Health & Wellness

Good News is Everywhere!

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I think we can all agree that we’re surrounded by bad news stories. We need not look any further than a pop-up notification on our phones to catch Breaking or Headline news that is rarely good.

As I have stated in previous stories, including this post written this past October, it’s so very important to make note of even the smallest of victories that come our way. Here are a few small, and not so small, incidents I had the privilege to celebrate this past week.

  • A close family member got the ideal job for the household’s circumstances.
  • My local NFL team made it to the playoffs!
  • I received encouraging news about a health condition I have battled for the past couple years.
  • I was gifted with a very comfortable pair of warm slippers that I really, really needed to keep my tootsies warm…tootsies that get alarmingly cold and painful due to a health condition that is not related to the point directly above.
  • Despite all the wind and rain we have had in my part of Washington state, we did not lose power this week.
  • While shopping at a grocery store with the word Whole in its title, there were no plastic produce bags to be found. A professional shopper filling her order saw my dilemma and gave me the 2 plastic produce bags I needed.
  • A snack our household enjoys that has been missing from grocery shelves for a couple months has returned. See! It doesn’t have to be something major to be good news!

Majoring on the “minors” is a great way of being when those minors are positive happenings in our lives. And they’re important! Why? Because the more good we acknowledge the less yucky the bad stuff will seem to be.

Don’t let the bad stuff get you down. Being open to the many positive happenings around you is a good way to start.

 

 

Spoken and Unspoken: Words Matter

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  • Words said in anger and without consideration of others matter.
  • Withheld words that would have provided encouragement and affirmation certainly matter.
  • Unloving words that we say to ourselves – berating, judging, unkind – matter a great deal.

Words matter: they always have, they always will. Choose your words wisely.

Here Comes the Good Stuff!

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The best is yet to come, right? I mean, why not? Rather than expect the worst and have that expectation met, how about expecting the best and be equally as astonished that the best is gifted to you at some point in 2023 – maybe at several points in 2023. It’s kind of like the sentiment: Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right.

Expect the best, y’all.

That’s what I’m gonna do.

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

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Being kind to yourself is most definitely a serious matter. You deserve to be treated with the same gentleness you would treat others for whom you care.

If the Holidays have gotten to you, do what is needed to bring some calm and control back into your life, even if that means disappointing others. Again, you matter just as much as those you might have to disappoint, so I would advise you to try a little kindness toward yourself, a kindness you so very much deserve.

And if you’re doing absolutely well right now and can exercise some outward gentleness, check in on individuals who might need a reminder that they matter and that someone was thinking of them. You don’t have to make a huge effort – especially if doing so depletes your own reserves – but a phone call, a text, or a hello in passing – could mean the difference between making their day and not.

Do what you can, and start with yourself.

 

Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

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Whether it’s because the Holidays are fast-approaching, or we’re relocating to a different area, or we are faced with a life stressor that threatens life, limb, and sanity, we are oftentimes encouraged to stay calm and relax. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!

Being on the receiving end of such an admonition is not a welcome moment, to be sure. “Try being in my women’s size 12 shoes and say that again! You have no authority here.” Boy can I relate. Given an opportunity to break down that comment, however, I might eventually get to the point of being able to at least realize that if I were to take a few deep breaths I would feel slightly better as a result.

I fully understand the impetus behind someone telling us not to worry. Certainly I have said the same thing to someone in need and I absolutely meant it. But staying calm is not an easy venture, is it? But boy oh boy is it called for.

I react and I overreact – just ask my husband. You know what they say about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well, I’ve been trying to learn the calming lesson/trick for quite some time now. The more I overreact and discover later that such a reaction was not needed, I get that much closer to learning a lesson that will most definitely help my well-being. When an overreaction takes place, the fight or flight response gets set into motion which sets in motion bodily anomalies that never do the body good: accelerated heart rate, increased pain where pain might already exist, and if you’re me, the gastric juices start churning and a sour stomach ensues.

Being able to witness time and time again that things most of the time turn out okay, that most disasters are readily avoided, and life goes on regardless of any perceived evidence to the contrary, then we can settle down and carry on. But if you’re at all like me, you will need to administer compassion and loving kindness toward yourself to attain such a state of well-being. 

I hope you succeed in doing so, as much as I hope to do so myself.

 

Is Daily Gratitude Possible?

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I am well aware that it’s extremely difficult to be grateful for anything or anyone when times are tough: illness, financial downturn, emotional turmoil and the like.

At those times, it takes a grand effort to make the decision to find just one thing a day for which to be grateful. JUST ONE THING!!

And once that decision is made, it takes lots of practice to get in the habit of doing so day, after day, after day.

But even the smallest of reasons to smile are worth the effort:

  • improved sleep or wellness
  • a break in the weather
  • a food item that awakens our taste buds
  • a stranger’s smile or greeting
  • a flower

When we start to feel better about the way things are going, we might decide to spread some of that “feel-betteryness” to others with our own unexpected smile, greeting, or other kindness.

I have found that it is really worth the effort – both for the giver, and the person on the receiving end.

JUST A THOUGHT WORTH CONSIDERING.

 

The Brain Sometimes Misses the Mark

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Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply indebted to my brain for guiding me through sixty-nine years of life thus far. My organs are reliant on it to do their “organic” part to keep me alive.

BUT THE BRAIN DOES INDEED GET IT WRONG SOMETIMES.

Way back when, the brain really needed to activate its fight-or-flight response so that we could sense a beast’s approach and be able to avoid it or defend ourselves. We still very much need that heightened response in our tool chest but I dare say that such a tool is rarely required.

But let’s get away from beasts and tools. What about the conditioned response to daily mundane elements of our lives, such as eating? I live in the Pacific Northwest where Daylight Saving Time ended a few days ago. The clocks in the house had to be set back one hour, which I diligently accomplished this year as in previous years. BUT, the clock in my husband’s workshop is his responsibility and it did not get changed

The day after Daylight Saving Time ended, my husband came into the house at 11 am and set forth making his lunch. I was in my home office at the time and was astounded that he was eating lunch so early because his normal lunchtime usually falls between noon and one o’clock. I eventually wandered into the kitchen/family room area where my husband was now chowing down on the sandwich he had just made. “Wow, you’re sure eating lunch early today.”

He looked at the family room clock only to discover that it was just 11:15 am. “Oops! I forgot to turn my shop clock back and thought it was noon” to which I responded, “Nope! Your brain tricked you into thinking you were hungry!” The brain has a keen way of doing that…tricking us.

The brain more or less always tricks me into thinking that the aches and pains I experience are far more than the mundane events they are. Read one of my recent posts that addresses that aspect of my brain’s tomfoolery. I tend to catastrophize these types of sensations because in my past experience, I have indeed had a couple acute medical situations so my brain is not going to sit back and let such emergent conditions harm me in any way.

BUT MY BRAIN GETS CARRIED AWAY FAR TOO OFTEN AND INITIATES A FEAR RESPONSE THAT SENDS ME INTO AN UNWARRANTED EMOTIONAL DOWNWARD SPIRAL.

Thank you brain, for caring so much about me that you feel the need to pull out all the stops to keep me safe, but you seriously need to calm down and get out of the driver’s seat and enjoy the ride of being a passenger in a body that’s just trying to practice daily common sense. Sometimes a cramp is just a cramp, a back ache is just a sixty-nine year old’s back speaking up, and a sour stomach is just the result of unwise food choices…nothing more, nothing less. I respect and admire all that you do, but feel free to take a few steps back and let’s let bygones be bygones.

But I am forever indebted to you for caring.

 

 

 

Finding the Good in the Not-So-Good

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In keeping with my most recent post about partying, I just have to tell you a very brief story about something I had the opportunity to celebrate the other day:

I had a horrible night’s sleep!!!

Why is that worthy of a celebration? Let me tell you.

Each of us has our stories of either not being able to readily fall asleep and/or falling asleep but waking up a few hours later and not being able to fall back to sleep, thereby starting ones’ day at an absolutely ungodly hour. I have experienced both, but the first sleep malady has not been an issue for me for many, many months. That was my first reason to celebrate.

My sleep routine always involves listening to a positive, 20-minute guided meditation wherein I usually fall asleep half way through. But the other night, four meditations later, I still hadn’t attained slumber. I tossed and turned, getting frustrated by my inability to sleep, totally disregarding the sleep hygiene advice every sleep expert gives: get out of bed, go elsewhere in your home and read or do something other than counting down the number of hours remaining before your day has to begin. If you stay stuck in bed, you’re also stuck in the anxiety-laden arena of non-sleep where just wishing you’ll eventually fall asleep simply does not work. Why? Because that’s all you’re thinking about and what you pay attention to will only grow.

After a period of three hours of non-sleep, I finally got out of bed and went elsewhere in my home to read thereby changing the scenery and giving my mind something else to concentrate on. I was no longer not sleeping in my comfortable bed, I was reading a book as though doing so was the most perfectly normal thing to be doing at two o’clock in the morning. Climbing back into bed an hour later, I managed to catch a few hours of sleep. That was the second reason to celebrate.

But that’s not all! I actually had three reasons to celebrate as a result of that yucky night’s sleep: I also successfully made it through the day-after, without too much struggle!

Mind you, I’m retired and therefore didn’t have to be super diligent during the day-after’s activities: I didn’t have to operate heavy machinery or get up in front of a classroom or a boardroom and string together cohesive sentences for the benefit of others, but I did manage to do some Holiday gift shopping with my husband and plow through a pile of laundry accumulating in our house without damaging anyone in the process.

Yep, all was well, and I lived to tell about it.

Three parties in one day. What’s not to celebrate?

 

 

It’s Party Time!

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Oh my goodness…you know how it is…the first of November creeps up on us and before we know it, all the traditional Holidays of the year are upon us and we’re wondering where the time has gone.

It’s been awhile since I’ve looked forward to Holiday celebrations but this year I’m geared up and ready. Well, not ready as in I’ve got it all figured out and organized, but ready as in I’m very much up for it. Why is that? Well, for me, I am always looking for a reason to celebrate – whether I’m celebrating an actual occasion or just noting a positive improvement of sorts in my daily life.

During my father’s decline from Alzheimer’s disease, I got into the practice of celebrating every small positive element that came my way. I realized early on in my father’s disease process that big reasons to celebrate weren’t always forthcoming so I committed myself to celebrating even the smallest of victories, and there were many! Doing so guaranteed many opportunities to party, rather than just the few and far between grandiose reasons to don the party hats. My first novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, is a reflection of that period in my life where my celebrate-as-often-as-you-can philosophy was born.

This year has had its ups and downs, hasn’t it? I am quite certain I’m not the only person reading this post that saw illness invade the calm of loved ones’ lives; who experienced loss of some sort that left you reeling; or who questioned whether goodness and mercy had become qualities of the past.

As we near the end of the current year, I hope you are privy to more good than bad and that your reasons to celebrate far outnumber those that make you want to hit something…or someone. Finding that renewed focus, that light at the end of the tunnel, might seem more difficult than not, but if you’re able to do so even just one time before the calendar year expires, give it all you’ve got and do your happy dance! Who knows? Your good vibes just might rub off on others!

And if you’re able to make a few thirty second friendships along the way? All the better.

 

 

Thirty Second Friendships

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I’m the person who waves, but I’m also the person who waves back. I just can’t help myself, especially when a young child is concerned.

Ever since I became a grandmother back in 2017, I can’t resist waving and talking to a youngster while said youngster is accompanied by their parental unit – I’m just so enamored by kiddos. Caveat: prior to attaining grandparenthood, I just couldn’t be bothered, but I am a reformed woman.

But it’s not just the youngsters with whom I engage; I can’t help but engage all age groups in friendly conversation. I crave the connection and I am shameless in my efforts to satisfy that craving.

Maybe you’re among the many who hope beyond all hope that when you encounter the stranger that is me, no conversational effort will be required on your part. Sorry to disappoint you, but if you’re in my sights, I’m reaching out to become your 30-second friend.

BE WELL. STAY WELL, Y’ALL.

How Old Do You Feel?

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Just when I thought I was getting old, the voice of reason settled my soul.

Each year is just a drop in the bucket of life

We are all acquainted with friends or loved ones who have managed to make it to the nine decade mark of life. I am in my 70th year of life – reaching a full seven decades next year. I didn’t mind at all turning 65 years old: I celebrated, I boasted of my accomplishment, and I plowed through each day as fit and proud as can be!

Then I turned 66, then 67, then 68, and most recently 69. Ugh, what a geezer I had become. But why? Really and truly, if sixty-eight was fine with me, what changed in the ensuing 364 days of that birthday year?

  • I started paying attention to the body sensations and pain tweaks that prior to my change of age didn’t warrant such hyper-attention. What you focus on grows bigger.
  • Having enlarged the body sensations I was feeling, I started to cut down my activity level because in my mind I no longer had the ability to be as active as before. I believed the lie that my fight or flight brain was telling me.
  • Not only did I cut back on my physical activity, but I narrowed the scope of my world: going to fewer places, spending less time with people I usually enjoyed spending time with, and relying on others to get me to where I wanted/needed to be. Isolation does not do a body good.
  • I found myself taking what I call a Senior Lie Down just about every day. A feeble body needs a nap to make it through each day, don’t ya’ know.

STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!

If genetics has anything to do with my lifespan, at least where my father’s side is concerned, I will live at least eight decades. My father died at the age of 89, suffering from prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s, and even with those diseases, he lived twenty years longer than my current age!

I don’t want to shorten my enjoyment of life because of facts not yet entered into evidence! Not on your life, or at least, not on mine!

Changing my mindset has made a ginormous change in my outlook on life. No more sweating the small (or normal) stuff in life. Living life, rather than fearing it, is a far better use of my time.

 

You Are Not Stupid

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Thoughts aren’t always true, they are just thoughts.

We are oftentimes admonished not to be judgmental of others, but what about the judgments we have about ourselves? I catch myself being very self-critical, repeating what I oftentimes heard my mother say to herself when she, for example, made a sewing mistake. “Oh Patricia! You’re so stupid!”

My mother was far from stupid, nor am I, so declaring oneself stupid is very inaccurate. A far less harsh statement might be, “Oh, Irene, that wasn’t a smart thing to do/that was a stupid thing to do.” I’m not stupid, but the action wasn’t the best delivered action at the time.

All I’m saying in this minuscule post is to be careful what you say to yourself – whether out loud or in your mind – because I guarantee, you are listening, and some day, you just might start believing what you hear.

New Season. New Hope.

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Autumn is my favorite season of the year, and also a time for me to assess, regroup, and move forward with a renewed sense of hope. I feel the same way on January 1st each year. I guess I’m a sucker for second chances…or as many chances as I can get.

The following is a quote that resonated with me from the non-fiction book, Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Julie Smith. I hope you are able to move towards the end of 2022 relishing all the positive opportunities that might come your way.

What we do and how we do it feeds back to our body and brain about how we feel, so shifting direction towards what matters most, and the person we want to be alongside our problems, can bring about big shifts in mood.

 

Small Kindnesses

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A poem by Danusha Laméris, 2019 (bold highlights made by this blogger):

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by.

Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plaque. “Don’t die,” we are saying.

And sometimes when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up.

Mostly we don’t want to harm each other.

We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back.

For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pickup truck to let us pass.

We have so little of each other now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.

What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”

Just a Thought

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A thought is just a thought, not a fact.

Our imagination can serve us but sometimes it provides a huge disservice. May you not be ruled by your thoughts and may peace be your portion.

Adulting Is Hard

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Life is not an easy venture, regardless of who we are or how we were raised. But we get up every morning, stumble through our wake-up routines, and plod through the day because that’s what the human condition requires.

We all know that some days are easier than others – just as some years are worse than previous years – but when the not-so-good times start piling up day after day, we tend to wonder if we’ll ever get to the other side of the bad.

Life is most definitely a contact sport. Scrapes and bruises are bound to hit many of us in debilitating ways.

The fictional characters in this new novel are acquainted with yours and my experiences. They’ve had it tough, and they’ve had it easy, and how their lives panned out reflects outcomes not unlike those we’ve all endured.

Misery loves company isn’t what the author had in mind with the writing of A Jagged Journey but she knew that those going through a tough time could benefit from how Charlie, Hannah, Gretchen, and the book’s many other true-to-life characters, handle the challenges that come their way.

The outcomes aren’t all touchy-feely and rainbow-laden, but that’s not how real life pans out for you and I anyway.

May this well-crafted story keep you company during the highs – and the lows – in which you find yourself, and may you experience the joy and hope that so many previous readers of A Jagged Journey have enjoyed.

Improving Our Vision

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We often have been instructed on what it means to truly listen, especially when it comes to hearing what someone else is saying. Just nodding our head and saying “uh huh, uh huh” may not be an example of effective listening.

What about our eye sense? Do we see what’s really there? Not always, and here’s a case in point.

I have family members who have tree nut allergies so we are all very diligent about using ingredients – and serving foods – that do not contain tree nuts and were not processed in a manufacturing plant that may have processed tree nuts as part of their business.

I donated a huge Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips to this particular tree nut sensitive household the other day and checked what I usually check: the list of INGREDIENTS and the all-important CONTAINS notation on the bag. Said elements listed nothing of danger to that household.

Turns out the Costco-sized bag of chocolate chips had an ALLERGEN INFORMATION statement that I missed but fortunately the household member who was about to use them did not. Ugh, this could have been a disaster of emergency proportions!!! You’d be correct in saying that the statement seemed plenty large enough to notice, but that was not the case for me. We are blind to so many things, some of which are less tactile. Had I not assumed the CONTAINS and INGREDIENTS statements were sufficient, I would have scrutinized the bag more thoroughly.

So too in life, we may not notice elements that would be beneficial in making appropriate life decisions. This particular allergen situation could have had dangerous outcomes, but less dangerous incidents of “blurry vision” could still impact us.

Time to sharpen up my senses!

This lesson has clearly taught me that I need to greatly improve my vision in a tactile sense and a life-direction sense.

I feel I’m a good listener most of the time, but it’s obvious my vision is far from being 20/20.

 

 

May Peace Be Your Portion

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AS SUMMER WINDS DOWN, MANY OF US ARE TRANSITIONING TO LIFE CHANGES THAT AREN’T ALWAYS EASILY TOLERATED: FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, NEW JOBS, RELOCATING TO A NEW AREA OF THE COUNTRY.

WHATEVER TRANSITION YOU FACE, MAY PEACE BE YOUR PORTION AS YOU SETTLE INTO YOUR NEW NORMAL. 

Home & Body DIY Projects

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My current DIY home project is one that is not-at-all rewarding at the moment but my husband and I are certain the remodeled laundry room will eventually knock our socks off. Then we’ll probably lose half of those socks in the newly-placed drier! 🙂

Do It Yourself home projects are very time consuming and most often difficult, and for many of us, DIY is the only way to go. But the DIY work we do on ourselves doesn’t have to be 100% Do It Yourself. As a matter of fact, I strongly recommend seeking assistance when trying to put ones’ life in order, especially when mental health is part of the project’s package.

Doing the work, as it is oftentimes called, is a life-long process that is not for the faint of heart. Proper guidance from appropriate resources will most certainly get us headed in the right direction. The past two-plus years, I have felt compelled to put my mental health at the top of my priority list, because mental health is health.

I have attended virtual therapy sessions with a local doctor of psychology for the past two years and can honestly say that she has been my most essential healthcare provider during that time. I am fortunate that my U.S. Medicare plan, plus my supplemental insurance, cover 100% of the costs, and I realize that full health insurance coverage is not the case for everyone.

And I have discovered that just like home improvement projects, life improvement projects can get messy and the cleanup can be a painstaking process, but flexing ones’ muscles – which include the heart and the mind – is well worth the blood, sweat, and tears that ensue…and trust me, there will be tears.

I truly hope you are able to find access to the guidance you deserve as you endeavor to attain personal health, while always remembering that:

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

One Size Does Not Fit All

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At 69 years of age and retired, I really don’t want to feel like I’m at a J-O-B.

I don’t want an ongoing set schedule of activities – whether volunteer and/or personally entertaining – because my husband and I want the flexibility of being available for the younger members of our family whose parents just might need our involvement. A onesie-twosie activity is what I seek to improve my Quality of Life (QoL).

Whatever I do must be beneficial to those involved. Most of us are experts at wasting time – perhaps I’m the CEO of that effort – so I don’t want to do, just to be doing. I want to increase the value in someone else’s day, while also boosting my mental health and well-being.

It seems strange seeking connection at a time when the world is in a downward viral spiral – or is it an upward viral spiral? Anyway, as social beings, we’re all looking for SOMETHING, and I’m one of those social beings. The final QoL post in this series simply lets you know that my fuller life might not look like yours, and what’s so marvelous about making choices that matter to us, is that as individuals with a free will, we get to choose as we please.

One size doesn’t fit all, but isn’t it grand that the only size that matters is the one that fits us?

 

 

The Wisdom of Baby Steps

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Not our hike, but beautiful!

My husband and I became avid hikers in 2016 once my husband had retired from a lengthy career as an engineer, and I had switched to writing and publishing my novels (Requiem for the Status Quo and A Jagged Journey). Hiking during the week in the Pacific Northwest is the only way to go as our area is a hiking paradise and we completed many non-weekend hikes for three solid years.

Then both of us had body structure limitations that were addressed and treated as effectively as possible so we could consider heading out on the trails again.

Then Covid happened.

We chose not to head onto the trails because even though we were extremely diligent in our masked day-to-day proactive way, hiking with a mask on was not an attractive option for us. So even though we went on neighborhood walks and took Cabin Fever Drives (CFDs) since winter 2020, we had not been on a trail since summer 2019. Until last week.

We understand the psychology of starting slowly, gradually building up to more challenging physical activities, so a close-in, 2.5 mile RT hike with 419 feet elevation gain was our starting point. What we didn’t take into account, however, was how much elevation gain would occur in 1.25 miles. We turned around once we realized our error in judgment and learned just how out of shape we are and how to better gauge elevation gain – a skill we were well-versed in just three years prior.

But we made an effort, and even though we didn’t quite master that day’s trail, we still lapped everyone sitting on the couch. Baby steps will be our practice going forward so we don’t doom our renewed commitment to Western Washington hiking.

The Fruit of Independence

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Independence means so many things, and it’s not just tied into an American holiday that’s celebrated every July 4th.

As an independent person, I am free to think and behave in such a way as to benefit others, or harm them. I choose to always benefit person-kind.

As the above photo clearly illustrates, we have much from which to choose in seeking to bless others. Pick all of the above fruit in one day, every day, or choose the one-a-day plan – whichever suits you and is most likely to become a habit.

May you pluck all that is necessary from this tree so the greater good can be accomplished near and far.

Death of an Extraordinary Man

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October 13th 2007, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.

If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.

Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.

What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.

But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.

Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.

That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.

Now almost fifteen years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,

my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.

If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,

please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.

Blessings to you today, and always.

The Soul’s Spring Cleaning

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I know summer is upon us, but I’m still enmeshed in spring cleaning so I want to address that topic, but in a FAR different manner. I’ve been bored because the weather in Washington State has not been conducive to outdoor activities so every nook and cranny of our 2-story house has been purged beyond recognition – and it feels good.

You wanna know what else feels good? Doing spring cleaning on my soul: the me-ness that has existed for sixty-nine years.

Merriam-Webster defines soul as follows: 1) the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; 2) the spiritual principle embodied in human beings; 3) a person’s total self; 4) the moral and emotional nature of human beings.

I am very transparent in what I write on this blog, so if you’ve been following my blog and my stream of thought, you already have a pretty darn good sense of who I am. If I had to characterize the 2021-2022 timeframe for me, however, I would say that most of my new efforts have been directed toward kindness…toward myself. The other day, my talk therapist suggested I check in with myself each day by saying:

What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself today?

Oddly enough, that very day I said to myself, “I’m going to take care of myself today” – inspiration I received as a result of listening to a mindfulness podcast. If you viewed my post, A Dose of Serenityyou read about the phenomenon (to me anyway) of being open to learning a new lesson and then the lessons about that lesson start bombarding you. Well, I have been in the classroom of self-compassion for awhile now.

I am very hard on myself – demanding is more accurate – and more often than not I end up as my worst enemy. When I catch myself being so self-judgmental, I shift gears and talk to myself as I would a friend or loved one who is going through a similar situation.

The description I crafted for my online Facebook profile reads, Author, always ready to dish out kindness. I strive to promote truth and kindness wherever I go. Well, I guess my profile is a lie because I am always wherever I go so I’d best dish out some soul nourishment towards me on an ongoing basis.

Suffice to say that patience is a hard-earned virtue, and even more difficult when needed to be directed self-ward. But in order to have a productive soul spring cleaning, I need to gift myself with patience and understanding, and leave self-judging behind me where it belongs. That’s certainly my personal goal; how about you?

 

 

The Colors of Love

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What a privilege it is to love someone and be loved by them. There’s a reason why there are so many dating/relationship services out there: we crave connection, and happily-ever-after is a worthy goal to pursue.

I’m fortunate that my current 26-year relationship (married for 22 of those 26) quite naturally fell into place. Girl meets boy on a blind date set up by a dating site; girl and boy decide to get together for another date, and…the rest is history!

No one disputed my choice of a partner with whom I held hands, smooched in public, and eventually enjoyed full intimacy. That is not always the case, whether a partner is of a different race, financial standing, or of the same gender identity. I experienced racial hatred when I married my first husband who is Chinese American. As a newly married couple, we walked hand-in-hand on a weekend outing in an Eastern Washington town where we were verbally accosted by a woman who shouted, “Thou shalt not mix races! You are an abomination to God!” I very unpolitely told her off and went on my way with my husband, enjoying the love we had already shared for more than eight years. That was almost 50 years ago, and I am still negatively affected by it. Many are harassed and abused in a similar manner because of the love they share with someone, harassment that takes many forms.

In the early 90s, I was privileged to work at a progressive Seattle law firm where one of my coworkers, a woman, was in a relationship with another woman. The two of them had certainly experienced discrimination but expressed that for the most part they had been fortunate. I asked my coworker how she and her partner had met. “Susan is who I fell in love with and she with me. It’s all about who you fall in love with.” That made sense to me and still does.

What also makes sense is living one’s truth and genuineness about who you are as an individual, and with whom you choose to share your life. Being who you are with someone else is rife with hurdles, regardless of your gender, but truly there is no other way to be. No ifs, ands, or buts –  being safely and securely transparent in a relationship is a gift! What a privilege it is to live honestly, not having to pretend to be someone else, not living a cloaked identity just to be accepted by others.

I experience that freedom, and wish that same freedom for everyone seeking connection, love, and happily-ever-after.

May it be so.

 

 

Fear Not – unless you must

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Fear is such a natural response, isn’t it? My understanding of the fear response is that the brain sends a signal that danger is present so we’d better be ready to spring into action to protect life and limb from imposing threat.

But sometimes the brain sends a false alarm that is okay to acknowledge, but can probably be ignored. A home smoke alarm can detect burnt toast just as easily as it does a whole-house fire.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should ignore your fear intuition – it’s there to keep you safe – but sometimes that fear is misdirected. That’s what I have found to be true and let me tell you, as someone who catastrophizes far too often, I am well acquainted with unbelievable fear…fear that is simply not credible.

So what’s my recommendation to you? Well, it’s not a recommendation, simply a piece of advice that has helped me in the past and continues to calm my over-active nerves: make an evidence list that confirms – or disproves – messages of danger that routinely come your way. Review that list when the same nagging worries and fears threaten to displace your peace and then make realistic conclusions as to whether or not that heightened sense of imminent danger is valid.

Your over-active fear response may have as its catalyst physical sensations in your body that you’re certain have you headed to your death bed posthaste, even though those sensations have all been medically checked out to be benign and have yet to send you to your grave. Or maybe you’re convinced you’re about to lose your job, even though you just received a stellar job performance review. Or you’re convinced that if you eat that itsy bitsy cookie, you’ll gain no less than five pounds as a result. Ugh, there are so many possibilities of incorrect danger signals that can steer a person off course; only you know wherein your fear lies.

I know not your fear, but I know fear, and it’s an emotion that gets far too much attention and credence.

So the next time fear threatens to impose on your peace of mind, decide which of these characters you want to embody and then act accordingly. Personally, I’m trying to get more intimately acquainted with the character in yellow, so that’s going to be a more appropriate direction for me to follow.

 

 

 

 

A Dose of Serenity

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This quote is speaking to me BIG time!

You know how when you need to learn a specific lesson, and you’re open to learning that specific lesson, input regarding that specific lesson starts coming at you from all directions? Maybe that’s just me, and if it is, I’m okay with that. The lesson I have had to learn as of late is that control is fleeting, and for the most part, non-existent.

We have so little control over most matters, it’s best to only spend energy on that which we can control.

Being out of control really hit me hard when the pandemic first took off because there was so much uncertainty and very little information-stability. But my extraordinary husband and I came to the place of acknowledging that all we were in control of was how we handled our little corner of the world to keep us, and the rest of our family, safe. Fortunately, keeping our circle of family safe also keeps the rest of those with whom we come in contact, safe. A win-win situation.

In my corner of the world, health challenges (nothing serious, yet prevalent) seem to be bombarding me – disrupting my peace, displacing my calm, and spinning me into a mental health spiral. And keep in mind, mental health is health, so there is no separating the physical from the emotional.

I am doing what I can control: addressing my mental health which – quite naturally – positively affects my physical health because…

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

I would like to say, however, that wanting to fix others’ problems denotes a certain amount of caring – a lot of caring – for those with whom I entangle myself. But one thing I’ve learned the past two years is that I have to love myself first and foremost before I can spread love towards others. When I exhibit self-compassion, I gird my heart, my mind, and my body with the resources they need to flourish going forward. And yay, that means I’m more available for others!! Another win-win situation!

And one step at a time isn’t just recommended, it’s required. I leave you with this:

 

 

Alzheimer’s: am I next?

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Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”

In 2019, an article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Please note that the linked post references an extraordinary non-profit that I am still a part of but no longer serve in a managerial capacity, having retired from doing so.)

I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?

I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.

At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.

Our life: an ongoing parade

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Here I go again, relying on Dr. Bernie S. Siegel to provide some wisdom for your day, but what can I say, his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul catches my attention more often than not and when it does, I like to share the good stuff I find.  The following is provided verbatim:

Parade of Life

Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now, and do it. – William Durant

oktoberfest-819706_640Life is a parade. Sometimes we march along and realize we have passed by what we were looking for. What do we do? Stand there and drop out of the parade? March on with regrets? Feel bad about how we looked or that everything we wanted was on the wrong side of the street? It’s passed! Forget it and march on!

Sometimes our parade isn’t so pretty, and the crowd isn’t interested in us. If we drag everything we have passed with us, we will destroy the present. We have no future when we live in the past.

We even talk about past lives. Whether you believe in them or not, the same principle applies. If you are living a past life, you are destroying your present one. In therapy, people come to understand why they are acting the way they are and how the past is affecting them. They learn to let go, move on, and not sit in the same classroom year after year. They graduate and commence a new life.

To conclude, I, Irene Frances Olson, have this to say about Dr. Siegel’s comments:

The good news is that we can learn from our past, both the good and the bad, but if we stay cemented in the past and don’t move on? That parade Dr. Siegel talks about?  It’ll pass us by.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get left behind.

Solo Caregiving

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My recent post, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support. When that is not the case, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

THIS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING INFORMATIONAL POST, BUT IT IS A START.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you are experiencing. Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance. Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need. Easier said than done, I know, but a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s just one suggestion – one that could provide respite and community support.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

If you are able to leave the house for a meal, there is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner. If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home. Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis. Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way for them to do so. Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

!!!ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!!!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your solo caregiver friend needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs. Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.
  2. Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden? I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers. I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself. (Especially needed for the caregiver not at liberty to leave their loved one alone.)

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help. I know I’m being somewhat judgmental when I say the following, but I’m gonna say it anyway: The first example of help is an empty offer – an offer that doesn’t carry much weight. Why? It comes across as an expected social comment without any true meat on its bones. You’re basically doing the minimal amount of due diligence while forcing the caregiver to ask for help. In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night. Can you come over for a cup of coffee, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs. Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.