Quality of Life

Invisible People

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Our 91 year old neighbor, Betty, was taken to a local hospital by my friend/neighbor who lives across the street from her. Betty had medical symptoms that needed attention for a few nights in the hospital, but she is now back home.

Many of us nearby are very familiar with Betty who energetically walks her dog, Teddy, through the hilly streets of our very rural neighborhood outside of Seattle. This neighbor does not have the best hearing so oftentimes, when having a street side conversation with her, everyone can hear of which we speak several houses away.

However, that’s not important. What is important is that all of us younger neighbors – I’m a mere 69 yo – leaped into action to make sure she was getting the attention she needed at the hospital. Betty has no living family – one of the hazards of living a long life, I guess. She lives in a mother-in-law suite in a house owned by a lovely couple. They were on point with Betty at the hospital and my friend/neighbor who lives across the street from Betty talked to her by phone daily – passing along greetings from people such as myself, as well as from those who are emotionally connected with her.

During one such call, my neighbor told her that I and other neighbors had asked about her. Did that make Betty’s day? You bet it did. Just knowing people care does a body good. No one wants to be or feel invisible, and sometimes the elderly do fall into that unfortunate category. Betty is not invisible, she has actively engaged with her neighbors for many years, but there are those of a certain age and in other populations who do fall between the cracks. We did not let our elderly neighbor fade into invisibleness.

One thing that never changes. People. And how people love to connect with other people. We are built for community. The only way to tackle momentous challenges is together. From the novel LET IT SNOW, by Beth Moran

Book Gift Ideas

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I am a published author of two books: Requiem for the Status Quo and A Jagged Journey.

I wrote Requiem to share my family’s Alzheimer’s caregiving experiences with those who might benefit from those experiences. I chose the fiction genre, not memoir, so that along with our family’s actual episodes, I could include those from other families’ lives to represent a well-rounded representation of the highs and lows of the family caregiving journey.

I was my father’s primary long-distance caregiver – caregiving that I carried out in person numerous times for several years at his southern Oregon memory care community, and daily from my home in the Seattle, Washington area. Additionally, as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator and a State long term care ombudsman, I met many family caregiver heroes who I believed deserved to have their stories told.

Journey is a different kind of novel, one that spotlights the challenges of being a fallible human being in a world where what we believe might change from time to time – oftentimes for the better. But the not-so-good changes also exist, because as humans we don’t always get it right. Fortunately, lessons can be learned nonetheless.

But why should you purchase either of these books? Although I believe in my work as a writer, I am painfully aware that readers have millions of titles from which to choose, but I sincerely believe you will be glad that you chose mine as a Holiday gift for yourself or for others. And if by chance you aren’t interested in my novels, please pass this post along to someone who might be. Be well. Stay well, y’all.

Both books are EXTREMELY affordable in any format you might desire. I hope you will consider exploring their pages.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.”

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.

 

 

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

Still Figuring it Out

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The lessons I need to learn in order to live a fuller life are becoming clearer and clearer in my heart and in my mind. My experience has been that when awareness of a need kicks in, hope tends to get kicked into overdrive. 😁

May your own journey treat you with the kindness and diligence you so deserve.

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.

What’s in a Name?

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I have never liked my given first name: Irene. Sorry, I know my parents meant well, but I’m not enamored by the name. Every search I’ve done for the name – Greek, Arabic, Irish, Biblical – all indicate that the name means PEACE. And human characteristics for the name are: intense, compassionate, generous, artsy, and creative. Okay, you nailed it Mom and Dad because I am all of those.

I wish I was less intense, but since that trait has been a part of me for sixty-nine years, I think I’m stuck with it.

I don’t mind all the other traits but intensity? Ugh. I’m not even going to provide the definition for it because we all know even the way that word sounds describes what it means.

And guess what’s really intriguing? My middle name, Frances, means FREE ONE. I love that meaning but I wouldn’t want to exchange my first with my middle name because I don’t think that’s a better option for me.

But if I’ve learned anything the past several years about the word acceptance, is that it doesn’t mean you agree with something but you certainly need to let what is, be; as in Let it Be.

So I will…let it be. I admire those who have changed their names, and for far better reasons than simply not liking their given name. I figure my parents felt it in their souls to officially name me Irene Frances so out of respect for their decision, that is what my moniker will continue to be. Now I just have to come to terms with it – be at peace with it – and carry on as I have for almost seven decades.

Peace, y’all.

 

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 Risk of Love

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Such a sweet feline: Estelle Phalange, affectionately called Stellie. Our daughter’s household loved her, and we loved her as well – taking care of her when Stellie’s humans went on vacation, and entertaining her when we spent time with the grandkids at their house.

Stellie went to kitty heaven the other day, and she is greatly missed. As I said to our daughter the day Stellie died,

“Love is risky, but it is worth it.”

What we love, we grieve. I am certain Stellie, and my kitty cat of long ago, Betty, are curling up together in kitty heaven, enjoying a sunbeam for eternity.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Life Happens

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We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132

I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.

Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.

We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.

I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?

Part of what I’ve learned in my almost seventy years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.

  • Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
  • A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
  • Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
  • Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.

All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.

Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:

The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.

 

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them

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Here’s a post from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.

First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing.  Now let’s address your dilemma.

When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age. Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs. What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?

I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.  aking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies. Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home. You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father. Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver. Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts. And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care. What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?

Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.

Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option? Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living. Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother. If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved. As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.

Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.

Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence. She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time. She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away! The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative. It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.

Here are some links to get you started on your quest: www.alz.org; www.caregiver.com; www.ltcombudsman.org

Sticky Stuff

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You know how it is: something sticky gets on the kitchen floor and no matter what you do (spot cleaning the floor, wiping the bottom of your slippers) NOTHING gets rid of the sticky stuff that appears on your walking surface unless you do a thorough scrubbing & cleaning. (I know of what I speak as I had to do that just this morning.)

Life is like that as well: daily matters constantly go awry, what used to be the norm blows up into something unrecognizable, and what seemed to work before just doesn’t cut it any more.

Is it me who is at issue? Is it everyone else?

Let’s pretend it’s everyone else. Even if that is the case, there’s still nothing I can do to change everyone else so it’s up to me to adjust how I handle that very unlikely source of stickiness.

If it’s me, the onus is on me to figure out what is needed to attain a status quo with which I can once again be happy. If I don’t do something to change things up, I’ll continue to walk around with stickiness on my shoes, reminding me with every step that unless I get to the source of the sticky and eradicate it, I’m…well…stuck with it.

In a couple months, I will be 69 years of age. I have had many opportunities to examine what’s what when it comes to emotional and physical quality of life. Each and every time such an examination takes place, I have the option of pretending nothing is wrong, of pointing the finger at someone else, or being honest with myself – and therefore with others  – by making adjustments that will get rid of the gunk that insists on hanging around.

More often than not, I’ve settled on the third option and more often than not, such a plan has worked well to unstick my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Assigning blame to others or other circumstances rarely provides an actionable benefit.

At least that has been my experience. What about you?

 

 

 

Impermanence

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Days. Weeks. Months. Years.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER.

Impermanence could be interpreted as being 100% negative, but I don’t see it that way. Keep in mind, just as the good times don’t last forever, the same can be said for the bad times.

Caveat: I know that is not always the case as I have lost close loved ones to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other terminal diseases. Terminal conditions exist and are the epitome of impermanence. And speaking to the world’s current situation, wars are not easily “won” and they ALWAYS cause irreparable damage.

In this post I am primarily referring to the impermanence of everyday life with its minor sicknesses, aches and pains, emotionally rife periods of time, or any situation from which we want to escape. In most circumstances, the maxim “this too shall pass” becomes a truism, albeit rarely to perfection and not always on our timeline.

Where does the concept of hope come in? Or does it?

When the world experiences a multi-year dire global health situation and one country’s horrific and inhumane assault on another, the concept of hope does not seem remotely possible. But quite often, undesirable circumstances do change and that is the impermanence on which I am relying. Pandemics and wars will “end” but the lives that were lost and the damage that was inflicted are not positive outcomes. But this year I am endeavoring to nourish my hope quotient so whatever I can do to have success in that venture is what I am going to do. One region’s tragedy is every region’s tragedy so every region can be involved in doing its part to support those devastated by the current world condition.

That is why whether we are people who practice traditional prayer, or those who dedicate their energy in different ways towards healing, reconciliation, and recovery…

NOW IS THE TIME TO COMMIT TO SUCH A PRACTICE.

Will a change happen overnight? Probably not, but not trying won’t get us there any sooner.

 

 

Making an Impression

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It’s true, that we only get one chance to make a first impression, but can we improve upon those incidents when we perhaps fell short of rendering a positive one?

I certainly hope so.

At my age, I have known for quite some time the importance of getting it right the first time but that doesn’t guarantee perfection in presentation. Even as a published author with countless editors working on perfecting my two novels, edits still needed to be implemented before publication so that you, the reader, could have a smooth reading experience.

Even more important than making sure my novels convey what I intend for them to say, is the way I present myself to you so that I respect you and your time – whether a 325 page novel, a 3 minute conversation, or a 3 minute blog post.

On a personal note, I know I have left horrible, lasting, first impressions of which at the time I was fully aware. I also know that there were – and are – other times when I obliviously missed the mark and stuck my foot in it.

Other than my earlier-in-life missteps that got in the way of me leaving a positive first impression, there are times when distraction or inattention were the culprits for me leaving a sour note in the minds and hearts of those I encountered.

That personal realization helps me to better understand the actions of others with whom I come in contact. Everyone is going through something, and some of those somethings are more serious than others so it’s no wonder words, actions, and attitudes are affected.

As observers, it’s all about leaving judgment behind and letting compassion and loving kindness come to the forefront as needed…

AND IT’S ALWAYS NEEDED.

 

Words Matter

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Words hold so much power: power to harm and power to heal. This post is about words that have the power to heal.

I am a writer with two published novels and close to 1200 blog posts and I still have to carefully choose my words in any given situation. I don’t always get it right, but the healing goal is always the same.

The other day I found myself at a local Urgent Care clinic; the non-urgent reason for being there is immaterial to what transpired there. My appointment completed, I walked from the treatment area of the clinic through the front office area where three delightful women held court to greet – and say goodbye – to each person who found themselves in need of medical treatment when primary care offices had no available appointments.

One of the women said, “Before you go, can I just tell you something? When you walked in here, I couldn’t help but notice how much you look like the actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Wait, let me find a photo of her for you.” The photo she found on her cell phone was this one:

She also held up the photo to her fellow front desk peeps and they all agreed and said, “You really do look like her! Wow!”

Now I know the resemblance, if there is one, is quite a stretch, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, I felt far better than my body was allowing me to feel at that moment.

Later that evening I relayed my experience to one of my sisters-in-law and she said, “I’ve always thought there was a resemblance but I didn’t know if you’d be flattered or not!”

Double whammy of healing statements, all in one day!

Our words have the power to heal and the power to harm; the other day I was on the receiving end of healing words. It’s sobering to realize that all words are just a different combination of the same 26 letters of the alphabet. I am now even more committed to putting those 26 letters together to form words that uplift, encourage, and yes, heal. I guess the bottom line is:

We can all be healers.

I Hope You Are Well

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Writing is oftentimes about myself, but always with the intention of making a difference in the lives of those who take the time to read what I put out for public consumption.

This, my 1,173rd blog post, is the briefest post of all time for me; a post that is intended to make you feel noticed, let you know that I care how you’re doing, and to assure you that I sincerely hope you are well. I reside in the United States, in a semi-decent sized town in Washington State, and I’m glad you are following this blog that I started more than ten years ago. It takes time out of your day to read my ramblings, whether those ramblings are about the two novels I’ve written, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO and A JAGGED JOURNEY, or just my take on life.

THANK YOU FOR READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.

BE WELL. STAY WELL.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

The Flight of Time

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In the far too distant past, we can all remember how long it took for a special occasion to arrive, whether it was Christmas, a Birthday, or the beginning of summer vacation. It seemed as though time C-R-A-W-L-E-D when we were lots younger than we currently are.

But now? My husband and I will be discussing a past event, trying to decide on when (what week or month the event took place) so we consult our calendars to discover that the event in question occurred more than a year ago.

How did that happen? Why can’t us 60-something-year-olds discern the passing of time better than that? This post from Scientific American sheds a light on this phenomenon. I’ll let you read that post and this one from Harvard University to acquire a better understanding. But here’s a quote from the Scientific American post that seems to summarize what happens as we age:

From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve lived longer, we’ve had a heck of a lot of experiences as a result, so we look at the passage of time from an entirely different perspective. The Harvard post puts a more neurological spin on the matter:

People are often amazed at how much they remember from days that seemed to last forever in their youth. It’s not that their experiences were much deeper or more meaningful, it’s just that they were being processed in rapid fire.

I guess that means that the older we get, our brains aren’t firing as rapidly as they used to. Well, duh! When I’m trying to remember the title of a book, an excellent book that I deem the best book I’ve ever read in my entire life, I may not remember the title of it because I have read 1000s of books in my sixty-eight years.

The bottom line, dear friends, is that our brains are older than they used to be and due to the wealth of experiences we have lived through, there is far more data to weed through to land on the most accurate in-the-moment response. Assuming there is no disease process going on in our brains, is that a problem about which we should lament or be concerned?

No. Why? Because aging is a privilege. Just the fact that we have lived long enough to be struck with the phenomenon of inaccurate time passing is something to celebrate: I’m here, but people I love who passed before their time are not. Those dear people would probably give anything to have the opportunity to complain about this confusing, mixed up passing of time.

On their behalf, I will try to do my level best not to complain about my age, or anything having to do with aging, ever again. I will most certainly fail, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die trying.

Older and Wiser?

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NOT NECESSARILY.

A person most definitely acquires knowledge and wisdom throughout the span of her or his lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that someone far younger can’t contribute appropriate wisdom in any given circumstance.

The less experienced, less rehearsed attitudes of children may very well prove more accurate than the somewhat tainted knowledge my sixty-eight-year-old self may have racked up.

  • AN INQUISITIVE MIND. Our 4.5 year old grandson asks my husband and I questions that surprise us again and again. “Why are the leaves on the ground?” My husband adequately explained the reasoning as the fall season was newly upon us. “Look, Grammo (that’s me) there’s a tree that fell.” I explained that the massive amounts of rain we had experienced caused the roots to give up because the dirt was so wet. “The tree roots gave up, Grammo?” “Yes”, I responded, “and the strong wind we had a few days ago really helped to cause that tree’s roots to let go; to give up.”
  • HEALTHY IMAGINATION. The other day, my husband and I were playing outside with that same grandson, and his 1 year old sister. Because of the aforementioned rain, we had various-shaped water puddles on our driveway. “Look Grammo, that puddle looks like an umbrella!” And it did, which was far more of an imaginative description than what I came up with: a mushroom.

  • HONESTY. Granted, a child’s honesty can cause embarrassment to the adults within the scope of her or his straightforward statements, but for the most part, I’d rather be on the receiving end of clarity and transparency, than deceit disguised as courtesy. A few months ago, I had minor skin cancer surgery on my nose. When our grandchildren arrived for their weekly grandparenting care, I sported a bandaid on the tip of my nose. My grandson said, “Why do you have a bandaid on your nose, Grammo?” I told him that I had a cut on my nose, not unlike what happens when he falls down and skins his knee. “Oh, does it hurt?” My response, “No, it hurt a few days ago but not now. The next time I see you I won’t have a bandaid on my nose.” To which he said, “That’s okay, I don’t mind if you do.”
  • COMPASSION. A couple years ago, I was having a difficult time putting together pieces of a puzzle with my grandson. “Lucas, I don’t think I can figure this one out.” His response, “Yes you can, Grammo, you can do it.” And I did. Additionally, my husband and I were playing outside with our grandson a little over a year ago. That morning, my back had decided to give me a tough time so I wasn’t as active as I would normally be. Our grandson wanted me to step up onto the deck with him, to which his Grampa said, “Grammo’s back is hurting so she isn’t able to do that today.” Our grandson didn’t miss a beat as he reached out his hand to me and said, “Here, Grammo, take my hand, I’ll help you.”

I don’t have any additional statements of worth that will top that latest anecdote, so I’ll close by saying:

Length of years is no guarantee of a well-developed life; it’s the development of character that provides a richness of worth. May curiosity, imagination, honesty, and compassion be your and my selected traits now, and going forward.

 

Brain Gratitude

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The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.

That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.

Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:

  • Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
  • Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
  • Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.

That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.

But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.

  • INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
  • ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
  • DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.

Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.

And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.