Friday, December 21, 2012

Time to Leave The Dark Behind

 December 21, 2012 ~ according to some, the end of a major cosmic cycle. The planets are positioned in a rather rare alignment, which happens to coincide with the winter solstice. Oddly reminds me of Hurricane Sandy, a nor'easter, and high tide all simultaneously converging on the New York Metro area. Can you feel the influence of science, faith and fear in the air once again? I can.

I understand from our weather scientists that we can expect increased solar flares and sun spots in the coming year, consistent with a recurrent eleven year cycle of waxing and waning solar energy activity. Following its regular path, the sun is returning to the northern hemisphere, and we can look forward to its warming effect. So much for science.

At a previous "turning point", when a shift from the 20th into the 21st century approached, I got involved with the fear and had my plastic sheeting, duct tape, food, and bottled water prepared in advance.

This time, I reject the fear. Amid all the hype predicting an end to life as we know it, I have faith. A shift creates an opening. I'm focused on making this shift more of an opening for light than ever before.

The sun's light is what makes life possible on this carbon based planet. Turn to it. Feel it. Let it soothe, promote health, and empower us. Get outdoors, away from an isolated indoor existence. Move toward friends. Plant a garden. Eat what is in season. Flow with the natural cycles.

This is definitely the time to find the power of light inside ourselves. Choose to laugh. Choose forgiveness. Choose compromise. Now, more than ever, turn on your heartlight. 

If only I were a skilled sci-fi writer. I would create a screen play for the title I've held in my head for years and years called "Microbes, Bits and Bytes." It focuses on a war for survival. The competitors: The planet Earth, in the form of naturally occurring bacteria and viruses (microbes); the few humans still alive after our foolish behavior has decimated the resources of home (bits); and virus-laden artificial intelligence gone rogue (bytes).

The resolution? Humans and nature discover a way to align themselves, first with their own kind, then with each other. They are then able to unite with the misdirected force of technology in a transformative way that results in a totally new species. Thus, life survives, though not life as we know it - a better life form with expectations of ongoing balance and productive harmony.
In my story, the way to a happy ending begins with welcoming alignment and expanding upon the light in our lives.

Now and into the new year, I hope light and laughter follow your every move.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Blessed Season

After a week of excited preparations on both ends, Mom and Brother Josh arrived at Charlotte Airport late afternoon on Saturday, where Sharon and Mike waited to escort them "home."


Since it was after dark by the time the long journey to Mills River was completed, we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner...


...and the "presentation of the keys" to Mom's apartment at Heather Glen Assisted Living Residence.

 

Mom was awesome on her arrival, greeting the "members" sitting in the lobby area with a smile and a charming, "Good-evening everyone. Happy Holidays to you all."
  
Her first night alone went well and Sunday was a whirlwind of activity with family and new (soon to be, maybe) friends.

We enjoyed brunch in the Club House, including many "Jewish-type" foods in honor of Hanukah: blintzes, noodle kugel, potato pancakes, etc. Mike happily celebrated both Toby's arrival and Navy's big win at the Army Navy Game on Saturday.



After lunch Mom braved the slopes at High Vista for conversation and dessert at the Willen residence. Again, Mom was awesome in her ability to get into and out of the car and handle the challenge of the steps. (Has she been holding out on us all this time in New York?)


We reviewed the Heather Glen welcome packet and Mom selected activities she's interested in during her month in North Carolina: Dancers, singers, a mystery bus ride, a Hanukah party, the Dreidl Game, shopping at a local mall, etc.


We got back to Heather Glen just in time for "The Story of Hanukah" and the Menorah Lighting for Day 2. 




 When Heather Glen member Frank McClellan finished reading and asked, "Does anyone know how to recite the prayers that have been read in English in the original Hebrew?" Mike Willen stepped up to the plate (Bar Mitzvah training lasts long). 

Who would have thought the light from the Menorah could be eclipsed by the glowing faces of the Jewish men and women in the circle, "kvelling" at hearing the Hebrew chant, "Oh I can't recall the last time I heard that song!" "This is wonderful; thank you so much."


Add two more holiday blessings that came our way. First, in the "Jewish Geography" discussion that followed, Charlotte (above) and Mom discovered they were in the same graduating class at Seth Low Junior High and Lafayette High School in Brooklyn! Their apartments are two doors down from one another at Heather Glen.

And finally, as we were walking Mom to her apartment before departing, Josh introduced himself to one of the aides as Mom's "son and caregiver". The young blond woman, named Angel (of course), reacted with an acknowledgement that added extra sweetness to the event for him, "Really? 'Caregiver Son', you don't hear that very often."

Josh flew back to LaGuardia from Asheville this morning apparently relieved and content. I visited Mom and together we visited with Charlotte.

I'm wishing that all families may be as blessed as ours this holiday month and may the goodness only multiply in the New Year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fifty-Fifty

Last Sunday I attended a service at the nearby Unity Center in celebration of contributions by the many volunteers who keep the congregation humming. In his comments, Reverend Chad O'Shea noted that we each have a choice when looking at a glass containing some liquid. Half empty or half full? Some say, "Look at how much trash has collected in the bushes along the road," or "There's so much work to manage the lending library." Volunteers, he said, see the work, but they also see the benefits they obtain through their involvement - a deeper sense belonging, enhanced self-worth, and relationship and skill building.

I should have caught on right then that the universe was trying to focus my attention on the notion of 50-50, but it took a another confluence of events to get the message into my thickening brain cells.

The ridiculously (IMHO) costly, emotionally provocative 2012 election season has finally come to a close. I didn't watch the broadcast media coverage. My dog in the race is environmental protection and a sane energy policy. So I went to bed election night passionately asking the powers that be to give the "win" to those most likely to protect our air, land, oceans and food from corporations recently elevated to the same human status as the rest of us, albeit without any conscience. When I awoke the morning after, my plan was to continue to avoid the media, fully expecting that there would be no definitive results until maybe Thursday. But when I turned on the TV to access my Wii-Fit daily exercise regimen, I saw the headline, "President Obama Re-elected". Smiling, I exhaled deeply, although I hadn't yet done a lick of exercise.

When I switched the input over to the Wii for a simple test of weight, body mass and balance, I was equally pleasantly surprised by the results on that last measure of my general fitness. There is a 1/4 inch difference between the length of my left and right leg, but on the morning of November 8, 2012, I was standing tall and straight, in perfect 50 - 50 alignment. The cosmic message began to sink in.

I had expended energy the night before overly concerned about the potential that the election results would be a landslide in favor of the conservative Republican agenda. This was unnecessary for many reasons. First, on November 8 half of us woke up overjoyed and half despaired - and that's the way the popular vote has gone for almost two decades. 50 - 50. You have to go back as far as 1996 to see the red and blue skewed off center, and that was due to the influence of Ross Perot running on the Reform ticket. One of the two major parties is going to take the electoral votes needed to win, but we the people are pretty equally divided.

My husband and I live in a red state, North Carolina. Our specific area of the state, the mountainous western counties, is known as "the Buckle on the Bible Belt". The closer we got to election day, the more signs went up, the more boldly our conservative neighbors and friends declared Romney was a shoo-in. It was difficult to believe a 50-50 split was possible. Of course, my Facebook friends' posts were heavily tilted in favor of the Democratic platform, but that's a different place, like San Francisco, where we visited the week before - Blue, true blue. It's easy to see the even balance of popular vote once the ballots have been cast, but in the heat of the campaign, the win-lose climate is likely to be controlled by where you live and who you hang out with.

My dear old Dad, so lucky to have gone to a place without political strife, had a clever perspective on life I think is relevant here. I'm going to do my best to keep it in mind in 2016.

Why Worry?

An Irish Poem, author anonymous

Why Worry? In life there are only two things to worry about:
Whether you are well,
or whether you are sick.

Now if you are well,
You have nothing to worry about.

And if you are sick,
You only have two things to worry about:
Whether you get better,
or whether you die.

If you get better,
You have nothing to worry about.

And if you die,
You only have two things to worry about:
Whether you go to heaven,
or whether you go to hell.
 
Now if you go to heaven,
You have nothing to worry about.

And if you go to hell, You’ll be too busy shaking hands with Your friends,
that you won't have time to worry.
 
So Why Worry?
   

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Last Chapter

I ran into a friend last night during a Cancer Society fundraiser at the High Vista Country Club and inquired about her dad. I knew that she and her husband not long ago had flown from the east coast to Hawaii when Dad fell and broke his 89 year old hip. While Dad was in the hospital they accomplished what he had resisted for too long; they made arrangements for him to relocate from living alone 6000 miles from family to an assisted living facility in Florida half way between two of his three daughters. While his physical health is remarkably good, Dad's mental/emotional stability continue to decline, dragging his quality of life and that of his children down the crapper. "He wouldn't want to live like this; I know if he was in his right mind, he wouldn't want to live like this." My friend's mother (her parents divorced forty years ago) has Alzheimer's disease and lives in a different facility from her dad, 30 minutes the other side of town.

My girlfriend is the only sister who has to travel more than a half hour to help their two parents, and I can say from personal experience that being at arm's length from the aging parent hot spot does not lift one ounce of pressure off her shoulders. She's doing different, but equal, work and carrying just as much stress through busy days and sleepless nights as her siblings. They're tied by family bonds in a tough situation and the demands of the caretaker role in the final chapter of their parents' lives are such that she says, "on any given day, two of us sisters are not on speaking terms with each other and one of our three marriages is on shaky ground."

Another friend, a neighbor down the road, lost her dad this past week at age 93. For at least two years this resilient being was in and out of the hospital, suffering and rebounding from the most intense physical ailments, including sepsis and pneumonia. And yet he clung to life and the medical profession did what they knew to be their job - bringing him back from the edge, over and over again, to a life without quality and with precious little dignity. The costs mounted - financial, emotional, and physical - her mother's health declined and she required hospitalizations during this time, partly due to the stress of adapting to the incremental realization of the impending loss of her spouse. And now he is gone, and Mom is in her final chapter. My loving friend's challenges go on.

In the Jewish tradition, another girlfriend of mine will place the headstone on her father's grave early next month. He died suddenly last year, following the death of his spouse, and under circumstances that left my friend and her sister questioning the competency of the hospital that cared for him and their own trust in those medical professionals. Had they asked the right questions? Made the right decisions? Was there more they could have done? Since Dad's death, they've been dealing with his estate and old emotional family baggage. It's taken a toll on their relationship and my friend's health.

The situation for my brother and me is similar to all of these sad stories. Mom has been in mourning and decline for two years, since our Dad died (though he never believed he would get old or die, nor prepared for either eventuality). My brother is Mom's on-site caretaker in New York and, from home in North Carolina, I handle all the financial, legal, tax, and insurance matters, as well as doing all the research and telephone on-hold duties, in attempts to obtain appropriate resources to support Mom and lighten my brother's responsibilities and to put out fires (reinstate lapsed homeowners' insurance) and clean up messes ("No, Discovercard, the $320 charge Mom incurred for an all expense paid trip for two to Disney and Bermuda was not a legitimate sale, it was a scam.). 

Neither my brother nor I have had children and now we have one - Mom, who is supposed to be the parent and whose self-esteem and independence we don't want to harm, but who we feel obligated to protect from her own vulnerability, bad judgment, and impulsive infantile behavior. On any given day the resentment, stress, and distress in both of our lives is palpable. When you put in all the work to cook, and clean, and tend to the bodily functions of an infant, you are rewarded with smiles, growth, funny antics, and affection. There is no comic relief and no reward in the life of a senior caregiver. The human entity we are caring for looks like Mom, but no longer is Mom. We want to love her; we remember loving her, but this is not her, and that's hard to reconcile. The being that lives in Mom's physical remains grows more and more unhelpable, sad, and hard to love as the weeks and months go on. I want more for her, better, but cannot make that happen. 

In addition to speaking to Mom every day and being her CFO, I spend too much time futilely working on circumstantial "stuff" that makes me feel like I still have a chance of making an impact on her quality of life (researching a chair more suited to her present needs; trying to get more hours of home companion help at an affordable rate; filing an application for the senior bus I doubt she will ever get on). My sleep is interrupted by my mind relentlessly trying to unknot the dilemma of my feelings vs reality and my dreams are filled with symbols of my inner conflict (I am standing in a pool of blood and bodily fluids and afraid that touching them is leaving me open to illness). 

My not being able to stop "trying" to make up for all that's wrong in the New York household results in overwhelming fatigue and does leave me vulnerable to illness - and is totally unfair to my husband, who worries along with me and worries about me to boot. So I must adjust my priorities to include his needs and my own, forgive myself for what I can't control, be satisfied with what I am contributing, and let go. I've begun by reinforcing my practice of meditation and detachment. 

My brother puts a good morning note and the date on a white board for Mom every morning, before leaving for work at 5:30 am, and puts her sorted pills where she can find them and, hopefully, take them at the right intervals during the day. He worries about her safety on some level even while dealing with his full-time job. He fits in shopping for food and household necessities and picking up prescriptions. When he comes home at 5 pm, he has to clean up after Mom's ineffective home companion aide, feed Mom dinner, and then clean up his mother's mess once she's gone to bed. And it's not pretty. If there's an emergency (she's choked, fallen, or can't get the TV to work properly) he gets called. He spends time on weekends entertaining her and uses his personal days to take her to doctors who tell us she's as healthy as can be, except for the "ordinary decline associated with age."

There is no "ordinary" about aging. There is no guidebook; it is not possible to write one. All the situations I've described are the same in general, but oh so incredibly different in their specific challenges. Old age sucks and then you die. What I am all too well-aware of is that being the caregiver for aging parents sucks, and then they die. Dad has already passed, who knows how long Mom will go on and what we'll have to face between now and then. Medical science works their magic to maintain our lives long after the quality of life of the patient and their closest relatives has bottomed out. So I'm left to wonder, as I sit digitally unraveling my thoughts to vent them silently, rather than inflict them on my ever-loyal husband, caught in the family drama, when Mom goes, will we all still be "family"? Will we be joyous for her release from her corporeal trap? Will we be young and healthy enough ourselves to fill the time once dedicated to her well-being with new adventures and good times? Will we remember the Mom who made us and set in motion the love that keeps us by her side as we all write this difficult final chapter? I want to believe we will. Like the seniors we care for, we just have to get up every day and keep going.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Haiku for The Moment



§
  
Fall opens spaces,
Now summer’s potent fullness,
Clears for what’s ahead.

§

Absorbing all sound,
The forest floor, newly laid,
Echoes in my heart.

§



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Stop Pointing Fingers

Put Your Head, Heart and Hands To Work

It's kind of early in the election season, not even October, and I am already more than tired of listening to people pointing fingers at one another and yelling, "You're the enemy."

On the contrary, every single one of us has the potential to contribute something that will make a difference, move us in the direction of goals we have in common: peace, love and abundance for ourselves and those we love. Imagine if we stopped allowing ourselves to be manipulated into separate corners and began to listen and work together in our  neighborhoods, and then linked ourselves into neighborhood networks and formed true local communities, and found a way to cooperate with and stimulate the success of other nearby communities. . . .

 We Are the Heroes for Our Times

Our problems look enormous and the world seems bleak,
So listen up people to what I speak.
Hear my words, ‘cause they’re not absurd,
“Fight doom and gloom, beat creeps and crimes,
You are the hero for our times.”

Open up your ears, ‘cause my words are true,
You are the hero… and you… and you.
Yo, pay attention to these hip hop rhymes,
For we are the heroes for these times.

All you have to do now is take a look around,
No matter where you look, here’s exactly what you’ve found
No matter where you’re at, you’re in for stormy weather,
Yeah, we’re all in this together.

Our problems can’t be solved by any one election,
That’s not enough correction,
We need a new direction.
It’s not up to Mr. President, ‘cause in America, we are the government.
You’ve got to participate to build a world that’s really great.

Look in the mirror and you will see,
You are the one; you have the key.
Look below the surface and you will find,
You’re more than body, heart, and mind.
Answers don’t fall from a sky that’s blue,
They come from the power inside of you…and you…and, hey, me too!

If you want to have an impact,
Get back on the right track,
It’s a fact, Jack.
We can eliminate what’s rude and crude,
But we each have to watch our own attitude.
Hey, look into your own attitude.

Danger is everywhere, triggering many fears - and so it has for years,
But we can overcome with the force of bright ideas.
Now is the time to get upbeat,
Put our heads together, so our minds can meet.
Use your will and talent to create a new beginning
Where everyone is winning.

Human beings are the most adaptable of creatures,
With a ton of classy features,
We’re the dream team,
So listen to my scheme.

It’s perfectly fine to sing your own song,
But to be in harmony, we have to sing along.
I want to hear our blended voices ring out loud and strong.

Let’s take responsibility, ‘cause freedom isn’t really free.
We must pitch in, make room, and go the extra mile,
And here’s one great idea, let’s do it with a smile.

Let’s focus on what’s going right – what can be done,
And while we’re at it - let’s have some fun.
Our brightest visions can come true,
I make it happen and so do you…and you…and, hey, you too!

I must conclude now by repeating the heart of my rhymes,
We are the heroes for our times.
Can you find it in your own heart,
Every woman, child and man,
I ask you, say it with me – Yes, I Can!

Let me hear you answer enthusiastically,
Is there someone eager, ready to carry out my plan?
I bet I know your answer –
Yessssss! We Can!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Have We Met?



No one has ever called me "shy", but I have been tagged "stand-offish". So distressing. Although I do need time alone to recharge my batteries in dreaming, meditation, or indulging in nature's soothing stroke, I really do like people and never seek to offend. Yet I understand why the term "aloof" could be applied to my behavior. I have a problem remembering faces - not names, actual faces. I can see why this puts people off.

I'll be walking through town when someone approaches, outstretched hand, big grin on his face, and as he gets closer he can tell there's a dimness in my eyes that rats out my lack of recognition. At best he's figuring that I don't recall his name, but more likely, I don't remember meeting this person at all. Or I'm at an event in our neighborhood clubhouse, and when a couple walks through the door, I know I know the wife, but I am totally unsure if she's Karen or Carol or Debbie. In ten years of interacting with them, in a group situation, I am never sure that I can tell one from the other. Please don't judge me as shallow or inattentive, because I have already spent years beating up on myself. 

Only recently I discovered that this social disability is truly not my fault. There's a name for my dysfunctional perception, "prosopagnosia" or "face blindness." I always joked that this weakness was a "missing part" in my brain. That's not exactly true. As I've learned from the mass media (a "20/20" feature on TV and an article in "Vogue"), though scientists have no final explanation, nor a cure, for this disability that strikes about one in fifty people, it is attributed to a malfunction in the area of the brain that processes facial characteristics. 

Luckily, my case is a mild one; some people with face blindness can't even recognize family members. I mean, I've been blatantly ignored by my loving but highly distractable mother for years, but she does so knowing full well that I'm her daughter.  Not like when that fellow Steve came up to me at a party in Brooklyn years ago and went on and on with details of the summer we spent in Israel together years before that. I came up totally blank. Zero recognition of having ever seen his face. I was so stricken by the hurt I had inflicted on him that the incident triggered compensatory action. Since then, I've adopted a strategy in social situations that protects others, but still leaves me open to the misnomer, "aloof".

My curly, curly hair is usually a dead giveaway to my identity. But, trust me, if more than an hour has passed since our last contact, or if you've changed your clothes or your hair style, there's no clue for me to hang onto that can overcome this synaptic snafu. The next time we meet for the first time, I hope you'll give me some leeway. 

I'll be there standing on the sidelines or clinging to whoever I came in with until I can overhear sufficient conversations to sort out the who's who. You'll make allowances for my astoundingly lame questions, instead of exclaiming, "but you met her at the Farmer's Market just this morning". And you'll happily identify yourself when I greet you with that friendly, but confused look on my face, although we've only recently swapped stories about one English class we survived right before lunch in high school. You'll know that I apologize in advance.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Blue Moon


Beautiful Blue Moon over Asheville, Sept. 31, 2012

I put water out to be blessed by the full moon on Friday night, the night of the Blue Moon. Rumor has it that I can use it to help manifest my dreams. I'm happy to collect a new tool, but I must say it often seems to me that I have lived my whole life under a blue moon. I'm a Pisces - a water sign; the sign of the fish swimming in two directions. I can always see more than one perspective on a situation, can easily put myself in someone else's shoes to empathize with her point of view. And my dreams have come to fruition, over and over again, in seemingly miraculous ways.

This summer is a great example. With some coaxing and a bit of effort, but not a whole lot of struggle, Mike and I have had a fantastic season. Our deck garden was bountiful.
Blueberries picked in June
Beans, Pesto, and Kohrabi Slaw in July
And veggies I didn't know would grow in pots

Our community garden once again provided food, fun and friendship. We're exploring the opportunity to take it to a whole new level of connection with folks "outside the gate" next year.

The Gleaning Gang
Mike and I logged many miles on the Prius and have more trips planned for the Fall.
East Hampton with the Willen-Robbins Clan
A day in the park
Brunch with Mom
What more can I dream of? Life on borrowed time, Love overflowing, a healthy happy family, freedom to move about, and a serene setting for our cozy nest. I am grateful for all that I have and am wishing you the same blessings through all seasons.