Livin La Vida Loca


Whew! Hello Again “Strangers”! My apologies for being away from you all for such a long time. I have missed writing, blogging, and my photography intensely these last few months. Life took an insane turn for the busy is the best way I can put it. (Those of you who are friends on Facebook will know exactly what I’m talking about) But for those of you who are not, or who I’m not in direct communication with – here’s what’s up in my neck of the woods:

I have scarcely had time to breathe or relax since August. Several family members – including my mother – have been very ill with serious medical issues and/or issues with aging. It is now time for me to step up further, along with my sister and step-siblings, as we continue to adjust our assistance to help meet the needs of our parents. The initial period of adjustment has been, shall we say, “bumpy”? – as diagnoses are mentally processed by all, and plans are put in place. I’m not a friend of Bill W – but I do find myself saying the Serenity Prayer frequently; as I’m learning the difference between what I can and can’t change in a BIG hurry; and finding my balance in the process (which is a good thing!) But I gotta tell ya – its tough when you live just down the street – jussayin….

As someone who went to school for Social Work and more importantly, as a Parent, my first instinct is always to be “The Fixer.” I see, I analyze, I solve…. Problem is, not everyone agrees with what to me are obvious fixes. Therein lies the rub…. I also need to remember that not everyone is looking for advice, sometimes they just need to vent. I don’t have to have a solution for everything. And I don’t. There are things that I have to let be, whether I like it or not. I can, figuratively speaking, grab a seat and some popcorn to watch the ensuing train wreck. I may have to do that – and I’m not happy about it at all.

Additionally, other friends and family are struggling with their own issues and I am doing my best to be supportive of them. Who ISN’T struggling these days? That would be the short list I think. That’s the list I would like to be on, even for a brief time. It doesn’t appear to be in the cards for me right now – but I’ll live. The Viking changed jobs and went back to his old company in CT. His former company has downsized considerably and cut all overtime for employees. Since we are trying to replenish the seriously depleted nest egg – this was unacceptable. Like most in the middle class – we can generally pay our bills on 40 hours, but saving appreciably? No way. So, he applied back with his old company and was pretty much re-hired on the spot. We had to get a second car for him, but well worth it. Good news in the midst of Mi Vida Loca!

For those who are interested, my weekday looks like this:

6:30 am – Hit the deck, get ready for work etc
7:30 – Commute
8-4 or 4:30 – Work
4/4:30 Commute
5pm-7/8/9 pm – Dinner Prep, Chores, Pet Care, Child Taxi Service as needed, Dinner, check in with family, friends, shop, run errands etc. etc…. (Wine, anyone? 😉 )
9/10/11 pm – TV/Read/Bed (depending on level of tired I am)

It doesn’t look like much when I write it down, but Boy Howdy! It sure takes the starch out of my knickers. And when the morning light comes shinin in I get up and do it again, Amen. And I remind you, dear readers, I am not 25 anymore. La Vida Loca, indeed. Weekends are spent catching up on chores I don’t get to do during the week (like the major housework) and helping the Viking with the outdoor stuff, plus doing whatever my Mom needs help with. So yeah…. Busy, busy. And its not like the girls don’t help. But Chaos is rarely around on weekends and busy with college and work during the week. Mayhem is helpful but also increasingly busy as her high school social life expands. She’s now involved in the Drama Club and the GSA at school; and Keystone Club and the PAL Mentoring Program at The Boys and Girls Club after school. Fortunately, one of her friends’ family and ours kind of “co-op” transportation duties so no one has to play taxi all the time. In many ways, it does take a village these days – or at least another family – to raise children. This weekend my friend Eve – of the aforementioned family transportation co-op – is coming over to help me regain some control of my house and the clutter therein. It’s a mess despite best efforts otherwise. She’s really, really good at organizing and de-cluttering so is going to give me a consult free of charge! Hurray!!!!! We have a really small house (approx 800 square feet) with only two micro-closets. Add two large breed dogs, a cat, a ferret, a teenager and three adults and VOILA – hot mess!

So that pretty much catches you all up my friends. I should have an op-ed post up about the Healthcare debacle in the near future, as well as whatever else strikes me or tickles my funny bone. I just need to find the time to gather my thoughts and write the darn things! Hahaha.

I’m out for now, Peace.


The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.

Long Day, Short Post, Big Sandwich

It’s a busy life I lead, my family leads. Full time jobs, school and then the second full time job of caring for home and family. Sometimes things get left undone, by chance or by choice. It’s crazy hectic and I’m usually bone tired by 9pm. I’m also at the stage in my life where I’m not only caring for my family; but also preparing to assist my remaining parent with health care and living decisions. It’s not super close, but the signs are clearly on the horizon.
Take today for instance. For whatever reasons, Mom’s going to be missing out on precious time with family; milestone events that won’t be repeated. In this case, a college graduation celebration. Accommodation in the form of transportation was offered, and declined. It’s frustrating and sad. I would be more specific but I’m also trying to respect some privacy issues, so please forgive me for being a bit vague. Thank goodness I have my sister and C. We’re in this together, supporting each other. The sandwich generation. I have to stay positive and focused so I can be there not only for my mom, but for my immediate family who needs me too. It’s said God doesn’t give us more than he knows we can handle. As Mother Teresa once responded – “Sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me quite so much”.

Young at Heart

My blogger friend Miss “Sarah on the Go” is approaching her quarter century milestone and wrote a wonderful post about her thoughts which you can read here. And it got me thinking…. what keeps us young? Why is it that some of us seem ancient at 50 and others of us are so vitally alive at 90 something? We can’t prevent the aging process, or those chronic conditions or illnesses that speed it up & make it difficult to function – but I’ve come to the conclusion that attitude is everything when it comes to keeping ourselves spiritually and psychologically young.

I hit the big 5-0 on New Years Eve. This type of milestone certainly does lead one to reflect. Am I where I expected to be at this point in my life? Have I accomplished any of the things I thought I would do by now? Am I happy? Have I made a difference to anyone? Answers: No – but then again I’m not exactly sure what I expected. Yes- some of them. Yes, I am happy. And, I sincerely hope I have. I’ve been working on my attitude a lot recently. My innate tendency is to be somewhat pessimistic and I’ve been working hard to overcome that – finding things to be grateful for, and seeking out people who reinforce a positive outlook. This hasn’t been easy – life events have a way of interfering with my best laid plans. But I’m rolling with it. I have to. Blogging/writing helps – and increases my exposure to a huge number of extremely positive, caring people from very diverse places and backgrounds. This is a good thing, a very good thing indeed.

So what contributes to a positive attitude? Humor – finding the funny can be difficult sometimes, but there’s nothing like a good laugh. And if you can laugh at yourself – even better. Creativity – keeping those little grey cells occupado. Having a hobby or even just reading has tremendous benefit, even if it’s just to ward off boredom. Relationships. Those connections are crucial to maintain in order to ward off depression or ameliorate it. Openness to trying new things and venturing down that road less traveled, at least occasionally. Me time. There’s nothing wrong with a little self pampering and we shouldn’t feel guilty about it as long as we don’t go overboard. Spontaneity. Being flexible is key to remaining spiritually youthful. Gratitude. As I’ve said, this is a biggie for me. When things go south its good to remind myself that despite my problems I still have it pretty darn good. I have a thankful list and I try to review it frequently. Another blogger friend, Kate, has a “daily gratitude” page on her blog, which you can read here. She is one of the most positive people I’ve ever encountered. Finally, there’s Faith, or Spirituality. I believe God will help us – even if it’s not the help we think we need at that time.

Getting to that positive place and remaining young at heart takes some work. But its worth it. Take my dear father for example. He was (only) 79 when he was suddenly taken from us. I guess you could say he looked his age, but he certainly didn’t act it. Dad was always busy. Working, socializing. Antique cars was a hobby – and he had a couple of them. He also loved to cook, and was a voracious reader. (I get it from him I guess). Dad was always up for an adventure, especially if the grand kids were involved. I could call him late on a Friday and fully expect him to go to the beach with me on Saturday. Or, maybe he’d just show up for dinner unannounced a few times a week. Young at heart? You betcha! I’ll leave you with this; which sums it up better than I probably can:

“Fairy tales can come true
It can happen to you
If you’re young at heart, for it’s hard, you will find,
To be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart
You can go to extremes
With impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams
Fall apart at the seams
And life becomes exciting with each passing day,
And love is either in your heart… or on its way.

Don’t you know that it’s worth
Every treasure on earth
To be young at heart?
For, as rich as you are,
It’s much better by far
To be young at heart
And, if you should survive
To a hundred and five,
Look at all you’ll derive
Just by being alive!
Now, here is the best part:
You have a head start
If you are among the very young…
At heart.”

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