Tag Archives: aging

Life on Hold

If you’re like me, you usually have an unending to-do list rumbling around in your brain, providing no quarter from the busy pace of life. As for me, I am trying to finish up a new record, get networked in with the local business community, wrap up three concurrent online courses, keep up on social media, finish distributing bark mulch around our property to slow down the weeds–all that plus provide home support for my awesome wife who is up to her armpits in alligators working on her master’s degree.

Then something happens that forces you to put everything on hold.

If you happen to be a Baby Boomer, like me, then you have aging parents. I am blessed to still have both my parents–dad and mom are 88 and 86 respectively. My dad was very sick for most of 2010, but for the most part, recovered. Ever since then, I dread getting “the call”. You know it’s going to come sooner or later, and a couple of Sundays ago it came from my sister. Long story short, my dad wound up in the hospital for a few days with a urinary tract infection and then transfered to a rehab facility where they discovered he developed a slight case of pneumonia. Any type of infection is enough to wipe my dad out since he is so frail. They are waiting for the antibiotics to do their work as well as giving him physical therapy so he can recover enough strength to return home.

Meanwhile, my brother and I are taking turns caring for our mom, who has trouble getting around. We have been staying with her at the house overnight, preparing meals, and driving her to and from the rehab facility to visit dad. I live 100 miles away by car or I can take a ferry; either way it’s at least a 2-hour journey. Recently my dad decided to drop internet service at his house since he was no longer using it. Consequently, I get to sleep in my own bed only every other night. All of these things are inconvenient.

All to say, I now have about a third of the time I used to have to work on my to-do list, and to be honest, it’s sometimes challenging to have a good attitude about it. But what can I do about it? Nothing. I have to roll with it. And I have to adjust my attitude when it gets stinky. I love my parents and I want the best for them. Currently, the attention we are giving our mom is paying off by helping her get stronger and more self-sufficient, and dad is in the care of medical professional who are helping him get stronger.

This episode is improving their fragile quality of life a little bit, so it is worth it. Normally, I get so busy I  don’t spend enough time with my parents, primarily because I don’t live close enough to just drop by. So life on hold reminds me of how much they mean to me. And the to-do list? I will just need to sort that out somehow. This will not be the last time I get one of those calls until it truly is the last time, and I’m thankful that we’re not there yet.

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Some Emails You Just Don’t Ever Want to Receive

Yes, I am now unmistakably middle-aged and no longer just in my early fifties. And I am generally okay with that, except when my body doesn’t do what I want it to do, of course. But NO ONE at such a delicate transitional stage wants to receive an email like this:

Now I’ve been getting junk from AARP ever since I turned 50. But Betty White? She just celebrated her 90th. This advertisement kind of sends the message: “Hey, no use denying you’re now in the long slippy slide towards getting really old. But hey, Betty White is still going strong!”

But, this is just me talking. Perhaps you are getting to that special coming-of-middle-age time of your life and have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to join AARP. Well, just for you, I have made the picture above into a link so that will take you to the “join” page.

Because I care.

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Birthday Thoughts About Aging

Wow, I’m 54 today. Who wudda thunk it? It sounds so old and yet I still feel so young inside. Carol Burnett shares my birthday–she turns 79 today–and I thought about the age difference: 25 years. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time to me. Only 25 years. I think some varieties of Kim Chee are aged longer than that.

The idea that 25 years doesn’t seem like a long time is strong evidence that I am older. When I was 25, that span of time seemed enormous. I do miss the optimism that is inherent with being a young adult. The sky is the limit. Anything is possible.

Middle age ushers in a rude awakening. The LIST of dreams is now longer than the time left to pursue them. It’s time for triage. Of all the forks in the road that still occur to this young brain, many are now closed. Some I would have liked to pursue back when I had the chance.

Occasionally, I catch myself wallowing (too strong a word) in regret that I did not choose a full-time music career. When I was 21, I put such a life on hold in order to learn some marketable skill that I could “fall back on” and also to keep me out of the front lines of a war with Iran that seemed to be looming on the horizon. (It was 1980.) A career in computer programming offered stability and security, and I met my wife at college while I was getting my degree. The computer gig never became the fallback option but would up being the full-time deal.

Now that I am finally pursuing a full-time music career, I am increasingly aware of how much catch-up work I have to do to get established in this business. Unlike my “lifer” music contemporaries, there are networks that I have never established and industry skills that I am clueless about. I also realize how much I don’t know about music, too. Like, I’m finally getting around to learning how to play jazz standards, getting the licks down to improvise over II/V progressions, and developing piano-bar chops. Learning how to orchestrate is another skill I never acquired, which became apparent when I arranged the song “Ascent” on my Passage CD. I am very happy with how it turned out, but it was a lot of trial and error.

My regrets are about the likelihood that I am running out of time to pay all of the dues required to be fully functional in this business. These regrets are tempered by the relief that I still have computer consulting work to truly fall back on when I hit slow periods, like 2012 when my music sales have all but evaporated. (That’s okay. I’ve got some new stuff coming out in a couple of months.) And I have the wherewithal to be more selective in what kind of music work I do, while other people I know have to do everything and anything that comes their way and are still not able to afford health insurance (or rent). So I am counting my blessings and they are many!

Wow this blog post took a real serious direction, at times even solemn. I had meant to describe all the ways that I still feel like a kid inside. Like the fact that, like most 13 year old boys, I still think farts are hilarious. But so did the judges on Monday night’s episode of The Voice. They’re all in their 30’s. Let’s just face it: No matter what age you are, farts are just stinking funny!

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Is It Okay For Middle-Aged People To Be Totally Into “The Hunger Games”?

I was hanging out with some guy friends last night over cigars and libations and mentioned that my wife and I had seen “The Hunger Games” the day before and how awesome it was and how you should read the book first and you’re going to love it and gush, gush… At which point my friend asked “Isn’t that a teen book?”.

So, I submit the following question: Is it okay for middle-aged people (like me and my wife and several friends we know) to be totally into “The Hunger Games”? To which I reply a resounding “yes!”.

I think young adult fiction is some of the better stuff out there. (With the exception of the Twilight series–oh, poo gag!). The writing needs to be concise and the plot needs to move, which makes for a fairly quick read. And they generally don’t “go there”–you know, get gratuitously sicko weird. I’m noticing lately that more “adult” fiction authors are writing shorter books too. We’re all busy people and don’t have time to get mired in a long book. I’m an avid Dean Koontz fan and his later works are a lot shorter. You simply have to check out his “Odd Thomas” series.

The misconception out there is that teen fiction is not very deep. “The Lord of the Rings” was generally considered to be for younger readers since it didn’t follow the conventions of what was considered adult fiction at the time it was published. Themes such as courage, loyalty, and fighting against oppression permeate the “Hunger Games” trilogy too, and all without elves, orcs, and wizards.

Another good young adult series to check out is Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies”. Like “Games”, it features a dystopian society that young people get to rebel against. Rage against the machine! There are plenty of cool sci-fi elements and some real bitchin’ hover boards.

By the way, if I didn’t say it before, the movie rocked!! It was very faithful to the book. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Donald Sutherland in the role of President Snow but he was quite convincing. Jennifer Lawrence was perfect in the role of Katniss.

I must say that one drawback of being middle-aged is that I’ve heard enough music to know that the theme song from the movie is totally unoriginal. It reminds me of “Bus Stop” by The Hollies, as well as a few other songs. Now that’s how you know you’re middle aged, if you remember the 60’s, assuming you didn’t partake of too many recreational substances in the 70’s.

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When I’m Sixty-Four

The news is abuzz today about Sir Paul McCartney tying a knot for the third time. Good for him! Number two, Heather Mills, obviously didn’t work out too well. His latest, Nancy Shevell, has been a longtime friend of the family. She is independently almost as wealthy as Sir Paul, so no goldiggin’ going on here, folks.

She’s also a young 51. Paul is 69. 18 years difference. At first thought it seems like such an age gap, but then again no. Which is the point of this blog post: the relativity of age.

Thinking about the bride’s age makes me think of my own age, 53. That means that Paul is only 16 years older than me. I find that shocking. Only 16 years. When I was a wee young lad and first discovered the Beatles, they seemed so much older. And at that age, a 15-18 year gap (spanning all the Beatles’ ages) is a huge difference. And so I have always thought the gap as tremendous until today.

But in middle age, 16 years just doesn’t seem like a big difference. Perhaps this is also because my brother-in-law, Dave, just turned 71 (making him the same age as Ringo Starr or John Lennon). I hope to be in as good a shape as Dave is when I get to his age, which I expect will be in better health than I was a year ago. In some ways this makes me feel old, but in others it makes me feel young. It is all relative, isn’t it?

This makes me wonder who the famous people are that are 16 years younger than me. Sure enough there is a web site that lists celebrities by birth year. So here are a few: Christian Bale, Penelope Cruz, Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Hilary Swank, Leo DiCaprio, and Ryan Seacrest.

I share 1958 with the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Kevin Bacon, Alec Baldwin, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Just in case you were curious.

It occurs to me that this blog post was both boring and self-indulgent. But that’s what is so fun about blogging, don’t ya think? :-)

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The Nose Knows

I was walking our dog the other day and we walked past a property with a very large lawn–probably close to an acre. The smell of the grass immediately triggered a very faint memory from my childhood. Smell is like that. We all encounter certain odors that takes us down memory lane, don’t we? But I wondered why it would take such a large lawn to trigger memories of grass that was probably not very large in area when I was a kid. So, I did a little research using that googley interwebbie thingamajigger. Sure enough. Our sense of smell diminishes as we age. Scientific American says so. Read it here.

What was probably very potent in small doses when I was knee-high now requires a much bigger hit. Makes me think of that song from the sixties, “Take Another Hit Of Fresh Air”. Groovy baby!

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Day after tomorrow we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States. The Canadians get a jump on us every year, of course, since their Thanksgiving holiday is on Columbus Day, which I recall being a school holiday when I was a kid. But that was a long long time ago, and I am so thankful that they have invented electricity since then. Speaking of electricity, ours is working today which we can’t take for granted since the Pacific Northwest was slammed with snow and wind yesterday. Merrilyn and I live in a town called Woodinville which is aptly named. We have no less than 13 tall evergreens in our backyard. Three or so years ago, the snow and wind combo brought down power lines all over our part of the county and we lost power for eight days. We fled to a classic hotel in Canada for a few days. All to say I am very grateful for power, light, heat, hot food.

Not initially intending to do so, I am quite enjoying writing long rambling paragraphs today without any urgency to get to the meat of my blog post. Speaking of meat, Merrilyn just let me know that the bacon is done, so I will take a break and have breakfast. Will be back in a few… Ah… bacon. I am definitely not a vegetarian. Have you ever tried Tofurky? Why do they bother? Perhaps I can convert to being vegetarianish: vegetarian with the occasional red meat? Probably not.

So, getting to the meat… the mind meat, if you will… Hey, “Mind Meat” would be a cool name for a band, don’t you think? Kind of a cross between Simple Minds and Meatloaf. Like an Irish Meatloaf, yet different. Is there such a thing as Irish Meatloaf? So back to the meating of the mind, as it were… I am VERY thankful for so many things.

Irish Meatloaf

Have you ever noticed that there are certain figures of speech that get tacked on to statements that mean absolutely nothing? Such as, “if you will”, “as it were”, “in a manner of speaking”, “in a word”, “as they say”. These are just conversational filler, yet, they make one sound more intellectual and literary, don’t you think? (There’s another one.) I love words and language. I especially love mangling the English language. I suppose if I were a female, I would love womangling the English language, if you don’t mind me saying.

But, I still haven’t “brought” the meat, as they say. What am I thankful for?

Well, first of all, I am so thankful that my dad is still with us. He almost died a few times this past year due to an unsuccessful surgery in March leading to septic shock and subsequent infections. And to top it all off, he just suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a “mini-stroke”. He has mostly recovered and his mind is all there.

Then there is the issue of my hand problems. Last year at this time, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would need to undergo surgery for my hand condition (Ulnar Neuritus). I decided that the surgery was too risky, and in the past year, the symptoms have mostly abated, but not before I wound up losing my job in March. Yet I am deeply grateful because now I am doing what I truly love, music, and although this comes with a fair amount of financial anxiety, I know I am on the right track.

I continue to be thankful for my song “Draw Me Close” that I wrote 16 years ago. It was one of those songs that songwriters talk about that just “came out” almost fully formed. Even to this day, I still hear from people about how that song has touched them. And I am thankful for the royalties I still earn that has given us enough of a cushion for me to pursue a music career.

I am thankful for winning the Music Success in Nine Weeks blog challenge. Who wudda thunk it? That was a shocker, not because I didn’t feel I deserved to win–I worked hard for it, “running to get the prize”, if you will–but to be honest, I assumed that someone younger would get the nod. I am, after all, in my fifties, and in my so-called conventional wisdom, I figured that someone who had a lot more life in front of them… bla bla bla. Now that’s just silly thinking, isn’t it?

So many other things… I am thankful for my wife, Merrilyn, for her encouragement and support of my new career. I am thankful that on November 6th it has been 30 years since our first kiss. Wow! I am thankful that she got a new job–she now teaches in a “self-contained” autism program, and she loves it. I am thankful for my new great-niece, Rebekah, who is just as cute as a bug’s ear. (Now where did that expression come from?)

Wow. I have a good life. I am truly grateful!

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A dark night… and then a ray of light

Hopefully my title doesn’t come off as overdramatic, but yesterday (October 5, 2010) will be a day I will always remember.

It started out the night before. I simply could not sleep. Every once in a while I have what can best be described as a mild panic attack. I know people who have full-fledged panic attacks and I don’t put my experience in that category. But, sleepless in Seattle I was.  (To be technical, I live in Woodinville, a suburb of Seattle, but close enough.)

What was robbing me of sleep, you may ask? (Even if you didn’t ask, play along.) It was me totally freaking out, wrestling with the question, “How the heck am I going to be able to make a living off of music?”. Yes, I’ve blogged about this before. Yes, I am still freaking out. Most of the time, the freaking out part of me is submerged by the optimistic “things are going to work out” part. Except at night.

In the morning I decided it would help if I worked through this anxiety by journaling. As I was journaling, it occurred to me that it might help if I sat down with Excel and start doing some financial workups. My problem to solve: How to build up the business to achieve a certain average monthly revenue by January 2013. I have more to write about this in a subsequent blog post as I would love to get people’s input and suggestions. It really does take a village.

It helped to journal; it helped to do some math, but it didn’t take away
the overwhelming question: How am I going to make this work?

And then, suddenly, I get this text message from 40404 (meaning someone on Twitter sent me a direct message). If you’ve been following along with me on this journey, you know that I have participated in the Music Success in Nine Weeks (MSi9W) blog challenge over the summer. It was a contest, the winner receiving a complimentary 3-month full PR campaign. My Twitter message yesterday afternoon was from the Ariel Hyatt, the author of the MSi9W and the moderator and judge of the blog challenge.

Guess what? I WON!!

Can you believe it? It’s been over 24 hours and I am still in a state of shock. A 3-month PR campaign. Wow. Pinching myself. At some point it will sink in.

And then to cap things off, yesterday was my parent’s 65th anniversary. 65 years!! Amazing. My brother and I took them to Outback and we all had a delightful dinner. The manager treated them to a glass of champagne. It is a total miracle that my Dad is still with us. The medical people shake their heads in amazement. He is one tenacious 86-year old. What a blessing!!

So, a dark night followed by some wonderful news and then a celebration.

A day to remember, indeed!

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Dad, July 2010

It has been a while since I have written about my dad. In case you haven’t been following this story, my dad has been in and out of the hospital for the past four months. On March 1, he underwent surgery to correct a problem with his intestines. The surgery was supposedly was successful, but it became clear after a few days that something had gone terribly wrong.

It turns out that his bowel ruptured and infection was now raging through his body. He was in ICU for a week, on a ventilator, and appeared to have failing kidneys. Thanks to the wonder of close family, prayer, Facebook, and more prayer, he started to recover. He then spent the next two weeks at the hospital and was then sent to a rehab facility. Finally at the beginning of May, he returned home.

He seemed to be getting stronger for a while. But then there were days when he seemed very weak, was sleeping excessively, and could barely walk or get out of the chair. After episodes of seemingly failing he would get better. But eventually the setbacks were more frequent and severe and he had to be sent back to the hospital. They found that he was still fighting off infection. After a few days he was sent back to the rehab facility.

One day last week he spiked a fever and was sent down to the hospital again. It was then that they discovered that there were areas of infection that his body was not able to fight off. After receiving a CAT scan they discovered that one of his kidneys was completely blocked and was most likely infected, so they decided to put in a stent in order to allow the affected kidney to train into his bladder, this was a minimally invasive operation and we had high hopes that this would resolve the problems he was having with being able to heal overall.

When they performed the operation, however, they discovered that his bladder was massively infected, so much so that the doctor commented that rarely have they seen a bladder infection so bad. This was a dark moment for our family, to say the least.

However, after the surgery, my dad started to improve dramatically. Within one day, his vitality was back, in fact, more vital than we had seen him for weeks. Within two days, his white blood count, which was the main indicator of how bad his infection was, returned to normal levels. And yesterday, he was discharged from the hospital and returned to the rehab facility. My brother and I visited him yesterday and he appears healthier than we have seen him in several weeks.

We are once again hopeful that he will make a full recovery. Most encouraging is that his state of mind has improved remarkably It had appeared for a while that he was losing the hope that he would ever get back on his feet and be able to return to a normal life. But now it is obvious that he has hope again and is thinking about the activities he will be doing in the future. This to us is nothing short of amazing.

This has been a long road, beset with many a setback. We are hoping and praying that there’ll be no more setbacks at least for the foreseeable future. Of main concern is whether or not his damaged kidney will recover and become fully viable again. If his kidney is too far gone, they will have to surgically remove his kidney. This type of surgery is very risky for someone who is 86 years old. So we are praying that his damaged kidney will become viable again.

I am more and more impressed with the power of prayer. I will have more to write about prayer as I continue to reflect. But for now, I am eternally grateful for all of the prayers that have been given on dad’s behalf. Thank you so much.

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Health

Here I am at my parents house waiting for the home health care people to look over my dad. Over the past 48 hours, he has grown quite weak. I arrived yesterday to take him and my mom to his weekly doctor appointment and was shocked at how he looked. He needed assistance to get out of a chair and assistance to walk. By the time he got his clothes on and headed for the clinic he had perked up a bit. He made a good show of it at the doctor, but the doctor could tell that he was not doing well, and he suggested that we may need to put dad back into assisted care. 

As you can imagine, this is pretty unsettling. He had been doing well up until this point, although he had been having problems with his colostomy. When he first arrived at the convalescent rehab home two months ago, he couldn’t walk, couldn’t get out of bed unassisted. By the time he got released a month ago, he could walk unassisted, could get in and out of bed and chairs without difficulty. He had a walker, but didn’t need it to move around the house. But he has also laid around a lot and because he hasn’t had the daily focused physical therapy, I think he has become weaker. Perhaps that is what it is.

I spent last night here at my parent’s house because if dad got into trouble, he would need someone stronger than my mom to help him out. This indeed happened last night. He wound up on the floor and couldn’t get up. It was good I was there to get him out of a bind. It is pretty apparent that mom can’t take care of him by herself and so he will probably need to go back to the convalescent home.

All of this makes me reflect about my own health. I have never had much athletic ability, but I do enjoy (somewhat) walking, running, swimming, weight lifting. But I have never been consistent with it. Hot and cold am I when it comes to any discipline.

But if I project myself 30 years into the future, I need to consider what sort of shape I will be in if I continue to be inconsistent with my self care. My dad was a strong person before he went through this trauma. If he hadn’t been as strong as he was, he wouldn’t have made it. What will happen to me when I have some sort of health trauma? A heart attack, a stroke, colon issues? My Ulnar Neuritus and shoulder problems have been enough of a trial for me, thank you very much. And I’m only 52.

Yes I could get religion and put myself on some sort of intensive campaign to get into shape. But more realistically, the only thing that is going to work for me over the long haul is being attentive to the little things I do each day–the small choices. Do I sit in front of the television or computer screen two hours in a row, or do I work a small walk or chore in there? Do I sugar snack in the mid-to-late evening or do I have a glass of water instead? Do I remain consistent in the shoulder strengthening exercises I need to do twice a day to keep my torn rotator cuff from getting worse, or do I just blow it off ? Do I choose to order bacon cheeseburgers when we go out to eat, or do I only do this as an occasional treat and order more greens instead?

Choices. It all comes down to choices. And I want to be healthy and strong five, ten, twenty years from now.

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