Category Archives: aging

Thoughts from the end of the world

These are bonafide whacky times. This free fall of the once great America is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I hear comparisons to the AIDS epidemic and the immediate post-9/11 days and understand and appreciate the obvious similarities. This, though? This is different.

There’s a children’s book that I despise, The Giving Tree. I’ve been thinking about it in recent weeks because I feel a common thread between Donald Trump’s followers and the tree which couldn’t say no. Trump’s believers have willingly placed themselves in the very same position as that tree, cutting off a limb with each previously unacceptable comment ignored (mocking a differently abled journalist, pussygrabber, Pocahontas, nasty) and every act of utter incompetence perpetrated (refusing WHO mask donation, keeping people on boats to continue to skew numbers, eliminating an entire federal medical department trained to anticipate and deal with pandemics.) by this president. I seriously don’t know how a single person would allow themselves to cut down to a stump by this fool, this jester,  dressed like a king.

So, on a lighter note – What’s on your pandemic playlist?

R.E.M.’s It the End of the World as We Know It is the obvious song for me, but I’ve got some others in mind which also strike me as appropriate such as this…

Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

The future’s uncertain and the end is always near

I welcome your contributions for the ultimate zombie apocalypse playlist. Leave yours in a comment, please!

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your own compliance with recommendations for changing behaviors in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak? 1 being completely blasé and 10 abiding to suggestions like you’re a kid and Santa’s watching because it’s the week before Christmas.

I’m feeling proud and impressed by the real leaders who make decisions based upon what they believe is the best thing for the public at large, and not necessarily for themselves. Governor Cuomo and the superintendent of my district have both, with calm gravity, conveyed the important and necessary messages and are working hard to get the job done, whatever it may be. Bravo.

Shoutout to store clerks and customer service reps. All working their asses off.

Some questions to ponder:

  • What do you want to be doing when the world ends?
  • Are you really going to hate on yourself for gaining 10 lbs and not have that ice cream? With sprinkles?
  • What matters most?
  • Can you help someone else during this tumultuous and anxiety inducing time?
  • What will we learn about each other during, and after, this crisis?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, medical, musings, News, Observations, politics, sick, stress, travel

Sleepless in Albany

I don’t know what to blame it on – the full moon, the clock change manipulation of time, politics, Coronavirus, upcoming travel plans, parenting angst, the uncertainty of the future, not being able to run…but getting quality sleep has become an issue for me and I’m not happy about it.

It isn’t as if I haven’t gone through spells like this before, but right now I’m really feeling distressed. After a long day of being bombarded by the idiocy of our President, the relentless media coverage of what may turn out to be a pandemic and my own internal struggle to remain in the moment without projection of any kind, all I want is six solid hours of shut eye. Is that too much to ask, universe?

Last night’s “rest” was exceptional, as in exceptionally bad. I thought I did everything right, an afternoon pedicure for relaxation, a light dinner followed by an evening walk with Jeter, and a hot (but, not too hot) bath before climbing into bed by 9:30. All systems go, right?

At 10:41, I woke up for the first time. I resisted unlocking my phone and instead started mentally packing for an upcoming trip, planning outfits and shoe selections. When that failed to lull me back to sleep, I started thinking instead about the weather here and what items I might want to order in my next Rent the Runway shipment. I dozed off.

I next awoke at about 1:30. This time, though, I was unsuccessful in coaxing myself back to sleep without reaching for my iPad and completing today’s NYT crossword puzzle. Seventeen short minutes later, my eyes were still wide open. I rolled over and grabbed one of Jeter’s paws to hold as a sort of adult stuffed animal comfort object. Yes, I really do that sometimes. My eyes shut and I returned to sleep for about 40 minutes.

At 3:02 my eyes sprang open again and I attempted to soothe myself with a yoga inspired alternate nostril breathing exercise. Unfortunately, there was no zen to be had. Instead, there was an odd and distant noise that prevented me from resuming sleep. I turned the light on and read my book for about 20 minutes, which is always a last resort for me.

This last time, I went down hard and the remaining hours prior to my alarm waking me up, were filled with crazy dreams. I don’t recall all the details, but I remember living somewhere new in an apartment that initially seemed very small. As the dream continued, the space revealed more rooms than I had initially seen. There were doorways which I walked through only to find additional bedrooms with beds larger than the one I had originally believed to be mine. The family who owned the property invited me to explore and make myself at home wherever I felt comfortable. 

When the alarm woke me at 6:00, I was groggy and disoriented. I hit snooze and ended the Beatles’ wake up song, Good Day, Sunshine, I rely upon to start my day off right, closed my eyes and hoped the dream would restart.

It didn’t.

It’s going to be a long day.

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Filed under aging, musings, politics, stress

Life is messy

From the minute we’re born, we seem to be placing ourselves in, and extracting and ourselves from, one mess after another. It just seems unavoidable. Despite best intentions to keep things tidy and unsullied, maintaining an existence which is uncomplicated and neat feels impossible. At least to me.

Sometimes, especially when my three sons were younger, the mess is a physical one. Toys strewn from room to room, crumbs and mysterious sticky remnants of unauthorized bedroom snack consumption, and Lego blocks turning up unexpectedly underfoot like Christmas pine tree needles in July. Those days have mostly passed for me. My home is definitely neater, aside from multiple pairs of sneakers in alarmingly large sizes randomly abandoned in the precise spot where they were casually kicked off.

Literal messes happen to all of us – that box of blueberries that popped open and released uncountable orbs of blue all over the kitchen floor, tumbleweeds of dog hair, the leaky trash bag drizzling garbage juice all the way down the stairs as a final gross goodbye. For these situations we arm ourselves with sponges and brooms and cleaners. Getting things back in order is a chore to be managed, an accomplishment to forget about once it’s completed. No big deal.

Returning a physical mess to its previous state (or even one that’s improved) can be annoying, but generally it’s pretty easy. You wipe, sweep, mop and you’re done.

Life’s less tangible messes are a whole different story, though. Relationships and emotions are not nearly as easy to manage and they’re nowhere as simple to contain as even the most rogue of escaped blueberries. There’s nothing neat or tidy about our feelings and, since typically our emotional state is not independent of those we care about, limiting their impact on others is a much more difficult task.

Working through an emotional mess is a challenge, even if we attempt to deal with it in the same direct and efficient manner we use to address a spill. Unfortunately, there’s no product available to scrub our hearts or heads clean, no Shamwow to absorb all the emotions and thoughts swirling inside ourselves. Like the days of small boys behaving like mini cyclones in my previously neat home, it will pass. Until then, all one can do is their best to avoid stepping on anything that hurts.

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Filed under aging, family, house, love, musings, Observations, relationships

Recuperation under the watchful eyes of a Labrador nurse

Being a patient is not really my thing. I’m not sure if that comes from growing up without the presence of an overly indulgent parent or simply being uncomfortable with too much personal attention, but either way, I prefer to be alone when I’m not feeling 100%.

Meniscus surgery recovery has been remarkably undramatic. The procedure seemed to go well and I haven’t felt the need for any prescription pain medication since the first day. I made use of my son’s leftover crutches for one day, opting for a jaunty cane beyond that. There was a lot of time spent on the couch, with my leg elevated, watching Schitt’s Creek, with the occasional episode of House Hunters thrown in to break up the binge.

The presence of the television in my house was more prevalent than usual, but my biggest companion for much of the week was Jeter. He really astounded me with his uncharacteristic gentleness and caution when it came to dealing with me. It was obvious from the very day of my surgery that he somehow knew something was going on with me that required sensitivity. Quinn noticed it immediately as he observed how calmly Jeter was behaving.

Generally speaking, Jeter is more than a little “bull in a china shop,” in terms of how he wields his 85 lbs around the house. His excitement when it’s time to go outside often results in him being a bit pushy, particularly on the staircase and outdoor front steps. I was really nervous about how I would be able to manage him and feared being yanked down the steps in Jeter’s zealous potential pursuit of a squirrel.

Remarkably, my fears were completely unfounded because the dog I often describe as “very handsome, but not so smart” shocked me with his recognition that something was different. He literally planted himself at my side, allowing me to rest my leg next to him. When it was time to go outside, he refrained from jumping or winding himself between my legs and waited patiently. The stairs were a completely new experience as he walked down the stairs slowly without his usual rambunctiousness. It was amazing.

Jeter may not be an official service dog, but he just might be the best nurse I’ve ever had.

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Filed under aging, DelSo, love, Observations, sick, television, vacation

Knee needs

Tuesday morning at an ungodly hour, I have an appointment in Clifton Park to have my meniscus trimmed and basically tidied up. Or in. Whatever. It’s going to be a little worse for a short time, but then it should get better.

I’ll be able to strengthen my body symmetrically instead of out of whack, as I innately protect my left side from further damage during yoga class. Both butt cheeks should hit the ground together in child’s pose and the bottom of my left foot will once again find the inside of my right thigh. Even more will be right in my world than it is today and that’s saying a lot.

Spending this winter break from school at home having, and recuperating from, knee surgery may not sound like an ideal vacation, but I’m psyched about it. Unless something goes terribly wrong, my discomfort is going to be abated and my flexibility will improve. And I’ll be able to run again.

It’s ok to be home recuperating in February when I’ve got 4 weeks of travel later this year to which I’m looking forward. Unlike my hobble when I initially landed in Athens last summer, I should be feeling stronger and more able to walk without pain or a limp during those upcoming weeks of foreign adventure. I’ll be better – physically and mentally. It’ll be great.

Today was my last walk around Muni pre-surgery and it was spectacular. There was no wind and the sun was bright and strong. Jeter was well behaved and placed his poops really well, near trash cans oddly marked “Inedible.” We walked the front 9, counterclockwise, adding a short loop by the clubhouse.

At one point we overtook a group of three humans and a couple of dogs and, as we passed them, I overheard one of the women talking about running. Judging from her attire of leggings and windbreaker, I concluded she had originally planned to run the course but, when she encountered her friends, changed her mind and decided to walk instead.

Hearing the word “run,” honestly, triggered me. Coincidentally, I was wearing my running shoes for the first time in months on the relatively clear paved path. I couldn’t not run.

Last uncut knee pic! Scars show life lived.

I ran slowly, reveling in how my body felt unleashed. My feet didn’t hurt and my hips felt loose. The sun was on my face as I smiled. I was so damn happy. I imagined being able to run again, without the tenderness I was currently experiencing on the inside of my left knee. That morning date with the orthopedic surgeon couldn’t come soon enough.

I really (k)need to just get this done.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Exercise, medical, Observations, running, travel, vacation

Defining luxury

I’m mentally packing for an upcoming weekend in Florida. Carry on only, of course. The weather looks a little dicey, but I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the warm air and my rented summer-esque wardrobe, even if it rains a little.

My plan is no plan – visiting friends and walking on the beach are the only things I really hope to do for the couple of days I’m away. If you have any recommendations for places to eat or drink in the Palm Beach vicinity, let me know.

So, does jetting off to Florida for three nights and two days sound to you like the ultimate indulgence? While it’s definitely a treat to escape New York in February, there’s something else going on in my life that feels a lot more luxurious…

Yesterday, I went to see a surgeon about my torn meniscus. I drove to the appointment in my cute and reasonably safe car, leaving work early using some of my accumulated paid sick time. The doctor reviewed the MRI, for which my HMO paid a negotiated and agreed upon price of $350. Had I not been insured, the out of pocket cost would have been closer to $900.

The orthopedist and I discussed treatment options and quickly agreed that a surgical approach was my best course of action. We picked a date two weeks out, during my official (paid) winter break from school. Prior to that date I will meet with my primary care provider for medical clearance for the procedure. I expect that appointment, like the office visit Monday, will cost me $25, which I will pay from my pre-tax flex spending plan.

After surgery, there will be a follow up visit to have the sutures removed and physical therapy to help me regain strength in my knee. My insurance will pay for all of this.

During these months of discomfort and pain and missing running, my favorite physical activity, I have never once had to consider how I would pay for the necessary medical care to help me get better. There hasn’t been a single moment when I’ve been concerned about not being able to go to work and receive my salary because I did not have paid sick time available.

Not once.

Now that, my friend, is genuine and real luxury.

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Filed under aging, Exercise, medical, musings, Observations, running, travel, winter

The cost of Free Lunch

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Monday, YALSA, the young adult librarian services arm of the American Library Association, awarded the 2020 nonfiction award to Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch a small book that left a huge impact on this reader. The memoir tells the story of Rex’s first semester of sixth grade in Texas. He’s just entered middle school, a milestone for which he was very excited. He’s a hardworking and bright student who loves to read and values the routine of school. In addition to his schoolwork, Rex shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility at home caring for his 2 1/2 year old brother and preparing meals since his mother “doesn’t cook.”

 

And, he’s poor. Really, really poor.

 

Rex lives with his mother, her boyfriend, and their child, in a two bedroom apartment in which all of the furniture items can be counted on one hand. Rex sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag, storing his meager wardrobe of ill fitting, but clean, clothing in cardboard boxes left over from the family’s most recent move. They move a lot.

 

There is never enough food in their home, but the threat of physical, emotional and verbal abuse fills the otherwise empty rooms. Grocery and school supply shopping expeditions are balancing acts between getting what is needed and not angering a mother who rages against every perceived societal injustice with a loud and confrontational voice.

 

Reading Rex’s words on the page prompted memories and strong feelings for me. We were poor, too. While my mother never was abusive, she also was not particularly interested in the emotional needs of her own children or sensitive to the pressures of fitting in socially. I just don’t think she had the resources to explore either of those avenues.

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I shared Free Lunch, along with Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s National Book Award Finalist graphic novel memoir, last week with my 7th grade students. The theme of the presentation, and the books I pulled, was families. I talked a little about the infinite number of household compositions that can be encompassed by the word Family. I told the kids about the embarrassment Ogle felt about his home situation and poverty and explained that I knew what he was talking about because of my own experiences growing up in a single parent household, being dependent upon welfare, and receiving free lunch.

 

When I was a kid, there were times when we had to devise ways to heat up food (pre-microwaves) when there was no gas for the stove. Hot water wasn’t always available and sometimes in the winter there was no water whatsoever because we had neglected to leave the water dripping on cold nights and the pipes had frozen. Most of the time, in home laundry was a luxury we didn’t have and I have memories of clothing drying near the wood burning stove upon which we were dependent for heat. 


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Hours of my childhood were spent in the overheated offices of the county social services building waiting as my mother reapplied for assistance. I learned at an early age that toilet paper, soap and aspirin were all considered nonessential and thus not able to be purchased with food stamps. And the embarrassment of free lunch? I’m very familiar with the shame of having to publicly admit that my family did not have the means to provide me with a midday meal.

 

My lesson finished with a “blind” book selection activity in which I asked students to close their eyes, reach into a bin filled with assorted books and withdraw one. As they lined up to perform the task, I explained that none of us get to pick the family that we’re born into and I requested that they sit down for 5-7 minutes with their randomly selected book and just read. Following their quiet reading, they had the option to borrow the book or opt for an alternative title. The choice, just like what might come next in their own lives, was theirs to make.

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Filed under aging, Books, Education, girlhood, News, Observations, Recommendations