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Do you hear the tick, tick, tick of the death clock?

What’s the death clock you ask?

The death clock, is a website that calculates (with a little information you add in) the exact day you will die.

Sounds morbid, right?

I agree, but take this as a bit of fun and not too serious.

Playing with death–trying it on for size is one way humans deal with the tragedies of life–kind of like playing dress up with your mother’s high heels and your dad’s jacket.

So, I went to www.deathclock.com, (there’s also a few others– http://www.findyourfate.com/deathmeter/deathmtr.html, http://deathdate.info, http://www.death-clock.org/) and put in my numbers.

I didn’t really want to know when I’d die. But I have to admit, I was curious.

How can you not be curious?

I was raised in a uber-religious home and this sounded like fortune telling–something stricly forbidden to dabble in–which means it’s even more tempting, dangerous, and oh so fascinating…(yeah, I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak in me, I can’t deny it).

So I typed in my info, and you know what? I feel better!

It says I’m going to live until I’m 100 years old.

Instead of feeling depressed about knowing my “D day,” I felt expanded.

100 feels pretty far away. I’m not quite half there. I still have a a whole lotta livin’ to do. 

I do take in account I could get hit by the proverbial bus at any time–that lightening could strike me for visiting that heathen site, (sorry, Mama!) or a myriad of other diseases and accidents could come barrel my way–but I’m not the type of person to be paralyzed by the “what ifs” of life. 

But I’ve seen the dark side of agin. I know what Alzheimer’s looks like, about the challenges that come with aging.

My dad died of heart disease at 78, and my mother lived with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and died at the age of 92 (they were my adoptive parents and older than most parents). I was her primary caregiver and she lived with my family and I the last three years of her life.

I wrote every day my mother lived with us.

I wrote what it’s like for her to live with this disease, what it was like for me, her daughter to struggle with the challenges of being a sandwich generation-er. I wrote about our fears, our fights, our hurts, our day-to-day challenges, and the truth about the guilt and resentment caregivers and families are afraid to say out loud.

Our story became a book, Mothering Mother and has been read by thousands.

The fact is, if you live long enough, you stand a real strong chance of getting Alzheimer’s.

Deal with it. Sounds cold, but what I mean is…do what you can now to take care of yourself.

Eat healthy, have a good attitude, walk every day. Forgive.

Those are the best ways I know of to stave off that dreaded disease.

And even if you get a diagnosis, don’t just crawl up and die. You still have time–love your family–leave a legacy. Don’t spend your precious time worrying.

I don’t know if you want to try the death clock–if it all seems like a bunch of hoo-haa.–but if you’re feeling brave, then take a twirl with the grim reaper and give it a try.

A few years ago, I wrote a “100 Things To Do in My Life” List.

I wrote it while we were on vacation. I wrote it around the margins of an old Rand McNally atlas we had in the car–apprapo, I guess.

I wrote things like:

  1. Go back to college and get my BFA
  2. Design and make a bronze sculpture
  3. Visit the Vincent Van Gogh Gallery in Amsterdam
  4. Publish books (plural)
  5. Take a cooking class in Napa
  6. Repaint all my favorite Van Goghs myself
  7. Create cool yard art–and sell it
  8. Be paid 500 bucks an hour to speak and inspire people
  9. Be on the board of a charity/organization and help make a difference
  10. Design an Italian garden
  11. Have a 30+year writing career
  12. Be a GREAT grandma
  13. Speak French, Italian and Spanish fluently
  14. Live in the South of France for several months
  15. Win a PEN award
  16. Stay married, stay healthy
  17. Forgive and not grow bitter

I wrote this in 1999. I was dreaming big,. I packed it away and didn’t look at it for more than five years. My heart and my words guided me intuitively.

There are 126 items on my master list.

Of the 16 I listed here, 11 have already come to fruition.

I have 53 years to achieve the rest.

A friend of mine said she saw The Bucket List this week and that she loved it, but a friend of hers said they wanted a list of all the things they didn’t want to do–a “Chuck It” list. I like that idea too.

Or you could do an “anti-list.”

Remember that edisode on Grey’s Anatomy when that guy found out he was dying and decided to video-taped himself chewing out all the people he hated/who had hurt and humiliated him? This is what he chose to do before he died.

How cleansing! To leave this world feeling like you said your peace. Perhaps is he had done this sooner, he wouldn’t be dying.

What would be on your anti-list?

I’d love to never ever have another root canal…how about you?

So maybe I should rename the Death Clock to the LIVE clock.

After all, I have a list that needs a whole lot more check marks. Instead of counting down the days until I die, I should count each day I’m living.

Instead of following the old cliche, “Live a little.” I think I’ll rewrite it:

Live A lot!”

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati books, www.kunati.com/motheringmother

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

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Know that old country song, “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes….?”

That’s how I feel.

I’ve been buying flowers. Flats of flowers, tubs of flowers, roots and bulbs and vines.

Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is to me, this year especially.

I didn’t garden much when I was a full-time caregiver.

I had enough of anything that needed constant weeding, feeding, and watering , thank you very much.

But I missed it. What do you miss?

I’ve been a gardener for as long as I can remember.

My adoptive Daddy and I practically lived outside. I helped him with our 25 rose bushes, stepped on dozens of yellow jackets feasting on fallen pears. My toes looked like little red sausages. I’d swing for a good hour, climb the top of my swing set (mother’s nightmare) while gorging myself from a plum bush I could actually reach if I pumped my legs hard enough. Then, I’d jump off and grab a warm fig and then shimmy up the dogwood tree and nestle my bottom in a comfy crook and make up some story in my head about me being a spy or a princess hidden in a tower. Ah, childhood!

No wonder I love being outside. I equate it to freedom, peace, and make believe.

So, when I stop gardening, I stop being me–in part, anyway. That’s one way I can tell I’ve lost my joy.

Joy is crucial. Not constant, but crucial.

It’s not that I blame caregiving.

I see now that my garden, my constant pruning was my writing.

I planted the seeds of Mothering Mother every day.

I think caregivers simply have to choose which “seeds” to nurture. Reep and ye shall sow. Law of attraction. Same-same.

Last spring, my book came out and I was too busy for digging in the dirt. Booksignings every weekend, talks, radio, television–it was great fun! I still get to do a lot of it and it’s still fun, and more than that, I do know that I’m reaching other caregivers. I receive emails and cards every week, heartfelt notes that let me know I did what I set out to do–to help other caregivers laugh, release a sigh of relief that they’re not the only one thinking those less-than-nice (okay, quasi-dangerous) thoughts–to know they’re not alone.

But buying my latest flat of impatiens made me realize I’ve come back ’round my mountain.

We all have treks to take. Frodo-like treks that take us up steep mountains and into dark caves.

Caregiving tested every ounce of me–my  integrity, my marriage, my capacity to give and accept forgiveness.

I had to open the door and allow death to take up residence in my home.

I had to learn to stand up for myself, for my mother, to demand proper care, demand to be heard.

Caregiving tested my body, my spirit, my beliefs, and I’d say maybe, I got a B+, and I’m being generous.

I say throw out your highs, the moments where you’re so sweet and so good you’re sappy–and throw out your lows, when you’re downright rabid and squirrely–and average the rest.

That’s your caregiving score. Your life score.

You’re not your very, very best, and you’re certainly not your momentary, dispicable worst.

You can’t do it all, not while caregiving. Make peace with that.

I took another dip in the last few months. Lost my way a bit.

Guess that’s life.

See? It’s not just caregiving that sends you on a wild goose chase.

Don’t think you won’t have headaches, problems, lows, moments of panic, moments of dire frustration after caregiving ceases. You will. (You can’t blame everything on caregiving:) I used to. I used to have thoughts like, “After mother…” I hated to say the words, but part of me longed to look over the fence. It’s not so different, if that makes sense.

I think of my recent posts and know I’m giving myself away–losing myself and finding me again, what do you think you deserve, and what are you attracting? You see where my head has been.

Where’s your head been?

Think of your words, your ruminating thoughts, look at the items you’ve bought recently–you’ll begin to see a pattern.

You might find out where you are. I used to have a pastor that said if you want to know what you love, look at your checkbook, it’ll tell you.

I watched Oprah’s Big Give the other night, and I realized that this one team wasn’t dreaming big enough.

She thought she had done a phenomenal job, but even I could see that she could do so much more–but her basket wasn’t big enough.

I recently read that life  gives you only enough to fill up your basket.

I thought, “I’d better get a bigger basket.” (Reminds me of Jaws, “We better get a bigger boat!”

As I type this blog, my nails are caked with dirt. I’ve got a smudge on one of my calves. My nose is pink and it’s still March.

Bulbs are nestled below ground and pink geraniums sit under my office window.

I’m a sun-hoochie in the spring. I can’t get enough. I don’t come in until the sun goes down.

It feels good to be back.

I hope you find your way around your mountain.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

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