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Let’s face it: Caregiving can get ugly.

What I mean is, when I was a caregiver, I’d sometimes go days without looking in the mirror. On purpose.

I was busy, tired, overwhelmed–and that leads me to feeling frumpy, puffy, and in a rut–and when I feel that way, I tend to go into denial and avoidance.

It’s good to  care give, even if you let yourself go for a little bit. 

Generosity, patience, and tenderness have a way of making you beautiful and gives you a glow much like pregnancy, and I doubt Mother Theresa stared in the mirror much (not that I’m comparing).

But face it, you can let yourself go to the point to where you don’ t feel good about yourself. I know.  

I gained close to 40 pounds during my two+years at a full-time caregiver. I don’t blame my mom for this.

Honest. I take full accountability. I could have put down the bags of Oreos and Fritos. (Notice how all tasty snacks tend to end in O’s? I could have walked more. Even with my mom and kids and a big house to manage, I could have gone for two fifteen minute walks a day and eaten more veggie soup. No one was forcing sugar down my throat.

Yeah, I was tired, frazzled, and distracted–it comes with the territory–but I used that as an excuse not to pay attention. I’m just saying I contributed to own “junk in the trunk.”

It also helps to lighten things up a bit (metaphorically speaking) and think about haircuts, color, make-up and clothing takes the emphasis off the heavier aspects of life. Being able to feel good about yourself, to smile with confidence with a spring in your step helps not only you, but your loved one.

Depression doesn’t like color, light, and laughter–so let’s flood the room!

Now you’ve seen the light (aka seen yourself with the lights on!) and you’re ready to do something about it, I’ve got a few simple suggestions.

First, don’t make it hard, but let’s stage your comeback and surprise your loved ones with a fresh look.

Seven Easy Comeback Solutions:

  • Fixate on your health, not your weight. Take it from Queen Latifah, the new spokesperson from Jenny Craig. She’s not trying to become America’s Next Top Model. She loves her curves. Love yours–and focus on your health not your flab. We all have flab.
  • Nix the elastic waist pants. Why? They’re comfy, I know, but it’s too easy to keep on snackin’ when you’re not feeling a pinch in your side. Put on real pants. Even if you have to go up a size. Beauty is not a size, it’s a state of mind.
  • Set very small goals. Walk ten minutes twice a day. Stretch–even encourage your elder/loved one to do some simple stretches with you. Don’t bring home the snacks. If you must, get a snack pack at the gas station–one of those bags for 99 cents. Eat them and throw the bag away. Don’t worry about the money–the economical size bag will cost you more in the long run (health, Weight Watcher’sfees, cholesterol meds).
  • Get your Vitamin D–and how? By heading out the door for those ten minute walks! That’s all it takes. And your elder needs their Vitamin D., so at least have them sit on the porch for a few minutes per day. There are supplements, too, and recommended for elders. 
  • Go look in your closet. Anything that’s been in there for more than five years–toss it now! I mean it! Go to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the dress you wore to your daughter’s wedding or your 25th anniversary. Come on, let it go. Guys–this is for you, too. Even three years is long enough. You’re not a museum–you’re a living work of art!
  • Now, match up three outfits that look nice that you could wear every day. Stop waiting for an excuse to dress up. Dress up for yourself. You deserve it–and your loved one deserves to look at a person who takes pride in their appearance. I know you’re tired and you think this doesn’t matter. It does. No high heels, but a nice pair of jeans or slacks, a decent shirt that’s not all stretched out and something that has some nice color. Spritz with some perfume and comb your hair. You’ll feel better.
  • Plan a daily tea time. Crazy, I know. It’s English, so pretend you’re English. Choose a time–say, 4:00, and set out a cup for the two of you. Have tea and two cookies. Just two. You can even say it’s medicinal–all tea is good for you, but go for a green tea variety and get your antioxidants. Sit out on that porch to get your vitamin D., or sit in the living room. Chat for ten minutes and sip tea. Your loved one will feel special, and you’ll begin to relax. It’s just a simple tradition, but it’s soothing–and something to look forward to.

Ladies, if you’re ready for a real comeback, have I got a book for you!

Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins is for real women over 45–primarily focusing on women in their 50s and 60s is really amazing. It isn’t downgrading or patronizing. He’s been featured on Oprah and Today Show, and he isn’t your run of the mill “I’ll make you look 20” kind of salesman.

There are lots of pics and the most astounding before and after photos you will see. My 21 year-old daughter was with me at Target when I bought the book, and even she was amazed. (I heard the make-up in the book is heavier than he would normally recommend and was only done that way for the book).

 The book is designed to be interactive with his website that has downloadble worksheets to help you plan your comeback. 

Is all this frivolous? I don’t think so. We have to balance out all we’re dealing with–disease and death are not the only things in life. We need balance. We need to relax and enjoy our one wild and precious life, as the poet Mary Oliver would say.

We need hope.

And bottom line, isn’t that really what we all need?  

 

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Caregivers,

Do you have a place to go?

A sanctuary?

If not, it may be a big part as to why you’re stressed and resentful.

Caregiving invades your space, your head, your time–you don’t always get to say when you’re needed.

I pulled many a “late night shift” with my mom.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and not only did she have Sundowning, a condition in which people with Alzheimer’s get more aggitated and have more energy as the sun goes down–and on into the night, but she simply didn’t need much sleep–or her body wouldn’t let her sleep. (Here’s a post I wrote about my experience with sundowning).

It’s not like we could make it up during the day.

I was dragging. That made me miserable, fussy, and I tended to overeat. Why? Because studies have now shown that obesity is linked with lack of sleep. We tend to munch all day because it gives us something to do, causes our brains to perk up, and since sugar is almost always involved, we’re pumping ourselves up like we’re climbing the highest point of a rollercoaster–and then plummeting to exhaustion.

Maybe what you need isn’t to just lie down. 

It’s a renewal of your spirit you’re hungry and longing for.

You don’t have to be religious to need a sanctuary.

I love that I happen to live in a bird sanctuary area–the Timucuan Preserve. I love the thought that animals are held as sacred and that an area is designated for them.

But shouldn’t we humans create our own sanctuaries? What exactly is a sanctuary?

The word, “sanctuary” means:

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) –The spelling has changed since then.

Sanctuary\Sanc"tu*a*ry\, n.; pl. Sanctuaries. [OE. seintuarie, OF. saintuaire, F. sanctuaire, fr. L. sanctuarium, from sanctus sacred, holy. See Saint.]
   A sacred place; a consecrated spot; a holy and inviolable
   site.
Two of the definitions include:
c) A house consecrated to the worship of God; a place where
       divine service is performed; a church, temple, or other
       place of worship. A place to keep sacred objects.
   (d) A sacred and inviolable asylum; a place of refuge and
       protection; shelter; refuge; protection.
Operative words: Refuge. Sacred. Shelter. Protection.

How to Create a Sanctuary:

What is sacred or holy to you?

  • Gather a few objects–a photo, seashells, stones, your mother’s broach, your dad’s pocket watch, your baby picture.
  • Grab a basket or a box and walk around your home and hard. Gather anything that interests you. Your sacred objects will change over time. Just get it rolling for now.

Find a place:

  • Where in your home or yard feels “safe?”
  • Where can you have some privacy? Where can you relax?
  • Place a table, a desk, a chair, a cover at this place. If it’s outside then create a box of your sacred items that you can carry out with you.
  • You might also want to include a journal and pen, micro-cassette recorder, a drawing pad, candles, a rosary–any object that helps you figure out life.
  • Go frivolous~ don’t think a sanctuary is all serious! Take your ipod along. Dance! Paint your toenails and read a magazine! Navel gaze. You may just need some extended down time–staring into space.
  • There are no rules. Do what you feel like doing. We’re taught not to trust our feelings. That if we got to do what we felt like, we’d all be drug addicts, cheaters who eat nothing but Oreos. Trust yourself. Do what feels right. Sleep. Stare. Rant. Cry. Sleep some more.
  • Your sanctuary is off limits to everyone else. Make your boundaries. No interruptions. No phone calls. Unless there’s blood and lots of it–you are not to be called away from your most important work–taking care of you.
  • You’ll be surprised, but your family and friends will respect your space–if you do. This is a great example for your children.
  • Don’t expect “results.”
  • This isn’t a magic box. It’s a place to rest or even to rejuvinate. Recenter. Calm down. Work things out. Place no expectations. This isn’t like Weight Watchers for the soul. You don’t have to weigh in and measure if you’ve gained or lost since last week. Just be.
  • You may need to use your sanctuary to work out your anger, hurt, and resentment. One thing I do when I’m really upset is to write it all down on scraps of paper, say it outloud, and then burn it. It helps to watch your anger turn to ash.

Pick a Sanctuary Location:

  • Some people like clearing out a closet and placing a chair, pillows, and a small table and light in their “prayer closet.” Oprah recently featured a sanctuary closet that was really decked out. 
  • Others like to go outside–they hide away in the nook of the yard and get the benefit of nature to heal them.
  • One friend keeps her “special box” she calls it in the car. She literally walks out the door and goes and sits in her car. Her family is less likely to find her there and she feels safe and cocooned. She can scream, cry or laugh in her sound-proof sanctuary.
  • For some, it’s in the bathroom. They retreat eat night to the tub–they keep candles, soaps, and a journal on hand. They know that being naked will most likely keep people away! Hey! Whatever works!
  • Be like my cat and change your sanctuary every once in a while.

Cats are great to observe. They seem to make their spots seem sacred. My cat picks a spot and goes there after breakfast each morning. He gives himself a luxurious bath, folds in his little paws and I swear, if cats could pray, I’d think he was praying. Then, he takes a nap.

This week, his spot is under my birth grandmother’s rocking chair in my bedroom. He tends to pick a spot and goes there for 3-4 weeks before picking another spot. Recently, it’s been in the back of my closet–that’s when he doesn’t want to be found. A few weeks ago, it was on a chair next to the dining room windows so he could enjoy the sun. I knew where he was, but he’s also quiet and hidden away enough to not invite attention. Smart cat.

What Do I Do in My Sanctuary?

First, let’s address what you DON’T do.

  • You don’t take care of anybody but you.
  • You don’t stay busy just to avoid what’s bothering you.
  • You don’t have your thoughts constantly interrupted with the chatter of life.
  • You don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with the demands of every day life.

This is What You DO:

Rest. Think. Imagine. Work out hurts. Cry. Zone out. Learn (maybe take a book?) Find your joy.

If it feels odd at first because you’ve never done anything like this, then let it feel odd. Your sanctuary practice will be even more necessary at the end of your loved one’s life–and especially during your time of grief. Create this space now so that you’ll have a place to run to when you really need it.

Like my cat, I change my locale every once in a while.

Right now, it’s on my back porch on my parent’s glider (they had it since I was adopted in 1965). I have a stack of books on one arm, and I recently bought a big cushion–in case I get sleepy. About 9am you’ll find me there with my 2nd cup of coffee, my journal, a few magazines, a no doubt, a couple of dogs by my feet.

I’m a Guy and This Sounds Lame:

Does it?

My daddy had a sanctuary. He called it a garage. He built it himself. He left for his garage every morning after breakfast (he was retired at this point) and after his game shows. He putzed, worked on a broken lamp, put in a small bathroom. He listened to talk radio. For the most part, he was alone–although a few friends would come and visit. Mama and I came down but never really stayed long. It felt like we were intruding.

He’d come back to the house with a smile. He’d had his time to himself. He smelled of sawdust and linseed oil–and peanuts and Coke he kept in a cooler to sustain him throughout the day. He came back relaxed because he allowed himself this break. He didn’t have to listen to Mama nag or me talk incessantly. He came back ready to be a dad and husband. Smart man.

Caregiving stress is a real issue with real ramifications to your health and realtionships. Sometimes we unknowingly contribute to our own stress by always being on call. Sometimes it’s a power thing we’re unaware of, sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s just a plain ole’ bad habit we can’t figure out how to break.

You need a sanctuary–caregiving or not.

You need to know that the world won’t fall apart because you take a half an hour and pull inward.

Like Daddy, you’ll come back refreshed.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/mothering

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One of the practices hospice recommends is to ask your loved one’s fforgiveness–and to offer yours.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. The importance, or power of forgiveness and how it might keep us here on earth, lingering. Everything hospice does is to make passing easy, comfortable, and to give a sense of closure to everyone.

And here’s this forgiveness“issue” needing to be addressed, perhaps for the first time in many family member’s lives–and for others, it’s a reassurance, a final healing of many healings we all must go through in life.

Isn’t it amazing that a lack of forgiveness can hold you to this world when your spirit is ready to leave?

It doesn’t even matter if your loved one is in a coma, or if they have cancer and are on morphine, or if they have Alzheimer’s or some other neurological disorder that may make you feel that they are beyond understanding. They’re not. You’re not. I believe that forgiveness, and the ability to give and receive forgiveness is at a cellular level. What we think, dwell on, harbor, hold on to, refuse to let go of–it has to go somewhere. It enters our muscles, or bones, or organs, and permeates all that we are.

I’m not implying that those who linger on and on, for whatever reason have “unforgiveness.” I’m not saying that at all.

Sometimes the hurts we harbor are from blantant acts of cruelty while others bubbled from years of silent sorrows. Either are weights to our souls.

What’s it mean to forgive–and be forgiven?

I was brought up in a Christian based household, and unfortuately, some interpretations of the Bible have us tangled in sin and shame. We create a trap we can’t seem to find our way out of. Not all faiths do this, not all families or churches do this, but I know that it took me some time to realize God doesn’t need to do the forgiving, we do. 

God’s forgiveness of humanity, of each individual’s life is limitless, and easy. He’s not into grudges, resentments, and guilt. We are. Unfortunately. We’re the ones that have to “work at” forgiveness.

“Forgiveness means being able to finally say, ‘thank you for giving me the insights I’ve gained from this experience.'”

I heard this from one of the founders of the book, The Secret, and no matter how you feel about that subject, this quote turned things upside down for me–in a good way.

That hit me in my gut. I thought of rape victims, family members of murder victims, family members of people who have overdosed or committed suicide, of all the lives taken by war and disease…and yet all of us, all of us must eventually come to our own end, to a place of giving and receiving forgiveness.

No matter what has been done to us.

No matter what we have done.

We will all be there, in our final days and minutes of passing–and forgiveness stands guard of the gate.

***

I can only speak of my own life here. My own hurts. I’ve had some. And it took a long, long time to come to this place. I’m not necessarily grateful for the experience, but I am grateful for what I’ve learned. My deepest hurts and shames, both of my own doing and that done to me, what I’ve learned has been a greater tenderness for life, a few stones of wisdom to carry in my pocket, and the ability (occasionally) to discern what’s really important.

This is what I’ve learned. What I’ve gleaned from a few very dark nights.

***

I can’t begin to postulate as to how to do this, or when, and I’m not going to lecture anyone here. If you’re reading this post, maybe it’s for a reason. You’ll know when you need to look at something again. You’ll know–life has a way of revealing what it is we’re supposed to deal with, examine.

It’s okay if it isn’t right now. If the wound is fresh, then most likely, no. You’ll have time. This isn’t something to fix or check off a list. Forgiveness is rarely instantaneous, and it can’t be forced.

Again, for me, I get lots of “passes at” forgiveness. I’m usually a last minute packer, but this is one area, I hope not to leave to last minute.

It’s like circling a mountain. Each time I find myself at the same location, looking at the same old issue, but sometimes, my elevation is a bit higher. I do a little heart work, see it from a different perspective, and then I keep walking–knowing that I’ll circle the mountain again, and I’ll have a new opportunity. Until then, I need to just live.

***

If you or your loved one is at this last juncture, and this question is one that needs to be addressed, know that this isn’t your last time. Heart work, healing work continues. Two bodies don’t have to be on earth to continue learning and forgiving.

But take this moment, say the words, “I forgive you. Will you forgive me?”

Whether it comes out just like that–or in some other form, words or no words, allow the power of forgiveness to change you.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

www.mothering-mother.com

 

 

Forgivess quotes:

Forgiveness is the giving, and the receiving, of life.     George MacDonald

Forgivess is the frangrance the violet gives when the heal has crushed it.    Mark Twain

Forgivness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

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One of the biggest issues I had as a caregiver was no energy!

I knew I was doing a lot, caring for my mom (She had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and lived with us)  and raising three daughters, but I still felt like most of my work was at home, not terribly hard or fast-paced, so why did I  always feel as if I was swimming in peanut butter?

I had such big plans. I thought since I was basically under house arrest, I’d spring clean, write more, paint a room, take a French course on the Internet. Caregiving wasn’t going to defeat me!

Nada.

I couldn’t make myself do anything. My body and my mind had gone to mush. Each day was a monotony of pills, food trays, doctor appointments, laundry and dinner…the nights were roller-coaster as mother’s sundowning made her more alert and agitated as the night wore on.

I was caring for a lot of people, yes, but when I began to observe what was draining my energy, it was less physically related than I initially suspected.

5 Caregiving Energy Zappers

  1. Lack of sleep.
  2. Worry and Regret
  3. Control Issues/Boundary Issues
  4. Holding on too long/not letting go

Lack of sleep is obvious, and the most physical of the 5 zappers. It’s also perhaps the most detrimental effect of caregiving. You have to realize that interrupted sleep is even harder on your body. You walk in a zombie state. You eat more to compensate, you can’t concentrate. We know that lack of sleep effects job perfornance, driving (even more than alcohol some argue), and your overall health and how it can contribute to obesity.The lack of sleep, compounded with the enormous challenges and responsibilities of caregiving creates a recipe for disaster.

What to do?

Tough one. Not all caregivers have the option or want to place their loved one in a facility.

Couple of options: Do you have a friend or neighbor or relative who lives nearby that you could go and sleep in a guest bedroom once or twice a month? You need to be OUT of your house, so your body doesn’t have all those cues to wake up. Even if your spouse of someone is willing to take care of your mom/dad/loved one, it’ll still wake you. Go somewhere else. Even a night at the Motel 8 is a good use of your money. Trust me on this one.

Second option: call you local council on aging and find out about respite services in your area. Or call a large church and ask for an adult sitter–or take your loved one to an adult day care. Insist they go. If they’re pouty, oh well. You have to take care of your health. You have to nap. You have to sleep! Without sleep, your body doesn’t repair itself. You could have a car accident, give your loved one the wrong dosage. You have to address this. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem that leads to many other problems.

Worry and regret: These are two hound dogs that won’t give up. They bullies and they’ll taunt you, pick at you, needle at you until you do what you have to do to all bullies, bears, lions and tigers.

How to face your inner bullies:

Stop running. Turn around. Take a deep breath.

PUFF UP. That’s what they tell you if you’re in the woods and are attacked by a bear.

Yell, bang pots, scream NO! Throw your arms around appear big and large and menacing and prove to that bully (and yourself) that you’re not running any more.

Worry is looking forward, living in fear of a future that isn’t even here yet. What if…?

Regret is looking back, beating yourself up for what’s already done. Why did I?

Both are not living in the present.

I just finished Eckhart Tolle’s book, The New EarthOprah’s bookclub pick. Get it on CD (his voice is about as flat as Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer, but the book’s so heady, it’s easier to listen to than read) His insights into living in this present moment, and why that brings peace, purpose and joy was refreshing really rang deep within my bones.

Worry and regret are just borrowing trouble, and trouble multiplies. They will eat at your mind, your heart and your life and will never stop. There’s always something to worry about, always something to regret.

What to do? Again, stop,  turn around, face this bully and say “NO.”

I suggest wearing one of those wrist bands (one of those rubber band/bracelet things). and every time you start to worry or regret, snap it real hard. Say out loud, STOP. Choose a good thought to replace it with. Have 2-3 fall back thoughts to replace the negative ones with–or put on music but stop the cycle.

Control Issues/ Boundary issues: You’re either one way or the other. You have to control everything–or you dont’ know how to say no.

It comes with the territory, and let’s face it, caregivers are bossy. Either by nature or by default, we’re used to running things. We know how mom likes her eggs, how to get her to take her pills, how we like the bed made, and on and on…. We don’t ask for help because we want things done our way.

Caregivers are all people pleasers. We like being needed, but the problem is, it mounts and mounts, and we simply can’t do it all. Stage left, in comes worry and regret. We need help, We need to give up our perfectionism and realize that we don’t always have to be busy–control thrives off of busyness, and after a while, caregivers forget how to do anything other than care give! We sit in front of the tv with our families and feel we should fold laundry, make next week’s list. We don’t know how to just relax any more because we’re in uber-mode.

How to stop? Breathe. One deep breath at at time. Ask for help, and then tell yourself that no one has to do it your way. Find small 5 minute relaxers–a bath, a walk, and try not to think ahead, plan, or organize your thoughts. Just be. Each time you feel your nerves building. Stop, Breathe. Fill every ounce of your lungs. Do it three times. The world can wait. Breathing is a great stress reducer.

Grieving: Those of us who have a loved one with a “life limiting illness or disease” as hospice says, knows that our time with our loved one is running out. Alzheimer’s, ALS, Lewy Body can take our loved one from us long before they leave this earth. We still have all the physical care, but without the reward of the relationship with our loved one. They might not know who we are, might not be appreciative or even be capable of talking.

We’re already grieving. Our hearts ache, and yet we have to keep on. Grieving is hard, necessary work, but it’s still work and it takes an enormous amount of energy to grieve.

If this is where you are in your life, first, recognize it.

Second, be easy on yourself. 

No wonder you don’t have energy. Just get through. Grieve as only you can. Does that mean sleeping, flipping channels? crying? Do whatever you can to get through.

Look for ways to soothe your soul–journal, pray or meditate, go out in nature and just sit. Talk if that helps, or be silent. This is a part of the process and we have to honor grief. When we do, when we don’t fight it but let it naturally occur, then it’s healing and cathartic–and it doesn’t last forever. As hard as it is, trust that joy and energy will return.

Letting go: Holding up a cardboard box isn’t difficult, right? It’s not heavy, but stand there long enough and that cardboard box starts feeling like a boulder. Not letting go is the same way. You can’t get your mother back from Alzheimer’s. I’m sorry. I really am. But you can’t. You have to let go that she doesn’t know you. You can’t get an ex husband back who’s already married again. You can only move on with your life. You can’t regret you didn’t finish college. You can go now, but regretting the past is useless.

Holding on is subtle and can go undetected. We think we have. We don’t pay attention to the snippets of thoughts in our heads, that running dialogue. We don’t realize we’re holding hurts and grudges, that we want things to be the way they were even though we know that life has changed. We’ve changed.

When my nephew, Charles was about three years old, his mother came to the back door and offered him and his older sister a cupcake. Charles had a matchbox car in one hand, and a palmetto bug (big roach!) in the other. He looked at the cupcake, looked at his car, looked at the big, and couldn’t decide.

Then he popped the roach in his mouth and grabbed the cupcake!

Lesson here: Let go of the “cock roaches” in your life, and take the cupcake!

I ask you, what are you holding onto? What do you need to grieve? What are you going to have to let go of and then hold out your empty hands and trust that something or someone new will come into your life. I can’t promise that you’re not going to have to sit with that void for awhile, and that’s what we’re all afraid of–but I can promise you this:

Until you let go, you’re hindering all the good out there that’s waiting to come into your life.

Energy zappers keep us from our joy and purpose. They make us exhausted, grumpy and lost in a fog.

By identifying our nemesis, our energy zapper–we can stop, turn, look at it for what it is, and make better choices.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

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 “We’re Not That Close:” Celebrations for Relationship Challenged Mothers and Daughters How do you celebrate Mother’s Day (or birthdays and other special days) if your relationship is less than perfect?   

  • Plan an activity: go to the zoo, a concert, a spa day, or a play—doing something is a good way to avoid getting into sticky issues
  • Keep the time-frame short—a couple of hours is plenty for you to be on your best behavior
  • Focus on one good moment and hold that in your thoughts. If you can, thank her for that day, that time she was there for you. Being grateful for the smallest act of kindness is good for everyone.
  • Include other people so there’s people to buffer you–kids, cousins, even your mother’s friends. Sandwich generation moms can buffer with family, so use it to your advantage
  • Promise yourself a treat for being “nice” and then follow through
  • Relax and let snide comments, digs, and hints for you to do more/be more roll off your back. Be proud of yourself for taking the high road.
  • If your mother has Alzheimer’s or is in a care facility, you might honor her by remembering a care person in her life–thank that person for doing what you can’t.
  • Consider an anti-mother’s day-day. Be with your mom during the week or on that Saturday, but take the pressure off that day. Do something unusual—repaint your bedroom in teal, rent mopeds with a friend, and celebrate the fact that you already honored your mom and now you can honor you.  

Accept your relationship as it is today. Hope and believe that the future will be easier, but for now laugh at the quirks and frustrations of life. Some of the most challenging relationships teach us the most. Focus on what you’ve learned about yourself, how resilient you are, and how you choose to love past the imperfections of life.

Carol D. O’Dell Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Huorous and Heartbreaking Memoiravailable on Amazon www.mothering-mother.comwww.kunati.com

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I received a great email the other day from Gourete, and she used the term, “Rabid Caregiver.”

I had to laugh! I thought of the sign you put on a  chain link fence: “Guard Dog: Beware.”

Even if you didn’t see a dog, you were expecting a vicious Rottweiler to leap out and show his foaming, gnarling teeth.

 You knew if he jumped that fence you were in big trouble. Stephen King didn’t write Cujo for nothing.

Yep, that fits the description of a rabid caregiver.

There were just some days when I was not pleasant to anyone. I always had a fantasy of getting in my car and driving to some podunk seaside town and becoming a seedy (okay, delicate boned, long-haired melancholy) waitress and change my name to Lola so no one would find me.

I blame it on lack of sleep, monotony, my mother’s uncanny ability to hardly walk due to Parkinson’s and even though she had Alzheimer’s and forgot my name (I became, “Little Girl” after a while), and there were times couldn’t tell the difference between a telephone and a house shoe, somehow she could still find ways to be manipulative and undermining.

And then there were the mounting frustrations with a health care system that didn’t seem to listen to me, or help my mother in ways I really believed they could–not to mention that I was raising three teenagers (one away at college, but trust me, that “ain’t grown”), and the normal give and take of a marriage.

I was going to snap. I’d walk out the back door, down to the river and scream. Screaming is good. Find a closet, a pillow, a car–and go scream. I also imagined my life under different circumstances….

I wrote in Mothering Mother:

Thrive

I’ve decided to turn myself into the Department of Family and Children Services.

I’ll call in a report using one of those voice change deals you see on movies when the bad guys ask for a ransom.

I’ll tell them I’m an unfit mother, I mean, daughter. I’ll tell them Mother’s failing to thrive. That’s what nurses say about babies who aren’t doing well, when they’re not gaining weight or responding to stimulus. I’ll tell them we’re not bonding.

I’ll try and look sad when they take her away.“My baby, my baby!”

I’ll sob at the front door for a good show. I hope they won’t notice the beach bag next to my feet stuffed with my car keys, a book, and sunscreen. They’ll put her in a foster home. I hope they have Klondike Bars or she’ll be one unhappy guest.

I don’t think I’ll tell them she’s delirious; it’ll take them a little longer to assess the situation if they don’t know exactly what they’re dealing with. They’ll tell me I have supervised visitation privileges. Maybe I’ll tell them I pose a threat and then I’ll twitch.

Maybe they’ll get me therapy. I love therapy. I like talking about me.

I’d love to sit in a clean office and read magazines I don’t ever get to buy and drink chilled water out of the water cooler in those cone shaped paper cups. I hope the person in front of me has some serious issues and they have to go into overtime, like a baseball game when the score is tied at the end of the ninth inning.

I like those pictures that health care facilities have on their walls—the ones with uplifting nature scenes and quotes on the bottom: Success is when preparation meets opportunity, or something equally nauseating.

I might have to have some fun with the counselor, as she looks at me with a glazed face that only years of institutionalized learning can produce. I’ll make up a humdinger of a story, like Mother beat me when I was a kid. Wait, that part’s true.

Maybe they’ll give me medication, though I prefer to remember my pain. It keeps me from going through things twice.

I might suggest rehab. Twenty-eight days in a serene environment with grounds that rival the Augusta National’s will give me a place to roll down hills and get in touch with my inner child.I’m more afraid DFACS will decide to give me a second chance, and I’ll have to go to court where a judge will review my records then tell me I can have full custody again.

In that case, I might have to have a relapse. 

Cujo, oh yeah.

I remember scratching my head a lot. It’s a nervous habit, something I do when I’m frustrated. I won’t mention all my other nervous ticks.

I stopped calling my friends because God knows I didn’t want to hear me complain, I couldn’t imagine they did.

I gained 30 pounds and man, was that easy to do!

The only perk that came out of grumpy mood was that I cut a couple of toxic people out of my life.

Mother was consuming my patience like a gas guzzling Hummer and I had nothing left for anyone else who crossed me, and I just did it. Nice girl, me–ousted a couple of folks who to this day still don’t know why. I just remember one day thinking, “Mother’s all I can handle, and I don’t need anyone else pushing my buttons.”

I find that bad mood jags are a vortex that just won’t stop.

You don’t mean to fall in the swirl, but once you’re in you can’t get out. I’d mull over what mother said, mull over the fight with the nurse, mull over the fact that my daughter just left on the back of a crotch rocket (a very uncomfortable motorcycle in which your butt sits up higher than your head and no one over 35 would want to ride).

Are you in a vortex can’t seem to get out of?

Is everybody bugging you?

Do you walk around with a scowl on your face?

Try writing a fantasy. I swear, it helps.

If you send them to me at writecarol@comcast.net,

I’ll publish them–anonymously if you need me to.

It’s great fun, and I promise you’ll feel better.

~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 

Kunati Publishing

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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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