aging, broken hearts, parenting your parents, Enlighten Me, Hard to Label, parenting

Smile though your heart is breaking…

My sister and I have spent the last week thinking that my mother was going to transition to the next life. Right now, it looks like she’s going to stick around for a little bit though we don’t really know how long.

I’ve had some issues with my mom in the past because we both thought we were in charge of MY life. Then we worked those out; I learned to listen and quietly do what I wanted to take care of my own needs and wants. And now we have occasional issues again and I realized that it’s because we both think we are in charge of HER life.

Funny…not in a haha sort of way because neither of us is in charge right now. Byron Katie says there are three types of business: your business, God’s business, my business. Clearly, my mom’s health is God’s business.

My mom worked as a banquet waitress until she was 82 years old.  Her mind was sharp and clear, but now she thinks it’s still clear and everyone else is confused…that the hospital stole her home, moved it, and reproduced all her furniture, pictures, and possessions in an attempt to fool her into believing that she was living at home.

She sometimes thinks she’s in her childhood home in West Virginia with a big Blue Ridge foothill in the backyard that housed wild cats and black bears and copperhead snakes. These things were true once upon a time, but not now.

She sometimes thinks my father sold their home to pay off some kind of debt to some nefarious individual and she sometimes thinks that my sister and I are plotting against her.

She spent days in the hospital promising to go home and bake raisin-filled cookies.

She told one of the nursing home residents that at the last hotel she was at they had put a bomb under her bed.

I think at one time in my life, when I was four or five and still believed in magic, in Santa, in ghosts and goblins, she dealt with my delusions and now we’re dealing with hers.

It’s fair, I suppose.

What isn’t fair is that my parents tried to maintain solid finances and a nice home so they could pass something on to us and they probably won’t be able to keep those things because getting old is very, very expensive.

My father blames the Republicans for that but I heard a report on NPR about a month ago that causes me to believe it’s a worldwide issue. In Japan, the report said, the prisons are becoming overcrowded with the elderly who can no longer afford to live at home or in a nursing home. One man in his late 70’s tried to get arrested for stealing bicycles but couldn’t get more than a lecture so he took a kitchen knife to a nearby park and threatened young women. He said he had to threaten quite a few with the knife, and beg a few more before one of the women finally called the police.

It’s a sad business, but if you’re smiling right now imagining a small-framed Japanese septuagenarian with a butter knife begging women in the park to be frightened and call the police, know that I am also.

If we don’t continue to smile, our smile muscles will atrophy.

If we don’t continue to find the humanity, our empathy muscles will disintegrate.

If we don’t continue to see the humor, we will totally lose our way.

 

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A Disorganized Cross-Country Road Trip

You have to be a bit organized to drive your 18-month-old ADHD 30% trained and 60%-absolutely-not-trained German Shepherd puppy from Los Angeles to Columbus…O-H-I-O

and as I sit in a Starbucks in Dallas, Texas about 3 miles from Dallas Love Field, I realize that I was not…

completely…

organized.

Here’s how all of our lives would have been a bit different had I been organized:

  1. the horrified friend of a friend who watched my dog while said friend and I had a catch-up pizza would not have needed intense psychiatric therapy for her shitzu on the Monday after her encounter with Mika. Senior Shitzu…German Shepherd puppy. Never should have happened.
  2. The family in the Phoenix hotel who were trapped on the elevator when the door opened to a crazy woman clutching a dog leash in one hand while trying to steer a luggage cart filled with dog chew toys, kibble, Yak bones, dog dishes, and one human’s suitcase…would still not be afraid of elevators today.

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    Once unloaded, she thought she should have the next ride.
  3. The front desk receptionist who came to the room to fix the heater would still have a pristine paw-free black skirt to go with her pristine paw-free black jacket. 8zAiVRQbQHea1dzVSu4bJA
  4. The front desk receptionist of the VanHorn Texas hotel would still be a bit lonesome to play with a German Shepherd…okay, that one was a GOOD thing.
  5. And finally, she would not be in a doggy daycare/boarding facility for a full day between check-out and touchdown while I wait in a Starbucks for my husband’s plane to land…because I didn’t think about an historic Texas coldfront, or timing.

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    Well…she does look like she’s having fun!

So, IF I had been organized, what would I have done differently? Easy…FLOWN!

 

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Maybe I’m having a bit of fun too!
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Transitions

Definitions of Transition

noun

movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change:the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Music .

  1. passing from one key to another; modulation.
  2. brief modulation; modulation used in passing.
  3. sudden, unprepared modulation.
passage from one scene to another by sound effects, music, etc., as in a television program, theatrical production, or the like.

verb (used without object)

to make transition:He had difficulty transitioning from enlisted man to officer.
to change from one gender identity to another or to align one’s dress, behavior, etc., with one’s gender identity:My friend is transitioning without hormone therapy or surgery.

Origin of transition

1545–55; Latin trānsitiōn- (stem of trānsitiō ) a going across, equivalent to trānsit(us (past participle of transīre to cross; cf. transit) + -iōn- -ion

 

Emotions of Transition

Fear

Sadness

Guilt

Anger

 

States of Mind of Transition

Denial

Acceptance

Confusion

Depression

 

Circumstances of Transition

Job change

Moving

Illness

Retirement

Graduation

Marriage

Divorce

Childbirth

Empty Nest

Aging from one stage to another

Death

Tess’s Transition

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Tess Oxford

AKA Tessaroo, Tessarooni, Roo-Roo, Rooster because a dog with a personality this big deserves more than one name!

She loved barking, and chasing people, anything on or with wheels, and squirrels. Once, she gave herself aspirational pneumonia from drinking the ocean.

Once, she went crazy in our sprinkler and tore up our hose.

Once, she dove to the bottom of a backyard pool to retrieve a Frisbee.

Once, she got lost in a canyon about 5 miles from their apartment and found her own way home.

Once, she sniffed out a baby opossum under a pallet of 2 x4’s in a Home Depot store.

Once, she refused to move out of the family picture.

Once…twice…okay, FOUR times she visited Santa Claus with Finn.

Once, she competed in a diving event for dogs.

Once, she tore a hole in the middle of our dining room carpet.

Once, she rocked Finn in her cradle every time she cried.

Once, she came into our lives and wormed her way into our hearts and now, even though she’ll being entering the next stage of life, changing states of being, crossing over…she’ll forever be a presence in our family.

Thanks for being a good friend, Tessaroo.

We love you.

 

Enlighten Me

I Have a Dream Too

As MLK Day approaches, I’m thinking a lot about ‘why’. This could also be due to the fact that I’m having an extended stay with my 5-year-old granddaughter. Anyone who’s ever been around a 4-5-year-old knows what question adults answer most…”Why?”

At any rate, WHY has been on mind this week.

Dr. King’s ‘why’ was famous…he had a dream that he believed in and in order to make that dream come true, he had to get off his ass to walk the talk, and talk the walk. He believed so strongly in a world where everyone was treated with respect and dignity that he gave his life. I don’t really want to say MLK was like a 20th century Jesus, but he sort of was, wasn’t he?

He was spit on, beat up, murdered for his strong beliefs…but what makes him like Jesus is that they held the same beliefs. Contrary to what popular politics tells us, the New Testament’s message to me was that Jesus loves everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. Maybe much of this isn’t stated implicitly, but it’s implied in the way HE approached everyone, healed anyone, and never made any bones about saying that God, His Father, was no respecter of persons, which to me and Bible scholars everywhere except apparently DC, means that God doesn’t care whether you’re black, white,  red, brown, purple or green. He’s gonna love you like nobody loves you come rain or come shine.

Isn’t that what MLK was not fighting about? What he marched for, got arrested for, and ultimately died for? Before 2016, I would’ve said that as a country, we were almost at the terminal…the MLK Dream Train was coming round the bend just about to arrive. But then… .

So as we approach yet another MLK Day, I wonder about my own dreams…deep, inner dreams that have nothing to do with the kind of car I dream of owning (Tesla), or the  income of my fantasies (A LOT), or vacation destinations of my daydreams (Everywhere!). I’m talking deep inner beliefs that drive my behavior, set my boundaries, inform how I talk, walk, treat others. So, let me list a few, but I don’t think you should hold me to only these…I might want to add to my list, even though it’s difficult enough for me some days to stay in alignment with even these!

I BELIEVE:

  1. in a world where everyone has enough to eat, clean water to drink, a warm place to sleep, and someone who worries about them when they don’t come home for a while.
  2. in the equality of ALL human beings regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, political persuasion, ethnicity.
  3. in a God who loves us all unconditionally and wants us to be good disciples and follow His lead.
  4. that war is evil and futile and should be a thing of history.
  5. that there’s nothing more important than family…and that we’re all family!

 

So, between now and this MLK Day, then to next MLK Day I have a lot of work to do to walk my talk…obviously, I need to go back to volunteering at WARM whose mission it is to feed people in Central Ohio. I need to see ALL people through the eyes of God…(this is so difficult for me…think TRUMP!). I need to have peace in my own heart and welcome everyone I meet into my family where they belong. (Which I do not think means they all live with me!)

How about you?

What do you believe and what are you willing to do for it?

My challenge to you is to think about it…it’s the least we can do to honor the man who gave his life for his dream of an America without all the ‘isms’ that keep us separated.

 

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On the Other Hand…

I don’t know if anyone else remembers Fiddler on the Roof, but that was one of my favorite musicals. I loved the portrayal of a conservative Jewish father walking that tightrope between being modern and hanging on to his traditions, especially the part where he would go back and forth with himself…and the Fiddler…every time one of his daughters asked to break a rule…

“On the other hand,” he’d argue with himself, until the youngest married a member of the oppressive group…”there is no other hand”. Of course, later in the movie, he learns that there is…there always is…

AND isn’t that what makes decisions tougher?

For me it is…I think I inherited that from my father…or just picked it up on my own. I guess it’s whichever side of the nature/nurture debate you’re on. Some days, I’m pure nature. We’re born with certain filters already in place. It’s the only thing that explains why twins raised the same exact way by the same exact parents are so different; or why twins separated at birth and adopted by different families are so similar. It explains why my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter are two very different people even though they were raised by the same parents and only 17 months different in age.

On the other hand, nurture can’t be ignored. Anxiety is a learned behavior and I mastered that even though as a baby, I doubt I was any more anxious than the next newborn in the nursery. Our independence is nurtured, or our dependence is nurtured; our creative talents, our interests and likes.

See?

Recently, I made a decision to register my 16-month-old German Shepherd pup in a doggie daycare. The truth is…I need a break once in a while. She’s smart, even though she’s immature and those two characteristics make for a hectic day around the house, or out of the house, or anywhere she might be actually.

To complicate the issue, we’re visiting our daughter and her family in California. Her family consists of an energetic five-year old, a BAR-exam-prepping husband, a full-time-plus in-home holistic veterinarian, and a senior dog named Tess.  Tess is a sweetheart but her knees don’t work like they used to; her aged bark is no longer worse than her bite and her bite is no longer in existence. She drinks her food, hops to fetch the ball, uses her body to shield her five-year-old from what she probably thinks is a Devil-Dog. (Sometimes, I think she’s right…on the other hand…)

The first three days were rough, then we took her to a meet-and-greet at City Dog Club and after an hour at the park, she came home exhausted and calm. I could breathe.

So, today’s her first full Club Day. I keep watching her on the webcam; sometimes she’s following the human dog-sitter around and sometimes she’s playing and sometimes she’s just lying in a corner all by herself.

I think she’s probably thinking, “Well, I could go play with these dogs…that looks like fun. On the other hand, a nap sounds good.”

Each time I check in on her turns me into a modern-day-non-Jewish Tevya also…

“I never should have signed her up for this. She hates it! What was I thinking?”

On the other hand…

“She seems to enjoy that yellow lab. Her tail’s wagging; she’s having fun and she’ll come home a calm, obedient dog.”

On the other hand…

“I don’t know what’s happened to me…spending my monthly Starbucks allowance on a DOG CLUB.”

On the other hand…

“I don’t need Starbucks anyway. I have really good coffee at home and it’s nice to sit in the backyard in a comfie chair drinking my good coffee”

On the other hand…

You get the picture.

And this isn’t the only decision that I flip-flop on, which is the ONLY reason I’d never run for a political office!

On the other hand, listening to the multiple sides of an argument is a mark of a very good leader.

On the other hand, good leaders also have to make decisions that they then need to defend and commit to and that isn’t my strong suit.

On the other hand…

Yeah. This will go on for a while. My suggestion is that you Netflix Fiddler on the Roof and enjoy Master Tevye at his best!

Mazel Tov!

 

Enlighten Me

Reflections on Reflecting

Everyone’s reflecting right now. I attended my husband’s church with him this morning and heard several people reflect on 2018…what went right; what went wrong and how it played into their purpose, their dharma.

President Obama posted a list of things that had impacted him in 2018 on his Facebook account. You should check it out…it’s basically a list of nonfiction books that he read…movies he saw…songs he loved…which filled me with awe and wonder! How can the guy read that much and still have time to see movies and listen to music? If I had done all that reading, I’d never have had the time to play Words with Friends, Destination Solitaire and Fishdom!

As it is, I barely squeezed in my favorite podcasts, and forget about exercise…I abandoned walking 5 miles a day somewhere in muggy-forest of August.

Tomorrow night, I’ll attend a Burning Bowl ceremony at the Centers for Spiritual Living. It’ll be a ritual of reflection, letting go, ushering in. I like rituals like this one…it allows me to contemplate the insights gained over the last twelve months and the obstacles that need dismantled.

So, what are my BHI from 2018? (BTW, BHI stands for Big Hairy Insights…oh, and BTW stands for By The Way, as if you didn’t already know that one.)

BHI #1:

Miracles happen every day. REAL miracles. And they happen to REAL people like you, like me, like my husband. They happen because there’s a force bigger than us who listens when we pray on a thought. Ok…I call this force God, but that’s a trigger word for a lot of people. A lot of people believe in a creative being who set everything in motion but they don’t believe in a bearded, angry spirit who lives in the sky.

I don’t care what you call Her. I call Her God and She came through for my family BIG-TIME this year, in a number of REAL MIRACLES.

We have a GOD-team behind us who won’t leave us stranded on third base. 

BHI #2:

Love isn’t always kisses, heart-filled cards, red roses, and blindness. My biggest irritant in life is the guy who’s been by my side for 42 years. This year I realized when I almost lost him to a subdural hematoma that he really is the love of my life…even though, like I said earlier, he also keeps me in a state of constant irritation.

Love is the commitment we honor with another person through thick and thin, even when it isn’t pretty. 

BHI #3:

Manifesting Miracles doesn’t mean that The Sun or Creative NonFiction editors are going to contact ME and ask what inspirational essays I have stored on my computer. IF I want to get published again, I need to SUBMIT!

We are active participants in manifesting MIRACLES!  

BHI #4:

Honoring my boundaries means that I don’t say yes to something out of obligation, guilt, fear. If my heart isn’t filled with love, it isn’t the right thing for me to do.

Honoring my boundaries keeps me sane, kind, balanced, at peace. That means that I take all that good energy into the next thing I do with you…for you…because of you. And isn’t that better than sending more regret, resentment, bitterness out into the atmosphere?

Boundaries are wonderful things!

BHI #5:

There’s 3 Kinds of Business: Your Business, God’s Business, My Business. And if I’m in yours or God’s business, there’s nobody home to mind my own business. That’s lonely…and a little crazy because I can’t control you anyway, so minding your business is like running on a treadmill…it wears me out but gets me nowhere. ANd minding God’s business just fills me with anger and hopelessness because Her issues are way above my pay grade!

Minding my own business is my new mantra! 

BHI #6:

Traveling continues to teach me that my priorities can become really mixed up very quickly. In other countries, people are satisfied and HAPPY with so much less stuff than we think is absolutely necessary in this country. I come home from traveling and empty one more excess from my life. It’s cleansing, refreshing, exhilarating. The idea of keeping things I haven’t used for a decade because I might need it someday, is a little wacky. The thought that the brand of our cars, the size of our homes, the label on our shoes means anything is lunacy.

I HAVE enough. I AM enough. I DO enough. 

BHI #7:

Who do you remember from your life?

I bet you answered that with people from 2 categories: people who made you feel special and loved, and people who made you feel stupid and inadequate.

When there is fondness as the thought of a specific person crosses my mind, I know that that person is from category # 1…they add love to my life and therefore to the world. That’s the category I want to be in too.

There is nothing more important in life than how we treat other people. 

BHI #8: 

I love this quote from Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s been my favorite ‘insight’ for years!

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

BHI #9:

Plastic is everywhere…some of it is good and some of it isn’t. Single-use plastic isn’t…plastic in our cosmetic isn’t… plastic in our food isn’t…plastic in our oceans isn’t. A good life isn’t just about morals and legalities. It’s also about ethics. It’s been tough to refuse straws in restaurants when I love straws; to remember my reusable tote bags every time I walk into a store; to pay more (a lot more) for disposable utensils made of bamboo instead of plastic. But it’s the right thing to do for our future.

Being ethical isn’t always easy, but it’s always right. 

BHI #10:

I always want to be right. Always. I know it’s an ego thing and I should be over that by now, but I’m not. I admit that I have ego issues…I want to be right. And I don’t just want to know that I’m right; I want you to know it too. I know that everyone has this need to be right…we’re all part-ego, so it makes sense. But this year that realization hit me in the gut. I mean, I finally get it… my need to be right conflicts with your need to be right when we’re on different sides of an issue. Last evening I had dinner with a dear friend and learned that we disagree on a very prickly issue. I couldn’t believe it, actually. I felt myself digging in and then all of a sudden there was a flash of awareness…EGO! I love this friend, so do I dig in or let go? I let go…as soon as I did…she did also. We had a good discussion about the issue and it turns out…we’re both right to some degree. And to that degree that we’re both right, there’s a small pinpoint of resolution…I mean actual resolution to the decades-old argument. We stopped debating and began creating and it was an amazing feeling…energizing, inspiring.

EGO has created a rift in this country politically. We cling to our party-identity instead of prioritizing our relationships, our country, our fellow citizens and friends. THat’s ego. And the fact is…it’s stopping us from solving so much. Wayne Dyer said that EGO stands for Edging God Out. If you don’t like the ‘God’ thing, replace it with ‘GOOD’.

A world that works for everyone is a better goal than always being right. 

 

Those are my Big Hairy Insights from 2018. I want to hear yours. In sharing your thoughts, you are expanding your influence and helping us all build a better world…one that works for all of us.

Let us hear from you.

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Garden of the Gods

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We’ve only been to Colorado Springs once before.  It was 3 years ago on our first cross-country drive to California. We stopped to see my brother-in-law who had moved here to be closer to his children and grandchildren. At that time, we drove in after dark, went straight to his home for a nice visit and then went back to our hotel. We left early the next morning to resume the long drive and never saw what this city has to offer.

On this trip, we decided to take in one of the sites for which Colorado Springs is famous: The Garden of the Gods. We left our hotel at 8:30 AM and hiked almost 2 miles admiring what the ‘gods’ planted in this huge National Natural Landmark. The skies were blue; the sun was bright and warm; the rocks were red.

Cathedral Spires

Some of the gods’ formations were 1400 feet high. They were all overwhelmingly powerful, but my favorite was The Three Graces.

three graces

That’s fitting for this visit because what I’m praying for and asking others to pray for is grace.

The Bible says, “But for the grace of God, there go I”. That knowledge brought tears to my eyes when I first laid eyes on my brother-in-law lying in the hospital bed in the ICU, two long lines of stitches on his shaved head reminding me of this past April when my husband emerged from a craniotomy with similar scars. But for the grace of God, my husband’s brain could have decided to give in to the pressure as his brother’s brain has decided to do. But for the grace of God, I might be trying to make decisions that no one wants to make as my sister-in-law is right now…as I write this.

My brother-in-law is stubborn, opinionated, and argumentative, kind, funny, talented and smart in a mechanical sort of way. He is an Air Force veteran, a good father, and a great brother. Though they live far apart, he and my husband texted through football games all day every Saturday. He’s my husband’s first phone call with electronic or mechanical questions. Jack is going to need God’s grace to get through the Rose Bowl, which he and Bob had talked about endlessly before the stroke that has landed Bob in purgatory.  He’s going to need God’s grace for the Superbowl, the football championships, and next season assessing the coach who succeeds Urban Meyer. He’s going to need God’s grace when he has his next mechanical challenge or wiring issue.

When my sister-in-law makes her final decision to pull the feeding tube tomorrow, she’ll be sentencing herself to watch his body slowly shut down. It could take as long as 2 weeks, she says and she would know as a retired oncology nurse who helped many patients transition. He’s the love of her life, she says, but she didn’t have to say it. We all know. They dated in high school for two years, drifted apart, married other people, divorced and reconnected 40+ years later…5 years ago. She wanted one more Christmas, she tells him as he sleeps. She’ll need God’s grace to give her the courage to make this decision, and God’s grace to allow him to transition.

As I stand at the base of the sandstone formation, I pray and am instantly grateful for these three of God’s graces. She has power, this God who planted this garden as a reminder to those of us looking straight into a bright blue sky, impossible rock structure dwarfing us in a stark reminder that we are very, very small specks in the grand scheme of the Universe.

Some things don’t pass: the love we feel for each other, the shared laughter and tears, the memories of experiences that form the foundation of all we know, love, cherish in each other. These things are Universal Natural Heartmarks that stand before us in constant reminders of who we are together…and apart. There’s great power in these monuments. They hold beauty that far exceeds the physical; they hold peace that surpasses understanding; they hold joy; they hold powerful power.  Still, when someone you love dies, all that truth is crushed by overwhelming grief until God’s grace pulls you back up as a monument to that relationship.

It’ll be up to me to keep this in mind while my husband struggles through this process. I don’t know if I can…so, will you pray for one more grace? For me to be the support I need to be?

Thank you…you are yet another of God’s Graces.

three graces