The Bell Tolls for Thee……..

It happened to me yesterday.  I wasn’t ready. I had no idea how ‘not ready,’ I was.  It doesn’t matter how innocent it is.  Or that someone had all the right intentions when it happened.  It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t even necessary for it to happen. It happened.

I went to the grocery store after the gym. When I do go grocery shopping,  which is becoming less and less in a world of two-midlife-empty-nesters-who-like-to-dine-out-and socialize, I usually go after the gym.

Even though the gap in shopping equalled the bare shelves in the refrigerator, the pantry and the freezer at home, I was not in the mood to re-stock. A few things would tide us over until the weekend when we were scheduled to have breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner with friends on at least four occasions.

And then she appeared.

I was doing the usual dance with the attached carts.  You know, where the first cart hugs the second cart so lovingly that you think they have just entered into a romantic relationship of young love so desperate to stay together that nothing you can do will separate them.

You start to act like Mrs. Capulet, who has found her daughter entwined in the arms of Romeo and you are yanking them apart with such gusto that you may fracture an important appendage, but you want them apart regardless of the cost.

I yanketh as hard as I can.

Or…cart separation…perhaps a new Olympic Event!

And anon, appears a young maiden who, with the eyes of a doe and the sympathetic voice of an angel, looking at me like I have struggled far too long in life to be suffering in such a way any longer, says: “Oh, do you need help?”

It wasn’t even what she said. Yes, you know the drill: It was the way she said it.

As a caregiver, I have said it a thousand times that way. “Oh you are struggling, let me help you. I am young, and strong, and can fix that up in a jiffy!”

She was helping an old lady.

I saw it in her eyes. I heard it in her voice.

I was stunned.

I wanted to scream: “Hey I’m wearing yoga pants, for God’s sake. I just got off the elliptical machine. I don’t even have gray hair yet!”

What I think I look like shopping.

No matter. I was receiving the “helping verb.” (Grammarians and Catholic School kids will love that.)

My response to this, after thanking her for showing me the trick to extricating what I like to think of as the male cart from the female cart…(yep, there’s trick!), was to shop like I was a young mom of 30.

I put a huge pack of toilet paper under my cart. I grabbed a slab of brisket that weighed the same as bag of bricks. I went to the new wine and beer section in our grocery store to ‘check the prices,’ like someone who buys liquor as a matter of course for all my fun evenings. I bought $300 worth of groceries for two people who are rarely home and go out every weekend.

The good news is, I don’t have to grocery shop for a month. I know how to separate those fornicating carts by myself, and I may be a bit less condescending when I help others. Ouch, that one really hurt.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2018

It’s not nice to Fool Mother Nature……

Because my computer completely went bonkers today…I gotta’ go video…Here are my thoughts on Nature…not the lovely, isn’t it wonderful to be outside, but the real skinny on Nature….you know who you are…..

With Facebook Friends like this…Who Needs Enemies?

Two years ago, my Mom called me, practically in tears.

“Roberta was so mean to me,” she said.

I’m thinking, “who the hell is Roberta?”.

“She’s from my medical insurance carrier. I called to ask her why a bill wasn’t paid and she said I should never have been given this insurance and I’m going to have to pay back every penny from the last 15 years.”

“And,” she went on with a worried tone, “you told me to NEVER pay a medical bill. So I don’t know what to do.”

“Calm down, Mom. We will get this worked out. It will be okay.”

My first reaction was this:

I did tell my Mom never to pay a medical bill because her insurance covers everything.

My mom has Tricare For Life Medical Insurance. This insurance is for Veterans and their families, spouses, widows, children. My Dad died in a helicopter crash as an Army pilot on October 10, 1961. My mother had five children all under the age of 10 and was pregnant with her sixth child. So I kind of think my Mom is entitled to this insurance.

The thing is, Mom never claimed this insurance until my step-father passed away in 1998. She didn’t even ask for it. She already had Medicare and AARP. But when she applied for her widow’s the Veteran’s Administration made her jump through all kinds of hoops with documentation and then GAVE her this insurance.

My mom is a Virgo.

Why does that matter? She has kept every single piece of paper that has ever come into her life. So she has every piece of documentation that transpired fifteen years ago with the Veteran’s Administration. The VA put her on the wrong insurance.

So two years ago, they began threatening an 87-year-old widow, who raised her family of six children without a father, a man never even made it to 30 years old, that she would be thousands of dollars in debt to them because of their mistake.

After talking to seven different people at seven different government administrative places which most people never even heard of, we refiled all the documentation from 15 years ago.

I wrote much of this post two years ago.  And much of the problem has been resolved after mountains of paperwork and dozens of phone calls…one that occurred while I was drinking in Times Square. Hey, if they call, you answer, because they may never call back.

I said this two years ago, probably after the drinking incident in Times Square:

 I know from the last 25 years of caregiving and jumping through administrative hoops that this story will not have an easy ending. There’s going to be reams of paperwork. There will likely be boatloads of nastiness. There may be a lawsuit. But in my best, Scarlett O’Hara voice: “As God is my witness….my mother will never pay one dime to fix this problem.”

There’s one small problem that persists. The government agencies just can’t agree and  are trying to collect $687 from my sweet ol’ mom that they think they are owed from overpayments. I still have people in all these agencies working on it and I have not yet caved to paying money to make it go away, but still…..I am amused by the latest missive from one of the insurers trying to collect funds:

Fun things to do while fighting with Insurance
Like us On Facebook……Indeed.

Hmmmm…..I’m struggling with that friend request.

©Cathy Sikorski 2018

 

Learning a New Language Can Save Your Brain……or Your Relationships

We had to do it.  After more than 5 years of a flip phone, which we lovingly called an “Amish Phone,” in my family, we had to get my 89-year-old mom a smartphone.

We considered a Jitterbug, because of the big numbers, and other capabilities that would be what she really wanted in a phone, but after interviewing some of her friends who had the Jitterbug, the smartphone seemed better for mom.

My mom texts. She checks her email. She wants to get all those cool photos my brother sends from all over the world. And she does have an iPad, so I thought there would be a bit of intuitiveness in her use of a smartphone. I was so very, very wrong.

First, and this is my fault as well as my mom’s, we didn’t get her an iPhone. We got her a Samsung. So any comparison to the iPad was already (in her mind) off the table. I have an iPhone and an iPad and at first, I didn’t find the Samsung so outrageously different. And yet, different it is.

We pushed buttons, arrows, question marks, houses, envelopes, and do-hickeys of every kind. We renamed them, the house, the three buttons, the mail, the three lines like sheet music. We renamed everything to improve our communication, so that I wasn’t yelling, “NO….NOT the up and down dots, the sideways dots.

We spent a girls’ weekend putting in her contacts (not in her eyes, in her phone) by hand from her old phone, because it had no bluetooth capability to transfer the information. Who knew mom and I would have to learn a new language in our 60’s and 80’s just to have a nice girls’ weekend?

My sisters took over on that weekend for a few hours to add games like Spider Solitaire, Free Cell and who knows what else, because….yeah……my mom plays games on the computer and iPad and wanted them on her phone as well. I DON’T EVEN PLAY THOSE GAMES.

It’s been about 2 weeks now.

Mom and I went to lunch yesterday. She showed me all the cool things her phone can do. She kept getting the camera to show up unexpectedly, so I asked the waitress if she had an android, and if so what makes the camera appear? She said if you press the ‘when-in-doubt’  twice, that’s what makes it happen. (She didn’t really say that, she said the ‘home’ button, but in CATHAMOM, our new language, it’s the big black button in the middle called the “when-in-doubt-press this button to get back to the beginning”).

This means “where are my contacts?”

Even learning how much pressure in one’s fingers to use to tap, slide, press or push is a lesson in patience, frustration and Olympic-like celebration of success when it works!

My mom texted me this morning and said, “Leaving now, see you at home.”

“Wow!” I thought, pretty darn impressive.

Translated from: “I’ll be home.”

I went to her house. She wasn’t there. She was at breakfast with her friends. Apparently, ‘at home’ means breakfast with my friends,’ in CATHAMOM.

“You Just have to Laugh…….”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

High School Never Ends…………..

I thought perhaps I should give you a tip for caregivers once a month. But then I did a Story Slam where I totally relived a humiliating experience. That seemed like so much more fun….for you!

 

Hope you enjoyed!

“You Just have to Laugh…………”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

2,018 ideas for the New Year! Just kidding………..only 7…..

Well, here we are, the first week of January, where everything changes and becomes new. Where we get to be a whole new person, with a whole new life and whole new ideas about what the next 365 days will bring.

When I thought about that on the scale this morning ( I sure did ‘let it go’ the past two weeks!) I realized this January thing is the same damn thing, every damn year,  for the past 300 years for me. And I’d take the wager that most of you feel the same.

So here’s my January suggestions:

  1. It’s cold. Wear a hat.

    Maybe not these hats. But they do come with a snack!
  2. Stay hydrated. Your hands, lips, and skin are begging for water and you don’t drink enough because it’s cold. (Even if you live in a warm climate, do it anyway).
  3. Read a book. Even a pop-up book is a different experience than a screen. And how fun is a pop-up book? You know you love them.                
  4. Call your Mom, your best friend, your therapist or your spouse for no reason except to say hi. Better yet, take them out for coffee.
  5. Get some alone time. We all need it. If you get too much, go back to number 4. If you don’t get enough, repeat number 5.
  6. Dance. I just read where one of my Facebook writer friends has to dance around like a washing machine when she takes her new meds because it will keep her from getting nauseous. Dancing will keep all of us from getting nauseous every time we read the news. So dance like a washing machine!
  7. Make a list of all the things that you love to do and do more of that….not list making, the things you love to do…unless it’s list making, then do that.

None of this even remotely looks like resolutions or life-changing habits. But as I lather on lotion, dance like a washing machine, while being alone, searching for my hat to go buy a pop-up book and have coffee with some friends, I’ll tell you my list for 2018 already looks pretty darn fun………..that’s a revelation! Which is ever so much better than a resolution.

HAPPY JANUARY……….AND ALL OF 2018 TO COME!

“You Just have to Laugh………….”

©2018 Cathy Sikorski

Let It Go……Frozen

In the spirit of the holidays, I wish to lend my two-cents to all the grand advice you’re getting:

  1. Let go of the craziness….You can, you really can. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Have you done enough? Probably. Can you stop right now? Maybe. Can you be so close that you can declare: “FINIS!” Try, for your own sanity, for the safety of others, for the circle of hell you will leave behind, please try. Try and enjoy Christmas….Now.
  2. Let go of the politics…Just for 2 days…Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Even if everyone in your family, your neighborhood, your church, your spirit circle, your yoga class and Jacob Marley have told you they are on your side…still….let it go. Let it be Christmas. Let it be the two days of wonder and magic and joy that every 5-year-old is feeling right now.
  3. Let go of the scale. Two days isn’t going to make any difference. Two weeks might, but two days,  not so much. You’ve been here a thousand times, haven’t you? Just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Just enjoy yourself like a regular human being, or maybe like a Labrador Retriever. You know, eat your dinner. Have a snack or two and let it go. And remember Labrador’s don’t have opposable thumbs so make someone else open the refrigerator.
  4. Let go of work. Enjoy your family, your friends, your fun people in your life. Whatever your work is, it will be there…just like Bill Shakespeare and his pal, MacBeth says….tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Just Let It Go…………and what the heck, Let it Snow!

!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY WONDERFUL READERS! I love you all and wish you only the best Christmas ever and the happiest of holidays!

“You Just have to Laugh……….”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

The Veterans are Coming….the Veterans are Coming………..

We’re all worried just like that 1966 movie “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming….” but nothing strikes more fear in my loins than when my mother calls and says, “The Veterans are Coming, the Veterans are Coming!!!”

That means Mom has called the Veterans charity organization to come and pick up whatever unusable debris you have laying around. This helps the Veterans make money somehow and helps you the Helper-of-Veterans get rid of junk in your house. What could be a better win-win?

Mom has made this a regular affair. Her commitment to giving the Veterans a worthwhile stop at her house means she must have at least one good bag of stuff filled to the brim, preferably two or more.

The upside is my Mom is cleaning out her stuff at a pretty good clip. This is kind to her heirs. The bad news is she is running out of her committed crap that she’s readily willing to part with, and God forbid, the Veterans come and there are not enough trappings to take to far afield.

That’s when the call goes out to her daughters. “The Veterans are Coming, the Veterans are Coming!”

Sure, we could just say, “Naaa, I don’t have time to go through my possessions to fulfill your charitable needs.” But it’s a double-edged sword. We want to help the Veterans. Who doesn’t want to help the Veterans? That’s a shame we can’t live with. And, my mom knows every one of us has more garbage (pronounced gar-baaashe) than we care to admit.

I pledged my support this week and went through my own closet, my grown daughters’ closets, who don’t even live here anymore, and the laundry room, trying to fill a garbage bag to the brim, so I’d get that gold star from the Veterans, or at least from my mom. Kindergarten never ends.

In my last sweep before going out the door, I found a stack of hangers in the laundry room covered with a very dusty garbage bag. Something under there was ripe for the Veterans and whatever it was, it was going. I had a duty.

Tearing off the old bag, I found some of my mother-in-law’s clothes that we must’ve  moved from her apartment to our house when she passed away almost four years ago. Oh crap……………..not the clothes, the tears. I just wasn’t prepared for that.

As I put them in the bag, I talked to Marie.

“It’s okay, Mom. It doesn’t mean we don’t think about you all the time. You are always a part of everything we do. We miss you and love you. But, Mom, you know my mom. And the Veterans are Coming! So I’m sure you want to do your part, too!”

Thanks, Veterans, and Moms for cleaning out my closets, but filling up my heart.

“You Just have to Laugh……..and sometimes a tear or two!”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

It’s the little things………Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

It’s Thanksgiving week. Here is where we post the things we are thankful for.  Just in that sentence, I’m thankful, that as an adult, I can end that sentence with a preposition and no one can stop me.

Like many, I have much to be thankful for, but let’s look at the really small things:

10.  I’m thankful for my hand doctor who said keep typing, your arthritis won’t get worse or better from it.  Thank you?

9.  I’m thankful for my new Poise pads that move seemlessly with my body, even though my body seems to move more problematically every day.

8. I’m thankful for my cleaning lady. Pretty much says it all.

7.  I’m thankful for Netflix, Amazon Prime and even Network TV. Stop judging.

6. I’m thankful for socks.

5.  I’m thankful for Pumpkin Spice smells. I know it’s overdone, but I still love it, just maybe not in my socks.

 

4. I’m thankful for my bathroom scale. Okay, it’s a love-hate relationship but it keeps me honest, especially this time of year.

3. I’m thankful for coffee. I’ve cut back but my friend advised me yesterday that it’s the one thing that has all upside and no downside.  I shall now return to my devotion to cafe au lait.

2. I’m thankful for just being where I am. It’s pretty great here.

1.  I’m most thankful for you, my readers, who so kindly stop in on occasion to share a minute together. If you are or ever have been a caregiver, a special thanks to you for your love and sacrifice to your loved one. If you ever just did one kind thing in your life…and I know you have, each and every one of you….thanks for that, you may never know how you changed someone’s day or life.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

It’s Almost Here!!

I would so love to see or ‘see’ you at the National Caregiving Conference on November 10 and 11. I will be the Keynote Speaker on Saturday morning, November 10th. I am so excited about this opportunity. But, more importantly, if you’re a caregiver, know one or have been one, this is a great opportunity for you to connect with great information, great speakers and great people. And it can be done at the touch of a button!

Go to www. caregiving .com and sign up for the virtual stream. It’s less than $25 for one day!! Pass this on to all those caregivers you love and maybe offer to give them a break so they can stream for a bit…..who wouldn’t love to stream for a bit?!?

Hope we can share this great moment!

This is how you know if perhaps you should come……………………..