Category Archives: Bio
Everywhere Orion and I went this week it was busy. Maybe it was my timing, but busier than what I usually find all the same.
I took Orion to get his haircut and we waited a good 1/2 hour on a walk in appointment. Now, I could have “checked in on-line”. I could have gone earlier in the afternoon. I could have gone during the week and not on a weekend. Sometimes I do. Often I don’t. This week, things were busy.
We went to the movies, afternoon matinee. I was hoping for Christopher Robin thinking we might be hitting the “naptime” show. Things never bode well when ALL the accessibility spots are filled. When that happens I’ll often say, “forget it.” But I really wanted to be out and about with Orion. (Dinner at the theater rather than cooking was also a bonus feature.)
I didn’t get into the movie I wanted. All the accessible seats were filled. In a matinee for Christopher Robin! I guess nostalgia goes a long way. There was another movie on my list screening at the same time. We snagged the some of the last seats for Mama Mia 2.
Because we stood in line for food and read the tickets wrong about which theater we were going to, we missed some of the previews. Not only that, there were people in our seats! An elderly couple, who needed accessible seating and were hoping to sit together. Guys…..
It all worked out, kindly and peaceably. Minnesota nice does occasionally help. The movie was not as much fun as the first, but still a summer romp. We went home and listened to ABBA for the rest of the evening.
Even the grocery store (co-op) was busy. There it wasn’t so much the volume of customers in the store. It was more the staff desperately trying to restock from what looked like hoards of shoppers we’d just missed. Still managed to find what I was looking for, pretty fresh vegetables!
I guess I just wanted to be a grasshopper this week and everyone else decided to be ants. busy busy.
I got a notice from Word Press congratulating me on my blogging anniversary. Go figure. I can’t imagine going into this with any hope of writing for 7 years, this is my 338th post. Funny how time flies when you’re having fun.
To celebrate, I had coffee and scones with a friend rather than actually posting this. Hoping when I do get around to it it’s still Monday. Lol
I’ve been doing quite a bit of out and about in the last week. Karina had me over for breakfast. I spent the weekend with my parents. Did some cooking and shopping with them. The cooler weather has made a difference. They get the new furnace/air conditioner in later this week.
It’s felt a little like fall in the air. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about Lammas. I’ll refer you to past posts and take a little anniversary vacation. Thanks for reading!
I’ve been writing this blog in my head all week. I just can’t seem to find a theme I can stick with for more than a paragraph or two. Or, if I’m honest with myself, a sentence or two.
Regular readers will know a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was this last weekend. I’m in the second or third tier of mourners. Tier one – the decision makers and those truly being overwhelmed with waves of grief. Tier two – the organizers. The ones asking the decision makers what they want and striving to make it happen. The people whose grief makes them prickly, rude, short-tempered, unclear and perfectly sure they have everything in line because keeping things in line is how they cope. Tier three – the support system for the first two tiers. The listeners. The worker bees. The one’s who are distant enough to put off their mourning until it’s convenient (at least a little more effectively).
Having the memorial made it real. That’s part of the point of course. Being gifted some mementos makes it real and personal (which it has always been, but denial is so convenient). Having nothing left to “get done” means there is no longer an excuse to put off the emotional response.
I’m sure the death certificate doesn’t say my friend died of cancer. But it is certainly the undiagnosed and untreated cancer that caused the heart failure.
I’m grateful my friend didn’t die alone at home, but had people around her who cared about her.
I’m grateful my friend went quickly, all at once, rather than having to slowly and painfully waste away.
I’m grateful her very elderly mother dared to get on a plane and put herself in the hands of a community of her daughter’s friends whom she had never met.
I’m grateful for the presence of people who spoke about areas of my friend’s life that I wasn’t privy to.
I’m angry that a cancer that large and impactful goes undiagnosed for so long. I’m angry that the complaints of a large woman (both exceptionally tall and not willowy) are dismissed by our medical community as always being about weight. I’m upset that no matter how good the insurance you’ve got, unless you know what to ask for medicine is practiced according to the insurance company guidelines rather than actual medical need.
I had breakfast today at Gilda’s Club. It’s a sort of monthly social event. At Gilda’s I am surrounded by people living with cancer, many of whom know they have no hope of a cure. I am always buoyed up by the spirit of care and acceptance. I am reminded that there is pain and sorrow, but also hope and joy.
I’m putting one foot in front of the other. Step by step.
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.
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.