Monday, July 20, 2009

A wonderful walk on the beach

After leaving Mom this evening, I drove to Lake Michigan and walked for half an hour along the beach, feet in the waves -- there were waves today, and whitecaps from an easterly wind. I find few things as beautiful as waves washing up on sand.

I've been realizing that over recent weeks I haven't done a good job of releasing what's going on with Mom, I've been holding onto it instead, not going out much, not dancing or walking or getting much exercise, and that has set me up for more burnout than I might have otherwise experienced. So I'm going to see if I can do a better job of releasing, with walks like this one along the beach.

I was singing as I walked, and didn't stop even when I walked by somebody. "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins, mostly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My day off

I had a great time in the City yesterday, though it was not without incident. I was meeting an old friend from Experian days, who lives on the near north side, and planned to get off at the Division stop on the Red Line -- which just happened to be the site of a major fire, which stopped service to that stop. I was able to get off at Sedgwick instead, and Steve walked to meet me there. We'd planned to go into a coffee shop, but he's on a special diet right now, so instead we walked over to the Lake and walked to Navy Pier! It was a perfect day for walking beside the Lake, warm but not too hot, breezy, and lots of people to watch. I think we started just south of the North Avenue Beach, past Oak Street Beach and at least one other.

Navy Pier was absolutely jammed, I haven't been there in several years, and Steve said it was the most crowded he'd ever seen. We walked out to the end of the Pier where there were fewer people and less music over loudspeakers, and sat at a bench and talked. Steve has brain cancer and will undergo an unpleasant procedure on Wednesday called gamma knife radiation.

From there we walked almost the rest of the way to Millennium Park, before I realized my insides were empty and I needed food, having not eaten since breakfast. We parted company and I indulged in Giordano's stuffed pizza with mushrooms - best damn pizza in the world, as far as I'm concerned.

I walked to Millennium Park and discovered there was a free classical concert. I went into the Pritzger Pavilion to wait for the concert and realized I didn't want to wait that long. I love the Pavilion, it's one of the most thrilling architectural spaces I've ever been in. But I didn't know for certain how long the trains were running and wanted to put my feet up - they weren't sore, just tired, and wanting to be up.

Next Saturday night is another free concert, and this one is an opera program, I'm trying to think of somebody I know who might enjoy going with me to hear some opera.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A day off

Tomorrow I've got a day off from taking care of Mom, and I'm delighted, I feel lighter about the shoulders. I want to spend as much of the time being completely unscheduled as I can. I actually came back to Evanston with the intention of packing a few things and heading downtown to wander around in the City, but it started raining, and I'm watching TV instead. If it clears up, I'll go ahead down to the City and go to the Art Institute, which is free on Friday evenings.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update on me

Tonight I think I finally have an answer on why I've been so reluctant to talk to friends lately -- and, similarly, post to my blogs.

I really expected that I'd be so bursting with news about what's happening with me, and how it's going taking care of Mom, that I'd be dying to talk to as many friends as possible. And instead I've been avoiding it.

And I think there are 2 reasons. One is that much of the time I spend with Mom, my brain is working trying to figure her out, and figure out how to respond to what she says, and figure out what to do to help her. And all that figuring out leaves me very tired of figuring out how to describe my caring for her. People ask me how it's going, and I feel tired as I try to figure out how to answer.

And the other is that I spend so much time listening to her right now that I don't have much listening time for anybody else, and it's very hard for me to talk to a friend and not be able to listen to what they say about themselves, it leaves me feeling boorish and self-centered and, afterwards, stressed to have heard stuff I couldn't retain.

I think this will change -- I hope it will.

Yesterday I took Mom to see her psychiatrist, Dr. A., and the visit went *much* better than expected, and much better than the last one.

I acted as a kind of interpreter or mediator -- explaining things Mom said to Dr. A., and vice versa. Dr. A. has a thick Polish accent and sometimes is hard to understand ("wheelchairs" becomes "wilchers").

Mom and I described with real feeling what life is like for Mom right now, and Dr. A. looked compassionate.

I knew we'd have time in the waiting room, during which Mom's anxiety would build, so I brought along some printouts of pictures of Mom's new great-grandbaby, and postings to a blog about some friends, and it really worked to keep Mom's mind off it.

We went for a chocolate milkshake at McDonald's afterwards, and then back to where Mom lives, and I stayed with her for dinner, and we had a nice conversation over dinner. She was so bushed afterward that I helped her get ready for bed and tucked her in, which I absolutely love doing. We had spent the afternoon reading, talking, laughing, enjoying a milkshake, and sharing feelings, and it was really satisfying.

About my life apart from being Mom's caregiver -- I arrived in Illinois on June 7, and after about 3 weeks here, I was starting to feel fairly grounded. Then I needed to go live someplace else for 6 days so the homeowner could have his house back. I moved some of my things there, and that went reasonably well. And then I moved my things back after the 6 days.

And it was that 3rd move that seemed to scramble just about every circuit in my body. I could continue taking care of Mom, but that's about it. It took me a week to unpack my suitcase. I've moved into the 2nd bedroom here (it's not so bright early in the morning) but haven't brought my clothes in.

It may be that the whole move from Colorado finally hit me, I'm not sure, or if it's really just the moving out and moving back after 6 days. But it's been hard for me for the last week to do anything that required perspective or focus. I can take one piece of paper off my desk and handle it, then take another piece of paper and so on. I've tried taking days off (meaning spending time watching movies, mostly) but it hasn't worked, it seems I need to continue picking up pieces of paper and handling them, so that the chaos gradually lessens.

Tonight I could clearly remember for the first time several important phone calls I wanted to make this week, so I think the cloud is lifting.

And here's something interesting, and a bit embarrassing -- I often find that when it occurs to me to watch a particular movie, it turns out the theme of the movie speaks to my current condition. So yesterday I thought of a teen movie called She's All That, and I watched it this morning over breakfast (and then some). And I realized it's a remake of Pygmalion, and that's what I feel like in my work with Mom! I can honestly say without arrogance that I've made, and am making, a big difference in the quality of Mom's life, and it's like I'm bringing her back to life again. It's hugely satisfying.

Now maybe I should watch Charlie (Charley?), or Awakenings, a film about somebody who seemed to come back to life and then went back to an old way of being, as a check on savior behavior.

What else is happening -- I went to a shape-note sing on Sunday afternoon for the first time, it was fun, and it seems there are plenty of sings around here, including some pretty big ones. I've added some new music to my iPod that I'm enjoying -- Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Red Clay Ramblers, Stan Rogers. I'm still not getting enough exercise, but I think that will come. At the moment there are so many things I have to force myself to do, that I can't force myself to go get exercise, and go only when I really want to. I'm enjoying worshipping at Evanston Friends Meeting more than I can say.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peter Sagal on Mark Sanford

I know it's no longer the big story in the news, but Wait Wait Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal got off a really good one on South Carolina governor Mark Sanford on June 27th, the week of Sanford's supposed hike on the Appalachian Trail.

"Sanford joins the growing army of social conservatives who decided to get a jump on destroying their own marriage before same-sex couples could do it to them."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Redesign of the Yo site

My daughter is becoming the Executive Director of the Winnetka Youth Organization next month, and she redesigned its website, which I think looks fantastic.

Winnetka Youth Organization, also called The Yo

Sunday, July 5, 2009

On ministry

Last night I went to a party at the home of a woman I grew up with, in a small religious community in Glenview. I was feeling a bit nervous about going, as there would be people there whom I hadn't seen in many years.

And so as I drove to her house, I found myself talking out loud about myself, to see what I would say if anyone asked me how I was doing, and why I had moved.

And I imagined someone asking me, Are you interested in rejoining the Church? Even though I can't actually imagine anyone there asking me such a direct question.

And the answer I gave, aloud in the car, was that it would be hard for me to belong to a church in which a woman can't be a minister.

In reply, I imagined the person asking, Does that mean you would like to be a minister? And my answer would be, I think I already am.

The work I do with people is often a kind of ministry: I help a person see how God has been acting in their lives, and see the good that God is bringing out of their suffering, and see the meaning of that suffering. I sometimes quote words or ideas that for me are sacred, in a way not unlike a minister quoting scripture. So, yes, I am a minister.

There is a rare and wonderful experience that happens sometimes in Meeting, when someone speaks aloud a message that seems to be meant for you.

This morning in Meeting, we'd been sitting in silence no more than 5 minutes when a woman named Laura stood and read aloud the following quote from Faith and Practice published by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a book which is as close to a written creed as Quakers ever get.

"It is unfortunate that much formal training in ministry does not even recognize that . . . inward preparation exists. In our world of degrees, exams, and training programs, it is easy to forget that ministry is not primarily a task; it is a way of being in the world. It is living in relationship with God and being a witness to God. Ministry is being able to listen to the Word of God and thereby have a word of life to share with others. Fundamentally, we do not do ministry. We are ministers." -- Sandra Cronk, 1991 (page 106)

This passage spoke to me so strongly that I started crying. I haven't been sure whether or not to call myself, or think of myself, as a Quaker. But I find it deeply moving to hear words like these that express a belief that I share and which means so much to me.