Retirement

The Man of the House and the Little Woman

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This real story takes the place of this week’s Lighten up Mondays.

Most of our utility bills are in both my husband’s name and mine. Our Frontier phone/internet bill, for whatever reason, is only in my husband’s name.

We’ve lived in our current house for over fifteen years. Approximately one year into our residency at our current address I called to make a change to our services. I found out that because only my husband’s name was on the bill, I was not permitted to even talk to the Verizon (now Frontier) customer service rep. Jerry was home at the time so I requested his presence in my office and told him he needed to talk to the utility person to authorize me to do business with the utility. He did so, they supposedly noted his permission/authorization in the file, and I was able to complete my service request with the utility. Over the years, it took at least three additional calls to Verizon/Frontier before they stopped asking my husband to intervene to authorize everything I said to them. Dilemma solved, right?

WRONG.

We recently upgraded our internet from Frontier’s DSL, also known as slow-poke broadband, to internet service provided by our cable TV company, Wave. The new cable modem/router was installed and voila! Instead of a Download speed of 9.6 mbps, Wave’s Download speed is a wapping 100+ mbps. The primary user of our iMac computer – that would be me, The Little Woman – is thoroughly ecstatic with the improved service.

The day after unplugging Frontier’s DSL and plugging in Wave’s extraordinarily fast internet service, I called Frontier to cancel our internet service – but still retain our landline phone service with them – and the technician said, “Is this Jerry I’m speaking to?” to which I responded, “No, I’m, Irene, Jerry’s wife.” “I’m sorry, you’re not authorized to make changes to your service, is Jerry available?”

Imagine the top being blown off a pressure cooker on my end of the phone line.

“Oh, do not go there. My husband authorized my involvement with this account almost fifteen years ago and did so repeatedly each and every time you questioned my authority to the point where you finally stopped requiring Jerry’s personal authorization.”

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but if your husband is there to make the request, we’ll take care of this for him.”

I hung up on them. Five minutes later I called back to make the cancellation of service request, speaking in a lower voice and identifying myself as Jerry, and the customer service rep simply asked Jerry’s birthdate, which I provided, and presto-chango, our cancellation of internet service request was granted. Keep in mind, in the past when I successfully was able to get through to Verizon/Frontier to talk about our account, I had to provide Jerry’s birthdate, our account number, and the private PIN provided by the utility to verify my authorization capabilities. If they had asked that of Jerry – the authorized person – he wouldn’t have known where to find such information. Why? Because The Little Woman is also the Finance Manager for the Olson household. Bills get paid utilizing bank account resources because I set up these recurring charges to be paid automatically just as so many of you do for your own household. I move money around from one account to another, set up new accounts, fund them and the like because as the household Finance Manager, I am dedicated to keeping us financially organized, healthy, and comfortable in our retirement.

Am I mad at Jerry as a result of this fiasco? Not in the least. He was out of the house when this most recent matter occurred and when I relayed it to him he said, “Oh oh, I hope you didn’t hurt anyone too badly.” He thinks this whole authorization requirement is a joke, especially since he relies on me to manage everything having to do with our finances. He knows I’m quite accomplished at taking on these tasks and is thrilled that he doesn’t have to mess with the minutiae of managing this aspect of our lives.

I guess I can say I had the last laugh, however. Lowering my voice and using language patterns that might be common for the Man of the Household allowed me to wield the authority that up until now had fully evaded The Little Woman of the Household.

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Kindness Fridays

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One way of expressing kindness is by expressing gratitude.

Anytime we think we don’t need to thank someone for something they’ve said or done that meant something to us, we do them a disservice.

My husband and I have been gifted with daily gratitude each time we take care of our grandson during our daughter and son-in-law’s work week. We have a routine: our daughter drops off our grandson and all other items needed for his day with us and as she gets into her car she always says, “Thank you.”

Our son-in-law picks up our grandson after a grueling day of work outside and after securing our grandson into the backseat of his truck, he says, “Thanks you guys.”

We’ve been caring for our grandson a few days a week since early August and now with September coming to a close the routine is pretty much set in stone but what isn’t set in stone, what is always fresh and affirming, is that our grandson’s parents bend over backwards to express their gratitude for what we’re doing to enable them to go to work and not have to worry about the care their son is receiving.

Big deal, right?

It is absolutely a big deal. We thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with our grandson – it is such a privilege we have been given – and we enjoy seeing his parents each caregiving day.  Their expressions of gratitude never get old; every time they say “Thank you” I am filled with warm fuzzies that carry me through the day and the night. Such delightful adult children.

 

The secret of Alzheimer’s disease

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I discovered something shocking during the weeks that followed my novel’s release:

Alzheimer’s disease is still a secret.

I know; we’ve all certainly read about it, especially when a celebrity is diagnosed with the disease. Every once and awhile there might be an Alzheimer’s Association commercial on television…that is assuming we don’t fast forward through it or walk out of the room. Another reason we’re familiar with the disease is that it is happening to so many people with whom we are acquainted – whether intimately or tangentially.

But it’s still a secret. The very definition of the word speaks to its intent: adj. not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others; n. something not properly understood; a mystery. from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

In many of my promotional posts and boasts for my novel Requiem for the status quo, I’ve indicated that my book tour would probably look more like a senior center tour than what is normally the route for authors: readings and signings in major and independent bookstores. That’s the tact I took, approaching numerous senior centers in Western Washington. 25% of those I approached booked my author event on their activity calendars.  But when I approached a major senior housing community foundation to get on their speakers’ calendar, I was told the residents pushed back at the foundation’s previous efforts to enlighten and inform when they hosted those who spoke to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

Damn. Read the rest of this entry »

Author Celebration: Books about Alzheimer’s disease

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To celebrate my own book’s July 20th release, a book that’s about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, I am tooting the horn of other authors who have done the same, a few of whom I know personally.

There’s a high degree of sadness surrounding this list because almost without fail, those authors who have written memoirs, story collections, fiction, and non-fiction books have done so because of their own personal Alzheimer’s journey.

Ann Hedreen, Her Beautiful Brain – A Memoir. Ann lives in Seattle, Washington, and has provided valuable support to me through my own publication journey. To quote Amazon.com:

Her Beautiful Brain is Ann Hedreen’s story of what it was like to become a mom just as her beautiful, brainy mother began to lose her mind to an unforgiving disease.

I can not imagine the struggle Ann endured while being a new mother whose time and energy was already spread so thin when life happened to her and her household, in a manner hardly believable to so many of us.

Collin Tong, Seattle journalist, Into the Storm – Journeys with Alzheimer’s, a compilation of true stories that starts with the very personal story of Collin’s caregiving journey with his wife, Linda. Collin’s support of my project, telling me not to give up when so many agents and publishers wouldn’t give me the time of day, inspired me to keep on keepin’ on. His story collection is amazing. Again, quoting Amazon:

In his compelling new anthology, Into the Storm: Journeys with Alzheimer’s, twenty-three writers, journalists, educators, health practitioners, social workers, clergy and other family caregivers from across the United States share their intimate stories of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Each of the twenty-three stories are gems that you do not want to miss. I know you will be as impressed as I was by each and every one of them.

The next entry contains numerous authors and their books, found in one central location: AlzAuthors. The purpose for their site states:

We are AlzAuthors. In some way, each of us who have come together on this site have been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia. We share our experiences to bring knowledge, comfort, and understanding to others on this journey.

Click on this link to the AlzAuthors Bookstore to discover a wealth of informational and engaging books that will meet the needs of those who are caring for parents or grandparents, spouses or partners, those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, fiction books, books for children and teens, and those offerings that provide helpful information for one and all.

3rd Act Magazine, not a book, but a publication addressing the third act of one’s life, usually heavy on those of us who are Baby Boomers. This publication has so much to offer its readers. I, for one, am pleased that the subtitle of their magazine reads, Aging with Confidence. You got that right! You’re not done with us yet; we have so much to offer the world that is spread out before us.

And yes, all of the above-mentioned projects prove that a lifetime of experience – the good and the not so terribly good – equates to having something to say, and not being afraid to say it. Which brings me to my part in that effort:

Requiem for the status quo is currently available at just about any bookstore you can walk into or find online. If a particular store doesn’t currently stock my novel, simply request that they order one for you and you should be able to get your hands on it in short order. You can order Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Be sure to shop around for the best price, you won’t be sorry you did. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th. Additionally, would you like your local library to carry my novel? Simply ask them; quite often they are quite willing to accommodate individual requests.

Requiem for the status quo is dedicated to my father, Don Patrick Desonier, who wore his disease with the dignity it did not deserve.

I love you Dad.

 

 

 

 

The family caregiver’s hope quotient

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Each person reading this post has experienced a time when their hope quotient was at an all time low.

The definition of hopeless: 1) feeling or causing despair about something; 2) inadequate, incompetent.

When life happens, as it always does regardless of our preferences, we’re bound to find ourselves unable to manufacture even a modicum of hope to get us through the circumstances in which we find ourselves:

  • The loss of a job and the financial repercussions resultant from that loss.
  • Crimes against our body or our property.
  • Relationship disruptions.
  • The devastating diagnosis of a debilitating disease: cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease.

Hope isn’t what a person feels when the rug has been yanked out from underneath them and their very existence as they knew it, maybe even just five minutes earlier, takes an irreversible turn.To be sure, that’s how quickly hope can take a nosedive. Equally as quick, we can not imagine we will ever feel happy again, nor can we imagine not being overwhelmed with how life has showed up. In an instant, our level of hope took a nosedive. Read the rest of this entry »

Kindness Fridays

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Today’s installment combines two passions of mine: kindness and hiking.

Since my husband’s retirement in April of 2016, we’ve managed to hike every week except during the winter months. Now with the snow a distant memory on most of the Pacific Northwest trails, we’re well into this year’s hiking season.

On Tuesday of this week, we headed out to Barclay Lake located in the lower Stevens Pass area of western Washington. This was a new hike for me and one perfectly suited for a sprained right foot, mine, needing a bit of coddling while on its healing journey. The hike was just under 5 miles and only had an elevation gain of 500 feet.

About two miles into our hike and a half mile from the lake, a couple in their late 60s were making their descent and as I always do for every hiker we meet on the trail, I greeted the man and woman which then encouraged them to pause and spend some time with us. This couple hiked 30 times last year – to our 18 times – which seriously encouraged me to continue our hiking activities during the winter season, albeit on trails at lower elevations to avoid snow encounters along the way. The kindness extended was the mutual sharing of favorite hiking destinations: for us, it was Margaret Lake, for them, Bowen Bay.

My husband and I, geared up.

The excitement from each couple describing their particular trail favorite created a commonality of experience that went beyond any differences we may harbor within ourselves, be they political, religious, life experience, or otherwise. The four of us agreed that being out in nature and accomplishing our individual hiking goals contributed greatly to our quality of life.

On the trail, differences in beliefs or political leanings simply don’t come into play. And that, my friends, is a glorious way to experience kindness.

 

The Alzheimer’s caregiver: NOT a fictional character

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REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, to be released July 2017, contains fictional characters right out of yours and my reality. If your life hasn’t been impacted by caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you are at least tangentially connected to someone who has been.

  • A parent’s senior moments transform into hair-raising episodes of wandering and getting lost at all hours of the day and night during varied seasonal temperatures that may very well threaten their lives.
  • The husband who was Mr. Fixit for all home repairs, big and small, no longer knows how to use a screwdriver, and becomes combative when challenged.
  • A sister’s successful writing career is derailed when she can no longer write coherently or understand the written word.
  • The middle-aged next door neighbor pounds on your front door demanding entry to his home and threatens to call the authorities if you don’t immediately vacate the premises.

Variations of these scenarios abound, and within those story-like confines exist the caregivers who have been thrust into a role for which they were not prepared, derailing their status quo – their normalcy – beyond recognition. These same caregivers had very full lives before their days became what has become the caregiver’s  36-Hour Day. Any down time they enjoyed prior to stepping into their ill-fitting caregiver shoes has been filled with doctors’ appointments, loved one-sitting, and putting out fires. Carefully crafted family and retirement plans are no longer feasible because life as the caregiver once knew it no longer exists.

REQUIEM will give readers an intimate look at a caregiver’s day-to-day reality while also endeavoring to provide hope for what lies ahead. To be sure, there are no happy endings, but promises of resolution and lightness spring forth in the least likely of places and during some of the most awkward of times. Whether you are a caregiver, a former caregiver, or know someone who is, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO will become a most cherished and often-read bookshelf addition.