In the midst of things…

My family and I are in the middle of the 5th month of our spending moratorium. After cancelling our vacation,  we seem to always search for that silver lining. We have our days that we feel sorry for ourselves and mope around the house, whining that we’ll never go on a nice vacation….ok, I’m the one that really does that….but other days we try to look on the bright side of things.

For instance, with our tax refund this year, we were able to not only pay off the credit card but one of our loans that had some old debt on it. We paid it off a year early! And with that bit of extra money, we’re hoping to pay off this new car loan by January.  So what does that mean for us? Does it mean we can ease up on the moratorium and try to have a little fun? Well…not really.

Since we paid off the loan, we were able to loan two of our family members a little money (just $20 or $25) when they needed it and it didn’t hurt us too bad. That was a good feeling, and they both paid us back which is even better! But for the past few weeks, I’ve spend more on groceries than normal. I haven’t been as diligent. I kept saying, “Oh, we’re good! Look at all we’ve done!” And then I felt the squeeze. My husband didn’t work 40 hours one week, we both had doctors’ appointments the next week, two of our cats were due for the their shots…you get the picture.  That’s when Holly started freaking out.

I started getting grumpier than my normal. I started interrogating my husband on what he bought and where. I ate cereal for supper more than once, trying to spread the meals out a little more for the rest of the family. Of course, then I gorged myself on chocolate chips on those nights because it felt good and I needed to feel good. Which made me depressed about my weight, my lack of running and the fact that we were low on chocolate chips.  See that nasty downward spiral?

But then little things started to pop up that made me happy.  Little things that were really big things. Like my mom taking my son and myself to McDonald’s for lunch. We went INSIDE the building. We sat INSIDE! Last week Mom went grocery shopping with me. She actually went INTO THE GROCERY STORE. This is really big. I haven’t been inside a public building with my mother in over a year, except for hospitals and doctor’s offices. When we went into the store, she folded up her walker, put it in a cart, and started pushing it all through the store. And I mean all through the store! It was awesome! Really, really awesome. She recognized a few people, she remembered what was on her grocery list, she knew what was going on. It was FANTASTIC!  True, she was wearing the sweat suit she seems to want to wear all the time and she didn’t have her teeth in, her teeth that were never found, but who cares? She was aware and coherent and cruising along. It was a good day.

Other little things that have made me happy? Watching the Oscars with my brother. It may have been in the hospital, but he made me laugh hysterically, like he always does. And right now, at least this week, he’s feeling better and he’s home. So that makes me happy. Hanging out with some of my family this weekend, just having lunch, chatting, watching The Love Boat–all made me happy. Listening to my child spell words for his father–that not only made me happy but amused the hell out of me. Watching comedians on Netflix, laughing at a joke my husband told, talking with some of my favorite people via email and Facebook–all of that made and makes me happy.

There really are silver linings out there, somewhere. Not for everything for sure, and certainly not all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all sunshiney and farting rainbows, people! I’m not always happy when friends they tell me about their fantastic vacations they’re planning or what incredible (and incredibly expensive) outings they’re going on with their children. I can get downright pissy. But when I come back to myself, I remember that this debt business isn’t their fault. That’s all mine (and my husband’s). And although I might think snarky thoughts and hope they get into debt because of their fabulous vacation, I usually snap out of it and wish them well and try not to be such a bitch.

Then I go off and start looking and searching and hoping for the bright side, the silver lining, the good stuff.

It’s usually out there.

So let’s go find it.

 

Looking For Motivation

Two winters ago, I gained 7 pounds due to less activity and too many goodies. By the summer I had lost a few of them, but this winter I gained them all back with an extra three for good measure. That’s 10 pounds extra of Holly that I wish I didn’t have. And yet…I can’t seem to care that much.

All of my pants still fit, but most are much more snug than they should be, thus giving me that lovely extra-large muffin top. I cover my squishiness up as best as I can with layers of turtlenecks and sweaters. Winter in Maine is good for some things! And even with all of that, I can’t seem to get my butt on the treadmill or outside more than I do. I’m only running 6-9 miles a week and attempting to do a smidge of weight lifting a few times a week, too. You might be saying, “Hey! That’s great! At least you’re doing that much.” But it’s not really great. It’s not enough, especially since I’m eating anything I want and not giving a damn. Yes, I am moving, but I’m only one step away from Couch Potato Kingdom.

There was a time when I would faithfully work out 6-7 times a week, even though it stressed me out to do so. I justified it by saying the physical activity did me more good in the long run. But now, just the thought of trying to squeeze 6-7 workouts in a week, makes me want to cry. I give myself Wednesdays off so I can volunteer at my son’s school library in the morning and I give myself Fridays off so I can go to my mom’s in the morning and fill her pill container and check her blood sugar and just make sure all is well.

So what are my excuses the other days? I’ll squeeze in a 20-30 minute workout most mornings, but honestly, I have no excuse for not running on the weekend. I have the time but I’m just so apathetic. I have no doubt that part of my apathy stems from my mother’s illness, my father’s newly discovered memory loss and even our lost vacation. But I can’t keep going on like this because I know my physical health will suffer and my mental health is already deteriorating. The winter affects my mood anyway, so the lack of exercise makes me feel even sadder than usual. I tend to fix that sadness with more reading and chocolate and wine. And that, my friends, is asking for trouble. (Except for the extra reading. That’s always good, no matter how you look at it.)

My friend, Aymie, lost 50 pounds last year and ran over 500 miles. She looks fantastic and you can tell she feels great, too. My friend, Moriah, is on a journey to lose weight and to get healthy. She’s lost 14 pounds so far, and although I know it’s been tough, she’s doing it and I’m so damn proud of her. And yet why can’t these women motivate me to get my ass off the couch? I’ve been inspired by these women and others in the past, so why not now?

Maybe I need a goal. Something to shoot for. Use a website like stickk like I have before? Cover my Facebook feed with memes of encouragement?

Maybe I just need to hold on until spring when the temps are warmer and we’ll see the sun more. Although I think the zipper on my jeans probably can’t wait that long. I really need to find something now to make me care about my level of fitness.

What do you do to help with the winter blues or with the inactive times in your life? Is there something that helps you get up and go? What motivates you to take care of yourself?

As usual, any and all suggestions welcome, my friends!

Well shit….

Remember how I hoped our spending moratorium would go well and the car would hold out for a while longer? I really should have lowered my expectations on how 2017 was going to go.

See, this is Shaggy Roo. dscn3582

He’s 12 years old but we got him when he was only 2. He has not only been good to us, but kept our friend Sarah safe through two accidents. He’s plowed through snow for me countless times and kept chugging along when he probably should have died months ago. He’s literally only on 3 cylinders now, and we’re just feeding him with lots of oil, hoping he can hold out for at least one more week.

I’m sad to see Shaggy Roo go for obvious reasons–he’s been with us a long time, been very reliable, haven’t paid a car payment in several years. But also this means that we have to get a new vehicle (which is actually used and the same age as Shaggy Roo). Since we’re only a few months into our moratorium, there is still very little savings…which means a small loan will need to be taken out…which means NO VACATION.

This all came about a week ago. On Monday we realized how bad Shaggy Roo really was, we found out a distant relative/friend/library patron died over the weekend, my brother was ill, and I was still on high alert (i.e., panic) mode about Mom. Needless to say it was not a good Monday.

Yet because of everything else that was going on, it put everything into perspective. Yes, it totally sucks that I had to cancel our vacation. Yes, it bites that we have to get a different car. BUT, we’re here. We’re relatively healthy. Mom took her pills all week last week. My brother is feeling better. And as I stood in the veterinarian’s office this morning (two of my cats need their annual shots), listening to a young man cry over his dog that needed to be put down, I could be nothing but grateful for what we do have.

So now I need your help. Although I’m happy we have each other and we’re doing ok, I need to have SOMETHING to look forward to. It certainly doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, well, it *can’t* be extravagant anyway, but I want to do something with my family this year to celebrate our big milestones we have coming up. I want to do something we will not only enjoy, but remember…and costs very little to do.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions, my friends!

 

 

 

Just Awful

Yesterday morning, as I sobbed and hiccupped on my couch, I told my husband I was a horrible caregiver. “I’m too selfish to do this,” I cried.

Just when I think things are ok, they’re really not.

My mother has Type 2 Diabetes, and before she had dementia, it wasn’t a huge problem. She didn’t eat very well, but she took her medication and it was manageable. Then we realized that she hadn’t been taking any medication for nearly 5 months, things were bad. So my caregiving duties were upped a bit and I started religiously visiting my mother at least once a week to fill her pill container and to chat and just see her. Yet in the past month, the situation started to decline. Mom just hasn’t been taking her medication. Maybe twice a week, but that’s all. I don’t know why, but something changed. The first week it happened, I hoped it was just a bad week. And the next week she did take all of her meds, so I thought indeed it had been a snafu. But then for the next 3 weeks, she only sporadically took everything she needed to. And only once did I say, “Mom, you really need to take your medicine, ok?” But why? Why did I only ask her once? Because although I am 43 years old, I still don’t want my mother mad at me.

I am very rarely the recipient of my mother’s wrath. My sister has been the unfortunate one in that scenario and it can be awful. You can practically eat the silence that invades the room when she’s angry. It’s thick and dark like molasses. Or the look she gives you. Christ, a person could burst into flames if they get that look.

But I mean, really, who wants their mother mad at them? No matter what age? But….I know I need to ask my mother if she’s taken her pills…and I need to ask every day….which, in my opinion, is completely awful.

This all came up at Mom’s doctor’s appointment a few days ago. Her glucose levels were off the charts and Mom’s healthcare provider asked my mother if it was ok if I asked her to take her pills. “I know you care about me. I know why that’s the reason you’re asking, so it’s ok,” Mom said. So that’s what I’ll do.

And then I get a late night phone call from the on-call doctor at Mom’s doctor’s office. He tells me Mom’s glucose levels are in fact over 600 and she should go to the ER and get insulin. So…here I am, 35 minutes from where my mother lives. I know that if I call her and wake her up, she’ll be confused and probably hang up on me. If she’s still awake, more than likely she will refuse to go anywhere because it’s late at night and she’s not going to wake her friend and have him take her. So…I don’t call my mother. I wait until the next morning and explain the situation. She says she’ll go to the ER. She then calls me back 10 minutes later, asking what she’s supposed to do at the hospital, what to say, what will they do. Then calls back one more time to say she’s leaving for the ER, but says, “But I’m not staying!” I reassure her that they’ll probably only give her an IV for fluids and some insulin then she can go back home. Which is what they did. They brought her levels down significantly and she’s ok.

But I burst into tears after that last phone call. The self-doubt and guilt completely overwhelmed me. Should I have called her the night before? I could have driven over there and taken her, right? Why didn’t I at least give her the option the night before? I want to say it’s because I knew she wouldn’t go. But I don’t really know that, do I? I was tired, I was on my way to bed, and I didn’t want to deal with one more thing.

Do other caregivers go through this? Do they do stupid, awful things and continuously wonder what the hell they’re doing? This is so much like being a parent, but not. I feel like I have the same amount of responsibility as with my child, but yet more urgency and less power. I am still my mother’s child. I don’t want to make her angry or upset and yet I don’t want to fail her, either. And if I don’t step up my game, I think I’m going to do just that.

 

What will 2017 bring?

My friend, Leanne, was raised with the belief that what you do on New Year’s Day, you will  do all year long. Today I ran outside for the first time in a month, baked biscuits, ate fresh veggies and homemade (by me) baked beans, played board games with my family, called my mom and listened to an audiobook while doing dishes. It was a lovely, relaxing and satisfying day. If my entire year could be like this, it would be the absolute best year of my existence.

But we know that’s not going to happen, right? More than likely, this will be a year of turmoil. In the United States, we will have a new president in just a few weeks and many of us are worried how his presidency will affect our lives, our country and our world. I can’t say I have a lot of good feelings about this, so I’ll just be watching, listening, hoping and acting when it seems right to do so.

My mother’s health is still in decline. We had a pretty good autumn, but just in the past month her memory, weight, medicine consumption and hygiene have all diminished. I’m not quite sure what to do yet, but have appointments coming up that might help us.

Unfortunately my father is now losing his short term memory, too, but no one seems to know why. And now that he’s refused to see any more doctors, we may never know why. “As long as I know who my wife and kids are, I just don’t care,” he said. And honestly, I don’t blame him. He’s 75 years  old, is a recovering alcoholic and has been morbidly obese for much of his adult life. He’s amazed he’s lived this long!  My brother’s health is not fantastic, either, but still better than two years ago. We’ve been living on hope and good thoughts for this long, so why not keep going?

I have to believe that 2017 will not be completely horrendous. My son will turn 10 this spring. Double digits!!  My husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in the summer. My sister is getting married in the fall. My husband turns 50 on Halloween and if the spending moratorium keeps going well and the car holds out, we will go on our lovely Disney vacation in November. I have several colleagues having babies this year, friends are writing books and creating art, and Star Wars: Episode VIII comes out in December. Some good things WILL happen.

happy-new-year-2017-poster

Now for a resolution. Last year was probably the first year I didn’t have a resolution. I had wishes and dreams for my family and friends, and unfortunately not one of them came true. But this year, in tandem with a movement being created by the Pittsfield Public Library and the Heart of Pittsfield called “The Year of Kindness”, my resolution is to carry out an act of kindness every day. That’s 365 acts of kindness. Minimum. As I told my family about it this morning, I said that my first act of kindness was actually to myself. I went for an outside run that was long overdue. My husband thinks that’s stretching the definition of an act of kindness, but since I’m rarely good to myself, I decided it was ok. (I also wrote a little note to a fellow colleague and complimented her on her writing and how awesome I found it to be. That could be considered an act of kindness, too.)

What about you? Do you have any good thoughts about the upcoming year? Any resolutions? Suggestions for acts of kindness? Would love to hear about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

 

Bah Humbug?

Trying to enjoy the holiday season while conducting a spending moratorium has been an interesting experience. I’ve never felt like buying gifts has been the major part of Christmas for me. It’s the music, the lights, the movies, the food…but it’s also the gift giving. I do like to bake goodies to give to people, but I also like to buy photo ornaments for my family, books and candy for my friends, toys for my kiddo and grown up toys for my husband.

Yet this year, everything is scaled WAY down. Very few baked goods, no photo ornaments, nothing for my friends except a card (courtesy of my friend, Catherine), nothing for my husband except for socks, and my son will get this:

xmas-giftsWhen I first proposed these four gifts to my 9-year-old son, he was totally fine with it. He even suggested what he needed (an electric toothbrush suggested by his dentist). But that was a month ago. Now that Christmas is almost here, my boy is started to get a little  mopey. He’s mentioned the 4 presents idea a few times in passing, almost like he’s preparing himself so he won’t act disappointed. Both my husband and I have talked with him, explaining that gifts are not what Christmas is about, and he understands that. Yet he’s a kid and I’m sure it’s hard not to be disappointed when you usually have a bunch of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning (and not just from us but from others, too).

But it’s also been hard for me. Like every parent, I want to give my kid the moon. I know he doesn’t need everything he wants, nor should he have everything he wants, but I still wish I could give it to him, you know?

Having said all that, I think the 4 presents is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard. We did change things a bit–like having a stocking filled with food and we added a family outing to the bunch–but all in all it’s the original idea and I think it’s awesome. Not only do we not spend too much money but we’re not accumulating “stuff” and neither is the boy. We spend extra time thinking about the perfect gift for our son and we’re showing him that Christmas, for us, is about being together and enjoying each other’s company.

And possibly eating our weight in chocolate and cookies and ham and clam dip….but that’s a whole other story. 🙂

Happy Holidays to you all! Enjoy the folks you’re with, my friends!

 

 

The Richest (Wo)man in Town

I’ve always known that I have incredible friends. Sweet, hilarious and kind friends. But since my family and I have started our year-long spending moratorium, I never knew how generous they were. Today is the end of week 3 of this little “adventure” (sounds better than suck fest, right?). In these three weeks, I have received offers of clothing hand-me-downs for my son (which I accepted), a future gift of clothing for my son (which I also accepted), and an offer of $200 from a dear friend to help us through the winter (which I turned down but forever grateful for the offer). Then today, I received cash in the mail from a colleague-turned-good-friend. She knows how much I enjoy sending Christmas cards and she wanted to bring me joy this holiday. She said it was her favorite Christmas gift she gave this year.

I am stunned by the generosity of my friends. I shouldn’t be, since I’ve had the great opportunity to meet and fall in love with people all over this country.  It doesn’t seem to matter what color, religion, sexual orientation, gender or socioeconomic background—my friends are beautiful and kind and sweet.  And I feel unbelievably lucky to be loved by so many good, good people.

But…please know that I’m not writing about our spending moratorium to ask for money or assistance or pity. I write about it because it makes me feel better. It makes me feel like my friends are listening and they’re letting me vent…which is exactly what you’re doing. Y’all listen and sometimes offer advice and I love you for it. It’s my version of therapy. FREE therapy.

As I write this post, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is playing on the television. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Although I love George Bailey and all the good he did for Bedford Falls, look at the people he surrounded himself with–the family he was born into, his wife Mary, his children, his clarence_fg20afriends like Bert and Ernie–all good, good people. When life gets tough, it’s hard to stay positive. But when you surround yourself with kind, generous, good people, then it makes everything a bit easier. It can make life wonderful!

So the question remains. Will I use my friend’s money to buy and send Christmas cards? I did talk to her and talked to my husband, too. I let the money sit on the kitchen counter and re-read the wonderful note my friend sent in my first Christmas card I’ve received this season. And finally….

Yes.

Yes, I will use my lovely gift to send and write Christmas cards and letters to some of my favorite people in the world. Does it feel a little weird and maybe selfish? It does. But my friend has asked me to try not to feel odd about it and I’m going to do just that.

So if you’re one of those folks that typically receive a card from me? Be sure to check out my friend’s blog. You’ll find it listed on the sponsorship blurb in the lower right corner of the card. 😀