Category Archives: Midlife

On Grief And Gifts

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On Grief And Gifts

This is the 2nd post in a 3-part series. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 3 here.

The past year has been one of tremendous loss for my family.

A surprising number of friends and extended family have also recently experienced the loss of parents, siblings, spouses and even relationships. Perhaps this is due to terrible coincidences, or maybe simply our stage of life.

There is a plethora of articles and memes about grief, sometimes poetic, often cliché. We hear it is a process, it’s not a process, it is different for each person, and the price you pay for loving someone. It’s all merely a concept until you are walking through it, as so many family and friends are doing right now.

My mother died in April after a ten-year journey with dementia. While we were at peace with her passing from the indignities and pain of that disease, I was unprepared for how much I would miss her…even the version of her that dementia had left with us in her final years.

Then, there was my sister’s husband.

His sore back from too much puttering didn’t really worry us. It didn’t put a damper on an RV trip to Iowa, with his six siblings and their spouses for a long-anticipated family reunion. It was sort of a last hurrah for him before undergoing a stem cell transplant in August.

Then a stomach ache cut the trip short. An appointment with his oncologist turned into a hospital stay. Instead of answers, there were only questions and a steady stream of specialists. Our optimism that had been ever-present for exactly one year, began to fade.

Late on a hot July afternoon, after three days of diagnostics and procedures we had an answer. The trusted oncologist, a lovely man, gently delivered the news:

After just a few weeks, the insidious cancer had returned…the stem cell treatment scheduled for next month would not be an option…there were no clinical trials available…there was nothing more to be done…three months to live.

He accepted the news graciously and bravely. For everyone else, it was crushing. It felt unbearable. Later that evening, we tenderly talked about how we would fill our days in the next three months. Characteristically, he started his practical to-do list and even managed a bit of morbid humor.

Things quickly took a downturn. Three months became two weeks. There would be no time for alternative or holistic treatments. Nothing was checked off the bucket list. Meaningful, final conversations were not to be.

The family control freaks, the doers, and the problem solvers were helpless. The earth seemed to be spinning off its axis.  This isn’t supposed to be happening.

In the end, we had him for just one more week. We soaked up very minute of those days and nights, in the warm cocoon of their master bedroom. We communicated with him mainly in the form of his signature hand squeeze of the last 40+ years. The hand squeeze translation:  I love you.  Looking back -really, what more needed to be said?

While our Faith leads us to the belief in eternal life, grief and being human led to despair over unanswered prayers.

There was so much to be mourned, and so many layers of sadness.

Each time grief appears, it’s a Band-Aid® ripper, tearing open the wounds of previous losses. The circle of one life linked to the circle of another life in an ever-growing chain.

Grief is tangible in the early days surrounding a loss, and it is shared.

Eventually, life resumes and things return to “normal”. Grief becomes subtle and sneaky. It’s a thief, stealing the rhythm of daily routine, as one tries to put one foot in front of the other.

The quiet, stillness of the night vanishes after a stealthy heist by grief and its accomplice, insomnia. Restful slumber is replaced with anxiety. Decisions that were made with complete conviction are now doubted.

Nagging thoughts of coulda… woulda…shoulda creep in.

The hope that previously dawned with each morning disappears, as consciousness brings about the reality of the day. You don’t want to get sucked into the sadness. It propels you to get up and get moving, even if you only do so robotically.

But, grief is a prowler creeping in and out through the day.

It hijacks your solo drive time behind the wheel. Once productive time alone with your thoughts, it becomes a minefield of memories. Forget the radio. It’s suddenly melancholic. The best option is to use a lifeline, and phone a friend.

Grief occasionally makes off with your rational thinking.

At the end of that last perfect weekend, I created a calendar for August and September. It included stem cell transplant appointments and procedures, and fun events to look forward to. Looking back, I felt I counted our chickens before they hatched. My obsessive organizing had compelled me to publish that calendar. Clearly, I had jinxed my brother-in-law’s treatment and recovery! My delusion of controlling the universe was momentary!

Like a prankster, grief pops out from hiding when you least expect it. During a recent trip to Target, I automatically reached for a display of Christmas socks. In my Mom’s final years, she had grown fond of those goofy, printed socks. They were already in my hand when it hit me…no need for socks to warm Mom’s tootsies. Ever. Oh no, did I have dementia? How could I forget  Mom had died? Was grief stealing my sanity, too?

Thankfully, it wasn’t.

The human spirit is a life-force, and we optimists and faithful are always on the lookout for silver linings.

We soon realize grief is not all takin’ and no givin’.

Loss and grief give you a new perspective and enlightenment. You now distinguish real problems from minor inconveniences that warrant nothing more than a shoulder shrug.

While you may be filled with disbelief, and thoughts of  I can’t believe this happened are still running through your head, grief eventually leads you to a place of thankfulness. With time and reflection, you are even able to see the blessings that surrounded the unbearable loss.

Every expression of sympathy is appreciated. Especially months after a loss, each phone call, text, and thoughtful note is a Godsend.

The extraordinary kindnesses of acquaintances is especially meaningful. The people whom cross your path and without prompting, share news of their recent loss are a serendipitous comfort. You know it wasn’t accidental that they sat next to you in a waiting room, or rang up your purchases in a store.

You have immense appreciation for the people who are really there for you – the people who go out of their way and make time to walk through the particularly shitty times with you.

Then there are the folks, not necessarily those closest to you, whose support is profound. Their gestures of sympathy are different.  It’s not that they have the “right” words, they just have real words. These are the folks who have walked the same path, and as a result, possess true empathy.

We lose so much with the death of a loved one, but one of the greatest gifts we receive as a result of the loss is empathy.

We just have to be willing to receive it, open it, and use it.

Because empathy is a gift meant to be shared. It links us together in another circle of life.

fullsizerender

 

 

 

The Sweet Life

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2 scoops vanillaTen years ago my mother moved into a retirement community.

For six years she lived in a lovely apartment in the assisted living section, while her dementia continued to worsen. She has spent the last four years in a slow decline, in a secured area of that same retirement community.

As her dementia has progressed, I’ve done my best to embrace each version of her.

 

My 85-year old Mother is now in the end stage of dementia.

It may have been a stroke that caused her to turn this last corner, or just the natural progression of the disease. There is no need for diagnostic tests. They would only serve to satisfy our curiosity. The end result is the same.

As they say in memory care, “there has been a significant change.”

She is completely immobile except for her left foot which she wiggles in response to touch or in time to the music of Frank Sinatra, and her left arm which she occasionally raises while sleeping, bearing a strong resemblance to Rosie The Riveter.

She is no longer verbal.

Her ability to swallow is compromised. Her liquids must be thickened and her solid food must be pureed.

Four times a day she rides a Hoyer lift, as she is moved back and forth between her bed and a reclining wheelchair.  It’s as if she has a Disneyland E ticket for an amusement park ride no one ever wants to board. She endures it all gracefully.

At the onset of this final decline, I was sad. For a few days I occasionally boo-hooed at her bedside, grieving the decade and a half that we have lived without the original version of Mom.

Once I quit feeling sorry for myself, I realized there is a certain sweetness to this stage.

There are no more repeated sentences. The questions composed of jumbled words which seemed impossible to answer appropriately, have ceased. The gibberish is gone.

At times, she has a flat expression or is just too sleepy to open her eyes. But, some days she awakens from a nap in her bed with a sweet, contented smile – much like an infant.

Other times she is bright-eyed and able to follow a conversation with her eyes. There have been silent giggles that turn into giant, yet still silent, belly laughs. These are so delightful  I don’t miss the sound of her original laugh.

Occasionally, it seems that the pathways in her brain have been magically reconnected.

When she refused to eat, we realized she was simply refusing to eat foods with a texture she didn’t like. I mean, really – not every food works in a pureed form.

She knew exactly what was going on. Her hunger strike at breakfast ended when oatmeal was taken off the menu. My sister clued the nurses in that Mom is a cream of wheat girl!

Her daily menus are now heavy on mashed potatoes, pudding, malts, and double scoops of ice cream. When she won’t eat anything…she will eat ice cream. Even when she is too tired to open her eyes, she opens her mouth awaiting the next spoonful.

These days, she really does eat dessert first.

Sure, there have been peaks and valleys as she slows down and then rallies. Any pain or discomfort is quickly soothed by the warm embrace of a morphine haze.

Always a college hoops fan, she is here for one more season of March Madness. The games serve as energetic, happy background music.

As we head into the Sweet Sixteen,  I am not entirely certain she will be here for the Final Four.

Instead, she is on the road to a long awaited heavenly reunion with her  Sweetie Pie.

Until then, we will savor the time we have left with her.

Mom will savor the ice cream. Two scoops at a time, with Hershey’s syrup.

Because, in more ways than one, life is sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manic Mondays & Fashion Faux Pas

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Manic Monday wasn’t just a 1985 hit for The Bangles.

It’s a real thing. It occurs after the weekend knocks us out of the groove. As we try to slog through the early Monday morning routine, the result can be chaos:  Forgotten gym clothes, lunch money, homework, and signed permission slips. No gas in the car.

A niece of mine was only 4 years old when Manic Monday was in the Top 40. She mistakenly thought Susanna Hoffs was singing, “Just another man naked Monday” Understandable, innocent and adorable.

Thankfully, nudity hasn’t been an issue for for me, but a Manic Monday can result in a fashion faux pas or wardrobe malfunction.

One lovely Spring morning, I wore a brand new purple cardigan embellished with a ruffle down the front. I felt so smartly dressed all day.  I returned home and pulled in the garage. As I removed my seatbelt, it caught the edge of something. What is that? I thought.

I realized my new sweater still had the size tape running along the front. I ran to a mirror, and took in the full view. From just below my left shoulder, it went over my left breast right down to my stomach. A string of evenly spaced scarlet L’s, .

I mentally reviewed my day, the five sales appointments, all the customers I had spoken with. No one had mentioned a word. I’m pretty sure I would have preferred someone seeing something and saying something. Or would I?

A friend went line dancing at a cowboy bar in brand new jeans. She was feelin’ like a fine filly… until her dance pardner spotted the Size 8   8    8    8   8  tape running the length of her thigh – and ripped it right off her leg. In the middle of the dance floor. He twirled it above his head, lasso-style. Clearly, a do-si-don’t.

What could be worse than forgetting to remove the size tag from new duds? I’ll tell you what.

Polka dot blouse. Nude pumps with a bow. I was channeling my inner Chanel. However since I’m more Costco than Coco, rather than the Chanel Boutique, my blouse was from Old Navy.  Again after a full day of appointments, I arrived home to discover I had violated Coco’s cardinal rule: I was over-accessorized. I failed to remove one item.  I should have kept the  pearls, and ditched the price tag. Seriously, how did I not see or feel this big piece of navy cardboard hanging from the underarm of my featherweight, sheer blouse?

Tag on Blouse

Wardrobe malfunctions are the worst when they occur on the days we want to look our most professional.

It is a proven fact, that I will not spill a drop of coffee out of a to-go cup, until the Monday I wear a white blouse while I am out of town and five minutes from an appointment. Yep, that is the day I will get that dang Starbucks lid/cup combo that mysteriously drips, no matter what you do, or how many napkins you wrap around it.

My friend Pat paired a sharp navy blue suit (skirt and jacket) with navy blue pumps for an important meeting at work. As she sat down in the conference room and crossed her legs, she realized her shoes didn’t match…each other. Not only were the shoes different styles, they were different colors. One was navy blue and the other one was black. One of these things is not like the other!

My sister’s most famous wardrobe malfunction involved shape wear. You can read about it here. She is usually right on trend and sometimes even fashion forward – like the time she was ahead of the “wire-free” bra trend…when one underwire worked its way out of her bra, and like one of those creepy serpent necklaces, snaked its way up her décolletage and right out the top of her sweater.

Photo: Pinterest.com

Photo: Pinterest.com

In regards to her bustline at this point? Again, one of these things was not like the other.

Long before my Mother was officially diagnosed with dementia, she had begun to make uncharacteristic wardrobe and accessory choices. The  colorful, oversized tote she carried to my stepdad’s funeral had gone unnoticed until one of my brothers was shocked to spot it during the service, and asked “Mother….. are you carrying a beach bag?” Everyone within earshot tried to stifle inappropriate giggles. On the bright side, at least her shoes didn’t match her purse.

Men can suffer fashion faux pas, too. Even at funerals.

A family member attended a funeral during the week between Christmas and New Years.  He grabbed his wool coat out of the closet in a rush to get out of the house. The coat felt uncomfortably snug over his suit, but the Polar Vortex prevented him from taking it off. Only when walking into church did he realize he was wearing his wife’s coat. Surely the mourners at Mass must have smiled at the dapper gentleman…..and his festive rhinestone candy cane pin.

Photo Courtesy: vintagevixen etsy.com

Photo Courtesy: vintagevixen
etsy.com

Just last week, Tara Wood of Love Morning Wood, shared a photo on her Facebook page of her OOTD fashion faux pas.

Courtesy of Tara Wood Lovemorningwood.com

Photo courtesy of Tara Wood

She was dressed for a day of running errands. While, I think she is wearing cute rolled up boyfriend jeans, I am positive that is an adhesive nursing pad attached to the bottom of those darling gold sandals. It may look like Tara really stepped in it this time, but mark by word: by next summer this wardrobe malfunction will be reinvented and show up on a clever life hack list:

Travel Life Hack #7 Keep Summer feet clean at the airport by securing (2) adhesive nursing pads on each bare foot before going through TSA checkpoint. Once you get through the body scanner, discard the pads and put your summer kicks back on those clean tootsies!

These goofs are entertaining reminders that we are all just human. Or maybe we’re all trendsetters.

What else would explain brightly colored bra straps exposed, tights worn as pants (without coverage of the critical zone) and the long past its prime…pants on the ground?

Happy Monday!

I Don’t Speak The Language

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My native tongue is English, but after 25 years in Southern California, I understand Spanish, and can speak enough to get by. I also know a few sushi bars worth of Japanese.

But….I have a mental block and I will never be able to speak, read or write…..Captcha.

I am confronted with my lack of fluency on an almost daily basis.  As I navigate the cyber world, entering my username and password is not sufficient for some websites. Some sites want to verify that I am a human, not a robot or computer.

The verification process begins like this:

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Alright, I’m going to guess that is…… offknol MID.

Captcha says, “Nope. Try again.”

Then I get this one:

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OK, this seems more difficult. Is that….tobanu usual?

Captcha says, “Haha that’s hilarious, but no.”

Next up, The captcha generator is sure I’ll get it this time:

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Yep, clearly it is erpackl certain!

Captcha, the a-hole, says “Wrong again, loser!”

Next up – THIS looks fairly simple:

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I’ve got it! It says: has tidelec.

“Hmmm….perhaps, but not likely.”

At this point, I usually just close my iPad.

I know I could opt for the audio version, but what is the fun in that? Isn’t that cheating?

What happened to just asking me questions I can understand….and even answer?

Questions like:

What street did you live on as a child?

What was the name of your 5th grade teacher?

In what city did your parents meet?

What was the model of your first car?

This Captcha nonsense reminds of those autostereograms that were popular in the 90’s. You know –  those prints that were a jumble of a bunch of different colored dots and squiggles that you were supposed to stare at and then a 3-D image would appear. I could never see the hidden image. Ever.

Magiceye.com

Magiceye.com

It must be a brain thing. Or maybe I’m less creative, and more black and white than I previously thought.

Then, one day while surfin’ the net, I was once again asked to verify that I was a human, not a robot or computer.

This window popped up:

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Woohoo! I made the correct selections. Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I could have identified them in Japanese, too.

The next time I was required to verify my humanity, this window popped up:

IMG_0253Dessert. Of course I nailed it.

However, my single favorite challenge to prove my humanity was this:

IMG_0254Whew! Thankfully, they thoughtfully provided that sample image.

I look forward to the possibility that internet security will eventually improve, and Captcha will become a lost language. I fear I am too old to learn yet another new language.

Until then, I will pride myself on still being multi-lingual. I’m completely fluent in food and dog or, as fancy folks say, cuisine and canine.

Well-heeled or healed?

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DanskoA few years ago, I was in Chicago for an International Expo. It meant long days standing in an exhibit hall.

I had recently purchased a pair of black patent leather shoes by Dansko. They’re water resistant, non-slip, great for a healthy back and super comfortable.

The Chicago weather was cold and rainy, so my Danskos were the perfect thing to wear.

One of my stylish nieces lives in Chicago. When I walked into her apartment one evening, she stepped back and in the tone a daughter uses only with her mother (and Godmother) said,  “WHAT….are you WEARING?”

I realized she was looking at my shoes.

I tried to sell her on the benefits of Danskos.

She wasn’t buyin’ it.

“Those are…. AWFUL! ….just  TERRIBLE!”

Then she added, “They aren’t even….FEMININE!”

Hey, I was  already wearing black pants and a Land’s End blouse with a company logo, how much more utilitarian could a gal look?

I was comfortable. She was disgusted.

Two months later, I again traveled to the snowy Midwest for Christmas, wearing my Danskos in place of winter boots.

I was immediately scolded: “OK…NOW you’ve crossed over. You’re wearing them ALL the time, aren’t you?”

I had nothing to say for myself. It was true. I had been powerless; seduced by the comfort and practicality of my butchy shoes.

Cited by the entire family fashion police force, I was a victim of officer brutality. Shamed back into cute shoes, I vowed to wear my horrible Danskos only when required for work.

Months later, when warm weather arrived, I dug my Spring collection out of the back of the closet. I wore strappy heels every day for a couple of weeks.

Clearly, fashion sense trumped common sense.

Soon, the pain propelled me to a podiatrist.

The foot doc was passionate about healthy feet. I eyeballed her, and noticed she was sporting a pair of athletic shoes.

She quickly schooled me on the evils of flip flops, all thong-style shoes, ballet flats, and the pitfalls of so-called “comfort” shoes. I sat there mentally sorting the contents of the shoe cubbies in my closet. In my mind, all that remained was athletic shoes and those Danskos – which according to the Doc are great for healthy feet.

Panic set in. I told her about a family wedding just 4 weeks away, and wondered what shoes I would wear. She listened, and then handed me a framed photo of her family taken at a recent, and very fancy wedding.

Her dress was stunning. Her shoes were low in sensibility and high in fabulosity. This Doc possessed the style and elegance that seems to be innate to many Persian women. Perhaps she wasn’t all scrubs and running shoes.

She dispensed this girlfriend medical advice :  “You have to live! Go buy some fabulous shoes. Before you get dressed for the wedding, take 4 ibuprofen. When you arrive at the reception, have a cocktail or glass of wine. Then take 4 ibuprofen with dinner. The next day, put your athletic shoes on and let your feet recover.

I followed the doc’s treatment plan. While my foot made a complete recovery, my style prognosis is bleak.

For many women, buying shoes is an easy way to stay current. Despite figure flaws or shifting shapes, we can always count on finding something cute to fit our feet.

Then we hit middle age, and the sexy foot talk begins:  Bunions, arches, and arthritis. Neuromas and plantar fasciitis.

Suddenly, slipping into something more comfortable means putting in our custom orthotics.

Ironically, the most painful step is admitting you have a problem. Surrendering to rehab is difficult.

I know I’m not the only gal struggling to give their unhealthy addiction to cute shoes, the boot. I hear it from women frequently.

A few months ago,  The Laughing Mom grieved the loss of her life in cute shoes.

I was reminded of the conflict between the shoes we want vs. the shoes we need, when I saw the new Sarah Jessica Parker shoe collection at Nordstrom.

First of all, SJP had me at grossgrain ribbon. In a sweet homage to her mother, and the only hair accessories they could afford during SJP’s childhood, the shoes have grossgrain ribbon along the back of the heel.

SJP

The colors are fresh and the styles are elegant.

While the collection is lovely, I have an issue with it.

SJP is celebrating her 49th birthday next week, which means she is middle-aged!

Since she’s one of us, I’m applying some peer pressure: Not to change her style, but to help her sisters born in the 60’s, with ours.

We don’t need more Manolos, Jimmy Choos, or Louboutins for special occasions. The market is saturated.

We need an everyday shoe breakthrough!

Middle-aged gals want to be well-heeled daily, in gorgeous shoes that are healthy for their feet.

I’m tired of buying good-for-my-feet shoes simply because “Well, they aren’t too bad.”

Maybe SJP will step it up with her fall collection, and bring us some beautiful shoes from Italy, that are sensible enough to wear every day.

In the meantime, if you do splurge on a pair of SJP’s dangerously cute kicks for your Spring collection, they may empty your pocketbook a bit.

On the bright side, you’ll have room for that bottle of ibuprofen.*

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* This is not intended as medical advice.  While I studied for my Web, M.D. via Google, I am not a licensed physician. 

The Gift Of The Moment

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IMG_5465Next month, I will be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

This is very cool for me because I have always enjoyed Erma’s writing. It is often heartwarming, always pure comic genius, and timeless. Long before I could relate my personal life experiences to her writing, I thought she was hilarious.

At the age of 50, I have a greater appreciation for her insight and her use of  humor to celebrate the ups, and cope with the downs, of life. Life is short, but some days sure seem long. The ability to see the funny in everyday life is a gift.

Even Erma’s views on the subject of humor were insightful. Some of her more famous quotes about the importance of humor are:

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.

He who laughs….last.

When humor goes, there goes civilization.

I have a sentimental attachment to her writing, because it reminds me of my Mom. When I was growing up, one of us would often ask the other, “Did you read Erma today?” Together, we laughed about her column, read her books and watched her segments on Good Morning America.

During the summer, we also tuned in at 9:00 a.m. to watch The Phil Donahue Show together. Oh, the education a teen could gain from The Phil Donahue Show back then. It was THE source for information, because he covered all the thought-provoking and juicy topics.

So, Phil and Erma are forever linked together in my mind. Not only because they are former neighbors who had a mutual admiration and affection for each other, but because they were involved in a sort of 1970’s Midwestern love triangle with my mom and me. Nothin’ weird here, this was a triangle of appreciation and adoration.

erma phil diagram

We enjoyed Phil, and we loved Erma. Erma and Phil loved and adored each other.

In light of this, it is especially cool for me that Phil Donahue will be the keynote speaker at the The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

During a visit to my hometown over the holidays, I decided to tell my Mom that I had gotten into the workshop. The former version of my Mom would have been so tickled about this. I knew the current version of my Mom, with advanced dementia, would not fully grasp what I was saying. I also knew she would have absolutely no memory of the conversation, just a minute later.

Despite being the subject of a few blog posts, including Sweetie Pie and She’s Such A Doll; she knows nothing about my blog, and has never read a single post.

So, as silly as it may be, I still wanted to share this news with her, and just enjoy the moment. 

One afternoon I sat in her room, reading the Christmas cards she had received. Some included photos or letters. (For anyone who continues to remember nursing home residents with greeting cards, may God Bless you for this kindness.) We passed the cards, photos, and notes back and forth. She was able to fondly recall at least a small detail about each friend or family member.

She was “tracking” fairly well, so I decided to share my news with her. As we chatted, she was lying on her side, atop her bed, like a teenage girl. Her elbow bent, her head propped up in her hand.

“Mom, do you remember reading Erma Bombeck?”

“Oh GAWD, yes. She’s SO funny!”

“Well, do you remember my friend, Terri?”

“Well, of course. How is she?”

I went on to explain in very simple terms, with no details, that Terri and I would both be attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

I never even got to the part about Phil Donahue.

My Mom sat up, and said, “Really? You’re kidding?”

Wow! Had I really picked the perfect lucid moment?

Then she said, “We should call Grandma! She loves Erma, too!  She’ll go with us!”

Chatting with dementia, the trickster, is sort of what I imagine doing improvisational comedy is like: you never know which direction your partner will go next. You need to be on your toes, open to anything, think quickly, and just go with it.

We both smiled at the idea.

It was a lovely moment.

I went with it.

“Sure, that’s a great idea, Mom!”

As she slowly counted off on her right hand, she said “That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of us.”

Yep. Me, Terri, Mom, Grandma….and Erma gettin’ away for the weekend.

Of course, only three of us are actually alive, and only two of us are registered for the workshop.

Yet in some way, I feel like all five us will in fact be there.

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Laughter rises out of tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.

– Erma Bombeck

Red Carpet Ready

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Oscar Red Carpet

Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

As the saying goes, “It is an honor just to be nominated.”

While I’ve been crossing off the days in anticipation of the Academy Awards on 3.02.14, I have received some exciting news of my own.

I learned that I have been nominated for a Liebster Award. This nomination came courtesy of  Jenn Lost In Chaos.

My excitement quickly turned to anxiety, when I realized:  I’m not at my goal weight, and I have to be red-carpet-ready for my big moment!

Oh no, what will I wear? I guess I’m going to have to depend on shape wear to save my fanny…among other things.

Luckily, I recently heard about a new line of shape wear sold via one of those mesmerizing late night infomercials.  I had to see it for myself, so I got my Google on. I wasn’t sure what search terms to use, so I started with “Spanx for arms.”

I was surprised to find more than one manufacturer of shape wear for arms. Is this a great time to be 50 years old, or what?  No need to worry about bingo arms or bat wings in our future!

Then I looked more closely. The “Armery”  appears to create sausage arms, especially in the nude shade. That’s it. I vow to pick up my hand weights and do the necessary reps and sets to avoid walking the red carpet with giant bockwurst swinging from my shoulders.

During this last Holiday season, I was staying with the hilarious sister. One evening, while she was getting dressed for a party, she called me into her bedroom. There she stood, wearing only her black bra and panties and a cleverly designed “torsette.” By the way, believe me when I tell you…..she looked exactly like this:

Torsette

She handed me the tag she had just cut off her new shaper, and said, “Read this!”

I sat down and read:

“Invisibly smoothes, shapes and slims. Wonderful Edge® no ride, no lines…Shape your waist and smooth your back….Wonderful Panel® no ride, no lines with a seamless appearance…..stretches for a better fit and more comfort”

The hilarious sister said, “Now watch this.”

She sat down, and amazingly her torsette was instantly in motion. Very s-l-o-w-l-y, the hem at her hips began to roll, and like a motorized window shade in a Las Vegas hotel room, it steadily rose until it reach her bustline. In a matter of seconds, like a high roller on the Vegas strip, I was enjoying my own priceless view.

Naturally, I made her stand up, sit down and repeat this. Several times. It was hysterically funny, and we were in tears.

As she struggled to peel off the torsette, she said, “You know, it’s a good thing people can’t see what’s going on underneath your clothes.”

Amen sister.

Needless to say, that shape wear fail and it’s tag full of empty promises was returned for a full refund.

In addition to the torsette, options in shape wear now include: tummy trimmers, thigh slimmers, butt lifters, cellulite smoothers, back fat banishers. I’m all for proper undergarments, skirts and dresses that “hang” correctly,  and smooth lines…but this is getting ridiculous.

Now we find out that shape wear can cause health problems. Surely, this is a surprise only to men people who have never worn any. While there are gents who sport Spanx For Men, personally, I haven’t heard any fellas tellin’ tales. However, most women have had a painful shape wear experience at some point.

There is the shaping-camisole-caught-in-your-curlers-conundrum; the bruising sensation as a Spanx waistband traverses the knees to hips region; the fierce struggle to squeeze into an all-in-one shaper that results in dewy make-up and messed up hair. This brings suffering for beauty and fashion to another level.

I had to help a bride elope from her oppressive shapewear halfway through her wedding reception. She could barely breathe due to a bridal belly ache. The petite bride had tiny Spanx so I was able to discreetly hide her bridal shaper in my small evening bag. No one was the wiser. If I ever had the nerve to ditch my shape wear midway through an evening, I’m certain mine would require something more the size of a satchel.

My own painful shape wear incident happened during a long afternoon and evening of funeral home visitation for my Mom’s husband, Gene. I was sure I was going to need amputation…at the waist, due to strangulation by a shorts style shaper. The situation became excruciating after a carry-in dinner of Coney Dogs from our hometown favorite, in honor of Gene. Believe me, the absurdity of eating hot dogs with chili and onions at a funeral home while wearing a shaper, is not lost on me. Frankly, I’m surprised rocket combustion didn’t launch me into orbit.

Wait…..What’s that? The Leibster Awards doesn’t involve an actual ceremony, a red carpet or a statue? I can stay on the couch for this Award Ceremony, too? 

Darn! I had a spot cleared on the bookshelf for my statue.

Silver lining: I have the perfect thing to wear. Yoga pants. Sans shape wear.

I’m golden after all!

Many Thanks to Jenn. It is an honor just to be nominated.

Now go check her out and see what she is up to over at  Jenn Lost In Chaos.

In The Bag

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The future came and went

The future came and went

A few months ago, our city joined a growing number of California cities and counties and introduced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags. I understand the reason for the new law. This is a beach town, and the ban is a positive step towards keeping discarded bags off our beach and out of the ocean.

Shoppers here in Surf City now have three options:

  1. Bring their own reusable bags to the store
  2. Purchase reusable bags which vary in price from $.99 to $5.99
  3. Purchase a paper bag made from recycled paper for a .10 “pass through fee”

I’ve been in the habit of toting my reusable bags to the market for quite a few years, but the ban on plastic bags applies to ALL stores:  Groceries, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, drug stores, etc.

Overall, it has been a smooth transition, but we’ve had our rough spots. I’ve witnessed some tense confrontations between shoppers and cashiers and baggers. Unfortunately, none of cashiers or baggers are members of the city council, and therefore didn’t pass the ordinance.

I’ve heard shoppers demand to know what is being done with the revenue generated from paper bag sales. (Revenue stays with the store to cover the expense of providing the costlier paper bags.)

I live near a large retirement community. I’ve seen defiant Seniors wheel carts of loose groceries out of the store. Their purchases rattle and bounce across the pavement on the way to the car. Then they pile the loose groceries into the trunk of the car.

What happens next for these stand-your-ground-shoppers? How many trips does it take to get a trunkful of loose groceries into the house?

Seeing this, I wistfully recalled the days of the “lazy man load”:  looping the handles of at least (8) plastic bags over each outstretched arm in an effort to get all the groceries into the house in a single trip. We’ve all done it, but why? We’re not Sherpas ascending Mount Everest, we’re merely transporting the load from the car to the kitchen.

I quickly discovered that a full day of errand running requires several bags. This is where my dilemma began.

Maybe it’s just me, and my OCD…. but I feel I need to use store specific bags. I mean, is it acceptable to carry an Albertsons bag into Ralphs? I feel sorta hoity-toity carrying a Whole Foods bag into folksy ‘ole Sprouts. It seems downright gross to put my shiny new purchases from Target into a ratty Safeway bag.

This was getting complicated, so I decided to forgo the store-branded bags altogether – well, except for the freebies – I mean let’s be reasonable.

I went online. Since I hate visual clutter, I had the bright idea to buy bags to match my car. This way my cargo compartment would look mono-chromatic and orderly during a full day of errand running. Hey, you find your bliss, and I’ll find mine.

Then I began to wonder: Could the reusable bags technically be considered fashion accessories? Should they match my outfit? Maybe the should match my shoes? Unsure, I went ahead and bought a few in a bold, black and white toile print. Classic, with a twist.

Luckily, until we sort out the style guidelines, I’m confident a Trader Joe’s bag works as a solid neutral. Like nude patent leather, it goes with everything and you can carry it anywhere. It’s what my Mother would call “transitional.” It is widely accepted as the “go-to” bag. Thankfully, I own a several of these, and a few could be considered vintage gems.

Many of us germa-phobes sanitize our shopping carts with anti-bacterial wipes upon entry into the market. But concerns have been raised about the reusable bags presenting a more serious sanitation issue. Cross-contamination is inevitable. Bacteria and viruses can even be transferred from one shopper’s bag to the next shopper’s bag via the bagger.

Oh you think this sounds crazy? Did you hear about the reusable shopping bag that sickened an entire soccer team in Oregon?

Nope, no need to attend a Family Pa-flu-za or embark on the Explorer Of The Seas. Another modern convenience: you can pick up a case of Norovirus right at your local market.

Crap! I may need to just sack everything and start over, because now I need bags that are WASHABLE

For now, the collection of shopping bags in the back of my car continues to grow.

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I’m not living in my car, but I am officially a bag lady.

Time Travelers

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ImageFor the first time in 50 years, I had an argument with my Mother.

We were chatting on the phone and reminiscing, when the subject turned to my Dad being mad at me.

“You know what you should do?” She said.

 “What?” I could not imagine what she was about to say.

“You should apologize to your Dad.” she said in a matter of  fact tone.

“Apologize?  For What?”

“Just apologize. He’ll like that.”

Then, in a sing-songy voice she continued, “When he gets home, why don’t you just say:  Dad…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean to make you so mad. Will you forgive me?”

Instantly, I flamed. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Mom! I have NOTHING to apologize for!”

“Just do it.”she suggested.

“I didn’t do anything WRONG, Mother!”

“Come on, just apologize!”she said oh-so-very-sweetly.

“NO! Absolutely NOT. I am NOT apologizing to him!”

I stood my ground.

This is embarrassing because my Mother has advanced dementia. And my Dad passed away in 1986.

So yes, I had an argument with my 83-year old Mother….and refused to apologize for something that happened when I was 19… to my Dad who has been dead nearly 30 years.

Ridiculous, I know, and certainly not my proudest moment.

I dialed up my friend Nancy.

She was familiar with  my loving, but head-butting relationship with my Dad, and she is actively dealing with two aging parents . It’s a full circle friendship. I knew she would understand, and most importantly, laugh with me about the absurdity.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked her, after we had finished laughing.

Nancy said, “It’s those damn letters!  You read all those letters, and now YOU’RE  back in the 80’s with Lois!”

Maybe she was onto to something.

I had recently found a box of old letters, written to me throughout both terms of the Reagan Presidency. Letters from high school friends, college friends, and several family members.

I scanned the letters from my girlfriends, and emailed copies to the authors. (More on that, later.)

I also read the letters – all except the dozens from my Mom. I bundled those up and tucked them away for another day. I’ve gotten used to the  current version of my Mother, and I don’t want to reacquaint myself  just yet, with the previous version of her that I miss so terribly.

The event my Mom and I we were reminiscing about during our phone conversation was a coming of age moment for me, in the early 80’s. My Dad was not adjusting too well to my increasing independence, and during our debate of the day, I had outfoxed him for the first time.

He was openly furious.  I was silently victorious. Mom was secretly amused.

It has been one of my Mother’s favorite stories. The former version of my Mother would re-enact the conversation with me and we would have a good giggle.

However the current version of my Mother, who’s  mind was  somewhere back in the 1980’s  during our phone conversation, viewed it differently.

As Nancy had so insightfully pointed out, just maybe those old letters had opened a portal to emotional time travel for me, too.

So during the phone call, there I was, transported back to that summer evening, only to discover my Mom had switched  sides. I had no ally. Like the  cheese in the dell, I  stood alone.

Dementia can be magical thinking. It’s also a trickster, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. As such, our phone conversation quickly turned, and suddenly we were  back to the current day.

My Mom quizzed me.

“Where are you?”

“When did you move?”

“How old am I?”

“How old is your Dad?”

“How old are you?”

I answered truthfully (except for the teensy fib about Dad still being alive.)

She was shocked: “I can’t believe  you’re 50. Well, at least you’re not older than me, yet!”

Magical thinking indeed.

We began to wrap up our phone conversation.

Dad would be home from work soon, and she needed to get home to make dinner. She told me there wasn’t much in the fridge, so she planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We said our “I love you’s” and hung up.

I admit, I was still  a bit miffed.

Hmmmphh. I thought smugly.

I should apologize?  I don’t think so.

SHE is the one who should be  apologizing…for that menu.

That’ll be the first and last time Dad eats a PB & J sandwich for dinner. 

Listen, sister…

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Isn't she just the NEATEST??

Isn’t she just the NEATEST??

Every girl needs a sister. Secret-keeper. Fashion advisor. Cohort. Sous chef. Problem solver. Cheerleader.

If you were lucky enough to grow up with a sister,  you know there is no relationship like the one between sisters.

Women who never had a sister or have lost a sister, often find a sister bond with a girlfriend.

Look at the devoted sister-friends in pop culture: Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King, Drew Barrymore & Cameron Diaz, Tina Fey & Amy Poehler. Oh, I’m sure there are sister-friend duos in the actual arts and the field of science – however, since I live close to the TMZ, I can only speak of what I know.

The sister bond is powerful. I am blessed to have grown up with a sister of my own, and today is her birthday.

For ten years she was the only girl. A rose among 3 thorns. Apple of her daddy’s eye. Princess in her own bedroom.

Then natural family planning resulted in my unexpected arrival. From that day forward, she shared her royal quarters with a lady in waiting; until one day, a prince of a guy stole married her and made her his Queen.

I was crushed that she was leaving. I had a nervous stomach the week prior to her wedding. I floated through my junior bridesmaid duties on her wedding day,  thanks to the valium Mom gave me. Hey, it’s not like we lived in The Valley Of The Dolls, but it was the 1970’s. “Mother’s little helper” helped me make it through the night.

What would I do without her? She taught me to shave my legs. Watched Mary Tyler Moore with me. Campaigned for my rights……to pierced ears. Made the best popcorn.  Bought me my first perfume (Windsong, of course). I didn’t want my own room, because everything was more fun with her – even show tunes.

Sisters....Sisters....There were never such devoted sisters....

Sisters….Sisters….There were never such devoted sisters….

I eventually got used to her married life. During my high school and college years, she birthed three babies.  I spent countless hours in her happy little home.

Our difference in age meant we never fought over clothes, make-up, or the bathroom. Naturally, our age difference is no longer noticeable. Even so, in our 50 years together, we’ve never had an argument. (Scrabble squabbles don’t count.)

Not one fight.  Not even when I poured boiling water on her hand while draining pasta, or when she squirted lavender dish soap in my soon-to-be-mashed potatoes.

However, she has accused me of stealing her identity. We look and sound a little bit alike, although I am taller and she is skinnier. I caused a kerfluffle during one visit to my hometown, when I unknowingly snubbed a woman while walking through a restaurant. The woman’s husband worked with my sister’s husband.

I am now under strict orders to strike up a cheery conversation with anyone who merely glances my way. I’m not sure my constant babbling to strangers is helping her reputation.

Our slightly similar appearance confuses the very old and the very young. During my recent visits with our Mother, she insists I am my sister:  the “well-behaved daughter.” My sister’s 19-month old granddaughter calls me Nana, despite all attempts to teach her to say my name. Hopefully this changes soon, or the real Nana will be mad at me for the first time, ever.

We think alike, and often say the same thing simultaneously. Several years ago, we were banned from playing on the same Pictionary team, after I began my turn by drawing a straight line, and my sister immediately correctly guessed a phrase that had nothing to do with a straight line. Sometimes I open my mouth to speak, and she interrupts me with, “I know what you’re gonna say.”

She is a dedicated and resourceful volunteer with a built-in business savvy. She is hilarious. She is a Nana like no other. A caretaker by nature.

My Mom rarely leaves the care facility where she lives, but my sister makes sure she has cute clothes and her hair is colored. She thoughtfully adds a decorator touch to Mom’s room for each holiday. She shows the same patient and sweet affection for our Mother that she shows to her Grandchildren.

We now live 2,000 miles apart. Technology keeps us connected. She is always quick to lend an ear, and frankly, she can only lend one – the left ear can’t hear a thing. We are the Seinfeld of sisters: we can talk for hours about..nothing.

We’ve watched developing TV news stories together…over the phone. We can pick an outfit and cook via Facetime and shop via text messages and photos.

We share new recipes, hot tips, and great shopping finds.

We also share a funny bone, a sweet tooth, boobs that are too big for our liking,  and unfortunate-looking knees.

We also share an appreciation of how blessed we are to have each other.

My cousin Jennie passed away 2 weeks ago. While, she is missed terribly by her parents, her husband, 4 children and a large extended family and many friends; her passing also left my cousin Julie without a sister.

On the morning of Jennie’s funeral, my sister said, “We’re adopting Julie, right?” I knew what she was thinking:  Every girl needs a sister. Of course we would happily adopt her as our 3rd sister.

Our sweet cousin Judy beat us to it. She knows firsthand, the strength, comfort, and power of sisterhood. Sisters make the happiest times more joyous and the tough times, bearable.

So yes, today is a landmark birthday for my hilarious sister. I won’t say exactly how old she is, but I will say that I celebrated my 50th birthday this year. She tells me I am lucky to have her as my window to the future, because I can see how I will look in 10 years.

I think I am luckiest to have found a friend in my sister. I don’t know what I would do without her.

Everything is still more fun with her,

My hilarious sister and me

My hilarious sister and me

And, hey, if I look like her in 10 years, that’s cool, too.

P.S. In observance of Breast Cancer awareness month and in memory of my cousin Jennie, grab your sisters and sister-friends and schedule your mammograms. We need our sisters and sister-friends.