Saturday, December 31, 2011

"lost letters" is what the email said...

My mother sent me the cutest email today.

"I get it. Let Alan read your christmas letter and he'll get it too. I was trying to reduce the excess clothing in my drawers and came across every mother's day card you ever created in grades 1-5. I am truly a PackRat. But these were the highlights of your creations. We do share a special connection. Hopefully there will be some insight for Alan that kids can argue with you but still love you. and yes you have been drawing on your body forever. You are my most colorful child...."

In the email she included the following:








(see, even at an early age I was preparing for my 1st tattoos!)

It was a lovely little gift. It came on the heals of a conversation we had while she was here for the holidays. I was trying to explain how my husband and I have different ways of viewing and handling holidays. I understand his reasoning and respect where he comes from.

I tend to run on full speed into November. Being a November baby it means my birthday (and now my husbands too!), Thanksgiving, several friends birthdays, Solstice, nephew's birthday, then Christmas and now my stepson's birthday. It's weeks of plotting, planning, gathering and celebrating. All of which also includes surrounding myself with good friends and family and as you can see above, I have always been this way.

I especially enjoyed the birthday card I made for her. By my hand writing, I am guessing I was in middle school then - I was really into writing my "a" differently. I love that I lay it out there, "even though we fight a lot, I still love you dearly." Some of my friends (and husband!) might agree that I haven't changed much. Less fighting, and lots of loving is how I try to live in the world now. And it still rings true, she is my best friend - always has been, always will be. I know I am a very lucky girl that way.

Anyways, it was a fun way to end the year. It's nice to recognize that caring, loving little girl is still alive inside of me, know matter how many challenges or heart breaks and how I have grown and changed. Thanks Mom & Dad, I owe you.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Nice job, Liv & Alan...

Apparently the kiddo's birthday party yesterday was well received...



We are still working on the "Thank-you," part of being a kid. He get's it about 1/2 the time, unprompted. This sticky note on his bedroom door was pretty awesome when I went to wake him up this morning.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Today, about an hour ago Solstice began! From here until Summer Solstice the days will be getting longer - woohooo. I love winter. I love this time of year. I wasn't always a solstice celebrator. I have Stacy Bias to thank for that.

Five years ago she hosted a Solstice party and invited me along. She asked us all to come prepared with the things we wanted to manifest into our lives and the things we wanted to let go of. I took her suggestion very seriously and for weeks leading up to the party spent time collecting my thoughts, narrowing down what I wanted and becoming very specific about what I was asking for.

When I arrived that night, Stacy had a collection of beautiful stationary and pens for us to write our desires on. I remember pulling out my little list from my pocket and writing everything down in two columns. I was very proud of what I had come up with and felt very hopeful for the upcoming year.

Around midnight, we all gathered in the very cold and clear new winter air around a campfire. A friend of Stacy's sang a prayer and then Stacy led us through a mindfulness exercise to open our hearts and mind to the changes we were hoping for.

Writing this, I can smell the campfire and feel the coldness in my limbs. I can feel the tears running down my cheeks and taste their saltiness on my lips. Slowly, one by one we tossed our beautiful lists into the flames and let our hopes and dreams catch fire and be carried on smokey tendrils into the universe. It was a power night for me. I do believe that I manifested many of the changes that came that year. I tell Alan all the time that I manifested him into my life that night.

Sadly, I have never celebrated Solstice quite so intentionally as I did that night, yet every year I still have a short list that I meditate on as fall asleep. So, Happy Solstices, friends and may this year bring you many wonderful experiences, growth and change.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shifting Gears

I have been thinking about doing this for a while. I have decided to extract myself from Facebook. At first I thought I would take myself off all together, but now I realize that I don't think I can do that. It's become an important tool to connect with resources, if nothing else.

I did decide to take the application off my phone last week, and I am feeling good about that decision. That being said, I still pick up my phone expecting to see some sort of notification from FB. I felt like I was going through withdrawls earlier this week, and now less so.

I was talking with my bestie Kelly this weekend and I was sharing how disconnected I am feeling from people. I spend all day with my colleagues, who are lovely individuals, and they are not my people (barring a small handful I have known since grad school). I am not playing kickball or bowling, so those folks are no longer around. I am not cheerleading or active in what remains of the Fat Activism community. I am not in grad school anymore, so that community is out as well. It's like there is a big void in my connection with people. I was grateful that Dexter has been on the last few months as it brought another bestie, Moop to me weekly.

I have tried to organize monthly (or there abouts) gatherings of friends, and that has helped. And I completely miss connecting with people. Some might argue that leaving/reducing FB time would be counter intuitive to those feelings, but I find that to be exactly opposite of my truth. I found myself being a passive friend via the FB medium. I could surf the pages of friends and know just about everything going on at a surface level (and sometimes deeper) with them and have no connection to them. I don't like that void.

If you are my friend, I want you here with me. I want to sit at a dinner table and laugh until we hurt together. I want to snuggle on a couch and watch movies. I want to check out all the restaurants and coffee shops in my new neighborhood together. I want to ride the Spring Water corridor trail to Gresham (and beyond!) with you. What I want is connection, real human connection.

So let's do this! Who's with me? I am taking names on my list of (mis)adventures and I would love to add you to it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Somewhere in the middle...

So, I did cut it. It's somewhere between the two pictures I posted earlier. I call it my "Inner Amy Williams." A-Dubs, as she is known, has the best hair all the time. Slightly shaggy and always stylish. I hope I can rock it as well as she can. I'll have to take some pics this weekend and post them. I also want to write a real update. Lots of changes around here. I'm diggin' life right now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Itchin for a change.

This happens to me all the time. I spend two years growing my hair out and they I want to cut it off. I know that I am low maintenance girl. I like a wash and go look. When I grow it out, I end up pulling it up everyday. I am thinking I want to go back to something I have had before. Not too short, and not long. Here are two styles that I liked a lot. Thoughts?




My hair is dark red and my bangs are currently a bit shorter than either one of these photos and will look good with either style.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Testing....123

I am trying a post from my cell phone!  Let's see how this works...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

wow!

Tomorrow is my 36th birthday. How'd I get here so fast? :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Back at it.

I am slowly getting my sea legs. I am getting better at rolling with the tide instead of trying to stand so straight. Life is changing in ways that feel good. I am struggling here and there, but isn't that apart of life? I want to get back to blogging. It's one of the many things that was put on the back burner the last few months.

As for a quick update, that I will elaborate on later, I graduated in June, took a fulltime job as a therapist in July, bought a house in August, and moved-in in September. It's been a busy couple of months. Lots of change and growth.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm exhausted.

We are buying a house. In fact, we close this week and will have keys in our hands this coming Friday at 5pm. I am both overwhelmed by the process of buying a house and the actual moving part.

We are doing pretty good. For the most part, we have shared the duties of packing pretty equally. I have picked up the slack the last two days and I know that he will do most of the heavy lifting come the end of the week, so it all works out in my mind.

I am ready to get settled in. It's a much bigger space than we have been living in for the last few years, which is really exciting. We have all been on top of each other and it's hard not to be in each others space in our little apartment. At the new house we have four bedrooms. Two are upstairs in the "master suite" as we like to call it. Two more are on the main floor. One will be the kiddo's room and the other the guest/family room. There is a much bigger kitchen, a breakfast nook, and actual dining room area. I am excited about the idea that we will all finally get to sit down and dine with each other comfortably.

I am excited about our first Halloween with pumpkins lining the porch. I can't wait to have family together as we host Christmas dinner. I am excited for next spring planting my garden and having space for flowers to grow. I am looking forward to birthday parties, celebrations, potlucks and BBQ's.

But first, I have a few more boxes to pack...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My PSU Masters of Social Work Graduation Speech



Here is the little video Alan took of my speech yesterday. I was soooooo nervous. I wish I would have smiled a little more, but over all, I think I did a pretty good job.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Speech for the PSU School of Social Work Graduation today

Dear friends, family, colleagues and mentors. I am so excited to be here today to celebrate with you, the end of this amazing adventure. As some of you witnessed on Facebook, I have been counting down the days for a few weeks now. Ok, maybe more like a few months. It wasn’t because I wanted out of class time or to be finished writing papers – well, maybe the paper part. But really, like many of you, I am eager to begin the next great adventure.

Like most of us, I entered this program eager about the possibilities of what was to come. I appreciated the exciting process of grappling with new ideas, trying on theories, and experimenting with who I wanted to be as a social worker. I feel grateful that throughout this experience I was able form relationships that I knew would nourish me personally and professionally for the rest of my life. Yet, during this same exhilarating time of personal growth and development, we experienced the heartbreaking loss of valued members of our social work community.

During the fall of 2008, we lost classmate Katie Nolan. She was a bright passionate woman devoted to grappling with what it meant to be apart of the social work institution while remaining committed to social justice.

Barely a year later, we experienced the tragic deaths of two well loved and respected social work professors. This horrifically unexpected act took the collective breath away from faculty, staff, countless students and the community at large. It left many feeling angry, confused and heart-broken. Yet during both of these very tragic events, something wonderful happened. Our community, together, was able to find hope.
Through the loss, confusion and anger we were able to come together. We were able to remember the goodness intrinsic in each other, create space for healing, offer ourselves authentically to each other as a means of support, and to remain hopeful about what life still had in store for us all. These were powerful experiences. They soften my edges a bit and reaffirmed for me that I had made the right choice in following my path to become a social worker.

As we leave here today and move on to our next adventures, I want to encourage you to remain hopeful. Never forget the unique and powerful compassion that you each possess. And even when the case loads may feel unmanageable, or the policies unjust – remember that we have the ability, as a social work community, to sustain the hopefulness that brought us to this work in the first place. For without hope, we have nothing.

In closing I want to share with you some words by Reverend Mark Belletini. These powerful words have guided my life for many years. Much like us, independently they are simple ideas. But together they create a powerful message of hope.

Live simply, gently, at home in yourselves.
Act justly. Speak justly.
Remember the depth of your own compassion.
Forget not your power in the days of your powerlessness.
Practice forebearance.
Speak the truth, or speak not.
Take good care of yourselves, for you are a good gift.
Crave peace for all people in the world, beginning with yourselves,
and go as you go with the dream of that peace alive in your heart.

Thank you and Congratulations Class of 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I did it!

Wow! Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am done with grad school, again. In ten short days I'll be walking across the stage receiving my diploma. It seems so surreal.

This time two years ago, I had just left BAH and literally on a whim, had applied for the MSW program. I had been talking about doing it for a couple of years, but I already had a Masters, and a job that I loved, so why bother. Then when BAH hired a new ED and it became crystal clear that we were not going to be able to work together in a meaningful fashion, I took the opportunity to get out. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but everywhere I applied, they wanted a MSW, not and MPA even with 12 years of experience. So back to school I went.

I am really glad that I made that choice. I am so lucky that I was afford the opportunity the way I was. The universe has a plan for me, of this I am sure. I have been blessed with amazing internships, part-time jobs that have helped keep our family afloat, a loving partner who even when he might not have wanted to, was always supportive, new colleagues that challenged me to be a better social worker, and friends that were always cheering me on. And we did it! We made it through.

Now it's on to the next adventure. Who knows what the universe holds, but I know whatever it is, I am really excited for it. So, thank you everyone who supported me along the way. I felt the support daily, and can't wait to pay it back in spades!

Woooohooooo! I'm done with grad school!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

What do to with sadness...

I've had a heavy heart lately. I know that it's a mixture of transition, disappointment, frustration and fear. All of it leaves me feeling unsure and sad. Normally I approach change with an open heart, but I am just not able to reach that spot right now. I am hoping that some of it is simply stress of the term ending and with the submission of my final portfolio, that these feelings will be lessened. I am hoping that with settling into a new pattern of life, I will be able to address it in a meaningful way. But, right now I am more inclined to lay on the bed screaming, "life's not fair!" A pretty thought, am I right?

I know I have been here before. I also know that life will get better. Yet right now, it's taking all I have to live simply, gently and at home in myself. So, I am going to take my mama's advice and go lay on my bed for a while and remind myself, that this too shall pass.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Everyone needs an indulgent day.

Today I have done absolutely nothing related to school and it feels great! I really should to be writing my last paper, but you know what, I'm not. I needed this day. I haven't had a day like this in almost two years. I woke up early, took a shower and crawled right back into bed. I watched really questionable TV for three hours before convincing my hubs he should crawl back in bed with me. We had a long lunch out, including the yummiest dessert ever. After which I indulged him by accompanying him to Home Depot and not complaining once. Then we came home and tinkered around the apartment. I attempted to give Marty a hair cut (poor dog!) and bath while the hubs played video games, we planted flowers and cut some wood for our chiminea. Next on the agenda is a trip to PetSmart and a stop at YoCreme. Then we'll come home and lay on the couch all evening watching Season 1 of Six Feet Under before dragging ourselves to bed too late. Tomorrow I will return to working on papers, getting my curriculum ready, finishing my semi-annual report for work, church and preparing the house and laundry for the upcoming week. But that's tomorrow. For right now, I indulge...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Deeeeeeeep breath.

It's been a rough morning around here. Team Mongoose struggles with Sundays. Lots of transitions happen on Sundays. Someone is either coming or going and that increases anxiety. When I look at it with my therapist brain, it makes total sense. Transition is hard, even when you are prepared for it. Transitioning between what might seem like two completely different cultures, even harder.

I am starting to feel anxiety about Sundays, which is a shame. It's one of my goals, when I have a life back that no longer includes mandatory readings and paper writing, to really start working on this. We have to find a new way to manage this in our home. Perhaps a celebration aspect could be added? I am not sure. Anyone out there have ideas? I would be in very deep appreciation for any wisdom you could offer.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Senioritis?

Absolutely. I find myself wavering between the feeling of extremely uncertainty about the future, post-grad school, and the feeling of complete exuberance that my every waking moment will no longer be a balance between internship, class, work, family and friends. I am having a hard time imagining what life will look like on the "outside."

I have taken to describing my life as a delicate balance. Everything is stacked into place and much like the game of Jenga, move one block too many and it will all come crashing down. That being said, I've almost finished the game! In a matter of weeks, two years of amazing support of my hubs and kiddo, my parents and friends will culminate in yet another masters degree. Life feels different this time around. I really do feel like we all worked hard to get this degree and I really want to celebrate everyone who helped me.

Alan carried a significant load of the emotional work on this one. He was there for me when I was exhausted and feeling like the end of the term was never going to come, with gentle enthusiasm. He slept on the couch when I was up late writing papers in my office/our bedroom. Alan made me tea, made me laugh and listened to me bitch about theory/class/the cost of books. He actually did some of the readings with me and challenged me through debate which helped me strengthen my beliefs. Sometimes he just left me alone to do what I needed to do with out making me feel guilty and sometimes he threw in a little guilt to even it out! :) I can't say enough how much I appreciate him and his support.

Gage has been a super kid. He has joined me for many hours of "library time" in the livingroom as I read thousands of pages of course readings. He has been patient when I wasn't always able to join in him and his dad on outings/games/activities. Gage asks me how my test/paper/presentations went with actual interest. Most importantly, he has been a firm reminder of the resiliency of people. We have both worked really hard the last two years to get ourselves to where we want to be.

My parents and friends, as usual, are amazing. They have been there to support me when I was feeling down and defeated. They checked in on me at the perfect times when I was feeling lost in my "school life." They took me to the beach, to game nights, bbq's and dinner. Most importantly, they never took it personally when I was checked out of "life" and into "school."

I also deep gratitude for the new friends I have made in the SSW. What an amazing bunch of smart, funny, passionate, intuitive, experienced, loving people. I have learned so much from you all. When I think back to all that we have encountered together - the loss of our colleague Katie in our first term together, the moving of the program, the pains of personal growth in such a public setting, the tragic loss of two professors in such a devastating manner and the impact that it had on the faculty/staff/students, the continuing challenge of remaining hopeful while we grapple with the oppression present in our institution. You have all been so gracious and open with who you are and who you want to be as we have moved through this experience together, and for that I am so very grateful.

It's been an amazing two years and I feel so much hope as I prepare to leave the proverbial nest of the SSW. I am not sure what is next, which for those of you who know me well, know that this a really tough place for me to sit in and I am doing it anyway. I am trying to stay present in this moment and appreciate what you all have shared with me, knowing that this particular adventure is ending and excitedly waiting to see what adventure is next.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Six down and only one more to go!

I can hardly believe that I only have three more months, or 68 days to be exact, before I finish this masters program. During Joys and Sorrows last Sunday, I shared with my congregation that it was a joy to be finishing up this part of my life and a joy that my family has been so supportive through this process. After the sermon I had several people approach me to congratulate and inquire about how I felt about the process.

My response is always a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. I sort of fell into the MSW program. When change was happening at BAH and the opportunity to take a voluntary lay-off presented itself, I wasn't sure what was to be next. I knew that BAH was changing into something I was no longer going to be able to stand with. So being able to leave without (too much) drama was a good thing. As I began searching for other jobs, it quickly became apparent that an MSW was important in this town. It was frustrating that even with a Masters in Public Administration and 10 years experience in the field that those three letters were so important to many organizations that were hiring.

After multiple conversations with Alan about what going back to school might mean for our family, we decided that I should apply. On Monday, with applications due on Thursday, I began the process of applying to the PSU MSW program as a part-time student. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to get in. I had done everything so last minute and was sure that I had forgotten something.

In late spring I got my "you were almost good enough, but we'll leave you on the waitlist" letter. I was a little heartbroken, and mostly frustrated that my direction hadn't been cleared up. If I got into grad school life would look one way. If I didn't it was going to look completely the opposite. Yet, here I was in the in between place. So, we decided that I would spend the summer finishing up all the last details of our wedding and enjoying unemployment. Once the wedding was over, we would hopefully know one way or another if I was going to get in to school or get a job.

Literally the day we were driving to Eugene four days before our wedding, I got an email that said something like, "we have a spot in the fulltime program, do you want it? let me know asap." Nothing other explanation, just yes or no. I was so excited I could hardly control myself. We spent the hour and half ling drive sussing out the pros and cons of what fulltime would look like. Alan was hesitant, and incredibly supportive. Of course, I was going to do it. We jumped in as a family with both feet and never looked back.

It has been a challenging journey. For every sense of fulfillment I have experienced, there are equal amounts of disappointment. I had really hoped to find more than just a program that espoused commitment to social justice and social change including a much more in depth exploration of interpersonal violence. Instead, I found a program that seems hurt. I have felt the divisiveness amongst faculty and staff members permeating the classrooms. It has often felt like there is a wound that needs attention, cleaning and protection as it heals. There is a desire to have students engage in this intensely personal struggle with who we are when we enter the program and what we hope to become, but it feels like the institution that is supposed to be challenging and supporting this process has screeched to a halt itself.

Yet, I have hope. I have hope that with the changing of the administration, there will be a new surge of lifeforce in the school. There are too many amazing people working in the same space to not be able to find some common ground from which to start the process of healing wounds. I am holding space within me for the hope that the healing can happen.

As for the relationships I have created and friendships formed, I am going to miss the weekly face to face interactions. I am going to miss access to knowledge in a way that you can only have in a formal educational setting. I am going to miss moments by myself wandering my way to campus. I am going to miss the energy that flows through the halls. I am going to miss the ebb and flow of each term and each school year beginning and ending. I think I am an education junkie that thrives on it all.

I am excited to move on to the next adventure. I am excited to see what married life will be like when I am not in school. I am excited to use all of my new knowledge and experiences to help others. I am excited to find ways to continue to stay engaged with the School of Social Work, beyond donations to the alumni association. So now I hunker down, try to keep my nose to the grindstone and finish this one last wave in this part of my education.

Monday, February 21, 2011

writing about myself is weird...

I was asked to speak on a panel about fat activism and the health at every size (HAES) movement. I am really excited as I have been involved in some pretty amazing activism in my life. I had to write a "short" bio about myself. It was a weird thing to have to do, but here is what I came up with and I hope it sums me up correctly...

"Liv has spent her life learning to love the body she is in and helping others recognize the power within themselves. It doesn't matter if it's radical cheerleading with F.A.T.A.S.S., building community through her work with FatGirl Speaks, or effecting change through her commitment to social justice in social work; Liv is dedicated to creating a world where everyone feels valued exactly the way they are."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Family of Origin work; it's hard stuff.

I am just weeks into my second to last term of grad school. This term in my advance practice class we are doing family of origin work. The idea is that we are exploring our family history and how it impacts the work we do. Hopefully, the goal is, as we move forward in our practice to be aware of where working with individuals may be hard and where we might experience transference and counter-transference.

I am not sure why I thought it would be such a great idea to sign up to present first or why I chose to talk about Alzheimers, but I did. So this afternoon I am presenting my family genogram and talking about how Alzheimers has impacted my family. Below is the narrative I wrote to share with my peers. It's going to be a bit intense today around 1pm, so if you have some extra positive energy to send my way, I would truly appreciate it.

“Alzheimer's is a brain disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.”

As long as I can remember Alzheimers has been present in my family. My great-Grandmother on my mom’s side, Mama Chinn, had it. My maternal grandmother, Grandma Thomas, has it. My paternal grandfather, Grandpa McClelland, had it.

I don’t have any real memories of Mama Chinn. Everything I can think if is just a story that was told to me by my mother and grandmother. Mama Chinn was put in a care facility when I was very young as the dementia made her too difficult to care for. I remember hearing my Grandmother talk about how hard to was to visit her mother. Mama Chinn would ask my grandmother where her daughters were and tell her that they never came to visit her. My grandmother would just sit there, holding her mother’s hand and listen. I remember hearing that Mama Chinn had gone into another woman’s room and tried to help her get dressed. The other woman didn’t want her help and tried to get Mama Chinn to stop, so Mama Chinn pushed her. The woman fell and broke her hip. Mama Chinn had to be moved from that facility because they felt she was a danger to the other clients. It wasn’t much longer after that, that Mama Chinn’s health began to fail and she eventually passed on.

“Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia”

“Shit, shitshitshit. I can’t believe I did that.” She stared at us, me 16 and my brother 12, looking completely confused. “Did you read the tags right?” We did. The gift I had wanted was sitting unwrapped in my brother’s lap and I was holding his. My mom started to cry. “I can’t believe I did that. Did I really do that?” Through her tears and quick breaths she managed to tell us that she had thought she had done good this year, labeling everything as she went along as to not forget. We didn’t think it was a big deal. In fact we thought it was pretty funny. We’d gotten what we wanted, we gotten to open gifts – so what if it was the wrong one. But even then, I knew what she was afraid of. She didn’t have to say it out loud. It was the white noise always present in the background – whispering, when will I start losing my mind too.

“Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging”

I did not spend a lot of time with my mother’s parents growing up. When my mother met and married my father, a military man stationed in DC, she knew that one day she would be living across the country from her parents. My mom tried to get us out to see her family every few years. As we didn’t get to see them as often, we were the spoiled grandkids. My grandmother could never remember our names. “Melis, er, Steph, er I mean Olivia,” was a common cry down the stairs into the basement. As I got older, I would tease her, trying to evoke a smile out of her often cranky face. She would mumble something about too many girls and usually give me a mischievous smile. As time passed, the opportunities to head east became fewer. I kept up on her through emails from my Grandpa and the occasional phone calls usually around the holidays. My mom would tell me stories of Grandma’s memory deteriorating and the concerns she was having for my grandmother’s safety, often fighting back her own tears.

In my late twenties I would end up making two trips with my mother back to her childhood home. The first trip was to support my mother as she and her sisters had a very hard conversation about moving, with their parents. A little over a year later, I would go back to help my mother begin the packing process. I don’t think I have ever laughed and cried so much in my life. In the time between visits all memories of me had been erased from my grandmother’s memory and she had to be reminded who my mom was on nearly every occasion.

I felt so much sadness and fear. First my great grandmother, then my grandmother. Did that mean my mother would be next? The thought of losing her, or more accurately, her mind losing me is one of the most terrifying fears I have.

“Alzheimer's worsens over time”

“Hugh, now stop. Sit down in your chair, you can’t walk without your cane you know that.” My Grams was forever yelling at my grandpa. They had been taking care of each other since she was 15. He had made sure that she had a roof over her head and food in the pantry and she made sure that their house was a home and food nourished their family. They were best friends. I have no memory of them ever saying a hurtful thing to the other. They spent their life together getting by and were fortunate enough in later life to have some financial resources that allowed them to finally play together. They would crawl into their RV and travel the west coast, stopping wherever they wanted. They played cards all the time and sat in their recliners devouring books together. They had a lovely life together.

In my late teens, it became apparent that my grandfather’s mind was starting to fail. My grams would wake in the middle of the night to find him in the living room preparing for a job he’d retired from 15 years before. She would yell at him, half in anger and half in fear to go back to bed. We all witnessed his deterioration and worried about them both, but Grams was dead set on caring for him. As the dementia increased, it was Grams who got rid of his hunting rifles, hid the keys to the car, got child proof locks on the doors, bathed him, cared for him and was there holding his hand when he finally succumbed.

I look back know and have no idea how she did it for so long. The love, strength and fear present for her over the last 8 years of my grandfather’s life as he slowly pulled away from us all in mind and eventually body, is amazing. To this day, she says she wouldn’t have done a thing differently and still thinks of him every day.

“Alzheimer's has no current cure…”

I watch. I watch my dad. I watch my mom. I watch myself. I swear, you never told me that. When did we talk about that? Damn it, where did I leave that dot dot dot? When my mom or dad launches into a story that they have told me in our last conversation, I wonder is it just forgetfulness, or is this a sign?

Last year I did my practicum at a continuing care facility where I worked with people who were experiencing the beginning stages of dementia, and were in the process of transitioning from independent living into 24 hour care and their families. I learned a lot. It was a great opportunity to have honest frank discussions with my partner and my parents about what they want as we all age. It felt empowering to be able to walk down this path a number of times with families each trying on different emotions. I want to say that this opportunity lessened the fear of the possibility of what’s to come, but really it didn’t. I am still terrified when I think about the chance that my parents might lose me, long before I lose them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

whew! we survived 2010!!

I have to say I am really glad that 2011 has arrived. Last year, well it was a bit of a beast. I am ready for a fresh start and all the potential 2011 holds. I have been thinking a lot about what I would like to do this year and started a list. This is by no means exhaustive, but it's stuff that has been rolling around in my head for a while.

Participate in the Oddfellows June Triathlon
Graduate in June with my Masters in Social Work
Be working full-time by the end of the year
Continue working on my parenting skills
Start a Step Parenting support group
Sew something
Read a book for pleasure
Continue working on my communication skills
Camping!
Go to the beach
Crater Lake
Pay off a credit card
Have comprehensive health insurance paid for by my employer
Create community
Get more in touch with my spiritual side
Be more creative
Take a class/workshop for pleasure
Move my body daily
Get my knee repaired!
Go dancing
Surprise myself
Quit holding back

I know there is more in me, but I think this is a good start.