It’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me. The last blog post I wrote was right after our daughter, Jessica, graduated from high school which was an exciting time in our lives. It felt like the future was full of possibilities, a vast contrast to today’s freaky reality show of Covid-19. I thought it would be a good time to check-in to find out how you are coping.
How are you all doing? What are you doing to keep your kids occupied and yourself sane?
I am happy to report we are all well. I count my blessings for having both kids at home, safe and sound, and Jörg still employed. As we are seeing, some smaller enterprises have gone bust leaving family and friends unemployed. It is devastating, to say the least.
As horrible as this situation is, I do see a few silver linings: one is the surge of kindness. In the UK, more than 700,000 volunteers showed up to help NHS with homecooked meals. Families are spending more time together; Some people are finding new creative outlets; And, we are re-discovering our values.
It is not time to build walls but to come together as a community.
In March, Canadians started a trend called caremongering, which is an online community effort to give support, help, and kindness to anyone who needs it. The volunteer service has neighbors offering a variety of services such as shopping or online counseling to help each other deal with this crisis.
Younger neighbors are shopping for the elderly. People are sewing face masks for the overwhelmed medical workers who are our real heroes in this saga. Others are putting together care packages and leaving them out for the homeless.
Caremongering is compassion in motion, the opposite of scaremongering which is the spread of frightening news.
Ironically, while we are social distancing—which a coaching colleague appropriately re-named it ‘physical distancing’-- we are also now acknowledging and caring for our neighbor.
Before I even heard of the word caremonerging, I offered online English tutoring to my neighbors and Facebook community as soon as we went into semi-lockdown. So far, lots of thanks but no takers because Easter school holidays.
We have all heard the stories of people hording toilet paper and being rude to those in the service industries who still are working to keep society functioning. I guess a crisis brings out the worst in the fearful and the best the optimists.
Another positive thing I’ve noticed is more people talking walks in the forest. The other day I saw dozens of young families flocking in the woods; kids were delighting in playing hide-and-go-seek behind trees instead of huddling in front of a screen. Mother Nature is calling us to conform to her ways.
As we head into Easter, it is a reminder that nature has seasons of death and rebirth. Our economy has died for now, but what will resurge as a result?
As corny as it seems, I just want to close with this passage I read in my daily devotional that seem so fitting and obvious, but it needs to be repeated; it is known as the Golden Rule: Whatever you want people to do for you, do the same for them… (Matthew 7:12)
I keep many of you in my thoughts and prayers, especially those who might be more vulnerable. Please hit return and send me a message letting me know how you are managing.
Be safe and well. Love, Paula
I hope you are enjoying your summer. Here in Germany, we’ve been having a heat wave since April, more or less. For the record, I kind of like it because it reminds me of the hot summers I experienced as a child in Sacramento.
I've got good news to report: Our 19-year-old daughter Jessica graduated from high school and passed her abitur exams! Her next big step journey is just days away.
Believe me, it was a long journey for all of us and we are so proud of her. At times, we were uncertain if she were adept enough to climb the ladder of the German school system, which is demanding for most students. But with hard work and persistence, she over came her own doubts.
Not All School Systems Are Created Equally
Before I had children, I had thought the primary educational years would be just baking cupcakes and attending PTA meetings, or, at least, the more hands-off approach to learning that my parents espoused. The demand for kids to excel in education has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, becoming more trying for the teachers, parents, and pupils. I’d even say this is a worldwide trend.
When Jessica entered school, I found myself lost in the corridors of a byzantine pedagogical structure that seemed so regimented. One thing I learned about the German school system that surprised me was that in the fourth grade, teachers decide which students will attend one of the three levels of high school. The gymnasium level is the highest where the graduates obtain their abitur degree and then move on to university. This decision is based on grades and oral participation. Late bloomers who aren’t on the ball get labeled early and put into lower level schools. Artistic and musical talents are generally not regarded.
Knowing that the way into university meant having that abitur degree, we were anxious about Jessica’s academic success. God forbid our child miss the education bullet train.
By the second grade Jessica declared, “I will never do my abitur exam or go to gymnasium. I just won’t do it, so don’t ever ask.” Stunned with her sudden dislike of school, I swallowed hard and asked why.
“Because I don’t want to. It’s too difficult,” she replied. Those words echoed through the years like a biting wind.
When warning signs signaled that Jessica was having learning issues, I shifted into first gear, like a typical helicopter parent hovering over to fix the problem.
Dealing With Dyslexia
We soon discovered that Jessica had ADHD and dyslexia. Spelling became a mixed bag of letters and sounds that rang a loud discord. Homework became a battlefield. Tutors by the dozen were constant fixtures in our homes. Yet, we were consistent in our efforts in supporting her. It is important for kids to know that their parents are behind them 100%.
In the years we were living in Washington D.C., many of Jessica’s middle school classmates already had lofty goals of attending to well-known universities after high school. These girls were a positive influence and gave her a new perspective.
We moved back to Germany when Jessica entered grade 9. She set her sights on getting into gymnasium although it was challenging because of her dyslexia, which caused spelling and reading problems in both languages. Somehow, we all pushed through and Jessica became eligible to take the abitur exams.
In January this year, one of Jessica’s teachers discouraged her from taking the abitur exams. Better to keep the aim low than to face failure. But a deep, burning ambition to succeed fueled Jessica’s fire like a parched landscape. She got organized and hit the books. Tenacity became her middle name.
When she passed, we literally jumped for joy. Jessica’s confidence soared to new heights like a young bird in flight.
At her Abi-Ball, a formal party the graduates put on for their families and teachers, Jessica’s leadership skills shined: Not only did she help organize the event, but she choreographed all the dances and was one of the three masters’ of ceremony. The girl who claimed that she would never complete her abitur degree made a stellar end performance winning the praise “the student who surprised us and bloomed the most” from her teacher.
So what’s next for her? This Saturday, Jessica and I fly to Orlando, FL, to settle her into her dorm room where she will start work as a German cultural representative for Disney World Epcot Center. It feels like a magical moment is about to begin.
Over To You
How's your summer coming along? I’d love to hear about your life, thoughts and opinions. Leave a comment below.
The other day in the mail I got some sad news: a lady whom I met in Hong Kong 22 years ago had died. This is a short story on making an acquaintance that lasted a lifetime—something that is rare today.
In 1996 I was living and working in Tokyo, Japan as an English teacher. Due to some bureaucratic reason, I had to go on a short trip to Hong Kong to obtain a Japanese working visa. I had two days free so I took a city tour through Hong Kong. While I was standing in line waiting for the tourist bus, I started chatting with a German woman named Hildegard and her Italian husband, Mateo.
After the tour, we went out for a meal and hung out together the rest of the day. I never saw them again after that but we exchanged mailing addresses.
Over the years Hildegard and I became pen pals. We wrote each other letters about four times a year. Mind you this was before email became popular. We met just before I became engaged to Joerg. I had no idea that a few years later I would be living in Germany.
Through her letters I learned a lot about her life and family. She got to know me on a personal level through detailed letters about the intimacies of my own life. She was a safe person for me to confide in because I never saw her face to face. She wrote back with a sympathetic note letting me know that she understood me.
Even when email and Facebook became popular, Hildegard and I still exchanged letters, in English, mostly because she refused to buy a computer: she didn’t feel the need to master a computer as long as the postman still walked his beat. Her daughter, Patricia, who lives in Italy, contacted me once via Facebook to show pictures of her mother on holiday in Italy. I encouraged her to get a computer as writing letters seemed so outdated. But she was steadfast in her decision.
Christmas cards came and went. This year instead of a letter, I sent her a postcard from Salzburg and the annual Christmas card with my children’s photos. A few years ago her husband Mateo died. I actually never knew how old Hildegard was, the only visual I have of her is standing at the bus stop looking vital and healthy, her face still frozen in time.
When I saw the letter addressed from Patricia in Italy, my heart dropped. I knew Hildegard had died. Probably the only pen pal alive on earth was now gone. In today’s world of distracting phone texts and ostensibly urgent Instagrams, I probably wouldn’t gaze in the eyes of a stranger nor engage in a conversation. It just feels too awkward.
Back in the day, small talk with the guy or gal sitting next to me on plane was common, perhaps even expected, but not any more. Most people shy away from random chitchat with headphones over their ears and eyes glued to a mini screen.
Over the years I’ve met so many people by chance, some of whom even who’ve changed the course of my life (a great story for another time), and became friends through letters, email or Facebook. The art of letter writing has passed. I miss the opportunity of getting to know someone through words, unleashing my soul to an empathic listener, even one that I had only physically seen once.
I even miss the opportunity of chance acquaintances through no work of my own other than just being at the right place. In social media, I have to be careful about what I say or it could be misread. A reader could easily insult me with 140-character tweet, killing the desire to even post anything. My pen pals never had the audacity to tear me down. It was a mutual exchange of empathy.
I love writing letters, spilling out my thoughts on paper. I used to write eight to ten pages, front and back, long scripted letters to friends. The words just flowed. I still pen a few detailed emails to a few friends. I’ve turned to blogging to communicate to a mass group of people.
I admit that I’ve been writing more private messages to friends on Facebook. I don’t really like Facebook messenger or writing longer notes on social media, but it is the only way I can reach those who don’t read emails any longer, especially the younger generation.
To close, I want to dedicate this blog to Hildegard. Thank you, Hildegard, for being a long-term correspondent and a dedicated reader.
Over To You
Have you ever had a pen-pal? What was that relationship like for you?
I’d love to hear from you. Hit the comment button below and tell me what you think.
How do you live well into your 90's?
The best way to answer that question is to take a retrospective look into the life of someone who has done it.
This is the life story of a remarkable matriarch, Patricia Hoff, mother of eight, grandmother of 17, great-grandmother of 19, and a mother-like figure to many. She happens to be my mother whose celebration of life was held in January and attended by over 70 friends and family. She was a living example of how to live a fulfilled life even through tragedy. She lived until the age of 93. Here’s how she did it.
1. Start by living authentically
If you speak with enough people about Patricia Hoff, a consistent picture emerges: a highly verbal and honest woman, a fabulous communicator, a charmer, a large personality whose life’s arc encompassed change, growth, and, yes, heartache in her 93 years.
2. Make the best of your education
My mother received master’s degree, so to speak, in living. She often put it in dramatic musical terms: she lived a C above high C. That fundamental education from St Paul’s High School in San Francisco was just the starting point. When my father converted to Catholicism at her behest, they both perhaps bit off more than they could chew with a family of eight children, all happy accidents for following the conventions of the church. That strict adherence to Catholic rules spawned a rebellion in her later years, out of a strong reaction to the obedience she gave blindly to a system that did all the thinking for her.
3. Be defiant and make your own rules
She’d often insist: “Nobody’s going to own me anymore,” a defiant proclamation of freedom. She had played the part of a dutiful wife and mother until my father’s death in 1989 and our brother Kenny’s passing five years later. Though she’d already experienced tragedy when my sister Rosemary succumbed to leukemia in the early sixties, it was Kenny’s death that transformed her more abruptly.
4. Gain freedom by losing your religion
This self-examination began to solidify her new-age thinking, which was a mix of Christian principle and a belief in reincarnation and karma. She truly believed that we all have a life lesson and we return again and again until we get it right, a kind of Buddhist-Hindu thinking sans yoga or mediation (she hated exercise). She told me that even if there were a magic pill to stop AIDS, she would not give it to Kenny because he needed to return to Earth at a later time to learn new lessons--and she would be in his new life story again but in a different role.
5. Find a good mentor
The pillars of my mother’s faith had been cracked, but her personality remained largely unaltered. She found true independence living alone and sought to understand more of the world, more of herself, drawing on an intellectual account first stocked by Dr. David Warren, a junior college humanities instructor who proved to be, I believe, her biggest inspiration.
6. Always be open-minded at every stage of life
Concerning this period, the early 1970s, she wrote the following in an email to me three decades later: “How could anyone remain in a box? The lid sprung open and I jumped out. Eager learner, I exposed myself to all thoughts: radical, religious, the political and the outrageous. My life took many turns, good and bad, but there was always a lesson there, like it or not.”
7. Educate yourself through traveling
Her curiosity, always a strong point, blossomed magnificently. She travelled extensively through Europe, Asia and Africa, visiting her beloved Ireland twelve times. Now the woman who could talk to anyone found common ground with everyone.
8. Never stop seeking to find your voice even in your later years
Where many of us peak in our forties and fifties, Patt Hoff seemed to find her true voice, the easy confidence and sense of self, in her seventies and eighties. Her broad experience, gift of communication and ability to focus and listen enabled an ability to connect with anybody, from a bus stop stranger to fellow passengers on a cruise.
9. Be curious about other people
Oh, what a delight to see her in action. I remember the night she met my girlfriend Virginia’s mother, Ginny. Ginny is a shy, private woman, but my ever-ebullient mother opened her like a can of butterflies. “Do you read, Ginny? What do you like to read? Tell me about your favorite books.” Later on the phone Virginia and I laughed with glee and amazement how Patt got to the heart of Ginny as no other could. Patt’s humanity, this acute intuition into others, might have been her biggest strength.
10. Have a motto to live by
She was a worldly woman at home in any crowd. Some of her famous quotations still ring in my ear:
11. Be resourceful
The most remarkable thing about my mother is that the whole time I was growing up she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found. Was the role of cook, house-keeper and solicitous nurturer exactly right for her? I’d answer that this way: she did the best she could in overwhelming circumstances, and all of us grew up happy and healthy. The part of mentor, matriarch and confidante developed later when we matured enough to appreciate what she had become, Bon Bon, the name her grandchildren called her, with the gentle touch.
12. Always be a comfort to others
My sister Jeanne describes it this way: “She had the gift of comfort, the gift of praise, whatever the occasion called for.”
13. Be patient and live in the now
My sister Dolores recalls, “She was just content to be waiting, people watching. She actually enjoyed the waiting time, acknowledging the fresh air, the scenery, the people, the moment, catching her breath, it was all part of the outing.” Living in
the moment before it became a new-age trend.
14. Define your dignity by blessing others
Her final years at Emily’s Guest House were mellow. She prayed with Dolores and reconverted to Christianity, back to a salvation and belief she probably never truly abandoned. This was a peaceful soul who had done everything she needed in do, having completed a full life by any measure. In her last months she maintained a dignified stoicism, a self-composure recalling one of her favorite adages: “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone.”
15. Have no regrets
Tears do not feel appropriate today. She told us to laugh and play songs at her funeral. So mother, Patricia, Bon Bon, you onward-ever soul, as you view us from the great beyond, or even as a reincarnated fly on the wall, may you find this event today a rollicking good time.
This eulogy was written and delivered by my brother, Mike Hoff, with help from me and my siblings.
Over To You: I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Hit the comment box and leave me a message.
It’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me. Last October my mother passed. As a family, we decided to hold the celebration of life memorial in January in order for family members far and wide to find time to attend. My emotions vacillated from the sadness of loosing her to the relief of knowing that she died peacefully surrounded by family. At times I felt like an emotional volleyball, and I couldn’t produce a single word until now.
I also had to ask myself whether I wanted to continue the task of producing a blog. Here’s the answer: I’ve always loved writing letters and had many pen pals. Gone are the days of opening the mailbox with great anticipation of receiving a letter, the kind of personal correspondence that says, “you matter.” Back in the day, I’d tear open the envelope, read the letter with a thumping heart, and then rush to respond, to keep the lifeline open.
This blog is a substitute for the old-fashion pen and paper. I count friends and family all over the world. Blogging is the best way to keep everybody abreast of my thoughts and experiences. As you have read from past blogs, I especially like narratives that nourish the mind, body, and soul.
Social media is great for sharing photos, updates and finding old friends, but it doesn’t get to the heart and soul of the person. Photos of my meal and family vacations can’t replace the more introspective stories behind the picture. It’s in meaning of life and the raw experience of it that makes a story great. I like to share what the bigger and smaller pictures of life mean to me. And I’d love to share yours too.
I know not everyone has a passion for the art of writing. I don’t expect long drafted missives in return. But if a particular story moves you, please make a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you have a special story you want to share—something that is inspiring, please let me know. I am open for guest posting or writing your story. Interviews are always interesting to read.
By the way, what is it that you like to read in a blog? You, the reader, are the reason I write this blog. Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.
This is a journey. I’m glad you are along for the ride. I will blog at least one or twice a month. I also updated my website. I keep it under that name Destination Life Coaching but that might change one day. I created the blog on a free website called Weebly. I’ll probably move it to Wordpress next year. Since I manage the website without help of a professional (please note, my brother Mike Hoff is my editor to whom I owe a great deal), there’s a learning curve for me, and I’m in no rush to switch website hosts.
Please check your promotions box and as well as the spam folder for my blog. Once you move it to your inbox, it will show up not as spam.
Talk to you soon. Love, Paula
Imagine this scenario: Your partner got a fabulous career opportunity with his or her company in a foreign country, and you move the whole family over to start a new life abroad. You’re sitting in a new environment with all the luxuries that you couldn’t afford back home such as a beautiful apartment in a chic part of town, private schools, exotic holidays, memberships to the swanky social clubs, and domestic help. But far from basking, you are feeling depressed, anxious, and isolated among all the trappings.
What Is There To Be Unhappy About?
Just about everything according to expat expert and writer Robin Pascoe. In her book Raising Global Nomads she states, “Few people are willing to shout this out loud, but culture shock and grief are closely related.”
When you relocate to a foreign country, you mourn for your former life just like you’ve lost a loved one. You’ve abandoned your life, family and friends. Nothing around you now is familiar. You miss everybody and everything that once orbited around your last place of residence.
You also left behind your culture and language, which strike a core of your essence, values and perspectives.
I recently conducted a research interview with over 40 expat participants. One of them said, “You feel a loss so deep that it is like you soul is split in two when you move to a new land.”
It is odd to think that you would grieve terribly for the familiarity of places and things in your life you left behind—things both intimate and commonplace such as schools, shops, places of worship, and routine activities. But it happens.
Why Leave If You Knew You’d Be Miserable?
Pascoe says, and I agree, that moving overseas is a life changing, enriching positive experience that shouldn’t be missed given the opportunity.
According to grief experts, when you uproot to a new location you have to work through it the grieving process in order to move on and enjoy the benefits of the adventure.
How Can You Say Goodbye To Your Home And Feel Peace Before The Move?
I recently spoke to Annabelle Breuer-Udo, a coaching colleague, who specializes in Leadership and Relationships coaching and is a Process Facilitator, about her recent experience moving from a small town in Germany to Munich and finally to America. Annabelle shared a wonderful process about about letting go of her former home to create a new place of happiness in her adopted city.
Annabelle wrote a gratitude letter to her life experiences in the former town thanking it for what she had experienced and loved about living there. She thanked all the places she used to visit such as cafés, shops and sport clubs stating the positive things they gave her and how she has to now let them go in order to open space for new experiences. Afterwards, she crumbled the letter and threw it in the river.
What Are The Benefits Of Writing A Letter Of Gratitude?
I asked Annabelle how she felt after writing the letter. She said, “It allowed me to create space for new experiences. I came to a state of peace and balance in letting go of the old and opening a place for a new life. I have peace with my decision.”
Writing a farewell letter to your current residence thanking it for the gifts of joy and abundance it gave you before packing up is a great way to work through the emotions of letting go. The benefits are therapeutic which could ease some of the distress that comes with the move. It’s the first step to pave the way for a new adventure.
For some making a new home and diving deep into the new culture come as a welcome change. For others, they feel like lost souls wondering endlessly on a desert island. If you are feeling the latter, it is important to get counseling or coaching with a professional expat coach to work through all the stages of grief.
Over To You
What is your experience with relocating to a new place and saying goodbye to your former residence? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
Having a good friend, one with whom you can speak openly and candidly, is like gold. Especially if that friend imparts gentle wisdom and doesn’t pepper the conversation with negatives, such as bunch of do’s and don’ts.
My friend Jo Voon, a native of Singapore now living in Washington DC, is one of those glistening nuggets.
We were talking the other day about how friendships, like anything worth investing in, need to be nurtured and tended to like a beautiful garden.
Jo, by the way, is a wonderful gardener. She toils in the garden all year round just to be able to enjoy the spring flowers. She says gardening is an extension of her spiritual self. As she explained,
“The garden is full and lush; it’s an expression of your heart and soul.”
The conversation meandered on about how we sometimes stumble upon roadblocks that force us to make a U-turn or go in a different direction. But really our challenges are here to help us become a bit more mature, a bit wiser version of ourselves. As we chatted, however, the gardening metaphors popped up like tulips. She offered this,
“We need to have the seasons of spring in our lives to find renewal and rejuvenate. The garden has been symbolic of that.”
In other words, there is time to take rest and celebrate wherever you are in your own life’s journey. It might be hard to believe, but your contributions to the universal garden of life have made a difference. You need to sit back and acknowledge where you are and how far you’ve come. You will find peace in the process and be inspired to continue on.
Perhaps it is not a sudden change that you are working through but a long-term project or goal you are striving towards and, at the moment, you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it is a higher educational degree, a new relationship or health regimen that you are pursuing but not yet experiencing any benefits. The point is to be patient and wait for all your efforts to spring forward when the time is ripe.
Jo’s ah-ha moments were overrunning her thoughts like weeds. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper because I knew these words would blow right past me. She stated,
“When you tend to the garden think of it as tending to your heart. You draw inspiration from friends and God. It’s like getting a dose of fertilization that will enrich your garden and life. The time put in will be well worth it.”
Recently we’ve given our garden a face-lift, uprooting the old tree, replacing it with a Japanese maple tree, smaller perennials and annuals. I added a few potted plants around the yard and a colorful table and two chairs giving it a more open, friendly look. Compliments from a few neighbors made me feel that I’m adding to the pleasant aesthetics of our street.
Like bees, Jo’s words kept buzzing in my head.
“When a neighbor walking by expresses his pleasure at seeing your garden and praises you for your efforts, you feel validated. It brings me joy.”
I’m not a great gardener by any means, but my smile brightens every time I look at my little garden patch. The weather here in Germany is still cold and wet, but I know my time in the sun is coming soon. Without the April showers there could be no Mayflowers.
Over To You
What does your garden look like? What are the milestones you can celebrate at this time? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.
When you live abroad and have to deal with every little problem in a foreign tongue, often there are communications breakdowns that can make simple procedures seem like gigantic tasks.
When I’m struggling to understand what is being communicated it sometimes feels like I’m facing a Teutonic Goliath.
But then once in a while grace steps in.
Some people would call it luck, but to me it’s like the universe lifting the linguistic burdens of syntax and grammar.
This week our washing machine was leaking water and making a loud thumping noise. I took out the washing machine manual to translate the machine parts: barrings=kugellarger, rubber sealing=gummydichhtung, spinner=schleudern.
I got a hold of the repairman via telephone and slowly pronounced every word to him explaining the problem:
After I finished talking, he replied with a bit of humor in his voice, “So, I think your washing machine is broken.”
I laughed so loud into the phone that I must’ve broken his eardrum! In good English he described what he thought the problem was and made an appointment to come to my house and fix it. I hung up the phone and breathed a big sigh of relief. It made my day knowing that I didn’t have to fumble my words like a toddler learning to speak. My spirits soared as a high-speed elevator.
These are the little saving graces that help us get through the day.
I’m sure the washing machine repairman was unaware that his speaking English made my life just a wee bit easier and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. I was so grateful.
Searching the Internet for a simple quote to describe moments like this, I found a gem by Carly Fiorina:
“Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace.”
My hope for you is that today you will experience a moment of grace.
Over To You
Have you ever had one of the “saving grace” conversations that bolstered your attitude? I’d love to hear your experience. As usual, leave a comment below.
Last month, I traveled to Sacramento to see my 92-year-old mother for the last time. Again. Eighteen months ago my mother was lying on her deathbed gasping for an elusive breath while loved ones tearfully kept watch.
Two days later she woke up with an appetite. Chips, cake, and junk food of any kind, she’d wolf it all down. Then came the daily beer that she loves so much. For her meager nutritional needs, the doctor advised giving her anything she wants, as long as she is eating.
She was sleeping soundly when I entered the room. Upon seeing me she quickly sprung to life—as much as a feeble person can--as if she were waiting for this very moment. We chatted for about 15 minutes, in between bites of Cheese-It snacks that I brought as a treat. She asked questions about my life, eager to hear everything. I knew she was doing her best to be animated. My mother is a good actress. The show must go on.
Soon, she stared mindlessly at the TV. Even on good days, ten minutes of conversation can wipe her out. But within the next few minutes she perked up again to ask questions about my friend, Pam, whom I visited before coming to Sacramento.
In her infirm state, my mother still shows her intelligence by making small talk about life and possessing a keen interest in other people. She has a remarkable memory for dates and places that I’ve long forgotten about. When I inquire about her life, she cheerfully though wearily replies, “I’m fine as ever.” Her will to live has outlasted her physical body. In fact, she's already used up her six-month hospice care three times.
It is well documented that about 80% of elderly patients die within the first year upon entering a nursing home, many within the first six months. It’s also noted that people with strong social connections live the longest. Fortunately for my mom, she has lots of visitors due to our large, extended family.
I feel that the real reason for my mother’s longevity and general well being stems from the unconditional love shown to her by us and Maria and Bill Tintas, her caretakers, who own the board and care home where she resides. It’s a residential home where licensed caregivers live and render assistance with bathing, feeding, dressing and managing the medication of a maximum of six patients. Home healthcare, hospice and other medical assistance can be brought in from outside providers. Some of the patients in this home have been there for many years and even one patient recently turned 100-years-old.
To be sure, changing diapers on a 92-year-old patient six times a day is not an easy job, but Maria and Bill do it with kindness. They show respect to all their patients, making them feel wanted. I’ve even heard Maria tell my mother that she loves her, as my mother is an easy patient who seldom complains. The Tintas’ seem content in their business decisions, wise in their dealings with no hidden agendas.
“Maria has seen a lot of death and sadness, yet her spirit is light. That is a God given gift to a caretaker,“ said my sister, Dolores Martinez. “Maria has God’s love and spiritual protection which brings peace to the house.”
I dreaded saying goodbye on my last day. Fortunately, my sisters Jeanne and Dolores were by my side. We had a great two-hour conversation with mom, talking about our travels together and good times. Mom could remember stories with details, much to our amazement. We laughed a lot and took photos. The mood was light.
I finally did say goodbye, with a big kiss and a firm hug. I was almost ashamed of myself for not shedding tears. I’ve said goodbye so many times before why would today be any different? I walked out the door with Maria’s reassurance that mother will be there the next time I’d come to visit.
I wish I could believe that.
In two weeks, my mother will turn 93. How much longer can she go on with her body slowly but surely shutting down? As my sister Jeanne reminded me that today could be the last day we see anyone. It is in God’s hands.
In truth, we really lost her a couple of years ago when she decided not to walk anymore. Now it’s a waiting game. It is not sad, for she has lived a good, blessed life albeit one with its peaks and valleys that she ventured through being guided by a cosmic north star.
I pray that when the time comes for her passing, it is done in her sleep, peacefully. I can only hope for myself to live such a long life filled with love and with no major illnesses. In reality, it means keeping physically and spiritually healthy. There are many books written on both topics, but in the end, it is up to us individually to figure it out for ourselves. This seems to be the topic I like to write about because it is so big and important. I’ll keep you posted on my mom. In the meantime…
Over To You
What are your thoughts on death and dying? Have you ever dealt with caregivers? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Please leave a comment below.
Happy New Year, albeit a bit late. I hope you all celebrated well with your loved ones and friends. As the 2017 promises to be unprecedented in many ways, it is an opportunity to review your successes and challenges of the past year. With a blank canvass, you get to color your world, deciding what changes or transformations you desire to make this year, filling in the dots or drawing outside of the lines of your life.
As I clocked in the New Year, I contemplated some new years resolutions: lose weight, improve my German, write more, and stick to a daily spiritual practice. In a long life of resolutions and half-hearted promises, I’ve been resolute with only one: I decided not to smoke cigarettes. To this day, I’m an ardent non-smoker.
According to Tony Robbins, the world’s most successful life coach, anyone who sets a goal for the New Year will have abandoned it by January 17th. I ditched mine within the first week.
Robbins also says that any goal or vision has to be compelling enough in order for it to be successful. A compelling reason might be a family’s desperate need to save money for a child’s operation, or a down payment for a house, for example. In a nutshell, it’s a determined vision that pushes you past the finish line.
How I Make Resolutions Stick?
The key to obtaining your goals, according to Terri Savelle Foy in her book Make Your Dreams Bigger Than Your Memories, is to break them down into manageable, bit-size pieces that are realistic and have timetable in order to keep you motivated and accountable.
So if the goal is to lose weight, it’s better to have a smaller objective with a specific date. For example, it is better to say, “I will lose 5 pounds by February 15, 2017 by walking 20 minutes every day and by eating five fruits and vegetables daily instead of random snacks,” than setting an arbitrary goal of loosing weight.
Why am I resisting even writing down my goals?
The truth is my goals feel like overwhelming chores, like a chockablock to-do list. I desire an improved streamlined life-style, not one with restrictions and add-ons.
I really don’t want to start a diet, but I want to improve my posture that will help eliminate my back problems. I want to quit my German book club because the reading level is above my current comprehension. I don’t want to put myself under pressure to write every day. I want my daily devotional prayers to be simple.
What does that look like?
For me, it is adding a few posture exercises to my already established 10-minute morning stretching regime. It also means taking daily walks regardless of the weather.
I’ll confess to my German reading circle that I don’t always comprehend the books we read because the subject matter is abstract or political which taxes my overloaded (aging) cognitive abilities. I’ll ask for a pass on the books that are too difficult and join in on the reading that is suited to my level.
Putting pressure on myself to write everyday makes me feel like a failure every morning. It doesn’t work. What I’m really long for is a writing style enlivened by active verbs, apt adjectives, thoughtful metaphors and similes that sparkle like stars.
Lastly, I lack the mental stamina to mediate and pray Deepak Chopa style, but 10 to 20 minutes a day of devotional readings, praying and meditation is manageable.
So far, I'm doing okay maintaining these resolutions. That means, I'm not beating myself up mentally if I skip a day or two. This year I'm giving myself permission to go easy on myself--life is just too short.
Over To You
What are you goals for 2017? Have you ever kept a resolution? I'd love to hear from you. If you are not clear on what you want to achieve this year, I am offering a clarity coaching session to you as a gift. Just fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you.