Assisted Living 101: final thoughts

Did I mention at the beginning of this that so many people think “nursing home” when they hear the words “assisted living”? (Yes, I did.) The truth is that no one wants to be sick, disabled or senile and in need of a nursing home.  The truth is that no one really wants to be old, but the alternative is to be dead and that’s not great either. If we grow old without being sick, disabled or senile we will be blessed. Some of us will need to have good nursing care and a nursing home will be the safest place for us. Probably all of us will need assistance at some point. Who will assist you?

Before that time, we hope to take care of ourselves and be independent as “young elders”. It takes courage to ask where we best belong, and where we fit in. It also takes courage to deal with one’s pride and go live in a place where others might need us. Mom’s apartment at Water’s Edge is designed with aging in mind, but it is just like a nice apartment anywhere else. The basic plan here does not leave her feeling like she is an invalid, in fact, she feels like she’s on a cruise.  What would improve her experience here would be having more people closer to her age.

We have been meeting other tenants at meal time. Marjorie, Eleanor, Ken, Emil, Violet who is going to be 103, and the three Dorothys. Underneath the aging exterior, all of these individuals have interesting stories and quirky personalities that can come rushing out when you start conversing with them. This particular brand of assisted living has been good for them. They have family nearby but are really safer and happier here than they would be elsewhere. It is a good place.

Will Mom feel like she belongs here? She doesn’t know but is willing to give it a try. She has the option of returning home and living with family if she needs it. I will end the way I began. There is not one right way to do this aging thing – everyone’s situation is different and there are lots of variables to deal with. But I have learned that it is good to do the dealing gracefully, thoughtfully, and without fear before it is an emergency.

Aside: Today we met Ken who is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel of 27 years. When he could no longer play it, he donated his digital piano to the chapel at Water’s Edge. After we had lunch at the same table, he invited us to come learn how to operate the instrument. (Mom has always loved having a piano around to play when the urge hits…) Interesting people… see what I mean?

20180116_07055439711029.jpg
Outside the door, each tenant has a name plate and a small shelf where they can place some object. For now, it’s a china doll, but eventually it will be something red, I think.

Assisted Living 101: Red!

20180107_162125957370457.jpgMost apartments where people come and go are painted in neutral colors – beiges and browns, as in Mom’s apartment at Water’s Edge. There are beautiful dark brown cabinets, doors and baseboards, a light brown carpet and vinyl hard flooring. The minute mom saw it she was planning how she would fix it up. It needed some punch, and the punch was going to be red.

20180107_162017555656448.jpg
Red carnage begins.

The week before she moved she designated a rocking chair that would go there with her, whose outward façade would never be the same. I got in on the decorating fever and found a twin bed headboard and footboard at the ReStore. We put plastic down on the garage floor, obtained some of Walmart’s red spray paint and Mom went to work. Painting all those skinny spindles on the chair and headboard produced a lot of overspray. (Think “how to make your garage look like the scene of an axe murder” or “how to get pink hair for $3.89”). But she really liked the results, most of them (not so much the pink hair).

Moving day was last Friday, and has continued in increments since then. Having her former residence only a mile or so away has some advantages, because we forgot quite a few things at first.  Most of the cute, red stuff is here.

20180112_163020115425642.jpg
Moving day! The SUV was so full we had to put a basket between us in the front. I’m not really that excited – I’m freezing. It was minus 12 F. and snowed the day before.

Another way that Water’s Edge assists its tenants is in the safety department, and I said I would mention a few of those features in this post. Inside Mom’s entry door is this notification system that they ask her to use each day. 20180114_213513326780616.jpgShe presses the “check in “ button by 10 am just to let staff know she is doing fine and doesn’t need them. “Help” doesn’t have to mean she’s dying, just that she would like some help, duh. She can use it anytime, even if it’s just to get the TV hooked up, or a picture hung, or a question answered. There are also call buttons in the bathroom.

20180114_1749471862433164.jpg
Sign out book, which we forgot to use the first night out. They forgave us. We’re new here.

Tenants here come and go as they please, but the outside entrance is locked at 8:30 pm and must be opened by staff after that time. They like to know who is out and when they are coming back, so there is a sign out book that keeps staff informed.  It’s not a jail by any means. Mom has an outside patio door on the ground floor and could get out anytime if she wished, but security is important for everyone living here and cooperative living means rules.

 

I’ve been getting some interesting comments on this series and want to sum things up in the next post by addressing some of what I’m hearing.

 

 

Assisted Living 101: how will they assist?

We started the process of entering the apartment at Water’s Edge with Mom undergoing an evaluation. It was to assess her needs in the basic areas and determine what kind of assistance she might want.

As you’ve caught on, we are in a very cold climate and we needed to schedule this appointment with a nurse and the assisted living manager. To my surprise and delight, they didn’t waste any time in assisting us and volunteered to come to Mom’s house and do the evaluation there. Later this week, before Mom moves in, the final paperwork has to be filled out. Again, our manager was quick to offer to come to the house rather than having us come to them. I was impressed that they would consider the difficulty an elderly person might have going out in below zero weather.

Concerning that weather (icy roads and snowstorms), transportation is provided to the grocery store and pharmacy every week on the resident bus. Water’s Edge and the hospital are also on the hourly bus route and will take residents pretty much anywhere for $.50. Mom still drives her car lots of places in town and she can have garage space at Water’s Edge, but the convenience of the bus is very tempting. We are going to ride it around it’s route just to scope it out and learn what it’s like.

Another day we were looking for a place to have lunch with my uncle and aunt. We decided to show them Mom’s soon to be abode and have lunch at the Water’s Edge Bistro. The Bistro is a volunteer staffed eating place with a “soup of the day” and accompanying sandwich. It’s open for residents and the public over lunch hour. The menu is limited but the price can’t be beat and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. All four of us had soup, sandwich, coffee and a dessert cookie for $11, total!

Mom has been a great cook and hostess all her life, and although eating is still fun, cooking is no longer her favorite thing to do. Shopping and cooking for one person is not easy and not as rewarding as fixing meals for a group. She is always worrying about using things up and not wasting food. She often eats standing up, looking out the kitchen window.

20180110_174845-11445397473.jpg
The last meal Mom will probably cook for a while (until she gets lonely for cooking #shesaidnever)

Being assisted with meal preparation is one of the things Mom looks forward to most. At Water’s Edge everyone gets coffee any time of the day, a good continental breakfast buffet every morning, and a hearty lunch. The evening meal is available in the dining room for a small cost, but many people take part of their lunch home to eat later. In addition, everyone has their own kitchen in their apartment should the desire to cook suddenly overcome them. Guests can be entertained in the dining room for a reasonable price, or at the Bistro. Problem solved.

These are just a few of the ways that assistance is offered to residents at this particular place. Most assisted living facilities have put a lot of thought into what help is needed and appreciated, either for safety or just for convenience. I’ll tell you more about the safety features at Water’s Edge that we all liked and I’m sure will give Mom the security and peace of mind that we want her to have – in the next post.

20180113_09055987602151.jpg
This is more like it…

Assisted Living 101: answering questions

Assisted Living: Who Decides?

I have come to the conclusion that the answer to this question is different, case to case. I can think of examples for every possible scenario. I can only give what has happened for our family.

My parents moved numerous times in their lives. They were tied to a general area but not to a particular house. Each time they moved they practiced parting with things. They practiced flexibility. Some people are not that way. I have always been a bit surprised by their flexibility because I have seen the opposite happen with my grandparents. They were not as comfortable with change and they stayed in the home they were familiar with until it was impossible to do so.

Mom has jokingly said that she looked forward to nursing home social life, playing bingo and cards, etc… so I know that she has thought about the subject way before she had to. Watching others go through decisions about caretaking made her lean in the direction of not wanting to be a burden on her children. We have all had to reassure her that we are all “burdens” to each other if we want to view it that way, and that every burden, planned for and accepted cheerfully, has corresponding joys and rewards. For mom, this means she can know she is loved and can depend on us. For us, this means that we trust mom to make a decision for herself, and that we will do everything we can to make it happen.

Mom was not afraid to put her name on the waiting list, but I think we were all surprised when it was announced that she was next in line for an apartment. This announcement came at a time when Mom was struggling with her feelings of loneliness and isolation, the shortened days and long dark nights, the winter cold. There were people she could reach out to, frequent phone calls and my brother and his family checking in on her, but even with all this there were sometimes days at a time when she was not face to face with anyone. She became very clear about one thing – she no longer wanted to live alone. Maybe it was not a coincidence that there would soon be a place for her in a warm, secure building with people to see and be with any time she wanted. When you are a praying person, you examine “coincidences” in a whole different light. And that’s what Mom has done. She says she owes it to herself to find out if this is right for her, and why not do it while she is young enough to enjoy the many perks?

Meanwhile, my brothers and I are battling winter with Mom in any way we can. I am so happy that I am free to visit her in Wisconsin for an extended time. Since I have been here, the apartment has come open and I will get to help with the move. We are having fun getting ready. Wait ’till you see what Mom is doing! Clue – a lot of red paint is involved.

20160814_070533.jpg
Mom and her five “kids” spending time at her home in Hayward, Wisconsin

 

 

 

Assisted Living 101

Our family is having a new experience this winter – I call it a learning experience because I’ve been made to see that we approached it with some bias, some presumptions that need to be adjusted. Although mom is the central figure in this experience, we are all involved and affected. Over Thanksgiving we had discussions with Mom and each other.  It is a blessing to have a close family that wants to work together and communicate.

20180109_161405411007478.jpg
With Mom up in the cold north (Wisconsin). We’ll get this assisted living thing figured out…

My personal bias was the idea that someday, when Mom needed help, I would be her primary caretaker. I enjoy my mother and the idea of living with her has never been hard to bear. I have looked forward to that time.  However, there were many details about “that time” that were not defined or even thought about.

How will we know when “that time” comes? Who decides? Is it based on physical need? Financial need? Emotional need? Safety need? Where will “that time” take place? What if “that time” comes when it’s inconvenient?

All of these questions and more came into play this last year. It was a shock to me when my forward- thinking brother and my mom announced that they had put her name on the list for an assisted living apartment. She had already told me that she didn’t want to winter with my husband and I in sunny Florida. Travel wasn’t easy for her and she didn’t have many friends of her own there. She felt isolated and in the way. But assisted living?! She had a small but very comfortable condo in a safe community near my brother and his family. She had lived alone there for the two years since Dad had died. What was going on?

Mom had gotten on the list along with lots of others because there was a shortage of apartments in the facility of choice. It was a “just in case” move so she wouldn’t find herself in need in the future. I wasn’t the only one who balked at this idea. Other family members were concerned and even voiced the common sentiment “once you go to a nursing home, it’s all downhill from there”. Fortunately, nothing happened quickly.  I think it was by God’s design that we were given several months to process this idea.

Our first lesson was learning the meaning of assisted living. The term has been around for a number of years but even with my background in nursing, I had not paid much attention to it. I did not know how common these facilities had become and the variety of levels of assistance available. The facility Mom is interested in is connected to a hospital, but really consists of apartments, fully equipped, like any apartment building. They are small but very nice. Residents move in with their own furnishings and come and go as they please. Mom can bring her own car if she wants to.

As some of this information comes my way I want to share it with my family and with others who are also considering assisted living for themselves or those they love. Since Mom is moving this coming Friday, I will be posting over the next few days in hopes that following her journey will help others understand and feel informed about assisted living.

Click here to see photos of the assisted living facility where Mom is moving. Water’s Edge Senior Living

Reviewing 2017

This is long. You don’t have to read it if that bothers you. Quit anytime. I needed to write it to remember a crazy year – it’s for me. 

I think there is future value in looking back. I’m examining whether I was the person I wanted to be in the past year. I usually ask myself, as opportunities come up, if I’m making the decisions that are consistent with my goals, but I actually anticipate this exercise of looking at those decisions in bulk at the end of the year. The bigger picture is helpful to me. It places me in time, and feeds into the resolutions for the new year. Especially as aging takes place, the things that did or did not happen can inform my ambitions for 2018.

I started 2017 in Seattle with Esther, my daughter. I heard the compline service  at St. Marks cathedral for the first time and was impressed with simplicity, with introspection while listening to sacred music with others who were also responding with respect and appreciation. Last January was also the introduction to eating differently as we searched for answers to health problems. I am keeping a lot of what I learned about food and will continue to eat differently in 2018.

While I was out west, my mom and husband were keeping things together at home in Florida. After my return in January there were pressing issues – the renter who could not pay, the friend who broke his hip, therapy for a hand injury, and the endless yard work. There was also fun doing things with Mom. We visited her old haunts in Brooksville. Another time, we joined brother Ron and his family in River Ranch for an outing.

Early in February, Mom was scheduled to make her way back to Wisconsin. We combined the trip with a visit to daughter Julie in Greensboro, NC. She had moved there in December and none of us had seen her new abode. Brother Bob came down from Wisconsin to help with travel.  At the end of our time in North Carolina, we visited the fabulous Biltmore House in Asheville. Mom and Bob went from there to Wisconsin while Julie and I drove back to Greensboro. I spent a week with Julie, meeting her coworkers and seeing what everyday life was like for her.  I flew back to Florida and in one week February was gone.

I stayed close to home in March. Brother Dennis and his family spent time in Orlando and we did join them there for an overnight and another visit to River Ranch. Some friends parked their RV in our yard for a week and I was able to do some fun entertaining with them. We finally got free from the tenant who was several months delinquent in her rent. Always on my mind was the need to simplify our lives, pare down our possessions, and work toward the sale of our house and a move. No date was attached to this, but it had been our prayer that we would live closer to family in the future. My focus was to move toward readiness. I fixed things, painted things, cleaned out and donated things.

April, the month of Esther’s birthday, and mine, left me feeling sad. I went on a solo kayak outing just to feel that I had marked the day. Sitting out in the middle of Lake Manatee, talking on the  phone with Esther and later with Julie is how I will remember celebrating. My writing life has been marked by the number of years I’ve been able to do the April A to Z Challenge – this year was the third.  Later in the month Julie flew down to do some veterinary work for a friend. We wanted to spend more time with her, so we rented a car and drove her back to Greensboro. And it was May.

We spent that first week in North Carolina and it was eventful. One night we were in a violent windstorm that wreaked havoc on the property where Julie lives. Julie and I did a day hike at Hanging Rock and I’m hoping we’ll have many more days like that one. We spent a long day working at a horse auction and I’m hoping there won’t be a lot of days like that for her. Dennis and I did some touring. The sad part of our trip was finding Julie’s cat Rodgey, killed on the road. I don’t know if it’s easier to go through sad times together, but it is bonding.

The last half of May seemed dominated with doctor’s appointments, watching the news about terrorism, and dealing with the discovery of termites in our house. On the 27th, we left our abode while it was tented, and stayed at a friend’s house on Longboat Key for two nights.

It was June. After the tenting I spent a week working in the part of our house that we don’t live in. It has been rented out for several years without us being over there to fix and maintain, so it needed work. We are tired of being landlords of our three properties. I think God heard me thinking that. We had listed our rental condo with a realtor and got an offer to buy. That was so exciting!

The second week I left for my fourth trip to Cambodia, the first solo flight for me. Julie came also and we shared accommodations. We had a wonderful time with our Cambodian friends and the rest of the team, doing some of our usual activities and a few new things too. I actually took a hike in a jungle! I didn’t feel well on my return flight on the 17th, so it was an ordeal.  While I was traveling the offer on our condo fell through and it went back on the market.

July was marked by a trip to Knoxville and Pigeon Forge for Dennis and I. Okay, so we had to listen to a sales presentation for a vacation rental, which we resisted. Julie drove over to meet us and we had another Appalachian mountain hike and an interesting weekend in a hotel room with Tess, the dog. The next week I had a new therapy done on my painful thumb joint. I had read a lot about stem cell therapy, which I couldn’t afford, and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which I could afford – barely. I can’t say that it has helped but in the process I discovered a new brace which has enabled me to continue using my thumb.

Other tasks in July included talking with a realtor about selling the house, two more offers on the condo, doctors and dentists visits, reading, and writing. In anticipation of a move I have been going through all my photos and condensing, keeping only ones that have people and places that I recognize (where do all those others come from?! I don’t know…) I also returned to the project of converting my parents video cassettes to digital form.  I finished the month by having some broken cement in our driveway removed and replaced with gravel. I only mention that because it caused such a fuss.

In August, Dennis and I tried really hard to walk on a regular basis. I also did a lot of biking in our neighborhood – sometimes 10 to 15 miles at a time, which I tracked on my health app. We notice that it is harder to keep active. I had a lovely time getting reacquainted with my gastroenterologist (liver ultrasound and colonoscopy) and also had a good report from my retinal specialist. After a lifetime of very little doctoring, I can finally thank Medicare for all the new professionals I’ve met recently. The aging process has started to make a difference in our lives, yes it has.

And I probably won’t ever forget the huge wasp nest on a tree in front of our house that grew and grew until we had to get an exterminator to take care of it. Interesting.

On August 21st Dennis and I flew to Seattle. Back in June, Esther had suggested that it was time for us to meet Ryan’s parents. We were glad to know more about Ryan since he has become important in Esther’s life. The week went by way too fast, but we had a memorable and productive time visiting the Bruels on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. We went whale watching among other things.

On August 31st we closed on the sale of that condo! Relief.

September was pretty much taken up with having a hurricane. Irma kept us nervously watching and preparing for days. When it finally hit, we weathered it on mattresses on the floor in the safest part of our house (bathroom) with my cousin Mark and his wife Kathy. Again, bonding through adversity.

Another interesting development in September – we invited a homeless young man to temporary shelter in our house. With the hurricane, one of his friends needed a place to be safe and also came to stay. Is it true that things happen in threes? Another young man we had known for years was also homeless and in desperate circumstances so we also gave him a place. Three guys, in their 30’s, struggling to get/keep jobs, living in their cars – the beginning of a learning experience for us.

Clean up after the hurricane was exhausting – the debris, the mud, on our property and the property I oversee for a friend – and expensive. On the 17th I took Kathy and Mark to the airport in Tampa and continued on to a needed vacation with Julie in Greensboro. I got there in time to help her host a visit from Dennis’s brother and sister in law, Ron and Deanna. It was also Julie’s birthday week so I got to help her celebrate. And it was a rest for me to get away from the mess at my beloved “oneacrewoods”.

On October 1, my brother Ron came up from Lake Worth with his bobcat on a trailer.  He cut up and removed the huge kapok tree that had blocked our drive since the hurricane. After a month, we were finally able to see a possible end to the disorder.  It made a big difference and I was so thankful for his expertise.

For the next couple of weeks we dealt with the ups and downs of our three house guests. I could probably write a whole book about that, so it obviously won’t fit in here. We were also anticipating a visit from Esther and Ryan. They came that last week of October, during which we kayaked on the Rainbow River , toured downtown Sarasota, and had interesting conversations about Esther’s Airstream which had mysteriously gone missing from her driveway a couple days before they left.

November. Pressure washing our house, it took weeks with only hired help Joe and myself. Selling furniture – our couches disappeared from the living room. The thought that we might move became more real. House guest drama – we all thought they would be “on their feet” after six weeks but they had nowhere to go, so we extended their stay. We even decided that they could stay alone while we went up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. Dennis and I flew to Minneapolis on the 22nd. Julie also flew there that night and we met and rented a car for the drive to Hayward. It was a good gathering but maybe a little smaller than other years. We left on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to fly back to Florida.

November 29th I got a call from brother Dennis, the one who owns an award business in Wisconsin. We had just been with him for Thanksgiving. He had an emergency. A large shipment of awards needed to be  picked up in Memphis TN and delivered to Orlando FL in the next two days. I had nothing else planned so was on a flight to Memphis the next day, and by Friday night I had accomplished the mission. I felt really good that I was still able, not just to consider doing it, but to get it done. I can still drive and I am still up for adventure.

In December I spent a week washing clothes, getting the house in order, and continuing to prepare for the need to move. All the while I was getting the impression that winter was beginning to wear on my Mom. We had seen it during our Thanksgiving visit, and communication afterwards made it even clearer. Mom was having to decide about trying out an assisted living apartment. It would be a huge move emotionally and I felt she needed support and help. My husband felt he wasn’t ready to fully retire and spend the winter in Wisconsin but I was able.

On the 13th of December I flew back to Minneapolis and took the shuttle to Hayward. I have relearned the things I had forgotten about Wisconsin winters – snow, below zero temps, driving hazards, skiing, the whole Northwoods vibe.

Mom has decided she owes it to herself to see what assisted living is like. She looks forward to not having to cook for one, not having to clean, having a warm place to walk and not having to be alone if she doesn’t want to be. I want to help her find furnishings for the new apartment and get moved in before I go back to Florida. December ended last night.

I look back on the year and about the only thing that is clear is that life, as we have known it, is going to change. It will probably change a lot in 2018. There are a lot of uncertainties as to where we will be and when we will go there. I am so glad we have put uncertainties in God’s hands instead of insisting on trying to figure it all out. If we can resist the temptation to worry and do what becomes possible and necessary day by day, we will get through another year just fine. One of the best things Dennis and I have done in the last few years is to remind ourselves of how much we depend on our relationship with the one who knows the future, Jesus Christ. We do it by talking with each other and to God – kind of like a daily conference session – in prayer.

It is additional benefit that what we say to God teaches us a lot about each other. One striking aspect about aging is that we are changing a lot in a short period of time. We are suddenly adjusting to empty households, physical limitations, changes in how we are valued at work, changes in how we spend our time, changes in how we relate to all the important people in our lives. It is an important time to find common ground again – something that we may have lost in the busy years before retirement. Our prayer time does that for us. God knows that, we feel his pleasure, and we feel peace because of it.

 

 

Battling Winter, post #4

We battle winter in much the same way as southerners battle the long, sweltering summers – we move from one “air conditioned” space to another. The difference is that we condition our air to be warmer than the outdoors and southerners condition the air to be cooler than the outdoors.

The condo that Mom and I are in has some lovely air conditioning features. One is the heating system itself. It is hot water heat that circulates through the floor. I often put my feet down and feel the warmth of the floor, which makes everything feel warmer. Another wonderful warmth comes from the fireplace. When you have a chill, there is no nicer way to warm up than to back up close to a fireplace with a glowing fire. Modern fireplaces can heat up a whole room in no time at all.

Doing things

While I spend time in various warm spaces in Wisconsin, I find many of the same things to do that I do in Florida. However, I think it is true that there is more time spent doing quiet things. The short days, the darkness, the cold, all give me excuse to stay inside and eat, knit, read, eat, watch TV, do puzzles, talk on the phone, look at Facebook, cook, and work, of course.  Mom and I do all these things, and while we do them we talk about  All of these normal activities seem different when I look out the window and see the bare trees and a world white with snow. I am glad and content to be inside where it’s warm.  20171219_2109471963711294.jpg20171219_211041291305750.jpg20171219_2109571623281655.jpg20171221_1855031082116113.jpg

Being with People

Some of my favorite times here in Wisconsin turn out to be in the car with people I care about, taking them where they need to go. Winter driving hazards can make it difficult to travel. Places people need to go are often farther apart. There is safety in numbers. So, we get chances to spend time in the car, talking to each other.  Last week it was an hour’s drive to Ashland with my aunt and uncle for a doctor appointment. I learned a lot about them during that time. Yesterday it was a drive to the hospital in Duluth with my sister in law for a radiation treatment. It was good just spending time together.

Thinking Right

In thinking about how I battle extremes of weather in the places I live, I’m coming to the conclusion that I had better do it mentally if I want to do it well. I need to set my mind to seeing the good, the beauty in my surroundings. I need to avoid isolation when it starts to make me uncomfortable. I need to be active when constant introspection starts to drive me crazy.  I’m just sayin’ that the battle isn’t always taking place where you think it is.

Battling Winter, post #3

A Walk in the Woods

When you can’t ski, you walk. There are trails for every kind of travel in the snow including snowmobile and fat tire bikes. It’s the biking that I don’t get. Riding a two wheel bike fast on a narrow trail through a forest of trees, rocks and other natural hazards? Why not just relax by walking blind folded through a mine field – same difference. But winter hiking is good.

20171219_1639581806951638.jpg
The straight rows of pine provide an easy trail for Mary Pat, Dennis and Scruffy. I’m last in line, taking pictures and catching up.

There are trails very close to the family farm and my brother and his wife go hiking there a lot. After a day of work, when they need some exercise, they dress up, take Scruffy their dog, and walk the loop by Hospital Lake. Part of the trail goes through a planted pine forest, along the edge of the lake and returns to the parking lot. It’s just the right length so Scruffy doesn’t freeze his feet. (Isn’t it weird how some animals can stand on snow and ice and not get frostbite?)

20171215_1623241545750312.jpg
An eye catching little ornament on a tree that seriously needs something.

There are a lot of outdoorsy people in this area so the trail is well traveled. In a bow to the season, someone (or maybe more than one person) has begun decorating trees along the way. It’s fun to find the variety of ornaments, although I felt really sorry about the Teddy Bear. It looked more like he was being tortured.

20171215_162127698558618.jpg

After a walk, I might have cold feet, cold fingers, nose and cheeks but there is a core warmth that is sustaining. Breathing all that cold air makes me feel … healthy, I guess.  As I climb back in the car and the heat kicks in, there is such a feeling of calm and peace and “put me to sleep right now”.

Because it gets dark so early, these walks often coincide with the most beautiful sunsets. Really, I could not stop taking pictures because it was changing every minute or so and I wanted to capture it.

20171219_1639102053185946.jpg20171219_1643102113712270.jpg20171219_1646441642285384.jpg

 

 

Battling Winter, post #2

Skis and boots just like I remembered from 30 years ago (when I last skiied).

So how do you do battle with winter? You enjoy it in every way you can, and there are lots of enjoyable things about it. Like skiing, for instance, which is what I did for exercise the last two days. The weather has been mild for winter – temps in the 30’s F.  I was able to borrow skis and boots from a retired skier and set out to see if I remembered how to move in them in an upright fashion.

Me, thinking I’m ready to go.

It took me 15 minutes or so to get dressed for this outing – a borrowed under layer from my sister in law, a borrowed pair of ski pants from my brother, a ski jacket from my nephew.  People up here have these things and it is a blessing not to have to buy them since they are often expensive. All these clothing items are specially designed to wick moisture away and still preserve body heat. This is important because cross country skiing is a very effective way of burning calories and you will SWEAT.

And I have to say – the newer gloves with “techy” fingers are great because you can open your touch screen to take pics without removing gloves. 

Cross country skiing can be done on the flat, thank God. In keeping my balance, I find there are mainly two things to watch out for – when I think I’m going to grip but instead I slide, and when I think I’m going to slide and instead I grip. Snow is funny that way. It is also different when you travel new snow for the first time and are breaking a trail. For this reason I did a long loop around the condo greenspace and then followed the tracks again the second time. The second time was much quicker. I find myself looking down a lot to keep my balance, but it also is fun to notice details like those in the next two pics.

The simplicity of things jumps out at you when everything is covered in white.
Deer tracks across the trail

I’m happy to say I did not fall once on the first day.  I did not fall on the second day until I finished three times around the loop and was feeling more confident. At that point the rubber toe broke off one of my boots and I suddenly discovered I had no connection to the right ski. I decided to walk the short distance to the house, and somehow forgot that I did still have a connection to the left ski. It’s like having one foot that is maybe 10 inches long and one that is six feet long – doesn’t work. I fell into soft, cushy white stuff which is tons better than any other kind of falling.

Just one way to battle winter and come out ahead. More coming, stay tuned…

Battling Winter, post #1

Thinking back over the past few weeks, and the stories I have not told about them, makes me glad to be in my present circumstances where it is actually possible to catch up. I am with Mom, in beautiful northern Wisconsin, in my original hometown. No, there isn’t a medical emergency. No, I’m not escaping from the husband or any peril in Florida. I am here helping Mom battle winter.

20171215_162542.jpg
The loveliness of winter

Winter is a force to be reckoned with here. This area is a special part of the North American continent where the temperature maps show a peculiar dip in the cold zone. A finger of it comes south from Canada and curls around our river valley, making it slightly less habitable, particularly for anyone who is not fond of winter. The cold comes early and stays for months and leaves late in the spring. Some places much farther north, Anchorage Alaska for instance, have a warmer climate than this part of northwest Wisconsin.

It, winter, is a significant part of everyone’s experience in this small town. They all have wardrobes of jackets, mittens, hats and special suits, special boots, and special underwear – if they go outside at all. Those who don’t have to go outside, pretty much don’t.  The weather makes a lot of difference in how they go about their day.  Will the car start? Are the roads plowed yet? There are times when workers have to evaluate whether their job is important enough to risk 60 degrees F. below zero wind chill. That’s the cold, but there’s also the darkness. The sun goes down about 4 pm these days in December and it is still dark now at 7 am while I write. All this to say that winter can be tough, especially for our elders.

A lot of my family lives here because this is the land they know best. We started out here, are no longer too surprised by its harshness, and have learned to get along with winter. My Mom’s side of the family can point out the farm where they lived as children and many of her siblings came back after living elsewhere to make their home here. Some never left.

My dad’s side of the family also owned farmland and woodland, which my brothers now own and care for.  Mom lives in a fairly new, energy efficient condo, built by my brother on the farm where Dad grew up.  My brother’s house is within sight. The property used to be rural but now is on the edge of town. I could throw a rock and hit the local Walmart. We can walk to Pizza Hut in less than 5 minutes. My grandmother, long deceased, would not believe how things have changed outside her now renovated farmhouse. I’m not saying that this is bad. I’m just saying that it’s a lot of change in what seems like a short amount of time – but maybe it’s no so short. Time is funny like that.

So, winter has set in. I was able to fly to Minneapolis and catch the shuttle van going north. It was snowing as we approached Hayward, in the dark, last Wednesday. I was the last passenger to get delivered. The people before me had a home on one of the many local lakes. We tried three times to get up their driveway, but even though the plow had been through, the new dusting of snow made it too slippery to crest the hill. We went to a nearby boat landing that adjoined their property and they hiked/climbed, with their suitcases, in the dark, through the trees and the snow, to their house. They had done it before. I’m just saying, it’s winter and I’m in Hayward.

20171213_221702.jpg
Homecoming. Would you like to go through this to get to your front door?