Baby boomer

Baby Boomer Resilience

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How resilient are you?

How readily do you bounce back when you’ve been cut off at the knees?  when you’ve experienced a long streak of bad luck?  when your hopes and dreams are just that: hopes, and dreams?

I am inspired to write this brief piece today because of an extraordinary act of resilience that I witness about this time each year.

Eleven years ago my daughter opened up a bridal party business that was very successful.  She started the business in August 2003 and the Grand Opening of the store occurred in March of that same year.  One of her vendors, a custom jewelry designer, sent her a live plant in celebration of her store’s opening.  The sweet smelling floral plant was appropriately named, Bridal Veil (stephanotis floribunda).

I had the privilege of working at my daughter’s boutique from its inception, and then off and on when she needed extra help with the bridal parties.  Approximately two weeks after her store’s opening, the Bridal Veil plant had come to its seasonal end so I took it home and planted it in my backyard, just underneath my kitchen window, cutting the greenery down to the dirt.  Flower resilienceAnd every year about this time, the Bridal Veil shoots break through the ground and seem to announce, “Spring is back and so am I.”

I am certain that you know people who have exhibited far more heroic and miraculous resilience than this silly plant’s arrival each year – so have I – but I still can’t help but be impressed and pleased, each and every year that it does.  It has survived 100 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures and 10 degree temps, not to mention a blanket of snow that manages to cover it when the snow starts falling around Washington State.

But each year, it comes back, and each year, I’m still surprised and as pleased as Punch! Definition: feeling great delight or pride.

Many of us would give up at the first degree of scorching heat and we certainly might throw in the towel when the snowflakes start to fly.  I don’t want to be less resilient than the stephanotis floribunda.

Do you?

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Baby Boomers remember 11/22/1963

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Please answer the following two questions:

  1. What were you doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot? (West Coast Pacific Time for that was 10:28 a.m.)
  2. What did you feel as a result of his assassination – either right then and there and/or the days and weeks following?
English: John F. Kennedy, photograph in the Ov...
John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was in my 5th grade classroom at St. Bede the Venerable elementary school in La Canada, California, when suddenly, the school’s public address system came on in our classroom, broadcasting what appeared to be an urgent radio message.  The Principal of the school gave no preamble to the radio broadcast, it simply became suddenly audible in our classroom.  When I was able to focus, as a fifth grader, on what was being said, I recall hearing “The President of the United States has been shot; John F. Kennedy was shot during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas and is not expected to live.”  (Or words to that effect.)

My teacher, Sister Mary Fahan told us kids to put our heads down on our desk and pray.  It seemed so startling to me – it was a heavy moment for which us fifth graders didn’t have 100% understanding, but the young boys and girls in my classroom felt the heaviness of the moment anyway.  Many of us were crying at the words coming forth over the speakers in our classroom – urgent and shocking words that stuttered from the radio announcer’s mouth.

School was dismissed and when my sister, Mary, and I were picked up by our mom, we climbed into her red and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon and joined our tears and fears with those of our mother’s.

Then for the remainder of November and into early December, it seemed as though the only story being covered on our little black and white (somewhat brown and white) television screen were the news updates and somber funereal activities inherent with the death of a President.

I recall that after I recovered from the initial shock of the incident, the impatience of a nine-year old took over due to the bombardment of constant television coverage that echoed around the walls of our house.  I yearned for normalcy, and for me that meant a return to TV episodes of Lassie reruns and new episodes of My Three Sons.  Perhaps what we experienced during that 1963 tragedy is not unlike what the children of the 9/11 era felt when their lives were invaded by the tragedy that marks their young lives.

Unfortunately, there seem to be enough horrific world events going on that each and every generation’s children will have memories about which they will reflect as they enter their older years; just as us Baby Boomers reflect on November 22, 1963 and all the other tragedies that have invaded our lives since then.

Baby boomers – don’t throw in the towel!

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Baby boomers still rock | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Ms. Froma Harrop’s Opinion piece, linked above, challenges all of us Baby Boomers to not surrender to the other groups coming up in the generational ranks.

Are you done at 61?  Closing the door at 64?  Barely alive at 75?  Or are you skipping to my Lou at 82?

Come on everyone – don’t throw in the towel!  As Ms. Harrop said in her Opinion piece, “there’s nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is.”  I’m not saying that us Baby Boomers and older don’t have age-related changes – of course we do – but that doesn’t mean that nothing remains for us in the years ahead.  In my recent blog article, A surprising fete by a Baby Boomer! I complained about a Florida reporter’s characterization of something that a 55-year old woman was able to accomplish – even at her advanced age.  Click on the link to my article to get the full gist of my whining diatribe.

Circa 1960's; my dad running a marathon in his late 50;s.
Circa 1960’s: my dad running a marathon in his late 50’s.

I am not advocating that you suddenly decide to beat 64-year old Diana Nyad’s swimming record, unless, of course you feel like doing so.  I am advocating, however, that you explore what you’re able to do and capitalize on it.  Start a new business, volunteer for organizations that you support, or just keep working at your current job as long as you still want to.  Who’s stopping you?  My former father-in-law turned 90-years old on September 18, 2013, and he still plays tennis and is still working at his commercial real estate development company.  If Jimmy were to stop working, he’d probably collapse and die on the spot.  Why?  Because he enjoys being active and productive.  So should you.

Don’t let the younger folks – anyone less than 50-years old – have all the fun!  You can have fun too!  I turned 60-years old this past May.  I’ve always been an active person exercise-wise but most of that centered around taking lengthy neighborhood walks and gentle hikes.  My exceptional and persistent daughter, Erin, decided I could do more.  She purchased six sessions of Bar Method classes for each of us and presented it as my birthday/Mother’s Day gift.  “It’ll be fun!  Once you get there, I know you’ll love it.”

My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.
My daughter (the Bar Enforcer), me in the middle, and my sister Mary.

Very presumptuous on her part, but she was right!  After six sessions, Erin dropped out (she has other mind-boggling exercises that she does) but I continued with the program.  The biggest lesson that I learned through this process is that I can do more than I thought I could do.  Bar Method is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible.  After the first six lessons, I was able to conclude that a) it didn’t kill me; b) it didn’t disable me; and c) I kicked ass!  That’s right – I kicked ass.  I am in a class of mostly 20-50 year olds, and I not only keep up, but sometimes I outlast the younger students.  I go to class once a week and two to three additional times a week I exercise to the Bar Method DVDs at home – courtesy of my husband who installed a ballet bar in our exercise room.  Thanks hubby!

If you lack confidence, go find some!  If you’re hesitant to go it alone, find someone else with your same interests, and go for it together.

You are not done yet.  To quote Ms. Harrop, “Every age group brings something to the party.  And for every generation, the party’s not over until it’s over.”

What are you waiting for?  Come join the party!

Finding respite in the 21st century

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Dissecting disconnection: Why I’m taking the week off tech.

Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters.  She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”

Ah, respite – what a delightful concept.  Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks.  For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be.  Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.

Darth Gimp Cordless Phone
Cordless Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting.  OMG, MIK?  (Oh my god, am I kidding?)

No – I’m serious.  I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box.  I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.

Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday.  (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.)  But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting.  Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card.  You liked that feeling – didn’t you?  Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you.  That’s a one-on-one attention connection.

Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:

I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?

Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.

Baby steps towards Alzheimer’s diagnosis

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Amyloid Scanning Protocols Fail to Get the Nod from CMS.

I like the above article and every single article that mentions some sort of steps moving towards diagnosis and treatment, even steps that are stunted right out of the block.

Stillness gets us no where.  Although limited, at least this article discusses some progress towards shutting down Alzheimer’s and other dementias.  During a time where very little good news is forthcoming relating to this disease, I’ll take anything – thank you very much.

Alzheimer’s Answers; Are you ready to be a caregiver?

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Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Questions Answered | PBS NewsHour.  We need all the help we can get in order to make well-informed decisions about any caregiving journeys that might occur in our future.  The attached article shows a snapshot of one adult daughter’s 24/7 caregiving journey with her mother.

Perhaps you’re saying that you don’t anticipate your parents requiring any caregiving assistance in their frail years (perhaps your parents have already passed so no need exists there.)  Do you have any siblings? close friends? a significant other?  If you answered “yes” to any of those designations, the possibility exists that you will be called upon – or you’ll volunteer – to be of assistance to someone who needs help with their activities of daily living (ADLs).

Taking care of a loved one is no easy task.  It doesn’t matter how much you love the person, your patience and your abilities will be tested.  I truly admire the subject of this PBS article.  Rebecca Wyant is the full-time caregiver and guardian of her mother, Mary Wyant, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 65.  Mary moved in with her daughter in 2006, is now 74 years old, and Rebecca is in her seventh year of personally providing her mother with full-time care.

How does Rebecca do it?  She thought she was prepared for the task but soon discovered that finances, and creative ways of managing her mother’s care, are dwindling resources.  With that said, however, Rebecca states that she is the only person who can provide the care that she can.  She agrees that professionals could provide the care, but absolutely no one could possibly care for mom as Rebecca can.  That part of the video disturbs me a bit, and I’ll tell you why.

Dad, myself and one of his caregivers.
Dad, myself and one of his caregivers.

I was an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator for several years and heard the voiced concerns of those daughters, sons, and spouses, who carried a great deal of guilt on their shoulders for not being able to keep up with the care of their loved one.  They did provide the care initially, and then found their abilities wanting – and their health declining.  They eventually made the very difficult decision to place their loved one in an assisted care setting.

Here’s the story of “Constance” and “Robert.”  Constance first came to my support meeting at the age of 80 having already taken care of Robert at home for the previous three years since his diagnosis.  Constance’s health started to decline due to lack of sleep – Robert’s dementia had no respect for the clock.  Added to that dilemma was the fact that she had no existence outside of her house.  She was trapped!  Her friends abandoned her, all the social activities in which she had participated fell by the wayside, but she refused to move her husband into an assisted care setting, even though she felt they had the finances to support such a move – many do not and have no choice but to provide 100% of the care.  “No one can take care of Robert like I can.  I would never do that to him – placing him in someone else’s care.  That’s my duty as his wife; a duty I take seriously.”

Fast forward one year later, and Constance had no choice but to place Robert in an adult family home with five other residents; it was either that, or she would have been forced to relinquish her caregiving role because, quite frankly, she ran the risk of dying before Robert.  Once she relocated Robert to a care home, the well-trained staff provided all the assistance Robert needed, and Constance could now have the sole role of being his wife.  She visited him almost daily until the day he died one year later.

Constance admitted that she wished she had moved Robert to the adult family home earlier than she had because she realized that being a committed wife didn’t have to include caregiving that risked her own health.  She relished her reprised role as his loving wife when she visited him – none of the other care staff could fulfill that role but her – and the staff did what they do best, providing all the care her husband needed.

This is the nugget I want you to come away with from my above commentary: guilt and obligation are normal emotions that might prevent you from making decisions that may very well be in your best interests and those of your loved one.  Please believe that allowing someone else to take care of your loved one does not equate to you shirking your familial duties.  It does, however, tell me that you know your limits, and you know what is best for your personal situation in the long run.  Additionally, it shows that you value your long-standing role as a daughter/spouse/partner/sibling, more than any new role as a care provider.  There’s something to be said about retaining your given role in a relationship.

Caveat: as I indicated above, finding affordable care outside of ones home is no easy task, and you may have no choice but to provide the needed care for your loved one.  But if you are able to find trusted family or friends who can “spot” you from time to time so that you can enjoy a needed time of respite, please do so.  You’ll be far more able to carry out your caregiving task if you take care of yourself first.  See my article: Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.

Baby Boomers – what is your Mt. Everest moment?

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Associated Press News story  – Japanese climber, 80, becomes oldest atop Everest.

The above article chronicles a “competition” between two gentlemen in their 80’s who endeavored to become the oldest person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.   I’m happy to say that 80-year old Yuichiro Miura reached the summit successfully on May 23rd, 2013 and became the oldest person to do so.  Following on his heels is an 81-year old Nepalese man, Min Bahadur Sherchan, who will make his attempt some time next week, most likely making Mr. Miura’s 15 minutes of fame just a bit of has-been news as the Nepalese man takes his place as the oldest to successfully reach the summit.  Not many of us – alright, none of us – will reach the summit of Mt. Everest or even care to do so…

and that’s okay.

The last rays of sunlight on Mount Everest on ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all have Everest moments, don’t we?  Yuichiro Miura’s goal to summit Everest is not our goal.  Mr. Miura stated his reason/goal to climb Everest: “It is to challenge my own ultimate limit.”  We all have our personalized goals that involve reaching our own ultimate limit.  I’ve had many of those moments in my 60 years of life – some of them exercise related, but more importantly, most of them were personal growth related.  The most recent exercise goal has been the successful completion of two one-hour Pure Barre exercise classes…with three more to go in order to fully utilize the gift package that my daughter Erin gave me in honor of my 60 years.  We’re doing this together, and please know that my 37 year old daughter is in far better shape than I am  …  and that’s okay.  I am no expert on this type of exercise, and believe me, within minutes of completing each session, I’m in excruciating pain.  But that’s okay because those exercise sessions didn’t kill me nor did they disable me; they simply made me realize that I was up to the challenge of doing more than I thought I was able.

Isn’t that the key?  Maybe your Everest goal is finally having the courage to talk to someone about matters that concern you; or your Everest goal is changing jobs – or changing relationships; or perhaps your Everest summit is completing your high school or college education?  Whatever your goal – whatever your Everest – when you reach that goal you are no less newsworthy than Mr. Miura or Mr. Sherchan.  Quite frankly, what these octogenarians are doing is fabulous and I respect and honor their accomplishments – but I don’t admire their accomplishments any more than those of which you and I are the proudest.  Mr. Miura stated that a successful climb would raise the bar for what is possible and that he had a strong determination that now is the time.

Now is always the time – because it’s the only time we have.

I’ll complete the remainder of the exercise gift package that my daughter gave me.  Who knows, maybe I’ll buy some more sessions to continue on that journey – maybe I won’t.  What I do know, however, is that I will always set goals, and I will always do my best to reach them.

When you do your best – you’ve done the best you can.

I hope you’ll feel proud enough of your Mt. Everest moments to share them with all of us.  I, for one, can hardly wait to hear about them.