Tag Archives: Life

Dealing with the stuff of life

My family trends toward the hoarding side of the spectrum. Grandma was not a hoarder (Gramps was). I like to think I am moderate, but don’t we all? I keep things I am fond of and things that I think will be useful. My greatest weakness is being optimistic about what I will actually use. Now and again I do a purge…and get motivated to do projects. But mostly I don’t think too much about stuff.

The big move brought stuff to the front of my mind.

When I went down to California to help Grandma pack for the big move to Seattle I packed a whole lot of things that I knew would not see the light of day again until they found new homes. A whole lot of things.

An almost empty garage.

Before heading down to help pack, I had cleared away a lot of our life “savings” and had the garage pretty nearly empty (the first time in years we could have even considered putting a car into it!). After being so ruthless with our own belongings I had to make an effort to turn off the purge switch when I got down to the desert.

Continue reading Dealing with the stuff of life

“My thoughts are gray and white…and cloudy”

Yesterday was sunshine and relatively warm. I got my roses pruned. We went over and had dinner with Grandma, then watched a couple of episodes of an old British sit-com she likes together. She was coughing in a way that didn’t sound good, but she’s had a cough for a while, it is a side effect of some of her medications (she swears she doesn’t have side effects and speaks of how they haven’t fixed it for her, it has gotten better and worse, but she’s had the cough for years now). They’ve been doing tests and trying various remedies for a month or so.

This morning it was cloudy and the nurse called and said Grandma has a fever and they are doing tests to see if she has the flu or a bacterial infection of some sort. Of course, if it’s the flu we’ve been exposed…as has an elderly friend of mine who we saw last night at dinner time. It feels like the clouds looming on the horizon, and overhead. Nothing one can do, just wait to see if it’s going to dump on you.

I live with ambivalence. Things aren’t black or white. Sometimes they are dark, and sometimes bright, and sometimes both at once. My personality doesn’t handle this well: I am an engineer by training. We figure out what needs to be done then find a solution. Chronic health problems that come from an aging body aren’t things that can, for the most part, be solved. Occasionally there is something that can be fixed. and often those can be hard to determine among the chronic things.

You can’t stop over a little rain; “you won’t melt” as I was told time, and time, and time again by the adults who wanted us to go outside and give them a break, including my grandmother.

Just like life in Seattle, where you will do precious little if you let a little rain get in your way, I can’t let Grandma’s myriad health problems stop me from doing things. They have become more frequent of late, it seems like I am always needing to check in with the medical professionals about this or that these days. Last summer we came back from a long planned vacation to Grandma in the hospital and a VA documentation nightmare. At one point she said ” you can’t go away again”, but I need to. Emotionally I need, desperately, to not be waiting for her to die for me to live.

Life is messy, and I know that with all the good advice in the world I would drift away from the regular discipline of study and exercise without the incentive of a practical reason to do them. I’d somehow find something else precedence. Knowing that they are needed for my general health and peace of mind is not enough.

So we have three trips planned over the next six months: to visit our son in China this spring, walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall in North Cumbria in June and our annual visit to Mount Rainier in late July.

These plans help keep me grounded and healthy. I study a little Chinese every morning (push-ups for my brain) and, in addition to walking the dogs (often “sniff” is a more accurate description than “walk”), I am doing Walk at Home workouts several times a week to stay fit enough to enjoy the walking and hiking planned.

Meager Joy

KSM-20141223-Cookies-01If you are young and have never walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” with a loved one don’t read this. Live into the simple joys of Christmas. Let your stresses be finagling a smile in the Santa photo and finding a way to teach the next generation about joy. Smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies!!

My chosen title isn’t quite right. Joy isn’t a simple thing, it isn’t always jolly, true joy is hard in some ways. Just as true love isn’t lollipops, rainbows and roses on a sunny summer day: it gets deeper and stronger dealing with the adversities life throws at you.

A few days ago the Daily Prompt was Jolly. I wanted to do a post related to that, perhaps to have the illusion that I have some jolly joy in my life. But I didn’t get around to it. A common theme this year.

How can I describe the emotional turmoil, frustration, and weariness that are dominating this season of joy for me?…yet also convey that there is joy, even if it isn’t jolly.

I am blessed with “all I really need”, as the Raffi song says: a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family. Many blessings, including that my Grandmother is not just alive and kicking, but actively enjoying many things. Even so, her health is deteriorating. Her heart and kidneys are tired and strained, keeping the balance is becoming more and more difficult for her health care providers. Today I got a call from the nurse practitioner about her kidneys, she is getting close to “stage 4” Kidney disease.

Being a “modern girl” (although “girl” hearkens back to the song from my younger days not my age) I looked it up on the internet. It means “not good”.

This late summer to late fall (technically it is fall for almost another week) has had a lot of what I call “whammies”. There have been a couple this past week. It is hard for me to wrap words around them (which is why I haven’t been posting much). Most have been related to my grandmother: her deteriorating physical capabilities caused by worsening of the underlying health conditions, magnified by the often overwhelming amount of paperwork needed to provide her with care.

I am emotionally ambiguous right now, out of sync with “Joy to the world the lord is born”; my refrain doesn’t have the rhythm and rhyme in the right places (story of my life): “Seek joy in this world. But do what you have to do. Hold on to love, but take care of yourself too.”


Never-the-less, it is important to make this time good, for others,  including a scared, ornery, old lady that I love very much, and for myself. I have to smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies…because it is the season of joy, and we are together now, no matter what the future holds.

Meager and Jolly

My world

Today is a snow day. Rare for Seattle.

Cee’s Share Your World questions and answers:

Regarding your fridge, is it organized or a mess inside? Both. I try to have places for things, but our fridge is small so when I have to prep a holiday meal or something similar things go where they fit. That leads to a LIFO (Last In First Out) organization system. That means that I usually have a few items toward the back that are ready in case I decide to get out a microscope and study microbes. Maybe my fridge is a metaphor for my life?

Do you prefer your food separated or mixed together? It depends. I am sensitive to texture in food and won’t eat things like oatmeal or malt-o-meal so texture plays in how I combine things. Ironically I like pureed soups like potato-leek or potage des legumes (yes I know this means “vegetable soup”, however, the way I make it is based on a delightful bowl we had in Rocamadour, France in 2001 that was pureed, so I always connect the French with puree and the English with chunks). I do like to combine flavors (naturally I have excellent taste;) but not go overboard.

Do you prefer reading coffee table books (picture), biographies, fiction, non-fiction, educational? It depends. I have very eclectic taste in literature. My life is being a bit dramatic right now so I am not reading anything intense. I have book marks in two books now: The Bear in the Attic, a collection of humorous short stories by Patrick McManus and Writing Down the Bones, a book about writing, by Natalie Goldberg. The McManus book was a Christmas gift, and I got the other book at Half-Price Books a while ago, not sure why it caught my eye.

Close your eyes. Listen to your body. What part of your body is seeking attention? What is it telling you? My rib cage is reminding me that I fell about a month ago and did something to it, and my back is telling me that I carried an unbalanced load yesterday. Maybe the two together are telling me it is cold and I am getting old.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? We had a short visit from my son, took him to the airport yesterday, for the past two weeks. This coming week doesn’t hold anything that I am looking forward to, but it snowed! and I don’t have to go anywhere! so I can enjoy the beauty of it in comfort.


It’s a Downsy-Daysy

Today is grey, not dark grey just medium, it’s chilly but not cold. With no set appointments I am trying to get phone calls related to Grandma’s health insurance made. Not the best way to cheer ones self up.

So far Swedish wins the just answer the phone and get the info into the account race (2 min 48 sec). The loser so far is Seattle Radiology-Integra at 15 minutes. Two more calls to go.

I am (perhaps too easily) amused when the robo-voice thanks me for my patience. It makes me wonder: is it patience if you put up when you aren’t given the option of shouting out your frustration?

I always used to think that patience was a serene state of mind while waiting or repeating for the nth time the same information. Now my standards are slipping. It’s a bit like surviving vs thriving.

In today’s news we have people all over protesting right now: they are communicating frustration. Sadly, I feel like they are doing the equivalent of when I lose it and tell the robo-voice that its wrong, I am not patient. I have no choice. Or, worse, hang up.

Better to laugh. Every call that gets through to a real person costs them money and helps rationalize a job for that human being.

Don’t get me wrong: it is important to have a voice, even if the powers that be disregard it. I am being frustrated because I don’t feel like I know enough on the subject to have a valid opinion. Everything I read seems biased one way or the other. I have taken to trying to read both sides to get an idea of what might be real. The problem is that the knee jerking judgement on both sides puts me off.  I wish that I had confidence that the policy makers were doing something other than just jerking their knees…and jerking people’s lives around as a product of ignorance, but I don’t.

It’s grey, in the sky, in the world and in my head. I think I’ll go buy some primroses to prime my pump.


It’s complicated

What could be more Simple? Here’s today’s list:

  • Put Christmas decorations away
  • Do dishes
  • Pay bills
  • Scan Grandma’s bill so they can be submitted to DSHS
  • Take her walker/wheelchair to the nursing home
  • Order her knee brace
  • Take my son in to fund his IRA
  • Get his tax forms and documents together
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Cook dinner
  • Buy gifts for the nursing home staff
  • Put vacation pictures on a thumb drive for my dad

The tasks are simple. No individual item on my to-do list is complicated. However, getting through the list always is. Many tasks have little features or factors that make just doing it tricky.

For example: I need to scan my grandmother’s medical bills into pdf files so that they can be submitted. But my son is asleep in the room where I keep the scanner. He’s still on Beijing time. I’m not quite off of Buenos Aires time, so our blocks of being conscious and cogent aren’t lining up too well, a little twist to many simple tasks.

Then there is managing the list, just the number of simple tasks is a bit daunting so I try to figure out how to batch things up. Every “I need….” from Grandma is a minimum of an hour of travel time, longer in rush hour so you have to keep a tight eye on the clock, plus budget time looking for parking and sometimes a significant walk in to the facility. If I have any errand that is between here and there I try to insert it into the same trip…but lately that hasn’t worked so well.

I call it “the frazzle factor”, and it’s become a major roadblock. We had to go out to dinner the other night because I was so frazzled from a trip to the nursing home that I didn’t stop for food. I just couldn’t face finding parking again, a crowded grocery store and making a decision about what to fix for dinner.

How can I feel so worn out when I just got back from vacation?


What is the correct opposite of Vigor? Lethargy?

For me it is slogging through the mud. Moving along, but without a spring in my step.

The mud this week is DSHS paperwork for grandma, walking her dogs, trying to get a Christmas package off to my son in China, and trying to get all the sh..tuff that got dumped in my living room put away. The stuff is due to hospital runs, Thanksgiving at Dad’s, and life in general; I (we) get home tired and dump stuff down. I can never work up a sense of vim, vigor and vitality for dealing with this stuff.

In the midst of this past week of insanity, a friend sent me a note that was essentially a sermon about endurance. I think the point of the missive was to remonstrate me for leaving the parish I had attended and participated in with vigor for about 25 years. The problem was, and still is, that the place sucks the life out of me. Everything one gave was met with “give more”, sometimes they said “thank you” first, but mostly not. Most people recognize others efforts with a litany of reasons why they couldn’t spend 8 hours on a Saturday working on the grounds, giving or attending a class, planning an event…Some of those same people had no qualms about adding big, new projects; claiming that they would inspire people to be more involved…they never did. I love many of the people there, but now only go for funerals. When I walk through the door it still feels like a huge weight drops down onto my shoulders. The place will, or maybe won’t, muddle along as it has always done, and no amount of energy on the part of one person is going to make a difference. I don’t need that. Sorry, Dick.

I do have endurance, probably to a fault, but what I need in my life is some vigor, a spark of inspiration, hope for the future. It is hard to see that right now in the day-to-day. Even Christmas feels like one more thing to deal with. Fortunately we have what I expect to be  a supercallifragilistic (spelling? my spell checker doesn’t know this word) vacation planned for January. To get myself going this morning I started to pack.

How do you cope when life is dragging on you?

Puppy Love

It has been a stressful week. Grandma’s dogs, however, are resting easy knowing that they are so cute they will be well cared for. We took them in to visit her last Friday. As always they spread cheer among all who saw them.

Every time she has been in a skilled nursing facility (this is the third different facility she has been in) they have allowed pets to visit. It is pretty cool that places recognize the value of wagging tails and puppy dog kisses.

Just FYI: we don’t allow dogs on the couch…Richard caved first. A little puppy love and his heart melted.

Yesterday’s Post-Calm After the Storm

Thanksgiving was stormy. Yesterday dawned clear and gentle and a little lazy.

A lovely pause after the storm, and the busy rushes of being present for my grandmother after her fall and feast preparations.

A walk on the beach before someone had to drag the branch  off of the driveway so I could get out…what luxury it would have been to be stuck in that peaceful morning! I’ve never had Paris, but at least I had Vashon.

There is snow on the Olympics that wasn’t there before:


Winter peace to all.

Liminal Conversations

I’m not sure why but I always seem to have my longest conversations over a doorway. Usually as I leave. I know this bugs some people, but others are like me.

I did not used to know Liminal meant. I first heard it in a sermon by Marilyn Cornwell (currently she is rector at Ascension Parish in Seattle). It was about embracing the time and space between. I don’t remember the details but the word and general concept have stayed with me.

Some people are movers and some are settlers. Movers choose change and are more comfortable with doorways than settlers. I tend to be a settler. That means I usually wind up with transitions thrust upon me instead of choosing to move on on my own. Those long conversations might be a way to prolong the settled feeling. They might be because there are only things you can say when a relationship has ended. They might be because the doorway itself triggers ideas that the room doesn’t.

Are you a long goodbye-er? Do you think it is because you like to settle-in?