Category: It’s all about me

My Goals for 2014 – Let it go! Let it GO!!

Let it Go, let it go, that perfect girl is gone. Here I stand, in the light of day, let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway. (Lyrics from the song Let it Go from the Movie FrozenIt is now the beginning of 2014 and I took my kids to see Frozen last week. “Let it go, Let it go!” is my mantra. It’s time to stop hanging on to the things, beliefs and behaviors that are not supporting me, not serving me. I’ve come to the conclusion that no one is holding me back but me.

I started by going from 5 drawers full of paper to 3 drawers. I signed up for e-statements from any merchant that offered them. I emptied my office of clutter and finished off a pile of tasks that have been hanging over my head for some time.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that have a tendency to bend over backwards to make things easier for other people (especially my kids). Then, I get frustrated when I’m at my wits end because I’m overwhelmed and doing things for other people but not finishing my own tasks. I’m terrible about asking for help until I’m at my breaking point. I’ve been making a effort to look at my weekly to do list and identify things that can be handed off to others. This also requires me to let go of my flawed perception that my way is the BEST way. I keep reminding myself that DONE is the best.

After the Christmas vacation that wouldn’t end (thank you Mother Nature for that little temper tantrum) I spent some time evaluating where I am and where I want to be. Now I’m working on how to get there. It’s a commonly held belief that sharing your goals publicly makes you more accountable. Gahhh that’s scary. I mean what if I fail? On the other hand, if I make my goals public, perhaps people will better understand why I have to regretfully say no when they ask me to do something. I tend to reflexively say “yes” or “I’ll do it.” I’m a firm believer that you don’t get to complain about the problem if you aren’t actively trying to be part of the solution. This year, I’m trying to narrow the focus of problems I’m trying to solve and as for the rest of them? “Let it go! Let it go!”

They are definitely still works in progress, but here are my goals for 2014:

  • I will devote 5 hours a week to non-contracted writing. Non-contracted writing is fiction, essays, blog posts for which I’m not paid. Yet.
  • I will find one more regular writing gig. No someone looking for a writer? Please visit my freelance writing web site.
  • I will place one essay in a new publication.
  • I will drop 10 pounds by 12/31/14 I have tried this in the past and had some success, but I suspect there are some physiological reasons why I’m not as successful as I’d like to be. I have an appointment to address this issue this week. I also have co-conspirator in exercise this time around and we share similar goals.
  • I will make a profit of $500 from Choffy sales (more on this in future blog posts).

What about you? What are your goals 2014? Don’t have any? Check out my post on Live to Write, Write to LiveI talk about several goal setting worksheets (Hint: Some of them are even free!).

It's time to see what I can do. To Test the limits and break through. No Right, no wrong, no rules for me, I'm free! Lyrics from Let it Go from the Movie Frozen

 

 

 

 

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She didn’t call

My mother and I and my college graduation.My relationship with my mother has been tenuous at best over the last 20 years. In many ways because of the distance between us it doesn’t feel like I have the right to grieve and yet, I grieve anyway.

When she was alive there was a small sliver of hope that maybe she’d get better, become more emotionally balanced. With her death, that hope is snuffed out. I didn’t expect her to ever apologize for the crazy things she did (like not attending my wedding), but if she could have stepped away from the role of the victim … If she could have evaluated her life, reached out for help AND accepted it. If she could have stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped blaming everyone else for her problems. Hell if she could even have answered the phone more regularly that would have been an improvement.

None of this was EVER going to happen. But still with her death, now it’s NEVER going to happen. To me, that’s a powerful difference. In any specific situation, when hope is gone, all is truly lost

There are many great memories from my childhood and a few good moments in the last 20 years. I wish there could be more. She was a challenge for sure. I don’t miss the trips to Boston and the associated schedule juggling. I don’t miss being asked to advocate and then being told I was doing it wrong (even when she got the outcome she was looking for). I don’t miss the drama, but the fact that I’ll never hear her voice again gets me every time. Yesterday was my birthday. She always called and usually sent a card. Yesterday was the first time in 45 years I didn’t hear her voice on my birthday. It was an unexpected blow.

The last words I said were “Love you.” and I meant them even if they were tinged with a hint of frustration and exhaustion. There were still more words to say. We ended on a good note, but neither of us really thought that would be the last time we’d speak.

Despite all the anger and frustration, I did love her. I think I’d convinced myself I didn’t in the last few years. These last few weeks have convinced me otherwise. There is no one who loved me more. That all consuming love was in many ways her Achilles heel but I was the beneficiary and I feel the loss far more than I expected to.

Regrets are wasted time. This is especially true in this situation, because there is no way to go back and change things, The truth is I don’t think I would even if I could. The changes weren’t mine to make. I tried to help her. So many people tried, family, friends, medical professionals. Eventually, they all came to the same conclusion: She wasn’t able to accept help. Still, that’s not a tremendous amount of comfort. I have this unrealistic belief that I can move mountains if I try hard enough. It’s helpful in some situations, but in others, it is a devastating shock when I can’t actually move the mountain. I do take comfort in the fact, that I gave her my all, it just wasn’t enough. To save her, I would have had to sacrifice myself and I know that wasn’t want she really wanted. I just wish the mother I had in the second half of my life could have been the mother I had in the first half of my life.

The only thing I can do now is be patient with myself and make sure history doesn’t repeat itself with my kids.

kidznmeyorkmaine

The Story of Her Death

I’m a writer. I write for many reasons. I write for me, to organize my thoughts. I write to clear my head. I write to document things for other people. I write to share what I’ve learned so someone else can avoid my mistakes or benefit from my knowledge. I think this piece is a little of all of that.

Just as there are birth stories, there are also death stories. Some people are terrified of death. I’m not. I do not have a death wish, I hope I have many great years ahead of me, but at the same time, no one gets out of this life alive. What will be, will be. I will say that prior to my mother’s death, I had no idea what happened once the heart stopped beating, what the process was to get from hospital to funeral home. Now, I know and I’m brewing another post on that topic too.

The Call, Think Fast

My mother entered the hospital for treatment of an infection on her foot. It had gotten so bad, she needed IV antibiotics. She was only scheduled to be there for a day or two and would then be transferred to a rehab center to complete the healing process. However, while she was there, another problem was discovered and a minor surgical procedure was scheduled to address that issue. This was only supposed to extend her stay in the hospital by a few days.

She went in on a Monday. I spoke to her that night and again Tuesday night. Wednesdays are consistently the worst day of my week. I start at 6am and go go go until about 8pm. I had tried to reach my mom throughout the day, but was unsuccessful. When we got home from karate, I was starving, so the plan was to have a yogurt and then try again. If I didn’t reach her, I would then call the nurses station for an update.

Halfway through my yogurt, the phone rang with the hospital’s name on the caller ID. That’s rarely a good sign. What followed was a brief back and forth with the doctor. He said they were having a hard time getting a blood pressure reading on her. I was annoyed. Look at her chart doofus. She is notorious for having crazy low blood pressure. He calmly continued to try to convince that this wasn’t normal and I continued to tell him it was. Finally he changed tactics. “Ma’am. She has no pulse.” Oh, ok, this is DEFINITELY not normal. “The team needs to know your wishes regarding end of life care.”

 

ALL STOP. OH SHIT!

 

I stuttered as my brain tried to wrap itself around what he was saying. My mother was dying, if not already dead. My mother and I talked about this. We had had this conversation. I knew what she wanted, but my brain just refused to forward the information to my mouth. I ran upstairs and grabbed the file folder with her name on it. I opened it and as soon as I saw words on paper, the words came.

She did not want to be a vegetable. She did not want to be kept alive for the sake of being kept alive. I shared that with the doctor and he asked me to stay near a phone. I was scrambling to make plans to get on the road. The hospital was an hour an a half drive from my home. I gave him my cell phone number and told him to keep me apprised.

My husband was Northbound on a bus from Boston. I scrambled to find someone to stay with my kids. I have left them alone before, but I couldn’t do it this time. Here’s where I stop and count my blessings that we live where we do. My in-laws are next door and we have fabulous neighbors across the street.

The doctor called back. They’d been doing chest compressions for 15 minutes with no response. The team was concerned about the lack of oxygen to the brain. I sat down and took a second to gather my thoughts.

 

“Let her go.”

 

Her health had not been good. I was starting to question her ability to live independently. Living with me was not an option and the idea of moving to an independent living facility or a nursing home was in her words, “a fate worse than death.”

I called my husband and told him. I called my aunt, her only living sibling, and told her my mother had died. Half way through that call, the doctor called back to say they had a pulse. Of course they did. This was my mother. She could be as stubborn as a brick wall.

I passed on the updated information and once again scrambled to make plans to get to Boston only this time, I wasn’t driving. My in-laws would stay with the kids, my neighbor would drive. My husband was too far away. Only he wasn’t. He’d misjudged where he was (the highway all looks the same at night). My neighbor drove me to him and he and I headed South.

While en route, my mother’s heart stopped again. Again, I gave the approval to let her go. Again, she revived. At this point I was invested in getting there to say goodbye in person, but I told the team that if she crashed again not to resuscitate her. In the meantime, I further rallied the troops, I called my dear friend Melissa who is also a nurse and my cousin. They lived closer than I. Whether she would consciously recognize it or not, I didn’t want her to be alone. My cousin made it about half an hour before I did. Melissa made it 5 minutes after me and my friend Charlene stood at the ready.

The Hospital

As we approached the hospital. My husband had the foresight to warn me that the scene I would enter would be unexpected. He told me there would be tubes and wires and blood and that her body would be swollen with fluid. Upon arrival at her bedside, I was glad he’d warned me. It was an unnerving sight to say the least.

I said my goodbye and I stepped out. How she looked, the beeps and the alarms. It was too much. I gave the approval to stop the medication that was inflating her blood pressure to keep her alive and headed to the family lounge. With the support of my husband and Melissa I gathered my wits. In the meantime different members of the medical team that had been working with her stopped in to offer their sympathies. One had talked to her several times throughout the day and said she was in good spirits. I knew she was optimistic about the outcome of the procedure it helped to know she was in a good mood.

Eventually I was drawn back to her bedside. They had drained off some of the fluid and put blankets over the blood stains. She looked more like herself. I held her hand, her nails, although unpainted, were perfectly shaped. That was my mother.

The four of us stood around and talked. We talked about current family news (my cousin’s daughter is getting married this summer). We talked about my mom, past and present. I knew. I just knew that she was already gone. Melissa helped me ask the team to make her passing as easy as possible from this point on.

They removed the breathing tube (I stepped out for that procedure) and turned off the alarms. We held her hands, told stories and cracked jokes. As I told the nurse who frequently came to check on us. I’m Irish, we laugh to avoid crying. Eventually, she took her last breath and she was really gone.

Thanks MGH

Here I need to stop and give props to Massachusetts General Hospital. MGH is a large teaching hospital with an excellent reputation and a long and storied history. That type of environment sometimes takes a bad wrap for being out of touch or impersonal. The team that worked with my mother and I, was awesome. They kept me in the loop. They were sincere. It was clear this was an unexpected outcome and they were all rattled by it. I got the sense that they deal with death everyday so they knew the steps that had to be taken, but at the same time, they understood that this death was personal to me and guided me gently through the process. I will be forever grateful for their patience and kindness.

After she died, the doctor came in and verified that she was indeed dead. Then came a series of questions.

Did I want an autopsy?

I hedged. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her cut open. It’s just that while sudden, her death was not completely unexpected. She’d been in failing health for a while. Did the team want an autopsy? We danced around this for minute or two until A-Man and Melissa pointed out that the team couldn’t legally have a say in the matter. I had to give a yes or no answer. Yes.

Did I want her to be an organ donor?

She was a 3 time cancer survivor including radiation treatments and at least 2 rounds of chemotherapy, sadly, that made her ineligible to donate.

Did I want a full autopsy or did I want to limit the scope to the procedure most recently performed?

Would the information gleaned from a full autopsy be used for teaching purposes?

Yes

Then I want a full autopsy.

The would remove her organs for examination during the autopsy. Did I want them return to the body? If not, the organs would be used for teaching purposes.

No, use them for teaching purposes.

Did I want a copy of the autopsy report?

Yes. (So I can forward it to Melissa for translation).

A few signatures, they gave me her belongings and we were free to go. For

I texted Charlene. She’s gone. Only, in my one handed haste I texted, She’s gine, which autocorrect changed to She’s fine. Now in the wee hours of the morning after such a roller coaster of adrenaline, this made me laugh out loud. She was definitely NOT fine. As I write this, I think maybe she was fine. Maybe at last, she wasn’t in pain and she’d found peace. I’ve decided to go with that.

We spent the night at Charlene’s house. She and her family live outside of Boston. Both A-Man & I were pushing exhaustion, the drive home seemed too much. Plus, I wanted to go to my mother’s apartment the next morning and pick up a few items.

The Analysis

It was weird drinking tea with my friend thinking, My mother is dead. I knew this would happen sooner rather than later, but it still took some processing to really comprehend. Even now, more than a month later, I occasionally come up short and think, she’s dead.

In some ways, I’ve been grieving the loss of the mother I grew up with for more than 20 years. Recently, our relationship roles had reversed and frequently it was one of obligation on my part. Although charming to many she came in contact with, to those few in her inner circle, she could be a difficult person to deal with. She made poor choices and then lamented how the world was out to get her.

I’m sure my feelings will change over time, but right now, it just feels like a finger after a deeply embedded splinter has been removed, extremely sore, but slightly less painful. I hear ads for services like A Place for Mom. And I think wow, I won’t have to deal with that now. I really didn’t know what the next step was for her. She was not going to willingly stop living on her own. It was going to take a catastrophic event or legal action. I wasn’t looking forward to either.

Still, I’m not sure the full impact has hit me. She was notorious for disappearing for weeks on end. She rarely left her apartment, but she wouldn’t answer her phone and she didn’t return messages. Doctors and caregivers would call me with appointment confirmations or test results because they’d lever numerous messages and hadn’t heard from her.

Once, I had to go so far as to have the manager of the building do a well-check. She was furious with me for the invasion of her privacy, but, she got the message and took me seriously in the future when I left messages that said “You have 24 hours to call me back”. It had gotten to the point where I would regularly put out the call to her case manager and family to see if ANYONE had heard from her.

In some ways these days feel like those times when she was just incommunicado, but at the same time, they don’t. Part of me knows this is permanent. We’ve emptied her apartment and are starting to file paperwork. The other day, the kids asked me what time of day I was born. I think it was dinner time, but I’m not sure and I can’t call my mom and ask her.

For the most part life has gotten back to normal. I am beyond profoundly grateful for all those who have reached out and keep checking on me. The cards, the meals, the texts, and virtual hugs meant everything as I struggled to keep it together. I am truly blessed with an amazing village of friends.

This brain dump was primarily for me, but if you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. Go hug someone you love.

Cultural Summaries for the ’00s & ’90’s?

So as I was taking my car to get an oil change the other day, American Pie by Don McLean came on. I cranked it.

As I was riding home with my husband, and pondered the song, it occurred to me that song summarizes many cultural happenings from the 60’s into the early 70’s. Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire does something similar for the 50’s through the 80’s

In the early 90’s I made the switch to country music. Pop music was dominated by rap, techno and electronic music. I still wanted some guitar and harmonies in my music. Now that I have kids, I’m back listening to pop radio at least part of the time. Some of it is awful, some of it isn’t half bad (Fun., Pink to name a few).

I was wondering are there any songs that chronicle culture from the 90’s and the ’00’s?

Come on people help me out here.

 

Showing My Age

I love live concerts (I’ve just learned to bring my ear plugs). I was a teenager when I went to my first show, REO Speedwagon at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Concerts were the only time I wished I smoked. I loved it when everybody held their lighter in the air and we sang and swayed a long to the music.

Times have changed, smoking is no longer allowed in public places and fewer and fewer people carry lighters. Last week I went to see Miranda Lamber, Dierks Bentley and Lee Brice. As a side note, it was an AMAZING show, but that’s not what this blog post is about. During his set, Dierks yells out “Come on New Hampshire light up those cell phones!” Yes, yes indeed, times have changed.

I’ll always be a little nostalgic though.

A picture of the Virtual Zippo Lighter App on my iPhone

Maximum Opportunity for Advancement.

MOA Maximum Opportunity for Advancement Summer 2012 Red writing on a gray t-shirt.

Back in the days when we were DINKS (double income, no kids). I STRUGGLED to fit exercise into my daily routine. It was much easier to take off on a Sunday and ride into Boston to the Museum of Science (and back) on a 25 mile bike ride.

These days, I’ve still got the husband, but have added two kids and their activity schedules, and a fledgling writing career. Now? Now I REALLY don’t have time to exercise. I’ve made some attempts along the way, but have not been consistent. I don’t mind exercise and I truly do feel better when I’m exercising regularly, but it honestly has to be in my way to happen. If I have to make room for it, no way, no how it’s gonna happen. Sad, but true.

Last spring, Fish was promoted in karate, so our time at the dojo went from 45 minutes twice a week to 90 minutes, twice, sometimes three times a week. As I waited for her class to finish, I watched the BagFit class going on in the second dojo. BagFit is part cardio and part boxing, and from what I saw it also included a lot of sweat and laughs. The class was made up of women around my age, many of them karate moms. They finally razzed me enough about being a lurker that I decided to give it a try. I have zero upper body strength and am prone to tendonitis in my shoulders (I’d just come off 3 months of PT for my left shoulder when, with permission, I started BagFit). No problem. The instructor (one of the co-owners of the dojo), modified the workouts so I didn’t strain anything. After my two demo classes, I was hooked.

I tell people, I hate it when I start but by the time I’m done, I love it. I sweat like crazy, I get my heart rate up and I truly have a lot of fun. There is a lot of camaraderie in the class and we cheer each other on. I love that I can burn some calories rather than warming a seat. Like other martial arts programs, there is a belt system to keep you challenged and motivated. I started as a white belt and worked my way to a yellow belt by the end of the summer. I’m now working towards my orange belt.

My kids are into karate but with summer comes camps and vacations and other schedule busters. To keep attendance up over the summer, The dojo ran a program called MOA, Maximum Opportunity for Advancement, for all their classes. Any student that attended 18 classes June 25th and August 25th earned the opportunity to test early for their next belt promotion and they got a special t-shirt. My kids were into MOA. I was regularly quizzed about how many classes they had in the MOA count and if we missed a karate class on a given week they wanted to know when they were going to make it up.

When we were getting close to the August 25th cut off, the kids had more than enough classes, but it was unclear if I would make the 18 classes. Since, I’m a newly minted yellow belt, I wasn’t interested in testing, I just wanted the shirt! A miracle came through and I did indeed get the t-shirt. The belt tells my peers in the class I’m progressing, but the t-shirt? The t-shirt tells the world hey! I kicked some butt and took some names this summer, what did you do?