Double Digits

It’s been one decade since my son was born. Ten years. On many days, it seems like just yesterday I was changing his diapers and  yearning for an entire night of sleep. Most of the time, though, it feels like the baby days were a lifetime ago. And I’m totally ok with that.

I didn’t do so well with the newborn/infant stage. Like many parents, I had no idea what I was doing. Although to be honest? I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ve learned to fake it. I love my boy with everything I have and I try to listen to him and encourage him to make good choices and I try to be a decent role model. I think that’s the best I can do.

As my son gets older, each new year brings my new favorite age. At one, he started walking. At age four, we could start having conversations. At five he was reading to me and telling me stories. At seven I realized what a funny kid he was  (and is) and what a class clown he had become. At nine, his YouTube channel debut made me just as proud as it made him. And now at ten? Who knows what the year will bring. But I know how happy I am at the human being he’s becoming.

These past few days as we’ve driven home, the boy has read Garfield and Peanuts comics to me until we both laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. And in the past month, we’ve had the best discussions about gender roles and stereotypes and about how fantastic it was to finally see a gay boy in a graphic novel for middle schoolers. (Thank you, Raina Telgemeier!!) I feel like I’m pretty liberal in my political and social views on the world, but my son’s ideas have challenged them. He’s of the belief that anyone really can do anything. If you’re a boy and want to join the Girl Scouts, you should. If you’re a girl and want to join the Boy Scouts, you should do that. He doesn’t see anything “wrong” or even “weird” for either of those scenarios.  If you’re transgender? Great! If you’re not? Great! It doesn’t matter to him. Just do what you want to. Accept everyone, no matter what. Don’t tolerate, accept. And I find that absolutely awesome.

I think my boy will find the world a challenging place and it often won’t bend the way he wants it to. But hopefully in the future he can change what he’s able to and go with the flow when he needs to.

For right now though? For right now I hope he can continue to just be himself–the gamer, the tall kid, the sports player, the reader, the clown, the actor, the Youtuber, the creator of zombie peep massacre dioramas, the cat lover, the writer–and be happy with who he is and who he is becoming. Because I certainly am.

Happy 10th birthday, my beautiful boy!

Lost and Found

If I’ve learned anything this past week, it’s that Alzheimer’s Disease slowly eats away one’s independence, dignity, eventually humanity. It not only destroys the individual, but it injurs and scars the caregiver and the family.

Last week ended with me losing my mother in a hospital (she can seriously boogie with that walker!) and also discovering at least 6 months worth of unopened mail in her home, including financial matters that should have been tended to. And this week began with me visiting the bank and crying at the desk of a bank employee.

Today I told more people about my mother’s condition. I told people that may only be on the periphery of her life, but ones that need to know why she doesn’t seem like her typical reliable self. My mother’s reputation has been in jeopardy for the past year, and maybe that doesn’t matter to some. But I know if my mother was in her right mind, it would matter to her. She’s been a respected citizen of our little town for nearly 50 years. She’s always been responsible. She paid her bills on time, mostly obeyed the speed limit and every single person I talk to says, “She’s such a sweet woman!” I don’t want anyone thinking less of her because I didn’t pay attention to that growing pile of mail in her living room. If I had done my job, I would have helped her open that shit at least two months ago.

mailBut I didn’t. I didn’t want to. I was afraid. In the back of my mind, I knew my own responsibilities for Mom’s care would increase. I knew I would have to have uncomfortable conversations with Mom about finances–her last bit of true freedom. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything until….well….until I did.  I had to stop putting it off and just ask Mom if we could organize her mail a bit. But something so simple is still not easy for me to do. To this day, I still dread the thought of my mother being angry with me. She put fear in all her children, and although I can’t speak for my siblings, she put the fear of disappointing her, in me.

So now when I need to ask my mother permission to do something, like open her mail, I’m waiting for my mother to bite back, to tell me “no” and that she has everything under control. But she never says that. Not anymore. She knows she no longer has everything under control.  And as much as it pains me to say it, I guess that’s my job now.

My wrinkles in time

Do you have those little crinkly lines around your eyes? How about the parentheses that show where your cheeks begin? Maybe the horizontal lines on your forehead?

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Or maybe you’re like me and have the small vertical lines in between your eyebrows?  I really hate those things. I think it shows how skeptical and pissed off I’ve been all these years. You know how your mother used to say, “Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way!” How come she didn’t say, “If you keep scrunching your forehead when you think someone’s being an asshole, you’ll eventually have angry lines on your face FOREVER!”  I really wish Mom had told me that. Would it have prevented me from making that same face?  Probably not.

I have the parentheses on my face, too. They don’t bother me quite so much, until I notice my face in a mirror or window. If I’m not smiling, they are *very* prominent. My face is already long and those wrinkles make it look even longer. If I had an overbite, I’d look like a horse. But how did I get those wrinkles? Are they really from smiling and laughing? Huh. So I guess they’re like my happy badges. They show my happiness, my joy, my good days from the years that I’ve lived. I may not have all the memories, but my face still does. I kind of like that.

One evening last year, my nine-year-old son asked what I was putting on my face. I told him it was anti-wrinkle cream. “Mom, it’s not working,” he said. I couldn’t help but laugh when he said it, but gave him the stink eye, too. I know it’s a losing battle, but I don’t think I’m ready to give up on it yet. Although the laugh lines don’t bother me, those damn worry lines, well….worry me! I’m already a bit of a bitch, but I don’t want my face to always show it, you know? I’m hoping I can accept it at some point soon, but I’m just not there yet.

I don’t think accepting your body at any age is very easy. Or it never has been for me. When I was fat, I hated myself. When I lost weight, I hated I still had flab and without surgery, always would. Now that my body is aging and I don’t have the energy I once did or my skin is getting wrinkly or I can’t remember everything I wish I could, then I just get angry or frustrated. I don’t hate myself any longer (most of the time anyways) but I often wish I could have a younger body for just a while. Well, maybe not even that.

Instead I wish I could whisper into the ear of my 10-year-old self and say, “You’re ok. Keep running and biking and playing basketball, even when you don’t think you can anymore. Love your body because it’s strong and young and flexible. Don’t worry about other people or what they think. Just take care of yourself. And try not to scrunch your forehead too much. People will always make you angry with their stupidity. Instead of scowling, just arch your eyebrow at them or look at them cross-eyed. Don’t worry about what Mom said. They won’t stick! But the angry look you make with your face will. Trust me on that one.”

 

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.