Saturday, August 21, 2010

Growing into my Age

Two weeks ago, I turned 60. It seems odd to be this old since, as a child, I only ever imagined what it would be like to be 50 at the turn of the century. I never gave much thought to what happens after 50.

I thought I would feel old. I do, but I believe it has more to do with my illness than my age. All around me, I see 60 year olds who are still very physically active. Admittedly, they work hard, but they do not have the muscle stiffness and weaving stride that I’m coping with.

I do see many people my age scaling back at work. Especially at businesses where they respect older people for the contribution they are able to make and find a place for them, even if they are no longer able to perform at the pace they once were.

So, getting old is a little different than what I had imagined, but mostly because of the challenges that come with ME, not so much the actual chronological age, for me.

The best part is being able to slow down. Not feeling like I have to get everything done that need to be done. The worst part is that my brain wants to do more, but my body just gives out before my brain is done imagining what would be fun! For instance, I wanted to take my granddaughters swimming several days when they visited a few weeks ago; but I knew the sun and heat would do me in, and that I must conserve my energy so that I could last through the trip to take them home.

So, I guess you could say my life is “smaller” than I ever imagined it would be at this age. I imagined being able to be more active in my church. I had hoped to pursue training as a lay leader, and perhaps join the quilt group. Now, I’m lucky if I can get through my errands when I spend the day in Ames. Days spent at home are most satisfactory because then I am able to rest when I need to.

Along with the limitations of age, however, has come a peace about the past. My life has had its ups and downs: divorce, child custody battle, unemployment, foreclosure, moving, returning to college, and death of a dear grandchild. I believe I have come to grips with each of these “demons” and have finally been able to quiet the emotions that used to bubble up when I thought of them.

Probably most significantly of all, I am at peace with my family. My family of origin wasn’t perfect, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need it to be perfect. No parent is perfect, but I believe mine did the best they could for the situation and knowledge present at the time.

I also know that I have not been the best of parents. I know this because I see the way my children interact with my grandchildren. They are more patient, more attentive, more involved with the children than I ever was with them. Whether this change is because they wanted to do better than I did, or because society is doing a better job of teaching the art of parenting, I don’t care. I’m just happy that my grandchildren can expect to live better lives than their parents and grandparents lived.

And that’s all we can hope for, isn’t it?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bubbie and the Pea

My three granddaughters (oldest girls from the "Michigan 8") visited in late July for about 11 days. We had so much fun with Sadie (aged 6), Cessalie (8), and Susanna (15/16).

One thing I love about the age Sadie and Cessa are at is the way their minds work. There were several times when one of them said something that nearly cracked up Papa and I (Susanna has given these moments in the past, too.) But the best story came out of one morning when the girls and I were laying on my bed watching PBS kids.

I have a chronic pain disorder (some combination fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, which BTW is now called myalgic encephalomyelitis) that has affected my sleep patterns especially over the last 6 or 7 years. We have a sleep number bed, which helped for a while. But I've found the greatest relief at night from one of those memory foam pads (about 3" thick). The thing creates all kinds of problems with our sheets, but I really notice the difference when I sleep somewhere else, without the pad.

So, we're lying on the bed that morning and Cessa says, "Bubbie (yes, that's what they call me and it's a whole other story. Believe me, I've tried to get the Michigan 8 to change to Nana but they just smile and shake their heads no), why does your bed feel so good?" I explained about the mattress and the pad and then spent 1/2 an hour demonstrating the controls for the air mattress and explaining to them that they were not allowed to come in Papa's and my bedroom and just run the controls up and down any 'ol time they felt like it. "It's not a toy. You may lie on the bed, but you cannot push the buttons on the control."

Of course the next question was why do you have all this extra stuff on your bed. So, I briefly explained that I had a sickness that gave me a lot of pain, especially at night and the bed set up helps me sleep.

Two days later, we're driving in the car and Cessa asks, "Bubbie, you know that story about the princess and the pea? Well, if someone put a pea under your mattress, could you feel it?"

ROFL! What was I to say (I nearly drove off the road, trying not to laugh out loud!). I explained that, no, I wasn't quite that sensitive.

Kids! I do love the way their minds work!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

!!** Whining Alert **!! and other short matters

OK, I'm about to whine. So, if ya don't want to hear it, don't read any further.

1. Since Friday, I am having severe back pain, especially when I wake up. I can hardly move, feel very weak all over. I don't think I did anything to get this started. My neck hurts, too, so I'm thinking it's time for a visit to my NUCCA chiropractor, Dr. Read. I am getting nothing done but sitting around and a few stretches when I wake up.

2. My neurologist gave me a new med for restless leg syndrome (and discontinued another one I had been taking for sleepiness). This med (Mirapex) is also used for Parkinson's (which makes a lot of sense given the amount of tremoring I've had since the day I visited him). So far ( last night and today's nap), I've noticed that once I fall asleep, I sleep very soundly. This isn't what is causing the back pain since the pain precedes the new med by 2 days.

3. My neurologist is running for State Representative to the Iowa House. What a hoot. I wish I had more energy to get out and campaign for him. His name is Selden Spencer and he's running for this district (Story County). Sure hope he wins. He's a good guy!

4. My baby grandson, Wes, is finally better. Every time one of my grandchildren gets sick, I am so scared that some aspect of what's vexing my life (a virus?) may be affecting them as well. I wish the research on this XMRV virus could go faster! The latest news is that the guy at CDC who has been the major bottleneck for viewing the illness as associated with a virus (his idea is that it's a mental illness - something like, "I don't want to work anymore"), has been removed from the CFS/ME research team. Yeah, yeah, yeah, rah! Also, FDA/NIH/DHHS has decided to release their study showing positive results for their XMRV study. It will be published some time in the next two months. This is such amazing good news.

5. I tried to share XMRV research with my internist Thursday and got the weirdest reaction from her, but this is another post (long story).

6. On the knitting front, not much happening. It's hard to sit for very long and knit. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I can start stretching and maybe do the recumbent bike for a bit.

For now, I'm going to relax in the recliner on the screened porch, where it's 80 degrees with a light breeze. Perfect!

Friday, August 13, 2010

In my father's words: terrorism and the Muslim faith

In the last few days, I have received a couple of emails asking for help/action to convey a lack of support for a building to honor the Muslim faith, proposed to be built near the 9-11 site in New York and a stamp commemorating the Muslim faith. My reaction to both of these emails was not to forward the email rejecting both ideas to "all of my friends." Rather, I wanted to respond with my own concerns about what messages like this do to efforts to understand our Muslim brothers and sisters and honor their right to their own faith, as our constitution and Christianity admonishes us to do.

Then my own father said it so well earlier this week in an email response to one of the requests. He said it so well that I reprint it here:

"Today I got an email and it caused me to review my Christian faith and my understanding of Jesus' gospel. The email was about the new 44-cent stamp which the US Postal Service is putting out. The stamp celebrates a Muslim holiday.
The email continues a very negative view and encourages the public to not buy the stamp. The negative message accuses "Muslims" of terrorist attacks and names six incidents. The repetition of the word "Muslim" lumps all Muslims together with responsibility for terrorism.
I have a problem with this view.
1) I don't believe all Muslims are responsible for terrorism. The same as I don't believe all Christians are responsible for the Michigan militiamen who proposed killing a police officer to provoke a revolution.
2) As a Christian, what do I do with Jesus' command to "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:43, Luke 6:27,35)? One thing I believe I should do is not pre-judge others by lumping them all together for crimes some of them have committed.
3) Hollywood and TV have used the old Immigration saying "Coming to America." What do we say to Islamic immigrants who come to America? Do we say that we have freedom of religion, but not your religion? Do we say that you can celebrate only the Christian religion?
These words stick in my throat. I'm not sure what the full answer is for persons of different religions in America, but I am sure it is not the answers in that email. The Arabic word Muslim literally means "one who submits to God." I will submit to Jesus' command "You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will be children of your Father in heaven."
We are all born into our families by chance. Some are Christians, others are Bahai, still others are Muslim. Some people do change from their family's belief, but most remain of the faith they were born into. Most of my friends are Christians, some are of other faiths, while some profess no formalized religion.

When we pass on emails such as the two I referenced at the beginning of this post, we simply serve to pass on the overgeneralization that demonizes those outside our faith. Yes, a FEW Muslims were responsible for the 9-11 tragedy. But there are thousands, perhaps millions of Muslims who do not condone what was done by a few. When we espouse an exclusionary way of belief, instead of inclusionary, we are not walking the path that Christ urged us to walk. We must seek first to love and understand, and above all not generalize from the sin of a few to the faith of many.

If you agree, please pass this on through love and understanding.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

For the mother and child reunion is only a motion away

For the past 12 days, my husband and I have had the honor of having our daughter's three older daughters stay with us. At age 6, 8, and 15, they represented an interesting mix of challenges and joys for us. The 6 and 8 year old were happy with coloring, movies, reading stories, and running through the sprinkler. The 15 year old (who used to do all those things when she visited us years ago) was more interested in playing on the computer, sleeping, and playing on the computer. They all did equally well at the outings we ventured on: our nephew's wedding (pictured above) Toy Story 3, the Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace home, and time with their aunt and uncle.

My daughter had earlier expressed a concern that the youngest child of the three (Sadie) would have difficulty being away from her for that length of time. I once suggested that perhaps it was she who might have difficulty being away from Sadie for that long. Actually, it was the 8 year old that was more verbal about missing her mommy and daddy and the rest of the family.

The girls were wonderful. They are such beautiful children that we turned heads and received winks from every grandparent we passed; knowing looks of how precious this time between grandparent and child can be. At church Sunday morning, the two younger ones marched up front with the rest of the kids for the children's
time and Sadie, the youngest, was the first to offer help when the pastor asked. They were putting cans of food in a grocery sack for the local food pantry. When the pastor remarked that the sack was too heavy and asked what he could do with some of the food (like "share" the food, which was the theme for Sunday), Sadie's remark was, "Take some of the cans out!" (which brought a great guffaw from the whole audience).

The visit was SUCH a sweet time. Yesterday, I spent about 16 hours with them on a train from Ottumwa through Chicago, to their home. The enthusiasm fr
om ALL 3 for the train ride was great fun to watch. They were plastered to the windows for a major portion of the trip, watching the scenery go by.

When we arrived at our destination last night a little after midnight, we woke two little girls, w
ho were warm in dreamland beneath their blankies on their special pillows; told them we were "there" and handed them their little suitcases to carry out. Suddenly, after leaving the train, they saw their mother (my sweet daughter, Christine), dropped their suitcases and ran as fast as the wind to her screaming, "Mommy, mommy, mommy. We're home!."

And the sound of their voices....that sweet, painful sound of missing the most important person in their world and of the reunion with that person after days of waiting mad
e everyone in the train station stop and look. At that moment, in my mind, I returned to a moment almost exactly 28 years earlier when my own daughter, Christie, ran across her father's porch to my arms after 6 months of separation. She had been taken from me on a charged trumped up by her father of abuse by her stepfather and given into the custody of her father and stepmother for 6 months. That day, after an awful court battle where the abuse charge was unfounded, she was returned to my custody to stay until she left at 18 for Fort Jackson and her new life in the Army. That day, I thought I would never hear such a sound as my own 7 year old crying out my name in that same, sweet painful voice. Last night, I did hear it again. And it still fills my heart and wrenches my soul.
(on the left is Chris' photo from earlier this year. On the right, she's in the middle, celebrating her birthday with Lemon Meringue Pie [no birthday cake with this little one!]).