Slow Cooker Novice…..

I realize that there is an element of amusement to the fact that I am embracing a slow cooker, not back when I was fully employed at a structured job with a commute, but rather now that I mostly work from home in a freelance capacity. Despite my friends who swore by their slow cookers, I was always reluctant and I admit that was not a particularly logical hesitation on my part. We have, therefore, used our slow cooker more as a warmer for party foods than for anything else.

Even though it would seem that I should have plenty of time for meal preparation these days, between hubby and me, we often have late afternoon meetings or “cocktail” type events that don’t include real food. Depending on where the event is, we frequently go out to dinner or do pick-up, but one day when one of these gatherings was at a location close to the house, it occurred to me that if I prepared a slow cooker meal, we could be sitting down to eat more quickly than we could stop by a restaurant. That may have also been about the time that a friend showed me how she used the slow cooker liners for incredibly easy clean-up.

I am considering using the slow cooker option more often and am trying to come to grips with the proper amount of liquid to use and to allow the length of cooking time that is required. Yes, I could use a recipe, but it seems like there should be some easy rule of thumb, too. Any advice out there for me?

Multiple Careers…..

As a Baby Boomer, I remember the release of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, although I didn’t read his later book. Even though I was much more influenced by Ayn Rand, there were two segments of Toffler’s book that stayed with me as I watched the lives of my generation unfold. The first, interestingly enough, was his explanation that we would see an increase in the divorce rate among seniors as people lived longer and ultimately determined that 20, 30, etc. years with a partner did not mean you should spend another lengthy segment together. I have a close friend who was emotionally devastated when this happened with her parents and as she was trying to comprehend what her mother had passed on as to the “why”, it tracked almost exactly with those passages from Toffler.

The other, more pertinent to me, is the aspect of multiple careers, which was not the norm when he wrote the book. “Back in the day”, you entered a career, usually with one company or organization, and stayed with it until retirement. Oh sure, there were people who moved around, but getting that “gold watch” for retirement was the standard. I don’t want to get bogged down in the economic aspect of why so many companies moved away from planning for long term employees, but I do want to discuss the concept of setting up for more than one career. This applies differently to Baby Boomers and Gen-X. For us, it often means one 20-30 year career, then it breaks along different lines of a 10-15 year (could be less), part time or freelance, or entering into a personal business. In some cases, it may be all of the above. For our children, it may be the recognition early one that a specific field will lead to another. For example, despite our concern for our son’s passion for dance, we came to see that with the short length of performing life, that paves the way for continuing to teach, choreography, production, physical therapy, and so forth.

In other cases, there is the desire to go multiple different paths and you wonder if there is any connectivity. It can be a situation of an individual “not being able to find a direction”, or it can be an individual enters into whatever field and discovers other opportunities through networking; some of which may not be related. There is also the economic consideration of contributing to a 401K (if that’s an option) or establishing an IRA and reducing/holding debt down. This, by the way, is where the “Bank of Mom and Dad” may very well be needed since transition between jobs does come with expenses and tapping into a 401K or IRA has definite drawbacks.

I absolutely do understand that career changes are not always by choice, but that is a different post.

Of Memory Issues, Part II…..

Okay, after this post I’ll go back to “fun” topics. Because of the well-deserved attention of Alzheimer’s, there is a tendency for we non-medical individuals to lump all dementia in older people into that category. That is not inherently a problem in the sense that other forms of dementia often have essentially the same impact on family and friends as Alzheimer’s. Treatment, however, can be different and in seeking the appropriate treatment, family and friends need to recognize that medical and non-medical treatments are extremely limited for many types of dementia. While there are standard treatments for Alzheimer’s, for those who have dealt with it, you are aware of the limitations, but they do have tests to be able to verify that the condition is Alzheimer’s. Sadly, once dementia in whatever form it takes or degree of it there is, in general grows progressively worse, sending the individual into a downward spiral.

That’s why I want to discuss “Partial Impairment” which is what many people experience and it is not necessarily a prelude to Alzheimer’s. Before I do, please be aware that I am not medically trained and you can seek information published through medical sources for more details. In a broad brush stroke, Partial Impairment is the situation where severe memory lapses interfere with day-to-day functioning and might cause a problem for an individual continuing to live independently. It can also result in increased “living in the past” where an individual only wants to talk about past experiences and people and is reluctant to deal with current day activities. This condition is intermittent and the individual can go for days or weeks with no problem, then have a day or series of days of “episodes”. The unpredictability can lead to the suspicion of “playing head-games”, and while that might be true, more often it is not. If you can emotionally do so, embrace the situation and allow it to co-exist within reality as much as possible. For example, if the individual persists in calling you by the name of a long-dead relative or friend, correct the person gently and don’t make an issue of it. If the individual wants to speak only of events that are long passed and of no interest to anyone else, try to patiently listen yet again.

Since partial impairment can interfere with health and safety functions, such as not remembering to take medications, not remembering to throw spoiled food away, maybe not remembering to take care of basic personal hygiene, assistance with living whether through at-home care or in a facility will probably be required. Again, this is a step beyond manageable memory lapses and you may need professional assistance in determining if the individual that you care about has taken that downward step. If so, it is usually not a physical danger and the individual can continue in this state for a  number of years. Finding a means to emotionally support yourself becomes just as important as arranging for care of the individual. There is nothing good about these situations and certainly nothing easy. It is, however, a reality of life that you may be faced with.

Of Memory Issues, Part I……

Disconcerting Content Alert! I don’t know many people who are not understandably worried about Alzheimer’s as it applies to a relative or friend. There are a lot of books, many more articles, and numerous foundations and groups to consult about specifics of this insidious disease. One of the sad realities that I learned while writing Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid is that while Alzheimer’s is the most recognized form of dementia, it is far from being the only one. There is, in fact, something referred to as Partial Dementia and this is what a lot of us encounter with older relatives and friends. Before getting to that though in Part II, I want to address unsettling memory loss that also often occurs.

This primarily manifests itself in ways such as not being able to recall names even of people that the individual knows well. For example, suddenly forgetting the name of a grandchild or calling a grandchild by the parent’s name without realizing it. Another example is not being able to recall having completed a task even if it is something routine. By the way, this isn’t the same thing as leaving the house and wondering if you set the alarm. This is more like not being sure if you took your required medication that day. This type of memory loss is disturbing for both the individual and those around her or him, but in general, it can be coped with. Being honest about it is very important, however. Let’s use the medication piece as an example. Labeled medicine boxes are a great solution for this, but someone may need to assist in filling the box and quite probably have a note somewhere that says, “Medicine Box filled for the week. If unsure, call _______”. That will be the name and telephone number of whomever filled the box.

Perhaps the most important thing when facing memory loss in another individual is sympathy and patience. It is incredibly common for an individual to tell the same story or repeat the same question multiple times (and I mean multiple) as her or his brain is trying to lock in that the information has been passed. It can be frustrating for the listener, but it is frightening for the individual who feels the inability to remember. Once this type of memory loss sets in, it won’t normally improve and finding the means to work around it will be highly individualized. The key is to find a method that works for the person with the memory loss. In one case I am familiar with, a lady used a calendar and left a note on her bedside lamp, one taped to her bathroom mirror, and another taped next to the telephone. “Check calendar every day”, was pretty simple to follow. For example, garbage pick up was Thursday. So on Wednesday, she would write, “Get garbage ready for pick-up tomorrow”. For every appointment she had, she would write a reminder one-to-two days prior that she had the appointment. A couple of close friends who often drove her places as she cut back on driving knew about this technique and would wait patiently as she carefully filled out the calendar.

I recently used the analogy of:  “Consider this type of memory loss to be like a dripping faucet. It’s annoying and you constantly lose water because of the drip. If you place a bowl under the faucet, it catches the water and you can at least recover that and use it to water plants or whatever. It’s isn’t an ideal solution, but it does work. Having memory aids that work (whatever those are) are the ‘bowl under the dripping faucet’.”

In Part II, I’ll discuss Partial Impairment, although that post won’t be until Wednesday.

Happy Birthday Army!…..

 Unless you have an Army background or enjoy American History, there is a fair chance that you don’t know that June 14, 1775 is the official birthday of the United States Army. The flag was not actually adopted until June 14, 1777 and Flag Day  not officially until 1916, although it had been informally celebrated in the 1800s. Anyway, it has been 239 years since the various Colonial Militias and “Armies” agreed that reorganization and formation of a Unites States of America Army was needed in order to achieve the independence they were fighting for.

In the 22 years that I served in the Army and the 29+ that my husband did, there were of course bumps along the way, frustrations that come from any large organization. In fact, neither of us intended to make the Army a career, but those are stories for another time. And I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that some of the events that have occurred in the Army (and the military in general) over the past several years haven’t deeply concerned us, but those concerns are not the subjects of this post.

I often refer to myself as an “inadvertent pioneer” and that is because I was in the position to break some gender barriers due to the circumstance of timing, not through some intended plan. However, it came about, I and some of the other women during that same time frame did break the barriers while most of the women left service after their initial assignments. Even with that, they took away valuable lessons and that is one of the things that I tell anyone who is eligible for military service. The system is not designed for everyone to stay for a career, but for young men and women who can serve, there are few other things you can do in your life that will hold you in such good stead. The skills you learn, the code of conduct you adopt, the comprehension of teamwork and leadership you develop will carry through whatever you do after service. Sadly, in some cases what you learn is by observing poor examples of this, but the military is composed of human beings and they are not all magically transformed by putting on a uniform. For the most part, however, they are the small percentage that you will not spend too much time around.

I’ve had a number of people ask me that of all the topics that I write about, why haven’t I written a book about my Army experience. The simple answer is that I’m not ready to do that yet. One of these days, but not yet.

A Second Chance or Time to Face Reality?…..

A second chance at love lost is a favored theme of Hollywood and it so happens that this month on cable, the remakes of “The Great Gatsby” and “Great Expectations” are playing. I can’t find the new version of “Gatsby” to be as good as the Redford one, but I do enjoy the Ethan Hawkes “Expectations”. Each movies deals with the question of, “If you are rejected by the one you love, is there the chance that it can work out in the future, and do you cling to that hope or walk away? I can’t imagine that readers of this blog don’t know the ending of these two movies, but just in case someone doesn’t, I won’t do a spoiler here. I will, instead, take this into the real world because I know of situations where both end results apply. In one case, it was a remarriage after a divorce and in another, it was a fairly lengthy separation (at least I consider three years to be lengthy) that resulted in reconciliation. Since the remarriage is the one that didn’t work out and the reconciliation did, perhaps the couple that separated knew on some level that there was hope, whereas the divorce and remarriage was a matter of wishful thinking.

As I have said on more than one occasion, falling in love and staying in love are often not the same thing. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I have also found that friendship can grow into love over time. People can overlook someone and later realize their mistake. In this day and age, re-connecting is more possible than in the past, but should one? And if in recognizing that you “let the right one go”, how do you approach it? Gently, as in reconnecting for friendship sake and gauging the situation? Forthright to fully admit the error and apologize as much as ask for a second chance? What say you, readers?

Music to My Ears….

 Through a somewhat odd set of circumstances, I have become involved with a local cultural program where we are having very small venue (for now) free performances of different types of music, usually in an outdoor setting where optional dining is available. So far. we’ve done Jazz, Blues, Baroque is coming up (indoors for that one), then Blue Grass in the fall. Let me be the first to say that my musical knowledge is limited – I couldn’t pick out a Delta Blues song from a Chicago Blues except by accident. I can rattle off several composers names, but play me an excerpt and unless it’s one of the really famous pieces, I won’t recognize it. I’m not sure how much of a range I have, although I do enjoy classical in the right setting, rock, blues, country and western, jazz, folk, New Age, Celtic, reggae and whatever category music such as Native-American falls into in short bursts. To me, heavy metal sounds like garbage cans being clashed together and I wouldn’t mind if rap and hip-hop disappeared. If Electronica is actually a type that can go away, too.

My point here though is that people do have vastly different tastes in music, some quite passionately so. A friend of mine continues to astound me with his depth of knowledge of classical considering that he is not in academia. What is it then, that draws us to a certain type of music?

Of Trying and Doing…….

Warning, serious content alert! A comment the other day brought to mind a saying that I had posted in my office way back when I commanded a fairly large company in the Army. The saying was, “Your Best Isn’t Good Enough If The Job Doesn’t Get Done.” It may seem rather blunt and there are people who work hard, try hard, and just are not cut out for certain activities, careers, jobs, or positions. It shouldn’t be embarrassing to admit that something isn’t a good fit or right match.

And with graduations all around the country and rightful celebrations, it is also important to honestly assess an individual’s known and potential abilities in choosing what comes next. It is also incredibly important to remember that there are the so-called “late bloomers” which can very often simply mean an individual hasn’t found that thing that adequately sparks their interest.

The reality is that success is not a one-size fits all, not everyone should go to college, not everyone who completes college can do so immediately, and while having a degree is in general something positive, actual employment in many fields is extremely limited. Since I have an undergraduate degree in Pre-law/Political Science, that’s a good example. I did not follow through with my plans to become a lawyer and had I wanted to pursue a career in politics, that would have likely meant a fairly narrow range of state or national level jobs unless I chose to stay in/return to school for a Master’s and Doctorate to enter the world of academia. On the other hand, the skills of research, reading and writing that I gained in my undergraduate work served me very well in the endeavors that I did pursue. Understanding the cross-over application of skills in choosing a course of study is important as is being realistic from the beginning what the chances are of working in a particular field.

Entering the skilled trades – and there are literally hundreds to choose from – is exactly the right choice for many that can lead to either a satisfying career in employment or plunging into the role of entrepreneur. As I believe I have posted before, multiple career paths are far more common now than is the enter a career  at a young age and stay with that. It is simply the nature of today’s business environment and changing jobs every few years is not the “raise your eyebrows” kind of thing that it was when we Baby Boomers were starting out.

As always, I urge the military for those who are qualified for at least a few years because there aren’t many other organizations that can teach you as much about yourself, being a team player, and understanding the value of good leadership.

Trying to Get Caught Up……

Ah, how the days zoom past when you are trying to get caught up on multiple items. The real issue of course is that other things don’t slow down and then there you have it, a span of time between posts. I won’t go into the litany of tasks that have been checked off the to-do list or the ones that have been added except to say that I did not get to slip off and dive as I had hoped to yesterday. There have been a few flashes of that saying – “Okay, I think I’ll stop being a grown-up now” that have crossed my mind with fingers flying across the keyboard.

Part of it has to do with my reluctance to say no when people ask things of me – (Ya think?, hubby would say if he used that term) and the inevitable mini-dramas that pop up in human life. Those do always seem to eat up time at a disproportionate rate. The big crunch is this week and I should (being reasonably optimistic) be caught up with four fairly major tasks/projects by Saturday. If I manage that, my schedule can be notched down a bit into normal busy. With that said, this will be a short post so that I can get back to the most major of the major projects I am trying to wrap up.

2500 Miles and Change….

Taking into account the in and around travel of the trip, it was 2,541 miles from the time I left until my return late on Thursday. Mother Nature was mostly kind, although that luck didn’t hold as I traveled back with a lot of rain. On the other hand, it was mostly light to medium rain, so it could have been worse and there were surprisingly few wrecks to tie things up. Not actually related to wrecks, I do hope there are a number of baby armadillos running around since I lost count of the dead ones that I saw on the side of the road.

It’s time for me to catch up on things of course and as much as I would love to dash up to D.C. for the Bowen McCauley “Victory Road” performance, I just don’t think I’ll be able to do that. (http://www.bmdc.org) Hubby had completed some more tasks as we check off the to-do list for truly having the house completed. The new bar stools came in and the new step stool arrived. An interesting note on the step stool as part of the safety warning – Do not use while under the influence of alcohol. I do understand the lawyers’ insistence upon such language being included, but I did have to grin while reading that. Well, maybe there is a reason that we keep the booze and booze-related glasses within easy reach. We continued with re-hanging some more artwork yesterday and should finish the rest of it this weekend. That will also free up the space in the other rooms that have been used for storage over the past two-plus months. Whether or not the extra items in the back yard get sorted out this weekend remains to be seen. Several things migrated out there and I’m not entirely sure I have a spot for a couple of them to come back inside.