Raindrops on Roses and Music from Elders

Is it possible to discuss “favorite things” without having visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

It’s a challenge but I’m going to try to branch out from those whiskers on kittens, thanks to a Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: list your five most recent favorite things.

Favorite Things

Here are mine:

Music Therapy

Specifically, the music therapist from Big Bend Hospice who has visited my father-in-law twice. Although I am grateful for the many services provided by Big Bend Hospice, I have jokingly referred to this process as “the revolving door of people who are ‘here to help you,'” inferring that it is an additional chore for me to coordinate them all.

I had put the music therapist pretty far down the “necessary” list, under the nurse (definitely, for health reasons), shower aide (definitely, because Wayne and I can’t do it at this point), social worker ( sanity, please), and incredible volunteer Jim who told him, “yeah, I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) form too,” a perfect response to divert my FIL’s attention from the always-present reminder that this is a very final process.

I had definitely put our music therapist, Marisa (sp?) into the “nice but not necessary” bucket …….. until I heard my FIL, always a man of few words and subdued emotions, SINGING ALONG WITH HER. It really is true about music … it can unlock a person’s heart in a way nothing else can. (Music therapy is especially effective because it doesn’t demand cognitive functioning to succeed. More here via the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.)

Side note: the music therapist uses a little tripod stool like hunters use in the woods (sample here) … and says she can only find ones with camo designs. Anyone know someone who makes little stool covers with music notes (or other non-camo designs)? There has to be a way.

My New Part-Time Job

When I wrote about trying to sharpen my memory recently by using Lumosity, I didn’t know that something else was going to come along that would challenge my brain and shape up my life in other ways.

While I love my contractor work for Weaving Influence, I am also happy to have taken on additional work that adds to our family bottom line, provides needed structure to my days, and challenges me every single time (even though I have had to part ways with my beloved Oxford comma in the process).

In my independent contractor work for a digital B2B company, my duties so far include searching for news items related to certain terms, summarizing news stories into concise (yet informative!) two-sentence summaries, and contributing to the curation of industry-specific newsletters.

Observations along the way:

  • It’s humbling for an editor to be edited
  • Having to be “on duty” at a specific time (7 am) is the best thing in the world to keep me from a slow, easily-distracted slide into the work of the day. Having to report in to someone, and knowing others down the line are waiting on me, is BIG
  • I should have gone to AP Style boot camp at some point in the past; I definitely feel l like I’m doing catch-up on that front
  • It’s humbling to be at square one with a job again. ALL THE QUESTIONS
  • This arrangement was the kick in the butt I needed to file for my LLC
  • It’s so funny to me to be full-circle back at supporting myself by summarizing the news (one of the ways I supported myself during my New York years was by working at a place where we typed summaries of the news FROM VHS TAPES (yes, I’m that old))
  • I’ve been sufficiently a part of the gig economy long enough now that this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but it’s still so interesting to be working for and with people who you aren’t going to run into at the water cooler or trade funny quips with (yet)

All that said, I’m so fortunate to have the challenge of being an independent contractor for Smartbrief. Check out their website and choose a newsletter that fits for you — here has to be something among all the options, ranging from leadership (my fave!) to supply chain. For career opportunities, click here (but leave your oxford comma at the door.)

Writing

Maybe writing isn’t a “thing” like a smartphone, key chain, or cronut, but it’s a perennial favorite with me. Since I’m not running (for now), it has taken on even more of a role as my outlet.

When I write for myself, I process my thoughts. When I write to try to convey a message to others, I am forced to see multiple sides of the issue, and that is not a bad thing.

People Who Give Me Tools to Advocate Effectively

When I wrote my #One20Today-inspired post in advance of Inauguration Day, I committed to various acts of advocacy in the face of an administration headed by someone who did not receive my vote, and whose administration’s choices threaten the rights and peace of mind of many of my fellow Americans (and me).

The challenge is: the craziness, threats, and insults to the integrity of our democracy are coming so fast and furious, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get paralyzed by indecision (and, frankly, fear of speaking out).

One incredibly bright and insightful friend I met via Shot at Life has created a periodic (at least weekly, sometimes more) list of 4 action items (something to read, a concept to understand, an action to do, a donation to consider) that can help us break out of the paralysis and do something.

As she said, “We don’t get to reimagine history to make ourselves better. We get to be loud right now or we’re not better.”

Here are four of my favorite examples, taken from the action emails:

Read every executive order President Trump has signed so far

Understand why the United States’ signature on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol impacted (prior to the stay of the Executive Order) choices by government entities to try to revoke peoples’ ability to board planes and to keep them from setting foot in the US

Do pick something you care deeply about and write a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper. Here’s a guide and here’s an example. Side note: it’s always a good idea to be aware of your newspaper’s guidelines for an LTE. Increase your chances of getting published by adhering to those rules to the extent possible (i.e., if the limit is 200 words, don’t send 325 and make it harder for them to use your piece). Also, it is a good idea to have civil and friendly relationships with your local journalists. No one likes always being asked for something — it’s totally acceptable to chat with them about the weather or praise their cute puppy pictures if you happen to be involved in their social media streams. AND — not everything you submit will get accepted. Don’t take it personally. (Sometimes if I don’t get something accepted, I run it on my blog. Medium is another choice. Your thoughts/opinions still matter.)

Donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project

If you would like to be on the list, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my friend!

Naps

When our incredible hospice volunteer, Jim, arrived recently,  I said, “I’ll be working on something in the bedroom.” Do you think every hospice volunteer knows “working on something in the bedroom” means “napping”?

One of the huge benefits of working from home is that it is so much easier to customize my life around my energy needs and fit in a 15-minute power nap around 3 pm. As this article states, power naps are beneficial for alertness and motor learning skills. I am not sure if “and making Paula a lot less irritable” is documented anywhere but I tell you, it’s a thing.

If/when I ever return to the traditional office-based workforce, I can only hope I find someplace with nap pods.Google says “no workplace is complete without a nap pod.” That’s what I’m talking about! Maybe Google will open a Tallahassee branch in the future!

FOR FUN

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I would say. Although they didn’t hit on the five things I listed above, they were all spot-on (good job, friends!). Here are their answers:

  • Green pens (yes!)
  • Audiobooks (oh yes yes yes)
  • Hidden Figures (yes!)
  • Global vaccinations (for sure)
  • Exchanging pleasant conversation over a good meal (the best thing ever)
  • Disney
  • Wine (for sure)

Good job, friends — you get me, you really get me.

Several people also shared THEIR favorite things, which was fun to see! Also a great segue to the end of this post.

What are your current faves?

Favorite Things

Geneva’s Train

I have the good fortune of participating in an incredible group of bloggers via Midlife Boulevard. In addition to the online magazine focusing on women over 40, we have a Facebook group for support, content sharing, and the occasional joke or two! In 2016, we are spending January adding a blog maintenance tip per day. When we started the series, one of the first tasks was to define our goals.

My four-part goal included “write once in a while just for the sake of writing……not for anyone else’s message but my own.” Point being: I love writing about causes and am really enjoying writing sponsored posts, but I truly believe good writing springs from writing for the sake of writing. Therefore, I am going to plan to write once a month (at least) just to write, not from anyone else’s talking points or guidelines. My writing has started feeling so uninspired to me; I am afraid I have forgotten how to paint pictures with my words, and that would be a loss.

Keeping that goal in mind, I am using an inspiration from the SITS Girls 31 Days of January Writing Prompts (I may want to write for the sake of writing but I still needed a little starter spark!). Finish this story: A girl, sitting alone on a rock at the edge of the woods, jumps when she hears…

Geneva’s Train

A girl, sitting alone on a rock at the edge of the woods, jumps when she hears the spurt of air explode out of a can of carbonated beverage as its top is popped. The owner of the can could be her brother (opening a Pepsi), her mother (opening a Diet Coke), her father (opening a beer), or her grandfather (opening a beer).

No matter who it is, they are interrupting Geneva’s reverie. Her mind, along with every iota of her imagination, was deeply involved in the book in her hands and now the flow has been disrupted.

“Whoever it is, how can I get them to go away so I can get back to my book?” she wondered. Her brother would be a temporary irritant; if she would refuse to engage, he would probably seek an easier target elsewhere (the kittens came to mind). Her mother would want her to do something (emptying the dishwasher came to mind). Her dad would want to probe her agenda for the upcoming week (committing the stories she had written to a flash drive came to mind). Her grandfather, who had short-term memory issues, would want to know (for the 50th time) if she had seen the postcard his granddaughter (her cousin) had sent from Paris.

WHY was it so hard for the people in her life to give her train of thought its due? Trains of thought did not always stay on track.

Sometimes, trains of thought stayed parked at the depot, unable to depart because there just wasn’t enough fuel to send them on a trip.

Sometimes, trains of thought became so overburdened with the weight of their heavy cargo that they lumbered along, clogging up the track for the other trains carrying lighter, more streamlined loads … the trains with logical agendas and contents that others were expecting.

Sometimes, trains of thought flew along the track, light as air, having been dispatched to someplace new to Geneva, awaiting a load of ideas, fantasies, or outlandish plans.

This time, her train of thought faced a split track. The track of her book placed her within an arm’s reach of a protagonist named George, feeling a new and exhilarating lightheaded magic. In the book, he had already planted a garden, tamed a bucking bronco, and headed off a confrontation between two enemies. Wasn’t it her turn yet?

The other track led back to chores, an inquisition, or a boomerang into the old routine. Back to her regular life, and that stop was growing more mundane by the day.

Unable to contain her curiosity any longer, she sighed, shut the book, and turned.

What she had not guessed was that the can was being opened for HER.

“Sparkling water with essence of mint?” asked George.

And with George’s arrival, the train bellowed with the beauty of imagination and Geneva gave in to a flurry of delight, realizing that her dream had not been derailed.

Geneva's Train

Is It 4:30? A Caretaking Dilemma

clock

really hope I had pressed the “mute” button like I thought I had.

If not, my new boss and coworker heard a side of me that does not make me proud.

You see, I had scheduled a conference call at 3:30 p.m. last week, knowing that I needed to be completely wrapped up by 4:30 because I leave the house every day like clockwork to take my 85-year-old father-in-law to the bar.

I am happy to take him to the bar at 4:30 every day, knowing how much he values time spent with his buddies.

What I am not happy about is the fact that “his” 4:30 is wildly more erratic than mine due at least in part to the cognitive changes related to his strokes and other medical issues. This is my caretaking dilemma.

Back to the conference call day: Even though we had discussed the “4:30 plan” (as we do every day) before I went into my home office and closed the door to take the call, there he was at 4:00 pushing on the door (against which I had placed a heavy object to keep the cats out). I excused myself from my coworkers, (hopefully!) pressed the mute button, and asked what he needed.

HIM: “Are you ready to go to the bar?”

ME: “No, it’s not 4:30.”

HIM: “You said 4:00.”

ME: “No, I didn’t. I said 4:30.” (not uttered in my most patient tone of voice)

HIM: [insert angry harrumphing]

ME: [insert slamming of door]

I am not proud that I was so abrupt in how I said “I said 4:30.” I am not proud of slamming the door. I am not happy that my train of thought was disrupted from the conversation I was holding with my co-workers and as a new employee, I am a bit worried about what they think.

The “4:30 skirmish” plays out almost daily.

I know compared to many caretakers with whom I am acquainted, this is a small battle compared to many all-out wars they face. We don’t have to cover the mirrors yet so he isn’t alarmed by “that man in the mirror.” He can still take care of his basic self-care needs independently.

But I suspect the “4:30 skirmish” is a prelude to more daunting hurdles.

Our family is among 42 million Americans for whom the roles have changed. Children are parenting parents and bewilderment abounds. Like this family, convincing a depressed 85-year old to eat presents as big a challenge as does a finicky five-year-old:

During National Family Caregivers Month, I have hope because I have discovered resources for education and support at this site from AARP.

I wish I had read Prepare to Care (a Caregiving Planning Guide for Families) before we became primary caretakers five months ago:

Fortunately, I know there are many other helpful resources at the site, and I am going to be digging in.

But not at 4:30. I have a commitment ….

“I’m pleased to partner with Midlife Boulevard to bring you this important public service information about National Family Caregivers Month.”

 

The Ultimate Martha

The "Martha" Seat

The “Martha” Seat

I cope with things in life, good and bad, by writing about them. I have used my writing to pay tribute to several friends and family members who have passed away, including Mama Del, “Big O,” and Jarrod. As I approach the six month anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, Barb, I am still grasping at concepts, words, and images to convey what she meant to me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s “start somewhere.” This may not be the only post about her; it may not do her justice, but it’s my “somewhere.”

One of the first groups I shared the news of Barb’s death with, outside of family and her priests, was my PRS Fit team. Our private team page has become a place for sharing so much more than workouts, advice, and fun race pictures. We support each other through so many of life’s ups and downs. I don’t think I am alone in saying it is one of the most important support systems in my life. When I started off my post sharing Barb’s death (which happened abruptly and unexpectedly on November 16, 2013, from an aortic dissection), I started off the post by explaining that I had “won the mother-in-law lottery” when Barb came into my life.

One thing we family members discovered as we scrambled to cope with our grief and shock while simultaneously planning a funeral and all of the myriad details surrounding a death was that she had already planned out her own funeral. Literally, I turned on her computer, typed in “funeral” in the search bar, and I knew what readings she wanted, what songs she wanted sung, and most of the way she envisioned her service going. This wasn’t actually a surprise to me, because we had talked many times about her wishes (no 23rd psalm, no Amazing Grace), but I suspect many people plan to have everything laid out whereas few actually do.

I could kind of posit that she wrote her own version of this blog post. I kept a note she had drafted for her church women’s guild, in which she encouraged women who tend to be “Marys” not to feel that they weren’t welcome or were looked down upon by the parish’s “Marthas.” I remember sitting with her at her computer, looking over the piece as she had asked me to do, and asking what she meant by that. Here’s what she had said:

To Our Associate Members,

Thank you for your support of the Blessed Sacrament Women’s Guild Council of Catholic Women.  Though you have chosen not to be an active participant of one of our five Circles: Mother Seton, Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St Catherine and St Therese, feel free to join us in any of our Circle activities such as the Parish Ministry Showcase, the Christmas Wreath Sale, The Guild Mini-Retreat, Hugs for the Homeless, Ladies Luncheon as well as the Eastern Deanery Day of Reconciliation and the Pensacola-Tallahassee Annual Convention.

It takes both Marthas and Marys to make an organization a success.  You are our Marys.  Please, keep us in your prayers.

May the Holy Spirit bless each of you, Barb Kiger

President Blessed Sacrament Women’s Guild Council of Catholic Women

Everything about this encapsulates what made Barb the leader, woman, family member, and human that she was. She felt compelled to lead (in a VERY methodical, organized, some would say compulsive way!). But she also felt compelled to support each and every woman of the parish. This is sort of an echo of what my sister in law Mary always says about her: “She made you feel supported without criticizing whoever it was that was aggravating you.”

I know the picture at the top of this post just looks like any other pew in any other church, but it’s the seat Barb has sat in at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church here in Tallahassee for as long as I have known her (1987). I always feel a little nervous snapping pictures at Blessed Sacrament so this one was taken on the fly but take my word for it: it’s the seat. The one three rows back from the front, right by the aisle, the one where you inevitably make eye contact with the priest and each acolyte. Parishioners Dot and Rose have begun sitting in the seat (having moved there from the fourth row where they used to sit). I join them there when I can. (When Barb passed away in November, I decided to keep sitting in her seat through her January 30 birthday. It’s May and I’m still there most Sundays. I can’t explain it, and I certainly don’t like making people crawl over my Episcopalian self on their way to communion, but it’s where I need to be for now.)

I have yet to have any big breakdown over Barb’s death, and I can’t figure that out except that something about the alignment of karma that placed me in her hospital room at the moment she passed away gave me such a peaceful sense of transition. When I called Father Tim to tell him she had passed away (and thank you Fr. Tim for answering the rectory phone at 4:23 a.m. — can’t ever figure out that one …), the main thing I said after making sure everything had been done that needed to be related to last rites was, “She was truly God’s servant.”

She was our “Martha” …

…when she led so many fellow Catholic women through meeting after meeting and task after task

…when she held, nurtured, fed, counseled, soothed, admonished (oh yes there was that too!) children, in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, spouses, siblings, and friends through so many twists and turns of life

…when she insisted on quality, from the patients she cared for as a nurse to the font that was used in her books to the color of her Visions cookware…for demonstrating that care of small things mattered

…when she was the shoulder I cried on when I wasn’t given flowers after the birth of my son (I know that may sound superficial but she acknowledged that it mattered and for some reason she was literally the only person I could tell)

…when she delighted in every jete’, fouette’, kip, song, line spoken in a play, homerun, and whatever other endeavor her grandchildren engaged in, despite not being able to see them the traditional way and having to endure my feeble attempts to explain the hundredth ballet costume (let’s face it, there are only so many ways to say “lame'” or “multicolored tulle”)!

…when she decided that a 7 year old in Guatemala named Silvia needed the support of a family in America (and set Tenley and me on a course to meet her)

…when she lost two of her children and showed us all how to keep going through a haze of grief and difficulty in understanding

…when she faced her personal demons and turned the life after that turning point with grace, vigor, and unwavering faith.

All I know is I am better for having known her; more confident for having been loved by her, and more determined to make a “dent in the universe” (nod to Steve Jobs here) having known someone who refused to settle for mediocrity, despite many life events, including becoming blind in her fifties) that would have given her the excuse to do so.

Thank you, Barb.

With love …

Mother’s Day 2014

Dining in the Dark 2008 (?)

Dining in the Dark
2008 (?)

I have added this post to a “link-up” from Midlife Boulevard. It is a linkup of our favorite posts of 2014. I chose my post that was a tribute to Barb because a) it has never gotten any comments and she definitely deserves comments! and b) because it is one of my 2014 posts into which I put my most heart and candor (even though she kind of “wrote” part of it!). Please visit these other fine bloggers and treat yourself to excellent writing!