Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Early morning grocery musings

imported-photos-00000When you use the last bit of milk on your cereal as your spouse is still asleep you realize you’ve put off grocery shopping one day too long. Glancing around the kitchen you recognize you’re out of a lot of staples. Plus you have no idea what you’re going to make for dinner. Though if you got really creative you could probably put together a meal out of whatever is left in the back of the pantry.

Maybe best not to go there.

So you gather your gloves and dog hair encrusted coat, shove your bare feet into worn running shoes and head out over icy rutted dirt roads in search of food and inspiration. You haven’t showered and you’re still wearing the shirt you slept in. But you figure you won’t see anyone you know and even if you did what does it matter really?

At the store you peruse the produce and note that wherever you move there is a woman choosing much the same stuff. Checking out the bananas, picking the perfect tomato. Potatoes. You wait patiently, pretending to inspect the pears while she checks out all the bags of potatoes. It’s a potato. Choose one. But she lingers over her decision.

Though you might have the same eating habits, she and you are nothing alike.

Her hair is clean and bouncy and shiny, cut in a perfect bob. You haven’t looked at yours yet this morning but it definitely isn’t clean. She has managed to wriggle her tiny little behind into her skinny jeans. You’re wearing the same sweats you slept in. She’s pushing a huge designer bag in the front seat of her cart. You aren’t.

She’s perky. You appear to have left your perk at home. Under a pile of laundry in the deep reaches of an overwhelmed laundry room.

You begin to feel bad about yourself only when you realize a purple doggie poop bag (thankfully empty) is trailing out of your right pocket. You check your left pocket and are relieved to find that the cough drops are safely pushed down to the bottom, unlikely to make an appearance unless you pull your keys out from among the used tissues.

You and she move to the dried bean aisle. She makes several selections. You head in the other direction and skip an aisle just to avoid her. As you gather the rest of your necessities you only run into her on occasion, she smiling cheerily, sipping her designer coffee, you mumbling under your breath like the bag lady you obviously are.

As you approach the lone open register, grateful to have this task finished, not even looking at your list because you don’t want to know what you forgot in your rush to get out of the store, you almost crash into another frazzled middle-aged shopper with one of those small carts carrying only a few items.

You take a moment and breath, then smile and nod at her to go ahead. She smiles back and life shifts to normal. So we’re not perky and put together. So what. Everybody got their shopping out of the way before most of the world was awake.

And that makes us all winners.

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Nothing sneaks up on us!

It's raining mama!

It’s raining mama!

It’s raining here in Michigan. In January. Complete with thunder and lightening, which is kind of different for around here in mid-winter. But we have nothing to worry about, no storm arrives that we haven’t been warned.

Loudly and often.

Yes indeed, we have a Storm Sheltie, and she barks to announce rain on the roof no matter the season. I wouldn’t want to be caught in a storm without one.

Good job Katie-girl.


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Doing the best we can

I’ve alluded to stressful times around here recently. We’ve had lots of unexpected and unplanned things to deal with lately. I guess I shouldn’t have expected that retirement would be all golden beaches, blue skies and fruity drinks.

This morning I left early, heading over to my physical therapy appointment a couple of towns to the west. The sky was pretty, big clouds with purple bottoms piling up. I wished I was out with the camera instead of going to PT.

Once that appointment was over, my shoulder iced (which is the best part of my day) I head over to my gym, a couple of towns to the east, intent on getting some cardio in. The sky is filled with more beautiful clouds. I consider heading home for my camera, skipping the gym and the visit to the nursing home.

I debate doing something I want to do v.s. doing the thing I should do.

At the gym I walk three minutes, run one minute, repeat about 11 times on one of the treadmills. It’s an attempt to get back to running after many years of slothful living. But one minute is about all I can run without my heart rate soaring above it’s max rate. Still, I’m pleased I stuck to the plan.

Sweaty I headed to the locker room and dress in layers to head back outside into the 10 degree day. The blast of cold air actually feels good pulling at my sweat soaked hair. It’s afternoon now and I’m hungry. I could stop by MacDonalds….but I only spent 340 calories in my three mile walk/run, and I could waste that in an instant if I’m not careful.

I buy a cup of chicken noodle soup (130 calories) there, and sip it in the parking lot of the nursing home. I burn my tongue, as I always do when I’m trying to hurry.

Inside I visit with Aunt Vi who at 101 is not happy to have given up her own home. She says she’s doing worse today than yesterday, but to me she seems pretty good, though confused about tests she’s having done. More family members arrive, and we spend a bit of time talking, even laughing, but receive no explanation to the pain she’s experiencing.

It’s frustrating.

Glancing at my watch I realize time has flown and I must fly too in order to get dinner into the oven at home. As I prepare the meal I update the husband on the aunt’s status. It’s so hard to know what to do. Everyone wants the best for her, but it’s hard to find that within the health care system.

And then I notice the headlines rolling across the television across the room. The sound is down and I’ve been talking about our daily stresses, not paying attention.

Five dead in the Fort Lauderdale airport. Another shooting. More terror, more grief, more confusion, more debate. I note that the radio playing during my drive home hadn’t mentioned it. The stock market didn’t blink and Wall Street analysts don’t mention the tragedy. They’re talking about the agony of the Dow being within .37 of 20,000.

We have become immune.

My day, filled with stress, seems pretty straight forward now, and in fact quite good. My shoulder didn’t hurt. I got my workout in. Aunt Vi spent some time laughing.

And I recognize I should be grateful.

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PS: The latest test shows she might have a gall bladder problem. We and she are headed to the hospital now. Still, we’re grateful for an answer.


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A New Year Begins

It’s 4:30 a.m. and Katie the dog wants to go out. Just like every morning, her timing is meticulously accurate. I shake the sleep from my eyes as she shakes the tags on her collar and together we stumble to the front door where she prances impatiently as I don shoes and coat and gloves.

And then we step out into the blackness that is early morning.

Deep silence surrounds us. No cars out on the freeway, no stirring in the neighborhood. Only the far away wail of a train intrudes on the thick blanket of quiet. I whisper to her, unwilling to pierce the silence myself, to find a good spot as we wander the yard.

Almost directly overhead is the big dipper, sitting upside down, spilling good wishes down upon us. Orion’s belt has long since gone to bed. “Hi Dad,” I whisper. “Here’s to a New Year. Another one starting without you and mom.”

And then I pause, a bit of happiness floating from me up to him. “Well, not really without you…I feel you right here. See you tomorrow morning…say hi to Mom”

Katie and I head silently back to the house. At the front porch she stands on her back legs asking to be picked up. I do, picking up her awkwardly lopsided bobble-headed cone encased self and give her a tight hug and a kiss.

“Happy New Year baby-girl, Happy New Year.”

Happy New Year mama!

Happy New Year mama!


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Stress relief

Stress seems to be hovering over me like that dark cloud that follows cartoon characters.  Between Katie’s surgery and her cone of shame, my shoulder which is requiring physical therapy three times a week, and our Aunt’s move to a nursing home, it feels like the days are filled with concerns and difficult decisions.

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Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming.

I don’t remembered even noticing the sky the past few weeks, but as I left the house yesterday  the clouds struck me as kind of pretty.  The weather was changing fast, the wind blowing the clouds around and the sun popping out for brief moments of brilliant light which moved like a spotlight across the yard.

Grabbing my camera I knew I didn’t have time to go far before the sky would be totally cloud covered and we’d be sunk once again into the grey that is often  a Michigan December afternoon.  I headed toward the closest wide open country around here, not sure what I’d find, but hopeful.

And I was right.  Barns, clouds, fields, all pretty in the changing light.

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I haven’t been on a barn hunt in months….maybe even a year.  It seems fitting that I get one more mini adventure in this year and that it revolve around barns.

 

And a church.

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I was only out there an hour, and the weight of the camera made my shoulder ache, but it was wonderful.  Recent problems fell away and it was just me chasing the light through crisp air and skies filled with heavy navy clouds.

I guess it’s worth remembering to do something you love as often as possible.  It helps to deal with all the other stuff if you give yourself a break now and then.

 

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Happy New Year everybody!  May we all work through the problems that will inevitably come along, and may we balance those out with moments of pure joy doing the things that make us happiest.

 

 

 

 


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Imagine

Imagine you’ve lived on your own for over 100 years. Sure the only reason you could is because people helped along the way, but you had your own space. You had your own things around you, things that reminded you of places and people you’ve loved.

And then imagine the day comes that you can’t live alone anymore and you find yourself in a cramped and overheated space with strange sounds and sights, strangers in and out of your small space, other people determining when you sleep and when you are awake, what you eat, when you shower.

You are depressed.

Your things are gone, your space is gone, your pet is gone, your friends are far away. Only your family and your memories remain.

Your family tries to make it better but there is no better here. They remind you to get out of bed and move your feet and legs but you don’t want to. They try to entertain you when they visit but the visits are never frequent enough even when they occur every day. And they can’t change the reality.

You are tired.

You can’t see very much, can’t hear anything when your hearing aid is away being repaired. Your roommates change but are similarly confused and wandering.

You are scared.

There are noises in the hall that you can’t identify. You can’t tell when people are headed into your room or when they are just passing by.

You are dependent on strangers.

You used to be independent. You like to tell people that you always did things for yourself. You tell people you don’t like to be a burden. That you like to make your own decisions.

But you are allowed so few decisions now.

You recognize that your time is short. And you’re not sure if that isn’t a good thing. Because you can’t imagine your life moving forward like this forever.

You never imagined life ending this way. Or that the gift of living to be 101 could be so hard.

Just never imagined.