A to Z Challenge: Letter A for Acceptance

Ever since “sheltering in place” and “social distancing” became the norm, writing has become difficult, more like work I can’t concentrate on. I’ve been worried that this year’s A to Z challenge would be hard, maybe unsuccessful, and probably not fun. Rather than give up, I will possibly write things that are a bit strange, just to make the 26 days easier, and maybe more fun. Fun is good and worth pursuing.

Way back in the dark ages I got married and left behind a good life and a good friend, my mom. We’ve remained close, but I’ve always told myself that I wanted more time, daily time, to renew that relationship and do life together again. When my dad died a few years ago and mom was alone, I started to think that it might be time. She was starting to want help in small ways, and I knew I wanted to be there, to give whatever care was needed in the future.

Mom and I

Meanwhile my husband, who thought he would work at his desk until the day he died, started not enjoying work as much as before. He struggled with some physical problems. He lacked energy and motivation. Retirement started looking good to him.

It took a long year of planning and hard work but in July of 2018, the retirement happened, our house in Florida was emptied and ready to sell, and we moved to Wisconsin to be near mom. A couple months later my husband was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which changed our lives significantly. I was suddenly thankful to be in a simpler living situation, near a supportive family group. Caregiving life had started.

The husband and I

Accepting caregiving as part of my life, something I chose to do, not a lifestyle forced on me, was key in helping me to be a satisfied, basically happy caregiver. Maybe it wasn’t as hard for me as for some because I had already been a parent (the ultimate caregiving opportunity) and chosen nursing for a good part of my working life.

Nevertheless, one of the most confusing things about caregiving has been the temptation to feel like my life has been “taken over” by the needs of someone else. I’m working at a job that, at times, feels like I have no choice. I’m trapped and have to do it. If I rebel, guilt can start to dictate to me. Nagging voices try to tell me what I “should be doing” if I’m a good mother/wife/daughter/family member. My thinking gets filled with those limiting words; trapped, forced, should do, have to, guilt.

But the truth is that I have a choice of how to respond to people in need. I could choose not to be a caregiver. There are options these days and not everyone is able to offer the same kind of caring. What I do know is that if I feel like a martyr, I won’t be as effective in the care I give and I also won’t be fun to be around. It can get toxic.

I believe there is a realistic way to look at the limitations of caregiving. Being married has limitations when compared to being single. Having children has limitations when compared to not having children. Some jobs are limiting when compared to other jobs. So it is with caregiving. There are days when I am tempted to think of fun things I could be doing, other than taking care of someone else. But, thinking about all those other options will probably rob me of opportunity to find value and fun in what I’ve chosen to do.

Caregiving, as a choice, has it’s hard times just like any other path, but IT IS MY LIFE. I’m accepting my choice. Instead of holding others responsible for my happiness, I’m going to use that energy to make this life as good as it can be. Acceptance makes that so much easier.

Am I alone here? When have you found yourself in a time consuming caregiving role? What limits were especially hard for you to accept? Can you tell me about it? Would you have moved NORTH for retirement?!

Journal: June 27, 2018

My mind is overwhelmed. It is the night before the husband’s retirement celebration and I am nervously trying to think through all his medical concerns. I know I will be asked tomorrow about how he is faring and what news we have. It is complicated.

The doctor we talked to today spoke so fast and jumped from one topic to another without explaining the relationship. I had to go home and google the condition to understand much of what he was saying. It was like he was on speed or something. The short of it is that the husband does have a type of heart failure, but not the kind that’s caused by a weak heart muscle. It is the kind where the muscle can’t relax. It is stiffened, and that can be causally related to hypertension (which he has) or sleep apnea (which I think he has) or a few other things like A fib (which he doesn’t have). It can be managed by treating the symptoms. He is already doing that as well as he can.

That is not to say that he doesn’t have the other condition (NPH), but the consensus is that he should be seen for that diagnosis at Mayo Clinic when we go up north. If he has NPH, he will need the specialists they have there. My head is swimming from being on the internet all evening looking at sleep apnea home tests and CPAP machines and applications for an appointment at the Clinic. I don’t even want to figure out how these things are going to fit in the schedule of the next two weeks before I’d like us to be heading out. It’s too much.

Both daughters have their tickets for the family reunion. People are posting their plans to attend. I am just hoping to be there and not in a hospital somewhere with the husband. We talk daily with my mom and I can tell she is a bit skeptical and wonders if we can pull this off. I’m trusting my master planner has it all figured out, and I’m going to be okay with the circumstances, as he arranges them. I think I appear calm, generally, but the fact that I keep going to the refrigerator, or the cookie can is evidence of what is under the surface. Food doesn’t exactly help how I feel but I crave it anyway.

There doesn’t seem to be much time between trips these days. Trips taking the husband to work, trips to the doctor’s office, trips to Good Will, trips to the store. The good thing about having only one vehicle is that the husband and I are together a lot, coming and going places. We are talking in a different way, or rather about different things than usual. Instead of him talking about fans and ventilation (thumbs down in my book) we talk about how he feels about retirement, and the preparations for moving and other stuff I find interesting and necessary. This is a good thing.

 

 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter Y)

Today for the second day, pounding is resounding through the neighborhood from the work on our flat roof. I, however, am taking the day off, saying yes to the need to rest.

Yes, it’s the day for a Y word.

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Saying Yes is a part of accepting change, and therefore a part of selling a house.

 It seems lately there has been a lot of saying yes to hard things. Yes, to big expenditures. Yes, to big decisions to stop having other people live with us, rent from us, borrow from us.  Yes to letting go of favorite things and activities in favor of new plans. To say yes to the future that God is gently bringing to us, one second at a time, takes a lot of trust and is a test of our courage.

Last night we had dinner at a favorite restaurant that has been operating since the early eighties, before we were in Florida. It’s an Amish place known for its pies and farm style cooking. We’ve seen them expand into a beautiful new building decorated with handmade quilts on the walls, a gift shop and a toy train that circles the dining are on a track on the second story balcony. It’s been a landmark restaurant in a land where restaurants come and go rather quickly. They are serving their last meals on Sunday and closing for good. Change has come for them and they said yes.

One day this week the husband came home and announced he had put in his retirement notice. I’ll admit, the timing is partly because he sees that I’m selling the house out from under him and he’ll have no place to come home to.  But, other changes have been happening as well, and considering them over the past weeks has given him the courage to take that step toward big change. God works with people in ways that are right for their temperament and their ability to accept. It’s different for each individual, but he knows us. He gets us ready to change if we let him. He changes us and works with us so that we’re able to move forward. Yes is all about letting that happen.

One of these days soon, we will be signing our names to a contract of sale. We’re selling our house, not our life, and yet things in our life are going to change and never be quite the same ever again. There is a lot of freedom in the act of saying yes. It’s also a little scary.

 

Thoughts on Moving Away

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.

this is the walton's house
“Goodnight John boy”. “Goodnight Mom”. “Goodnight Grandma”….    Photo from FanPop

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.

I know there are good times coming.

Change, bring it on…

I have to say that things have begun to change for me already, but  that will continue.  Since last August I have been following an inner directive to be free for helping  my immediate family should they need it.  There are extended times in the ordinary progression of life when everyone  is on the young side, fairly healthy, moving forward and enjoying independence.  And then there are those other times that are not all those same things.  If the family is like a wagon train heading across the plain, there are times when they need  to circle the wagons.  That’s a bit of what I feel.

Time is not a limitless commodity. I want to make conscious decisions where I spend my time and who I spend it with.  As much as I love and appreciate my present friends and my community, I kind of arrived here out of financial necessity.  And time spent here has been good, but I am also blessed that I love to spend time with my family, every one of them.  They are all people  I would choose to spend time with, lots of time. Instead, it’s  been limited to a week here and there while on vacation, a reunion every few years, sometimes a holiday celebrated together.  I am ready to choose a closer connection.

That being said, I don’t really know where I’ll be a year from now.  Hey, but until I’m ready to do it, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going.  I just have to get ready to go somewhere.  The husband and I have made great progress toward this – at least I’m proud of us. Every week we get rid of some of our “stuff” that would not be worth taking with us.  We are both thinking about our present jobs and how our work would continue in a different place.  I jumped the hurdle of signing up for my social security benefits yesterday (believe me, it was a mental/emotional HURDLE).  I am scaling back on commitments I make and not jumping into new ones.  I am waiting to see what God will do with my readiness.  And there is a peace in not knowing the timing but just doing one thing at a time as the possibilities become apparent.

steps toward change
steps toward change

 

Retreadment

I don’t like the word retirement in any of it’s many uses.  Retirement community, retirement savings, retirement income – to me they all sound a little too final, like something that happens just before one dies. I do like the thought of a retread, you know, the thing they do to tires to give them a new exterior and more useful life.

I’m kind of in retreadment now.  Since November I’ve traveled a lot (no financial income), left my nearly full-time employment (no financial income) and have been sampling life at home (no financial income). I’m spending a lot more time thinking about, you guessed it, no financial income.

My thought going into the grocery store is now “how can I get in there and out again with only the things on my list?”.

My thought looking at the phone bill is “maybe I don’t need to pay to read email on my phone all the time”.

Thinking of the next meal “there’s probably something in the freezer that I need to use”.

At the gas pump I’m thinking “thank you Lord that I have a tank that only costs $35 to fill and gives me 500 miles of travel.”

At the first of every month I’m thinking “is there enough in the account to make that car payment?”

I’m not exactly to the point of worrying, because I do believe in God’s promise to supply my needs. However I am used to having a lot more than what I need. I’m realizing that the retreadment life is going to be a combination of creative saving, creative spending and creative cutting back/cutting out. And I need to think about what new work (the retread part) will fit my energy, ability and calling.