Category Archives: aging

My Mother Made Me…

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My Mother Made Me…

Why do we demonize mothers? OK you may be thinking I have gotten off at the wrong bus stop, she’s come off the rails, PMS…? All valid things to ponder but stay with me a bit…it’s a thought that has occurred to me on more than one occasion, maybe you have noticed it too?

We expect so much from mothers. Thank you Captain Obvious for stating that…..I know (insert eye roll) but think about it in your own life. OK, I’ll start since I’m the first one reading this…and perhaps the only one.

I had a fairly crappy childhood with divorced parents. As kids we lived with our mother (for the most part) and our father paid child support (except when he didn’t,  which was often). He pretty much abandoned us except for the bi-annual court ordered payments when he would be forced to write a check. My mother kept a roof over our heads (with some lapses) until my twin brother and I turned 15 and the shit storm went nuclear. Fast forward 30+ years later and which parent aggravates me the most…..mom.

I see myself in her and her in me. Usually the parts I don’t like, have her fingerprints all over them. The negativity, the feeling of being easily overwhelmed, the victim mentality, the flakiness. Sometimes I see these flaws in discreet slivers….sometimes they are wrapped in neon signs holding a bullhorn announcing themselves to the world at high volume. I don’t ever think of my father when a character defect pops up and I am just itching to identify the source so I can destroy it so it never comes back again. PS – they always come back again, like garden weeds and stray cats that you accidentally fed on purpose.

So why do I do this? Why blame my mother when my father was not even around. Maybe that’s it….perhaps his absence gives him a free pass? Well damn that seems woefully unfair. But I have to be honest at this age, I’m too tired to build a relationship with the guy just so I can hate him. Meh, I don’t have the energy and he’s kind of a jerk.

Or is that society has brain washed me and you and all the woodland creatures into thinking that moms must be perfect and if they are not they must be hated? What the hell – why would anyone want that job asked the mom of two?

So here’s my suggestion…let’s be nicer to our moms. Let’s try to remember that they are mere mortals that make mistakes. Some mistakes may have been bigger and more catastrophic but would you let your dad off the hook for a similar issue? Would you forgive a friend if they stumbled along a similar broken path sometimes grabbing at the wrong branch for balance? And let’s be real honest, I don’t want my kids to hate me so maybe I’m just hoping for some good karma. Good luck to all the moms out there.

 

 

My Other Mother

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My Other Mother

I recently had an experience where I caught a glimpse of my mother from an outsider’s perspective. It happens sometimes and it reminds me that my mother is a multi-dimensional person. Just like the rest of us…she isn’t all bad or all good, she’s a complicated mix. I have written quite a bit about the bad stuff – the drunk, raging, dysfunctional mother and now I want to share another side.

A few days ago, I had lunch with my “other mother” at a student dinning hall at the University of Pennsylvania. When she 40 she decided that she wanted to go to college and prove to everyone that she wasn’t stupid. She started local at a community college where she aced her way through two years and graduated with induction into Phi Theta Kappa.

Her grades and her personal narrative were so compelling that she got a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. Her initial thought was that she would complete her B.A. with a law degree as the ultimate goal and somewhere she switched to history and psychology. She did graduate from University of Pennsylvania and attended one year of graduate school at Bryn Mawr College.

We found ourselves in Philadelphia for one of her doctor appointments. I insisted on driving her because she is not a great driver and I thought public transportation would overwhelm her. So we were walking from the medical facility toward campus and she mentioned that she wished she could give “them” more money. I turned toward her and said “what” rather forcibly……WTF was strongly implied. In my mind the coffers of the ivies is always so damn full and my mother is broke. She lives in a house I bought but she still has utility bills. She is on Medicaid and has no discretionary income, zero. Then she went on to say how she learned so much about women and other cultures around the world during her education. How her time there was a bit Dickens….”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Clearly she just wanted to pay it forward to another woman that she will never meet and my tone softened.

I admit it, I am a hard ass around my mother. Impatient, suspicious, not trusting on any level, my armor is always up around her and I can be an obstinate jerk. I know this and I willed myself to be patient and oblige her wish for lunch on campus despite the growing list of sh*t I had to do that day. After all, I don’t know if she will get another chance to stroll down this particular neighborhood of memory lane and I didn’t want to begrudge her that request.

I could feel the pride of her accomplishment that hour. She went on about how this changed and that was the same. She wanted to eat in the hall of flags and peeked in on an event taking place in that room. That lunch she was reflecting on happy times and people that sadly have passed that helped her with that part of her journey.

During lunch I noticed that she was wearing her university ring. I got that ring for her as a graduation gift. I was in my early twenties, going to college and working two jobs to support myself. The money I used to pay for that ring was based on serious sweat equity and sacrifice. She told me that day it was the nicest gift anyone had every given her. I guess we both had something to be proud of that day.

Wrinkles, Zits and Hot Flashes…..Oh My!

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Wrinkles, Zits and Hot Flashes…..Oh My!

I’m at the tender crossroads of life somewhere between; the downward slide into decrepitude and moody perimenopausal bitch on wheels. It’s lovely and by the way gents you may want to look away, shit is about to get real. Very real in a mid-life-lady-no-longer-has-fucks-to-give kind of way. You’ve been warned males – ladies lets sip some chamomile (or scotch, no judgement zone here) and bitch about the lady days for a bit.

The things I HATE about perimenopause or whatever the fuck this is:

  1. The well meaning people that tell me to sip tea and take supplements. Shut up…..please just shut up. I want chocolate, Advil, a dark room and a nap. Do not try to hug me I may punch you in the face, hard.
  2. PMS has become……apocalyptic at times. Not every month, I mean God forbid something about this female cycle be predictable. Sometimes the mood swings are INTENSE like “The Three Faces of Eve” intense.
  3. Aunt Flow. I am so sick of bleeding y’all. Really enough already. My actual period vacillates somewhere between an annoying but ever present slow faucet drip to Niagara Falls. The first three days are the worst. So bad that the “spray” from my oozing lady parts has landed in odd places – under the toilet seat, on the floor, on the G-damn wall (yup, you read that right). I doesn’t seem like the laws of physics would allow for this level of splatter but I assure you it is the truth.  There have been times when I just wanted to put the yellow crime scene tape around my bathroom and call in the experts for clean up.
  4. Hot Flashes. I have only experienced these during the day on a few occasions and it’s quite impressive when it happens. One time the heat started on the back of my neck and I suddenly found myself with a literal hot head, sweat and all. What physical activity brought this on….uh, none. I was typing at my desk when all of a sudden…..
  5. Night Sweats is the asshole cousin of Hot Flashes. While I haven’t spent much time with Hot Flashes…..Night Sweats and I go steady. I sleep with that bitch every night, right next to my husband…..because I am a whore like that. Seriously, if you haven’t experienced this pleasure yet here’s a description: you awake in a head soaked puddle of your own bodily fluid (sweat), drenched pillow, hair like Medusa. The cure – go pee for the third time that night, come back to bed and flip that pillow over. Repeat this cycle however many times you pee in a given night until your pillow has turned into an overflowing sponge….then replace the pillow or the the pillow case….or steal your husband’s pillow if necessary…..because, men.
  6. Sleep Disturbances – Better known as insomnia and this little motherfucker is the worst. There is a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture because………it is actually a very effective form of torture. The echos of sleep loss bleed into the next day which is why insomnia is such a dick. I can usually make it through the next day sans sleep until about 4pm and then I am replaced by Satan.
  7. Urinary urgency or the need to pee (all the time) with the most intense urgency occurring just before you fall asleep. This really kicks in as I am laying my head down on the pillow (prior to a soaking due to night sweats). There have been many evenings when I have gotten out of bed to pee 4 or 5 times within 30 minutes. I know it doesn’t seem possible that one could go so frequently within such a short time span, it’s true. I promise I’m not guzzling gallon jugs of coffee or Gatorade within an hour of bedtime. It’s a head scratcher.
  8. Fatigue. How unexpected is this…..really?! You have night sweats, frequent urination, insomnia and mood swings tag teaming to kick your ass all day and night. Of course we are tired, duh! Ladies if you have ever been pregnant you probably remember the wave of exhaustion that can overwhelm you during the first trimester. I get a lesser version of this during PMS. Of course it isn’t predictable because PMS is an asshole like that.
  9. Skin changes. Here is my complete thought process on the skin changes….wrinkles and zits should not coexist on the same face, ever.
  10. Sex drive changes. This runs the gamut friends. Some ladies have no desire for sex – could be due to vaginal dryness or painful intercourse or maybe they just can’t stand their man/woman/vibrator, I dunno. My issue is on the opposite extreme. I find myself sexting my husband and taking him into the walk in closet for quickies. I am like a 12 year old boy watching girls gone wild for the first time.
  11. Aches, pains and other signs your screwed for the next 5 days. Period cramps – check. Gents if you’re reading this and why the fuck would you be reading this….imagine that you swallowed a small spiked ball and it is rolling around your innards, that’s what cramps feel like. Oh and bonus round if you get the it-feels-like-I-got-stabbed-in-the-eye headache.

No seriously, is there something sticking out of my eye? Ladies, feel free to rant in the comments.

I’m Obsessed with Numbers…

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I’m Obsessed with Numbers…

Lately I’ve been obsessed with numbers – weight, age, finances and the big one, the blog related likes, views and comments. I don’t even math well so I’m not entirely in love with this obsession. I have to constantly give myself pep talks about the various numbers in my life.

The weight number, ugh. I don’t weigh the same as I did when I was 22, primarily because …..I am no longer 22. I know, duh, but I still obsess over the scale. Truth be told I have a one way abusive relationship with this apparatus. I weigh myself a few times a week….here are some of the conversations I had with the scale over the past several days: “Are you fucking kidding?!” “Yes!!!!!” and silent treatment with a defiant middle finger aimed at the scale display.  It’s not pretty but it’s honest.

Age yeah I know….it’s just a number right? Wrong. It’s a marker of time which pushes the needle closer to our own demise. I’m a realist folks and I’ve been a hospice volunteer for nearly 10 years….we are all going to die. That ascending number is a reminder, I have less time than I did a year ago. I know, depressing as hell, let’s move on.

Finances, well I leave most of that worry to my husband. Calm down he isn’t in charge because he is a man….he’s in charge because he is the most qualified one in the house. Before kids, I was a career gal, bought my own house, researched my 401K options…now not so much. I do have a small business that I run but honestly the numbers are so small at this point it isn’t a big deal.

The blog numbers….these are the greatest obsession of the moment. How many likes versus how many views. I lose my mind when the orange light is on – a comment, gasp, heart beats faster….I’m embarrassed to admit it. I tell myself that writing is cathartic, I do it for me, to tell my stories. That is true but I still want people to read the stories.

So…..if you have taken a moment to view, share, comment or like this post (or any of them), thank you!

 

 

Feral Dinosaur Toes…….

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Feral Dinosaur Toes…….

So I’m just going to put it out there…..my current shame……onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis) other wise known as toe nail fungus or what I lovingly refer to as feral dinosaur toes. It’s gross and somewhat uncomfortable and I have been hiding it under painted toe nails for years. I have tried the random home remedies – oregano oil, Vicks VapoRub, bleach….this fungus is persistent. I finally decided to be a grown up and deal with it head on when both big toe nails were about to fall off.

I shimmied into my big girl panties and went to the Podiatrist. If you haven’t been, it’s like going into a time machine. You may enter the waiting room as a 40 something hipster but you will leave feeling like a 87 year old infirm granny. My Podiatrist is great. He manages to make me feel like an equal whilst dealing with my toes of shame. He is honest and kind and has a sense of humor. I like those qualities in a human. He tells me that all the topical stuff is a waste of time and money. As for laser treatment, he snickers and does an eye roll at that one. Even the medicine he suggests has a cure rate of about 65% and those are the best odds. Knowing that I am not likely to dutifully apply eye of newt and chant every day, twice a day, for the next infinity…..I decide to investigate the oral medication.

My present situation is this…I am taking Terbinafine HCL (a generic form of oral Lamisil) to treat my moderate to severe case of ick. This medication is so intense that I had to have blood drawn to confirm that my liver is functioning properly. Fortunately, I haven’t been drinking in over 30 years so that sobriety thing is really paying off. When you read about this medication you just assume that it will kill you. The pros and cons list is pretty skewed but ultimately I want to get rid of this problem. It goes beyond pretty toes I want this fungus eradicated.

So in reading the precautions you are advised to avoid caffeine and sun exposure. This seems insurmountable but OK I will triple up on the sunblock and get some long sleeve light weight shirts. Avoid caffeine, well shit just got real. The no alcohol thing is not a problem but no morning cup o’ Joe well that seems extreme. I did some further reading and basically caffeine takes longer to leave the body while on this medicine. So in my selective reasoning, I have determined that I can have one cup of coffee early in the morning. Will have to see how that goes. The coffee may have to be shelved for a few months (who just typed that?). Whaaaaat??

For the pros…..I may lose my sense of taste. Yeah I know, this is listed as a con in the literature but momma needs to lose some weight so I’m going to look on the bright side. A little loss of taste wouldn’t necessarily be bad as long as it’s temporary. Insomnia is also a possible side effect. OK that sucks no getting around that. I am hoping that is due to the extended life this drug gives caffeine. So maybe if I drink just one cup of coffee early in the morning I will be alright? I realize I have just outed myself as the desperate coffee junkie that I am. Only time will tell. I have 3 doses in me so far so we will see how things progress……fingers and toes crossed.

 

 

 

And now for Grandma Shaming……

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And now for Grandma Shaming……

I saw this meme the other day and it really pissed me off. On one side we have the astounding Ernestine Shepherd. Ernestine is a 74 (actually she is 79 now, gasp) year old power house who looks to be half her age. The other side features the anonymous frail looking grandma who resembles what a 74 year old looked like about 20 years ago. The headline on the meme is “Both of these women are 74 years old…..The choice is yours to make”. So in addition to fat shaming, slut shaming, mom shaming and everything else we now add grandma shaming. Are you fucking serious? Stop it.

Now I’m sure we would all like to resemble the powerhouse on the left. She looks amazing and I am sure that is due to a number of factors including a huge time commitment at the gym, running, lifting, whatever else she does to achieve that level of excellence. I mean how many hours a day does it take to achieve that? Great nutrition…I’m sure she doesn’t have a cheat day, ever. And genetics, there is some gold swimming in that woman’s gene pool for sure and god bless.

Now frail granny on the right, what’s her story? Is she depressed? Does she have some kind of disability or chronic disease? Did she eat bon bons and sit on the couch for 50 years or did things just come unglued for the past decade. Maybe her husband died 10 years ago and she got depressed and didn’t keep up with the running club. Maybe she worked 16 hours a day at some shitty job just to scrape by……the point is we don’t know.

I’m just tired of the little digs that come up on my Facebook feed, otherwise known as the judgement zone. Enough already people. Just do the best you can. More moderation, less judgement – please.  Just remember no one here gets out alive, regardless of how much you bench. Relax a little, it’s all temporary.

 

 

 

 

Their Stories…Tales of a Hospice Volunteer

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Their Stories…Tales of a Hospice Volunteer

I have heard so many stories from the people that I have met as a hospice volunteer. I meet others through a small business that I run where I fill in the gaps for people when they need help. I have met some interesting people along the way. People always have a personal reason for becoming a hospice volunteer. It isn’t the PTA, you don’t do it for your kids.

I became interested in hospice in my late 20s. My aunt was dying of metastatic breast cancer and she appointed me as executrix of her estate. It was an incredible experience because my aunt was a highly spiritual and deeply religious woman. She was young, not even 60 and she met death face on with a grace and dignity that eludes me on a daily basis. We had many open discussions during her final year and it made me wonder what it was like to know you were dying within days, weeks or months? I started to worry that the dying person may not have anyone they felt they could talk to….sometimes the people closest to us are the hardest ones to talk to when life is near the end.

Some people are so close to the dying person that it is too emotionally charged for them to have a coherent conversation. Then again, some can’t communicate when things are great. Toss in a terminal illness and some just go mute or into complete denial. The surviving family and friends generally have people to talk to but the dying person….who do they have? I decided that I wanted to be that person.

So finally 10 years after the seed was planted I decided to become a hospice volunteer through a local hospital. My kids were still young but the preschool hours and some kind friends provided enough kid free time for me to attend the Medicare required training. I had been a stay at home mom for 5 years at this point and it was great to check off a personal goal that was independent of my family.

The hospital I volunteer for has a training coordinator we will call her Kay. When a hospice volunteer is requested, Kay sends out an email to a group of hospice volunteers telling us a little bit about the situation and what day/time a volunteer is needed. Then a volunteer will ‘reply all’ that they can do it and Kay sends a secure email to that individual. The volunteer then has the information to contact the family and the visit is scheduled. Sadly we always have to check in the day of the visit to make sure the patient hasn’t passed, it happens.

A couple of years ago I received such a call from the wife of a man that I was supposed to stay with the next day. Sadly her husband had passed a few hours before she called me. I find it remarkable that she would have the presence of mind to even think of me but she did. We chatted for a few minutes and she mentioned that she lied to her daughter and told her that a friend was staying with her that night because she did not want to inconvenience her. I never met that woman in person but I think of her often.

That’s how it is with hospice work. You meet people at this most intense time in their life. Sometimes it is scary and awkward and uncomfortable and other times it is filled with grace, dignity and love. You never know what you are walking into when you arrive at someone’s home. Sometimes the family is close and open and other times you can feel tension in the air from countless family fights and relatives being forced in a room with someone they haven’t spoken to in decades. I go in knowing that these people have an entire lifetime of memories, emotions and conflicts and I am not there to try to sort that out. I am there for two reasons: to be there for the patient in whatever capacity they need and to give the caregiver a break.

They, the patients, always leave me behind at some point. Sometimes they hang on well past the point that anyone would have thought they could. Other times they go suddenly….even though they were on hospice, you are shocked….they were a fighter and you thought you had more time. Most of the time though I know when our last visit has occurred. More times than not, I will get an extra squeeze of their hand, a knowing look and an extra and most sincere thank you. And I leave knowing I will not see them again.

Though they are gone, they are not forgotten. Many tell me their stories some are funny, others are heart breaking and I hold onto those stories and take them with me. That is our gift to each other.