Friday, February 29, 2008

Let's Leap Into Leap Year!

"It's Leap Year Day - make a leap of faith today" is the advice I read on my Sage Woman calendar as I looked at the last day of the month. February 29th.
Good advice - I'll take it!

That meant finally getting up the nerve to send my book out for "self-publishing".
Reading Between The Lines is a book I started to write over 10 years ago. I put it down. Picked it up. Life happened. Sent it out to a publisher. Got rejected. Put back down. Life happened. Back up - edited it some more. Sent it to another publisher. Rejected again. You get the picture.

Hubby said to me the other day. What about your book? Are you ever going to take that scary step and get it out there?
"I will, I will, but - it costs money."
"So? What doesn't"
"What if nobody buys it?"
Hubby looked at me as if to say "puleeeese" But kindly and patiently said:
"How are you going to know if you don't give it a try?"
"What if everybody hates it?"

Today is the day. No more excuses. No more waiting (for what? I don't really know) It's a book I really enjoyed writing. Why not at least see it in print? This morning, I sent a deposit off to Outskirtspress, along with my manuscript and will take that giant leap of faith.

And if nobody buys it? So what! I enjoyed the process - isn't that what life is all about?
Hmmm - well, maybe I could give some copies away.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A surprise in our mail box!

This picture of Hubby's grandson arrived in our email box today. Only Grandson (for Hubby) is 4 years old, lives in northern B.C., so we don't see much of him.
You can see how gently little Grandson cradles this precious mountain chickadee!
This glimpse into his young life made Hubby's day. He perked up and our weekly bath ritual went much more smoothly. (I know - it sounds so ridiculous, a weekly bath for someone who used to be so independent, showering daily, bopping off to work, vacation, etc. etc. - {sigh!})
He didn't complain about the fact that it takes so long to bathe, put on his clothes, etc. He was glowing inside.
Somewhere stuffed deep down in our closet, are pics of his boys when they were young. This afternoon, after Hubby's nap, we will dig those pics out. He will be able to re-live some very happy times - when he was the father of a young, healthy and happy family.
I should have thought of this before - digging out old photo albums. It's always a pleasure to look back at pics when our children were young. When we were young too. And, if we're lucky - to look back into the lives of our ancestors.
A good beginning to our day. I hope everyone has a wonderful day too.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sometimes I feel like a bridge between 2 worlds coming in and life going out.
I spent Sunday with Baby Grandson, who is just turning two months old.

I picked him up out of his crib and held him all warm and snuggly in my arms. Putting my nose in his hair, I took a deep breath of "new baby smell". Ahhh, there is nothing to compare with that scent. I was in heaven!

I looked deep into his eyes and saw that he was still between worlds. Not quite in this one yet.
Once babies start to focus their eyes and begin to interact, you know they have arrived. But Baby Grandson hasn't. Not yet. It will take more time. He's still too little.
Rocking, cuddling, this innocent little body, I was immediately transported back to the days when my children were small.

"Enjoy them while you can. They grow up so fast", people used to say to me all the time.
Yeah, yeah, I used to think. As if I could hold back time.
I did enjoy my children and they did grow up fast.
But I never thought past the Mommy stage. Never projected that far into the future when I would become a Grandma.
Now I'm here. And it feels good!

Coming back home, I noticed Hubby's glazed eyes. He was tired. He's very tired these days.
I know he hates it when I leave him and go out - especially for a whole day.
He doesn't say anything, but I intuitively know.
I understand. He feels helpless in the face of "what if".
What if - the power goes out.
What if - he feels dizzy and loses his balance.
What if - he can't catch his breath.
What if something terrible happens.

I often wonder how he manages to get through each day. He just looks so tired, but he doesn't give up. Not yet. And I'm happy he's here.

From one extreme to the other.
Grandbabies and grandfathers.
One entering this Earth
And one getting ready to leave.

This significance of my role in Life at this point in time, is not lost on me. I am beginning to feel like a spiritual midwife.
Not sure I signed up for this, but this is where I am in Life.
And Life is meant to be lived.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feldenkrais, anyone?

The Feldenkrais Method is defined as "Awareness Through Movement", a practice developed by a man named Moshe Feldenkrais, somewhere around 1930. He used movement as a way of healing his damaged knee. His philosophy is that if you put your awareness into how your body is moving, you shift away from ingrained everyday habits. (just think of the times when you are driving your car, intending to visit a friend, but end up at work instead. Or brushing your teeth - do you really remember turning on the tap? putting toothpaste on your brush?)

Through Awareness of how we move, we force our brains to "pay attention", thereby changing those habitual pathways. Feldenkrais maintains that there is no division between mind and body, so when we have flexible bodies, we have flexible minds.

Does it sound like gobbledigook? Probably it's the way I'm explaining it.

I went to my Feldenkrais class the other day. Sitting on a cushioned chair,we closed our eyes and listened to the "teacher's" instructions.

In this lesson, we were instructed to move our necks to the left, using very small increments. No straining, no stretching. Just these tiny movements. Eyes closed, focusing on my neck and her voice, she next asked us to become aware of the right side of our bodies.
Did our ribcage expand as we were flexing our necks? What was our spine doing? Did our "sit bone" (don't you just love that word?) rise up to help in this movement? Are we remembering to breathe?

What you're not supposed to do is peek at the other people to see what they are doing. You are supposed to be concentrating on how your own body is moving.
So of course I looked over at the lady next to me. Could she bend her neck as far as I could? Hmmmm? The purpose is NOT to stretch. Tiny movements.
But I like stretching!
We went on to flexing our necks to the right, then lifting up the left "sit bone" to make our bodies look like the letter "C". Then the other side. Then opposite neck movement and "sit bone" movement.
Talk about Awareness. You can't possibly do those movements without being Aware.

Ha! I bet I can "move" (read: stretch) my neck more than LadyBesideMe can. Then the teacher will like me more, cause I'm better.
Did I really think that? Was that me thinking like a school kid? Naw, that was Ego peeking out of Pandora's Box.
Of course I ended up with a sore neck the next day.
Absolutely NOT what is supposed to happen after a Feldenkrais class. The object is to heal - not cause pain. Duhhhh.

Oh, and it gets worse - I decided to go swimming after class. More neck movements in the pool. Very smart! (not) Usually, after class I go home and relax. I need some "down time" to integrate the lesson.

Not that day. Let's just say in my war on body fat, I often go overboard on exercise and pay the price later on.
The indoor pool was warm (82 degrees) and on a weekday afternoon, almost empty.
I swam around for a bit, noticed my neck feeling sore, but in my usual fashion - ignored it.

Thinking to exercise my legs a bit more, I took a flutterboard, plopped it in the water, held on and kicked for dear life. I looked around. I wasn't moving. So I kicked harder. Still going nowhere. O.K. - I 'll do a few frog kicks to get some momentum going, then try kicking again.
Hmmm - guess I need more practice at this - another day. Forget the flutterboard. I'll just go back to a leisurely sidestroke.

The next morning I woke up with a throbbing neck.
I went to the fridge, took out a bag of frozen peas and held it against my neck.
Hubby looked up from his newspaper.
"How is your foot pain?" he asked.
Foot pain? I'd forgotten all about that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Life Is Good!

Physio is working. My feet are healing. The sun is shining and Life is Good!

I move forward in Life with Joy and Ease - my foot affirmation. It's working. So are the new specialized shoes I bought. I'm riding a wave of good energy once again. No matter what's happening around me, I need to stay happy. To begin each day with Joy.

In reality, Hubby has severe COPD (as everybody knows). I feel trapped most of the time. My granddaughter is still sick with GERD - and not improving yet. There are always a few more things in life to complain about as well.
But, I am beginning to discover - dwelling on the stress, anxiety and pain only brings more pain. I can feel it in my body when I am worried. I contract. My muscles become sore.

Realizing I am only making things worse, I consciously take a deep breath and force myself to relax. Suddenly, a funny commercial pops up on TV. A friend calls on the phone. I step on the scale to find I've lost a pound (o.k. maybe 1/2 a pound). It doesn't matter. Good things flow towards us when we relax and allow them to.

When I was a nursing student, (a few years ago) I walked into a patient's room to check her surgical incision. This patient had had abdominal surgery for bladder cancer. Not fun. They had to close up the usual opening and create an artificial one in her abdomen for her urine to flow out of. Somewhat like a colostomy (sorry - for all you faint-of-heart or stomach).

I had been off sick with a cold a few days previously - this was my first day back on the ward. I hadn't looked at the name on the chart - just waltzed merrily into the room. I was astonished to see my neighbour, Isabel, sitting up in bed, hair done and make-up on. She looked a whole lot better than I did. And this was after her surgery. She was expecting visitors, and evidently did not want to look sick.

To preserve her dignity, I asked another student nurse to come in and assess her incision. Isabel and I chatted about our families, the neighbourhood, our grandchildren (yes, I took my nurse's training late in life) and at the end, she took a deep breath, smiled and with a sweeping gesture, as if brushing away her diagosis of cancer, said " Besides this - Life is Good!"

I was shocked. I would have been moaning and groaning and asking "why me?" I probably would not have wanted visitors. I'd have been a miserable patient.

Well, maybe she'd already done all her moaning and groaning and had come to terms with it. Or maybe she really is one of those lucky people who accepts what life throws at them and just focuses on the good.

I do admire her.
And I am determined to begin each day with "Life Is Good"!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Move Forward in Life with Joy and Ease

... is the affirmation for sore feet that Louise Hay advises in her book "You Can Heal Your Body".

I have plantar fasciitis. It hurts to walk.
For months I swept this irritating problem under the carpet.
Perhaps if I ignore it, it will go away.

Right! It never just "goes away". Physical problems usually get worse. But I still ignore my body more often than not.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided I'd had enough. So, I went to my doctor (anyone who knows me knows my husband is a doctor, but who listens to their husbands?)

She confirmed my diagnosis (isn't the net wonderful? We can all self-diagnose and get a head start on treatment). And sent me for physio. Physio? What the heck? My feet are sore. The last thing I need is exercise.

But - she was right.

My first physio appointment was on a messy, sloppy, snowy day. The driving sucked. The clinic parking lot was full. I drove around forever and finally found a really tight spot that someone else had just vacated. It was a tight squeeze and I prayed the cars on each side of me wouldn't dent mine as they tried to manoeuver out of that squishy space.

I was 15 minutes late. Nobody really cared. But I watched the clock to make sure I got my full hour treatment.
I learned some exercises, had an ultrasound treatment and was told to buy "heel cups" to put in my shoes.
I walked up to the desk to pay my bill.

"Do you have your parking ticket?" inquired the receptionist.
I checked my purse. Not there. My pockets. Not there either.
"Must have left it in my car" I mumbled, feeling like a school kid.
"Well, you'll have to go and get it"

Fine. I marched to the car on tender tootsies. Searched it high and low. No ticket. That meant I couldn't get out of the parking lot.
Now I was getting mad. Just because of a lousy piece of paper, I can't get home? Puleeese!

I walked over (on tender tootsies, remember) to the entrance; waited until nobody was looking and punched the button that releases the gate to let you in, and pushes out a ticket.
Nothing happened. I tried again, just to make sure.
Still nothing.
Darn! There must have been some sort of sensor that looked me up and down and decided I wasn't a car. You're not a car, so you don't get a ticket and the "arm" stays firmly down.

I trudged back to the physio office.
"I can't find it", I told the girl, preparing for a fight.
"Oh, no problem". She handed me a token so I could get out.
Well, why didn't she just do that in the first place!!!!

Back to the car. Thank goodness it was still wedged in that tiny space. I carefully backed out and went home.

Deciding I needed all the help I could get with these feet, I picked up Louise Hay's book. Her philosophy is that for every problem in the body, there is an emotional reason.

So I looked up "foot problems" and got:
"Fear of the future, of moving forward in life."

Well that nicely stripped away my defenses for coping with Hubby's illness. I guess I am afraid of what life will be like when he's no longer here.

The affirmation: I Move Forward in Life with Joy and Ease.
Sounds like a plan.
Now I know where to put my focus, as I grapple with moving into Acceptance - away from Fear and towards Joy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Late Valentine's Day

Hope everybody had a good day yesterday.
Ours was quiet.
It usually is these days.
I went to the grocery store and bought a lovely bouquet of flowers. The roses were $29.00 a bunch, so I went with the tulips. Bright, red, spring tulips to brighten up our kitchen and celebrate Valentine's Day. I also bought us some Lindt chocolates - for a treat.
Hubby has long since stopped being frustrated that he can't get out to buy our Valentine's treats. I'm just happy that he can still enjoy them.

My daughter and her husband spent the day in the Emergency Ward of the Childrens' Hospital with their young baby (the one who just celebrated her first birthday). She's still having trouble with her G.I. system. Not a fun way to spend Valentine's Day.

My newborn grandson (now close to 2 months) has done well after his surgery to correct pyloric stenosis. He's eating well and gaining weight.
At least there's some good news to balance out the stress.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just Do It!

Today I cut my husband's hair.
I have no idea how to cut hair.
I am learning fast.
I didn't think Caregiving would extend to mens' haircuts!
But I did it. I chopped away at his hair, made a royal mess of my kitchen floor, got hair down his neck, in his ears, nearly nicked the plastic oxygen tubing that hooks behind his ears - but I did it!
And it doesn't look half bad.

Not very good either, but it will do.
Hubby doesn't mind. He can't see the back of his head anyway.
And the front doesn't hang in his eyes anymore.

I Just Did It!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Things are getting better

As we ride the wave upwards.

Both yesterday and today, I can see little signs that Hubby's energy is returning. That air of saddness and fatigue has lifted. His 02 sats are better. He's smiling once again.

We are on an "up" and I'm holding on tight!

Over this past winter, the highs and lows of our COPD roller-coaster ride seem to be more like "dips". Just dips and waves, rather than full-blown valleys and mountains. Don't know whether that's good or bad. It just is.

And in my newfound wisdom I am learning to deal with whatever " just is".

My body has learned to sleep without meds, since I decided to take the plunge and throw it all away (the meds, not the body). Thought my insomnia would be much worse and I'd just have to tough it out. I'm off my hormone patch too. It's surprising that I feel so much better - but maybe it's all part of my Accepting where I am in life, rather than fighting something I can't change.

On another note: I read an inspiring story that you can read here in Karen's Blog. It's about a woman running away from tigers. Tigers above, tigers below, and a mouse nibbling the vine to which she had been clinging for dear life. What to do?
Ah ha! You'll have to read it for yourself.
I'll just tell you that her last word was:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Time: do we ever have enough?

Or too much??

I hate clocks. I don't wear a watch (but I do peek at the time on my cell phone and car dashboard).
There were times in my life when it seemed all I ever did was battle Time.

Like everyone else, I'd have to be on Time for work. Get the kids to school on Time.
Coffee break Time. Lunch Time. Watch the clock at work as it slowly crawled towards Time To Go Home. I don't know if workers today are ruled by the Clock like we were back in the 70's and 80's. My goodness, if we (we secretaries) were a minute late - people actually stared at you as if you'd committed a crime. How ridiculous!

Then it was supper Time, homework Time, bath Time, and finally finally at around 10:00 I could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with my husband. Yes, coffee at that late hour. Back in those days, I could eat pizza at midnight too!

This morning, Hubby and I lingered over breakfast, reading the Saturday paper. I looked up at the clock - OhMyGod - almost 10:00 and here we were still sitting in our bathrobes and slippers.
One could say - "what a nice domestic scene" and down the road I know I will cherish this memory.

But today, I feel as if Time were slipping between my fingers. What am I actually accomplishing today? In this Caregiving role, life has slowed down to a crawl. That frantic pace of working and bringing up children is long gone. I don't really miss that pace. Life was going way too fast.

Now, we move more slowly. I match my pace with Hubby's. He takes a long time to eat; a long time to wash and dress; a rest period between each activity. It is almost 2:00 in the afternoon and he's downstairs doing his usual morning work-out. We got off to a late start. He is moving at a snail's pace.

I have to find a balance that works for me too. So while he was resting after the morning's activities, I made a quick trip to the grocery store. Stopped off at the drugstore. Put gas in the car. And by the time I got back home, he was ready to do his work-out. I don't monitor his work-outs. They are his.

However, over the past week, he's had problems with his 02 sats dropping too low, forcing him to stop and rest. Not only that, his heartrate did not speed up to compensate. If it goes too fast - he has to stop. If it's not fast enough - it's even worse.

So he's asked me to be there when he works out. Once again, I need to work around his needs. Not that I resent him one little bit. I love him dearly and it hurts to see him "going down" again. I just hope we're at the bottom now, and there will be a Time (soon - please, please) when his strength returns, to bring us back up to a new "high".

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Winter Blues

Snow falls gently outside my window. Will winter never end?
Hubby has not been himself lately.
His cheerful self is subdued.
His energy level is definitely down.
His eyes have lost that sparkle and have taken on a glazed look.
I can see a saddness seeping into his soul.

Is it Winter Blues? Or something bigger?
With COPD one never knows.
There are times when they look so sick you think they won't last another day. Then something happens, a tiny shift , a bit more energy, and they're back on their feet once more, ready to face the day.

I am not letting myself worry. Acceptance is not about worry. It's about allowing.
I remind myself to "go about my day" as if things were perfectly normal. And maybe they are. This period of low energy has happened countless times before. And will probably happen again.

It must be awful to always feel like you are fighting. It must be awful to feel so vulnerable.
I watch him moving about and am tempted to ask "are you o.k.?" about every 10 minutes or so just for my own reassurance.

But that would be absurd. And it wouldn't help him.
So I wait and I watch and I say nothing. Until I see him taking a rest from the arduous task of putting on his socks.
Then I ask if he's o.k.
"Just a little tired" he replies.

I know it goes deeper. But I won't force it out of him. I won't focus on it.
Instead I'll go and buy some more spring flowers to brighten up the kitchen windowsill, while Hubby takes his afternoon nap.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I'm throwing away my meds..... I move into Acceptance. Acceptance of what I cannot change.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross made a name for herself by describing the "five stages of grief" most of us go through when confronting a loss. They are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. I've run the gamet - and have thrown a few more in there as well - like Fear and Guilt and Anxiety.

Acceptance can be tricky. Just when you think you 've reached that state, you turn around to discover you've been fooled. All along it was really suppressed Anger or Depression or Resignation in disguise.

About 4 years ago I thought I was moving into Acceptance.
I wasn't.
I was stuck in Resignation.

Acceptance feels mellow. An agreement of some sort. The fight is over. Your body relaxes. You come to an understanding somewhere in your bones that this situation will not change. So you do what you have to, and then you move on.

Resignation feels different. An uneasy feeling pervades your body. There's an uncomfortable heaviness that you try to ignore. You've surrendered to this battle, lulled for the moment. But the war is not over yet. And your Anger is buried so deep you think it's gone.

When it became obvious that I was still in fighting mode and nowhere near Acceptance, I decided to get a little help in the form of Effexor (an SSRI), to calm my jittery nerves and help me sleep. It worked in the beginning, and I thought I was "handling things pretty well" for a while.

However, after a year or more, I became aware of some bizarre muscle spasms. And an internal poke or a nudge, telling me to get off this stuff!!

So I did. It wasn't fun. Definitely not something I'd want to do again.

The insomnia returned. I was prescribed Ativan to take at bedtime. It worked.

Not long afterwards, I decided to add a little HRT (hormone replacement therapy). It would certainly relieve the hot flashes and hopefully get rid of some mood swings as well.

Deep down in my gut, I knew that my physical and emotional symptoms were the result of my brain trying to grasp and assimilate my husband's illness, our changed lifestyle and ultimately his End. This stuff was not negotiable. There was nothing I could do to change it.

But now, today, February 2008 I have had enough of "crutches". I have decided I need to stand on my own two feet again and let those medications go.

"Why on Earth do you want to stop your pills?" says my druggie sister.

"Because, I'm finished with them. They served a purpose and now it's over."

She thinks I'm nuts. I think she's nuts. She's bipolar. Her meds are for life.

I am getting rid of my meds.
Throwing away my crutches.
I need to feel strong again, not dependent on medication. I need to feel some control over my life. Am I really moving into Acceptance? Or is this just another Emotion in disguise?