Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Thursday
Nov292012

Ziglar passes but leaves wisdom of the ages

Zig Ziglar died today at age 86. Although that may be the bad news, Ziglar leaves a legacy of wisdom in his wake. He saw the morning alarm clock as the "opportunity clock" and believed that your attitude, not your apptitude, determined your altitude.

A motivational speaker, Ziglar, built a career on looking on the bright side. Author of 25 self help books, aimed at helping readers to see the glass half full and how to fill it to overflowing, the man will be long remembered for his positive thinking. 

Perhaps his love of reading the comics and human interest stories over crime and gossip, allowed him to inspire others through his common sense wisdom. A sort of Will Rogers without the cowboy lope. Or maybe it was the love of a good woman, his mother, Hilary Hinton Ziglar. Ziglar was raised by his widowed mother, who played a tremendous role in is his life and whose quips became key in his lectures and writings.

The wise guru began his career as a door-to-door salesman. Ziglar became fascinated by the ability to influence others. Early on he would relay his own experiences, as well as the adages of his mother at church and Rotary Club meetings. "A failure is an event, not a person," inspired others to look beyond their setbacks and have the courage to move forward.

Certainly a man who lived in and beyond his time, I can only hope that his wisdom resonantes for generations to come. Actively speaking until retiring at age 84, Ziglar used his gift to motivate others. Not a bad way to live, or die. God's speed, Zig.

"If you can dream it, then you can achieve it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."

"It was character that got us out of bed, committment that moved us into action and discipline that enabled us to follow through."

"It's not what you've got, it's what you use that makes a difference."

Images: Flickr image by CrisCristina

Wednesday
Nov142012

Moving forward

Several weeks have passed since my mother in law moved into a retirement community. She still refuses to be present in the process. There are days when I am discouraged by this, and other days I recognize that other than her address, life hasn't changed all that much. Despite our efforts to make life easier and ultimately happier for her, the power to move forward has always been in her control.

So many of my readers, family and friends have repeatedly reminded me that we did the right thing. Although that offers some comfort during this stressful time, it is hard to accept when her life speaks to the contrary. How do I move forward without leaving her behind?

A change of address is not necessarily a move forward. Our physical location may offer a temporary sense of comfort or discomfort, but the forward motion comes from a point in time when we decide it is okay to put one mental foot in front of the other. 

The anniversary of my father's death is quickly coming into view. My feet seem planted firmly. There are days when moving forward feels like leaving him behind. I can't do that, nor do I want to. After a year, I find myself no less connected to my Dad and hungering to talk to him about my work, my garden, the grandkids, even this difficult situation with my mother in law. 

We all find ways to stand still, afraid to move for fear of leaving behind a piece of ourselves we can't retrieve. Age has a way of forcing us to move forward. It makes no excuses. It does so without prejudice or malice. The motion is resolute, no turning back, only forward. 

I suppose, like my mother in law, we can blame the world around us and refuse to put one foot in front of the other. My Dad would chastise me for my grief. I saw him accept and move forward so many times, through cancer and heart disease, the death of all but one of his 8 siblings and finally the death of my brother. "This sucks," he would say and then somehow, he got up and moved forward. 

Moving forward doesn't always feel good so much as it is necessary. It doesn't mean leaving behind, but rather picking up and moving on. Today, I shared a cup of coffee with my Dad and I could hear him say "Just do it. That is an order." When my hard as nails, Marine Corps tried and blue father said those words, you knew your only choice was to move forward. 

What words give you forward motion on days you would rather stand still?

 

Images: flickr image by johnny

Sunday
Nov042012

Transitions

We moved my mother-in-law in to a senior living apartment. The entire family worked long and hard on a Saturday afternoon, moving furniture, packing up glassware, dishes and clothes, while my mother-in-law spent the day with her great grandchildren. She had known for weeks this day was coming but it was no less painful for her and for us.

When we had the apartment all set up, pictures on the wall, dishes in the cupboard, furniture all in order, TV and phone hooked up, my son and I brought her to her new home. This was a traumatic moment. She was so heartbroken, frightened and desperate. She refused to go and threatened to get out of the car if we didn't stop. My son was so gentle with her. He placed his hands on her shoulders and very quietly asked her to close the car door. The tender moment between grandson and grandmother brought tears and despair. The reality was overwhelming and she finally had to face weeks of denial. 

It is difficult to move away from your home under the most ordinary of circumstances. Despite the advice of her doctor, her family and friends, my mother-in-law refused to admit the time had come when she was no longer able to keep up the pretense of taking care of herself. For the past few years, I have been handling her finances, bringing her food, cleaning the house and taking care of the yard. We tried a housekeeper and she refused. She would become dehydrated and weak from not eating healthy and ended up in the hospital. Falling several times, the last time ended up with her in the hospital for a month. And yet, she still refused to accept help or move in with us. Her short term memory loss was becoming more of a concern. Decisions had to be made.

I doubt she will ever forgive us for moving her to a modified independent apartment. But the family is relieved that she is able to take care of herself in this beautiful smaller living space overlooking the river. It was our concerted belief that she was fighting the loss of her independence and our one goal was to preserve as much of her self reliance as possible. Perhaps what she really is angry about is loss of control. Hopefully on day she will recognize all of this is in her control. To be happy is a choice. She is surrounded by active seniors who are happy as clams in their new digs, free of the obligations of taking care of a big house and able to enjoy life again.

We are three weeks into this transition and although she has moved pictures around, she still refuses to join the activities or have dinner (they only serve one meal a day) there. Tough love is in order. Whether it is Alzheimer's, or the effects of old age, the caring for our parents is a challenge we all face. Sharing the experience helps us to feel less alone and more understanding of both sides of life. The journey continues. Where are you on the path? 

Images: Flckr image by baacker2009

Monday
Oct082012

Golden Age of Traveling

Although the golden years aren't exactly the same as they were in our 30's, there is still a lot left on the bucket list. Time to make plans as the birds fly south and the down comforters come out of storage.

Location, location, location as they say, is the most important. Whether you are looking for a warm spot like Sedona, AZ or Miami, FL, you want to choose the location that offers the best amenities for your particular needs.

Call ahead. If you plan to stay in a hotel/motel, determine what is the best room for you. Do you need a refrigerator for certain meds or foods you may need to bring? Do they have a downstairs room available if stairs or elevators are a problem. Is there public transportation or are shuttles or taxis accessible? If staying in a resort, be sure the food is affordable as well as conveniently located. Eating out three meals a day can be costly. Continental breakfasts can often mean that you may need only one meal out, when complimented with snacks throughout the day. Water is also an important consideration. You may have to purchase bottled water.

Transportation concerns range from traveling by air, rail or car. Is there wheelchair access? Walkers or canes can be a concern as well, so calliing ahead is a way to prepare yourself and your travel carrier. If you will need assistance on and off, advance notice makes sure your trip goes according to plan.

Heaven forbid you should have a medical emergency while traveling. But from experience, I can tell you, it does happen. Whether an accident or medical problem, it is best to have your insurance cards handy. If you have a specific provider, check the area's local hospital or your insurance provider to make sure they are in your network. Having this information ahead of time, allows you to be confident in an emergency that you or your loved one will be cared for.

These days cash is a challenge to carry. Think about using a debit card and keep track of your "swipes". This keeps the threat of theft down to a minimum and keeps you conscious of your expenditures. You can also load a Visa card with a pre-set amount of money. Be sure to take phone numbers to report a lost card, worst case scenario. 

Packing is such a chore and we inevitably carry more than need. Try to pack light. Remind yourself that you will have to carry this at some point. Remember you are on vacation and other than bringing the essentials, you can purchase whatever you need when you arrive. A good pair of walking shoes and one pair of dress shoes, should you decide to take advantage of a night on the town, is really all the footwear you need.

Be comfortable but be smart. Will a lightweight jacket do? Are you going to be out in the weather other than to grab a taxi or jump on the shuttle? How many tops can you find to go with a pair of pants. Did you know that a turtleneck over a dress makes a new outfit of top and skirt? Find ways to combine and compliment, rather than carrying clothing you "might" need. 

Planning ahead makes traveling golden at any age. Do you have any tips to share? Maybe a bad experience that taught you a valuable travel lesson? Let's kick a few things off that bucket list!

Images: Flickr by Muddy Funkster

 

Friday
Oct052012

Who takes care of the caregiver?

After a hard day of running around doing errands, chauffering, housekeeping and laundry, I was grateful for a wonderful dinner made especially for me. As a caregiver, I spend most of my day anticipating and solving random issues that crop up during the day. With my mother in law moving to a retirement community in the next week, my usual duties have expanded. Add to this the constant reminder that she disagrees vehemently with the decision and her attempts at thwarting the inevitable and you might have an understanding of my decision to run away.

I can't go far because despite her declaration that "no one gives a damn" about her, I remain on watch. I run far enough that the noise is a little less and the one person who cares for me, is me. I brought a few books to read, my computer and ipad, my favorite foods and a bottle of wine. I cook outstanding meals with fresh foods, drink my favorite chai tea and munch on snacks as I revel in the solitude. This morning I actually slept until 9 am and made a second cup of coffee.

As caregivers, we often find it challenging to carve out a few minutes to renew our own tired spirits. We are too busy keeping our ducks in a row, smiles on our faces and a cheerful spirit. At the end of the day, we hope for little more than the comfort of our bed and are grateful for a good night's sleep. After a few trips to the doctor of late, he suggested a little caregiving for the caregiver.

So I ran away to take care of myself. To my delight there are two major league games on, the weather is a perfect mix of sunny but brisk weather with just enough leaves under my feet for the snap, crackle, pop feel of Fall. In this short twenty four hours, I intend to take a long walk, read a book, watch a full nine innings of MLB and eat delicious meals made with fresh vegetables from my garden. I may take a nap after the ball game and before pouring myself a glass of wine that will compliment the menu for this evening.

More importantly than taking this much needed respite, I will thank myself for taking care of me. I will remind myself that I do not do this selfishly, but in a desperate attempt to maintain my sanity and be the best caregiver I can possibly be. Thank you, Eularee. I know this is not easy but I do appreciate this small gesture of kindness.

Have you thanked yourself lately? What are some simple ways you give yourself a pat on the back when you need it? Have you ever felt like you needed to run away? Where did you go? A welcoming hot bath or going off the grid for a few hours? Sharing these precious moments are in everybody's best interests for staying healthy, wealthy and wise!

Recipe to spice up a sagging spirit!   

Fresh tomatoes

Fresh basil leaves or spinach leaves

garlic

red chili flakes

vodka

heavy cream or half and half

EVO

your favorite pasta

While the pasta is cooking, slice two cloves of garlic (or as much as you like), chop the tomatoes and wash and dry the basil or spinach leaves.

With EVO in shallow frying pan, saute garlic and red chili flakes. Add tomatoes and cook slowly until they are soft. Add vodka (about 3 - 4 T or as needed) to make a thin sauce. Simmer as it reduces and thickens. Slowly add cream or half and half for a creamy sauce. Simmer again until sauce thickens. Add fresh basil leaves (or spinach) until wilted. Stir gently.

Pour over drained pasta. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and serve. Good with a sweeter white wine like a Gewürztraminer, Reisling or Semillon, although I like Pinot Noir.