BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: December, 2014

2015

This is the last day of 2014.  Do you remember when you were younger and you thought of the future?  I remember reading the book “1984” and wondering if that was really how it would be?  So much has changed in my lifetime.  We can talk to each other on Skype almost like George Jetson!  Of course, we can’t just ride the conveyor through the shower and full course meals don’t come out of a vending machine in the kitchen yet.  I’m sure someone is working on that technology as we speak.

I remember at this time last year, thinking and dreaming about my retirement!  I spent most of the year counting down the days in glorious anticipation for November 13!  That was definitely the highlight of my year.

And what does 2015 bring?  Some travel.  I want to read more books and write another play.  I want to continue trying new things, an herb garden this spring.  I have a dresser to re-furbish.  I am going to work on craft projects – and finally finish one or two!   I want to walk regularly for physical and mental health.  I want to visit friends and make sure that I don’t become a hermit.  I want to laugh out loud.  I want to see my grandsons as often as I can.  I want to visit my kids often and with relish.  I want to discover new things with my husband.  Above all, I want to learn to let go of old fears that get in the way of feeling joy.

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Just chatter

It has been a few days since I’ve written.  Christmas got in the way.  It was a lovely holiday and I learned a few lessons in the process.  First, the frenzy is my own doing.  I already mentioned that in one of my previous posts, but it became more and more evident with each passing event/party.  I worry too much about making others happy, making sure they are “okay” — in most cases it isn’t my responsibility to do so but that doesn’t prevent me from trying.  This is such a hard lesson for me.  I want EVERYONE to be happy – ALL the time.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?  How do we gauge the amount of happiness that is acceptable and desirable to each and every being we are connected to??  It is an impossible task – to gauge and to ensure happiness.  Those are things individuals control for themselves.

For whatever reason, we moms and women, in general, are under the misguided notion that if we do certain things just so – lay out the foundation perfectly – in advance; our children/family will fall right onto the happiness trail and all will be well.  We have done our jobs and we can sit back and revel in the joy.  The truth is our influence is limited.  We can’t choose their career path, their partner in life, their friends, their pets or their dreams.  No matter how close we are to them, no matter how much we do for them, no matter how much we push, pull or stand back.  Their life is their own.

At some point, and I think I’ve reached it, we have to look at the bigger picture.  Where does my circle end and theirs begin?

SO – back to the frenzy.  Let me describe what I mean – when some big event is coming up – like Christmas, I begin exerting pressure – MUST be perfect in everyway – meals, gifts, visits, I must be thin, I must be funny, I must be congenial, I must make sure everyone is involved, I must make sure they have fun, so they will think I’m wonderful because if they don’t think I’m wonderful, then I will be a dud.  The lesson is in accepting that the frenzy is self-made.  Perfection is not the goal – relaxation and enjoyment is the goal.  But what the hell is that?  Relaxation?  During the holidays?  Are you insaaaane?  Old habits do die hard – so the lesson is to continue re-learning the lesson – with each big event/holiday/party, it should get easier.

Another lesson: I am not 35 anymore.  Wait, what?  This is extremely difficult for me – realizing just how old I am (56) and that I can’t wear the same style of clothes as previously, and if I do, I don’t look like I did previously!  It is just not right!  My eyelashes are thinning out, my waist is thickening up, the list is endless.  Who cares right?  Up until it started happening to me, I didn’t care either!  Onward.  I must learn to deal with my vanity.

On a more pleasant note – with the new year coming we have several trips planned.  I’m excited for that!

***JUST A SIDEBAR, I DON’TLIKE THIS NEW WORDPRESS BECAUSE IT DOESN’T KEEP UP WITH MY TYPING!  I HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT TO CATCH UP!

That’s it for now.  I will be more informative next time.

It IS important…

Today, I will attend the annual BIG family Christmas party.  In attendance will be members of my father’s family – his siblings and their children and grandchildren.  Usually, there are anywhere from 40 to 55 people – lots of good food and a fun gift exchange where you can either choose a new gift to open or steal a gift from someone else.  Each year, the group of attendees change depending on who is home for the holidays and whether they are available to attend on the day of the party.  Sometimes, people have other family obligations.

The menu for today is Indian Tacos, sherbet flavored punch, great salads and desserts.  We will eat first, then my aunt will do a presentation about my great, great grandmother, Penama Cocoway (pronounced pen-ah-may coocooway), who walked with the tribe from the bitterroot valley to this reservation.  She lived in a log cabin on the hill above my house – the cabin still stands.  I am anxious to hear what my aunt has to say because I was just a toddler when Penama passed away.  We will also play musical chairs and limbo.  Last, the gift exchange which can take up to 2 hours depending on how many gifts are “stolen”.

This is a special day.  Some of us only see each other at this party each year.  We try to share memories of past Christmas parties or events.  Our family has suffered losses over the years.  Some who died far too soon.  We miss them.  Today, there will be some tears but mostly laughter.  This year, we’ve had new additions too – new babies to join the clan.

I always think of my dad in his cowboy hat, wrangler jeans, cowboy boots and beaded leather vest.  He loved this celebration.  It made him so proud to have all of us under one roof, eating and laughing together.   He would arrive early to help set up and then begin cleanup with his black garbage bag when the party was over.  How I miss hearing his loud, tuneless whistle and watching him laugh and play with the kids.  This will always be a special day for me because I know how much he loved it.  I know how important it was to him that we always make the effort to get together and celebrate Christmas as a family.  He has been gone for almost 13 years but I still feel his presence in the building on this day.

Christmas Frenzy

This week, as I was shopping and caught up in my own little frenzy, I began thinking about Christmas and trying to evaluate when and why it became such a strenuous time for me.   I tried to remember what it was like as a child.  I realized I have very few memories of Christmas – just a few different times.

I remember the year that mom and dad must have REALLY been short on money.  We were living in our old house – the two bedroom where my three siblings and I shared a very cold room that was more like an enclosed porch — with tarpaper on the walls and the “cellar” in the corner.  We had a very small Christmas tree on top of the TV so that it wouldn’t be too noticeable that there weren’t very many presents.  I don’t know if that was the same year that my sister wanted a Chatty Cathy (you pull her string and she talked!) but didn’t get one.  We all cried about that – including my mom.  Maybe that was the beginning of my unconscious knowledge that it was important to get good gifts but also that it was difficult given the limited family income.

I also remember one Christmas when I was around 12 years old – I got a cassette recorder!   It was the most fabulous gift I had ever received!  I wore that thing out!  I made all kinds of funny and dramatic recordings, used voices and accents.  When my brother was in the air force and was stationed in Turkey, we used to send tape recordings back and forth to each other.  I loved that recorder so I will always remember receiving it.  Do I remember anything else about that Christmas?  Not really.

I do remember as I aged, I became aware of how the Christmas holiday affected my mom and, in turn, my dad.  The holiday always started out on a good note but by dinner time, she might be in the bedroom (crying/sleeping – isolated) and he would be watching TV – or there may have been harsh words and no one would be talking.  Luckily, my siblings and I would find things to do on our own.  I realize now that this was our “normal”.  I also understand that mom had a lot going on – worrying about gifts, money, missing her own family in Texas.  As a teenager, I was only aware of what was going on in my own head.  Of course, that didn’t keep me from wondering if I could possibly be responsible for her sadness OR if there was something I could do to change it?

When I married and had children of my own – the understanding of the Christmas stress came full circle.  We were not as poor as my parents were, but we had a very tight budget.  Naturally, children have high expectations for gifts – they are inundated with evocative commercials on TV and their friends all have the most up-to-date and wazoo toys!  When they are REALLY young, they just believe that Santa can bring them anything they ask for so long as they have been good.  As they age, they just want what they want.  The stress is on.  Do you go into debt getting them everything they want?  Usually.   We tried very hard not to go overboard, but I do remember several times when I got a “replacement” gift, one that was within our budget but that was NOT what had been requested.  My kids were really good about it – I’m sure they were disappointed but they never really showed it.  Meanwhile – the pattern was established.  Christmas = stress, worry, fear of failure, anxiety.

HOWEVER, it doesn’t have to be that way.  I hope that my kids have good memories of the holidays of their childhood, even if they didn’t get the exact presents they had requested.  I worked hard to make sure the day was enjoyable, the meal was good and that I projected happiness.  I sincerely HOPE that I was able to hide my angst.  AND now that I am in the F U fifties, I hope I can overcome that old drill and develop a new one.  My goal? Enjoy the time.  Take the frenzy down a couple of notches.  Eventually, eliminate the frenzy.  Be in the moment.  Feel the joy that I felt with the silly tape recorder.

I want to go.

Yesterday, we took my mother to the neurologist for a follow-up visit.  Her appointment was with a very young, bubbly P.A. who looks to be about 30.  There is a cognitive “test” that is given to determine the level of dementia – although it was never clearly explained what the scores really mean – just that she scored less this time than last time.

Mom didn’t know what year, month or day it was, or which country she lives in.  She did know which floor of the building we were on and which hospital.  (Although it took her a long time to remember.)  She was able to read the sentence, “Close your eyes.” but she couldn’t figure out how to follow that instruction. There were 30 items in all and some she just couldn’t figure out – others, with time, she knew the answers.  One of the last things she had to do was write a sentence – anything she wants to write.  She wrote, “I want to go.”

For someone who was accustomed to writing every day – I wonder if she misses it?  Up until about 6 months ago, she still had a journal on the table and would write little snippets that she wanted to remember.  The name of someone she saw or heard about; a phone number; a piece of gossip.  Then when she wanted to relate the story later, she would refer to the journal like a detective referring to his notebook.  Now, she no longer considers writing things down. That part of her life has slipped away.

I’ve read articles about dementia and one thing seems to ring true in every piece – the one positive aspect of this disease is that the patient doesn’t really know what they’ve lost.  They don’t ruminate over what they are missing because they no longer think in those terms.  That is the only saving grace.

There are moments; funny times when she will be the old mom and the quick wit is there.  If you tell her a funny story – she still belly-laughs.  When she sees a picture of one of her great grandchildren, she smiles and breaks into her “baby” voice.  Gratefully, the anger of her previous life is gone. There is none of the old harshness. Her hearing is top notch – don’t even think about whispering something within earshot – cause she will hear it.  We will keep her in her own house as long as we can.  Probably until those “moments” are gone.

Perspective

“I’m in a hurry to get things done.  Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.  All I really gotta do is live and die, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why”,  I’m in a Hurry – Alabama

I have now been retired 4 1/2 weeks.  The first few weeks were glorious – I felt at peace and each day I awoke with a giddy feeling.  No obligations to drive 25 miles, on deadly roads (slight exaggeration) and slave for 10 hours (another exaggeration) at someone else’s whim.  Then something happened.  Christmas.  This should be a joyous time – family together, having meals, playing games, opening gifts.  GIFTS?  OCD kicks in – and we’re off to the races.

Side note: once again, fellow women – we do it to ourselves.

My mind went into hyperdrive – autopilot – full-fledged frenzy.  I had at least three lists going in my head – all at one time.  And to top it all off, it was like throw back Thursday – I felt the same feelings from 30 years ago.  How on earth am I going to get all of these things on our new limited retirement budget!? What shall I buy this person?  Did I get ENOUGH?  Truth of the matter is – I let myself spin totally out of control.  I began feeling dread – fear – anxiety.

The real truth is that Christmas is a lovely time of year.  The lights are beautiful, the music is soothing.  It is a time of gatherings – a time when children come home for the holidays, if at all possible.  There will be laughter, good food, games of “oh heck”, little boys laughing and playing, big children sharing old memories and creating new ones.  I love going to bed at night with all of them under my roof again.  I adore waking up to my grandchildren – they are so cuddly and soft in the mornings.  If we’re lucky, we’ll get fresh snow.  We’ll eat too much for dinner.  We’ll have Tom & Jerry’s with the “good stuff”.  We’ll all be entertained by Jack and Charlie.  These are the things I should think about and list.

“Give life a chance to happen.  Give yourself an opportunity to enjoy it.”  Melody Beattie

Thinking about mom

I miss my mother and I must say, I’m a little surprised.  We haven’t been close since I was a little girl.  I miss seeing her drive down the road in her white Ford Taurus.  I miss her stopping by to see what I’m doing (it has been a LONG time since that occurred!).  I miss her phone calls.  I regret not stopping by to visit her more, even though I KNOW that things were not such that I could/would have at the time.  I wish things could have been different.

Mom has dementia.  She will be 80 next month.  Luckily, (I think?) she is still living in her own home.  We’ve taken away her driving privileges, we’ve disconnected her stove.  She has difficulty operating her toaster, coffee maker and microwave.  She has accidents every now and then.  My sisters and I take turns bringing her meals and checking on her.  She can no longer manage her own finances.  For most of the day, she sleeps or watches television. It is very difficult to observe this steady decline.

My mother was raised in Texas.  She grew up in a Baptist family and was the youngest of 4 children.  I suspect she was a little spitfire when she was younger – but I don’t know that for certain.  She really didn’t talk much about herself.  There are stories that I remember from my childhood – about how she and my dad met, married and the things they went through in the beginning of their life together.  I think they were happy then.  As time progressed and life happened, that happiness waned.  Their generation did not communicate well – there was a huge gap between what they each desired and what they each contributed.  There was no common goal.  I’ve always said that their timing was off – he would be willing to try and she would be angry and vice versa.  They could never hit the mark at the same time.  Sad, really, they lived their lives separately in the same house.

My mom told me once, some time after my dad passed away, that they worked together well.  I found it interesting that she would view it that way because I certainly never saw that aspect of their relationship.  We all see things differently, I guess, and it made me realize that I really never knew much about the reality of their relationship.  I think most of us viewed their relationship – especially in the later years – as him being the good guy and her being the bad.  She told me once how much she hated being thought of that way.  But she was very withdrawn and angry – most of the time.  I can remember countless times when we would be at a family gathering and she would suddenly disappear – she would just get in her car and go home, without a word.  Someone (usually my dad) had said something that upset her or she felt as though no one was talking to her.  This was a common occurrence – her getting upset and leaving.

She was not one to really talk about herself, what she was feeling or to express her frustration.  She was angry or depressed for much of her life.  When I look at what she had to overcome – I can certainly understand.  She moved to Montana from Texas as a very young woman with three young children.  My dad’s family was not very welcoming – in fact, they made fun of her accent and the way she took care of her kids.  They lived in a little shanty with no indoor plumbing.  She had to learn to cook on a woodstove.  Eventually, she converted to Catholicism.  She had no friends, especially in the beginning.  Dad was her only real friend and he was comfortable being “home” again – near all of his family and friends.  I think his expectations for her was that she just suck it up and adjust.  How very sad for her – she lost her family, her sense of comfort and her relationship with her husband took a 180° turn, all at the same time.

I think she worked very hard to do the best she could for her children and I am grateful.  She managed to do pretty well considering they had very little money and she had very little emotional support.

Fast forward to today.  As her children, we have to accept that “mom” is mostly already gone.  There are times when she will make a joke about something or tell you something in a complete sentence – a flash of the old mom.  But mostly, she is a shell.  For myself, I have to accept that I will never have the opportunity to make amends for years of misunderstandings on both our parts.  I’ll never be able to fully understand why she did or said the things she did.  We’ll never have the closeness that I’ve always desired.  I will help feed her and clean for her – I will help my sisters make decisions that are best for her.  I will love her and be grateful for all of her efforts as a mom and grandma to my kids.  And I will miss her.

Pinterest – the love/hate relationship

I’ve just been looking at my Pinterest suggestions of people/pages to follow.  Today’s recommendations were all about holiday décor.  So many ideas!  All beautiful, all DIY and all look so easy!  Some of the pins have video instructions, some have photo instructions…  Piece of cake.  I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for ideas on Pinterest – drooling over someone else’s creativity.  It is fun and I do it at least once a day.

Some days, like today, I find myself berating my own lack of creativity, flair and finesse.  I currently have two projects awaiting completion in my craft room.  And another 5 projects awaiting the start phase.  The projects call to me and I respond with, “I’m too busy” when what I really mean is “I’m afraid you can’t be perfect, so I’m holding off.”  Perfectionism is a pain in the ass.

I’ve watched several youtube videos on painting projects this week.  One in particular was very helpful – the host of the video was painting a sign and she was having the same difficulty I usually do – the lines weren’t going just right.  They were fat where they should be skinny and vice versa.  The weird thing was that she didn’t mention it – she didn’t talk about wiping off the paint and starting over or trying to correct the line (thereby making it even FATTER).  She just continued painting.  In the end, the project looked very nice.  Therein lies the lesson.

Where does perfectionism come from?  Fear?  Desire to please? Both?

I remember, as a teenager, reading about my astrological sign.  I am a Virgo – we are described as very tidy and efficient.  At the time, that didn’t fit my personality at all.  I was a slob, I didn’t care about anything – my life certainly was not in order.  Everything I did was “willy-nilly” at best.  But when I hit my mid 20’s that began to change.  I began to strive for perfection.  For me, it was about doing everything right to avoid failure and to stay under the radar.  It was a strange contradiction – I wanted recognition for my skills and abilities – but I didn’t want to be in the limelight.  Most of us have the fear that people will discover we are not as good as we appear.  Its a SILLY fear – but it is real.

As I write this, I realize that what I desired was approval from all of the “mom” surrogates in my life (supervisors, co-workers, bosses).  I also wanted approval from my mom but that just wasn’t to be.   She came from a humble generation that believed recognition would make a person boastful.  That simply isn’t true.  Mere recognition and validation would impart confidence and self-esteem.  It is interesting to note that most of the women I know are perfectionists.  Do I seek other perfectionists or are there a lot of us out there?  Perhaps both.  (As a side note: I hope I didn’t make my kids think they had to be perfect – though I suspect I may have….)

I guess the lesson is in learning to let go of those fears.  Let some of the lines be fat.

Back to Pinterest – I do enjoy looking and dreaming and pinning all of the things I will one day try.  Better to be on one of my boards than to be calling me from the craft room.

Playing with Technology (not that much fun) & thoughts of Christmas

I’ve just spent  30 minutes of valuable writing time, trying to figure out this damn blog.  I’ve looked at other blogs and thought, “oh, how lovely and creative”.  After 20 minutes of fumbling through multiple screens and tabs, I fell upon the perfect “appearance” – PLAIN.  The theme is called “manifest” and is described as simple, without a lot of other distractions on the page.  Perfect.  With my OCD – it works!  And it is all about the writing anyway, right?  Right.

This is my 4th week of retirement.  I am still enjoying the freedom and all of the spare time.  The advice I was given on retirement was to make sure I had a “routine” or a “plan” for my days.  Good advice.  There have been a couple of days when I didn’t have something specific to do in mind and they were long days.  I was NOT bored but I felt at loose ends;  a little guilty for not DOING something.  But I’m adjusting – it still feels glorious to wake up and not have an obligation.  I have lots of “projects” both in housekeeping and crafts.  I’ve decided that if I at least do one of those a day – I am doing well.

There are two weeks left before Christmas.  I still have some shopping to do but a lot of that can be done on line.  It certainly is a convenience but it kind of takes the fun out of Christmas.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – I enjoy sitting at the computer and looking at multiple items from multiple stores, ordering, paying and shipping, all in one fell swoop.  But it isn’t quite the same as walking from store to store – looking, touching, thinking.  It was always quite a challenge to find gifts within my budget.  That challenge was sometimes a huge undertaking.  Many holidays, I had to substitute less expensive items for the items actually requested.  There were really fun Christmases when the kids actually got something they loved.  (We have a video of Jackie opening the Nintendo game and she was SO ELATED!  Very cute.)

There is a LOT of pressure during the holidays.  Especially on us mom’s.  We want the day to be so much fun – full of wonder and joy for our kids.  We want, in the worst way, to get them just what they want…it doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes the wishes are too grandiose – a puppy, a bunny, a horse, an Ipad, a phone.  Sometimes, it isn’t just about the money either.  I realized early on that I didn’t want the kids to just want THINGS for Christmas – I wanted to them to enjoy our time together, to have fun with each other.  That’s a difficult message to convey with all of the excess trappings and the commercial influences of the day.

In my family, we have started to draw names for Christmas gifts.  It is a way to help with convenience and cost.  It was getting more and more difficult to find (and afford) gifts for everyone.  We draw names and the only rule is that you buy within your budget.  Each of us is supposed to provide a “wish list”.   It has definitely relieved my stress – and I think it is better for everyone else too – you buy ONE gift instead of 10 – or feeling guilty because you couldn’t afford to buy something for everyone.  Of course, I still buy everyone a small gift and a few stocking stuffers.  The grandchildren are not included in the drawings…they are the MOST fun to buy for!  I have to remind myself that the message should be the same for them – it isn’t about all of the gifts, it is about the time spent with each other.

Ever notice that little kids will open one present and just want to sit down and play?  There really is no need for 50 presents – except to placate the mothers who want to make sure they have enough! We should all be like little Charlie – as happy with the wrapping paper as he is with the gift!

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Little Charlie (Elfin Magic)

 

 

 

Touch

My daughter and son-in-law have a beautiful chocolate lab.  She is very well-trained.  From the moment they got her, they have trained her, taught her, loved her.  She can do multiple tricks – by voice and sign command.  (Not only that, she is a very loving and well-mannered dog!).  What does this have to do with “touch”?   That is one of her commands – they hold out their pointer finger and say, “Touch” and she touches her nose to their finger.  I’m not certain, but I think the purpose of the trick is just to pause whatever she is doing and make contact – a change of focus and a brief encounter just to say, “We’re together in this”.

The other day, I woke up thinking about writing this blog and about how important it has always been for me to be able to write.  I realized my writing/texting/emailing is very similar to the “touch” command.  Although, really it is more of a request.  I need to touch – to know you’re there, you’re okay, to let you know I’m thinking of you and to know you are thinking of me.  Are we in this together or what?

In an earlier post, I talked about my mom writing her sister and mother in Texas each and every day.  I also wrote about my writing letters in college because I couldn’t afford to call long distance.  I developed the habit of “touch” by writing a long time ago and now it is a part of my soul.  If I need to tell my kids something important, I will write them a letter or email.  If I try to tell them in person or on the phone, I will get too emotional and I will cry.  Somehow, the blubbering detracts from the message I am trying to portray.  Oh I still cry as I write this awe-inspiring message but at least I can edit and modify the message before it is sent.  The editing function in my brain when I am talking and crying is not nearly as efficient nor is the message nearly as coherent.

I often hear people say – why do people text?  Why don’t they just call?  I know the answer to that – at least in my case.  A quick text, “How are you doing?”  Touch.  “I am fine not having a very good day, ran over my lunchbox this morning.” Touch.  “How was your appointment?” Touch. “I got the job!” Touch.  “I have a cold and diarrhea.” Touch.

While I will be the first to admit and agree that sometimes, as a society, we are too attached to our technology.  People spend too much time looking at their phones instead of looking up at people, scenery, their own family.  But this technology also affords us that quick moment in our busy day to Touch.  Of course, it would be better to make real contact by phone or in person.  Of course, it would be better to spend evenings together chatting.  The reality proves otherwise.  People are busy working, raising children, running to and fro, preparing for the next thing.

My kids are grown, out on their own, with their own interests and their own activities.  Never again will I be a central part of their lives.  I am now retired and ready to move on to my “next thing”.   If we are only able to see each other once a month, every other month or only on holidays – then we need – I need that Touch.

It is the same with my siblings and friends.  Life is change.  We grow apart because we’ve grown up and gone in different directions; changed jobs, moved or life has just happened to us and we are no longer close.  I can text/email with a question, a comment, a reminder of an old memory.  Touch. It doesn’t have to be long or involved, we don’t have to delve up old topics and rehash old wounds.  Touch.

For a long time, I felt like a coward.  It was always so much easier for me to write than to talk to someone face to face.  In the beginning, that was true.  I was afraid of confrontation.  (Mostly because of the crying thing, I cry when I’m angry or overly emotional.  More on that later.)  As I matured, I learned how to confront issues face to face -sometimes  without crying.  At the very least, I got over that angst.  Now, my view of writing is very different because I know that is how I touch.  Am I justifying my comfort in writing instead of talking face-to-face?  Maybe.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  You’ve heard of the 5 Love Languages?  My love language is writing.  Touch.