Dealing with Delays in Life

I have again failed at being diligent with my blogs. I’m more frustrated with myself than anything else. So, I’ve got some explaining to do.

I found out that I have been in a depression cycle about this time last year. I wish I was more blasé about dealing with life changes than I am, but my father’s description of my personality being ‘intense’ was clever and on point. So I was able to get some help from my wonderful geriatric centric doctor, and have a better outlook on life as a result. I am careful about taking my Venlafaxine every morning.

I’ve had some bad dandruff problems for many years, and I finally got an appointment with a dermatologist about a year ago. We tried some simple things (AGAIN), and then a very expensive topical that my insurance made much more affordable. I try not to talk bad about a healthcare plan that takes good care of me; but the US really needs to address the disparity in healthcare coverage for all of its citizens. I hate to think of someone who couldn’t get that reduced cost that I have.

Anyway, even the topical wasn’t sufficient, so I now have the diagnosis of scalp psoriasis, and began taking Otezla, which has some warnings about weight loss (YAY! I need that), and depression! I found that I fell back into a numb funk, and had to pace my medicants so that there was less disturbance. This all happened at the same time that I was moving to a new home, so I’ve been really distracted since April with that move and all that followed.

I also have the wonderful blessing of taking care of a 6 year old grandson for an overnight visit every other Saturday to Sunday evening. My son has to work on Sundays because he works at a resort as Maintenance Supervisor. His manager takes the Saturdays. So at the age of most Great Grandparents, I am doing the grandparent thing, with joy and great exhaustion, chuckle. Toss in some chronic health problems that make me a ‘spoonie‘ and I just have to surrender to a limited list of things I can do in a day.

I’m still going to resume my list of thanksgivings very soon. But for now, I’m going to shout about how good God has been for me in all of this.

My new home: I went from a tiny apartment of 580 sq ft, to a bigger place of 750 sq ft! The rent is higher, of course, but not so very much higher that I can’t afford it. I have a garage as I did with the last home, but I also have my own washer and dryer here, instead of a shared coin laundry. I cannot tell you guys how much that blesses me! Not having to worry about someone else’s construction soil still residing in the washer when I take a turn is a big deal for me. I was pulling a white bra out with mud on it after washing! I love knowing I can wash a small load and reduce the water without paying for a full load of laundry, too. It’s also wonderfully convenient to wash something when I want to, rather than when I get the coins, or while waiting for someone else to finish doing their weekly wash, or having to dodge through the weather to go to the laundry room. Now, I do laundry in my nightgown if I want.

The other benefits of being in this new place are that I have deeper closets, and an area to place a dining table so I have a place to seat guests for a meal, instead of using folding tables that have to be set up and put away. Add the banquet room (available for rent), the indoor pool, and work out room for no cost, and I’m in renter’s heaven! I want to point out that the complex has families of all kinds and includes pets. So I’m not in a Seniors Only space!

I also have a spot that is just for the work hours that doesn’t invade my leisure places. This is really good for my mental health, as it means I can “leave” work for breaks or when I am signed out for the day.

As the previous tenant was here a long time, they renovated the apartment before I moved in. All but the clothes dryer are brand new appliances, and the carpeting is new along with the ac and ceiling fan in the living room. I have a private and spacious patio that I enjoy using when it’s not too hot (It’s been a really hot summer here in northern IL with most days in mid 90°F).

My neighbors are friendly and take good care of their homes, too. Add that I am now closer to family, and that I have enjoyed more visits with some of them than I did before the pandemic, and perhaps you can understand that my life feels surreal in a good way. I feel like I am living in the lap of luxury here, and in the mind set of “don’t pinch me, I don’t want to leave this dream”. This steals energy from me, and I tend to get a bit brain fogged by the evening hours as a result.

I am getting a Social Security Widow’s benefit from my late ex-husband’s benefits. Since we were married over 10 years, and I am not currently married to anyone else, I am eligible and add it to my job income. Since I am at full retirement age (66 made me eligible, but I’m 67 now), I will not suffer any restrictions on what I earn.

When I was informed that I am finally restored to a 40 hour work week (starting this week), I am over the moon with happy feelings. When the pandemic smote the land, I was reduced to 34 hours a week, and it was decided that I should work them in the later morning, coming in later rather than leaving early. I’m so glad to be back at work in the early hours even if it means a longer day. At least I don’t have to drive for an hour on the highways (58 miles each way) each morning and each evening, now that I am allowed to work from home. That saves me money on gas as well as energy for personal tasks after work!

So I’ve been really distracted with the changes in my life as spring segued into summer. I’m finding a more consistent stride and I’ll be better about making updates. That’s my intention at least.

Life is good! I sure hope you are in a good place, too, dear reader.

Aging With Some Grace

I’ve been reading a fantasy series called The Adventures of Maggie Parker (4 books) by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle and it’s been very entertaining. I’ll say no more than this: it’s a free read if you are a Kindle Unlimited member. If not, the books are reasonably priced in either paperback or Kindle versions.

I’ve read the first three: The Magic Compass, The Gnome’s Magic, The Elemental’s Magic, and am reading the author’s notes at the end of the third book. Martha Carr is in her early 60’s and as a person who is at the right age to be her older sibling (67 in four more days), I like what she’s been saying about her lessons in life’s journey in her author notes.

“I have a team who help me out these days. At some point, it’s a necessity. Plus, I wanted to change my old belief of ‘if I can do it, I should be doing it’ to something saner,” she wrote.

I have been learning that same lesson in the past few years. I get help to do big projects in home cleaning or organization. Sometimes, I get help decorating for the holidays, too. Lately, I’ve even gotten groceries delivered (Thank you Walmart+), instead of going there for a pickup order and bringing it all into my home by myself. Now that the pandemic is almost over, and masks are being left home by most shoppers in my area, I have been feeling a bit guilty about continuing to use the Pickup grocery service. That inner guilt trip that she spoke of, “if I can do it, I should be doing it.”

My quality of life is better when I don’t do it just because I can, though. I have more time for making a well-balanced meal, or to get a much delayed haircut. Am I lazy? I don’t think so. I still take care of the household chores, the laundry (that I can do myself with the machines in my new apartment, thank God!), and work a full time job with the administrative chores for an engineering team – from my home, thanks to the pandemic showing us that I can work from home in a reliable and responsible fashion. So I am not going to be compelled to return to the office, not even as a hybrid employee. Since work is more than an hour away, I’m grateful. I moved closer to family as a happy result. But – I digress.

I have long felt pressured to do what I can, and if I don’t, then I will lose some kind of badge of honor. Sometimes I have pushed so hard, I made myself sick or fell down on the work, and had to get help to recover. That’s not very wise, for sure. So, now I just schedule some help before I’m in trouble, and ignore the hissing of that voice in the back of my head. The only thing I want to win is a high quality life. Getting appropriate help, and offering a reward to that help is the right way to go. Sometimes I’ll barter a service, sometimes I’ll offer something else like a gift card or money that can help someone who has very little.

I always try to ask God for the right help to be available, or help me to know about a service that is available. While I might pay for services in my situation, I know that my birthmother was able to get someone to help her 20 hours a week, and it was paid for via Department of Aging, which is a Federal program. So if you find you need help but can’t afford to pay for it (and you live in the US), find out about the Department of Aging services in your area. See what they can do to help you. It helped my family not to have to be my birth mother’s servants when we went to her place for a visit. Instead, we could just visit!

When the caseworker is asking you questions about ‘what you can do when…’, my advice to you is what I told my mother after she lost her help for several weeks thanks to her answers to their questions. She told them about her best days when they asked what she could do. I told her that she needed to tell them about her worst days, in order to get the help she needed to live those better days, though. No lies necessary. Just tell the truth about your worst days, and you’ll get the help you should get.

Tell yourself the truth about your worst days, and be honest about needing help, too. Then, you can live out some of your best days more often.

Where I’ve Been – Moving

I was going to be better about posting some of the things I am grateful for, and one of them was my home. I love living here, and will miss it greatly when I move in May.

When I first came to my current apartment, it was a place to heal. I was rebuilding my life as an independent adult after living with my son in his apartment. I’d lost my job and then had to leave before I got evicted from my rented condo at that time in November of 2013. The weekend after my godson suddenly passed away. So many hurtful things that year.

In 2014, while living with my son and working at Walmart as a cashier (but only allowed to work for 33 hours a week so I couldn’t be a full time employee) I was deciding I had to move into my car within a couple of weeks if my son didn’t find a job. Yeah, he lost his job just before I moved in with him. Like I said, so many losses.

Just as I was discussing how I had to leave with my son, I got an email that led to my getting a very good job. It’s the one I am working at now, and I’ve enjoyed this adventure SO much! That year brought my son into several jobs so that he could meet his financial needs, and then a surprise pregnancy brought us all into a brand new world of infant needs and supplies! So he moved to be with Mom-to-be, and I moved here.

The first year was all about finding sanctuary – without being able to build one. I collected things I wasn’t sure I’d need and just huddled at home when I wasn’t going or coming from the job as well as working 56 miles away. Family was 50 miles in the other direction, so I couldn’t really consider moving closer to work. Plus, I had a lot of bills to pay, and now needed to get my health stable. I had some issues that had gone unattended in the many years I’d been without health care while working temp jobs.

The second year was getting better health, and embracing becoming a grandma. I settled into a more familiar stride in life, and began to build more of a home rather than a “flop spot”.

The third year I ended up with surgery on my knee, and doing what I could to keep my home clean and neat. It was really hard, though.

The fourth year, I hired help to clean my home, clean the carpeting, worked on my asthma a bit better. I was able to save some money and bought furniture that made life more enjoyable for my grandson to come over for overnight visits. We made so many good memories together!

Last year, I was doing even better with the health issues, and finally able to do more by myself than to hire help for projects. I was able to afford to rent a garage and have been thrilled to have one for the first time ever in my life – and I’m 66!

Then the pandemic hit, so I used funds I was saving for a trip to buy a better computer desk as well as a laptop computer. I was happily able to work from home near the end of April, and the long commutes were no longer something I had to deal with! My health kept improving along with my lifestyle. New storage furniture was bought and used, and there was a lovely cozy home to enjoy with or without my grandson visiting. I was finally enjoying life rather than just plodding along. The job made so many good things work out in my life that hadn’t been working before.

As time went by, and it looks more like we’ll be able to stay at home and work our jobs, I realized that I am still very inconveniently far away for my family to ask for help (whether it was me or them). So I thought and prayed and finally decided not to renew my lease this year.

I found an apartment nearer the family, and it will be a bit bigger (this place is only 580 sq ft, new place has 750 sq ft), with more amenities. When I arrived at full retirement age (per the Social Security Administration), I could claim full widow’s benefits, and that gave me enough funds to pay a higher rent. Once I actually retire, I may have a bigger benefit from working beyond my full retirement age, depending on the wages I made from now until then. I’ll probably retire at 70 if not before, if the job lasts that long.

So, I am planning a move, now! My sons are confident that they can move me in one day, and happy that I am on the first floor where I am leaving and where I am going. I have no heavy appliances or furniture to speak of, and I’m a good packer after having moved many times in my life. So I’m looking forward to the new stride and more social contact once the pandemic considerations can be lessened.

I’ve had family members come down with C-19, and thankfully all have recovered well and without prolonged health debits. We’ve all been as careful as possible with masking, good hygiene, and staying home as much as possible.

I am so grateful for free grocery pickup services!! On my sicker days, it made a HUGE difference in my life and ability to keep a stride going.

So, I’ll do what I can now that I finally found the right place to move to. The search was very distracting and I’ve been Zooming with family members since we can’t visit so much. These have been happy distractions, along with childcare for my son with my grandson every other weekend.

Life is full! Life is good, and I am a bit abashed to admit that I am thriving during this time. I guess I needed a year to rest and heal more than most. I’m honestly looking forward to the new home with a garage, washer dryer in unit (full size machines), dishwasher, and more kitchen counter and storage than I have here. There’s a work out room, pool and a banquet hall if I want to have a birthday party for someone special next November, hehehe.

I hope that all of you are safe and careful. I have friends I care about in Texas that have been working on getting through their challenges, and so far they are doing better than they feared. They’ve been melting snow over firewood outside for clean water, and they have small tents in their homes on the beds to keep warm. They charge their phones in the car, but they don’t go out on the icy roads unless it’s someplace very near and done very carefully.

I know that COVID is still a concern, but so is this unusual weather pattern here in North America. Be careful and make jokes that don’t fall into the hurtful places, k? Sure we can have fun about stuff out of the ordinary, but no taunting those who don’t have what you have to manage this kind of weather, is all I’m asking.

Bless you all, and stay safe, please. Keep helping others to make it through, as I know you are doing.

#6 – My Commute to Work

I thank God for my COMMUTE TO WORK. Right now, it’s from my kitchen to the living room, but sometime this year, I’ll probably have to return to the office. I’ll miss the convenience of working from home, and the economy of not having to fill the car up with gas so much; but I honestly like the commute – most of the time.

I have quirks – and I know YOU have some too.  One of mine is that I love to drive to untie the psychic knots in my soul from time to time.  When I was young, we didn’t have air conditioning in homes yet, and when it got hot, we’d all pile into the family car and go for a drive to cool down.   There were trips to visit other relatives that lived in different towns, too.  I always enjoyed those drives with the family, because we’d sing or we’d have favorite landmarks to watch for (there is a castle that was perched on a hillside on the way to Grandma’s).

When I got old enough to drive, I especially enjoyed driving long distances when I got the chance to do it.  There is just something about following a long and unbroken freeway that just makes me feel better about life.  When gas got more and more expensive or when I haven’t got the funds for gas (unemployed), I was really feeling the loss of going for a drive.

So when I saw that my new job would be an hour away from home, I thought it would be like my other jobs that took that long to go to work.  Those other jobs were heading toward the Chicago metro area, and the commuter crawl of many traffic jams or gridlock were frustrating factors for a commute that was half the distance my new job was.  So, it was a wonderful surprise to find myself on a freeway for 20 or more miles with very few cars around me once I passed the nearest large town only 5 mins after I would merge onto the highway.  Never before could I set the cruise control on my way to work – but now, it’s the only way I go!

I drive from a resort town in Southern Wisconsin, to the moderate sized city of Rockford, IL, with a total of 56 miles for the entire journey.

I haven’t had much time to look around when driving toward Chicago, where all you can focus on is the car in front of you and others around you that might be potential hazards.  All of that is far different from the commute I enjoy these days, though!

At the beginning of my journey, I join a major highway that mostly travels through rural farm areas. The traffic is usually so light and well controlled that I have the time to notice the clouds and even how some homes are being worked on as I drive along.  My journey to work begins in rich and verdant farmland with well-kept farm buildings sprinkled liberally through the fields of soy or corn and the more rare fields of barley or oats as well as hay.  There will be the occasional antique farm building or silo here and there just to keep things interesting, too.

As I get closer to work, I have to join a tollway (so yup, I have one of those transponder things on the windshield) for the last 20 miles.  Now the traffic begins to pick up, but there are usually four or more lanes, so I can still set the cruise control, though I watch the other cars way more than the clouds or surrounding buildings at this point.  This gets me more mentally alert and ready for whatever I walk into when I arrive at work (only a few miles off of the tollway).

When I leave work, I’m all jazzed from the day, and the trip works in reverse. So by the time I get home, I have left the “jazzed” feeling behind by the time I have left the last town off the tollway and onto the freeway that leads into the farmlands.  I’m more relaxed and sometimes a bit tired just because I’m too relaxed by the time I get to my home town area.

So, my heart gets what it needs.  Respite from the workday demands, and a great time to pray.  God and I talk for most of those hours of travel time, even if I have tunes going.  I began doing that when I had cars that didn’t have working radios, so it kind of stuck with me when I got the ones with radios later on.  I’ve even turned off a catchy tune to pray about something that comes to mind.

When I saw that the sun is usually always behind me for most of my trip – either way – I knew that God not only got me the plumb job of my life – but He made sure I had a wonderful trip on my way in and back home, too.  Some might see my commute as excessive and costly, because of the gas and the vehicular wear and tear. It’s certainly a concern for me, but it’s balanced by the effects of the journey.  I have to say that God provided me with the job that can pay for the trips, because He knows what my heart needs even better than I do: a frequent long trip in the car, where I can unwind and relax, think and pray my thoughts.  [Blissful sigh]

Picture from internet search for Commute.

#4 – Working From Home

Sorry I fell out of step with these 100 things I’m thankful for. I’ve been a bit troubled about the shutdown that began back in March, here in the US.

With the pandemic concerns for SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19), I saw my office leadership cleaning the office twice a day. It wasn’t ever in their job description but they did it cheerfully, making jokes about it, and casually, without complaint. When supplies were running low thanks to shopper runs on cleaning supplies at stores, they let us know to keep our eyes open and that they had enough for one more week. Happily, I found some at my store, during Senior Hours. I bought enough to take care of cleaning for 5 weeks, I was told with nearly tears in my supervisor’s eyes. I refused repayment and let her know that it was their own attitudes keeping us going and encouraging us to stay the course.

In that time, we lost 10% of our pay for the rest of the year. The client that most of us worked for further reduced our hours (from 40 to 34/week), and then threw 15 furlough days (unpaid days of no work) to be sprinkled through the rest of 2020. I’m so very thankful I will be ok with these reductions, but my heart goes out to the coworkers with families or other dependents. Some were also furloughed and it made me go into a small tailspin.

When I received my $1200 stimulus check, I bought a new computer since my former one was over 8 years old. That was providential, because instead of issuing me a laptop to work from home, I was told to use my own computer to access the one I use in the office via internet and other connections.

I also bought a new desk, and that makes it easier for me to work well in comfort through the day.

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[My desk, in the living room of my home]

I thought that everything would be wonderful and better when they told me I could work from home on April 22nd, once we found that the connectivity was working. I mean, my commute to the office took about an hour to get there, and then another hour to get home. The gas budget was $80/week before the gas prices began dropping during late winter. So an 8 hour working day was actually 10 hours away from home. I was usually wiped once I got there. Too wiped to even make a healthy meal, most of the time.

So, now I only had to go to the living room and enjoy the benefits of working from home. I couldn’t figure out why I was still anxious and dodgy. I am doing better since I began antidepressants. I have no problem saying that, and I hope others will be fine admitting it as well.

I should also mention that in March, about a week after my state did their shut down, I began CPAP therapy at home. I use a nasal pillow, and I worried my 5 year old grandson (who I have for an overnight visit every 2 weeks, as his father has to work on Sundays) would be afraid of it. He liked my jokes about being like an elephant, and uses a face mask for his asthma attacks, so it went well.

So here I am now, and I’m astonished at what the CPAP therapy has done in my life since I began it. First, I went through the spring season without an asthma attack – I usually have had to do nebulizer treatments nearly nightly, and have frequently ended up missing time from work and seeing my doctor. None of that happened this past spring.

Cleaning my home was hard, and usually had to be spread over several days. I am again amazed to report that just last week I:

  • Washed three loads of laundry (taking it to the laundry room in my building and bringing it back when done, folding and hanging the clothing and putting it all away).
  • Used the new vacuum cleaner (wireless and light! But so effective it will capture pet hair and fine crumbs!) to vacuum two of the three rooms in my home.
  • Swept the kitchen and bathroom floors, and then steam cleaned them with the steam mop, as well as the entry spot of quarry tile by the front door.
  • Then I baked muffins for my grandson.

All in just one day!

You might think that would make me post something about being thankful for CPAP, and I probably should have; but for me it’s all working so well just because I am safe at home. I’m not afraid of the virus, though I am one of those folks with vulnerabilities. I just mentally didn’t do well with the diminished cars on the roadways, and the unfamiliar face masks and all of the rules for shopping. Happily, I usually use the Pickup service at Walmart, and it’s still without extra costs. It’s a huge blessing for me. I think being an introvert at heart helps as well.

I have wanted to work at home for a very long time. I am at full retirement age, now (66), and that commute can feel mighty long after a demanding day, lemmetellya. There are other reasons that working from home is good for me, though.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 33, so I’ve been dealing with it just that long (33 years). One of the problems with fibro is that it curtails your energy. When I run out of energy, I feel like my mind is stuck in white noise. This is usually called brain fog, and it’s an apt description. I have no creative ability left, so I make sure I’m not doing anything that requires it in the evening when the energy might run out. I make no decisions after 5 pm that are critical. I know that in the morning I’ll have my best mental acuity and most things will wait that long for me to work them out. If I am in a full flare, the decisions may wait a bit longer. Sometimes much longer. That’s just how it is.

So working a full time job is often a wonder for people who have fibro at my age. Believe me, if it wasn’t so rewarding and not so physically demanding (I work on a computer all day long), I wouldn’t be able to do it. Add that my client (I work as a contractor for a staffing company) is an inspiration and someone who frequently thinks of things I didn’t see, and you can see that my job can be fun some days. My wages aren’t that bad either.

The new work hours and payment hit I’ve taken has reduced my options in some ways, but I have been dealing with a financial recovery process since 2013. I was living below my means for a very long time, and just recently I’ve paid off most of the debts that were putting me on an austerity budget.

So I am thanking God that I am working from home right now, and they aren’t going to require me to return any time soon with the new resurgence of the pandemic within the US right now. If I wish to return, they’ve set up my desk so that there are only empty cubicles on either side, and I’ll be socially distant from any coworkers. They have the lunchroom set up similarly, and plenty of sanitizer stands through the office now that supplies are more available.

I just like coming to work in my home. I dress like I’m going to work, and turn on all the lights in the living room. It cheers me up to have them on, and helps me feel focused. I have the smell of fresh brewed coffee nearby, and I can play music at home, but not at work.

When it’s break time, I flop over the wide and comfy chair by the window and just enjoy the comfort and peace of my home. I might have music playing, too.

If I want a snack, the kitchen is very close, as is the bathroom. My whole apartment is only 580 square feet, but it’s well maintained, vermin free, in a residential neighborhood, and my neighbors in the building are sweet people. The management takes good care of the building and property, too. I love my life now that my hard times have receded.

So I am immensely thankful and grateful to work from home. This is my sanctuary, my comfort zone, and everything is convenient for my needs here. I even honestly like having the reduced hours. It gives me time to cope with my stress levels in healthier ways.

How are YOU doing in all of this?? I honestly want to know, so please tell me.