About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Tracking Holiday Progress

“I want one of those watches.”

This is something my father-in-law, for whom we were caregivers for three years, said repeatedly in the fall of 2015, leading up to Christmas.

He had a tendency to watch two things – tennis or golf – on television constantly and a “fitness tracker” device was advertised often.

I don’t know what it was about that commercial or that product that captured his attention so much. Due to a series of “mini-strokes,” his memory was scrambled. He rarely remembered much of anything of consequence.

But there were the occasional exceptions (like the fitness tracker, or the one pair of pants that didn’t fit right), and when those exceptions occurred, everyone in the house knew his mind was set on the topic.

As Christmas 2015 approached, we thought we had the perfect gift for him: the fitness tracker!

Of course, we weren’t exactly sure what it was he would be tracking. He didn’t exercise. He wasn’t keeping track of how many steps he took every day. He didn’t care about graphing progress toward any goal.

But the fitness tracker would be a gift-giving hit!

Christmas morning dawned and we gathered around to open gifts.

Dad opened the fitness tracker. We expected joy, satisfaction, happiness.

We got ……. a mystified Dad wondering what the tracker was.

We explained it was the tracker he had been talking about wanting (for weeks, probably months!). He had no recollection. He also couldn’t really understand why it didn’t show anything on the display (that was our fault for not programming it/charging it up earlier).

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that he didn’t remember wanting the fitness tracker so badly. The incident mirrored so many other patterns in our life together. His retention was impaired. Although he perseverated on select items or experiences, that perseveration evaporated as rapidly as it entered our world.

My thoughts on holidays as caregivers:

Empathy is the best gift of all

One of my ongoing frustrations with Dad’s situation (not with him personally, but with the changes to his cognitive state as a result of his mini-strokes and (possibly) depression) was his utter lack of empathy. He had never been an overtly emotional or empathic individual anyway, but after his mini-strokes, my mother-in-law’s death, and a bout with head and neck cancer, he was even more depleted of the ability to feel someone else’s pain.

His lack of empathy, though, didn’t change the fact that he needed us to empathize with him. He needed us to understand (as long as it lasted) why a commercial promising fitness and fun, correlated with a cool fitness tracker, excited him. (He also needed us to understand his brain dysfunction enough to know he may not actually remember why the commercial lit a particular motivational fire within him.)

Realistic is best when it comes to holiday expectations

I can’t say we’ve ever been a family that has pulled out all the stops in the department of decorating, lavish gift-giving, or constant holiday socializing. However, when my mother-in-law was alive, we had a meticulously defined (and lovely) Christmas Eve tradition. She spent countless hours putting together stockings for every single family member, selecting just the right gift, and orchestrating a spread centered by the Advent candle and the crystal punch bowl.

During our three years as Dad’s caregivers, Christmas Eves were different. Barb (my mother-in-law) was gone, and Christmas Eve was a bit more fragmented. Our kids were growing older, with my daughter away at college, so gone was the frenzy of Christmas mornings with little kids. Still, our foursome was now a group of five, and Christmas morning took on a different tone.

Dad didn’t need the frenzy of a full house on Christmas Eve (he always faded as the day wore on – by 7 p.m. his pain and resilience were always fading).

Key to surviving the caregiving years, especially during the holidays, was being kind to ourselves regarding what we expected the celebrations to look like. Unpredictability is a hallmark of caregiving, especially when schedules are being interrupted by parties, extra errands, and visitors.

See measurement in different ways

If you have ever had a fitness tracker, you may have become obsessed with charting your progress. Did you take more steps than yesterday? Did you “win” a badge on the online app? Did you take enough steps to equate to climbing a skyscraper?

With caregiving, you have to learn to track progress differently. You may not be able to document steady, incremental progress.

With empathy and realistic expectations, however, you may be able to track the most long-lasting benefit of all: the knowledge that you took steps toward helping your loved one (and yourself) reach the goal of having a positive holiday experience.

Holiday Caregiving

pearlsband / Pixabay

Five Minute Friday: DIFFERENT

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”

Today’s prompt: DIFFERENT

Five Minute Friday

I turned Spotify on to “Acoustic Covers” so that I would have music in the background as I composed this five-minute piece.

Rather than music only, I got voices. This was different than I expected. I suppose it’s acoustic as in “no electronics,” which is different than “no voices.”

“Different than what I expected” seems to be the status quo in my life lately.

(And in the case of the music I’m listening to, I end up at a different place or with a different product than I intended mainly because I didn’t pay attention in the first place.)

I’m not in one of those “ah differences are wonderful and sometimes lead us to something we like even better” moods. Not at all.

As we face the sale (hopefully — please realty gods) of this house, and continue to adjust to the empty nest, I’m struggling to reframe “different” as an “adventure” because right now it feels more like a precipice.

Our whole world seems stuck in the “yuck” of difference. We cling to what we know, feeling safe, rather than exploring (respectfully) what we don’t know (or agree with) because it just feels too scary.

Perhaps if I take a deep breath (and keep writing to sort it all out), the “different” of 2018 will transform into something positive.


Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

My Holiday Wish List

Since my writing this month has been decidedly on the dark and introspective side, I’m going to take a break today, based on a prompt by Kat Bouska, and share a December wish list.

If money were no object (sigh….)

I would be out of debt

I realize I made this bed myself, but it’s a bed I would happily burn to the ground in lieu of sleeping on an air mattress full of the light, buoyant air of financial freedom

I would be able to give my family a bigger Christmas, checking more items off their wish lists

Frankly, it has been so long since Wayne and I wished out loud for the “big” things that I don’t know what the biggest item is on his list. (Actually, I do know a trip around the world is on his list.) Guess if this wish comes true, Santa is going to need to throw in a cure to Wayne’s fear of flying.

I want to get my daughter this bag without batting an eyelash. Note depending on exactly *who* is reading this — if you’re Santa’s “elf,” I know this is not the right print. Don’t panic. 😉

Holiday Wish ListI don’t know the “big” items on my son’s wish list, but I imagine they are car-related. We’ll just go with a substantial gift card to the Infiniti Online Store. I’m pretty sure that would work!

Clothes!

Because I work from home, and virtually nothing I do right now is client-facing, my wardrobe is pretty depleted. I’ve also thrown out many items that I have given up on losing enough weight to fit back into.

I’ve always been pretty practical about clothes, but I love excellent quality and precise tailoring. This outfit is cute (but with flat or low-heeled shoes for me). With two conferences coming up in 2018 and who-knows-what professionally, I need Santa to help me up my wardrobe game.

Holiday Wish List

Generosity

I truly wish I could give so much more (time and money) to the causes I love. More help to the children our family loves in Central America and sponsors through Unbound, such as Stanley (here’s his most recent picture (he’s in the Santa hat!):Holiday Wish List

Better Spanish

I have totally bailed on my Spanish study after promising in this post that I would do better (I did enroll in the online Berlitz course, but have not been consistent at all). Dear Santa, send me to Antigua (Guatemala) or (better yet), Valencia (Spain) for a couple of weeks to improve my Spanish!

Broadway! NYC! Theatre!

Seventy-five percent of our family wants desperately to see something on Broadway.

I want to see Hamilton (duh) but I am going to be in Chicago in September so am hoping to see it there even though I would love to see it in NYC (I would also love to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform in it in Puerto Rico in 2019).

Tenley wants to see Sarah Bareilles and Jason Mraz in Waitress (so do I but I was fortunate to see Waitress last December so at least that itch got scratched a bit) and  Anastasia.

Wayne (husband) wants to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.

BUT

You didn’t think I could *just* do a wish list without a message about what really matters, did you? Admittedly, I want every single thing I listed above, but echoing in my head as I write this is a passage from Well: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa that details a young boy’s battle with a bone infection that almost led him to have to have his leg amputated. Apparently people in Togo are at risk of these infections because they don’t have toothbrushes, so they can’t brush their teeth, so they get life- and limb-threatening infections.

Perspective in the form of a $1.00 (or less) oral hygiene implement.

Holiday Wish List

Five Minute Friday: ONLY

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”

Today’s prompt: ONLY

Five Minute Friday

I have been feeling many “if only’s” lately.

(Caveat: I know this is raw writing but that’s the way I roll.)

If only I had done something more lucrative right out of school and built a bigger financial base (even if I didn’t love it).

If only I had made different choices about spending, debt, finances.

If only we hadn’t committed to such a huge  house that we now have to sell, as I sweat out being able to give my kids and family a modicum of a holiday.

**

I have been listening to “Well” — a book by Sarah Thebarge — about her several-month stint doing volunteer work as a physician’s assistant in Togo.

One day, after two of her patients had died of conditions that would most likely  not have been fatal in the US, she found herself at the end ….. she wrote:

“I was out of determination, out of energy, out of motivation … out of hope.” (Note of irony: she was volunteering at a place called the “Hospital of Hope.”

She went on to say:

“I was completely depleted, completely out of reasons to keep going.”

Although I know objectively HOW MUCH I have, I also know I face the consequences of the choices I made over the last decades.

They keep me from traveling as much as I would like to, from giving generously to the causes I love (one of the reasons I try to make up for it in time and energy), from giving the people I love the things I want to give them.

I have composed letters in my head to my kids “don’t let the lack of ‘stuff’ this year make you think you aren’t loved.” I probably won’t send them.

I only wish I could make peace with the choices I made years ago for which I am paying now.

Additional Note: Sarah is now providing medical training in Sudan. Please read more about her work here, pray for her, and consider donating to the cause.

 


Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

I Should Have Known

NOTE: If you read this post prior to 10:50 pm on Sunday 12/3, I want to note that I have made significant changes. I may have come to an inaccurate conclusion that the author is also a life coach. I realize in doing so, I sort of shot much of the premise of this post (the parts about the author’s identity). Hence the multiple changes. ~ pk

Do a “Don’t Should on Yourself” search on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of anti-“should-ing” graphics.

Marital Infidelity

Source: qsprn.com on Pinterest

My academic background is in mental health. Therefore, I am an advocate of the fact that there are very few instances in which the word “should” is a fit for a constructive outlook, especially if we are using in retrospect to define how our lives could have gone differently.

After reading a recent Modern Love column in the New York Times, however, I can’t help thinking the author is going to say “I should have known” someday.

A Marriage Ends

The column I can’t get out of my head is An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce. Synopsis: The author fell in love with a married man; the man left his wife for the author; the ex-wife is a saint for “the grace and maturity she has displayed” as she welcomed the new love interest into their family’s life, paved the way for an amicable relationship with the young children, and took the high road.

The Gaping Flaws in This Situation

Here are the challenges I see. I can only call them as I see them.

Author: “He wasn’t a creep or even a cheater.” Time proved her wrong about the cheater part.

Writing “he wasn’t a cheater” after his infidelity led him to leave his wife is disingenuous at best.

In the article, the author discloses that she has Bipolar II disorder.

I just can’t help thinking the new guy’s move on this woman was more about him than her. She talks in the article about her proclivity for getting into unstable relationships. I can’t see how this is that much different. Maybe he wasn’t taking advantage of her exactly and maybe he didn’t have enough awareness about mental health to stop himself. I’m not sure, but my sense is that she is a victim here.

When the ex-wife-to-be (Beka) invited the author to dinner (a precursor to eventually meeting the kids), Beka handled it with aplomb, grace, and courtesy. The guy? “…he drank nonstop.”

So many red flags about this. So many.

The author spends a paragraph discussing how hard the three of them have worked to make this situation palatable for the children (the girls were seven and three at the time of the breakup). She says, “they have never reproached their father or me for the immeasurable disruption we have caused to their lives.”

They aren’t teenagers yet. That’s all I have to say. 

The Beautiful Aspects of this Situation

I do love the fact that all of the adults display so much love and unconditional positive regard for the children. It appears they also all conduct themselves civilly in front of the children, which is also an important building block.

I know so many people who put the children first in the way they relate to their former partners/the parents of their children. What a gift that is to model those priorities.

This is Not a Guide to Divorce

The title of this piece (An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce) is (to me) a misnomer. Who is the optimist?

I suppose the author pictures herself as the optimist. She discusses how meeting the two daughters made her glad she had never had children herself, writing her initial relationship steps with the girls were, “as if I had been saving my maternal love for [names].”

What? I will be the first to admit I have felt maternal love (in spades) for children who weren’t my own. I can see feeling maternal love for the children of someone I fell in love with who weren’t my own biological children.

I suppose the thing is if I felt the author had the capacity for maternal love she would have curtailed this whole thing earlier, realizing the disruption it would cause.

If I Had a Crystal Ball

Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have enough life experience to say that there is a possibility getting involved with someone who left his wife for her *might* end up with the author herself acknowledging….

“I should have known.”

Marital Infidelity

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat prompt: “Write a poem, post or story where the last words are ‘I should have known.’”

(Also, I really want to hear the ex-wife’s version of all this.)

Editor’s Note: Right after I pressed “publish,” I found this piece that summarizes comments to the original piece, shares the editor’s insights, and includes a quote from Beka. I still stand behind everything I wrote above, but I think this is an important piece of the entire puzzle.

Beka (according to the follow-up NY Times piece): “I wanted to do what was best for my girls. And, honestly, I didn’t want to be one of those women who was defined by her divorce — and end up bitter in the end. Josh and I have managed to maintain our friendship through it all, and Elizabeth and I developed one as well. Now, my sweet girls have even more people to love them, and they adore Elizabeth. Most of my family and friends have had a hard time accepting it, but I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made.”

Five Minute Friday: NEAR

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”

Today’s prompt: NEAR

Five Minute Friday

“Keep at least three feet away from her.”

The above sentence is one of roughly 15 bullet points on a “checklist for communicating” a trainer put together based on an assessment of me when I worked at Healthy Kids in 2011.

Y’all, it is the FIRST bullet point.

As if I don’t want anyone near me.

I remember the first time I read it, having a “NAH – NOT ME!” moment….

….and then I remember the letter I wrote a friend once telling her I was uncomfortable that she was SO touchy-feely (boy do I feel guilty about that all these years later — we were different about that kind of thing but it was just her way — and WHY did I presume to address it via a letter? We did resolve things (mostly) shortly after that (with me eating the extremely requisite humble pie).

But proximity is a weird thing. The report in general was QUITE accurate. Almost eerily accurate. I have to confess the “proximity thing”  probably does hold some truth.

Being a parent changed much of that. I’m pretty sure there’s a period when you have multiple young children in your life that there is ALWAYS someone touching you, either due to breastfeeding, or because little kids often just crave the closeness of a parent, or because they (ahem) refuse to walk and want to be carried instead.

I often reminisce about the days a kid would crawl in bed with us (they are so long ago).

To resurrect a word from last week, the familiarity of being in bed together as a family unit, sharing space and hearts, was precious time and space …. and nearness.

Even if some test confirms I want people to stay three feet away (three feet?)….

…the last thing I want is for anyone to think they can’t be near my heart.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

#GivingTuesday 2017

Twas the night before Giving Tuesday 2017 and I was …..

  • facing down a deadline
  • wishing I had instituted an email newsletter so I could shoot one out instead of inflicting a blog post on people

BUT since there’s no newsletter option and the deadline is breathing down my neck, a blog post will have to do. A few quick pre- #GivingTuesday thoughts.

#UNSelfie

I am participating in the Big Bend #UNSelfie contest for Giving Tuesday, and my charity of choice is the Hang Tough Foundation. Hang Tough helps the whole family when a child has a life-threatening illness (more here).

If Hang Tough gets the most votes, they win a $500 grant from the Community Foundation of North Florida and $500 toward a direct mail fundraising campaign from Target Print & Mail.

*********   Vote for me here all day on 11/28/17 only!   ********

BONUS: Giving Tuesday 11/28/17 is my birthday and this is the only gift I want!

Giving Tuesday 2017

It’s also a Llamatastic day for Heifer!

Look for my llama and me on social media!

In addition to Hang Tough, I’m supporting Heifer International today! The gift of an animal (LIKE A LLAMA) from Heifer increases access to education, empowerment, and dignity. It’s an easy way to give gifts that really matter. When you give today (11/28) all gifts are doubled! 2x the help for 2x the families.

Giving Tuesday 2017

(Note – Yes I’m wearing a Team in Training shirt. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is ANOTHER fave of mine because so many friends are dealing with blood cancers.)

My Awesome Friend Nicolette

My friend Nicolette is running for Orange County Commission District 4.

I am positive Nicolette is going to make a positive difference in her community so, although this isn’t strictly a Giving Tuesday request, I encourage you to support a candidate who is running for all the right reasons (for a non-partisan seat).

The link to donate is here.

 

Giving Tuesday 2017

The Other 364 Days

If you find yourself stressed out today (after voting for Hang Tough in the #UNSelfie context, because HOW COULD THAT BE STRESSFUL LOL?), remember there are 364 other days on which you can make a difference. My thoughts on that here.

Giving Tuesday 2017

Helping a Child “Become Someone” Through Florida Prepaid

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

My dear friend Jane Anderson wrote a Thanksgiving reflection this year that made me think. Among other observations, she talked about a year when her family decided “to try eating out for Thanksgiving instead of laboring hours in the kitchen for 15 minutes of consuming the results.”

Higher education financing options

My sister-in-law’s lovely table.

Taking steps to ensure a child in your life has the security of Prepaid College Tuition is sort of the opposite concept: spending 15 minutes (often less) now to guarantee years of educational benefits and assurance.

There are several 15-minute investments you can make now that can make a difference in your child’s educational future and make their future more secure.

Explore Choices

In 15 minutes, you can scan the Florida Prepaid options and start to narrow down which one may be best for you. There are five choices:

  • 1-Year Florida University Plan
  • 2-Year Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida College Plan
  • 2+2 Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida University Plan

You can read more about each plan here. (There’s also a dormitory plan.)

Wayne and I are not new to the parenting rodeo, and I’m going to guess that many of you may be in a similar position to us — you have children who are rapidly hurtling toward college. You may not find yourself *quite* as prepared as you’d like to be for their educational needs once they graduate from high school.

The 1-Year Florida University Plan is one I would particularly take the time to note. Designed to provide an extremely affordable prepaid option, it allows purchasers to buy one year of State University credit hours at a time according to their budget and timeline, without feeling the pressure of having to buy all four years at once.

The 1-Year plan, which starts at less than $50 a month, also allows multiple purchasers to buy a plan for the same child.Each purchaser can have their own separate account and a child can have up to four 1-Year Florida University Plans.

Encourage Your Child’s Aspirations

My conversations with my own children, as well as nieces and nephews, at this year’s Thanksgiving gathering were different from previous years. Everyone has grown up. Some childhood dreams have faded while new ones have taken their place.

But no matter the dreams, the pleasure has been hearing their progression over the years.

Mike Massimino, an astronaut who has flown on two Shuttle missions, was the first astronaut on Twitter, and appeared on The Big Bang Theory (he gave Howard his astronaut name), writes in his book about his childhood dreams.

“My world was very small. People didn’t think about leaving Long Island, let alone going to space.” When Massimino visited Columbia University as a high school senior for an admissions interview, he wrote, “…the minute I arrived, I felt like I understood what college was.” He goes on to say, “I had a revelation: This is where people learn. This is where you become someone. I’d never had that feeling before.”

Fifteen minutes go by quickly, but they’re enough to remind a child in your life that they can indeed be someone, and that higher education is within their reach. Higher education financing options

Talk With Family Members About Pitching In

One practical and positive feature of Florida Prepaid Plans is that family members can help. If a relative asks what they can do for a holiday gift, consider talking with them about Prepaid.

I know I would love to give the children in my life the gift of security at a time when so many aspects of our world seem uncertain; this is a gift that promises to be more enduring than a toy or sweater.

As I mentioned above, with 1-Year University plans, four separate people could conceivably each purchase a year contract. There are various configurations and options.

In addition, anyone can make payments or contributions towards a prepaid account.

Enroll in Florida Prepaid

The enrollment process can easily be completed in 15 minutes or less.

Enrollment ends February 28, 2018, but there’s a special incentive for people who enroll by November 30. They will be entered to have their entire contract paid off!

You can also save 50% off your $50 enrollment fee by using the code GREEN1718.

Visit Florida Prepaid on the web or call 1.800.552.GRAD (4723) for more information. 

I’d say 15 minutes is a small investment to make to help a child experience the opportunity to “become someone.”

Higher education financing options

Grateful Challenge 2017

Grateful Challenge

There are 37 days left in 2017 (how is that?) and it’s time for the annual grateful challenge. (Gini Dietrich says so here.)

I did the Grateful Challenge the standard way (list everything you’re grateful for in 10 minutes, with a goal of getting to 99) twice. I reached 33 in 2014, and 99 in 2015 (yay!) then changed things up a bit in 2016.

I’m going to change things up a bit this year too. I like the 10-minute limit. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book about caregiving. I blew off NaNoWriMo though, and am at a bit of a loss regarding what to write (and frankly struggling with the courage to write anything).

Therefore, a (roughly) ten-minute list of what I am grateful for regarding the lessons learned from caregiving:

To set the scene, I am listening to the soundtrack from Sleepless in Seattle while writing this. It’s one of the things Dad wanted played at his visitation/funeral, according to his Five Wishes document. This always struck me as odd, but he did love movies and classic music, so it makes sense in retrospect. (We also only managed one of his wish list items (Claire de Lune (sp?)) at his funeral, so I guess I am making up for an item that didn’t get checked off his list.

That’s the thing about caregiving. The person at the center of it all is the subject of everyone else’s checklists and (at least in Dad’s case) has very little control over what happens to them.

To start the gratitude list then, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is an honor to be entrusted with a loved one’s wellbeing (and I’m not saying “honor” in the cliché way —- it’s as vital a responsibility as parenthood, being a spouse, or giving your all as an employee).

I, to be honest, am grateful for the opportunity to be at home for three years. I was mentally exhausted from my efforts to make peace with the degree to which I had become unmotivated at work and physically exhausted from my crazy sleep patterns as I tried to squeeze in freelance work. I may have said to many people “I have to be a caregiver,” and I did (barring some financial solution that would have enabled him to go to a facility coupled with our willingness to let him go to one), but I healed over the three difficult years in some ways. If nothing else, three years free of Monday Dread were worth all the hard work of caregiving.

I am grateful to know myself better (not that it’s all good). I have the academic training to be empathetic, organized, and deliberate in my approach to caring for someone (due to my degree in Child Development and Family Relations (okay, ONE class in elder issues but still …..) and my master’s in Counseling and Human Systems). About 95% of that went out the window, though, when it came to dealing with Dad (just like 95% of my child development knowledge went out the window dealing with my own kids).

It was really toward the end that I got better at setting limits and boundaries and not reacting to being baited (and I know he wasn’t baiting me on purpose — it was a dementia thing). I am also a pleaser by nature and it was so very frustrating that “pleasing” is really a bad approach to someone who is combative and irrational.

I am grateful to have learned that there are often more solutions than you think there are. I am grateful to have become more decisive. We went round and round hemming and hawing about whether to move Dad to Depends ….. until the night he stood in our hallway peeing on the carpet (again, not intentionally but it was what it was). I immediately made the decision we had been putting off.

Ditto the decision to switch him to non alcoholic beer. I guess maybe that wasn’t my decision but the whole situation pointed out how we had options we could have pursued earlier. It wasn’t until he had his emergency dental procedure and couldn’t have beer for 48 hours that we said “we’re going with non alcoholic beer for good now.” The funny thing is I had been knocking myself out to sneak N/A beer into his “real” beer when he wasn’t looking. I would wait until he went to the bathroom then do this weird sprint/scurry thing where I ran to the fridge, poured out part of the real beer, and replaced it with N/A. I was grateful to end my N/A scurry cycle, let’s put it that way.

I am grateful for the realization that humor and the end of life stage are not mutually exclusive, that sarcasm (private, venting to people who get it sarcasm) is not a sign that the patient is not loved (quite the opposite).

I am grateful that I was forced to be assertive over so many things — medical practitioners who didn’t take care of his needs (not that there weren’t some who were AMAZING) and home care people who lied to me (again, some were INCREDIBLE).

Most of all, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to *try* to live up to the care my awesome mother-in-law would have expected me to give (the woman had high high standards!). I am grateful to have seen this stage of someone’s life. I think it will help me be more empathetic to others in the same situation in the future (and maybe do some advocacy).

Grateful Challenge

On the left, the official funeral mass. On the right, his friend Dan sharing memories at Corner Pocket. Another day ending at his favorite place. 🙂

#HousefulOfCookies: Ready for you, Santa!

I miss baking, which I used to do much more frequently.

Thanks to Natasha and #HousefulOfCookies, I’m back in the baking business, at least for one batch of Soft and Chewy M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I’m sharing a recipe from Averie Cooks, and hope you’ll join ALL the bloggers in the hop. You’ll be well-prepared for any cookie exchanges you have on tap in December AND for any visitors who hail from the North Pole!

Here’s what “getting back in business” looks like:

Holiday Cookies

Here’s what “getting back in business” tastes like:

Holiday Cookies

And the recipe:

Soft and Chewy M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies (by Averie Cooks)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (1/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark is ideal)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

3/4 cup M&Ms, plus more for adding to the mounds of dough

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for adding to the mounds of dough

Directions:

  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used a large mixing bowl and electric mixer) combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, pudding mix (DRY – not made into pudding!), baking soda, salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the M&M’s, chocolate chips, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds (I hand-stirred this — I don’t think my mixer was up to it!).
  4. Form 12 equal-sized mounds of dough, roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Tip — Place a few M&Ms and chocolate chips on top of each mound of dough by taking M&Ms and chips from the underside as well as adding more as necessary for a nice pop of color. (I used red and green for the holidays.)
  5. Place mounds on a large plate or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 5 days. Do not bake with unchilled dough because cookies will bake thinner, flatter, and be more prone to spreading. (Note — don’t be like me and read this part at 9 pm! OOPS.)
  6. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (Averie does 8 cookies per sheet) and bake for about 10 to 11 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center; don’t overbake. Cookies firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. It is not necessary to use a rack.
  7. Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

And here’s what “I’m ready for ya, Santa” looks like:

Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies

What’s YOUR favorite holiday cookie?

Holiday Cookies