tanned, uncouth, snotty jerks that drink like fish and smell like cigarettes?  And is this every day behavior or saved for special occasions, say like weddings? I will never have the answer to my questions, as my one experience with them has now come and gone.  But I will say that I now understand why people from the south, and not just Texas, talk about Yankees being rude.  This group did nothing to dis-spell the stereo type. Quite the opposite, they embodied the stereo type.  It may amuse them to know that the metro area Deep in the Heart of Texas, where our contingent resides, is 6 times bigger than where they reside, is home to several world renowned music venues and museums, and has much worse traffic.

So label me if you must, because I’d rather be a Redneck, if that group will have me, than a rude New Yorker.

News Flash-World Keeps Spinning-Story at 10 Wednesday, Sep 25 2013 

Having now spent over a week answering emails for 1) people who really need help with the new system 2) people who hate change no matter what it is and 3) people who complain because they can, I have decided that the world will continue and nothing will change.  The people that needed help received it.  The people that hate change had change thrust upon them and will adjust or move on.  Keep in mind the last time there was a technology change they hated that system too, and now it is the one they want to flip back to using :).  And the complainers, well, they were killed with kindness and will find another topic to complain about, focus their unhappiness on, and in general continue their unhappy little lives.  Live is too short to worry about them.

During my lifetime, I’ve dealt with different types of issues and problems, one of which was mother in law’s demenita, which I detailed in my postings in this blog and when my brother in law wasted away from lung cancer in front of our eyes.  Currently both my parents have aging issues and there are plenty of real life, personal stresses on me.   That, my friends, is when times are tough and you dig deep, not when online banking rejects your password at 3am.  Seriously, is that the worst thing that has ever happened to you?  Because your reaction seems a bit over the top…..just sayin’.  (In case you don’t get that last part, it was sarcastic.)

So kick back, eat some ice cream, smile.  I’m going too, as soon as I answer all these bleeping emails.

People Hate Change! Get A Grip on Yourselves Saturday, Sep 21 2013 

I am continually surprised at how perfectly fine people think it is ok to rant via email.

When you email a business to complain about something, like a change in product, or something you are not happy about in general, do you not realize that someone at the other end (not management) has to read what you’ve written?  It is someone’s job to respond in a pleasant, professional manner to your completely unprofessional behavior?  Do you think cussing and calling them stupid makes their day?  If you were standing in line at the counter would you act like that or  is it because you are sitting in your living room with your laptop, tablet or phone?  Have some manners people.   I’m not saying you cannot complain, but be constructive.  “IT SUCKS”  doesn’t help anyone solve an issue, if you are indeed even having an issue with who you are complaining about.

The company I work for recently launched a change in its technology platform that impacted its customers.  We had been putting information out there for weeks talking about the upcoming change, letting people know the exact date, because we know that change can be unsettling.  Each customer would need to complete extra security to navigate the site.  And you know what?  Most customers had no problem handling it.  If they hit a slight snag, they called, emailed or actually read the material we had provided and it was solved in a flash.  But some of the low hanging fruit couldn’t handle any part of it and it was obvious they didn’t try.  Those wonderful group of people emailed messages like ‘what idiot made these changes?’ ….’the new site sucks’…”I can’t believe you would block me from access”……”Why didn’t you tell me this was going to happen?” and I am not even listing all the cuss words people did not even pretend to hide with %&$# and so on.  Instead of spending time helping those that needed help, we had to allocate resources to answering emails and calls from people that were just mean, asinine and deliberately abusive.  While we killed them with kindness, what I wanted to say was:   Can you read?  The world doesn’t revolve around you.  You kiss your mother with that mouth?  Is that how your talk to your children?

As technology has advanced I think society has lost touch with how to be polite and respectful.  I am willing to bet that most of the people that emailed in and acted like jerks, would not it if they were they ones being treated they way.  But then again, that type of person does care about others anyway.  When a 73 year old emails in WTF?  you know the world has changed and not for the better.

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