coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The World Gets Smaller

Death is relentless. Last week a cousin died at 66 from cancer. This week my son-in-law's stepfather died in his sleep. He was 76 and very much a beloved part of our small family here in Central Florida. There was a time when these seemed like reasonable ages to die, but not in 2016. Not when I am 65. Now, I just feel like they have been cheated. But then again, who am I to say?

When I was young I found death terrifying. Perhaps I will be terrified when Death comes for me, I'm not making any promises! However, the more "other" deaths I experience, the more dying becomes the new normal. Yes, it diminishes our lives and relationships. Our world becomes increasingly smaller with each passing. We suffer the losses. Yes, this is all true. You know what I mean.

Aging can seem like a great battle; the kind where you know you are losing but it still must be finished with courage and valor. So you fight on, with comrades falling all around. In my last post I talked about how, in an alternate universe, I might have become a good soldier. I feel that way again today. The living endure. Because I am a mother and a grandmother, I will start cooking and baking. There will be people to feed.  
Saw palmetto growing after a controlled burn, Lake Louisa, Florida

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


In an alternate reality I would have made a good soldier. I have a gift, at least I think it is a gift. I don't react to crisis in the moment. Instead, I fight. It isn't until a few days or even a week later that the gravity of the situation fully hits me and I collapse. 

I am exhausted with worry about all the things happening in the world right now. This will pass.  Not the worry, not the need to fight; those are going to stick around for a long, long time. I am talking about the exhaustion. I know fatigue is a natural reaction in times of great loss and extreme stress, so I am not particularly concerned about how I feel right now. I have been taking it easy the past few days, trying to get some rest. Today I have to get up off the couch and start tackling Thanksgiving preparations. That will be a good reason to re-enter polite society. 

My oldest sister, Sister C, shared this with me right after the presidential election. I find this song by Sly and the Family Stone as inspirational now as I did in the late 1960's. It is going to help me stand up and get on with my life. It reminds me how good strength feels. It reminds me that in the dark times of the soul, artists create art, musicians create music, actors allow us to see the world through another person's eyes. They turn their pain into art, and they uplift us all in the process.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. Like so many of you, I will be thankful for my family. Today I am thankful for Sly Stone. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

And THEN she told Mom when to die

The Baby Sister Chronicles: Part II 😎

My mother's Parkinson's Disease continued to progress. A couple years after the delirium incident she moved to an assisted living facility for a few more years. It was only in her last year she was bedridden and confined to a nursing home. Despite having a husband, 3 children, and a full time job, Baby Sister went to see her every single day, advocating and watching out for Mom. As you can imagine, they formed a special bond.

In late February 2015, Mom had a massive stroke rendering her more or less unresponsive. I had overnight duty at the nursing home for much of the last week Mom was actively dying. On the morning of the 7th day a favorite nurse came in to check Mom's vital signs. After a few moments the nurse said to me with great tenderness and liquid eyes, "Today is the day; she doesn't have much longer." I called the usual suspects and let them know to come right away. Sister C was the first to arrive. Big D was next. Baby Sister was at work and arrived later than the others. She was kind of dragging her feet! I have anxiety issues and I was afraid she would arrive too late. I repeatedly texted her to get her rear in gear. Baby Sister calmly and firmly insisted there was time. Why do I ever doubt her?

I was not sure if Mom could hear, but I kept telling her Baby Sister would be there soon. When Baby Sister arrived she went straight to the bed, kissed our mother three times on the forehead and said "Ma, we all love you so much, but now it's time to go to sleep." Within 15 minutes Mom took her last breath. 

Baby Sister is getting kind of embarrassed with all the attention, so I need to stop writing about her for a while.  However, I am only lying low and biding my time. This won't be the last you will hear about her.

To my followers - sorry for all the versions of this. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

That time Baby Sister healed the sick

I read (click here) about a medical condition called delirium that can result when older people have surgery. It mimics dementia, but is usually not permanent. This happened to my mother (Teresa) in 2007 when she had back surgery at age 81.

She was fine going into surgery, but a very different person woke up. Angry, distrustful, paranoid, and confused, she thought her children were out to get her. We still laugh (to abate the horror) about when she lay in the hospital bed pretending to read the newspaper. She was actually furtively monitoring my brother (Big D) and Baby Sister. How did we know? Her eyes darted back and forth over the newspaper, which was upside down.

Her doctor knew what was going on. He admitted her to the rehab side of a nursing home for a few months to recover her senses and get back on her feet (literally). However, Mom forgot she was too weak to get up by herself or walk without a walker. Consequently, she kept falling. That made her an insurance risk for the "home." She also refused to follow directions, hallucinated, and was uncharacteristically rude. They labeled her as a dementia patient, even though that was not what she was suffering from.

This took place in Indiana. About a month into her convalescence I went there for a week to help my siblings convince the rehab center that Mom needed further physical therapy. The rehab people thought she was a goner. They were ganging up on Baby Sister, urging her to end therapy and permanently admit Mom to the long-term care part of the nursing home.

Baby Sister was Mom's principal caregiver. She was not ready to give up on Mom. Our mother had Parkinson's Disease. We knew the time would come when she would need to go into end-of-life nursing care, but if Baby Sister (an absolute powerhouse of a woman) thought it wasn't time yet, well, we sure weren't going to argue with her.

The rehab people gave up on Mom. They stopped making her try to walk to the dining hall, keeping her in a wheelchair instead. Baby Sister knew that meant Mom would never walk again, meaning she would never go home, meaning she could be forever traumatized and unable to care for herself. So Baby Sister decided to make Mom walk.

I was there the first time Baby Sister pulled Mom out of the wheelchair and positioned her in front of the walker. It was a little disconcerting, but Baby Sister is no one to trifle with. If she says "Walk!" the lame will walk! It took forever to get from Mom's room to the dining hall. One of Mom's aides passed us in the hallway. I heard her mutter under her breath, "Damn, Teresa is WALKING!"

A couple months later my telephone rang. Who should be on the other end but my sweet, sweet Momma, back from LaLa Land. She wanted to hear how I was doing. She had no idea how long she had been "gone" and remembered very little about the past 4 months. She was back in her little apartment, walking with a walker, happy, fiesty, and ornery. Our Momma was back. Thanks Baby Sister, for never giving up.

To be continued...

Mom in 2009.  She died in 2015.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

You can't get rid of me THAT easy.

I just read a comment on FB encouraging angry protesters to move to Canada.  Ha!  That made me laugh. 

Move to Canada? No, I think maybe I'll stay right here in Florida and work for change. 

It cracks me up when people pretend to be shocked and outraged at the backlash from these "marching in the streets" Millennials. The GOP never accepted Obama as their president and obstructed him long and hard for 8 years. The young have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I do not approve of obstructionism or disrespect. Like it or not, our obsolete Electoral College system has given us someone we do not want.  Shit happens. I support working within the system to promote peaceful and rational progressive change. I encourage others to do the same. However, I am not going to lie.  I look forward to watching activism flower in the hearts and minds of young people in these United States.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Guilt Trippers and Fixers

In my not-so-humble, completely non-medical opinion there is no virtue to suffering in silence. Repressing your emotional pain is convenient for some people around you (the ones who do not want to notice you are in pain), but it is bad for your mental and physical health. Words have power. Speaking the truth "might" set you free."

There are obvious caveats to consider. I trust you to know what they are. Still, emotional pain will not go away by ignoring it. It wants to be felt, processed, and released. Unacknowledged emotional pain festers and screams like an angry crowd; it demands to be heard.
If you want pain to dissipate then you will have to chew it up and spit it out, not suck it up. Geez-o-Pete, do you want to end up with the psychological equivalent of a sinus infection? Emotional pain is powerful stuff. Left unattended it will find insidious ways to get your attention despite all your good intentions for "soldiering on." 

If you are lucky, you might have a friend who is a good listener. Sadly, I am not talking about a "fixer" friend. Fixers are good hearted people who care about you and want very much to help. However, they have their own pain to contend with. Their pain makes it hard for them to just listen to you speak the unspeakable, even though they really, really want to. I know because I am a fixer... I am freakin' useless sometimes, jumping in ready to fight other people's fights, warding off evil, controlling the hell out of every thing, frantically filled with "good ideas" and best intentions. Sometimes I exhaust myself (and others). Maybe most of the time.

When I am in pain but I don't have a friend who is a good listener, I pay someone to listen to me. Why not? In fact, seeing a gifted therapist is often the best way for me. However, if I cannot afford (or find) a gifted therapist, then I keep a private journal. I write whatever comes to mind. I like to imagine converting emotional pain into words is a magical release spell. Humor me if you can. I'm trying to fix things here. Relaxare!

I try
not to pay attention to guilt trippers. You know, the people who infer that your pain is self-indulgent and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. If I feel it, it is real. I cannot help fight the world's pain if I haven't first resolved my own. Guilt trippers want to shut us up and shut us down. That doesn't seem helpful or kind, does it? To be honest (and compassionate) guilt trippers probably do this because they have their own unresolved pain. I get it. I know they mean well. Still, they can get in the way of personal growth just as effectively as us fixers.

I want to be helpful, kind, and compassionate. I also want to be thankful, grateful, and look on that damn bright side. Truly. But I also want to be honest, courageous, and strong. Sometimes that involves facing your own pain first. THEN you can safely help the passenger in the seat next to you put on their oxygen mask.

I might have stolen that last sentence from some other blogger's recent blog. It sounds disturbingly familiar. If I have stolen your thought and you read this, please comment so you can take credit for it. I will apologize. It will assuage my guilt.

Sometimes I think Jiminy Cricket was just a nagging, chirping grasshopper

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs Win!!!!

I am a sucker for the underdog.  Here is my litany for this morning:

I believe in magic 
I believe in grace
I believe in mathematics and the laws of probability
I believe in hard work and determination
I believe that curses can be overcome
I believe that hope abounds 
I believe I will never call them "The Lovable Losers" again 


I wish my Mom was still alive and could have watched that game last night.  The Cubs used to make her so mad, but she never gave up on them.