Author Archives: lisaspiral
The only thing that is certain is that things will change. When I was up at my parents (see last week’s blog) one of the things I did was help my Mother send sympathy cards. Her brother’s father-in-law passed, not unexpectedly. Thing is my parents actually had a relationship with the in-laws and my Mom still hasn’t quite reconciled with being unable to physically show up when these things happen. And of course, given the age group, they happen with some regularity.
The other passing that warranted a response from her was the second husband and truly life partner of an old friend. Again, this was not an unexpected death. All the same it’s the first time I’ve ever heard my Mother admit, “I don’t know what to say.” The reason she doesn’t know is because she’s not there. My Mother always made a point to BE THERE for the people she cares about.
Last week another friend, my age, died suddenly and unexpectedly. This has left many people in my community reeling. I’m doing what I can to show up.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I couldn’t show up. Sometimes I’ve been physically unable to. I have lost friends because I didn’t show up when they needed me. My physical limitations (up to and including being in the hospital) apparently were not an adequate salve for the feeling of betrayal.
Occasionally I haven’t been able to show up because some obligations trump others. I’ve always been proactive about trying to make sure that there is either notice or some kind of substitute in place. I’m sorry, sick kids and other family needs have to come first. Everyone who knows me well has heard me bemoan being unable to hold a “real job” because I am on call to Orion’s medical needs. Still they are surprised and hurt when that same issue comes up and impacts “sure I’ll help you with that project”.
The thing about showing up for other people is that when you do what you can, when you can sometimes you get lucky. Grief is an odd thing, and it doesn’t just stop. Sometimes that card that gets sent months later comes in at exactly the right time. Sometimes the phone call, “I can’t be there because my own life is falling apart.” provides some distance, or perspective or just an opportunity for a friend to get out of their own head. Sometimes not being there in the moment has made me available for the long haul.
Last week my women’s group did an honoring of Frieda Kahlo on the anniversary of her death. That was 64 years ago and people are still being impacted. People still show up when they can. I believe it still makes a difference.
We spent all of the 4th of July week (and both weekends) up at my folks house. It was quite the event. Small resort towns around the Brainerd Area do big celebrations. We didn’t watch any fireworks, but we could hear them. Every evening!
Because we came up, Dad got to get several things checked off his “to do” list. He went to a meeting, got his snow blower tuned up, and put new tires on the car. He also had his buddy Orion along for 3 parades and a trip up to International Day at Concordia Language Villages
Orion attended Waldsee, the German village, with his Opa as his aid for 10 years starting 20 years ago. It was fun for the two of them to return to their old stomping grounds. There were even several people there who remembered them from years gone by. The old Dean, Karl, noticed them across the way and stopped what he was doing so he and his wife could catch up with Jager and Opa.
I kept Mom occupied while the boys were out and about. Ordinarily we’d be taking things easy at home, but the air conditioning died the day I arrived. So we had our own “out and about” adventures. We decided it was too hot to be home and went out for a drive and pizza.
We collected my sister, Andrea, and ran errands in Brainerd. (That really meant lunch at Prairie Bay and Mom sitting in the air conditioned car while one or the other of us ran into the store.)
We ate pretty well at home too. When I’m there I do a lot of the cooking, or at least the meal planning. When I can stand it, I’ll enlist Dad’s help.
That’s especially true for grilling. I’m more than happy to let him set up the coals and carry things back and forth, at least most of the time. We’re still in mourning about that beautifully cooked salmon.
Dad did have a chance to redeem himself. At my request he made mussels and a fresh focaccia to go with them. Even Orion thought they were really tasty!
It was a great trip. We had a great time. It was also pretty physically demanding. The drive took at least an hour longer than usual – in both directions. The heat and humidity was draining, and it wasn’t always easy to breathe. General household chores (which I do more of up there than at home) take their toll, as do extra transfers with Orion and massage work on Mom.
Now I’m glad to be home, laying on my back on an ice pack.
Sorry about not being able to get the photos aligned properly.
Exercise is a “bad” word in my book. I won’t say it’s a “trigger”. I don’t have a dramatic response to it. But there is definitely a knee-jerk temper-tantrum, “NO!” that happens deep in my soul.
I certainly have the trauma. Years and years of everything from embarrassment, failure, and humiliation in PE classes take a toll. I have more PE injuries (some of them quite dramatic) than success stories in my background.
Even trying to keep up physically with my friends has always been a challenge. There’s the bike trip where the athletes were riding 12 speeds and I had everything I could do to get my 3 speed up the hills. There were the tree forts I couldn’t play in because I have NEVER been able to climb a rope. There was the ski trip where I finally told my boyfriend to go ahead I’d be in the hot tub when he got off the slopes.
Then there have been rounds and rounds of physical therapy. Insurance is happy to pay for 6 visits of PT if you’ve got a joint issue, but they won’t pay for any kind of accountable follow-up program. I’m good for about 3 months (including the actual time in PT). Then I feel better and stop.
Unfortunately I’ve come to recognize that my sedentary habits are not helping me maintain all the gains I made from having the bariatric surgery. My surgeon and my chiropractor agree. Just because I would rather sit at home with a good book than do anything that might be slightly physically demanding doesn’t mean I should. Of course recognizing an issue and actually dealing with it are two entirely different problems!
So this week I’ve parked a little farther out (except when Orion is in the car.) This week I’ve made myself step out into the neighborhood for a short walk or two. This weekend I scheduled “out and about” events for myself just to be a little more active.
We’ll see how long I can keep it up. As long as it’s not “exercise”.
So many wars, so many lives. Some were fought over an ideology, and won, and yet we still contest that ideology. Some were fought over resources, because a desperate enough people will do anything to try and survive. Most were fought because someone was afraid of losing something, and many who fought lost everything.
I have mixed feelings about this day. I appreciate the sacrifice of those who have fought for my freedoms. But I grew up during Vietnam. I understand war to be instigated by the wealthy and powerful in order to protect their wealth and power and fought by the poor and less fortunate. Give us your life, we’ll give you an education doesn’t sit well with me.
I know we did not do well by those who fought in Vietnam. We, as a country, had yet to learn how to hate a war and still honor those who served.
Is it an honor to serve in a war that was lost? I don’t believe might makes right. Just because you win doesn’t mean you are more just, or moral, or worthy. But, for example, I struggle to honor those who lost their lives fighting on the losing side in our civil war. Their families, though, certainly believe them to be honorable and do not want them forgotten.
Is any war really won? WWII, a war that had a clear moral victory, the war fought by “the greatest generation” we won. Today we can have Nazi’s marching in the streets and our president insisting they are good people. Is that what those lives were sacrificed to achieve?
As a Wiccan I do work with ancestors. When they talk about fighting the good fight they are not encouraging fisticuffs. They generally have a broader view in death than they did in life and would like to broaden my view as well. They encourage me to understand better and more fully. They want me to speak and educate and ask for what I desire. Sometimes that’s scary for me. It’s rarely easy.
That fear, of finding out that we are wrong, of learning that there is more to a situation than we thought, of admitting we don’t know everything, that is, ultimately, why we have wars. If it wasn’t so scary to find a better solution, we probably would. If a better solution than giving up your life was available, wouldn’t you take it?
So honor the ancestors this Memorial Day. Honor those who have given up their lives in service to this country. Honor them by demanding we find a better way, a real win.
This is the third blog post I’m writing today. The first one was lovely, until it wasn’t. I started somewhere and ended up doing a writing catharsis exercise. No one needs to read that. Self indulgence happens sometimes. It generates ideas sometimes. It generates beautiful tortured poetry sometimes. This time it needed to be put aside so I could move on.
Blog post number 2 was perfect. I took my theme and ran with it. I had photos all cropped and pasted just where I wanted them. I had a message, love, family and all that. I also somehow managed to create it as a page rather than a blog post. I set it aside and ran off to a doctors appointment thinking I could fix it when I got back. Nope. Somehow I managed to erase all but the first and last sentence. Irretrievable.
So here I am again thinking it’s Monday after Mother’s Day and I really “should” put out something. Orion promised me he was looking forward to reading what I wrote while he was at his day program. Haha. (I think he just wanted to see the photos he was in.) But now I’m tired and crabby and the sun has disappeared behind the clouds.
In the post I lost I talked about gardening and spring and after I wrote it I was looking forward to getting my hands in the dirt this afternoon. Given the sudden shift in the weather, and the fact I still have some writing to do, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
Some days just go like that. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.
We went from 2 feet of snow to 85 degrees up here in Minnesota. It’s crazy weather and has me behind in the yard. I’m always behind in the yard, but this year that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. The consensus up here is that it’s now summer and we had 1 beautiful day of spring.
Some of the season’s work isn’t actually in the yard at all. I took a load to Goodwill. I took my car to the car wash. I’m trying to figure out what to do with all the “stuff” I’ve brought back from my parents house. It’s not easy keeping motivated.
One day this weekend I threw my hands in the air and bought one of those outdoor storage benches. I wanted to get the yard furniture cushions out of my dinning room. I expected to shove a bin in the back of my car. Silly me. Instead it was a box, and directions.
Apparently the current world view is that pictographs are much easier to follow than words. That’s only true if you’re in translation with a bad editor, but hey. I was more than half way through the project before I got to the step that said, this step requires 2 people. I DON’T HAVE 2 PEOPLE! But I am determined and managed despite having “inadequate tools” for the job.
I seem to be in the one step forward two steps back mode. (I know, it’s supposed to go the other way around but it sure doesn’t feel like it.) I did 5 minutes of trimming brush before I got wacked on the head with a buckthorn. Little branch, hit me just right. Thorn cut the skin, head wound, lots of bleeding but actually no big deal. Still, it made me much less ambitious about the project.
I did give myself a reward by making a lovely dinner. If only I could figure out how to use the grill….
Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free. That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems. It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.
Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations. Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations. The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years. There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.
Last week was our big annual fundraiser. The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area. Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support. We continue to imagine and to grow. That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money. I put in some extra hours last week to help out.
The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer. They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs. They were one of the first groups that offered free testing. They also provide education and support to their members.
I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have. One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life. Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project. It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.
In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life. (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.) We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant). We just got lucky.
We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided. We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants. It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.
Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation. We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed. We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.
How do you support your community?
I’ve been posting a little inconsistently because I’ve been spending a lot of weekends “up north” at my parent’s house. As they age their needs have changed. Mom is mostly using a walker to get around, even in the house. She’s really needing a wheelchair if she’s out and about.
There was a big effort in March to get Mom a hospital bed to sleep in. She can use the adjustability. It will also help to have the grab bars just to roll over. We acquired a bed from one of the relatives (in the next state over). The logistics of getting the bed here and installed have been daunting.
The biggest dilemma in all of this has been space. My parents hang on to everything. As my Mom has lost track of what she has, she’s found the need to “replace” things that never were lost. We’ve seen them using what we would call rags and bought new as well. Then we discover the problem is just that the new stuff is being “saved for special.”
We are repeatedly invoking the mantra “Use the stuff! If you don’t use it, then toss it.” We’re at the point where the hospital bed is ready to install and the white gloves come off. We’ve spent the last weekend cleaning, decluttering and tossing. The whirlwind also included putting in new faucets in all the sinks (to stop the dripping).
It’s been a little distressing, a little disgusting, and required a lot of patience. The end result is that Mom can actually take her walker into any room in the house. Furniture has been moved and cleaned behind and under that had been collecting dust for 20 years. There is still a lot to do, but this is a good stopping point.
There is a lot of disorientation, especially on Mom’s part. It will take her some time to get used to the space. Dad has to touch everything that’s been put away and make sure that his most precious memorabilia is where he can get his hands on it at a whim. I’m sure in a couple of weeks piles will begin to accumulate again. Better is still better.
Thanks to my sister Andrea, her husband Butch, her son Zac and his SO Darcy, and Andrea’s daughter Alyx (who spent the weekend scrubbing). I couldn’t have touched this job and they took the lead on all of it. I’m thankful to be able to help at all. 5 years ago, I couldn’t have done anything.
Our culture has lost track of the sacredness of caring for our elders. We don’t have the time, services, support or even the examples of how to handle this. We are trying to do this work from a distance. 3 hours is no distance from my parents compared to what many of my friends deal with. Very few of us anymore have the resources to take our aging parents into our homes. We do what we can, and are grateful for the opportunity.
I’m tired of snow. So is everyone else. There’s a whole lot of grumpy going on.
This last batch I’m sure many people just left to melt. Indeed, the parts I didn’t shovel are pretty much cleared with the day’s sunshine. Unfortunately I couldn’t just ignore it. Orion’s transportation depends on a clear path from the road to the house. Pushing the wheelchair in even 1″ of snow is a whole different chore.
I have a huge blister on my palm. It’s from a sugar burn I got last Thursday. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t broken it yet, but it is a challenge. It made shoveling especially exciting this morning.
My Facebook feed is filling up with photos of blooms. Even here people have their seeds started indoors and there are pretty little sprouts peaking up. Not me. I can’t even bring myself to look through the garden catalogs.
I tried picking up some tulips. The “happy flowers” helped for a day or two. I tried a fire in the fireplace. That was great until I ran out of inside wood and couldn’t bring myself to trudge through the snow to unbury more. I tried baking (see above sugar burn). Even getting deep into a good book is difficult.
I’m antsy. I have spring fever. I want to open the windows. I want some light. Instead I’m curled up in a sweater with a cup of hot tea scrolling through re-runs.
What’s your cure for cabin fever?