Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: January, 2017

The burden of citizenship

I had every intention of writing a post about Donald Trump’s first week as president.  I decided to do a little research so that I wasn’t just reacting to the emotional posts I’ve seen on facebook.  Educate myself.  I googled it.  I read several articles – pro and con – including the wikipedia narrative on Donald J. Trump, incumbent president.  Afterwards?  I sat in my chair feeling helpless, staring at my screen.  (This is exactly why I don’t normally get involved with political issues – this overwhelming feeling of fear.  What if?…..)

So here’s what I have to say about that:  I am about as far removed from the presidency and most of his current issues as you can get.  I live in a very small town in a very large but sparsely populated state. (Montana is the 4th largest state and the 44th by population).  Our nearest larger city is Missoula, home of the University of Montana.  Because of this, I may see people of other races when I am in Missoula shopping.  I do happen to live on an indian reservation and I am a tribal member – so I do have that going for me.  Changes in healthcare and medicare will directly affect my life – I will feel the sting personally.  Many of the other issues will not affect me – at least not right away and not directly.  I’m sure that is what most people are thinking.  I also think, “He won’t get away with this”, “He can’t do this”, “Someone will step in and take care of this”.  And then I sink into that helpless feeling.  WHO will take care of this?

Logically – we have to remember that OF COURSE he is going to sign all of these executive orders and bulldoze through all of his campaign promises immediately on his first week in office.  He knew when he made them that most of them were unconstitutional and unrealistic BUT that is how he got the votes.  He HAS to charge in, kick ass and take names.  Isn’t that how he won you over?  By promising to make America great again?  If all of his promises fail, if his executive orders are proven unconstitutional, if he is stopped by anyone – he will say that he is TRYING but his opposition is blocking his efforts – he needs to clean house of all the naysayers.  Have you looked at his list of nominees for his cabinet?  I hadn’t until this morning.

I have never contacted my representatives – until this presidency.  Frankly, the more I read, the more I know – the more helpless I feel.  I would love to ignore all of this – continue not reading the paper (too infuriating and depressing), not watching the news, dropping facebook and sitting in my little corner of Montana and pretend none of this is happening.  It doesn’t affect me anyway.  BUT it could…eventually, it COULD.  If I am to be honest, the reason I’ve always hated politics is because it is a BURDEN to have to hear these things and feel this way.  But if I don’t carry my share, who else will?

My grandfather came from Mexico – crossed the border as a 10 year old boy.  I know people who have had abortions.  I know people who are in the U.S. on work visas.  I know people who NEED healthcare.

We have to pay attention.  We have to speak up when we can – when we see an injustice.  We have to listen, read, watch.  But most of all, we must be mindful, make good decisions based on research.  Speak from a place of knowledge not panic or paranoia.  Don’t let fear send you into a frenzy of apocalyptic proportion.  When you hear something unnerving (as you will in the days ahead) – read about it.  Think about it.  Compose yourself.  Then speak, write or protest.  Let your voice be heard not as a radical but as a citizen.



Back from the cruise and feeling a little wobbly.  If I move too fast it feels like I’m still on the ship.  The trip was fun – great to get away in the middle of the ice, snow and cold season.  We arrived in Orlando at 9pm and it was about 65 degrees and humid.  When I stepped out of the airport you could almost hear a “boing” as my hair immediately curled in all different directions!

I love the heat, the sun, the warmth that reaches all the way to your core.  Glorious.  This was my kind of place.  We boarded the very large ship at noon  (4300 guests and 1700 crew members) and began our seven day adventure in the sunshine.  Unlimited food and beverage, shows, games, places to go and PLENTY of people to see.

I am a trained observer.  I love to watch people, to read their body language, to eavesdrop on their conversations – listening to their accents.  I am pretty good at reading lips too – partly because of a mild hearing loss and partly from years of experience; watching, watching, watching.  The average age on this cruise was about 72.  We felt like teenagers by comparison!  Many of the people we met were retired and living in Florida.  Lots of east coast accents.   As a little getaway, they take a cruise.  Where else can you get a room, drinks, food and transportation (translation: to be waited on hand and foot) all for one monies?

Most of them traveled in large groups – perhaps their card playing group, or their retirement wing group, or a group from their old neighborhood.  They were fun to watch – if you squinted your eyes, you could almost see a shadow of their former lives in the easy way they laughed together and their raucous teasing.  We talked about how nice it would be to move to Florida where it is always warm and sunny – or at least a majority of the time.  Buy a nice condo – live there all winter and be footloose and fancy free.  Take a quick cruise when you are bored with daily life.

I can tell you there was plenty of flesh to see as well – lots of bikinis and bellies.  And let us not forget the botox and plastic surgery!   It was a good testament for me — on occasion I consider a quick nip here, a shot of botox there (especially with my recent onslaught of face wrinkles!).  But alas, I don’t want to spend my final days looking like a ventriloquist’s doll, with a permanent look of surprise, barely able to close my eyes or have a genuine smile.  I do not begrudge those who choose that route though — not at all.  To each their own.  We all have our vanities.

The shows on board were wonderful.  They had dancers that were incredibly talented (and young).  There was another show about drag queens (or cross dressers?  Transgender performers?  Not sure what is politically correct?) which was very well done also.  Several great comedians and a magician/comedian who was phenomenal.  The entertainment was topnotch.

Seven days in the sun was just lovely.  We visited a beautiful beach with volcanic rock formations (and lots of people) in Tortola.  We also went zip lining in St. Thomas.  VERY fun and exhilarating!  We enjoyed white sand and warm water on a quiet island – with great food and cold drinks!  By the 6th day – even though you know it is cold and snowy at home…you are ready to get back to your own bed and pillow.

In my case, I needed to get home and find out how my kids and grandkids were doing?  To see their faces and hear their voices.  Perhaps when I am in my 70’s and they are all so much older, I could move to a sunshine state – live out my days with dark wrinkled skin (no botox and no bikinis!).  For now,  I will continue living in my own home state and bask in the sunshine that is my family.


Two words

Describe yourself in two words.  Can you do it?  It is harder than you think.  We usually describe ourselves with ONE word – usually an adjective: pretty, smart, cranky, happy, sad, etc. etc.  BUT what two words describe you?  Thinking of myself, it totally depends on the day…sarcastic wit, obsessive compulsive, quietly depressed, happily tidy.  Truly, to think of two words that encapsulate your being is difficult.

It gives you pause.  Try not to think about how “others” would describe you but how YOU describe yourself.

I am often quiet and reserved but I can be very loud and outgoing, in the right circumstance.  I am a homebody and enjoy days at home by myself but I love laughing and talking too (and while I spend a good amount of time talking to myself, it isn’t the same as sharing a thought or a laugh with someone else!).  Quietly friendly?

Organizing, sorting and cleaning is like therapy for me.  You would think that I would keep my entire existence organized and tidy but I don’t.  Oh sure, it starts out that way but then things get out of order and I have to sort and clean the closets, pantry, refrigerator and craft room again at least once a year.  Maybe I subconsciously let those things go, knowing that I will sort and clean them later for the benefit of therapy?  No.  I just let them go because I am focused on something else.  Partially compulsive?

Being outdoors is enjoyable but I don’t tolerate the cold very well so I am a fair-weather outdoors person.  I LOVE the heat of summer and could be outside all day during that time of year.  Sun Worshiper?

I like to travel and see new things.  I love to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants – it makes me feel like a queen.  But after a certain amount of time, I need to go back to my HOME and feed myself.  Sporadic traveler?

And I still love to play.  At the ripe old age of 58, I still enjoy playing with my grandchildren!  I love to run and chase, hide and seek, swing and climb, sing and talk in different “voices” or accents.  Having grandchildren gives me the opportunity to do so freely.  Crazy Gawee?

I am interested in learning and understanding about people; their emotions and actions.  Possibly, this comes from a lot of self-reflection; wondering why I feel the way I do about certain things, comparing myself to others and their situations.  I always wonder why each of us respond differently to certain stresses.  Two children raised in the same household will develop difference defenses and mechanisms for coping.  Why and how?  These things fascinate me.  If I were younger, I would study human development and become a speaker.  You would see me doing TED talks on various  human elements!  Life Apprentice?

Can you describe yourself in two words?  I can’t.  Two words are not enough.

That’s what I thought

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”, Flannery O’Conner  So true.

It is very dark outside and I am up earlier than usual.  As is par for  the course, I awakened and my mind began writing inside my head.  Of course, none of it made sense and if I had written it down at the time, it would have been a jumble of “worry” thoughts.   Sometimes, I try to imagine what it must be like inside another persons’ head, one who does not constantly ruminate about every thing.  My husband, for example.  Often, as he sits quietly beside me in the car or at the house, I will ask him what he is thinking.  His response is usually the same.  If he is driving; about traffic, or about the distance we have traveled, what time we will arrive at our destination.  If he is sitting at home; about his model train layout or the weather. (What is it with men and the weather?)  Very rarely is he thinking about his weight, his fitness, aging, worrying about our kids, the past, the future.  (Which are the things constantly rolling around inside my head!)

Believe me, that is not to say he is not a very intelligent and caring man, he is.  He just processes things differently.  In his lifetime, he has learned that if you can’t change something, there is no point in worrying about it; and so, he doesn’t.  I have always marveled at this ability.  Obviously, our brains are programmed differently.  A large part of the reason is gender.  (He just hates it when I generalize but it is true!).

When something stressful happens in our lives, I speed up and he slows to a crawl.  I’m running in circles, he is sitting calmly and quietly in one place.  I need to come up with a plan and implement it immediately, he seems oblivious as he looks at his phone or watches television.  He may or may not have moved on to the next “thought” in his mind as I continue to fret and plan and accelerate.  Of course, all of this motion and emotion is usually occurring internally not actually — this is just the difference in how we deal with stress.

My husband and I met when I was a dispatcher for 911 and he was a police officer.  We both had similar training in how to deal with stressful situations, to pay attention and process details quickly and efficiently and to keep things moving forward – being prepared for the “next circumstance” that may arise.  We’ve both carried that training with us into our personal lives and continue to deal with our stresses using those learned techniques.  Of course, he has been retired for 6 years and I haven’t worked as a dispatcher for 25 years, so we’re both a bit rusty.

In any case, his ability to hear something sad or tragic, talk about it briefly, then move on without another look back is remarkable.   At times, I envy that.  Other times, I realize we are the perfect pairing for this reason.  While he is lucky to be able to compartmentalize things and move on to the next event/detail – there are times when some further investigation or rumination may be necessary in dealing with the existing event.  This is where I come in – catching the fallout and bringing it to his attention.  Or just gaining additional knowledge about the event in order to have final closure.

Here’s another difference in a stressful situation on a smaller scale.  We’re taking a trip in two weeks.  I have been thinking about what to pack for the last week, picturing in my mind different items of clothing, jewelry, makeup, shoes…etc.  He won’t think about it until the day he starts packing. (Sidebar: it is rare that I will forget to pack something, while he has forgotten his bathing suit on two different trips!).

I am in charge of all our travel arrangements because I pay attention to each step of our trip, making sure we have transportation, time between flights, a place to stay and insurance.  I do all of these things fast and efficiently.  I have no doubt that he could accomplish these things as well, I just couldn’t stand watching the slow, methodical pace!

Conversely, at times I rush through things and “borrow trouble” with my worry.  His methodical approach will often prevent minor errors due to implementing half-baked ideas in a state of frenzy.  So, yes, ours is a good pairing.  The tortoise and the hare.

A prompt from Carla — Before

In June of 2015, we placed my mother in a memory care facility.

Before that, she was living in her own home.  My sisters and I took turns bringing her meals and checking on her.  She slept a lot and watched TV when she could figure out how to turn it on.  We would arrive to find her in a mess of one kind or another – half naked or with excrement on her, the couch, the floor.  The dog would eat her food and there would be a trail of wrappers and containers strewn about.  She remembered who we were, most of the time.  She didn’t offer much in the way of conversation other than answering questions.  Unable to dial the phone and sometimes, unable to remember how to answer it, she was cut off from everyone and everything.  Because she was unable to drive any longer, she spent long hours in her house looking out the window, thinking about how she needed to go somewhere.  In the end, she thought she needed to go “home” even though she was already home, and she started going out of the house, half-dressed and in disarray.  We knew the time had come to get her in a safe place.

Before that, she was retired and at home taking care of herself.  She had moments of forgetfulness and confusion but we didn’t realize it.  Our family had suffered a break and we were estranged from each other.  Her visits with us were strained and less frequent.  She worked at her church and drove herself to town to run errands.  She spent a lot of time with our younger sister.   We knew that she was having trouble with her memory and we were concerned about her ability to drive but because of the discord, we were unable to address those issues with her.  Our first try with offers of assistance were met with defensiveness and more dissonance.  She believed she was doing fine on her own.

Before that, she was working at the post office.  She had a small mail route in a small country town.  Despite her difficulty with her knees, she worked any time she was needed and enjoyed feeling useful.  Very devoted to her church, she taught catechism classes and played the organ every Sunday.  She was also a eucharistic minister and took communion to the elderly and shut-ins.   My mother was a “gallivanter”, if she was bored, she would jump in her car and go visit one of her children or grandchildren or her good friend, Evalyn (or all of the above).  Losing the ability to drive in her later years was devastating for her.  Her vehicle was her mode of escape.   She would also call to check in with us once or twice a week and if there was a function at the school, she would stop in to see if it was something that might be of interest.  She attended any function in which her grandchildren participated.  She was a widow but she still had her family, friends and church.

Before that, she was living with my dad.  She worked at the post office part-time and devoted a lot of time and energy to her church.  In regular contact with her children and grandchildren, she made every effort to attend any activity they were involved in and always brought a treat of some kind.  At this point in their lives, my parents’ relationship was difficult, at best.  They were at odds with each other over many things.  They rarely rode together in the same car to any of the family functions.  My mom had a habit of leaving without saying goodbye – suddenly you would notice that she was no longer there.  I think she often felt overshadowed by my dad and unappreciated for her efforts.  She loved spending time with her grandchildren especially when she could have them to herself.

Before that, she was working as a home health care worker, taking care of the elderly who needed assistance with cleaning and errands.  She had several clients and she was very devoted to each of them.  My mother was always a very hard worker.  Her church and her grandchildren took up most of her time.  She traveled to Texas once or twice a year to visit her family.  She also did a little traveling as part of her training for the eucharistic ministry.  I don’t know much more about this time period of her life because I was busy with my own.

Before that, I am not certain of the details of her life.  I have only snippets of memories of interactions with her.  Mom was not one to express her feelings or desires.  I have had a lot of time to think about her, about this illness and about losing her.  I’ve thought about having to help write her obituary and feeling totally inadequate to do so.  I will have to seek assistance from others if I am to do her justice in that endeavor.

When a parent has dementia, there are so many layers of loss.  You lose that person that you have relied on all of your life.  The one MAINSTAY we all have, our mother.  You also lose the opportunity to repair or rebuild a broken relationship – or to create one where there wasn’t one before.  You have to give up on that dream.  And far worse, you see this person slowly disappear and you still remember who and what they were…before that.

I have a name…

What’s in a name? The other day, my good friend commented about how many names I have and it is true. It seems I have a different name for every group of friends or family that I am in association. My given name is Loretta Faye. If I remember correctly (and that is always in question these days), Loretta was a nun my mom met somewhere – perhaps in the hospital when I was born? Faye was her very good friend at the time.

When I was about 6 months old, my family moved from Texas to Montana. I’m not sure what they called me – I assume Loretta – but at some point in my childhood my aunt nicknamed me Baba looey (after the burro character on the cartoon “Quick Draw McGraw”).  Evidently, we were pretending we were those characters and she thought I was a perfect Baba looey.  Of course,  over the years the name has transformed – it evolved into Bobaloo and that name stuck.


My little sister is 7 years younger than me and when she started talking, she couldn’t say Bobaloo so then it changed to Booboo.  My older brother still calls me Booboo.  Most of my extended family just calls me Boo.  My mom still calls me Bobaloo when she remembers.

When I started school, my siblings and cousins all knew me as Bobaloo and my mother thought Loretta would be too difficult for me to learn to spell (thanks mom, for the vote of confidence) so they used my middle name, Faye.  Everyone was told they could no longer call me Bobaloo but to call me Faye instead.  To this day, all of my school classmates know me as Faye.

When I married my first husband, he didn’t really like the name Faye.  Imagine!  So, when I started a new job at 911, I used my first name – Loretta.  Everyone from that period of my life knows me as Loretta and that is the name I have gone by in all of my jobs since.  At 911, my nicknames were Roletta, Ro and Boo.

People have called me Roberta and Loraine (Loretta is such a hard name to remember!).

My kids have a number of nicknames for me: Mooder, momma, mom-stinks.

My husband called me Richie for many years – old and long story from our first years together. He still addresses cards to “Richie”.  Now, he calls me Bobaloo most of the time.

I have a cousin who calls me Black Animal – years ago we were joking with each other about how dark we were in the summer.  Him, from working in the sun and me, from laying in it.  I call him Black Animal too.

I have an uncle who called me Rutherford for a long time – I wonder if he remembers that?  (I used to imitate a character on a Jerry Lewis movie named Rutherford).

But, of course, my all time favorite has to be: Gawee.  It started out as Gwagwee which is what my youngest daughter called my mom for a time.  But Gwagwee is hard for little ones to say — gawee is much easier.  Little Ollie calls me “Gah-eee” – he can’t say his “w” yet.  It is my pride and joy to hear them calling my name in their cute sing-song fashion whenever they see me!

With each given name, I carry a certain fondness and memories of that time period of my life or of those I knew at that time.  It is like re-reading favorite chapters or quotes from a much-loved book.

Baby, it’s cold outside

It is early morning and pitch dark – a very cold winter day. It is 9 degrees here in Montana. They say we are due for about a weeks’ worth of “artic blast”. Lovely.

I am not a winter person, I don’t ski or snowshoe. I can barely tolerate the walk from my door to the mailbox. I have all the cold weather gear necessary for walking in the cold temps – but I don’t. Becoming a snowbird in Arizona is looking more and more enticing!

When I was a little girl, I loved going out in the snow. We would go sledding or ice skating at my grandmother’s house. She had a pond and a great sledding hill. Of course, in those days, we didn’t have the matching snow pants and coat, the thinsulate gloves and the warm snow boots. We wore layers of old pants, socks and mismatched mittens. Boots were usually way too big, usually hand-me-downs, if we could find them. I remember having so much fun that we didn’t feel cold – until we went inside. Then our hands and feet were FREEZING. There were many times that I was certain I had frostbite and would probably lose at least one appendage!

My grandmother lived at the base of the mountain and at the top of a wonderful hill. The county road went directly up past her house and that was our sledding hill. In the old days, the county didn’t get out to gravel the hill right away so it was the perfect sledding hill in the winter. We would pile on our old sleds and see who could make it the farthest down the road or we would make a train of all the sleds together. Good times.

It’s easy to love the snow and winter when you are a child. You never have to worry about driving in icy conditions or water pipes freezing or shoveling sidewalks and driveways. Not when there are snow angels to make and sledding hills to fashion and snowmen and snow tunnels – and snowball fights! Of course, we tolerate the cold better when we are younger. It has a totally different connotation for us then. Joy, laughter and fun! When we are old, we switch from running and sliding on the ice to worrying about falling on the ice and breaking a hip!

I now live just beyond the bottom of my grandmother’s hill. This year, we took my grandson, Jack, to the hill on Christmas night. It had snowed all day and the county didn’t come out to plow so the hill was just like it used to be in those old days. Jack LOVED it! He would squeal with glee as we glided down the hill. Then, after we crashed into the ditch, covered in white, fluffy snow, he would jump up and start pulling the sled back up again. Listening to his exuberant chatter and laughter, made me like the snow again. It was early evening and getting dark. The snow was white and clean and all of us were covered in it, laughing and playing, trying the hill over and over again. Sometimes, if you let yourself, you can appreciate the cold.

The clean slate

…and 2017 begins. In high school English we read the book “1984”. It was 1975 or so and I remember thinking, “Wow, is this really how it will be in 1984???” Scary. And in the year 2000? Well, by then we would be living like the “Jetsons” with total automation for cooking, dressing and cleaning. We would own robots and our vehicles would fly instead of driving on the ground. We haven’t quite reached that point but technology changes daily…who knows?

I love the new year. It is a clean slate. I have plans of sorting, purging, cleaning, getting things in order on all fronts. I am a list maker and an organizer. Nothing is more therapeutic than a thorough cleaning of a closet, drawer or pantry. And with each cleansing, I promise myself that I will stay ahead of the jumble, to maintain the order, but time robs me of my motivation. I get in a hurry and forget myself, toss things where they are convenient instead of where they belong and then in 2018 I will start with a clean slate again! It seems to be a pattern….

To begin, we will take down the Christmas decorations. My husband and I very methodically remove all of our cherished pieces and place them in their marked boxes. He is the “packer” so he will place them in their appropriate storage boxes and we will stack the boxes very carefully in the storeroom for another year. We have pared down our decorations over the years and it won’t take long to pack everything back up. Then we will start 2017 with a clean house, no dust, no muss. In our retirement, we have discovered that we are both a little OCD about tidiness. It is easy to be tidy when there are just two of you.

At this point, I must mention that we had a glorious Christmas! It was not tidy. It was wonderfully noisy and rambunctious. Our four youngest grandsons were here and they are a delight! Who ever knew you could love them so deeply? It is always a comfort for me to have my children under the same roof, even for a short time. I enjoy watching them interact with each other, joking, laughing and talking. It is good to see them in love with their partners, caring for their children and reconnecting with each other. They have their struggles but with each passing year, they grow stronger and wiser.

As a mother, you never stop wanting to lighten their burden – to help them figure things out. Over time, I’ve realized that a mom has less influence than she would like, or that she believes. Letting go of the desire to control the outcome of their lives is a difficult thing to do. Sometimes (most of the time), it is depressing to know you really can’t bend the world to your will for their benefit. Their lives will unfold in ways you cannot decree, intervene or obstruct. And learning to live my own life has been harder than I imagined. Every transition, in their lives and mine, requires “re-grouping” and awareness. I think we are figuring things out and I have good relationships with all of them (at least I think I do?). Because I never had a good relationship with my own mother, it is difficult for me to navigate my relationships with my kids – I am constantly shooting from the hip and hoping that I am not overstepping or overlooking.

So. 2017. The new year, the clean slate. I will organize and clean – that’s what I do. I will spend time with those I love and I will live my own life. I will enjoy my grandchildren immensely because they are the gravy or the frosting, however you want to look at it!

I will use my clean slate to learn all that I can, every day.