The Stroke

It was 3:30 in the morning on March 28, 2019 when my life changed forever.  It seems selfish to say since it was my husband who had the stroke.  I am learning more and more how the interplay between physical health, time, and spirit, determines the quality of one’s life.

My husband is 60 years old, I am 55.  We have been living with his idiopathic cardiomyopathy and various joint replacements since he was 47.  His health has been a third person in this marriage and the fifth member of our immediate family.  It sits up front and center at every family gathering demanding attention and usurping the celebrations of graduations, babies, weddings, and even good weather!  I resent it, and still am grateful he is with us!

The day of the stroke I woke to find him laying on the floor moaning with blood all over from hitting his head on the night stand as he slipped to the floor from our bed.  I remember thinking immediately that it seemed like a stroke by the way he was not using his arm and unable to talk, yet hoping for a head injury and didn’t want to move him.  I ran to get my son who was staying with us and working as a partner in Dave’s chiropractic office.  Joe told me quite quickly to call 911, dad was having a stroke.

The paramedics had to take him out of the house in a sheet, swinging like a hammock, while yelling at him to keep his legs still so he didn’t fall out.  I recall asking them to be nice, to please not yell at him, while my son tried to reassure me.  I vaguely remember getting dressed, riding in the ambulance, the doctor at the local hospital confirming a blood clot in the brain, and the subsequent ride to Grand Rapids (one hour away) for a specialist to perform a thrombectomy since it had been too many hours for the clot busting TPA.

The results of the stroke were immediate, left side paralysis.  The clot had lodged in the right frontal lobe spreading into the parietal area which thankfully spared his language and speech.  As a health care provider, a chiropractor, Dave had intimate knowledge of the nerves and muscles and the need to move and restore functioning as quickly as possible.  This first day was critical in several days and the one-to-one care from the nurses contained neurological testing every 15 minutes.  It was this intense care that caught the second stroke later that evening.

Having lodged in the same general area, but further into the smaller vessels, this event took back what little gains he had made in his arm and leg during the day.  We watched helplessly as he struggled to understand.  We were pulled into the hall to have a conversation about the need to give a blood thinner while still working to complete another procedure to remove this clot.  A third clot had been found in the left ventricle of his heart, this was thought to be the original clot that had been throwing small pieces into the veins to travel tragically to the brain.

I vividly recall looking at both of my children, my son on my right, my daughter on my left.  I couldn’t quite understand all of what the doctor was explaining as we listened on a cell phone to the attending physician explain what would happen, the risks and benefits.  I knew only that no matter the outcome, I couldn’t let my children be responsible for the decision and shoulder the blame if the outcome was poor.  The dynamics of parent and child demanding I try to shield and protect them both was uppermost in my mind.

I am still not sure why, but as we came into the room, I practically dove under a low counter in a futile attempt to hide and protect myself – to escape the reality around me – and cried loudly and fitfully.  Both of my grown children joined me in a huddled mass, as a single unit, we clung to one another both comforting and seeking comfort.

Dave eventually asked what was going on, where they were taking him, and I explained as best I could the decisions we had made and asked for his consent.  His trust was both reassuring and heavy as he was prepped for the journey back to the operating room where the same weary surgeon would perform miracles yet again.  Eyes closed, he asked what the crying was about, who was doing it and why?

In the characteristic humor that has provided release in every tragedy we have faced, as he was wheeled to the door Dave yelled, “I’m not dead yet”!

Cancer Sucks, Sisters are Forever

Little Sister
Lake Michigan, Zion, IL

Our haul, beautiful rocks.

I am journaling here to share our journey. My sister and I are together at Cancer Treatment Center of America in Zion Illinois. It is a punishing cold 9 degrees and lots of wind north of the Windy City.

My sister was diagnosed with cancer “in the ‘nether’ regions” (female stuff) at home in Jackson, Michigan and we are here for another opinion and treatment. They are concerned about a lump in her neck, so we have had several more tests and consults scheduled.

I am sitting in the waiting room while she is in a pulmonary function test tapping this out one finger at a time on my phone. Please forgive errors!

I send updates to family and provide comedic relief where I can. It’s what we do, my sis and I.

She is 53, I am 55…her with a bad back and me with a cane. I had a minor surgery on my knee and we are both being inducted together into middle age. It sucks, and as Bette Davis said, it’s certainly not for sissies!

In the brutal wind, without coats, we braved the Lake Michigan beach to compete with ice, snow, and sand for the rocks buried and scattered on the shore. I think we even found some beauties and one Petoskey stone.

Part of middle age must also be to keep living with challenging circumstances. We love rocks…polishing them, painting them, but mostly the anticipation and thrill of finding them. This is how we live, one day, one moment at a time. Life is short. Don’t stop having fun now, there is much joy, laughter, and contentment to come. Though some days I need reminding!

Before we left, I met with my counselor to double check my “coping tool box”. I centered my self, reviewed ‘tapping’ and processed my feelings. I packed yarn and crochet hooks, paint and brushes, along with a sense of humor and a mantra – “we’ve got this, together we can face anything.”

Til next time,

Big Sis, Momma Stack

OMG Really? Over a FB post?

FB meme

Okay, so I posted the meme you see here about the recent shooting of an unarmed black man in his own apartment by an off-duty white cop on my personal facebook page.  Several hours later while I am working, my daughter calls to tell me there is a storm brewing on my page that I might want to take a look at.  I am so swamped with my job as a university professor teaching diversity and globalization that I choose to wait until my day is finished to take a look.  If you are on my personal facebook you already know me personally and know my views, perspectives, and what I do for a living.  But I am torn between wanting to be my ideal-self and wanting to just delete it all and pretend it didn’t happen.

I am a teacher and a mom, it isn’t just what I do, it is who I am.  My daughter had called out of concern, and other friends are getting upset.  How do I rise above the fray, remain true to my principles, and not betray my identity?  I try to teach, not just about racism, power, and privilege – about understanding, bias, sensitivity, and forgiveness.

I ask for help understanding why this topic has twice been so sensitive that over 50 replies are entered on my facebook wall, and they are not always nice.  Yet, I do know that this bit of awkwardness and discomfort, however painful, is nothing compared to the continued pain and oppression of racism suffered by my friends of color.  Or my LGBT friends, those with different abilities or with mental health concerns.  It is my small part to bear, to not stop the discussion – to not stop posting – to not unfriend folks – and to reassure my daughter, my friends, and myself that I am ok.

I behave as if this is worth it, I remind myself to speak even when my voice shakes, that it is white folks that need to deal with racism, and yet deep inside, in a dark corner where I hide sometimes, I sob my heart out because some of my white friends (and family) just can’t see what they do to me and my family when they refuse to accept that oppression due to race is real and WE need to stop it.

Loss, Connection, Purpose

Every June 14 I am reminded of my brother’s birth by flags lining the causeways and city streets wherever I happen to be living.  While some folks think of their country and patriotism, I think that my brother believed that the whole world celebrated his birth!  Fifty-one years ago today he was born in the back seat of a Lincoln Continental on the way to Fort Custer Air Force Base near Battle Creek, Michigan.  The headline in the paper said, “Child Couldn’t Wait, Was Born on the Go.”

I struggle to find words that describe in a sentence the essence of James Michael Campbell.  He was obstinate, intelligent, generous, and …tormented.  I’ve come to realize how complex he was and how frustrated he remained until the end.  He loved to hunt and fish, but he also loved a good debate.  He hated authority and yet craved structure.  He wanted his own family, to right all the wrongs he had perceived, but he didn’t know how to go about it.  He self-medicated from an early age and trusted all the wrong people because they were loyal.

Today I am also reminded of his death.  On August 14, 2011, he was killed.  Tragic in the details of a life gone too soon and unfulfilled expectations, apologies, and conversations.

Today I spoke with a colleague who had lost a son only three years ago.  She explained that he had been ‘clean’ for two years and ended up dying of an accidental overdose after a major surgery.  There is a common language when she speaks; clean, addicted, gone, estranged, time.  I tell her that I had recently seen a meme on Facebook:

brene brown.jpg

We continue our conversation, work-related reports, and necessary details.  But for a moment, we held space for one another, to be – to remember – to feel – and to move forward.

I realize today, that moment is the one I live for!  I love these tiny pearls of connection, knotted on a string lest they pull free, reminding us of the beauty and transience of life and love.  I don’t know how to live in shallow waters – it is the depths of moments like these that fill my soul with purpose.

 

Gifts of Trauma

“Adversity provides the opportunity for the best parts of us to shine” (Gail Lynn Goodwin).

I do believe that I am a better person because of adversity: stronger, more empathetic, open, authentic, and sincere.  Yet I wouldn’t say I have prayed for adversity, wished for trauma, or anticipated the wonderful lessons I would learn from tragedy!  It sure seems like some people get more than their fair share.  What I have learned from my husband’s diagnosis of cardiomyopathy is that everyone is dealing with some trauma or tragedy.   One event is not any more painful or creates any better of a person than another.  And, while I am so proud of the adults my children have become because of these life lessons, I still wish I could have spared them the experience.

Several years ago, when my children were 12 and 16 years old, my husband became gravely ill.  From symptoms to diagnosis took three weeks.  The day he was admitted to the hospital is the day we were to take our foreign exchange student to the airport.  Most of those first weeks were a blur, of course, they are for most people.  The short story is that we have a percentage of heart volume that the muscle squeezes to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout our body called an ejection fraction.  The average healthy adult would have an EF of approximately 65-70%.  Dave’s was between 15-20%, explaining the shortness of breath, swelling of legs, and the pleural effusion seen on the chest x-ray.

Extended family gathered to help me with the kids, the refrigerator that failed suddenly, and finances – my husband is self-employed and I was working part-time.  Friends brought meals, and as several folks have witnessed, shit got real.  We lived in fear until his defibrillator/pacemaker was installed.  Then we lived in fear of each new symptom or side effect from the numerous drugs he was on.  We trekked to the Cleveland Clinic for more tests and opinions, and returned home to what Dave calls his “new normal.”

We learned to laugh at the most inappropriate events, like his hallucinations from not being able to breathe and sleep at the same time.  He sat crouched beside the bed, with a blanket over his head warning me to “get down, you’re going to give away our position.”  Believing the road construction outside was a battle being fought due to severe lack of sleep.  We half-heartedly joked about who was going to go see if dad was sleeping in or not breathing!  Then we learned the humility of no longer plucking an angel off the angel tree at church to help the less fortunate.  We gratefully, if somewhat emotionally, learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of those boxes with mittens, turkey, cranberries, and more.  I will forever remember another time that the pastor’s wife held my bag for me as we went through the food pantry for the first time.  She asked, “what does that little girl that you’re helping like in her lunches,” giving me space and dignity I needed to keep from bursting into tears.

One model I’ve come across while teaching Family Risk and Resilience is the ABC-X model (credit goes to Madeline Blackwell and her awesome site: https://madelinecfsportfolio.weebly.com/internal-dynamics-of-families.html)

abc-x model

For our family, the stressor event was my husband’s health crisis.  The resources became evident in my students, friends, family, community, and each other.  Thus, we had the perception that this sucked, but we could get through it.  With each stressor (or set back) we reevaluate our resources and strengthen our perception of resilience, and ultimately we manage the stress.

McCubbin and Patterson’s Double ABC-X model further demonstrates how this resilience leads to coping skills and ideally healthy adaptation to stress.  (https://www.researchgate.net/figure/McCubbin-and-Pattersons-double-ABC-X-model_fig1_235204946)

double abc-x

A report by Moelker, Andres, and Poot (2007) have pointed out extensive research on the benefits of social support.  The people around us that support us as we process the event(s) can lessen or strengthen the crisis being experienced.  Coping skills are imperative and the report identified these as the strongest and healthiest:

  • keeping the family ties intact;
  • developing self-confidence and self-esteem;
  • developing social support;
  • developing a positive attitude;
  • learning about a problem;
  • reducing tension by for example hobbies, talking, crying;
  • introducing balance in the coping strategies.  (See link to full report below).

I’ve since comforted a colleague whose son had the same diagnosis as my husband, but his condition deteriorated to the point that he needed a transplant.  The father had already survived lymphoma, and now his youngest son is also wearing a device for his heart.  My sister’s husband is two years out from his cancer diagnosis, and two of my siblings-in-law have lost children.  Another colleague lost a brother to muscular dystrophy when she was a child and she now volunteers to help other children who face the loss of family members.  The coping and adaptation skills of all of these families have led to gifts of resilience, to living life more fully.  They also illustrate just how pervasive tragedies or crisis are in our communities.

I no longer have tolerance for meanies, bullies, or self-righteousness.  I also have more compassion when others are upset or inappropriate, when someone doesn’t follow-through or when students complain about group projects.  You know why?  Because I’ve been that person – the one who forgot to complete grades on time, who didn’t help my colleagues on a project because Dave was in the hospital again.  I’ve had the kids have meltdowns because they just need a ride, to be on time, to know that there is something, anything, that they can count on in life.

I tell my students that they will ALL get the same grade regardless of who does how much work on a group project.  That’s what life is like.  It’s not fair.  Build relationships with people, learn to put into the universe the expectations and grace you want to receive.  One of these days you, too, will need someone to pick up the slack. Remember that.

So next time you flip me off on the highway I will figure I probably cut you off at the entrance ramp.  Inside I’ll wish you a good day and hope that everything else in your world is going well.  Even if I didn’t cut you off – I probably did to someone else who gave me a ‘pass’ and so I’ll give you one.

This brings me back to how trauma brought its own gifts.  I never realized how many friends I had!!  I didn’t know what it felt like to receive the Christmas box from a church, I appreciate each day my husband is with us, I was grateful he could walk our daughter down the aisle, I’m proud to bursting that my son is coming home to take over dad’s practice, and most of all, I’ve learned that I’m strong enough to handle almost anything.  If I fall, I have the best people in the world waiting to sit there on the curb with me and laugh at my clumsiness!!  Then – they’ll help me back to my feet and tell me it will be okay.

I got this!

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Information on Cardiomyopathy:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16841-cardiomyopathy

Information on Social Support: http://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/Self_Measures_for_Love_and_Compassion_Research_SOCIAL_SUPPORT.pdf

Supporting Military Families – A… (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235204946_Supporting_Military_Families_-_A_Comparative_Study_in_Social_Support_Arrangements_for_Military_Families_Theoretical_Dimensions_and_Empirical_Comparison_between_Countries?_sg=QSQPmsZ0UqdW6goGEMF-xymfLn2e7lWWQpC1Uh7iW53byVkSsUsQnxz-rZm2QbIPIbylwcMJHw [accessed May 30 2018].

Body Image: Doesn’t Define Me

I sat at a recent conference, at the back table, watching my peers walk in and take their places for our graduation from a work-related development project.  With ‘normal’ weight and height, they wore beautiful linen or wool blend suits with taupe pumps and fresh lipstick.  They appeared professional and confident in contrast to my elastic waist pants, sensible shoes, and jacket.

Truthfully, I hadn’t ever thought that my weight (212 pounds) had cost me anything in the workplace.  Closing in on 55 years old seemed to be more of an issue, yet I couldn’t help this growing unease as I looked around the room.  I am a professor, a published social science educator with a Ph.D. However, these past few years as higher education and college enrollment suffers from increasing economic stability, I’ve felt that my age, weight, and gender may be holding me back from achieving my goals.  Working on a specific career path or trajectory means that I only had 10 or so more years to reach my professional potential.

My father is a first-generation college graduate completing his engineering degree on the GI bill while working full-time and with three small children and a wife to care for.  Though he made it out of the trailer parks into nice gated communities, I believed that his working-class background along with my mother’s Appalachian roots had effectively kept us from learning the rules to the middle class cultural ‘game.’  Thus, I struggled, continue to struggle, while trying to figure out how some people climb up and out of situations and others can’t.  Where are the directions?  The rules?

Most recently though, I’ve come to be more frustrated with why I am still playing the game at all.

From childhood, I was taught that I could achieve anything if I were willing to work hard and persevere.  I think all little girls of the 60’s and 70’s were taught that.  If we remained obedient, respectful, played fair, stood in line, and waited our turn, we would have our chance at the top.  We were deceived!!  It wasn’t just that they lied about our chance to reach the top – they lied about what the top really was!  True success isn’t power over an organization, a population, or a team.  True power is that which we use to define our own lives, our own destiny, and our own success.

So, I quit.  I am not playing the game anymore.  I’m taking my toys and going home, both literally and figuratively.  I’ve learned that “fatter women face employment discrimination regardless of race and class” (Gruys, 2017).  I now know that “objectified cultural capital compounds already-existing gender, race and class inequalities.”  The game is rigged!

What does it look like to quit and go home?  It means I came to a fork in the road and decided that my professional potential is not where I choose to spend my energies.  I love what I do.  The first day of every class still delights me as I meet each unique student and get to learn their story.  But, my energies are best leveraged with those close to me, my family. Instead of striving to be the best educational administrator I can be – I will work on being the best mom, grandma, wife, friend, and community member that I can be.

I’ll probably never feel confident about my body or what I look like.  My strengths are elsewhere – and frankly – I am so much more than my size, my gender, my age, or my looks.  Yesterday I shopped with my daughter, took my granddaughter to the playground, fixed the dishwasher, and designed a mud kitchen.  And you know what?  My size or weight didn’t come into play at any time!

32843084_10217148247205379_3799723065298911232_o.jpg

Oh, and just another quick FYI: Cheryl Fuller, author and researcher questions the ethics of promoting weight loss, “Evidence does not exist that obesity can be effectively treated over the long term through behavioral change. No so-called treatment for obesity has a more than five to ten percent success rate long term. Most types of cancer have better prognoses” (Fuller, 2017).  “For me, healing is to end the war within. To be able to be at home with myself in myself. To inhabit my body without shame.”

 

Fuller, Cheryl. 2017. The Fat Lady Sings: A Psychological Exploration of the Cultural Fat Complex and Its Effects. London: Karnac.

Gruys, K. (2017). Making over Poor Women: Gender, Race, Class & Body Size in a Welfare-to-work Nonprofit Organization.

Vision Boards, Goals or Destination Addiction?

I started out to write a quick post about “vision boards” and their usefulness as inspiration to achieving our goals.  In fact, I had purchased three corkboards a few years ago with the intent of doing it with my daughter and/or son – together.  Yet, still they sit in the closet with additional craft stuff with all the special papers, stickers, and doo-dads to bedazzle them.  What I ended up with here is an essay about using Vision Boards that suggests it really is more about the work of identifying what goes on it than the board itself that is important.  Finally, this piece is also a cautionary tale about Destination Addiction, the idea that happiness or success is a place to get to.  Hopefully, the ideas here and reflections will convince you to be intentional in setting goals, envisioning yourself achieving your dreams, and experiencing joy and contentment along the way.

Vision

My ‘vision’ was that I would place this board in a prominent place, maybe even my office at work, definitely somewhere that I would see it frequently and be reminded of the destination.  Realizing the chances of me getting out scissors, tape, glue, and stickers was pretty remote, I figured it was probably something I could create on the computer.  Presto!!  Microsoft Publisher to the rescue.  But I needed to identify steps to share with all of you.  So…I started where I always do, with research.

The first few articles I came across talked about the impact of visualization and what our mind can attract into our lives by constant thoughts.  One great read with steps and additional resources is from Cheyenne at mindvalley blog: https://blog.mindvalley.com/vision-board/ I began under her direction to complete one, maybe two boards.  I needed one for personal growth (to stay in my own lane and not own someone else’s troubles) but my main focus was really to envision myself with a successful blog living the life I defined as successful.

That meant I needed to define success.  Simple, success is freedom – autonomy.  It meant being able to be me without apologies or justifications.  Bit by bit the pieces started going on to my document.  Clearly, the ideas of John Dewey’s educational philosophy were proving fruitful.  As one program that uses vision boards recognizes, it is learning that happens through interaction between the learner and the environment.  I am actually interacting with the computer program, manipulating icons and words, getting the right colors and fonts to convey the meaning I wanted.

The more I worked on my projects, the more I learned about myself and my vision.  I started wondering more if the board was the end result or if it was the journey.  Intentionally thinking about what success would look like, what would make me happy, what I should strive for, became the purpose of the vision board.  Deep thoughts, I know!!  LOL  I can hardly wait to share them with my good friend Marybeth who suggested the value of vision boards to me in the first place!

After I had created two (the first one didn’t feel quite right somehow) I became reflective.  If I put this somewhere that I would see it often, what is the message I would get?  I recall a couple more conversations I’ve had recently where we’ve discussed redefining success.  What is it really?  Okay freedom to be my own boss, certainly.  But also more flexible time schedules.  I want to spend authentic moments with friends and family do things that bring true joy.  I want to be free of fear and anxiety that I am running out of time to be ‘THE’ success I had desired.

The final bit of research I hit on was about ‘Destination Addiction,’ a term coined by Holden (2010) that has caught on in the world of psychology.  Individuals who suffer from Destination Addiction believe that success is a destination.  It’s what happens when we are anxious to get through days or events as we wait for the good times, the happy times, to come (Chadha, 2017).

I am reminded of the Nicholas Cage  movie called “Click.”  If you fast forward through all the mundane or painful parts of life (or boring ones, as we all are sitting through hours of graduations, weddings, and school programs), you have no context for the peaceful ones!  “Destination Addiction implies getting addicted to the idea or belief that possessing a better  job, more money, lavish house and expensive car will make us more happy and successful” (Chadra, 2017).  It also implies that we can’t be happy without these things or events.

Ultimately, I hope you take away from this little essay the idea that you can and DO control your own destination.  Most of the time we are winging it, like trying to get to Utah without a map!  Now you should be asking, why Utah?  My point exactly.   If you could go anywhere, where would you go?  If you could be anything, what would you be? On your way to where you are going, if you came across a cool sight, would you stop?  Park in the look-out and take in the view?

The board is a tool, the map maybe.  But now that I’ve picked out where I’m going, I’m gonna crank the music up, sing loud with the windows down, and enjoy the ride! WooHoo

MY vision

References:

Chadha, N. (2017). An Overview of Destination Addiction.

DePass, A. L., & Chubin, D. E. (2017). Institutional Responses: Colleges and Universities. Understanding Interventions6(1).

Holden, R. (2010). Are you the tortoise of the hare? Heal Your Life, August 30. Located at: http://www.healyourlife.com/are-you-the-tortoise-or-the-hare

Kometiani, M. K. (2017). Creating a vital healing community: A pilot study of an art therapy employee support group at a pediatric hospital. The Arts in Psychotherapy54, 122-127.

Young, N. J. (2017). Open Doors Field Trips: Making Connections with Minority Students Through the Creation of Vision Boards. In Service Learning as Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education (pp. 93-109). Springer, Cham.

Mom to Mom (on the job)

I discovered some enlightening tidbits about parenting adult children today.  I had my granddaughter with me today, of course, and decided to drop her off to my daughter at work.  My daughter and her husband both have full-time jobs and grandparents take turns helping out!  We each have our own days …

Anyway, as I was dropping Taryn off, Kateri tells me she is tired, hungry, grumpy, and ready to go home.  She is four months pregnant and had ended up missing lunch because of her duties with an outreach program for third graders.  She explains how it really isn’t anyone’s fault, that the lady who orders the food does a careful head-count but might not think to include board members or donors who happen to be on site helping out.  To make a long story short, there wasn’t enough food.

BINGO – ENLIGHTENMENT MOMENT

As a mom, I never explained any office etiquette about taking care of one’s needs while behaving professionally.  Hell, where did “I” learn how to do that?  I can remember SO many women throughout my 35-year working career that have taken me under their wing to explain everything from open-toed shoes being a no-no, to keeping your ashtray clean.  Yes, I digress, but there was a time when everyone had them on their desks and clients used them regularly!

So, here is what happened: trays of subs and chips were brought out to be served buffet style in a line.  Kateri knew to wait until all the customers were finished eating to get her meal (I did teach her some things).  However, there was one piece of a sub left – that’s it!  Since they were so swamped with the students she didn’t have another opportunity to go out and get a lunch and she didn’t pack one since she was told lunch would be provided.

For anyone who has been pregnant you understand the issues.  Going for several hours with nothing in your stomach can cause additional issues!

Okay, so here is where I could help.  “Hey, Kateri!  If this should happen again, I would come up with a script that felt comfortable to you that you could say to a colleague or your supervisor.  Something like, I’m going to be taking care of the customers as my first priority and don’t want to worry about leaving them in the midst of the program to get lunch.  Would you please put aside a sandwich and bag of chips and I can get them when things die down?  Or even, let them know that YOU will grab yours ahead of time and put aside so no one has to worry about it.”

Can I ask you all a favor?  If a young person is working along side you, can you please help me out and teach them the things some of us moms forgot?  It really does take a village, and I promise that I will do the same!  No judgements on you or the kids, just mom-to-mom helping one another through this thing called life.

To Linda, Jayne, Greg, Michelle, and Frank – thanks for doing your part for Kateri and all of the student employees we’ve had through the years.  ((hugs))

Elder Care: All She Needed Was a Manicure

While I was watching Taryn this past Tuesday, I needed to stop at mom’s and make a change in her medicine dispenser.  She had been dizzy lately and her blood pressure was low at her recent physical therapy appointment.  After reviewing her medication list and consulting with her primary care physician, we decided she should try taking only half of one pill in the morning instead of the whole pill.

Now I ask you: do YOU have a pill slicer at your house?  Or do you try to cut them with a knife, razor blade, or ultimately just bite them in half?  My own pills I could bite in half, but it didn’t sound like fun biting several of mom’s blood pressure pills and doling them out in the dispenser with the slobber on them!  Ewwwww

After getting a handy little $5 pill slicer, I headed over to take care of business.  At the same time, I grabbed my basket of gel nail polish, UV light, and some emery boards.  Well between the great grandbaby and the manicure, GiGi was in seventh heaven!

“Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, says studies show that touch reduces pain, especially following strokes, and lowers blood pressure. A study she conducted evaluating the effectiveness of massage found significant decreases in Parkinson’s tremors. Massage therapy also decreased pacing, wandering, and combative behavior, symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Field says that many elderly patients are deprived of touch, having lost spouses, and “a lot of illnesses of the elderly may relate to their being touch deprived,” she says,” (, Caring.com Contributor, Feb 2018).

The manicure ensured that I held her hands, I pampered her just a little, and she felt good about herself when I left.  The gel nail ‘kit’ I purchased through Amazon for around $85 with light, polish, top and base coat, gel soak-off pads, and files/buffers.  I have now done mom’s nails, her friend’s, my sister’s, and my own, several times.  The money was well worth the joy and pleasure I see on mom’s face.

If you choose to go this route, make sure to read all instructions, follow all warnings about using the light, and be careful in explaining that you will need to help mom remove the old polish.  Let me know if you plan your own “girls night” with multi-generational stories and memories!  Regular polish and hand massages are every bit as good – remember the objective is spending time, touching, and feeling good about yourself when you’re done!

For more information, or to learn more about Julie Halpert, follow Caring.com, and her article The Power of Touch in Elder Caregiving from Feb 06, 2018.

Parenting Adult Children

I have gone to a counselor/therapist off and on for over 30 years.  Part of the package of growing up in a dysfunctional household is an unrealistic idea of what is “normal” – or even that there IS a normal – family.  I struggle with “healthy boundaries” the way some people might have troubles finding their keys in the morning.  What IS a healthy boundary?  What is a healthy relationship with adult children?  Is the term “adult children” an oxymoron?

Let’s face it, after 18-20 years of being held accountable for someone’s actions, it isn’t easy to just let them loose when they have the special birthday!  I still feel judged and accountable for their actions today: the career they choose, the cars they drive, the house they live in, even their parenting!  So how does one transition into letting go, stepping back, having a ‘healthy’ relationship?  I believe the key word here is ‘transition.’

Each milestone we celebrated a little, cried a little, and even mourned a little.  Where did our baby go when they began toddling off to play without us?  Or our little friend when they left us at home to venture off to school for just half days?  I remember crawling into our big Chevy Suburban the day before taking my son to college to cry in private.  I cried so hard I thought my eyelids would turn inside out.  It didn’t happen in a day, I wasn’t ‘fine’ the following weekend.  Little by little, we both learned to create new connections.

The Tuesday lunches in Grand Rapids at Schnitz Deli are still fond memories from almost 10 years ago.  I would pick him up from the dorm and we would have lunch, do taxes, talk about grades, and I would drop him back off in front of the Wege center on Aquinas’s campus.  Yet today when he comes home to visit from St.Louis MO and Chiropractic college we navigate another transition.  I am not used to food disappearing from the refrigerator, or someone laying on the sofa.  Coming home from work to find him in my chair can raise my ire!  So we talk, and talk, and text, and talk some more.

My daughter, who lives closer, hasn’t had as much time or distance to buffer the transition from challenging child to mother of the same.  I catch myself saying things like “feed that baby” or “doesn’t she have a coat?”  Sometimes I catch myself and apologize, but mostly I don’t even notice.  I trust that she knows my heart and understands I am trying to let go and that I love her, and the grandbaby too.  We all laugh, talk and even argue about the change in relationships and the changing expectations.  I don’t know if this is “normal” but my therapist assures me it is healthy.  Keeping the lines of communication open, being here for one another, and knowing that the relationship is so much more important than being right, are key elements in the process.

Please share if you have any suggestions, advice, ideas that have worked…I know my sister and her adult kids and grandkids get together once a month for a meal and to reconnect.  They do this at one another’s house and take turns with providing food.  This seems to take the pressure off of major holidays and those expectations as well as not letting little hurts fester for too long.  Our Christmas vacations have helped us learn to live together for a few days – also knowing that it is only a few days – we can make it work.

I’m anxious to hear from you!  Let’s keep this conversation going!

Adulting Advice and Support