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Struggle

I’m struggling with my transition to Roanoke. Some people close to me know this. Now the people close to me that didn’t know, now know.  I’ve been taking care of people my entire adult life.  A husband (and a second one, briefly) my kids, (step-kids briefly) and my mom.  I’ve never lived alone. I HAVE NEVER LIVED ALONE.

For some time now I’ve been beating myself up for leaving Missouri too quickly, for moving to Roanoke where I thought I was needed, but feel like I’m not needed much. I’ve contemplated, seriously, moving back to Richmond. I long for connections, for a community that calls me a member. A church family that already knows and loves me, a friend base that already knows and loves me.  I’ve pondered and considered the move back to Richmond.   What stops me?

Zoe.

A grandchild changes everything.   But I learned last night that I may be totally wrong in my thinking.  Maybe I’m not in Roanoke  for what I can do for others. Maybe I’m in Roanoke for what others can do for me.  Heal.

I’m struggling with grief and moderate depression.  I haven’t dealt with depression  since my early 20s.  It’s a totally different feeling than being down, or feeling sad. It’s roaring its ugly head and I’ll have to deal with it soon. Being depressed is a neurotransmitter issue. It resides within some of us alongside knowing how blessed and fortunate we are. Depression can coexist with being lucky, being comfortable and having a pretty amazing life. It, like all disease, coexists with the rest of life.

Last night I was blessed by my son Vince in a way that I need so desperately.  He asked me how I am. How I really am. He said he sees how I struggle and how hard being alone and not having anyone to caretake is for me. He said he can’t imagine how hard this time of life is for me. He asked if I’d thought about moving back to Richmond and I was able to be honest with him, and Kara about my thoughts on that. I was able to talk about my mom, and cry and tell silly stories and also share some of my guilt with them. And all they did was listen and ask more questions. Prodding me to talk and share. They had good insight sometimes and being were able to admit it’s hard to talk to someone who’s grieving and it is.  Honest, heartfelt conversation.  Acknowledgement of how someone is feeling is huge.

It takes a full year to integrate into a new location. I have till January. I’ll give it at least that long. Until then maybe I’ll rethink why I may be here for this season of life. Maybe it’s so I can be cared for too.

Grief is a personal experience that doesn’t end, it just becomes more and more integrated.  We integrate when we feel surrounded by love and can have open and honest conversations.  Never underestimate the power of asking someone how they are and then sitting back, with love on your face, waiting for the real answer.

 

Grief, Joy, Holidays, Life

I have a new granddaughter, I’m moving back to Virginia to be near family and friends once again and I am blessed with good health and a bit of funds so I can delay a job search for a little bit.

Transitions are a part of life and I’m usually pretty good at them.  But if I’m honest, and I’ve only, until now, been honest with one person, I just want to hunker down in bed, in my rented Airbnb in the mountains and sleep and be left alone.

For those that know me, that’s a huge red flag.  So very not who I am.  I can’t seem to shake this feeling.  It’s been building for over a year but I couldn’t give in to it because I was taking care of my mom. But now there’s no one depending on me.  For the first time in my life I have no one to care for or look after or attend to.  Well, I have the dog, Ted, but you all know what I mean.

Now I’m moving to another new place to start all over again.  Starting over gets harder as you get older. How long can I rely on my sunny disposition to win me new friends? (that’s humor, you can laugh there) seriously it’s the desire to not make friends, or connections that’s at the root of my concern.  I’m actually afraid I’ll move here and be content to be a hermit and lose my ability to interact and be social.  Trust me it happens. I just saw evidence of that.

I’m house hunting.  I’m house selling.  Nothing is as easy as we’d like it to be. I have a new granddaughter who is a beautiful reminder of life and all the positives.  I’m just mired in the opposite of that. Of the life I just saw end.  Of the finality of death.  Someone is there one minute, gone the next. Literally. How is that possible?  Joy is supposed to eclipse sadness, isn’t it?  Why isn’t it then? I don’t know.  I’ve spent the last three weeks wondering.

Family is coming to town for a big huge thanksgiving celebration tomorrow. I’ll have all my kids around (my greatest joy as you all know), the new precious granddaughter and all my son’s in-laws and family. So much cause for joy and celebration.  Can I just skip it and sleep?

So, yes, this jumbled mess of thoughts is what grief looks like in me.  It’s different for everyone.  For me it looks a lot like a mild to moderate depression.  A need to hunker down and disconnect.  Unreturned phone calls, unanswered emails.  Not reaching out to ANYONE while I was just in Richmond (I’m sorry).  Just a feeling of it all being too hard, too much, and to what end?

Luckily I’ve gotten good at recognizing my own red flags.  Not ashamed to say I’m going to reach out to the free, hospice supplied grief counselor when I return to Missouri.  I should be able to get a few visits under my belt before heading back here to Virginia at the first of the year.  Hopefully that’s all I’ll need to be able to bring that sunny disposition back with me. Wish me luck.

 

 

This season, 1

I wrote the post below 18 days ago. My mother died 16 days ago.

 

I’m sitting in the living room across from my mother.  She’s sleeping. Partly because of medication to help her breath and partly because she’s very sick.   She’s chronically ill, with COPD but today she is acutely sick with a raging infection.  This journey, or season, started almost exactly a year ago.  After having  lived away since I was twenty I moved back to Missouri to care for my mom last August.   It’s been hard.  It’s been way harder than I ever thought it would be.  Partly this is because of long entrenched dynamics and partly because she was far sicker, when I arrived a year ago, that I had anticipated. Now we are a year in and the dynamics haven’t changed at all, but the illness has progressed.  Last Christmas she said she wouldn’t see another Christmas.  She was relatively stable at that time and the down slide was slow.  I poopooed her remarks. Dismissed them. Now, well I’m not sure.  Obviously there’s no way to know and it’s not in our hands anyway. Not our plan, but His.  Her decline over the last few weeks has been rapid and scary.  The home health nurse, Karen, released her from from care, transferring her into home Hospice care.   That’s like a bucket of ice water to the face no matter how aware and prepared you (think) you are.  Frankly it took 8 of the last 12 months for me to realize the was no “getting better” in the plans.  The Hospice people are great. They are kind, loving and experienced.  But they are just the exclamation point on the “not getting better” issue.  She’s frightened today.  I am frightened today.   My best friend Kim, who is in town for the week is,  I am pretty sure, frightened too.  Hopefully the antibiotics and the new meds for breathing will help.  It’s been a long day.  I’m pretty sure there will be more, longer ones in the future.  Keeping her comfortable is a priority. But it can be like banging your head on the wall of opposition. Or she goes along and that’s scary.   I don’t know what the next few days will bring. Hopefully a turn around and a chance for her to feel better. Do things she enjoys.  I don’t know.

A New Journal for a New Season

Thanksgiving alone

Those who know me know that this is my favorite holiday. Normally at this time of the day (8:09am) I have been up for hours to start the massive cooking that Thanksgiving involves. This morning I woke to open the chickens and make myself a nice breakfast of fresh eggs (laid an hour ago) and toast and coffee.  I spent a few minutes going through my news feed on Facebook and texting a loved one who’s father was rushed to the ER last night.  The thing that struck me is that there are a few people, friends I keep up with on Facebook, that have undergone tragic losses this past year.  I think Facebook serves in reminding us that no matter what we are going through, there are others with more on their emotional plate. Not that each person’s struggle or issues aren’t important but some things are just harder to take that others.

I am totally alone on Thanksgiving. Not just alone till the guests arrive or till my husband wakes up. Totally alone.  My husband (we are  experiencing an “in-house”  separation and possible reconciliation/divorce at this point in our marriage) is in New York with his family. My kids are in various places for various reasons and I won’t be seeing them today.  My biggest regret for today is that I am not in Missouri with my mother.

When I went to bed last night I thought I would wake up super sad today. I find that I am not. Slightly melancholy but not sad. Partially this comes from being reminded that others are struggling with far weightier issues this Thanksgiving.  While this past 6 months has gone nothing like I thought it would or had planned, I have so much to be thankful for. I have the love of my Lord though all circumstances in my  life. If I had nothing else to be thankful for, that would be enough. Yet I am blessed with so much more.

I am thankful for my health (aches and pains of age aside), thankful for my children’s good health and great spouses, soon to be spouses and girlfriends. I am amazingly blessed by who has chosen to share their lives with my kids. I am thankful for a great boss and assistant bosses that have made this hard time so much easier by supplying me with a full time job with benefits and the daily support that they each have given me. They will never know how thankful I am. I am thankful for some coworkers that have constantly been uplifting and kind to me through this ordeal.  Most of them are old friends from Kohls but there are few new people too. I am thankful that my mother’s health holds steady. I am thankful my chickens are dealing with the cold much better than I am. I am thankful that I have amazing friends who have been there through this last 6 mos. I truly don’t know how I would have gotten through without their support. They know who they are!  I am thankful for my cousins and their wives, their support and love is invaluable!

I work retail and there could be much to complain about today. I work today and I work tomorrow. However I am so thankful that I have a job I will be full of thanksgiving today at work. My hope is that I can spread that feeling to some of my customers today.   Our bosses have worked very hard to create a festive atmosphere at work and are providing us with a whole thanksgiving meal.  Things will get hectic and things will get crazy but those people coming in to shop provide my living. I will remember that.

So yes I may be physically alone today but I know I have a lot of people out there who love me and support me. Being thankful isn’t about the amount of food we can cook, consume or eat as leftovers. It’s not even having a house full of people. It’s really about knowing, even when alone, that thankfulness is a choice.

 

Thoughts compiled over the last year

How unfair is it that your eyesight goes right before those tiny hairs start appearing on your chin?

A young man held the door at school the other day for me and a young female classmate. She remarked, “did you see that? What a gentleman. Usually they let the door slam in your face.”   Courtesy is appreciated by everyone, old and young  alike.

If  four way stops are the gauge of our society, we are sunk.

Nothing is nicer than realizing one of the nicest people in the world is one you gave birth to.

We all think we are good drivers. But, if you speed, tailgate, curse and flip off people, weave in and out of traffic, change lanes without using your signal, slam on your brakes, talk/text, don’t yield to pedestrians and generally make up your own rules, you are not a good driver. You just don’t want to follow rules. Don’t kid yourself.

Sometimes the best gifts and blessings come disguised as something else.

I was thinking today how sad it would be when my kids get old and all the junk that aging brings that they will have to deal with and go through without me being here. I wish I could shield them from that but I can’t. I will be long gone. We watch our parents go through it but not our kids. Probably because watching our kids go through it would be painful beyond words.

I believe all bosses should have experience doing all the jobs below their current position.

I believe good bosses lead by example.

I wish I had done more of the fun things when I was young.

I’m glad I waited to do all the fun things till now because now I do most of them with one or more of my kids.

I wish someone had told me how important sunscreen was before I was 40 something.

I wish I had been as nice and attentive to my mom all my life as I am now that she is sick.

I wish I could have my kids little for just one more day.

Do mosquitoes have a purpose?

Your kids bring you joy but those that they marry and bring into your life are like icing on an already amazing cake.

Why, just about the time in life you have time to do a bunch of stuff, do your back and knees give out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trucker within.

My husband was working on his daughter’s car the other weekend and needed me to run up to Auto Zone to pick up some tools and things we needed. I had to go because he was covered in grease and neither of us wanted him in the other car. It was a beautiful fall day, still warm and sunny. He had been working on the car for several hours with no luck and understandably growing frustrated. I was glad I had to run and get something because it gave him time to sit in the shade (too greasy to go in the house) and get something to drink and cool off.  I zipped up to Auto Zone, hopped out of the car, strode in and up to the counter where Justin, the guy who had answered my questions on the phone a bit before, stood waiting.  I announced I was the person from the phone. I checked out and headed to my car. As I was leaving with an armload of stuff a guy was coming in and he smiled at me. A smile I used to know quite well. A smile that said “wow she’s strong and capable and doing things out of the stereotypical group of behaviors for a girl”.  A smile of admiration for being capable.  It doesn’t matter that the tools were for my husband and that I was just the errand boy, it was the feeling that the encounter elicited that mattered. The feeling in my gut was like a sledgehammer.

As we age we lose things. I think everyone knows that. We lose our gracefulness because our bodies don’t behave quite the same as they used to. We lose speed. When was the last time I ran anywhere cause I was in a hurry. I just walk fast.  We lose our nerve. We lose really serious things too sometimes, jobs, spouses, friends, our own parents.  We lose our looks. Yes. We. Do.   We lose respect.  We lose our visibility.  No one in our society is more invisible that a middle aged woman.  I have not really been that concerned with the aging process and the havoc it’s wrecking on my body as I figure I am still me. But lately that isn’t true either. I am not me.

I used to unload trucks for a living. I was damn good at it. I once unloaded a whole 53 footer by myself. That was 10ish years ago but I was pretty amazingly proud of myself.  I used to be able to lift things and move things and I NEVER, EVER had to ask for help. I pulled my own weight and always got it done.  Now I can’t.   And until the other day I didn’t realize how sad I was about that.  I don’t unload the trucks anymore at work. It’s too hard. Not only is it too hard to do, but it’s too hard to keep doing it and feeling like I got run over by a train the next day. My body said NO MORE.   It was who I was. I have unloaded trucks since 2002. I loved it. Now I can’t do it.

I have always been the tomboy. Those that know me well know that my dream job from 6th grade on has been to drive OTR. Yes, I wanted to be a truck driver. I lived and breathed that dream till about a year ago. I realized then that I could not make it happen. Life circumstance and aging had aged me right out of that goal.  I was devastated. But I am a trooper and so I regrouped and defaulted to plan B.  I am now doing plan B and it feels good. Not as good as A would have felt, but it’s still good.

I’m girl who wears the jeans and tennis shoes and tee shirt. I have always wanted to do the non standard girl thing. Give me a choice and I will chose the least girlish option.  I have prided myself on that. Loved that about me. What I never realized is that I spent so much time investing in that persona that it became  who I am.   Now age has taken that away from me and I am left kinda wondering, who the heck am I now.

I think everyone has this happen. For some it’s their looks. For some it’s the kids leaving. Everyone has their thing that they mourn as they age.  I mourn that girl who could do anything. I mourn that girl who had dreams of the open road and endless possibilities.

“Wow she was fun”

Today while in the car I turned on the radio. For those that know me that will come as a shock. I don’t listen to the radio. I was trying to catch weather but got a talk show of some kind instead. The person was reading an excerpt from a book on family. It was touching and kinda sad and it got me thinking.

One line I remember is “Family is memories”. The narrator then read a story about a guy who does some crazy, funny thing on one of the family vacations. When asked later why he did this thing he responded that someday he was going to be dead and gone and he wants his kids to tell people, when asked, that he was fun.

I want that too.

Is that what my kids will remember? No. I am certain of that. Is it because I am not fun? Nope. It’s because I am other things more often than I am fun. This saddens me.

I am afraid I will be remembered as the person who always worried. The person who they had to keep things from so they didn’t make me stressed out. The person who had to be protected from the fun, exciting  and sometimes stressful lives her kids are leading.   I don’t want to be that person. I want to be the person they call and tell the exciting things to, too. I want to relish their joy. To experience the thrill of new things through them.  For this to be the mom they remember I will need to change.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be one of those superficial people that jokes about everything and no one thinks has a serious thought in their heads (we all know them, right?) but rather a person who can be carefree and have fun in the moment.  A person who isn’t caught up in whether her makeup gets smeared or her clothes get wet if caught in a downpour. A person who can be spontaneous and who shows true joy when doing something new and something out of the ordinary. I want to be a person that doesn’t stop trying new things just because she is scared or worried about what people will think.  I want to be the person who stops the car and gets out on the side of the road to look at pretty flowers or cows. I want  to be the person who doesn’t carry an umbrella because the fun of getting caught in the rain will outshine how bad my hair looks or how wrinkled my clothes are after.  I want to be the kind of person that when my kids read about a fun activity I am the first person (besides their significant other/spouse) that they think would enjoy it and that they want to invite along.

I want my feelings of fun to extend to those I love. I want to be happy and wish them enjoyment when I hear that someone I care about is going to do something fun or go somewhere new. I want to be joyous that they get the opportunity.

I believe that we can be what we want. I believe that starting today I can be the fun person that I want to be. I can try new things.  I can be ecstatic when I hear that my kids got to do something daring or fun or amazing.  I can start to change how I feel today.

I think being fun also involves a time commitment. I was reading over my bucket list the other day. So many of the things on it are doable and attainable but I just don’t set aside time for them.  It seems a bit of a cliche to say if you were going to die tomorrow what would you regret not doing but it does make things very, very clear.  I have so many things I keep talking about doing and they all involve time spent with loved ones doing fun and interesting things. I have put off a lot of those things because of reasons that felt important at the time but really weren’t. I want to spend more time making memories with those I will leave behind. I want them to have a huge reservoir of wonderful, fun memories of our times together.  I hope I have made some already, and I will continue to make more as long as I am able.  I am going to work on being the person I want to be remembered as.

And I am going to start right now.

Happy New Year

Resolutions.

Uggg.

They get a huge, bad rap at this time of year. Mainly because we all feel like we should make one or two and then feel pressure and or guilt all year long when we don’t live up to what we promised ourselves in January.  I have a confession, I am one of those people who always follows through on my resolutions. Not because I am strong or good or Superwoman, but because I make doable resolutions. The success lies in making the right resolution(s), not in sticking to it. If you choose something helpful but also achievable then you are setting yourself up for success.

Helpful hint #1: Make your resolution clear and defined. Instead of saying “I’m going to eat better and work out, or I’m going to be a nicer person” say “I’m not going to eat fried food and walk for 20 min on M-W-F or I’m going to smile at 6 people each day”.

One of my best resolutions (yes it started out as a give up for Lent and then moved to a New Year resolution) was to give up soda.  It was hard to give up, but now I don’t miss it and even indulge myself once in awhile, generally on my kid’s birthdays or particularly hard overnight at work.

Helpful hint #2:  Make it something you DO rather than something you DON’T do.  I realize I struggle to keep myself in line when I eat out. So my resolution this year pertains to that. Instead of saying what I can not eat, I have made a resolution vowing TO eat something specific when I do eat out (unless it’s breakfast).

Helpful hint #3:  If you haven’t made a resolution before or you hate the idea of a resolution but want to try one, make it something small. Cutting out one snack a week, giving up one Red Bull a week, taking one walk a week. Something small to give yourself a success. That’s what I did many years ago. It was a tiny thing but I did it for the whole year! It doesn’t have to be food/exercise related it can be anything that is important to you or an area you want to see a change.

Helpful hint #4:  Keep your resolutions to yourself. If someone asks about your changed behavior just explain it casually. (Ehh, I was drinking too much soda.)  Seriously, we put enough pressure on ourselves we sure don’t need to think others are judging us on this issue too. That way if you do slip up, the only person who knows is you and it’s easier to get right back on track!

So, unless you eat out frequently with me you will probably never know what my resolution is. I will try my best and hope for success.  One resolution that will make a big impact and it’s DOABLE.  Join me?!

Happy New Year!

Herman

For the last few weeks I have had a thought that keeps popping into my head.  Right after it’s in my head, it’s gone.  Today however I was looking in my old cookbook (given to me 35 years ago by the woman I did babysitting for) for a recipe for dinner. That recipe is called “Bummer Day Soup”.  Unfortunately I can’t find the soup recipe, but I do have it 99.9% memorized so dinner will turn out fine.  However what I did find, in that recipe book, was Herman.

Who is Herman you might ask?  Some of you may know but for those who don’t Herman is Amish Friendship Bread.  Not only is it an absolutely awesome bread but it’s a fun, fun thing to do.   It is also a great way to bond a community. Any community.

I first learned of Herman when I lived in Chicago, Illinois between 1989 -1991.  We weren’t there long, but that time had a huge impact on my life. We lived in South Chicago near the University of Chicago in student housing. The student housing created a serious communal living situation. The apartments were small and we all overflowed into each others lives on a daily basis. We all had young children and there was a “tot lot” for them to play in.  The tot lot became the central social gathering place of all the stay-at-home moms and dads and we developed a closeness that is hard to explain.  We relied on each other, watched each others kids and in general spent a huge amount of time together.  One day I was over at my best friend, D’s apartment and she had bread to share and a jar of what looked like thick slop to share. She gave me a printed out sheet (what I found this morning) and told me to go home and read the instructions.   The idea is you take Herman home, feed him stir him and let him chill on your counter then you bake him on the 10th day reserving a cup(or more) of Herman to give to your friend(s). Then your friend does the same thing and pretty soon everyone you know has Herman on their counter.

Herman becomes a family member. It is so hard to decided to opt out of Herman. I remember the day clearly when I decided I was done with Herman. I baked him and did not reserve any. Herman was no more. It was actually quite hard because I had Herman going for the better part of a year.

I have thought about Herman over the years, wishing someone would give me Herman. Wishing I could find the Herman recipe. Well today is that day. I found Herman.  So, yes all of my dear friends out here, one of you will be receiving Herman. I hope you keep him alive and then pass him on to someone else. After all, it’s called Friendship Bread.