Category Archives: grattitude
I got to spend the weekend up at my folks helping to make a happy birthday celebration happen for my Mom. Fragile is not I word I would ever have thought to apply to my mother. She’s the strong one, who will do whatever is necessary no matter where she is at. She bounces back. Climbing mountains after surgery is something I learned from her. She’s “in charge” and keeping track of all the moving pieces at any event she attends. At 82 today, she struggles to reconcile a self image which she can no longer maintain.
She rarely goes out anymore. It’s hard for her to get around. It’s hard for her to sit in the car for any length of time. When there are a lot of distractions, or conversations going on she gets confused. My Mom has been dealing with chronic pain for a long time. Her allergies are severe and complicated enough that medicating pain isn’t an option, beyond an occasional Tylenol. Her mouth is dry, so eating and talking become impossible when she doesn’t have water at hand.
We took her 100 miles there and another 100 miles back to go out to lunch with a good sized group. I went a few days early so we could get her showered, lay out her outfit and do some massage therapy in advance. Just my presence gives her a space to gather her resources. I make sure her water glasses are always full so she doesn’t have to ask. I put food in front of her rather than quizzing her about what she might want and what is available. I do the dishes and sweep the floors, which are both really big jobs for her. She can bank a little reserve.
For her, it was more than worth it. She had a really good day. She enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to go to bed because she didn’t want the day to be over. My youngest sister couldn’t make it, but all the rest of the female children and grandchildren were in attendance. It was a girls day out. There were lots of leftovers, but she knew I would get them home and see that they were used. The wait staff sang happy birthday and fussed over her desert. We all tried to keep the table conversation with one person talking at a time. There was a lot of love.
I am so very fortunate to be able to help facilitate that kind of good day for my Mom. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to see her out and about and having a good time. It’s a joy to watch her relax and participate and let go of the worry of being “in charge”. I wish I could do more.
Happy birthday Mom!
Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house. She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings. I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!
My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise. Karina also didn’t make it. She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet. She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up. Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant. She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos. Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.
We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake. She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped. It was a great treat, especially for me. With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.
Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house. We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework. Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents. Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues. Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything. Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them. I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.
Friday morning we all slept in a little bit. The plan was for a lazy day. Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes. She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids. I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning. You need to go home – today.”
The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather. We were having an unseasonable thaw. All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch. It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report. I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!
So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box. We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat. At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.
It all turned out well in the end. Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home. I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season. I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!
I missed posting last week because of hunting season. We went up to my parents for the week. They don’t have the internet. We were up before dawn bundling up to sit in the cold and back again at dusk. In the meantime there were meals to make, housekeeping to tend to and just visiting.
The area we were in was pretty unrestricted but we did need to have everything inspected. There is a prion, like mad cow disease, that has been invading the deer herds. The state is trying to track its spread. Given that we hunt for meat rather than for trophies this is kind of important.
There are a lot of views on hunting and a lot of reasons to hold those views. I like wild meats and having them makes a significant impact on my very tight budget. My family has always supplemented the grocery budget this way, even the farmers. It makes sense to me to know that something has to die for me to eat.
Participating (even if it just means sitting with a gun in my lap waiting for Karina to shoot something) in this annual ritual is a way to connect to my heritage, my ancestry. Through both lines I come from northern climates, where hunting was an essential food supply. My people were not city folk, and even when they were they stayed involved with natural cycles.
Growing up in my family I’ve cleaned fish, tapped maple trees and weeded gardens. I’ve tried my hand at milking a cow and had pigs, chickens, and goats butchered to accommodate my visiting the farm. I’ve always known where my food came from.
Karina’s generation is even further removed from food sources than mine. As a chef food is important to her. In taking up hunting she is also committed to learning how to field dress an animal, how to process it and of course how to prepare the meat. The fact of the matter is that she’s the one doing all the work. I’m just making space in my freezer.
This year hunting was also an exercise in support. As my parents age it is become difficult for them to be as independent as they’d like. My Mom worries about my Dad’s eyesight. She worries about him carrying a loaded gun through the woods, tracking a deer on uneven ground. My Dad worries about my Mom being left alone too long. She has trouble getting around and has taken a fall or two herself.
Going up this year we could pretty much be sure My Dad wouldn’t have to go out alone. We could set Mom up for comfort and give her a “check-in” call before we wandered too far off. Orion stayed inside so they could “look out for each other”. Karina took charge of all the carrying. She says the beer kegs she’s been weighing each week at work are heavier than the deer. She also appreciates how easily things slide when you drag them on snow.
Now that I’m home I can look forward to some tasty meals. When I have them I’ll be grateful. I will be grateful for the deer that sacrificed its life. I’ll be grateful for my daughter taking care of me. I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to make memories with my parents. I’ll be grateful for my heritage.
The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting. The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood. There are ghosts walking.
I am at that age where parents die in clusters. This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy. I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”. I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more. It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.
This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled. Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time. Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent. They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once. And I take those phone calls. I listen. I witness. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’m looking for comfort too. I want to escape in a good book. I want a fire in the fireplace. I want a pot of soup on the stove. For my ancestors those things were just part of the days. Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured. (I didn’t, but I can.) Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones. Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.
Baking is part of that comfort factor as well. A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell. Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.
There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives. We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”. Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time. In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday. How are you going to use it?
I love this time of year. I like the cooler weather. I like wearing sweaters. I like the light and the colors in the leaves. Fall harvest has me making soups and baking.
I struggle at this time of year. I have serious mold and dust allergies that always gets worse until we have a good hard freeze. The temperature swings (I live in Minnesota. It can be 35F one day and 80F the next) are tough to navigate. I cherish the sunshine and dread the days getting noticeably shorter.
There is so much to do at this time of year. I need to bring in the plants and repot. I need to get ready for Halloween (both trick or treat and the Sabbat). I need to swap my closet and bedding over to the winter wear. All I want to do is curl up in a blanket with a good book and a warm beverage, or maybe take an outing to the movies.
There’s also the food issue. My body wants to eat more. I’m not hungry, as the post-bariatric pouch won’t allow that. It’s not even head hungry. It’s more like hunger in the bones. My genetics expect a winter and have kicked into survival mode. I can tell I’m not getting enough protein, even though my diet hasn’t really changed. It’s another push and pull.
This year it seems I’m especially aware of the paradox of the season. As I struggle with balance in my own life I become more alert to the push and pull around me. I recognize that I can allow any of these things to buffet and batter me, throwing me off course. I can also simply acknowledge them and let them wash over me. There is a peace in simply appreciating the variety of moods the season brings.
So I do small things. I get apples and squashes for baking and decorating. I tidy the house. I pick up a few things in the yard as I walk by. I’m playing the grasshopper, not the ant. I’m not ready for winter. I am simply trying to be present in each day.
I’ve said many times that this notion we have of balance is active and not a point of stasis. But sometimes balance is easy, once you get the hang of it, like riding a bike. Other times it’s like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with a big pack.
This season my experience of balance has been a lot more like the latter example. I’m off, the world is off, my home is off, it’s just crazy. I suspect I took advantage of the little surgery I had to just check out for a bit. Unfortunately that has made getting back on track even more difficult.
On the good side are my kids, my work and a lot of unexpected support. On the rough side is money, time, and overall despondency. I’m frustrated with people who are fixed minded about an issue that they clearly don’t actually understand. I’m frustrated with the vile, demeaning attitudes that people have decided are okay to unleash. I’m frustrated with the notion that being polite and having good judgement are somehow not positive attributes.
Then we do something like attend the Kaposia Gala. This is Orion’s day program and work placement group. I see Ramsey county, being the second county in the country to pass legislation allowing them to directly employ people with disabilities. I see a group of people encouraging young performers who have to work a little harder for clear speech or to get through a piece of music. I sit at a table with people in all manner of dress knowing that they all “dressed up” for the occasion, that what they have on is the best that they have.
When I speak with the disabled community, or those with chronic illnesses, I recognize that we share an understanding outside of “normal” experience. When I spend time talking with members at Gilda’s Club there is an inherent desire to make that most out of what we have. When I find the small things that make me smile I remember how important those small things can be.
So I struggle to stand in my own truth and not be blown over by the winds of the world. I shift and adjust and accommodate and work to hang on to the notion that things can be better. I go back to daily practices of gratitude and just take a moment to recognize all the privilege I have in my life. I may be swaying pretty heavily, but at least I’ve got a bridge.
We, as a nation, are being buffeted about by hurricanes and firestorms, floods and droughts, protests and political manipulations. It’s a scary world out there. Today, September 11, is the anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers in NYC. For many Americans, it was the day we learned what it was to be afraid.
In spite of all that, people persist. They stand up in the winds of change and hardship and continue on with their lives. This morning Orion listed all the people he knows, and there were a lot, who have birthdays today. Forever, their birthday is 9/11. How odd that must be to want to celebrate in a world determined to grieve and remember.
I know the other side too. I understand what it is to be overwhelmed with circumstances and appalled that the rest of the world doesn’t just stop alongside you. I know what it feels like to dig into a huge job, to work, eat, and sleep, and then come up for air and find you’ve lost days, weeks or even months.
Sometimes standing in the wind is taking an opportunity to use a public platform to call out bad behavior, racism, terrorism (thank you Miss Texas Margana Wood even when it might cost you a crown. Sometimes standing in the wind is choosing to skip a few meals this week to buy a birthday cake for your kid with food stamps. Sometimes standing in the wind is getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, and doing one of the 100 tasks that have been put off because it just seems too hard.
I know people who are on the front lines fighting fires in the western states. I know people hoping that they have homes to return to on the gulf. I know people who are in the streets day after day fighting against injustice in many forms, in many ways.
We have a culture (white culture) that allows us to take credit, take pride in the work other people are doing. We sit in front of our TV’s watching people standing in the wind and say, “Yes! They are US!” None of us can do all the work. No one can stand in all the storms at once. No one can stand again and again in all the storms. But cheering on the workers and having pride in what others have done isn’t enough.
How can we shift our culture, our attitudes in a way that allows us to truly stand, acknowledge our own storms, our own ability to survive and still reach out and honestly support others? Can we recognize our own work, with strength and pride, and still be grateful for the support we had that allowed us to stand there? Can we encourage people to celebrate and still recognize the work that needs to be done? Can we find a way to come together when the storms rage, and to stay connected when the storm is over?
I think a lot about what it means to me to be happy, to be content, and to be satisfied. I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating my successes or taking in the feeling of a job well done. I suppose I could do some psychological speculation about why that is, why I don’t “allow” myself to enjoy success. What it comes down to is I’m always looking for the next thing.
My daughter, Karina, has been very verbal about bringing all of this to my attention over the years. She doesn’t appreciate it when she struggles to make me happy, or to meet an expectation only to get “Now that that is out of the way……….” Her, “Hey! Wait just one minute.” has forced me many times to stop and honestly acknowledge her efforts. This is why I really need a gratitude practice.
This weekend was a simple, easy, uneventful weekend. Orion and I did a few things. We saw the new Spiderman movie. He got a haircut and his beard trimmed. We kept an eye on Minnie (Karina’s dog). I puttered a bit in the kitchen. There was a conference call for event planning committee and the beginnings of organizing things to bring. I stayed up late and finished a couple of books. I slept in until I was ready to get up.
Reviewing the week, thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realized that this was contentment. Not too much, not too little, but a just right weekend. Then I realized that part of the reason I could feel that contentment (rather than pressure, or resentment, or disappointment, or exhaustion) was because I had the previous weekend off.
I went into this week well rested. I’m feeling good. I have a list of things “to do” but feel like I’m making progress and not overwhelmed. I had a good balance of things I wanted to do and things I needed to do. And the things I needed to do I appreciated being able to do.
This coming week I’m gearing up for a whirlwind. The event, Earth Conclave, is on the schedule. I know I won’t get a blog in next Monday (maybe Tuesday). I’m excited and nervous and hoping I have left myself enough time to put what I’ll need together.
But…. I don’t have to pack up Orion for the weekend. That’s taken care of with the new schedule. I don’t have to worry about not being able to get through. I have a health reserve going in. I may be on the committee, but it’s not “my show”. I’m not cooking, I’m not “in charge” of anything. I’ve volunteered to facilitate a few things on the schedule, but I know this group (and my skill set) and it won’t be difficult.
This is where gratitude is easy for me. I haven’t always been able to do these things, or do them without too much effort. I am very grateful to have the opportunity, and the support, to be able to do them again.
My schedule has changed considerably in the past few weeks. My son’s step-mother and I have come to an agreement that scheduling would work better for everyone if the two of us confab and just let the ex know what we’ve arranged. That said, she even offered to return to the original agreement ex and I had when we first split up!
This is huge for everyone. It means Orion will be spending quite a bit more time with his father. It means that it will be easier on both sides to plan weekend events. It also means I may actually have an opportunity for a life outside of being “Mom”.
Orion and I spent the week of 4th of July with my parents. It’s clear they need a little help as they age and I’ve been trying to visit more frequently and for longer periods of time. I missed the trip I’d planned for Memorial Day weekend as I was in bed on heavy duty pain killers. Walking in at my folks I admit to feeling a little guilty for not making it up.
I know what it’s like to not be able to keep up with the day-to-day of living.
My own house is suffering from years of neglect and I’m playing catch up when I can. My parents are now at a point where they also need a boost just to stay even. They didn’t get that when I didn’t show up in May. After I’d been there a day I texted a friend “I think I’ve done more housework since I arrived than I’ve done at my house in the last month!” (I’m not sure if she was shocked about how much I was doing there or how little I’d done at home. LOL)
I don’t want to give the impression I’m doing it all. My sister is a trouper. She’s covering long drives, doctor appointments and scheduling, medications, emergencies and the 30 min. weekly (plus) drop-in to see how things are going. Her new husband has done things like adding grab bars to the bathrooms, helping with deadfall, and maintaining the driveway. He has also committed to shoring up the back porch and gazebo. (I wish I had one or two of him at my house!)
It’s not all work either. I had a lovely chat or two with my Mom. Orion and I got Dad to take us out on the lake in the canoe. Meals are still good (even if I am doing more of the cooking) and Dad still bakes bread. Orion gets his waffles for breakfast and most of the time he and Dad manage ‘bathed and dressed’ without me. (I do lay clothes out the night before.)
I’m grateful that I still have them to visit and that I’m able to be helpful. I’m grateful that they are still managing in their home. I’m very grateful my sister is close by when they need something.
Things change and life moves on. It’s clear we’re all shifting into a new stage. Hopefully we’ll all manage to do this with grace and compassion (and maybe a little fun).
We seem to live in a world where “Fake news” is thrown around to discredit something someone doesn’t “like”. I see all too often that belief seems to count as much or more than science or facts. “Theory” is an inflammatory word. I suspect that’s because there are a lot of people who “believe” they understand what it means and don’t want to be told they are mistaken.
It doesn’t help that the word has a specific usage in scientific lingo and a much broader usage in the English language. When someone says, “In theory….” it’s clear there is speculation involved. There is not a great confidence between what is “supposed” to happen and what seems “likely” to happen. When a scientist talks about, “The theory….” it pretty much means that in all the time that theory has existed it’s been the best explanation of all the facts available and that so far nothing has come up to contradict it.
When we talk about education theory or theory in a philosophical setting what we’re really doing is talking about belief. We really want something to be true so we create a theory and then test it in practice. But people being people, we don’t want to change our beliefs, so when things don’t work we change the parameters of the test. No wonder everyone is confused.
In science when a fact shows up that disproves the theory, the theory gets changed so that it explains ALL the facts. It’s a very different mindset.
So, although I’m still taking tests and they still come back “normal” there are some theories.
I have speculated, for much of my life, that the place my back goes out puts stress on the nerves that impact my digestion. The converse also applies, when my digestion is aggravated it “stresses” my back. I’ve seen this happen time and again and when I can break that feedback loop things do seem to improve. I think it’s the explanation that best fits the facts as I see them.
My chiropractor is on board with this theory. He did an x-ray series and can point to places where it’s likely there is some stress on the nerves. Unfortunately, in order to be “clinical” the nerves have to be pretty much pinched off, which thankfully they are not. The radiologist makes some remarks about odd curves and twists but concludes basically “normal” (I’m sure there’s a for a woman of my age in there somewhere.) We’re hoping a chiropractic radiologist will be a little more specific and can talk insurance into paying for more frequent adjustments.
Likewise the other tests come back “normal” but when the bariatric PA looks at them she sees potential for issues. So I’ll take another test and then the entire bariatric group will put their heads together and see if indeed the PA’s observations explain the problem. If her theory holds then they will decide if there is anything they might recommend doing about it.
It may be that I just had a bad turn of what has been a chronic problem and that treatment is to do what I’ve been doing all along. I might have some bad spells and may need a little more intense intervention – pain meds, more frequent adjustments, possibly another round of physical therapy – to get through those acute moments.
That certainly sounds a lot better than the other possibilities that have been floating around in my head! Thank you all for your concern and good wishes.