Sunday, October 27, 2013

Say No to Not

Found this photo today looking for something else. The tiny lake is somewhere in northwest Michigan. My camera battery was almost gone, but the photography goddess accepted the image and watercolored it as well. I believe the Ayn Rand quote was laid over for a graduation card.

Do not let your fire go out
spark by irreplaceable spark
in the hopeless swamps of the not quite
the not yet and the not at all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish
and leave only frustration
for the life you deserved
but have not been able to reach.
The world you desire can be won.
It exists.
It is real.
It is possible.
It is yours.

Browsing the local resale for a notebook for a birthday gift yesterday produced bonus bounty. I found a magnetic fake leather journal that had The Secret Gratitude Journal stamped in goldfoil on the spine. The cover has thank you embossed in many different languages. I kept that one for me. Kiitos paljoin [thanks lots~Finnish.] The woman at the counter said she had just put it out minutes before. Found a notebook for the birthday boy. I thought it read Killer Reality, but turned out to be Killer Beauty, and for marketing reasons I can't fathom is merchandise from Snow White & The Huntsman. (It was still packaged and read "Spiral Bound" although it is obviously perfect bound.) Made me laugh, still does. He's a huntsman, and if he gets a deer this year, I signed on for some venison bacon. And I found a travel journal for another wonderful friend who yearns to travel, but life is asking her to stay home for now. Scotland next year. Fingers crossed. A deer for Patrick, Scotland for Nancy, and gratitude for me. It exists. It is real. It is possible.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Linda's Little Book of Caregiving

Informal. Unpaid. Caregivers in the United States, whatever the statisticians call us, number in the millions. Statisticians love numbers and percentages. 29% of the population. 66 million people. Any organization that keeps track does so based on self-reporting. My estimate is closer to 100 million people engaged in caregiving. I'm not sure surveys administered to caregivers, when identified, are accurate for this reason alone: caregivers think of the persons receiving the care before they think of themselves. And caregivers may be prone to underestimating the amount of daily living activities they perform, when they report at all. I participated in a Wayne State University graduate student's survey via telephone interview. I started crying 1/3 through because I could not keep it straight who the survey was about. I kept answering on behalf of my father and brother. Me! I'm the caregiver. Adding to this loss of self are workshops that claim to be for caregivers, when the session is actually about the caree. Remember to have an extra handbag for when mother loses hers is not about the caregiver. These misrepresented sessions add guilt to the stew. One I attended was displayed on the library sign "Caregiving." 2 hour session, and with 20 minutes left, I raised my hand to ask when we were going to get to the part about caregiving. The moderator was surprised. Really? Later, looking at the handout, it dawned: the session was put on by an assisted living facility. It wasn't about us at all. A friend and I went to an inaptly named Caregiver Conference a couple years ago. Some of the workshops were about the caregiver. But the booths were about paid assistance, products for the caree, not the carer. Paid in-home health work. Stand-in bathtubs. Handrails. We were dismayed. No booth offering free neck and head massage. No gifts for caregivers. No booth just thanking us for doing what we do. We pledged to have a booth the following year, but do we describe ourselves as a nonprofit? When we can't sleep we look at the internet for caregiver help. We know it's a loving job, doing [your higher power name here] work, but we still can't sleep, we're losing our hair and our strength, and damn it, when is it about us? Ah, well, we read that caregivers have health issues. Some are predeceasing their loved ones. And site after site reminding us we're unpaid. We don't give a flying fig how much our work is worth. We do care how we can keep our selves, our sanity, and a modicum of independence. We need to know we have sisters who are struggling to maintain well-being. We are who this book is about. All those big numbers, personalized. Me, my friends and the gallant tired carers who need to know we're not crazy. Or alone.