Tag Archives: life

Winter of His Life

I don’t know how I ever lived somewhere that didn’t have changing seasons. Growing up in Arizona I never saw the fall leaves or the winter white blanket of snow. It was either really nice out or just too damn hot. At Christmas time we would use spray-on “snow” for our window sills and of course here in the Midwest we have plenty of the real stuff.

The transformation from Winter to Spring is even more bittersweet with my 90-year-old Dad living with us.


This truly is the Winter of his life, the slowing down and shedding of ambitions and thoughts. Last month my father lost both of his surviving siblings, his 94-year-old sister and his 96-year-old brother.

He told my mom, “Now I’m the only one left.”

Like my father, I didn’t shed any tears when I heard about their passing. I had only seen my aunt a few times when I was a child and we visited the small town where she and my Dad had grown up. And I don’t think I ever meet my father’s brother, except for possibly at a funeral I never committed to memory. I think the reason my Dad did not shed any tears was because he thought they were better off with no more suffering.

I have tried to imagine what my Dad feels like being “the only one left.”

He was such a force to be reckoned with when I was young. Always on the move selling something or buying something. I remember an acre full of bicycle parts and poodle puppies. He was so strong it was rumored that he lifted a car off the ground once. He raised four very different girls. He never had time for museums or parks. He fought in the second World War and had his own auto dealership. His life has indeed been long and filled with old-tyme songs and stories that he still recites.

dscn0579Now he shuffles more than walks, going from the bedroom to the bathroom and back again, during this long and cold Winter.

One day at a time

I hear the water running.

I check the alarm clock and it reads 3:13 a.m. I hope my dad didn’t forget to turn the water off again. Then I hear my mom.

“What are you doing?” she asks my dad. She has to repeat the question about a half a dozen times before he figures out what she is asking.

“I was just washing my hair,” he replied as if everyone washes their hair in the middle of the night.

My dad is 90 years old and “day” and “night” have ceased meaning anything to him. His age-induced dementia has been getting worse over the last couple months. He seems to have what they call the “Sundowners Syndrome“(although his symptoms are not violent, but sometimes extremely grouchy). My mom, who is 82 years old and suffers from Parkinson’s and diabetes, has been my dad’s caretaker well for all his life actually.

My parents newly married in 1947.
My parents newly married in 1947.

When they were younger she had to make sure he had hot meals, clean laundry. Their relationship was probably not unlike other post World War II relationships. Now she has to make sure he has hot meals and clean laundry, she also has to watch him like a child to make sure he doesn’t eat too much, leave water running or hurt himself.

My parents moved in with us in October of last year. It was suppose to be for a few weeks maybe a month at the most. But like so many people in today’s economy their house deal in Arizona fell through and they couldn’t go ahead and buy a place close to us. And now it is becoming more and more apparent that my mom just won’t be able to take care of my dad on her own.

My dad is a bit like the dad from Everyone Loves Raymond or King of Queens. Let the hilarity ensue.

My 4-year-old son asks why Grandpa doesn’t use his manners and why he yells at Grandma. Questions to which my answers just don’t seem sufficient.

I’m just thankful that my parents are here with us and not by themselves. Of course a bigger house and more resources would be nice. We are just taking it one day at a time (hey great title for our sitcom, oh darn that was taken already).

Who do I think I am?

So I have decided to embark on this blog adventure. Join the millions, maybe billions of bloggers across the globe. The amount of new content that gets posted on the web each day boggles my mind.

Who do I think I am to start yet another blog?

What will I write about…my 90-year-old father and 82-year-old mother who recently moved in with us in our very small cape cod home, living in the suburbs and pining for the downtown life, my obsession with tomatillos, my husband who makes his own furniture, bread, beer, cheese and even sake, or my genus 4-year-old son (OK I exaggerate, but he can count to 50, almost).

I even dreamed about it last night. I was sitting at the computer for hours. And in true horror-movie fashion I had written something similar to “all work and no play…” I have to get new content up there right away I thought as I woke up this morning. My audience of at least 20 people is waiting and I don’t want to disappoint.

As a writer, especially a freelance writer, I struggle with the self-confidence to believe what I write is making a true contribution. I always say to my husband, “That has been written about already.” or “There are at least five books written on that topic.” In his wise way he responds, “So!”

I guess he is right. What if James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates or Octivia Butler thought that? What if I could never have been inspired by these writers?

What if those people who write blogs about getting into freelance writing like freelance writing gigs, and Angela Booth’s Writing Blog or blogs about juggling motherhood and writing, such as the writer mama, mommy writer blog, and creative construction thought no one cared?  I wouldn’t have gotten all that great advice.

I have to get over the idea that I will come up with something that no one has ever wrote about or even thought about. I have to, like all writers out there, just put myself and my writing out there. Kind of like putting that proverbial note in the bottle. It may never wash up on the shore, but like my husband says, “So.”

Getting my creative writing mojo back

My good friend Julie is visiting from Phoenix this week. She heard about the minus 10 degree weather and just couldn’t resist.

view out my front door
view out my front door

I first meet Julie when I had a one-line part in a friend’s play. The play was about whether gay people should be allowed to own house plants.

We soon found ourselves hanging in the same circle, you know the non-paid but highly creative underground theatre crowd. I was in my late twenties and it finally felt like I had found my tribe.

Surrounded by creative, fun, free people I found my voice. It started with a piece I did called “Random Thoughts” for a late-night coffee house show. I just put a bunch of thoughts on index cards and rattled them off. To my surprise, I was a big hit.

I went on to write, direct and produce a one-act play called “Cindy Sparkles.” Before an attentive standing-room-only crowd my words came to life. It was truly one of the best moments of my life. OK, it was only seen at a small gallery in front of 100 people, but I was on top of the world.

Next came a monthly performance night called “Take Out: Emotional Leftovers”. Comedy skits, monologues and poems were just flowing out of me. But now, like the sink in our upstairs bathroom, it has slowed to a trickle, really just a drip.

Where did I lose my creative mojo?

I moved from Arizona, got married and had a son. I have continued to write non-fiction pieces for work, but I lost that creative groove. Without knowing people in Denver and eventually Chicago, I just reverted back to my grade school-introverted self. I understand now how important it is to know supportive like-minded people, like Julie. But mainly, it is just me feeling self-doubt about putting myself out there again.

I’m determined, with the dawning of this new year, this new hope-filled Obama Era, to get out there and get my creative writing and performing mojo back.

Cautiously Optimistic

The stories of financial and personal ruin are everywhere.

Countless foreclosures, millions laid off and stores like Circuit City shutting their doors. It is almost too much to take. On NPR yesterday they told about a man in Osaka, Japan who starved to death. He had lost his job, was three months behind on his rent and he ran out of food.

Of course, I was on my way to Costco when I heard this news. And although the plasma televisions are out of grasp and even the premium dried fruits and nuts seemed a bit too luxurious for this trip, I was definitely getting plenty of food for my family to eat. I had to push aside the images of this lonely hungry man, while I strolled the expansive isles.

I also had to push aside any thoughts that my own family may not be insulated from these current events.

Could this be one of the last trips to Costco? The university where my husband works as a scientist is cutting a 100 million dollars of their annual budget. The last couple weeks have been filled with emergency budget meetings and terms like RIFs “reduction in force” have been thrown around. Needless to say these have been some stressful times at the old workplace.

My husband has been told to be “cautiously optimistic” about his position.

And that is what I was, cautiously optimistic, as I put the four pack of butter, the case of yogurts and four gallons of cranberry juice in my cart.

And I’m cautiously optimistic that I will be able to get my freelance writing biz off the ground. And cautiously optimistic that President Obama will be able to help our country in these difficult times.

Before going to bed tonight my four year old son reminded me that when he grows up he is going to live in one of the penthouse apartments he saw advertised in the New York Times Magazine. (He has offered to let his mom and dad live with him there.) He said the kitchen will be huge and so will his room.

Thank God he has thrown caution to the wind.

So, what is this strange thing you call facebook?

I put it off as long as I could.

I knew the potential dangers of having a page on Facebook. I knew there would be countless hours wasted, kind of like those spent playing the solitaire game on my phone. Hours I can never get back.

My husband actually set it up for me, finding a dorky picture to post and there you go I already had ten friends. But I really had no idea I was entering a new world. I expected to share warm fuzzy messages with my “friends.”

But I have actually reconnected with people I have not seen for decades. I get to glimpse into their lives, seeing pictures of their most recent vacations, the children I never knew were born. I’m horrible at mailing letters or packages (you know the ones that actually take stamps) and suddenly I can instantly connect with people I probably never would have seen again in my life.

Ok I sound a bit dramatic about this whole facebook phenomenon, but I can’t help it. I get to know at any given moment what my friends are doing from shoveling snow to reading a book. Almost too much for my mind to handle.

And just when I thought I could handle the facebook experience I saw my first boyfriend. There he was, a random comment on a musician’s page. Could that be him? I must look. There he was with his wife and three kids looking happy and successful. (of course people don’t post unhappy pictures) He really did look good. And I was happy to see that. It was a bittersweet moment, he was my first love after all.

Well I must learn to control this new addiction called facebook and get back to writing. And I’m not the only one… career advice, don’t choose facebook over your job.

What could you do on facebook for four hours a day? Hey do they have solitare?

Hey, I’m big in Japan…I think?

Economic Tsunami

I was excited to see that people were reading and discussing my first published book, “The Economic Tsunami: How and Why the U.S. Sub-Prime Mortgage Storm Formed.”

Last summer, I co-wrote this book with my friend and former associate editor of TIME Magazine, Bruce E. Henderson. Since the book was published I have wondered how it was being received. Wondering if in fact anyone was even reading it. Unfortunately, the websites I recently found featuring reviews and comments about the book were in Japanese. I guess this makes sense since the only place the book has been published is Japan.

Here is an excerpt of a blog about the book that was translated from Japanese. “However, only part of this mortgage, this book is worth reading. 「住宅ローン」と一口に言うが、借り手から見て日本のそれとはだいぶ異なるのだ。 “Mortgage” and have a say in the mouth, not in Japan is different from the borrower a lot better. ただし読み飛ばしてはそういったところを見落とすので、本書を読む際には数字が出てくるところでは「徐行」して読んでいただきたい。 Skip But I miss them so, when you read this book at some numbers, “slow down” would like to read.”

So in other words, I have no idea what they are saying. And in a way my fragile ego may be glad.