Why is it so difficult to write? Life right now is not a single thing that can be described in a post or series of posts. It is made of rabbit trails and randomness going off in many directions and not making much sense. It won’t stand still and be examined and written about.
I know if I could view it from way outside I could probably guess where it’s all headed and see some patterns, some sense that escapes me in the moment I’m living. It takes all my concentration to keep focused on the enjoyment of the moment – because I know being present won’t last forever. And there is always something to enjoy, because God is good and I see evidence of it in so many ways. But I do hope that the inspiration to write comes soon. I want to write. I want to tell my story to myself, if to no one else.
From where did this one pink cloud come? So singular and alone it was floating in the path of light coming sideways in the evening. Is it the evening because it divides the night from the day evenly? That’s what I was thinking about. I had to stop and take a picture of the cloud.
Darkness was approaching, and so was a man on a bicycle. He was a friendly man and called out to me, also on a bicycle, and to the husband who was walking. He asked about the electric bike I was on and came over to show us a picture on his cellphone of another electric bike he had just been looking at. He talked fast and easily about bikes, having put about $4000 into his ride, with special rims on the wheels and a rear approach sensor. He was a serious rider. In fact, he only rode bikes, because he had lost his license a while back.
He was riding home, well not exactly home. He was riding to his tent in the woods. Yes, homeless for the time being but making the best of it. Clean (had just showered at a shelter today), well groomed and nourished, and looking more like a yuppie fitness freak than a vagrant, he gave us several stories of life in the woods. He was a loner by choice and kept his camp clean and decked out – 2 tents, because he had lots of stuff. Oh, and he was a veteran of the Gulf War.
He was employed at Goodwill Corporate for three years now. He had another valuable bike which he kept locked up at work. It had always been a problem to keep it safe while he was away from camp. What was he to do, chain it to a tree?
He wanted to get housing but he just didn’t make enough where he was, and there weren’t any better jobs that he knew of. He told us where his last three camps had been, and I knew every one of them, had driven/walked by and thought “now if I were homeless I might try to hide in there”. The place he had been just before Hurrican Irma had been by a creek. That night he came home from work and everything he owned had floated off in the flooded field. He said it was a real pain every time he was made to move. When you have a big camp, it takes quite a few trips to relocate it all. Sometimes they don’t give him much time to do it. He has to leave stuff behind.
The husband was getting antsy, tired of standing and listening and it must have been obvious. The man’s name was Jody. He apologized for talking so much. It was just that he didn’t get to talk very often, especially to strangers who didn’t know anything about him and asked questions that didn’t sound threatening. He rode off on his really cool bike. I’m not going to say that I didn’t think about offering him a meal next time he rode by, or a shower, or maybe a yard to camp in next time he got chased out. I did think of those things, but he sounded like he was handling life pretty well so I said nothing.
I’d like to encourage people today, although I don’t know exactly who or in what way. Does your head hurt? Did you sleep poorly last night? Have you gotten bad news lately? Are you feeling stale? Numb? Anxious? Maybe I want to encourage you.
Go read Psalm 103. You don’t have to be someone who has a religion – it’s literature, a book that’s been around a long time and is easily accessible. Just read it.
What if there is a God and that is an accurate picture of him? What if there is some “pit” he wants to pull you out of? What if he does want to satisfy the desires you have to be loved and valued? You could jump on that train of thought, just for a few minutes and see how it feels. I’ve memorized this chapter because I so often need to hear what it says.
I’m getting pretty aware of the things that are wrong with me. When I hear a writer describing a distance “as far as the east is from the west”, and he’s telling me that’s how far away all my wrongness is going… I get the impression that someone has a plan to deal with bad stuff, mine and everyone else’s. Thinking along those lines gives me hope. Hope is important.
Here is the most hopeful part of the reading for me – the part where “he knows how we are made, that we are dust, earthly”. I do kind of add my own translations as I think more and more about it. To me, it says “I know how I made you – different from anyone else. I know exactly what you are capable of and I don’t expect any more from you than that.” That’s the way I want to be known. It encourages me to think that God and I might be on the same track in that regard.
The writer of this psalm felt that even when God knew him completely, he still loved him in a way described as “from everlasting to everlasting”. I’m a writer, and I can’t think of a way to top that. When I rehearse this psalm in my mind, I always think I want to be know that way and loved that way. It would make me happy, encouraged, hopeful. It’s a place to start.
Sure, there are some qualifiers in there, referring to those people who are known and loved. Again, as a writer, I’m paying attention to the verbs throughout the whole chapter. “Rescues”, “satisfies”, “works righteousness and justice”, “made known his ways” – all things that God does and is doing instead of things I have to do. I think the writer is saying that God is willing and able to work with people, to bring them to where they love him back, want to keep his covenant and remember to obey him.
It encourages me because it’s a good deal. It’s better than finding an honest used car salesman, or whatever analogy you want to use. There’s more in that chapter and maybe there are other parts that will seem important to you, if you read it. Try it on. See what it makes you feel and want. And consider that it is meant to encourage you.
Something about those words makes me cringe with premonitions of stories about how high the snow banks were or how many miles it was to walk to school. Now I am guilty of using it all too frequently as I write. Guess what – EVERYTHING has a back story. EVERYBODY has a back story. That’s what we call it today, if we are kind. I think the back story is often crucial to understanding things about the present story.
A long time ago, in a land far away (Bradenton, Fl) the husband decided to buy a man toy called an E-Bike. He has always found gadgets intriguing, especially if they were energy saving and had some practical use. This bike was an early exploration into transporting oneself using electricity, much like electric cars are today. It was only available through car dealerships and was the social experiment of the day. It was pretty, shiny blue, feeling of quality and fully decked out with lights, various indicators on the handlebars, locking mechanism, gears, horn, and all kinds of gear bags made to fit. Sweet.
The plan was to ride it the seven miles to work, along a busy highway. I guess there was a bike lane in some places but it was often hazardous with broken glass and other tire-puncturing trash. The traffic went by, close and fast. It was often raining, or hot. The plan didn’t last long. But being the oddity that it was, the bike was pulled out pretty often and demonstrated to curious friends and family. It rarely left the driveway.
My own most vivid memory of using it was when I visited frequently with an elderly lady who lived five or six miles away, mostly through residential areas. I got some exercise, because I could pedal it like a normal bike. But, its real advantage was in the take off moment at intersections. Instead of having to go from my resting/waiting pose to that awkward effort of quickly powering through the crosswalk with dozens of eyes watching, I could just touch the little lever and smoothly zoom away with no effort at all.
The real reason I remember this time had nothing to do with the bike however. It marked the first time I lost a cell phone out of my back pocket and spent hours retracing the the route looking for it.
Years later, the husband gave the bike another chance. The office had moved and was not even two miles away so once again he was riding it to work. One day, there might have been a light rain making things slippery, he rode across a railroad track which crossed the road at an angle. The front tire got caught and he crashed and tumbled. It was a trauma for the husband and for the bike. Neither has ever been the same, although the husband has recovered acceptably.
For the past year or so, I have enjoyed biking frequently for fun and exercise. I would be doing so now except I have lent my $60 pawn shop bike to a friend who had no transportation. Not knowing when I would ever see my bike again, I turned my attention to the E-Bike, sitting forlorn and flat-tired in storage. With the heavy battery removed, and the broken parts held in place with a bungee, it actually rides pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised this week on my first outing with it. The seat had shock absorbers, the handlebars straightened up nicely, it went quietly, and unlike my pawn shop bike, the brakes worked. It’s a go.
There is a satisfaction in bringing an unused thing back into use. I also appreciate the back story of the E-Bike and the chance to think about other back stories, and the whole concept of histories and how they might inform the present. Just sayin’, “back in the day” might become a frequent theme.
I have been asked when and where we are moving, by people who seem surprised. I have thought about it so much, for so long, that it seems everyone must know. And now I find out that they haven’t been reading my mind…
The husband and I, and our two daughters moved to Florida in 1987. Our children were young and did most of their growing up here. My parents spent their winters here with us. We had frequent visits from my brothers and their families. Over the years we developed many friends through church, work, our daughters school activities, and the neighborhoods we lived in. Bradenton was a busy, happy place for us, filled with people we loved to be around.
You know the scene as the lights start winking out in the big white farmhouse and John Boy says good night? And one by one, the whole family responds to him? They had multi-generational living back then. It was more common because the world wasn’t so easily traveled. There was more chance of children meeting and marrying someone in their own community and living close. More people made a living on farms and in small towns. Well, that all changed, and many other things with it.
Our family aged into a different phase. The girls went to school in different, sometimes far away places. They had choices of where to work, where to live. They experienced that feeling, close to disdain, toward their hometown, the place they knew everything about – both good and bad. They left to see what other places were like, if they were better. Sometimes the available job opportunities made the choice for them.
Things changed for my parents too. Travel became more of a chore, and then my dad died. By herself, mom felt more like a burden and lonelier wherever she was. Last winter she stayed with us in Florida for two months and then went home to Wisconsin. This winter she didn’t want to travel away from home at all.
Mom lives in Wisconsin, one daughter lives in North Carolina and the other in Seattle (only Alaska would be further and more inconvenient). I’m left with this burning question the last few years – how can I possibly spend time with the people that I know best and love dearly when they are scattered all over the country? Why do I settle for only seeing them on vacations and at funerals and weddings? I began to ask God to help me do something about the situation.
The plan to move has come about gradually, but I’m sure you can see the sense in it. It’s the only way we can put feet to the prayer, and the desire to be closer to at least one of the individuals we care about. We have been tied to the area by the husband’s good job for the last thirty years but he will retire very soon, leaving us to choose to go elsewhere if we wish. We do wish.
There are advantages in taking time to plan and work toward a move. I’ve been studying downsizing and paring down for a while now and it is making a difference. I have helped other people move and have acquired definite opinions on how I don’t want to do it when it’s my turn. And taking time also gives us opportunity to think and pray for the best path to take, even if it should turn out to be staying where we are. We aren’t telling God how to answer us, we’re asking for our heart’s desire. We don’t ask to see all the way to the end of this process – just the next step, one at a time.
We do believe in having some sort of plan though, and you have been hearing hints of it in my writing. We are quite close to putting our house on the market. I am looking at the contents of each room, selling some things, packing others, giving some things away. When I finish this, the house will be ready for staging and showing. We will put our boxes and furniture in storage and if the husband can finally say goodbye to the job, we will go…. somewhere.
We want to go someplace where we are useful, because we still feel we are useful. (I am aware that will also change and we will have need of help ourselves.) I can’t say that the people we would want to live near really need us, because they are getting along just fine now. I can say that I think we could add benefit to their lives by being physically closer to any of them. The most probable scenario would be to store our things in North Carolina, until we find a suitable house there. We would likely delay buying for a while, living instead with Mom in Wisconsin, enabling her to have our help and company at home if she desires. Her move to an assisted living facility for the winter has given us more time to prepare the husband’s mind – he has mixed feelings about extricating himself from his work. That is understandable.
There, you have it. There are no deadlines or dates attached to anything yet, but unless God stops us, you can know that is where we are headed. Moving is not easy. There are so many emotions involved, so many memories tied to this place of thirty years. The oneacrewoods has been God’s blessing to me personally, a hideout for a country girl trying to live an urban life. But I am ready to consider the next home, with anticipation.
In addition to wanting to eat well and be healthy, I want to be frugal and not waste food. This morning I did both by trying a plate from this book, “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” and modifying it to use what was in my refrigerator. The cookbook does not give calorie count and nutrients for each recipe but I actually found that refreshing. None of the recipes have empty calories and the serving sizes are moderate, so I can focus on enjoying good food instead of counting everything that can be counted.
I’m a Sam’s Club shopper for many reasons – one being that they carry some good organic fruit, vegetable and salad ingredients. The husband had shopped there too, right before I returned home from a five-week absence. He had bought their wonderful, but rather large box of spring mix and it was fairly screaming to be used before it died. I decided we would eat greens for breakfast.
What we call greens is a mysterious bunch of leafy vegetables. They can be the leaves of lettuce, chard, or spinach, or the above ground part of root vegetables like beets or turnips. The mysterious part is that when you eat them fresh and uncooked as in a salad, a couple cups of them look like a lot of food. When you cook a couple cups of them, they wilt and look like a spoonful or two – big difference. So, if you have a lot of greens to use up, get a recipe calling for wilted greens.
I also buy garlic at Sam’s club even though the bag is, again, rather large. It is a good price however, and having a lot of it makes me search for ways to use it. I know it is good for me. Today’s recipe had garlic and greens, which was perfect.
I wouldn’t ordinarily need instructions for poaching eggs but these instructions were interesting and made sense to me so I tried them. The recipe calls for boiling salted water in the pan, with the addition of 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Next came the interesting part which was to stir and get the water moving in a circular pattern before cracking the eggs into the center. I’m not sure it made a lot of difference but it made me feel like a fancy cook.
I enjoyed the breakfast. The husband didn’t say anything. I think he is just glad I’m back cooking again.
I’m wondering, what does it take to make you feel like a “fancy cook”?
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?
Most 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.
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.
Cute red stuff
More Cute red stuff
Mom in her red chair
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. She 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.