Tag Archives: Health

Valentine’s Day – not only for the L-O-N-G Married

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On this Valentine’s Day my husband wants me to share with you the fact that he is disappointed.

By certain long-standing habits of mine that I refuse to modify.

  • One recent morning he came downstairs for breakfast and reached into the refrigerator for blueberries to eat atop his cereal. (as do I.)  What he found were two plastic containers of blueberries, side-by-side. One contained six or seven forlorn, slightly shriveled old blueberries. The other box was brand new – full of fresh, plump berries.

It was also clear, so he told me that evening  (he has an amateur sleuth badge from our mutual habit of watching far too many BBC detective shows) that a person he knows all too well had obviously opened up the new box of berries without taking the time to finish what was left of the old berries. Which is – according to him – a sad commentary on the differences that remain  between us even after almost 39 years of marriage.

That I would brashly dig into the sweetest of berries, because I knew I could leave it to him to polish off the older sad-looking berries.

And wouldn’t you do the same?

Given all of life’s difficulties (have you been watching the national news lately?), isn’t it reasonable, when presented with the choice, to go with the most tempting option?

I mean, I’m thrifty when I have to be – but when I don’t have to be, I do like to eat the freshest food first.

  • On a related note, he also likes to point out to anyone who will listen that I possess all of the necessary qualifications for immediate hire by whatever  division it is of the U.S.Department of Agriculture in charge of putting sell-by dates on food. Because he believes (wrongly) that a person can    confidently and safely consume food that is well past said sell-by date.

He quibbles with my predilection to toss out food that shows even the most recent of expired dates. We have – and I’m not proud of this – argued at length about what “sell by” means versus “use by.”

But don’t you also want to stay healthy?

I try to reason with him by explaining that if I were to eat very old food I could end up in the hospital – again.  (a place I do not want to re-visit having spent far too long there in 2012). If I were to become ill because of eating spoiled food, my husband would have to visit me in the hospital and that would cost him both time ( I can’t miss that much work!) and money (do you believe how expensive this hospital parking garage is?)

So I am only trying to be helpful by eating the freshest of food.

Unlike my husband who truly does love old food. And I don’t say this snidely. In all seriousness, he prefers to eat leftovers. Previously cooked food that resides inside little plastic containers inside our refrigerator for days, even for weeks, tastes good to him.

And if the most ancient of leftovers have a slightly blue tinge, all the better. (“it’s fine, it’s just like blue cheese. you like Roquefort cheese, don’t you?” he will say in his defense as he chomps down.)

Am I spoiled because I like to eat fresh food, prefer not to eat leftovers – and have a somewhat tightly wound approach to tossing out foods immediately after their use-by date? Perhaps so.

If he were a writer – he would want to edit this post – to tell you that his preference for older (a polite way of putting it) food comes to him by how he was raised. He is the child of immigrants who came to this country in the early 1950’s and worked extraordinarily hard in their factory jobs to raise a family who knew how important it was not to let any food go to waste.

I am a few generations removed from the immigrant experience and maybe that is why I am less thrifty about food than I should be. While my stay-at-home mom was hardly extravagant with her supermarket food purchases,  leftovers do not feature as large a role in my childhood memories as they do in my husband’s.

On this Valentine’s Day we consider ourselves lucky that we can share a laugh about a few old berries. Because last year was a very rocky one for us as parents. Life events tested our differing perspectives on far more serious concerns than the shelf stability of food.

It’s very important to laugh about left-overs. I highly recommend it to everyone, parents or not, l-o-n-g marrieds or not. Finding the funny in blue-tinged food can get you through the toughest of times.

 

 

 

 

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Gift Giving and Gift Getting: “I’m not hard to buy a gift for, really I’m not.”

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I spotted a bright blue bag semi-hidden on a chair in our dining room earlier this morning.  Frothy bits of tissue paper erupted from its’ top. It must be another Hanukkah gift! How fun, I thought, my husband, JP, is going to surprise me tonight – on the 8th and last night of the holiday with an unexpected extra gift.

Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. We light candles, say the blessings, sing songs and celebrate with friends and family. As adults, we exchange small gifts only on the first night.

So what could this extra surprise gift be? I told myself I should wait until he gets home from work. But curiosity often (always?) gets the best of me and I walked over to the bright blue bag. I’m not proud to admit this, but I rumbled through the tissue paper to get a peek.

And what did I find inside the bag?

A kit of prescription preparation supplies for JP’s colonoscopy scheduled for later this week.

Another gift search foiled, serves me right.

I could go all treacly here and say how wonderful it is that my husband remembers (after numerous post-it note prodding by yours truly) to have regular health check-ups and that the real gift will be his news that the colonoscopy went well. All clear, I hope the doctor tells him later this week, no more unpleasant details needed, please.

But instead the dashed expectations of the bright blue bag made me think of my own less than satisfactory history as a gift recipient. Which puzzles me because, all modesty aside, I am both easy to buy for and a truly great gift giver.

Known among family and friends as a “good picker”, I have an eye for that special gift. Like the customized cross-word puzzle I gave my Dad with personalized clues based on his own life history. The perfect vintage poodle print for my friend Liz. The hand-created framed collage I made for JP, then my boyfriend, featuring creative images from the early days of our courtship.

That was also the year that my future-husband-to-be reciprocated by giving me a set of metal nail clippers in a red leatherette case. A few seasons later his Hanukkah gift was a heavy flannel nightgown sporting delicate white eyelet ruffles at its’ high neck. There was also the time he gave me huge, hideously dangling, bright orange fan-shaped earrings.

And when I turned sixty, my closest friends hosted a small dinner for me after which I eagerly opened their gifts. Skin cream. Hand cream. A gift certificate for a facial. More moisturizer. Another hand cream.

So this is how I am perceived: As someone who needs help cutting her nails, likes to dress in the image of an American pioneer woman while sleeping, enjoys wearing large flashy earrings and has very, very, very, very dry skin.

All untrue! Shouldn’t my husband and friends know me better?

You can attribute nice motives to each gift giver, of course.  The nail clipper set proved useful. The nightgown was intended to keep me warm. The earrings were handmade, purchased at a favorite crafts fair.  And while my skin is well-kept, thank you, I do have a known weakness for creams and lotions that smell of lavender. So points there.

Perhaps the real point of the bright blue bag colonoscopy supplies episode is that reality intrudes even during the happiest of gift-giving seasons.

This year it was our two-year old grandson who received from us – in my humble opinion – the most thoughtful Hanukkah gift of all. A relatively inexpensive toy kitchen which we quickly discovered was reasonably priced because it had been falsely labeled as “easy to assemble”. The 75 lb. box was delivered to our door by a brawny UPS guy last week.

Inside the box we found a 16 page booklet of visual-only instructions, 42 separately numbered particle-board and plastic pieces and 104 (I counted) small screws and bolts encased in individual plastic bags.

With my minor assistance, JP completed the kitchen in four plus hours which included much cursing and “whose idea was this” grumbles. But so worth it when our grandson’s eyes lit up when he saw his very own faux stainless steel refrigerator, oven, stove and dishwasher ensemble – including a non-working kitchen faucet and painted-on subway-tile backsplash.

This week while our grandson is busy stirring painted wood food inside tiny pots and pans on his new-four-burner stove, my husband will be busy shall we say, modifying his diet (again, no unpleasant details needed) in “anticipation” of his upcoming colonoscopy.

Celebrations, holidays, spending time with family always coincide with reality. Getting gifts we may not like. Giving gifts we hope our recipients love. And waiting on the news of the one gift always high on our getting older wish list, one you cannot assemble, construct or purchase –  good health.

 

 

 

 

 

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September is for Apples, Honey and Tiny Acts of Resistance

 

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September is a time for looking back and looking forward. I am excellent at the rear view mirror part – less so at seeing into the future.

Recent Septembers (2010, 2011, 2012) have not been kind to me or to my family. It’s been the month where we find ourselves in hospitals, and not wearing badges that say “visitor.”  Luckily, so far this September 2015 neither I nor any one in my family has had a close up view of that big neon sign that blares “EMERGENCY ROOM”.

(Note that we are only half-way through the month so there is still time for unfortunate things to happen.)

My daughter “fondly” calls me – “Negative Nancy” – for my uncanny ability to latch onto bad news, to be in the know with the latest gloomy international headline or have an update on a friend’s poor health. She would likely shake her head in dismay if she knew how avidly I read obituaries in the newspaper every day.

Nothing like a well-written obituary to get you motivated in the morning.

Which is why in synagogue earlier today for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (happy 5776!), I took a small census of those around me. We sat in the sanctuary near friends and friends of friends. I take cheer in seeing all of them fully dressed, sitting upright (a/k/a alive) and thus not in the obituary pages.

Will they be sitting near us next September?

One of the prayers we read on this holiday talks about who will live in the coming year –  and who will die – describing possible means of death in the most graphic, biblically-specific fashion.

I like to look around me during that prayer and say a little one of my own hoping that those close to me will thrive this coming year. Not that thriving is under my control which is what the rabbi discussed in part  – that control over our own lives is the biggest illusion of all.

And yet we make plans – for that is what we do each September.

To go football games, take college visits and travel for Thanksgiving. For weddings – three of my friends have adult kids who are getting married in 2016 and I am already looking forward to their celebrations. All confident that everything we plan will come to pass.

Which of course it will not.

Which is also why my prior September ill-health experiences caused me revert to two-year-old behavior – to try to exert control over the smallest of matter as some toddlers do.

When our son was two, his favorite phrase was “I don’t haf’ta if I don’t want to.”  I was the opposite as a child, teen and adult. The ultimate, dutiful, Susie-Student-Council-Type who always did as I was told.

Three years ago – from September 2012 through December, 2012 –  I tried out for the “best patient award” – – ever compliant, dutiful and trusting during multiple hospitalizations and two open heart surgeries. The human pin cushion, that was me, the “Horizontal” ( a/k/a the patient), always smiling, polite and friendly, ready to be poked, prodded by any “Vertical”  (a/k/a doctor, nurse, aide) wearing a badge who entered my hospital room.

Very little is under your control as a hospital patient.

You get told what to do and when to do it. Many times I lay flat on a stretcher under a thin blanket in the busy big hospital hallway waiting for an MRI or an MRA or an EKG or an Echocardiogram or a Nuclear Imaging Test. Hospital staff scurrying by me en route to their next task.  My sole task was waiting. For a long time. Until my name was read off a clipboard and I was wheeled into a “procedure” room where I was told by another set of Verticals what to do and when to do it. You get the idea.

When I emerged in late December, 2012, with complications and uncertainties, but most definitely alive, I made an internal vow to leave my always dutiful persona behind me.

During Rosh Hashanah services yesterday the rabbi reminded us that while the big picture of things is not under our control, like whether we live or die, we do get to choose how we live while we do so. His message was to live life as positive person who shuns hatred.

The message of lack of control resonates with me the most. If we can’t control the big things then the tiniest of things that are actually under our control matter even more.

I try wherever possible to be a kind and caring person. But ever since my lengthy experience as a hospital “Horizontal”, I am no longer an unfailingly dutiful person.

Not that I have turned into someone who disobeys all authority. I drive within the speed limit, I get my teeth cleaned regularly, I pay bills on time.

But whenever I have a chance to say, “no”, I do so – if I feel like it, I will skip a meeting, skim through the chosen book club book or sleep way past the alarm.  Or even more daring, I refuse to set the alarm! I have become a master of minor resistance.

For this coming year – 5776 or 2016, however you define it  – I will continue to exercise my right to disobey in the tiny ways that show I remain in control of at least some minor aspects of my life.

Some time soon I may even decide to skip flossing my teeth before bed. Just for one night. Just because I can. Just because I’m “Vertical.”

 

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The Problem Solver’s Dilemma: You Can’t Fix Everything

 

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Take a closer look at the photo accompanying this Blog post, please.

I took the photo myself (you probably guessed that) – it is of one page taken from a 36 page instruction manual that came with our recently purchased, back-yard, “inexpensive” outdoor gas bbq grill. Careful eyes will detect that this photo contains no words.  Yes, that’s right, the grill assembly instructions came in pictorial form only. Zero narrative guidance!

As my spatial skills are measured in negative numbers, I am lucky that my clever husband was able to assemble our new gas bbq grill. Now we have a grill that works (our prior one died of old age) and I have Mr. Fix-It to thank for it.

Not to brag but I have my own Ms. Fix-It prowess.

I am a persistent solver of problems, a dedicated pursuer of solutions in the most difficult of situations and I don’t let little things like immensely irritating frustration with an inept bureaucratic system get in my way. (if any of you reading this happen to work at a certain unnamed health insurance company, yes, I am looking at you.)

Being a problem solver is one of my best skills. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I realize how many things there are in my life (likely in yours too) that are simply NOT fixable.

1. Health:

As my Dad frequently likes to say if I complain to him about my latest woe, “if it is a problem that can be solved by money, it is not a problem” – his way of telling me that the only thing that matters in life (especially for him at age 92) is good health. All the $$$$ in the world cannot purchase a fix for serious illness. The most wealthy people in the world do get sick, can’t get better and die like the rest of us. This is somehow comforting to me as an avid reader of the obituary page.

2. Adult Kids:

Being a parent is a forever thing – but parenting is not.

Witness the dizzying number of articles, blogs and essays offering advice on fixing kid problems – from toddler temper tantrums to helping high school kids apply to college.

After age 22 or so, the “parenting” advice book trail goes cold. As it should. All of us who spent as many years as I did as charter members of the Let-Mom-Fix-Your-Problem-For-You parenting club, know we need to back off and let our adult kids resolve their own problems.

And as tempting as it may be, we should not offer “helpful” suggestions from afar unless requested to do so. Even if you have to tape your own mouth shut with duct tape (an option that has been recommended to me on more than one occasion), they don’t want to hear our advice. Very hard to watch if (when) they flounder or make less than wise life choices. I’m still a work in progress on this one.

3. Husband/Spouse/Partner:

When I met my husband in the early fall of our first year of graduate school, he was the proud owner of a pair of burnt orange, wide-wale, bell-bottom pants that stopped well north of his ankles. Some friends of ours still believe that I got involved with him in order to revise his wardrobe. Which I did, bit by bit, with those dreadful pants the first to go.

But other than his fashion choices, I have not succeeded in fixing very much about my husband, although I have tried mightily.

He has yet to understand that tossing his dirty clothes on the floor somewhere near the laundry basket is not the same as putting his dirty clothes actually inside the laundry basket. Over the 37 years of our marriage I specialized in constant reminders regarding this and other less than desirable habits; some might call it nagging. Much bickering and battling over (in retrospect) some very stupid stuff.

Then around age 60, each of us had our own major health scares. Amazing how near death experiences puts that pesky stuff into perspective!  I then decided that he was o.k. as is, that I no longer need to fix anything about him. (NOTE: I am not suggesting that you go out and have major health scares in order to resolve long-standing marital problems.)

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But these non-fixable things – health, adult kids, our husbands/spouses/partners are all very personal.

There are, of course, many global matters that are possibly fixable. And I fear that I am not sufficiently engaged in these larger concerns. Spending much of my day writing is a very personal pursuit. Though I do my part on a few issues (young adult mental health awareness and advocacy, for one),  I see many people who are more active with the bigger picture, while I am perhaps too focused on a smaller, more local world.

Somewhere lies the balance, between the smaller stuff that we learn over the years is not fixable – and the larger stuff that we can try to fix with the same energies we once used on the smaller stuff.  Worth pondering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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