Sunday, January 31, 2010


I was quiet last month, hmmm? As it is, I think I posted as much as I ran. No reasons for either, just excuses that I won't re-babble. Busy and tired but nothing that more activity and more posting wouldn't have helped. February will show improvement; that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

A very nice thing happened yesterday: the sun came out. I am such a creature of brightness and the last couple of dark gloomy months have made me want to hibernate. This is the same every winter and usually at the end of January I shake myself and tell myself to snap out of it, dammit! So now that it's February I'm going to snap out of it, dammit!

I've been reading, I've been knitting, I've been eating, I've been napping and working and most of all I've been helping my mom get settled. She's doing well, or wellish, and turning her rather institutional apartment into a glorious, comfortable museum setting. But since it's a new facility she is just about the only resident. She's certainly the only person on her floor, so she's lonely. I'm filing the roles of daughter, friend and confidant as well as packer, mover, sorter, carter and the usual bookkeeper, mail clerk, health insurance coordinator.

During a long talk I told my mom that I miss my old life. The greatest thing in my life is my friends and I've been neglecting most of them for months. Yes, I mean you. You too. My email friends and my phone friends and my running friends and my knitting friends. I miss socializing. I miss going out for a run and chatting for hours. I miss having a glass of good wine with a good friend. I miss having a stitch 'n' bitch at my house. I miss going to bed and sleeping soundly the entire night -- oh wait, I never did that. I miss my routine.

So that's the goal. Reconnect. Write call visit entertain. Less time napping, more time conversing. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I didn't think this day would come

This past July and August my mom was in the hospital (actually in 3 hospitals). She had been over-medicated and mis-medicated and was suffering deep dementia-related symptoms. She was agitated, raving, hallucinating, confused, angry, delusional, violent. She was so weak she couldn't stand unassisted and had to be helped with the most basic tasks of living. Her diagnosis was multi-infarct dementia and the doctors assured us that the condition was permanent. She would need life-long confinement and constant care.

I'd like to tell all those doctors that BULLSHIT YOU JERKS, it was the medication after all. Today my mom moved into a brand new assisted living facility. She has a very minor level of care, 3 meals daily, medication oversight and complete freedom of movement. There are a lot of things she can't do, but so many more that she can. She can't live alone again but she doesn't need to be locked away for her own protection or watched constantly.

A tough part of this move was my mom's having to acknowledge that the large part of her independence is gone. She's been her own support system for most of her adult life and to have to depend upon others, to have to ask for help for basics, is foreign to her. She'll never again drive a car, never balance a checkbook (or even write a check), never set her own daily schedule. She won't be planning her own meals, won't be cooking or shopping alone. All her financial decisions are out of her hands.

But the hardest part was having to downsize her possessions. For almost three quarters of a century my mom has been a collector. When I was a little girl she started collecting antiques. She scoured old barns and out-of-way shops and had her own personal antique store owner who would call her first when something good came in. Lovely, heavy dark woods; fancy intricately designed upholstery fabrics; antique pewter mugs; old red glass. Then she started traveling around the world and collecting more things. First there were the fine art objects, then the folk art.

Two years ago she moved from La Jolla to a smaller home up here. She needed to be closer to me, closer to my brother, closer to a support network. She went from about 2000 crowded square feet to about 1500 square feet. She didn't pare down her possessions, didn't sort anything, didn't discard anything. Everything squeeeeezed into the smaller home. But now the space she moved to today only has 750 square feet. Lots of things needed to go.

As the main packer it was my job to talk my mom into sorting her possessions. We started with big furniture, went through books and then sorted objects. We packed what she absolutely wanted. We stuck books to donate to the library in a far corner. I set aside a large table for questionable items. About the only thing that convinced my mom to not take everything was the idea that her choices weren't irrevocable. We covered that table, then surrounded that table, and went through rolls and rolls of bubble wrap. Boxes were marked as "books" or "fragile" or "very fragile" or "the most fragile."

Everything we moved - packed or piled - had a story. "I found that in an old store in the U.P." Or, "Noreen called me when this came in and I rushed to get it. " And, "I bought that in Alaska" "Russia" "China" "Mexico" "Egypt" "China" (she liked it there, went a few times to different places) "Cuba" "Mexico" (went there a lot too; I went with her a few times) "Thailand" "Detroit" "Jupiter" (I made that up to see if you're paying attention) (but she would have gone if there were interesting things to see).

There is memory loss, with some things there's lots of memory loss, but my mom remembers where her beloved belongings are from. She remembers who she was with if she wasn't traveling alone, she remembers how she bargained and often how little she paid. She doesn't remember when she went to many of these places. I thought that putting aside her stuff was remarkably brave and it broke my heart to see her have to go through this.

It only got worse when we got to her clothes. My mom has always lived with plenty of closet space so she has never had to get rid of things. Before arthritis crippled her fingers she made most of her clothes; she was a fabulous seamstress and had a great eye for colors and great touch for fabrics. She made timeless classics and, apparently, kept them all.

She went through her first closet by herself and almost everything was in the keep pile. I took her into the next closet and told her that everything had to fit onto one hanging rod; everything else would go on her bed. When it was all "keep" "keep" "keep" I made the same bargain about the clothes that I had about the other items: nothing is irrevocable. Once the movers took the clothes she definitely wanted, I'd re-hang the rest of them and she'd have plenty of time to change her mind. That got things moving.

I'd ask when she had last worn something. Point out any spots or worn bits or tears. Ask if it fit. Cajoled her. Jollied her. Laughed. Rolled my eyes. Admired dresses while telling her she had no use for them. Asked her if she planned to move back to Detroit to wear some of her warmest clothes. Took things away while she was undecided.

But I knew exactly how hard it was to put aside a couple of articles. One was a gorgeous red lace (backless) party dress that she wore when I was a little girl. Yup, that was in the 1960's! She has kept this dress, moved it about 8 times and probably hasn't worn it for 40+ years. It's still in perfect shape, still stylish. She will never wear it again, I could never wear it (although I'd love to); it will just hang. She finally gave it to me to put on the bed and it looked like she was going to cry. I felt like the meanest meany who every meaned.

We never even touched the folded shirts and sweaters, that will be another job for another time. We didn't go through any of her paperwork, didn't touch the garage (oy. The garage). I met the movers this morning and in the pouring storm they spent a couple of hours loading our carefully packed boxes, the bed, the sofa, the desk, the chairs, the end tables, the lamps, the mirrors, and more more more. When they left the house still looked full.

They brought everything to her new apartment in her new home. The movers carted in the goods and I unpacked some things while my bro and sister-in-law took my mom down to the dining room for her first meal there. I emptied the wardrobes, filled the mini-fridge, set up the bathroom. I placed things in drawers and in the closet and on the shelves. I didn't touch the boxes of "stuff" but made sure my mom had the things she needed for her first night.

When my family came back from lunch, raving about how good the food was, I had a surprise for my mom. I directed her to the closet, stuffed full of her clothes. And there, hanging front and center, was her beloved red dress.

I'm such a pushover.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is it spring yet?

Foggy, drizzly, overcast, cold. Come on, if it's going to be ugly outside at least we should be getting some measurable rain so that when it's 100 degrees here in 6 months we'll be able to water the lawn. But no, just enough precip to dampen the freeways and my spirits. Although I think the cloudy sky and waving trees are beautiful, enough is enough. Gimme some sunshine!

Gah. I vastly dislike having deadlines and it seems that lately everything has a time cut-off that has to be met. Personal life, family life, work life. I end up overwhelmed and having to recheck everything I do for stupid errors and hmmph.

The only good thing going on right now is I'm not exercising. No, that in itself is very much not a good thing. What's good is that when I exercise I don't sleep. When I do nothing my sleep improves. Totally bassackward but that's what I've found. Last night I took a 1 hour nap, got up and was productive for a few hours, then slept for 6 hours, got up once to go to the bathroom and slept another hour. I've had many weeks when I haven't had that much sleep. And I'm still tired. And don't want to run or wii or cycle or anything.

I'm happy I didn't make any resolutions because it would be pitiful breaking them so early (except the sunscreen thing; despite there not being any sun whatsoever, I'm still applying sunscreen to exposed skin).

We've found a new home for my mom and she's supposed to move next week. We won't be selling her current home for a while to make sure that she has everything she needs, but it's still a move with all the attendant problems. Throw in her physical problems and it's challenging for us all. The great part is that she's doing so well, is so stable cognitively and emotionally that it's enjoyable spending this much time with her. Of course, that increases my guilt about not being able to spend even more time with her. That also gives me a (somewhat) valid excuse for not having time to exercise.

And thus I come full circle. Where's the sun?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Gratuitous Bear of the New Year

About a year ago I decided that I really had to curb my bearaholic tendencies or else Hoarders would come and start an intervention at my house. I told myself I could continue with the Medal Bears, as long as they were small, but I needed to stop accumulating big bears. This notion was reinforced last summer when I faced the prospect of winnowing through my mom's possessions. I felt that my needing to own more things was unnecessary and was just a displacement of other emotions that I wasn't facing. Nice little self-psychobabble, huh?

My one medal bear last year was from Chicago for my Chicago Marathon medal and was in fact small. I never found a bear for my Solvang Century medal; neither a bear representing cycling nor the Solvang area. I counted my Tri Teddy as a 2008 bear, even though I really dressed her in 2009.

I slipped in my conviction during the summer when I was in Las Vegas. We were wandering around the shops and cruised into a toy shop (I know, what was I thinking?). Apparently while I wasn't paying attention Steiff started a line of less expensive bears. I certainly wouldn't have bought a $150 classic teddy, but these were different. This is a line of "cloud soft plush" bears that come in their very own suitcase for a reasonable low price. My resistance slipped away and Bree and I spent quite a bit of time finding the perfect bear to take home with me (you know, of course, that if you're buying a bear in the store you must find the one with the best facial expression, best balanced body, etc. You can't just buy one willy-nilly off the shelf). With help from my sis I named her Bubble, because she looked like a big, soft bubble.

During the later summer when I was so frantic with trying to care for my hospitalized mom, my sis sent me Tinkerbearr. This sweet fairy bear helped me cope and gave me comfort when it was badly needed.

In fall that crack-dealer to bearaholics, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, started developing new types of bears. The one that struck me the most was the Soft, Floppy Bear (which by the way, VTB, is really hard to find on your website). It just looked so CUTE! And it was low priced and I was depressed and yes, I once again displaced my feelings of sadness and despair with buying a new bear. It worked. Wow, what a bear! I was very impressed by the warm, squishy softness of a bear that seemed to hug back. I did manage to not buy one of their Go Green Bears (but give me time ...).

Last fall, this early winter, in fact the entire year was a tough one for not only my own family, but for so many of my friends. There were job losses, there was illness, there were injuries and there was death. If ever the comfort of a bear was necessary, it was 2009.

There was one more bear to come, one more surprise, one gift above all gifts. After our walk on Saturday, Bree gave me a gift and told me it was for various and assorted occasions (birthdays past and future, Christmas, Hanukkah). It was a large box, wrapped in very cute paw-print wrapping paper. I tore open the top of the wrap and knew immediately from the box exactly where it had come from. Yes, I know a VTB box when I see one.

My hands started shaking and I sat down. I broke the tape on the box and lifted out a bear I had coveted since I first saw it on the website. My eyes filled with tears and my breath caught in my throat. I lifted out the beautiful little bear and gave it a hug.

I reached a little deeper into the box and pulled out the bear's little stuffed penguin. Nothing like a bear having her very own stuffie.

Having spent not a little time with me in a toy shop choosing a bear, and even more time trying to find a perfect medal bear in varying locations, Bree knows exactly what a bear means to me. I don't think she realizes what receiving a perfect bear from a friend means to me. I've received many bears from friends, some damn fine bears from some damn good friends. But Bree had an even tougher 2009 than I had. Despite that, she spent time to think about me, to go out of her way to visualize what I'd like, to order and surprise me this way with something very personal and meaningful to me.

Do I have the best friends, or what?

Thank you Bree!

(L-R) Tinkerbearr, Feather, Bree LaBear and her mighty penguin Nitro