And Now The Next Trip…..

Family is family and that’s all there is to it. In general, I do not schedule back-to-back trips, but there are times when it can’t be avoided. This is one of those situations. We always spend Thanksgiving in Georgia with my husband’s family, but a crisis with the manuscript (Mystery of the Last Olympian) caused us to have to postpone. We actually intended to go in February and that didn’t work out either. So, even as I was making arrangements to take the unexpected trip to Louisiana last week, my mother-in-law took a bad turn. Although things appear to be under control, my sister-in-law has been doing an incredible amount of work for almost two years now and we needed to come up and at least give some moral support. This also provides us the opportunity to help make some plans for what comes next. I have too recently posted about what we as Baby Boomers should be planning for ourselves, and won’t beat that drum again at this moment.

We will be able to visit with one of the cousins as well and there are a couple of new restaurants opened that we’ve heard are quite good. We popped into Grumpy’s Low Country Seafood Camp last night for catfish. They have a nice, varied menu and several of the restaurants here are not open on Sunday.  They also have a very “hoppy” beer that Hubby likes and after the drive, we didn’t want to linger over a meal. Making it an early evening was the best option.


Second Full Day of Trip……

It’s funny in a way how we become so accustomed to things that when we travel, it can be disconcerting to not have them. Connectivity being the example for today. Now, I acknowledge part of that is my average (some days less, some days more) ability when it comes to technology. I don’t have the high speed take-it-with-me doo-dad that can find a hotspot just about anywhere. In-room WiFi (preferably free) is one of the criteria I have for booking a room though. That, however, does come with the simple fact that a lot of those systems are definitely not the fastest and sometimes not the most reliable in the world. So, I spend at least part of the time staring at a screen with whatever device I am using not responding in the manner I would like. On the other hand, I suppose I could try to let it teach me patience. (Not that I hold out much hope on that point.)

Anyway, the trip has been successful in the sense of now understanding where we are in this stage of my dad’s life. There are elements of the situation that are better than I expected. His Alzheimer’s is still manageable and he can function well with most things. He seems quite comfortable with the walker. Fortunately, he has never had an issue with hearing and he has regained some vision in the eye that was damaged a few years ago. His short-term memory loss keeps him from reading these days, but he can still enjoy shows like on Travel Channel and National Geographic.  I hope we will have some time today to capture a few of the old family stories. Yesterday was filled with other tasks.

Trip and Other……

This is not exactly a fun trip. I have literally dashed to Louisiana to check on the situation with my dad. At ninety-one, there will be a certain level of slowing down. The assisted living facility he and my stepmother are in is basic, but nice. His Alzheimer’s seems to be as manageable as it can be. He is quite functional with predominantly short term memory issues. It’s distressing for him of course and part of the reason for me coming is to try and help him process through this stage. No, it won’t really help him since he won’t remember, however, I might be able to “impress” a few supportive phrases he can hold to. I am not a practitioner in neural linguistics programming (NLP), but will do what I can. What I can do is capture some of the old stories he has because if you’ve been through this, you know those are often the memory links that become more vivid. It’s always been a source of interest to researchers. Anyway, I’ll get as many of those as I can over the next few days and we’ll take a couple of short outings. Daddy is on a walker now, although moves quite well with it.

The trip itself was fairly smooth – minor delays on both flights. There was a situation out of Atlanta I had not previously encountered (to the best of my knowledge). During the pre-flight inspection, they discovered a small hole in nosecone (I think they said). They patched it, but had to wait for the epoxy to dry and be inspected. Okay, yes, that would be a good thing. Smooth flight after that and on a larger aircraft than I was accustomed to coming to for this route.

Assessing Stress….

Somewhat serious content alert. Okay, this isn’t a bubbly Easter greeting, but due to a couple of different situations, I’ve recently been giving extra thought to the stress that impacts our lives. Perhaps more accurately, I’ve been thinking of how our responses to stressors affect us. The Serenity Prayer really does capture the essence of need to differentiate what we can and can’t control. As humans, we can easily get tangled up between the two. I’m not talking about the far ends of the behavioral spectrum when someone frequently plunges into depression or total denial when an individual refuses to accept there’s a problem to deal with.  The focus for this post is the “normal range” of people who face our modern lives with lots of demands.

Bad things happen to good people and those, in general, are things we can’t control. There are, however, plenty of stressors in our lives that we have some measure of control over, yet don’t necessarily exercise that control or recognize the temporary nature of the stressor. An example that covers both these situations is when we overcommit. I’ve written before about my reluctance to say, “No”, to requests and while I have gotten a little better, what seems to work best is for me to try and “lump” my overcommitting so it’s a tough stretch for a given period, then I can recharge. It might not be the right solution for other people, but the point is to find what works for you as an individual. And that leads into a much trickier issue.

Most of us overreact at times and might need someone to help us put things into perspective. There are people though who seem to seek stress and want to pull others into the same degree of frenzy. This is where we sometimes have to step back and say, “Hmm, do I need this?”  When you’re around incredibly “high maintenance” individuals, it can be somewhat contagious and you might find yourself responding with more drama to something than you otherwise would. This is where you can decide to pull away and either come up with a plausible excuse or be candid (which might also cause you stress) and accept that the other individual/individuals might never understand why. Again, most of us deal with enough stress on a regular basis and metaphorically speaking, it can be like cleaning out that closet where you’ve been shoving things in until you can barely close the door. If someone or something is crowding out your “comfortable emotional space” it may be time to get the big garbage bags out or at least box things up to give to charity.

A Year Gone By…..

Amelia Margaret's 1st Birthday

Amelia Margaret’s 1st Birthday

I did promise I wouldn’t use the blog to brag on our granddaughter and I won’t in general. Yesterday was her first birthday and while we will see her next week, it isn’t so much the fact of the birthday happening as it is how very quickly an entire year has passed. For her mom and dad of course, it’s been an adjustment as it always is. Since they don’t live in a very large place, and won’t likely be moving, creative space solutions have been put into play. It will be interesting to see how that works out because walking is imminent.

It’s obviously been an exceptionally busy year for us between Hubby getting more involved with his photography and my work on Mystery of the Last Olympian. All of those commitments unfortunately caused us not to take our October trip to the D.C. area, but we just couldn’t fit everything in. And so, the whole year sped past and here we are with essentially the month of March spoken for and a fair amount of April. A while ago when a dear friend was coming up on her retirement, she expressed concern about how to fill her time. After I stopped laughing, I assured her that wouldn’t be a problem. Within a few months, she was instead asking, “How did I ever find time for work?” For those of us who are products of living longer and healthier, “retirement” is far more a change in what we do rather than big chunks of leisure to fill. Between volunteering and being able to take on work that’s personally satisfying (not necessarily financially rewarding), the days do zip along. That’s one of the reasons I love the C&W song, “Don’t Blink.” If you aren’t familiar with it, look the lyrics up, or listen to it, and the odds are you’ll find yourself nodding along.

What Do You Mean, She Doesn’t Like Me?……

I had an interesting discussion recently and it’s related to previous posts I’ve written about the power of external validation. A number of years ago there was a TV comedy series, “Caroline in the City”. The title character (I don’t recall the actress’s name) was from Wisconsin and thus was often puzzled about the ways of New York. In one particular episode, she discovered a woman had expressed dislike for her and she was dismayed. “What do mean she doesn’t like me? I’m from Wisconsin. We have to be liked!” (Or words to that effect.) Not surprisingly, the episode was about her efforts to win the woman over, which in a comedy meant things went amusingly downhill.

In a slightly more serious vein, it usually is a shock to the emotional system to discover that someone doesn’t like you, and it’s worse when you realize someone may actually loathe you. If you’ve crossed an individual and staked out opposite sides on an issue that’s one thing. But if you can’t pinpoint an incident of disagreement, you may be forced to come to grips with the reality that there are people who simply don’t like you. Why? Who knows? Perhaps you unwittingly offended them. Perhaps you got crossways with a friend of theirs and it’s the old schoolyard issue of, “You can’t be my friend and like her/him, too.” Perhaps you remind the individual of someone they despise and they can’t get past that. It doesn’t really matter because ultimately, there is little you can do if someone chooses to dislike you. Now, there have been a few occasions when someone confessed to having not liked me initially and then changed after actually getting to know me, and that was always an interesting conversation.

Simplistically speaking, part of the need for external validation and wanting to be liked is a primordial defense against the fear of being banished, and for those who embrace Maslow, “Belonging” is listed right above “Safety” in a similar linkage. We are social creatures and for most of us, rejection is tough to take. The phrase, “Well, I don’t care what they think,” may be what one says while covering up the sting, or it may be accurate because there really are people whose opinions will be of no value to you.

Don’t Lose the Old Stories…..

I’ve posted about subject this before, but I noticed a headline that said the last survivor of the USS Arizona passed away a couple of days ago. I’ve forgotten the rate, but just as with my father who was 91 in October, the WW II and Korea veterans are advancing in age and we are losing them. It’s not only veterans, of course, but all of that generation have seen some remarkable changes during their lives. Some have of course written their memoirs and/or been interviewed, but for many, the experiences they lived and things they saw get “pushed aside” for another time. We think there is always time to do this and the next thing we know, it’s too late. A friend of ours is involved in a project where he specifically seeks out veterans and talks to them, although not in a manner to record the stories – more as a way to interact with them.

If you have relatives and friends who fall into this category, try to make the opportunity to find out if there are old letters, scrapbooks, journals/diaries – not to intrude upon their privacy, but to know where the information is. And yes, if you can, find a way to capture the stories if it hasn’t been done already. Not every story, but enough to understand how very much our world has changed in their life span. Those who grew up in rural areas will have had far different experiences than someone in a city. While they may not have walked uphill to school both ways, there is a distinct possibility there were some one-room schoolhouses involved. If there is an attic or basement filled with “stuff”, maybe you can help with a multi-step plan to sort through and organize it. You can only do so much at a time productively, but it can be enjoyable as an “exploration”, too.

A Year Flown Past……

Here it is – New Year’s Eve again and as any of us over the age of let’s say 50 and for certain over 60 are aware, time does have an “acceleration factor” and yes, please forgive me Dr. Einstein. Actually, even younger parents sense it a bit when the tiny baby is suddenly ready for the next size up car seat.

There is a Kenny Chesney song, “Don’t Blink”, and that’s the theme. The singer is watching an interview on TV of a man turning 100 and when asked his advice, he says, “Don’t blink”, and the song goes into the verses about how quickly the major events in your life go by. You can see it at family gatherings if you have them. The once-adolescents that now have their own children, the grandparent who has become the fourth generation and can no longer hoist giggling infants into “airplane swoops”. If the end of the year is about reflection of what has passed and what may be coming in the future, for some of my readers, there have been times of sorrow, and for others immense joy. In some cases, there has been a mix, and that is perhaps as much the reality of most of our lives as anything.

Time does pass at the same speed as it always has (although I still think Leap Year could have been handled in a better way), but it often feels as if it is zooming along. It is nice when we have those moments to sit quietly and enjoy something special, and no, it doesn’t have to be big to be special. In fact, maybe I’ll wander into the backyard with another mug of coffee and watch the sunrise colors this morning. Happy New Year’s Eve to all.

Plans Can Go Awry…..

Fortunately, we drive to Georgia each year to have Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. That meant when a work crisis bubbled up and it became apparent I wasn’t going to be able to go, hubby didn’t want to go without me. At least we didn’t have to cope with the expense of cancelling airline reservations. This happened one other year, and as we did then, we’ll plan a trip up after the first of the year. It’s something that can’t be helped and we actually had two invitations to dinner we had declined since we were going to be out of town. That means all we have to do is whip up the broccoli-rice casserole to take with us. It so happens, that’s one of those dishes my husband makes. It’s kind of interesting.  Bring-a-dish gatherings are common in the military and back when he was a bachelor, he decided to not be the one who always brought chips and dip or grabbed a cheese tray from the store. He specialized in three things – a killer hot chili-cheese dip, a version of Ambrosia, and the broccoli-rice casserole. That pretty much took care of him with whatever the hostess wanted.

The casserole is really pretty simple – one package frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped, 1 jar Cheez Whiz, 1/2 medium onion chopped, 1-2 stalks celery chopped, 1 can cream soup (celery, onion, mushroom, chicken – your choice), 2 cups cooked rice. Salt and pepper to taste – throw in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes if you like. Mix it all together, spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until top is lightly browned. Easy and delicious, plus it retains heat pretty well.

So, anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Trying Not to Feel Guilty…..

My lack of posts are a direct result of being in a critical phase of working on the new non-fiction book combined with juggling other tasks I’ve postponed – like posting to the blog. Maybe it wasn’t a total coincidence that a post came in yesterday from another site I sometimes follow admonishing us to sometimes step back and not worry about being productive all the time. Yeah, sure, I’ll work on that. In the meantime in the real world, I’ll have another couple of 4:00 a.m. mornings to stay on track.

Setting all that aside, however, my trip to Louisiana was jam-packed and I was able to see a number of friends and relatives. Not everyone, of course, but quite a few. The only culinary goal I missed was catfish. Had I know the one place wasn’t open on Sundays, I would have done catfish for lunch Saturday, but so it goes. I did have an excellent tilapia dish as well as two wonderful fried green tomato appetizers. The regional take is to top them with crawfish tails in some type of sauce and it makes for a great appetizer to share or you can pair something else with it and have all appetizers for a meal. I do that fairly often, although I didn’t during this trip.

The simple truth is the small town where Daddy lives doesn’t have many sit-down restaurants and I’m not certain if they have any yet that serve alcohol. (The tiny town that adjoins them voted alcohol in quite a few years ago and the two restaurants out there are very popular.) We did, however, discover a new Mexican place that took over from the former Bonanza, I think it was. I’m a little surprised the steak place didn’t make it and don’t know what the story was. At any rate, El Jimador, was quite enjoyable. Daddy is not big on cooked pepper and onions and they were completely accommodating about cooking his dish without them. Their tortilla chips and salsa seemed to both be homemade and were delicious in either case.