Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflections of 2007

It's that time of year again, where people think back on the year as a whole.

Was it a good year? Was it bad? Have we learned anything? Gained some good old wisdom with each passing year?

The best of the year for us was the birth of two grandchildren. A girl and a boy.

The worst was Hubby's condition deteriorating. His oxygen needs increased dramatically after a hospitalization back in April.

But as the days march on, we are learning to "dance in the rain", rather than "waiting for the storm to pass". As time goes on, I am beginning to accept this illness and our situation. I don't feel the need to vent anymore (at least not today).

Wisdom is about accepting the things we can't change. And we can't change COPD. So we learn to live with it. Somehow we muddle through.

I look back on 2007 and give thanks that we have each other, our families and friends. We have a warm home and food on our table. And electricity!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Grandma gifts OR through the eyes of a child

"What would you like for Christmas, Dad (or birthday or father's day)?", I asked as a child.
"Smiling faces, nobody fighting", was his constant reply.
"Nooooo", I would wail. I can't wrap that up for you! What do you want that I can wrap up?"
Dad would only smile and repeat his mantra.
Frustrated, I would tell him about Susie who was buying her father a tie or a pen and pencil set - typical gifts for fathers back then.
"I just want to see everyone happy" he'd say.

Mom would gently take me aside and suggest I make Dad something - a card or a picture. Even that sounded dumb to my childish ears. I could draw him a picture any old day. That was not a special enough gift for my Dad.

Time changes, years pass and I find myself in my Dad's shoes.
My most precious gifts are the ones my grandchildren make for me.
A wobbly outline of their hand, drawn in a bright red crayon, fingers fat as sausages.
Pictures of a skinny house with no windows and a chimney pouring out smoke on a bright summer's day (as evidenced by the stick-like flowers and huge yellow sun).
A sparkly, sticky glob of glue - that was supposed to be a Christmas ornament.
A gingerbreadman cookie with a bite out of it.
A hard lump of playdoh - "grandma, I made you a camel!" (what in the world would I want a camel for?)

But the best of the best are the pictures of people - from the child's perspective. Gigantic mothers and tiny children. Baby brother who is as big as Dad. Grandma or Grandpa who take up the whole page - or only a small corner of it. People missing ears or necks; someone wearing glasses who normally doesn't. People with long legs and short arms - or short legs and long arms.

It is such a joy to watch their little eyes light up as they proudly hand you their gift - or eagerly unwrap it for you.
"I made this all by myself!"
"Really?" (I could never have guessed).

The whirlwind years of bringing up my own children have come and gone with lightening speed. Now that I'm a Grandma, I have time to reflect, to cherish the really important things in life.

Now I understand what my Dad was talking about all those years ago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


A new generation is born! Grandchild #6 was born yesterday - the day after Christmas - 3 weeks early!!

A healthy baby boy. 6 lbs. 13 oz. - exactly the same birthweight as Grandchild #5 - a little girl, born January of this year.
Looks like 2007 was a good year for our family - with two new little ones to carry on the family traditions - adding some leaves to the family tree.

How will our world look to these little ones over the next few years?
They are growing up in a world where fast-paced technology is the norm. Reality shows make you feel like you really are in the middle of the jungle or whatever the scenario. I remember how excited we were to get a black-and-white T.V. - back about 100 years ago or so. We had our choice of 2 channels - wowie!

What new developments will they see in their lifetime? What other forms of communication will they experience as our world evolves?

Food for thought as we look towards the future and prepare for the New Year ahead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Untangling Christmas Spirit

Ahhh Christmas is finally here! What emotions do this magical season conjure up for you? Loving, giving, joy, happiness, abundance (or lack of), religion, spirituality - all of the above? None of the above?

Christmas is for everybody, but it's the children that turn it into magic: Santa flying over the rooftops, reindeer hoofs and jingling bells, sugar cookies, chocolate milk and sparkly eyes.
Watching a child unwrap a present on Christmas morning is truly magical for me. Capturing that little face on camera as it transforms into a look of pure joy, is music to my soul.

I went to my daughter's on Sunday (Dec. 23) to celebrate our Christmas. Hubby stayed home because he doesn't go out anymore and it would be too chaotic and noisy if we had Christmas here.

Being flexible is part of my nature. We don't have to celebrate on the specific day. Life is complicated enough - there are in-laws, out-laws, out-of-town relatives, etc. etc. etc. So we celebrate Christmas and other holidays when the time is right for everyone.

I arrived at my daughter's loaded with goodies. My granddaughter had just come out of hospital, so Daughter hadn't had a chance to prepare much. That meant I brought the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, crisp, raw vegetables and dip and cranberry loaf and shortbread cookies for dessert. This grandma had been busy.

A while later my son and his family arrived. The children looked happy and excited - the parents exhausted. We opened gifts first - no sense making the kids wait until after the meal. I've done that before; it doesn't work. The kids are too wound up to eat - they just want the gifts. And parents become short-tempered. Not the kind of atmosphere to celebrate Christmas.

I was so proud of myself - I had bought Youngest Grandson a " Little People Farm" which required batteries (I didn't realize that when I bought it), so before wrapping it up, I sifted through the kitchen drawer, found the appropriate batteries and taped them to the gift. My daughter-in-law was ecstatic.

"I hate it when the toys need batteries and no one thinks of including them!"
I can understand her feelings. I'd be upset too, if the first thing I had to do was run out and buy batteries.

However, my pride turned into embarassment when I discovered the digital cameras ($20 at Walmart - not expensive ones) I had given the older grandkids needed those dreaded batteries. Had I known, or read the instructions (they make the print sooooooo darn small, I can't read it) I would have bought the frigging batteries and everyone would be happy. Oops!

Sitting around the dining room table, stuffing our faces with turkey, my 6-year-old grandson must have been talking effusively about the gifts he would be opening Christmas morning from Santa (I personally don't see anything wrong with that. I guess his mother thought differently).

"Christmas is not just about presents," she admonished "it's about Christmas Spirit, about Baby Jesus".

Immediately smiles vanished to be replaced by sober looks.

"Oh yes, Older Brother said - this is Jesus's day."
"Jesus's birthday, you dork" said his 11-year old sister.

So - what is a grandma to do?
Well, this one started singing "Happy Birthday to you!" Happy Birthday to you"

The kids looked up at me in surprise.
"Happy Birthday to Jesus, Happy Birthday to youuuuuu"!

The table erupted in laughter, bringing back those precious smiles and happy faces once more.
Their mother was not amused. She later fell asleep on the couch.

I felt just fine - Somebody had to untangle Christmas Spirit and bring it back to our table!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Being thankful for little things

No, this is not going to be a soppy blog about counting our blessings or being grateful for what we have - I'll probably do that one as we get closer to Christmas - or maybe after.

In my new role of "caregiver for everything in the house too" I went down the basement to get our decorations for the tree. We do things in stages around here. The tree went up a few days ago - now it's time to decorate it.

Turning the corner into the furnace and storage room, I innocently walked right into a puddle of water.
Yikes! Sopping feet!
Our furnace was going full-blast, but there was water was seeping out from underneath.

I quickly threw some old newspapers on the water, hoping to absorb the worst of it. No I didn't feel like getting old towels (which would be much more absorbant), I'd only have to throw them in the washing machine afterwards. Newspaper I could shoot out, or recycle.

It was the humidifier leaking. I had to help hubby down the stairs and into the treacherous furnace room so he could advise me where the darn "turn-off valve" was and which way to turn it off.

Climbing on a stool, scrunched under a furnace pipe, over the water-heater (how on earth do big, strong, service men get into tiny spaces like this?) I turned the valve. The water continued to drip. I turned it the other way - it still continued to drip.
O.K. time to call the service people. Hubby'd had enough and went to take a nap. I called Service.
"Just turn off the valve and we will be in your area on Monday"
Monday? This was Thursday. We're suppposed to have a leaky furnace for 4 days - are you nuts???
"Lady, just put a pail under the leak and turn off the valve."
"I did and it still leaks and I don't want to have a leaky furnace for 4 days. It's dangerous!
"Well, what can we do?"
I could have told him what he could do, but I did want them to come to the house.

Back downstairs to check. Maybe magically the leak had stopped. No such luck. I was really getting angry now. How dare they expect me to live like this. What kind of service is that?
I looked at the make of humidifier - Honeywell. They must have a number to call. I found them in the phone book and called "technical support".

To make a long story short, the fellow in "technical support" told me to check and see if one of the tubes (inflow or outflow) was blocked.
I did.
One of them was.
I poured warm vinegar water down the tube to try and break up the sediment.
It didn't work.
In desperation I untwisted a wire coat hanger, straightened it out and shoved it down the still mucky tube.
It worked!!
Hubby woke up from his afternoon nap to find the humidifier running smoothly and the water cleaned up.

I waited until the next day to call the furnace company - just in case.

"You can cancel the service call scheduled for Monday - I fixed it myself!" I told the girl proudly.
"Good for you", she answered "you saved yourself a lot of money. Why don't you go and buy yourself a nice expensive Christmas present?"
I laughed and told her I 'd buy her one too.

In the big picture of Life, this is just a drop in the bucket (no more water, puleese!) a little thing, but I am thankful I was able to solve the problem on my own.

Monday, December 10, 2007

O Christmas Tree

As the years go by, I find myself taking on more and more of the workload at home.

Over the weekend I decided to shovel a path from our driveway to the back of the house where the oil tank outlet (connection? pipe?) was, so that when the "oil delivery man" delivered our home heating oil, he wouldn't be stomping through drifts of snow, cursing us as he went.

I looked in the garage where we usually keep the snow shovel. Staring back at me was our garden rake. Rake? Nobody's used that since sometime in November.

Usually my husband quietly goes about his chores; putting away the gardening tools, and bringing out the winter ones. Knowing when it's time to winterize the car, clean the windows or gutters. Just like I would effortlessly serve a roast or a stew at dinner. You don't see all the work and preparation that goes beforehand. But dinner is served, clothes are washed, seasons change and so do the tools.

I've relied on Hubby for so long to do those little things, but now I have to face the fact that he can't anymore. So I dutifully stomped through the snow to the toolshed, forced open the door against the snowdrift and found the shovel crammed in towards the back. Nuts! I'd meant to bring the rake with me, but had left it back in the garage - oh well, it can just stay there for the winter.

On to the buying of our Christmas tree . I didn't have far to go - just to our friendly neighbourhood grocery store parking lot. Much easier to drive home with a tree stuffed in the trunk if you don't have far to go.

I bought a small one so I could easily manoeuver it. Hubby was eagerly waiting for me as I parked in the garage, opened the trunk, untied the tree and finally hauled it into the house.

The stand was ready and waiting for us in a cozy corner of the living room. I picked up the tree and plunged it into the stand. Hubby helped to support the tree while I jiggled it about trying to center it in the stand. Then I let go to turn those long screw-things into the base of the tree.

Hubby couldn't hold up the tree on his own.
I grabbed the tree and saved it from toppling.

Hubby was upset.
I was shocked.

This was a small Christmas tree - not like the big ones we used to buy when all the kids and grand-kids came over to celebrate.
It was not a heavy tree and yet hubby could not hold it up.

We finished our task and then took a "time-out". I put on a pot of coffee and lit a yummy-smelling apple-cinnamon candle (even though the room was bright with morning sun); slid a soothing CD into the player. We sat together on the couch, talking about the coming season, our plans for next year and made predictions as to who was going to be the first to give us another grand-child.

Eventually Hubby's saddness evaporated and we went on with our day.

It's so easy to be lulled into feeling like everything is fine, normal, o.k., but when something unexpected happens, reality sinks in and back we go to the bottom of the well.
The trick is to pull ourselves back up again. And after a while we did.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas shopping

That time of year again!
This year I said - "I don't have the energy to go all out. We'll just have a practical Christmas"
I meant - just the basics. I usually give my children money to spend however they want as well as something small, like candles, a blouse, chocolates, - just so it's not only about money.
The grand-kids I like to spoil.

However, this year I warned everybody that it would be simple. I asked my daughter-in-law what the children needed in the way of clothes. I planned to buy them each a toy and then something "practical".

"Socks" she said.

O.K., I thought - I can do that.

So, I marched into Sears and bought mountains of socks - some spiderman, some Joe Cool (whoever he is) and some pretty ones and some baby ones. I agonized over the sizes (I did have their sizes written down on a piece of paper, but somehow they didn't match the socks I was holding in my hand).

Sitting on the floor, I kept referring back to the paper: Justin needs
size 5 - 7. Is that shoe or sock? Some of the socks only had the sock size on the pack. Other ones had both shoe and sock size. Hmmm - this was harder than I thought.

I decided to sit there for a while to figure things out. Glancing up I saw a women who looked like she was in her 80's. "Don't worry, dear", she said "in a few weeks it'll be all over". She actually looked much calmer and less flustered than I was.

That was back in November. I thought I'd get an early start. Somehow, no matter how early I start, the days creep up and before we know it - only a few days left to finish shopping.

After visiting with my baby grand-daughter, a couple of days ago, I made the mistake of going into Toys-R-Us on my way home. I walked in the door and was immediately assaulted by all their Star Wars, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dungeons and Dragons toys screaming to be bought. I hemmed and hawed and walked around until I was hot and thirsty and fed up. Intending to buy something small to go along with their toy and socks, I gave in and bought really fun and exciting and expensive toys after all.

I do the same thing every year.

Every year I start off saying "let's do just the basics - there is no need to overspend" and every year I buy more than I intended.

Ah well - Christmas is for kids and they're only little for such a short time. And somewhere in Santa's book of etiquette, doesn't it say that grandmas and grandpas are supposed to spoil their grandkids at Christmas time?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Flu Shot

The community nurse came to our home to give hubby and myself our flu shot. This is the first year we have not been able to go to the clinic.

Last year, we drove in the car, but hubby was not able to get out of the car to walk into the clinic. It was cold outside and he would have desaturated too fast.

I went in and registered both of us and then asked if the nurse could give him the flu shot in the car. I fully expected them to say "are you kidding?"

But, surprise, surprise - they agreed.

The nurse put on her coat, walked over to where we were parked in the handicapped spot and jumped in the front seat. She gave hubby his shot right there.

This morning, the nurse was scheduled to arrive in our home at 10:00. A decent time - not too early; not after lunch when hubby usually sleeps.

Well, hubby had to prepare mentally for this visit. He made sure he was up early. He took his time reading the newspaper while drinking his morning coffee. You can't rush when you have COPD. You become short-of-breath and have to stop. That makes it take even longer.

I got up, drank my coffee, and wrote my "morning pages" (see by Julia Cameron for an explanation of "morning pages"), then went into the kitchen and had breakfast. Hubby came in and sat down to eat too, but I was off to the races. Bing-bang up in the shower, blow-dryed my hair, dressed, make-up, made the bed, like I was going off to work again.

Hubby was still eating his toast.

I finally got him upstairs an hour before the nurse was due to arrive. It took him that long to wash, dress and take his puffers.

By 10:00 we were ready and waiting.

After the vaccines were done, hubby had to go and rest.

"Whew" he said, "what a morning!" Then we both looked at each other and laughed.

Our "morning" as it was today, used to take "minutes" in the old days.

At least we can laugh about it. And at least we still have each other.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saved by the gong!

Chi gong, that is. Yesterday morning I got up feeling draggy. It was cold outside. Even the squirrels were hiding. I knew I had to do something or I'd drag around all day feeling like a lump.

I went down the basement and put on an old Chi gong video. I hadn't practiced with that particular one in months.

In summer, I practice my tai chi or chi gong outside in the backyard or on the deck. Where have those golden summer days gone? By the time I accept that summer is really gone, fall has come and gone, winter is usually half way done too. Is this part of "old age slowing down?"
Who knows? Maybe it's just the stuckness I feel at this time in my life - wanting to hold on to Life Before COPD.

In my younger days, the seasons just flew by. Summer clothes had to be put away, school clothes bought, pumpkins, Thanksgiving turkeys, Halloween, and the next thing we knew it was time to burrow down the basement, to locate last year's winter boots - and hope they would still fit. Most of the time they didn't.

Now I watch my children going through these seasonal antics and wistfully wish I were back there again; working and child raising and absolutely, passionately thrown full force into life. Back then I was bemoaning the fact that I rarely had a moment to myself. Now I have lots of those moments. Wouldn't it be nice if we could somehow balance all that out?

Back to chi gong. It worked! The flowing movements and deep breathing brought my stagnant energy back to life.

I much prefer the gentleness, the focus on balance, the integration of my brain in remembering the sequence of those movements, the proper positioning of hands, arms, legs - rather than any aerobic or cardio program or even weights. Oh, they have their place, but...

I prefer the refreshed feeling I get, when I finish a session; the paradoxical energetic, yet calm and peaceful sense of well-being, that everything is right in my world - just for a little while.