Health

I Love Fall! How About You?

In 2014, I posted this blog about my favorite season. As I write this, in mid October of 2017, the leaves are beginning to turn colors, some are already falling from our trees, the air is crisp, the sky is clear and the days are getting shorter.  We had a beautiful summer, so there’s a bittersweet quality to these changes.  Here again is my attempt to explain why I love fall so much.

Fall is my favorite season. I have loved it since I was a young Cincinnati girl growing up on Vittmer Avenue, a cul-de-sac lined with large oak trees that turned bright yellow, brown and orange in October.

When I moved to Florida in the late 80’s, I missed fall so much that I traveled with Ray to Maine trying to “time”  the peak colors each year.  When we finally bought a home there, we stayed until mid to late October when our “leaving” tree would tell us it was time to go. That’s what we called a beautiful birch tree in our yard that turned bright colors before shedding its leaves and ushering in the beginning of winter.

Birch trees in autumn

And now, living in one of the most desirable “leaf peeper” cities in the country – Asheville, NC – I get to see the spectacular changes in color at several different elevations over about six weeks.  Traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway almost every day – only 5 minutes from my home –  is incredible.

Here are a few of the reasons that I love fall so much…

  • The changing colors of the leaves always amaze me. I take more pictures in the fall than in any other season and most of them are of yellow, red and orange trees glowing in the sunshine. My cell phone has at least 100 of those photos right now.

Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

  • The air smells crisp and clean. I have good hair days, I can wear light jackets and there’s a spring in my step. Lexie, our Labradoodle, is thrilled because she gets to be outside with us – running around the yard, hiking or going to festivals called Pumpkinfest, Octoberfest or Pecan Harvest Fest in small cities all over Western North Carolina.
  • I enjoy a fall wardrobe. I look better in sweaters and scarves, and they feel “cozy”. Bathing suit and bare legs season is over (thank god!) And, fortunately, orange, yellow and black clothing looks good on me.
  • Halloween is a great holiday. I like the scary ads and ghost stories, the Halloween pop-up stores, corn stalks, pumpkins, candy corn and parties.  I don’t go to the haunted houses, but I read about them and might just get courageous enough to walk through one someday.
  • A fire in the fireplace on those first cool evenings is a special treat. The hypnotic flames, combined with the smell and warmth of a fire, makes me want to bundle up on the couch with a blanket and listen to James Taylor and Bruce Hornsby music.

  • It’s time for crockpots and chili –my kind of comfort food! And, I love the strange looking squash, the thousand varieties of apples and the weird-shaped pumpkins that are everywhere — in stores, restaurants and at roadside vegetable stands.
  • It’s great to decorate the house with fun things … witches, ghosts, black cats, pumpkins, candles, cinnamon brooms, door wreaths and mums. And, the color orange – a bold, optimistic and uplifting color – is everywhere you look!

What a great time of year.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Cathy Green

Let’s Share More Often – Just Not Only On Social Media

When we see or hear the word “sharing” in 2017 our first thought is social media and sharing in that context.  Sharing means posting or publishing something that informs multiple people about a new event – or letting an audience know about something we think is important, relevant, smart, funny, cute or silly.  This is NOT the sharing I am talking about.  Sharing in social media can be a great addition to our lives and to certain aspects of our relationships, but it is worlds away from personal sharing in the intimate sense I am thinking about.  I worry that many fabulousover60s are spending too much time sharing on social media because they think this is the only way “everyone” is communicating; and letting slide the more intensely personal one to one sharing that was and is still a must for maintaining any great relationship.

Because social media can get ugly quickly, many of us are wondering if people are just too thin-skinned to want to hear our thoughts and consider our ideas.  We are often too quick to think “I am not telling anyone anything.  People get so easily offended, or just don’t care about my opinion.  I am going to keep my opinions to myself.”  While I agree that learning to stay on one’s own yoga mat is a great thing, and offering advice via social media can backfire, I think we make a mistake if we fail to share our considered viewpoints with those we really love one on one.  Fabulous women know how to share privately without being a busybody or a know it all.  We personally share to support those we love by adding perspective, not by telling others what to do. Ultimately we know people must make their own choices – and celebrate or recover from the consequences of those choices on their own.

My idea of fabulous sharing is giving serious thought to an issue or to challenge what  one of our close friends/family members is going through – and figuring out how and what we can share with them so they can consider more and/or different options or ideas.  It is then sending a meaningful, sensitive but direct message to someone we love/care for – or sending it indirectly by recommending a movie, book or article that sends the message in a more interesting, elegant or even funny way.  On the reverse side, it is spending time listening/reading another’s message to us, and thinking about why it was sent and what is being suggested that is at least useful and potentially life transforming.  Fabulous sharing starts and helps build fabulous relationships.

Poor “shares” sound like this:

  • Carol — stop bitching about Carl – divorce him or live with him!
  • Linda — your kids are like all young people today – selfish – just stop giving them money.
  • Maryanne — who cares what your daughter says – you want to date Bob and it is none of her business – just don’t tell her anything.

Some great “shares” sound more like this:

  • Laura — I know you are struggling with your health right now, glad you are seeking medical help – for another perspective you may want to look at an old take on the mind-body connection called You Can Heal Your Life by the late/great Louise Hay. I got some real insights from it.
  • Bob — Of course you’re angry and upset with how your family is acting – they do seem to be too critical as you say. Have you seen The Midwife? Great characters sort some family dynamics out – might get you thinking of some new approaches to what you are dealing with.
  • Kathy — just called to say I was sorry to hear you were getting some nasty feedback from people at (the club, the office, church, synagogue etc). Think things can be handled with some style and grace with a minimum of anger/upset. Am here if you want to consider some options for handling these people – think there a number of options, not just one.

Dumping careful and thoughtful sharing strikes me as a lazy move for someone aiming to stay fabulous.   As we age and struggle with staying fabulous it can seem wise to stop getting “too involved” with others’ drama.  But if we do care, and we want to stay close to our small circle of friends and gain the few new ones we need to as times evolve, the best way to do that is with genuine intimacy by risking reaching out to others with support and love and yes, great or different ideas.

If no one wants to hear your thoughts, or feel your concern, or understand what you are trying to communicate to help them, maybe you have lost touch with connecting deeply.  Worse, you may have lost your sensitivity – thinking older age makes being blunt OK.  You wouldn’t be alone in this increasingly disconnected age.  As Cathy and I are often saying: being fabulous is hard work.  And the “new sharing” isn’t always helping us as much as depersonalizing our friendships.  If you only have a small amount of time for sharing why not reach out to someone you care about and offer a piece of yourself – rather than sharing a recipe to all.  Hey, time enough for that when the holidays arrive before it is even Halloween.

Patty

The Challenge of Being Mentally Fabulous

My friend Betty and I were walking and taking in the art at New York’s MoMA a few weeks ago.  As I was turning into a new room, I saw Broadway Boogie Woogie: Piet Mondrian’s 1942-43 commentary on New York City at the time.  I was 17 when I first saw it 50 years ago.  And I was reminded of how seeing it then was a break through for me in understanding the connection between modern art – which was new to me at 17 – and other aspects of history, culture and personal expression.

Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie

We spent the bulk of our time seeing a major Robert Rauschenberg exhibit.  Who knew he was a collaboration maestro and loved working with others including many engineers? Here’s his Mud Muse (below), an example of that collaboration.  Trust me, it was much more exciting and powerful in person.  There was even a warning that one could get splashed with the mud.  I saw it as a metaphor and support for my current extensively collaborative work on QwikCoach.

Being fabulous is all about creating a fabulous life: one that works just perfectly for oneself, and feeds our soul and heart.  It is balanced between meeting our own needs, and contributing to others.  Most of us understand and work to keep things in that balance.

We also exercise and continue to care about our looks, spending money on smart-looking, sophisticated clothes, lotions and potions.  We have learned how to look great a long time ago when everyone was required every day to look presentable – and so we are good at continuing those routines, even as they have gotten twice as long to look half as good.  We also seem to have grasped the critical part work plays – and we are combining working and volunteering in multiple ways that keeps us more than busy.

But one thing we don’t seem to have sufficiently conquered in our lives is the challenge of putting our mental growth and emotional well being front and center on a regular basis.  We often struggle with saying no to our supposed obligations, skip opportunities to learn something new and different, and push off growing spiritually and emotionally.  Some of that has to do with having too much mental clutter.  Our urge to be and do good is admirable, but we tend to get caught up in others’ stories and lives. Our divorced daughter, our addicted nephew, our former or current colleagues, our partners, our grandchildren or very elderly parents, and connections from church or community activities all have needs that we seem intent on fixing, supporting, and/or paying for.  We just haven’t managed to work on our mental health (which includes growth) and happiness everyday in the same way we juggle other daily challenges.

These last weeks have found me loading up on self-care and mental health activities.  Likely because I have recently come out of a depression and more aware I need to get serious about my happiness, and because I am only temporarily on the east coast where I have more friends than time.  Everyday I find myself aware of how important it is to stay calm and centered, to challenge my thinking, to be open to new things and be protective and proactive about my emotional well being.

Noreen and I grabbed coffee last week as we both realized that we hadn’t quite had enough time together and needed more female bonding and mutual support.  It was after dinner with our husbands that we looked at each other and knew we weren’t finished talking and needed some one on one time.  We made it happen the next morning with a little adjusting of our schedules.  And discussed, among other things, the challenge of working consistently on our mental and emotional well-being.  It just seems that this is becoming more important as other things such as external success continue to diminish their allure.

Interesting to me that in all those pressured years of career and balancing work and personal life I knew I was strong and could handle anything thrown my way.  I misjudged my sixties thinking that it would be easier as long as I held onto my health and appearance.  What I didn’t know and now do is that the mental and emotional challenges of aging and being part of cohort all of whom are aging, requires more not less strength and resilience than what was required years ago. And in order to keep that mental strength, and calm center, we need to make conscious choices of how we spend our time, and how we nurture ourselves.

I thought looking and feeling good was tough – it now appears our mental health and emotional well-being takes more effort too.  Damn this is getting hard.  In our fabulous hearts we knew that – didn’t we?

Patty

 

Please Don’t Tell My Personal Trainer

It’s 10:30 on Thursday morning and I am usually at the gym.  Chuck, my personal trainer for the past 4 years, is always bright and cheerful.  I’m not.  At that time of the morning, he has been on the job since 5:00am. I crawl out of bed at 7:30am. He has had his eggs with turmeric, green tea and honey and other healthy stuff. I have wolfed down some grapes, a waffle and two cups of coffee with cream.

Chuck is on vacation for two weeks. I implied that I would work out while he was gone. Notice that I didn’t say that I promised.  He thought it would be good if I used our usual time to do something physical like walking for an hour. Or dusting off the cobwebs and using the treadmill he knows I have in the house.  I nodded.  It was an acknowledgment that I heard him, not a promise.

At this moment, it’s raining and I can’t take a walk. And I’m afraid that the power might go out if there’s any lightning, so I can’t use the treadmill. And my husband wants me to go out to lunch with him. And I’ve got to spend some time with the dogs. And I had to write this blog.

Anyway, I’ve got the rest of this week and next week to exercise at least three times so that I can look Chuck in the face when he returns.  

The problem is that even thinking about exercising is making me tired. Maybe tomorrow.

Here’s a blog I wrote in 2013 about the joys of working out.  It’s all still true.

 

Please Don’t Tell My Personal Trainer

Twice a week, I have breakfast, make my bed, get dressed in my exercise clothes and drive 10 minutes to a gym to work out with my personal trainer, Chuck. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t exercise if I didn’t have someone waiting for me who had been paid to be there.

I work out with weights, ropes, bands, balls, a baseball bat (don’t ask) and, occasionally, boxing gloves. I groan (lots) and sweat (some) for about an hour… then Chuck makes me stretch my aching body so that I can walk to my car.

Do I work out to get thin? That would be nice, but there’s little chance of that happening at this point. No, I work out to stay as flexible as possible, to deal with impending over-60 balance issues, and to keep the flab under my arms from drooping so much that I can’t wear anything that doesn’t have long sleeves.

I definitely don’t work out for pleasure and I probably wouldn’t do it if there was a pharmaceutical alternative. However, I have to admit that I feel better about myself and have more energy when I work out than when I find excuses not to.

There are many things I don’t like about the experience, but what do I like the least?

  • Is it the drive to and from the gym?
  • Is it the aches and pains of calf raises?
  • Is it the 200th squat of the session?
  • Is it the tiresome trainer saying “just 3 more”?

No. All of these are on my top 10 list, but the thing that really bothers me the most are the mirrors.

All gyms have mirrors. They cover most walls. They are big and unavoidable.

Trainers will tell you that it’s important to have correct “form” to achieve maximum benefit from your exercises and that mirrors are the way to check your posture. I don’t believe it. Mirrors are for the trainers, body builders and 20 and 30 year old exercise fanatics to admire their sexy bodies in their body-hugging “fitness attire”.

Mirrors are definitely NOT for 60-something women who show up at the gym with baggy black t-shirts and wild hair pulled back in a scraggly ponytail. (While working out with Chuck, I am often shocked when I inadvertently glance in one of the mirrors – where did that old lady come from?)

I know what I’m talking about. I was a gym regular in my 20’s and 30’s (and even into my 40’s) and wore the latest, most fashionable and colorful gear I could find. Remember stretchy wrist bracelets, scrunch socks and head bands? Here’s Cher in the 80’s in case you don’t:

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In my younger years, I often checked out my exercise “form” … which really meant checking out my thin and toned body in my great new clothes. Mirrors were my friends.

Not anymore.

So, Chuck, please don’t tell me what the mirrors are for. I know what they are for and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Point me toward a wall and earn your money by making sure I have the right “form”, OK?

Gyms are never going to take down the mirrors or provide curtains that can be pulled shut over them, so I guess I will just have to continue to “suck it up” (in more ways than one).

workout

Cathy Green

How I Recovered From My Scary Depression

My granddaughter Reagan told her parents after a March visit that “Grandma slept all the time”.  Despite taking a yoga class to get me settled into a Zen state, I ran right into a roadside I couldn’t “see” because I was so rattled. Sad, blue and feeling panicky about another tough thing happening from the moment I got up, till bedtime when I dreaded going to sleep knowing I would wake up ruminating about some unknown, but certain, imminent tragedy.  Somehow, a variety of big, and many little, events had tipped me from a “little off” and sad at year end, to depression by late January.

It was frightening, and something I cannot remember experiencing before.  By April I was determined to work like hell to crawl out of it and get back to being my neurotic, but basically very happy, self.  I swore never again would I let myself get in such a dark, disturbing place.  And yes, of course I got “professional help”.  My shrink is not only great, he is funny and comforting.  And he reminds me when I forget that ultimately, much of being better is committing to being better, and taking responsibility to change what is not working for what will.

Am feeling pretty good, if not great, today – and it is mid June.  What happened to lift me back up?  The truth is that since I made that firm decision to heal, multiple decisions, events and pieces of support have all helped to clear my head.  And, like many things in life, luck played a part too.

Mid May we left Tucson for our travelling time.  We live in Tucson, Arizona, but come May when it starts to get uncomfortably hot for us, we travel to other places till about mid October when the weather again suits us back home.  We came to New York in May and rented an apartment not far from our daughter and her family in Westchester County.  The change of scene has been a big part of lightening my mood.  We have already taken a couple of mini trips to further mix up our schedule and get away from depression triggers associated with my home in Tucson, which is where I was when the deep blues hit.  It will be fine to go back come October even if I don’t spend money on a deep spiritual healing of the space.

I have also taken the strategy one of my dear friends taught me: being one with something tangible in a room or place – just keeping my mind quiet and focused on a chosen item for a few minutes is very useful.  I am calling it “the tree is me” strategy – pointing mindfully to a tree ahead while walking and just “urging” myself to stay “with the tree” rather than letting my mind ruminate and repeat endless loops of negative nonsense.

And then, there are my many wonderful friends like Betty who called me everyday once I told her what was going on. Cathy P. wrote me emails and tailored my workouts to include pep talks. There was Janice who held a spiritual session where she worked on me breaking bonds with a sad and dangerous habit I had fallen into.  Donna had me over for dinner and listened when I was pretty awful company. Cathy B. set up a date to meet and go to a spirituality center for a special meditation. Pat told me about her journaling effort during one of her depressions and suggested I try it.  And the list went on from there of friends who I mentioned my sadness to who just turned around and offered love and help.

Another really big help was my 50th high school reunion.  I’d been part of the planning process so I was very much excited and invested in the activities.  Seeing, and more importantly, sharing with women who I had shared my adolescence with was amazing therapy.  We weren’t older versions of ourselves – we were new selves that were developed by our history, the lives we have lived, the choices we have made, and the way we have connected and loved ourselves.  The biggest way to know how people REALLY were faring in life, was to listen and watch for how happy they were with who they turned out to be.

Not everyone or even most anyone has the luxury of having the level of support and caring that I do.  Friends were my priority always (in many ways equal or more than family which I am also close to). Their multiple ways and approaches to helping me, coupled with our ability to create changes of scene, proved the golden recipe for dealing with my depression. I want to end with a quote another friend sent me that summarized the heart of much of the wisdom so many shared.

“There are only two days a year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is he right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.” –  Dalai Lama

Patty

Being Selfish and Staying Positive

Sad to say, but I’m usually not the “glass half-full” person in the room. I overanalyze things, considering what could go wrong rather than what could go right.

Over the past few months, my glass-half-empty feeling has been stronger than usual. I think it’s because of the incessant barrage of negativity about our country and the world that is becoming harder and harder to avoid.

Given my family history and current health, I am figuring that I’ll probably live into my 90’s – another two decades. I’d like those years to be as happy as possible.

So, here are a few things I’ve been doing recently:

I’m not watching TV network news

  • Today’s broadcasts are much more “in your face” and intense than in the old days. By the time 28 minutes go by and I watch the last two minute “Here’s a happy story” story, I feel the need for a strong alcoholic beverage.
  • That’s not to say that I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world. I just don’t need to be bombarded with heavy drama every night. Reading selected magazine or newspaper articles, or watching an occasional video on my iPad works just fine for me.  I stay informed without feeling the need to hit the booze.

I have seriously reduced my time on social media

  • This past week, I decided to block all national news media postings on Facebook.
  • I also used the unfollow option with people who primarily post political opinions or news stories they have decided are important for everyone to read. Most of the posts are negative on one side or the other … we won, you lost, you’re stupid, no you’re stupid, he’s stupid, she’s stupid and on and on.  I realized that I can still be “friends” with them and visit their tirades anytime I want and they won’t even know I’m not following them. A win-win!
  • I signed up with Facebook so that I could scroll through my news feed to see photos of my step-     kids and grandkids, to find out what my friends and family members are doing on this year’s vacation, and to post pictures of my beautiful dogs and/or my handsome husband being adorable.
  • My “news feed” is much smaller now, and I’m a lot happier.

I’m spending time with positive, happy people who don’t need to solve the problems of the world over dinner.

  • Enough said.

It’s not that I don’t care about what’s happening in the country or the world or that I don’t have strong opinions. In fact, I can get pretty riled up about things.

And, I’m really happy that there are people who are passionate enough to speak out on both sides of political issues, to take up causes, to hold others accountable and to work to make a difference.

Maybe it’s selfish not to get more involved. But, I am, after all, one of the “Me Generation” Baby Boomers.

So, my current mantra is …..

Care to join me?

Cathy Green

My Husband’s Advice to His Daughters

My husband, Ray, often writes thoughts and stories in one of the many journals he has owned over the 28 years I’ve been with him.  Sometimes he writes about growing up in a small town in South Carolina, sometimes about music, sometimes about a great night on the ocean or in the mountains, and sometimes even about me. He’s a great storyteller and writer and I’ve enjoyed reading what he has shared with me and others.

On January 21, 2010, he wrote some advice for his two daughters. They would have been in their late 30’s at that time, with children of their own.

I asked him if I could share this journal entry with Fabulous Over 60 readers. He agreed.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

“Some Random Notes about Class and Style and Life”

By Raymond Green

Being wealthy doesn’t give you class or style. Class and style are about wit, manners, intelligence, the people you spend time with, the way you entertain others, the books you read and the way you handle key events in your life.

Class is treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Class is being well-spoken and well-dressed.

Class is having good manners, knowing what’s right and doing what’s right.

Someone of quality shows empathy, not just sympathy. Empathy goes well beyond being well-mannered.

Spend your time seeking wisdom and always share that wisdom with your children.

About money – make it, invest it, spend it, and give it away.  Remember: “From those to whom much is given, much is required”.

About giving money away:  It’s interesting. When you give it away, it seems to keep coming back.

Sometimes you will want to give with no strings attached and no expectations of a return. Be clear if it’s a gift.

Give money where you want to have a voice … your church, a political cause or candidate or a legal fight to oppose some wrongdoing.

You will not be able to give equally to your children; they will have different needs at different times. Don’t keep score.

If you loan money to your children, insist on being paid back. It will teach them to be responsible. You can always give it back or forgive the debt later.

From Walt Whitman…”Read the leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life; re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in books, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul”.

About Religion:  It’s more important to be spiritual than religious.

About Friends:  Choose them wisely and stay in touch with them often.

About Your Word:   Say what you will do and do what you say. Your word and your actions have to be exactly the same – there are no exceptions.

About RSVP’s:  Answer them. And, if you say you will be there, then be there. If you must cancel – speak to the person(s) directly – always.

Never show up empty-handed if you have been invited to stay in someone’s home. They have carved out a place for you in their world. It means that they consider you a special and trusted friend. Honor that decision.

About being on time:  There are no acceptable excuses for being late. Your children will learn from your example.

About People:  Everyone’s important, but there are some you will not want to spend time with. That’s OK. You will know who they are.

About Thank You Notes:  Always write them. There are no good excuses not to.  And, always be timely. Never email a thank you message. Write a note. Teach your children to do this, too.

Remember to treat others as you’d like to be treated – but understand that sometimes others won’t have the resources to treat you exactly the same.

Find as many opportunities as possible to watch the sunrise and the sunset and to smell the ocean and the mountains.

Always be fully engaged in life and celebrate!

Ray Green, 2010

Changing My Perspective

So how do we do it? How do we take our lives as they are now, filled with reminders of aging, and health issues whether we want them to be or not, and keep our perspective upbeat, happy and balanced toward the positive?  How do we stay fabulous, engaged, and forward thinking despite twists in our life path we didn’t see coming that were or are real and hurtful?

I think the answer is that we need to change our perspective on life.  Most of us have not really changed our perspective on “how life works or should be” for a long time.  That needs to change.

Our perspective should now include the likelihood that we WILL live another 20 years or more – because most of us who are alive in our fabulous 60s will make into our 70s, 80s if not our 90s.  While we may be starting to think “life is short”, the reality is that for most of us our lives are not going to be short.  We are going to have to start right now getting used to the fact that there is a lot more to our lives ahead than we thought – and that our perspective has to start including visions of ourselves in the years ahead in many different possible scenarios.

 

Here’s some of my latest new perspective on being fabulous at 67, gained from much introspection and work since 2017 began.

My Fabulous perspective is a state of mind, not body.  Looking healthy and being healthy is my perfect way to look.  I will spend money to look as good as I can in my own eyes, but feel much less compulsive to be perfect-looking.  Some aging is just the facts: women my own age or older no longer automatically depress me.  Some of them actually look great to me.  My perspective includes being open to new ways of dressing – but never not caring about how I look.  

Any medical issues, feelings of being tired and stressed, can be dealt with if I just accept feeling good 80% of the time versus expecting or wanting to feel great all the time.  Based on some recent experience it is also my perspective that it is often best to just ignore little physical problems.  Things seem to resolve with just being kind to myself.  I am not afraid of dying and don’t ever plan to be.  Suffering is out – and my perspective is that suffering can be handled and I will have that help.

My Fabulous vision includes thinking of myself as strong, capable, and willing to be flexible. Just because I leave the refrigerator door open when not meaning to, or keep forgetting actors’ names, does not mean I am not strong, capable and willing to be flexible. 

I definitely am believing in more of what is intangible than what is tangible – the woo-woo zone.  Not a bad thing, it is a way of thinking that suggests everything or anything is possible.  We may have had past lives.  Maybe there are angels, or lives “on the other side” who may be sending us thoughts of peace or good will.  Or maybe there is a spiritual reason for one or another bad thing happening.  Maybe things truly ARE “meant to be”.  And faith – my perspective includes having some strong faith and more faith always.  It helps make it clear to me that life is not all about me, by any means.

My perspective includes visions of me as a much older women with lots of comfort in my life and things I want to do.  I could handle and enjoy being single if that happens.  I could date again, or fall in love again.  I can live lots of places and enjoy them and/or downsize.  There is no place I must be to be happy and secure.  There is no “has to be” ending.  There is only “has to end” happily and peacefully.

Finally, my perspective includes no expectations of life being easy, simple or a sea cruise.  I am committed to being healthy in mind and heart and working on myself.  This year has been hard for me – but it is getting easier because I am clearer about what thought processes I have that have to go.  Fabulous women wash not just their hair, but their minds.  They know letting go of what doesn’t work is another of life’s secrets to being truly happy.

Patty

 

Me, a Snowstorm and the Heating Guys: Two days in “Hell”

First, let me say that I know absolutely nothing about heating systems or hot water tanks or blowers or boilers or valves or thermostats. And anything involving electricity totally freaks me out. Changing a light bulb makes me nervous.

So, it is not surprising that I panicked when the heat stopped working a couple of weeks ago.  I was alone at the house with our two dogs and one cat. Ray was on a business trip and a frigid March weather system was bringing snow, ice and falling temperatures into the mountains of Asheville.

Actually, the heat didn’t totally stop working.

Even before Ray left, we knew we had a problem with one of the two ways we heat our house. We have pipes running through our floors that use heated water to warm things up.  I’m sure there’s a better way to describe that, but I’m doing the best I can here.

Skip, the floor heating guy, had already told us that his best “guess” was that we needed either a) a new blower in the boiler or b) a new control panel in the boiler or c) a new boiler.  Ray had previously decided to try the new blower first and it was on order.  I, of course, didn’t know a blower from a boiler.

We also have an electric heating system that is supposed to be used when the floor water heating system can’t handle the cold temperatures or when it isn’t working.

See how complicated this is getting?

So, without floor heat, I turned on the electric heating system.

The upper level was fine.  The main level, kitchen, living room and dining room, however, were not. It was getting colder by the hour. I called the electric heat company we had used before. Their technician couldn’t get here until the following day.

So I called Skip and learned that the blower was in and he could come over right away to fix the floor heat.

Day 1 in Hell:

Skip showed up, happy and smiling. He had the new blower and seemed to be looking forward to doing his manly stuff as the snowstorm loomed.

He had been to the house before, so he proceeded downstairs to the basement’s “utility room” with its tanks, pipes, valves, switches and other scary stuff. I call this room Hell.

I didn’t accompany him since I like to avoid HELL at all costs.

This is not my “hell”, but it’s similar

Four hours later, Skip was still in the basement. I wondered what he could possibly be doing. We have a TV on our lower level. Was he watching a movie?

I thought I’d better check on him, so I descended into HELL.

It was worse than I thought.

The blower wasn’t the fix he had hoped for.  “It’s inconsistent”, he said.

What’s that mean?

Asking a question was a BIG mistake. Skip happily began explaining the ins and outs of the boiler (which is called a Munchkin, believe it or not) and its connection to the water tank, the valves, the pipes and the thermostats.

30 minutes later, I was dizzy with information.

All I really had to know is that the boiler was integral to the workings of the system and it wouldn’t stay running.

The house had warmed up by several degrees while he worked on it, but it wasn’t going to continue to work through the day and evening.

“Do you want me to show you how to trick the boiler into coming on so that you can have heat tonight?” he said.

I should have said no.

Did you know that there is FIRE in the boiler?  That there are electrical wires pretty close to that fire? And that the fire has to be sparked into burning? And that air helps it spark?

Skip showed me how to turn an Emergency switch on and off (something I never hoped I’d have to do in my lifetime) and then how to hold my finger over an air intake switch INSIDE THE BOILER while looking closely into a little hole to see if the FIRE catches and burns.

This is the actual switch I had to touch. Scary, huh?

Just come down here once in a while and see if it’s burning , he said cheerfully.  If not, go through this routine.

Was he kidding?

The boiler was burning brightly and the snow was falling heavily when Skip left the house.

After he had pulled out of the driveway, I went down to HELL and the boiler was eerily quiet.

I steeled myself to try the “trick”.  The dogs were looking at me like… do you really know what you’re doing?

Eureka! It worked! For two minutes. Then the flame went out and the boiler died. Even though I forced myself to go down to HELL three more times that evening, it never worked again.

The floor began to get cold. The electric heat limped along. I wrapped myself in heavy blankets and went to bed.

Day 2 in Hell:

“Steve” showed up in the morning, pulling into our snow covered driveway. Actually, I’m sure Steve wasn’t his name, but I’m also sure I could not have pronounced the Russian equivalent.  It was obvious that our communication would be somewhat hampered by the fact that he didn’t speak much English. I glanced outside into his truck. No one else was with him.  It was just me and him.

I tried to explain the situation. He smiled and cut me off.

Where is unit? He asked with his heavy Russian accent.

What unit?

For heating.

Oh… outside under the deck.

No … where is inside unit?

There’s an inside unit? I guess it’s down in the basement.

Where is basement?

Obviously, he hadn’t been to the house before, so he wasn’t the guy who had installed the thermostats a few months ago. I had a bad feeling about this.

I led Steve down into HELL, where I glanced at the dead boiler.

Ah, here is unit. I work now, he said dismissively.

I saw him pulling off the front panel of a large ugly tank of some kind. Inside were multi-colored wires, lights and other assorted scary looking things.

Four hours later, I wondered if he was downstairs watching a movie.

Here are other snippets of our conversation during the day.

Him: Where is instruction book?

Me: For what?

Him: For thermostat.

Me: Should I have that?

Him: Yes …you should have.

Thankfully, I did.

Me (several times over several hours): How’s it going?

Him: Going very good.

Me: Are you going to be able to fix it?

Him (while reading instruction manual):  Yes … I fix.

Me: Are you ever going to leave?

I really didn’t say that last thing out loud.

Finally, Steve told me that everything was fixed. I didn’t understand his explanation, but I think he mentioned something about a burned coil (burned?) and “bad installed” thermostats.

By that point, all I cared about is that I had heat and Steve was leaving.

The outside temperature was nose-diving, the snow continued to fall, and the living room was getting warm and toasty.

I had a pleasant evening snuggling with the dogs in front of the TV, watching the snow, and drinking several glasses of pinot noir.

I didn’t return to HELL that night and I hope I never have to return there again.

Cathy Green

 

My Husband, Out-Patient Surgery and Strong Drugs

Ray had arthroscopic knee surgery this week to “clean up” some of the weird stuff going on in there like torn meniscus pieces and bone spurs. Hopefully, this will put off the inevitable knee replacement for a couple of years.

My part was to play the dutiful wife and designated driver. This involved arriving at the outpatient surgery center with him at 11 AM, joining him in the recovery room after his 45-minute surgery, and driving him home around 3:30 PM with an intermediate stop at the pharmacy for OxyContin. More about that later.

I felt sorry for him that morning since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink from the time we got up at 7:00 AM until we left the house at 10:30 AM, so I ate very little. I knew that the center was close to restaurants, so I figured that I could slip out for a nice lunch while he was having his knee roto-rootered. When I mentioned this to the admitting clerk, she squashed that plan quickly.

We require someone to be here at all times ‘just in case’ ”, she said. Her unspoken second sentence was something like “If you were a good wife, you would not have to be told”.

I glanced guiltily into the waiting room. A vending machine. It would have to do.

 

Fifteen minutes after Ray went to the surgery “prep” room, I joined him to pick up a garbage bag stuffed with his clothes and to watch as he was wheeled away.

“The doctor’s ready, so you might want to kiss him now” said his pretty, smiling young nurse. The way he was smiling back, I thought he might like her to kiss him.

Bye, darlin’, I’ll be right here when you wake up” I said. (I didn’t add “I’m not allowed to go anywhere else.”).

Returning to the waiting room with my garbage bag, I joined other dutiful wives, husbands and mothers with their garbage bags and had my 1:00PM lunch of dry peanut butter crackers and luke-warm coffee.

At 2:00 PM, I answered the waiting room phone and was told that “my smiling husband” was waiting for me in recovery.

Sure enough, he was smiling at me as I walked in, buzzed on anesthesia.

That’s a nice scarf you have on” he said as he stared at it. “Thanks. I had it on this morning when we got here”. “You did? Well, it’s really pretty!”

The recovery nurse, Peggy, smiled and gave me a look that said …“Yes, he’s out of it.

Five minutes later, he wasn’t smiling anymore. As the anesthesia wore off, the pain began. “Let’s try some pain medication, shall we?” said Peggy brightly as she headed down the hallway.

Where the hell is she with my drugs!” Ray growled 30 seconds later. I thought it best to stay quiet.

The first hydrocodone “elixir” didn’t do the trick. The next two syringes of fentanyl weren’t enough either. One more syringe of Dilaudid finally sent him back to happy land.

Around that time, the surgeon dropped by to say “we did the best we could”, which didn’t sound as hopeful to me as Ray seemed to think it was. But then again, I wasn’t on his drugs.

In his newly happy state, Ray was ready to go around 3:30. I helped him on with his socks and shirt and pants and shoes, Peggy got him into a wheelchair, I pulled the car to the front door and we shoved him into the passenger seat. Good luck, she said. I was afraid I’d need it.

On the ride home, Ray kept telling me where to turn (even onto our street), pointed out cars turning onto the road and read speed limit signs aloud. “I’ve got it, honey” I said sweetly. Or, at least, I hope it sounded sweet.

At the pharmacy, I asked him if he wanted me to wait for the prescription. “No, you can come back for it later. I want to go home.”

After he hobbled into the house on his crutches, the fun really began.

Can I have some water? Can you get my pillow from upstairs?

Ice, cereal, milk, bedroom shoes, blankets, more water, more ice …. I sprinted around the house, up and down the stairs as our conversation progressed something like this:

Where are my pills? I have to go get them at the pharmacy. Why didn’t you wait for them? You told me not to. Oh, I forgot. When can I have one? Not until 6:30PM. Why not sooner? Because you had pain medication at 2:30. So what? So the doctor said every four hours only. I might need one sooner. We’ll see – just try to rest. I can’t get comfortable. What do you need? Another blanket. OK, anything else? Some more ice. OK, anything else? Yes, a pill. Not until 6:30. What time is it? 4 o’clock. When do I get the next pill after that one? 10:30. Will you wake me if I’m sleeping? Yes. And in the middle of the night, too? Yes, darling.

When he finally got into bed around 10:30 with his pill and I had set an alarm for the middle of the night, given him his water, ice, special pillow and other assorted requested items, I was well into my second pinot noir of the evening and heading toward my third.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Ray and would do anything for him. However, the day reminded me why I never wanted to be a nurse.

And, I’m starting to think about that possible knee replacement surgery. An in-home nursing care service maybe?

Cathy Green

Ray is doing great! He got off the strong stuff quickly, began some exercises three days after surgery and is walking pain-free and without a limp five days later. Hopefully, he won’t need more surgery for a long time!

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