Sunday, January 29, 2017

self-care in the age of trump

i am genuinely distressed by the trump presidency. i spent years loathing ronald reagan and the younger bush, but they seem so tame now in comparison. i think it's made even worse by the fact that obama, who was the very epitome of grace and erudition, preceded the cheeto. the contrast is stark.

my stomach is in knots, i wake up at 3 a.m., wondering what he's done now, and i'm still clenching my jaw. i can't even have the fillings i lost due to all of the grinding of my teeth fixed because i can't open my mouth wide enough for the dentist to work on me, thanks to what is beginning to look like permanent tightness in my jaw. and i realize that i need less facebook and more self-care. i need to do something other than obsessively refresh the nytimes website. it's time to take care of me.

so i snuggle with cats. make up fresh combinations in the juicer (grapes, carrots, oranges, ginger and turmeric). i got out a beloved sweater that's developed a few holes and i'm working on visible, pretty embroidered repairs. i read some of the mary oliver poetry that i bought and a jo nesbø thriller that i picked up at good will for a dollar. i put down a few ideas for what i'd like to do photographically in the coming year. i finished and put away all of the laundry (and yes, this is self-care - it feels so satisfying to know the laundry is done). i stayed in my pajamas all day. new pens. netflix (i'm almost done with season 2 of how to get away with murder). a long, hot shower. i have candles lit all around. and best of all, i took a bit of break from facebook, if only for a few hours.

i think i'll be ready to rejoin to the real world tomorrow.

how will we ever get through this?

we saw this sickening sight when we visited the national building museum two days after the inauguration funeral.
they have hosted 19 inaugural balls since the late 1800s.
as we landed yesterday in billund, the final leg of my long journey home, i listened to an inane conversation in a thick, countryside danish accent taking place behind me as i scanned the front page of the new york times i grabbed from the rack as i left paris. my eyes filled with tears as i felt very intensely that mid-atlantic feeling - the one where i feel i belong neither here nor there.

the damage wrought by donald trump in one short week is incomprehensible. as i checked in for my flight home to denmark at washington dulles, on the floor below, people with valid green cards and visas were being turned back on the basis of their religion and nationality. on the way to the airport, my uber driver from ghana told me about how he was going to finish his master's and go back to ghana (he had been in the u.s. for 25 years and even had citizenship). in line for security and again on the train to the terminal, i had a pleasant chat with two muslim women about how sensitive the security machines are - they even picked up the little metal ends of a cord on my dress and i had to be patted down as a result. we parted ways and wished one another a pleasant journey. i didn't think to ask where they were from and i hope that they will be allowed back in if that's what they want.

i feel that much of what's happening renders me speechless - i can't find the words to express how embarrassed, mortified and powerless it all makes me feel. so i obsessively read the words of others - on facebook, on the nytimes and washington post, on blogs and such - voraciously consuming other people's words. and feeling that i no longer recognize the country of my birth. and it's only. been. one. week.

how will we ever get through this?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

standing with millions around the world

this group set off for the march around 8 this morning. we thought being at the last stop would make our journey in to D.C. easier. it did, in that we got to sit, but there were many unscheduled delays due to the sheer number of people. you'd think that D.C. would be used to this.

even just getting out when we reached our destination took ages. but the crowd was overwhelmingly chatty and positive. there was an amazing energy in the air.

escalators were all turned off, we guess that it was in the interest of safety. if the escalator was forcing people up and there was no room at the top, it would have been pretty bad.

couldn't resist a shot from the top - so. many. people.

father and daughter discussing technology
(husband was just upgraded from our original iPhone 3S to my old 6 and needed a bit of a lesson)

he's a keeper.

yes, he is.

just a little taste of the crowd. so much creativity on display - both in knitting/crocheting skills and the signs (more about those later).

i can't believe i was here today. such an amazing experience. so much positive energy. no one was angry or aggressive or even remotely making trouble. it was incredible and a little bit overwhelming. but also reassuring and empowering. and despite a bit of ugliness on a friend's facebook wall from the cheeto-supporter set, i still have hope for the future. i marched for the rights of women to choose what happens to their bodies, for equal pay, for equal rights for all, no matter their race, nationality, sexual orientation or diagnosis. for the climate. for the future. for the country of my birth. for my friends around the world, who also marched where they were. for my beautiful, intelligent, talented daughter. for my family. for me.

so great these two were there with me!! one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

i'm still processing the experience and i'm sure there is more to come.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

slacktivist no more

it's easy to be a lazy "activist" these days - just like and share a few outraged posts on facebook, tweet some smartass retort to the coming clown in chief, unfriend a few trumpets. slacktivism at its best. but after months of sleepless nights and teeth grinding, we decided we had to actually do something. so we are going to washington, d.c. to be part of the women's march this saturday. to be there and feel the energy and power of all those women (and hopefully men, since husband is coming along as well) of every shape, color, size and age, in one place will restore some of my hope. and make me feel like less of a slacktivist. i'll be there, with my husband, daughter, cousins, friends and even my favorite professor from so long ago at arizona state. it's going to be amazing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

small abstractions

today was a good day. i spent the morning with my very big lego ship and 600 people who hadn't seen it before came by to see it. they also had hot cocoa and sausages. that was good.

then i spent the afternoon being creative. we've started a thing in our local creative group called "CreaGiving" - where we teach one another a technique. today, we learned to make small abstractions using print techniques and an old hotel room card. i also used a small acorn cap as a circle stamp. in the end, we mounted the best ones on cards. i didn't mount any of my bright ones, as i want to work further on them. but i made some pink and yellow ones that i was happy enough to turn into cards.

perhaps i'll send mom a real letter using them. she does still appreciate the written word, so i will do it while i can.

those three pink ones in the foreground are mine. i'm quite happy with how they turned out. and a whole afternoon spent being creative was precisely what i needed.

* * *

this prediction of what the trump years will be like chills me to the bone.

* * *

this will also scare the shit out of you.
it's about the MI6 agent who uncovered the trump-russian election interference intel.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

the end of an era

today was a fateful day. mom failed the test to keep her driver's license. and she failed it with flying colors. it's the end of an era for her. she's been driving for a good 60 years. and what a change it will be. to be able to get into the car and go somewhere has been the hallmark of her life. once upon a time, she picked up and drove herself to a new job and a new life in the black hills, moving away from her mother, her home and her job in sioux falls for the first time. on another occasion, she drove herself to a new life together with my father when he bought a little weekly newspaper in his hometown. and from there, whenever she needed to get away, she got in her car. she drove us countless miles to horse shows and a couple of times to visit her sister in oregon. she was fearless at the wheel, if distracted, the dashboard covered in glasses cases, kleenex and donut crumbs. when my sister and i fought, she stuck my sister over to her left on the broad bench seat of the old brown pickup and separated us. seat belts be damned. those were the times. and it ended ok.

she must feel devastated. i can't even imagine. even she, from within her fog, must know that that is significant. for the first time in this experience, i feel genuine sorrow for her. this changes everything. she can no longer escape. and neither can we.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

paranoia and pistols

i try to call mom and she doesn't answer the phone. i guess she's still mad at me for supposedly taking her glasses (which were found, there in her house). i also apparently took that big picture of dad that she puts in the chair with a stuffed cat and a blanket and talks to. but that too was found on her dining table. and does she express remorse for her accusations? apparently not, she experiences only the immediate joy of being reunited with her precious possessions.

was this paranoia and thinking the worst of others always there in my mother or is it the disease? and why me? because i was the last one there, visiting her? perhaps she associates me with the glasses because i was the one who found them for her, stuffed into a paper bag in their cases, just before i left, so i was imprinted on her mind along with them. or maybe, all of the furniture from her basement that has peopled my various apartments and which was freely and generously given by her, has imprinted me on her brain as the one who comes and takes things away. maybe this is why she can hurl wild accusations of her thieving daughter around. and i can't say that they don't hurt, even while i know they're not true. who is this person and who does she think i am?

it's this paranoia and thinking the worst of people that made me worry about all the guns in that house. her expired permit to carry a concealed weapon (incidentally not a photo id) was on the table in the living room, but that didn't stop her from loading two heavy bowling ball-sized bags full of guns and ammo into her car the other day (turns out she had a new permit there among her stacks of mail). i don't know what she was planning to do with them, but i had visions of her shooting her  beautiful granddaughter in a haze of paranoia one day. and it takes my breath away to even write that. that said, i have also laughed hysterically over my pistol-pakkin' mama. if you're not laughing, you're crying with this disease.

the guns are packed safely away now, so the horror scenario that flashed across my mind isn't going to happen. but undoubtedly many others will with this cruel disease. i have to grow a thicker skin.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

practicing :: it's a process

today at yoga, the instructor talked about letting go of the tension in our bodies and minds without necessarily solving anything. just releasing it. without needing to solve the underlying cause. just to get a moment of relief. and with my now bordering on chronic jaw problem and all of the unsolvable issues that have caused it (the cheeto who will soon be our president and my mother's decline), the notion of releasing the tension without a solution was a freeing one, even as i also feared that letting it go might just collapse the whole structure that is me. but i was able to do it there, for a brief moment, in class. and it felt pretty great. and i hoping that knowing it's possible, if only for a moment at a time, will help me to do it again. 

i was further reminded at yoga of how much i live my life inside my head and not in my body. like my back problem a year ago, my recent jaw pain, was a sharp wakeup call to me to live more fully in awareness of my body. to find a better balance. my clumsy efforts at knitting help. and i find myself wanting to sew something as well, as that is a good activity for mind-body interaction. from what i've been reading about alzheimer's, it can be very important, that hand-brain connection, in helping yourself avoid getting it. that and a healthy diet. a healthier diet is something that the jaw issue has forced upon me as well and here, more than a week into healthier eating (making lots of juices these days, since i still have trouble opening my mouth very wide), i'm feeling much clearer in my thinking and my clothes fit better as well! so there is some silver lining to the jaw issue. 

yoga also reminds me that i'm practicing. and that it takes time to get good at something. i spend brief moments truly in my body while i'm in class. and i need to work on carrying those moments into the rest of the time - like when i'm trying to fall asleep. or when i feel stressed in a meeting. i want to get better at grounding myself in my body, through breathing and listening to what it's telling me. so weird that it has taken this long for me to realize this. 

* * *

i liked the 2017 goals that tracy clayton (of another round podcast/buzzfeed fame) posted on twitter.

* * *

i envy this guy's knitting skills.

* * *

this woman lives without modern amenities.
but you'll never go without a cup of tea when you visit her.
"miss gallagher believes a period of silence or solitude should be encouraged in the house to help cope with the pressures of life."
maybe she's right.

* * *

if you want to be a better person, find something outside of work.

* * *

is america just a bit backward?
and is it going to get worse?

Friday, January 06, 2017

the joy of kittens

i think this batch of kittens is the one i've enjoyed the most. two of them went to their new home today and it's going to be a lot quieter around here now. it may be time to fix charlie, she'd had quite a few batches of kittens and maybe now she needs a well-deserved rest. on the other hand, she's probably the best momma kitty i've ever had. and she did make our beautiful sif, who might have ended up taking the place of my beloved and much-missed frieda, at long last.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

i don't know what i expected

my, what a couple of weeks it has been. fevers, coughing, snowy nights in a hot tub out on a deck in the black hills, presents, cooking, food, games, skiing, snowboarding, a broken wrist, an infected jaw that's been building for some time (since a couple of weeks before the november 8 election debacle), two miserable flights in acute pain, lack of sleep, kindness, laughter, and sorrow. the whole gamut of emotions. and i am wrung out. it's somehow fitting that it all ended in a raging, painful infection in my jaw. i've always held my stress in my jaws, grinding my teeth at night. old habits die hard.

i don't know what i expected. i was apprehensive before we left, knowing that it was likely the last christmas where mom would remember us. but i had no idea how advanced it had become. the repetition of stories, i could handle and even enjoy to a degree, impressed at what she remembered (she remembers leaving us there by the side of the road near wasta and even remembered (which i didn't) that she needed water for an over-heated radiator). the constant asking where we were going and what we were doing next, just after we had explained it was slightly more exasperating. but, i could understand that this was how her mind now works.

and then there were the moments of spiteful anger that came seemingly from nowhere. so much venom over insignificant things - mostly in the form of harsh judgements in the retelling of events. either traditional views on the role of women and men rearing their head, or just plain judgemental nastiness. that was hard.

i keep wanting to write "but most distressing was..." and then thinking that the thing i'm going to write isn't the worst thing. but it was very distressing that when we gently tried to speak with her about how she probably shouldn't be driving anymore or that she doesn't need three vehicles, or that the big house might be too much for her (she has every surface covered in junk mail, so there is nowhere to sit or have a cup of tea and we couldn't stay there, tho' we did try one night), she steadfastly refused to admit or recognize that she even has a problem. this may be a symptom of the disease, but it also may be who she is.

but what might be the most distressing are the lies she tells. she forgot the christmas presents she had bought for all of us (matching slippers for 8), when we went to the cabin and every day the story changed as to where they were. sometimes it was our fault because we didn't take the vehicle she had loaded them into, expecting we'd take it. when we got home, they were right there on the couch, where they'd been, she'd never loaded them at all. she also took back her sewing machine, which had been lent to the child, taking it when no one was home. she venomously spat at me, when i asked her about it, that she had needed to use it herself. this despite the fact that she had left the cord behind and couldn't have plugged it in. i never did find it in her house, so i'm not sure where it is.

she was stopped by the police yesterday, 45 miles from home, driving 25 with the windows open (despite it being bitterly cold) and with the dome light on. wearing slippers. it's unclear whether they took her license or recommended that she be evaluated (i'm not clear on the procedure, but it's clear that we need to take those three cars away from her. pronto. apparently, this morning's lie is that she had to go to on a trip on such a cold day because i took all of her glasses with me when i left. the truth of that one is that we spent half an hour helping her find them on the day before we left and when i last saw her, she was sitting in my dad's chair, opening all of the glasses cases and burbling happily over her collection. it was a strange goodbye.

i'll allow that maybe they're not lies - they're the gossamer holding her thoughts together.  so perhaps they shouldn't upset me. but right now they do. it's a bit like this disease has amplified all of her worst traits - the solipsism, the selfishness, the lack of caring one iota about her grandchildren (which has always been a source of pain). they are all dialed up to full volume, replacing all of the things i loved about my mom - her willingness to drop everything and go off and have fun, to try new things, to buy a lot of tricked-out gear for a hobby and jump wholeheartedly into it. her enjoyment of good food. on christmas, when asked if she wanted to come and have some dinner, she said, "that depends on what it is," after i had worked all day, cooking the most beautiful beef wellington i've ever prepared. that day ended in a flood tears for me. it was all too much. and while i logically know that it's the disease and not my mother, it's very hard to separate and hard not to be hurt.

it is a crazy hurtful disease and it's only the beginning for us. i haven't even come close to getting a handle on how i feel about it.

note: i'm choosing to share the journey we've only just begun with alzheimer's here on my blog, as honestly as i can, because of one of the things i read was what we must speak it out loud. but also because this blog has always been where i work out what i think and feel and i've encountered no bigger topic where i have need for that. i by no means want to hang my mother out to dry and i realize i'm walking a fine line in that, but i know i'm not the first person to go through this and i hope that my journey can spark a positive conversation on a difficult topic. that said, i am no expert and have only just begun to read about the disease, trying to learn more. all opinions and thoughts on the disease are my own and from my own very limited experience. if you have any thoughts/readings/resources/experiences to share, please share them. this is all very raw and new for me and i want to grow in understanding and compassion.