Boomer Connections provides a meeting place online for the Baby Boomers to share life experiences and stories, engage and connect with each other and their community, address challenges, stay informed, and become invigorated and enthusiastic about the future using a tool that is both fun and easy to navigate.
Tattoo or Not To? It’s such a matter of personal opinion. And personally, it is not a direction I wish to go in, as I confessed in an earlier blog, Tattoo or Not to? However, my dear friend Loralee is firmly in the other camp.
Loralee and I share, or at least appreciate, similar sensibilities of fashion, beauty, art and design. A few years ago, when she decided to get a tattoo I was, frankly, shocked. I just have never been a fan, even though my part of the world–Richmond, VA–lays claim to being one of the most tattooed cities in the country. https://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/most-tattoos/p63262/page9
Loralee now sports two very significant tattoos, one on each arm. Our completely opposing viewpoints make for an interesting discussion.
Where Did It Begin?
Loralee recounts that about 7 years ago her husband was in Vegas with the guys and came home with a tattoo. “I was jealous. I decided I wanted one too!” she says. “I love the idea of tattoos; I love the artistry.” And so, off they went on an adventure/joint venture to NYC and made appointments to get tattoos. She came home with this one on her right arm.
Here’s the thing though: While Loralee was thrilled with her tattoo, her Mom did not approve. Her Mom was very conservative, and of a time and place that made her believe that only “trampy” women sported tattoos. “And I am SO not trampy!” says Loralee. This hurt, because Loralee, an only child, was always incredibly close to and respectful of her Mom. “I was 50 years old and my mother made me feel like I was 18,” says Loralee. “She was very disapproving.” But she also agreed the choice was Loralee’s and mostly kept her opinions to herself.
Loralee soon decided she wanted a second tattoo, on her other arm, and began planning the design. During this time, her mother developed cancer. As the illness progressed and Loralee struggled with caregiving and a heavy heart, she made up her mind she did not want to upset her mother in any way, but she also promised herself that at some point, she would get the tattoo she really wanted. “In the dark moments, I knew the loss would be so great and I needed some things to look forward to. Planning the beautiful tattoo that was forming in my mind was a bright spot amid all the grief.”
Sadly, Loralee’s mom lost her battle with cancer early this year. Often the grief was so overwhelming she had a hard time getting through the days, let alone planning the carry through on what was a big decision. A tattoo is a commitment.
In Spring, when she was ready, a friend of hers offered to introduce her to her son-in-law, a highly regarded tattoo artist named Matthew Macri. He practices his craft at Lady Moon Tattoo in Pittsburgh, about a 3-hour drive from Loralee’s home.
Her only real regret about the first tattoo was that it was too small. So, when she planned the second one, she intended for it to be larger and very detailed.
The Tattooing Process
Loralee makes no bones about the fact that tattooing is a long and fairly painful process. “16 hours in that chair is not for wimps.” The process required three trips to the studio in Pittsburgh.
The first step involved 8-9 hours. She worked with Matthew to explain her vision and he spent about 3 hours developing the design. Then he drew it on transfer paper, which in turn was transferred to her skin. Loralee notes that a good tattoo artist takes into account bone structure and musculature, in order that the tattoo fits the body. During this first visit, Matthew applied just the outline of the design, which took about 5-6 hours, adjusting as he went along, to Loralee’s specifications.
After 6 weeks allowing this work to heal, it was time to add the color—another 5-6 hours in the chair. After the next weeks of healing, the final visit included finished the coloring, and Matthew added a few more flowers and a butterfly Loralee had decided upon. He also touched up the design and brightened up the original tattoo on her other arm. All told, the tattooing process required about 16 hours plus the time it took to draw it, so 20 hours total, at a cost of approximately $1,000.
Are You Happy?
Asked if she has any regrets about her choice, Loralee’s reply is: “None. Absolutely not. I am so happy with it.” She loves the conversations that tattoos spark, especially among young people. Even though tattoos are so common these days, they get attention, occasionally negative (usually from older people.) But they are a point of contact for social interaction that otherwise might never happen. Loralee is a maverick among her coterie of suburban ladies, but they all are both supportive and curious, and, she notes, maybe even a little jealous. They aren’t quite ready to go there, however!
I asked Loralee how her husband likes her tattoos and she laughed that while his various tattoos–a dragon and a skeleton clown–give off an edgy vibe, hers are completely “girly.” Her husband’s nickname for her is “Fluffy Bunny.” While for many, tattoos have deep personal or spiritual meaning, Loralee noted that hers were chosen for the beauty of the art. Loralee has a friend who jokes that she always seems to have bluebirds flying around her head and a smile on her face, hence the bluebirds. What I love is that she added a bee in honor of me, as my husband’s nickname for me is “the Bee” – a play on my initials CB.
I asked if she would consider more tattoos. “I’m totally open to it. I might get more work on the original arm to balance the size of the new one.”
The Big Why
I asked Loralee how the tattoos make her feel. Since this is something I don’t relate to, I wanted to know the big why. Does a tattoo change your self-perception? “Yes,” she said, “it does make me feel more attractive. A tattoo says something about the person you are. I feel it makes me more interesting.” She uses words like youthful, independent, badass, free. Well, I like those words! I am starting to get it.
Loralee makes an interesting point, and since I have known her since we met in college–studying art in Rome during our junior year abroad–it completely resonated with me: At 50+, she and I now live a very comfortable suburban life, but our hearts still lie in that world of youth, art and individualism. We miss it, as we all miss our youthful selves. Her indie, arty side is often hidden from the world, especially living in a conservative Central Pennsylvania college town, and this tattoo is a way of letting it out to play again. “That non-conformist that defined who I am still lives inside me.” She notes that she considered getting something far more edgy but wanted something she would still love and be comfortable with “when I’m 90.”
“And I absolutely do love it, I look at it all the time. It is so me…bluebirds, flowers, butterflies…and bees.”
I was burning up hot! Sweating profusely! At age 10, it was the first time I actually heard my heart beating, although it was more like thumping. As the oldest of five, it was my job to “watch” my three brothers and one sister and “mind” the house. I had convinced my four siblings (all of us two years apart) that we needed to get under the bed. That seemed to be the safest place for us at the time.
It had been about ten minutes earlier that the oldest of my brothers, Sam Jr., had seen the bull coming down the path near the fish pond, with two cows following him. They were headed towards our house! Home alone, that struck awesome fear in our hearts! We had heard about how mean the bulls were, subject to chasing you, even if you weren’t wearing anything red. Sam Jr. yelled for all of us to come inside and close all the doors and windows. We had no air conditioner (something we had never even heard of until we started going to school in town) or fans, and it was almost suffocating under that bed. My two-year-old baby brother, Todd, was not fully potty-trained. Being under the bed alone in the middle of summer would have been bad enough, but with four other siblings including one needing a diaper change, it was pretty unbearable! Todd was crying. I don’t know whether it was because he lost his two Oreo cookies while running to get under the bed, or if his diaper was really irritating him, or if he was really afraid of the bull. “Be quiet!,” I whispered to him and the rest of my siblings, as I was afraid the bull would hear that there were people inside and come barging through the door.
This was the early 1960s, and we were living in the country in a rented four-room shack on the property of the Shelton family. We were not sharecroppers, although Momma sometimes worked in the fields. Daddy had died suddenly a few months after Todd was born. Momma said he worked too long and too hard at the sawmill in town. So when it wasn’t harvest time, she worked up at the “big house.” Our house was just down the foot of the hill from the big house. Before Momma left this particular morning, she must have known that none of the Sheltons would be home because she had told Sam Jr. to watch the clock and that when both hands pointed to 12, to start walking up the hill to the big house. She had intentions of meeting him with a bag of goodies. And what goodies they were! There were Ritz Crackers, Oreo Cookies, Chips Ahoy Cookies, and Nabisco Vanilla Wafers. The closest we ever got to goodies like these was seeing them advertised on TV! Although I could tell they were a little stale, my brothers and sister didn’t know the difference. We ate to our hearts’ content.
While under the bed, the thought came to me that maybe Momma stole these goodies from the Sheltons and one of their bulls was coming to kill us for what Momma did. My siblings said they didn’t hear it, but I thought for sure I could hear the bull breathing and snorting near the bedroom window. Good thing we had the dark green shade pulled all the way down so he couldn’t peep in on us. Before too long, all of us could hear squeaky wagon wheels coming up that same path. That had to be Mr. Percy with his mule and wagon. He lived way back up in the woods, close to the Shelton’s cow pasture. Maybe he could rescue us – we could all fit in his wagon. I convinced Sam Jr. to come from under the bed (because I certainly wasn’t coming out), go to the window, raise the shade, raise the window just a little bit, and call Mr. Percy.
He peeped first to make sure the bull was not there. Then he whispered in a scared, timid voice, “Mr. Percy, Mr. Percy!” He wasn’t loud enough and Mr. Percy just kept on creaking up the path. Now, what would we do? Things had gotten quiet, so I decided I was going to crawl from under the bed to join Sam Jr., but one of my plaits got caught up in the bedsprings and I was stuck, in pain. I almost started crying but Sam Jr. thought about running to get the scissors to cut me loose. What a relief it was to get from under that bed and finally breathe! Facing the dresser mirror, with horror I saw the gaping hole in my hair. I needed to get my plait back and plug it into the hole with some hairpins. I reached back under the bed to retrieve my plait but it was stuck too tightly in the bedsprings. Wow, Momma will really be mad! While under there, I noticed that my sister and two other brothers had fallen asleep.
Since nothing could be done about the hair, I tiptoed lightly, stepping on Todd’s Oreos, to the back door with Sam Jr. close behind. We peeped out to see where the bull might be. Lo and behold! He was in the path near the fish pond heading back to the pasture, the two cows following him, their tails switching back and forth. We saw Momma coming down the hill heading home. Boy, were we happy! Sam Jr. and I ran to meet her, both of us trying to talk at the same time about what happened. She was amused but understood why we were so scared. And, she didn’t yell at me about the missing plait. I asked her if the bull had come to get us because she stole the goodies. Surprised by that question, she immediately replied that she did not steal them: Mrs. Shelton had told her to clear the food pantry of all of the old bags and boxes that had been opened to keep ants from coming around. She figured that some items were still edible and instead of throwing them away, gave them to us. I was really glad to hear that, since Momma always taught us not to steal.
When we got in the house, the smell of Todd’s diaper met us at the door. I think that too much of those ‘rich’ snacks upset his stomach. The three of them were still asleep. I opened the other doors and windows to let fresh air in. Momma woke the others and got Todd cleaned up and diaper changed.
It was a week later that we found out how the cows and bull got out. Mr. and Mrs. Shelton were trying to keep their voices low, but Momma heard every word. They had three sons, ages 13, 15, and 17. Well, it was their middle son, 15-year-old Pete, who was the culprit. Apparently, he wanted to go on vacation for a week with his best friend’s family but his dad told him that was too long to be gone; that his brothers would not be able to take care of their chores and his chore of taking care of the eight cows and two bulls. So Pete knew just what to do. He secretly took the wire cutters and cut a big hole in the fence to let them out. That way, they could be out and about and be lost for a week while he was on vacation. Things could have been a lot worse for him if all 10 animals had gotten out. Needless to say, Pete did not get to go on vacation. Clearly, he had a beef (all pun intended) with his dad. I was only 10 years old, but even I could see what a dumb idea that was!
My siblings and I talked about this incident almost every day for a long time. We could even laugh about it, when at the time, it was no laughing matter. For a while, I was able to threaten my siblings into obedience by telling them that I was going to tell Pete to let the bull out again. It was a short-lived threat, as they soon found out that I could do no such thing!
We enjoy many cultural delights in the Greater Richmond area. One of our new favorites is the fabulous, historic Swift Creek Mill Theater. We had to add this adventure to our list of 52 Small Pursuits of Happiness this year.
First observation: Swift Creek Mill is an absolutely beautiful setting—with, of course, an old mill stream. Camille, who joined me for this evening, noted that the venue is “as cute as it could be.” It is indeed an historic stone mill, built in the 1600s—only about 50 years after Jamestown was established, as ingrained into the landscape and the community as if it grew right out of the ground. It is a local treasure.
And this isn’t just theater, it’s dinner theater. Second observation was from Camille, who pointed out that I was likely the youngest person in the room! Yes, without a doubt, dinner theater is popular with the Boomer and Senior crowd. This is where our generation mixes and mingles! And how fine it is. We had the best evening. Dinner theater is really fun—who knew? Well now I know, and I am going to be a subscriber.
The show starts at 8, and if you choose to have dinner at the theater those tickets can be purchased separately ($17). Seating begins at 6. Of course, we wanted the whole enchilada, so we arrived at 6 ready for a glass of wine and the menu. We could not have picked a better show. On stage this evening was The Savannah Sipping Society, about, appropriately, four Boomer-age women who form an unlikely friendship, which becomes a source of support and raucous good times.
With a nod to the “Savannah” theme of the performance, the dinner menu was straight Southern. Dinner was introduced with Chilled Pea and Mint soup, a delicacy new to me, followed by chicken and sausage etouffee with rice, fried green tomatoes with crawfish crème, collard greens, ambrosia, and pickled watermelon rind. I have heard tales about the latter but never had the pleasure of tasting until this evening.
While I appreciated the cultural experience and like to eat just about anything, I will admit these rinds were not my favorite offering. Apparently, I am in the minority, however, because when the director came on stage to open the play, he noted that pickled watermelon rind, a house favorite, was now being jarred and sold in the gift shop, and a rousing cheer went up from the audience.
The Savannah Sipping Society is a comedy with some truly hilarious moments and unforgettable lines, but with a serious theme about challenges of aging being counterbalanced with the great value of having compatriots—and partners in crime— to share this journey. As one of the characters so correctly pointed out as she raised a glass of bourbon: Here’s to believing it is never too late to make new old friends. We Boomer partners and our colleagues could not agree more; we talk about it all the time among ourselves and on this blog, which made this new experience even more enjoyable and relatable.
The Savannah Sipping Society is definitely a “chick” play; I wondered how the men in the audience were taking the jokes about hot flashes and perplexing love lives. But as I looked around at the audience, all I saw were smiles and laughter. One of the characters, whose husband had recently left her for a 23-year-old and was now spending his time at the gym slimming down, described her ex’s ideal weight as: Four pounds….plus the urn!
The theater space at Swift Creek Mill was created in the 1960s, when local community theater was thriving and a popular entertainment venue. Many community theaters fell by the wayside over the ensuing decades and Swift Creek Mill is one of the few of its kind left in the country. And it is thriving. In addition to the Mainstage productions like the one we attended, it houses a strong children’s theater program where young people have the opportunity to learn and grow through exposure to the arts. The theater is also a gallery, its walls featuring local artists. In 2013 the facility was renovated and became ADA compliant, so is accessible to all.
This performance was the last of the 2018/19 season. The new season opens September 14, with five mainstage productions between this fall and spring of 2020. Standard ticket price per performance is $40, $35 with (65+) senior discount. The theater will be hosting Cabaret Nights, which sound fun: area performers offering evenings of songs and stories. The dining room is also open for brunch, and the Mill is a venue for private events.
The play was written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten—Jamie actually wrote for the TV series Golden Girls, a cast and storyline close our heart! They typically write for and about “mature Southern women.”
Our favorite line of the evening: To find the happy, exciting life you deserve you have to fight for it….Now is the time to be fearless!
Swift Creek Mill Theater has been another great local find as we continue our Small Pursuits of
Happiness. Richmonders and visitors, check it out!
Have you ever had a garden? My husband and I actually had a garden just about every year since we moved to Richmond over 40 years ago. Since the kids have left home, we don’t use it as much, so we end up giving away a lot of the fruits of our labor. But that is a good thing and it makes us happy.
This year we have planted cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, and bell peppers. We had onions
and squash, but something kept eating them before they could grow. Here are some of our first fruits! As you can see, we boxed in the garden. We are looking forward to adding more for the fall season. By the way, the cucumbers are delicious and so are the green tomatoes when fried. Hmmmm…
Forty years with the same company. How is that possible?
It is March 31, 2015, I am in my home office in Richmond, Virginia. It is my last day with DuPont. The company is involved in a buyout and will be re-engineering itself over the next four years.
I elected not to search for a position inside DuPont, instead, I took retirement and began my quest for something new. I am 62 years young, with our daughter starting college in a year, and my wife and I are considering downsizing. What am I going to do now?
I received services for writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles. I attended weekly group meetings, like Career Prospectors and Job Assistance Ministry, with other job seekers.
Not knowing what I wanted to do, I chose to first look at my long history of accomplishments; previous performance reviews, my awards, my certifications, and 360-feedback from work colleagues. I created a process called, a “Post-It Note assessment”. I wrote one accomplishment per Post-It note and stuck it to my office wall. I repeated these steps until I couldn’t think of anything else to write.
I then removed Post-Its if they were: (1) Things I did not like doing (2) Things I did not do well (3) Things I don’t want to do again. Left on the wall are things (1) I liked doing (2) I wanted to do again (3) I enjoyed doing. I aggregated the Post-Its into themes: Tasks dealing with technology or with people, activities requiring travel, supervisory roles, working in teams and tasks I could perform remotely is just a sampling. My key accomplishments became what I wanted to do in the future.
I then decided to work only short-term projects, as a consultant. In two months, an opportunity at a state agency surfaced. My days consisted of listening, asking questions, and interpreting what I heard into diagrams of current state processes. Unfortunately, six weeks from starting this assignment, it ended, due to lack of funding.
In late 2015, I was approached by a staffing firm with a six-month assignment for another state agency. I wrote operating procedures. I conducted a transactional audit of financial documents; matching processes against written procedures. I issued a survey to all agency personnel and presented the results to leadership.
Early October 2016, a recruiter contacted me about another contract position. I joined a software development initiative at Capital One by the end of the month. I wrote new or modified existing operating procedures. I learned day-to-day operations of an Agile Software Development cycle. I created Word documents and process diagrams. This was a fast paced, frenetic environment, but I stood up to the challenge and garnered team support to get the job done. End of 2017.
I considered starting my own coaching business and spoke with an attorney. I met with job, life, and business coaches to learn what they did and whether I had what it takes to be a career coach. Without hesitation, everyone affirmed my career conviction and my passion.
I decided to be an entrepreneur, I chose a company name, filed the paperwork, and was in business by the end of May 2017. I had already helped 200+ colleagues with their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. I attended networking events, wrote articles on LinkedIn, volunteered at career fairs and university-based workshops.
It’s June 2019. I gave away more in my first year than I brought in, but I was the richer for the colleagues, friends, and connections I’ve made. To share my “gold nuggets” of career transition has been a blessing. I love seeing the “light bulb” go on when colleagues get it and finally understand that it is not about their job search, but it is about solving a problem for someone else.
In Simon Sinek’s Gold Circle, he says people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. Here is my WHY:
Some people say that a satisfying and enjoyable sex life is impossible as you reach a certain age. Don’t listen to them. Maintaining intimacy in your relationship takes a little more effort, but worth every bit of it. Many think that as you get older, your drive goes away. Well if you’re anything like me, my drive won’t be gone until I am six feet under. Even better, some studies show that the more you do the deed, the better your memory will be. BONUS! If you want to keep the BOOM BOOM in your relationship, here are a few recommendations:
Healthy Diet– As we all know, when you get older, you don’t have as much energy as you used to. By maintaining a healthy diet, you will have more energy. When you have more energy, you will be more active. When you are more active, then you are in better shape. And what does this have to do with intimacy? A healthy lifestyle creates better self-esteem and improves your flexibility which in return will allow for more enjoyable sex life.
Take Your Time– There is nobody under your roof and nowhere to go. Use this to your advantage and enjoy your time together. Try new things, new places in your house and most importantly, remember you don’t have to rush. If you feel the desire for an afternoon delight, go for it, you’ve got the time!
Adjust your expectations– As you grow older, intimacy will inevitably change. Simple acts of affection such as a kiss or a hug can have a deeper meaning and be very pleasurable and may not lead to intimacy. That’s okay. When you decide to become intimate, remember it is not going to be the same as you were young. It will take longer and feel different as your bodies have changed. However, being more mature and having a deeper connection to your partner will make the act that much more pleasurable.
Try new things– What once felt good when you were younger may not feel good now. Explore each other and discover new sources of pleasure. For example, try different massages. Many think of only the back for a massage. Try massaging your partner’s feet, hands or even the head. You never know what will put them in the mood. Even something as simple as a long hug with kisses can feel good. These may seem like little things, but they can redefine pleasure for both of you.
Don’t Give Up– Sex is an integral part of your overall health and well-being. Don’t give up on sex just because things are different. Communication, as in any relationship, is the key. Talk you your partner and explore what you’re both comfortable with. Don’t think about what it used to be like, enjoy what it is like now. Sex can be enjoyable and make you happy, no matter your age.
So, if you think you can’t be intimate and have great sex as a Boomer, snap out of it. Your generation started the sexual revolution. Your generation gave us great music like ‘Let’s Get It On’ and ‘Sexual Healing.’ It is your time to turn on those great tunes from your generation and put the Boom Boom back into your relationships. I am sure you will have a smile on your face once you do!
A family of bicycles has been hanging in the garage for almost a decade now, suspended on a pulley system to keep them off the floor. Not that the clutter in the garage allows for cars to park in there anyway, as is the case for most of the houses in our suburban neighborhood. Garages are a place where the “stuff” of our lives ends up in a pile. So the bikes kind of got lost in the shuffle. I stopped seeing them.
I have had one bike or another all my life since about age 6. I loved riding with all my heart. I remember that learning to ride a bike was a defining moment of my childhood, just like learning to read as a little kid, and learning to drive as a bigger kid, were defining and joyous revelations. It was a sense of freedom, that I could do for myself and just….go. I will never forget how good that felt. In my little rural hometown that bike meant I didn’t have to ask my parents to stop their work and take me to my friends houses, I could get on my bike and go myself. It felt very much like flight as I coasted down those hillsides, the wind whipping my hair back, huge smile on my face.
A few years before my daughter was born (she is 21 now), my husband and I were feeling adventurous and decided to get mountain bikes and hit the trail on weekends to blow off the steam of our stressful jobs. That endeavor fell by the wayside when Alex came into the picture. Quite different adventures awaited us as we launched into parenthood.
Over the years we got the bikes down every now and then. When our daughter learned to ride, we made some attempts to make this a family pastime, but there were always too many other things vying for her time and ours: soccer, gymnastics, tae kwon do, horseback riding, cooking classes, ice skating, Drama Kids, birthday parties and sleepovers, family visits, church Youth Fellowship, community service, the music and theater pursuits that finally claimed her full attention…oh, and school, and work.
So our poor bikes roosted, suspended from the garage ceiling all these years, isolated and hardly touched. The other day as I was going through the stuff in the garage as we prepare to send our daughter to college, I spied them and I was filled with a sense of sadness and loss, that something I loved so much had gone by the wayside over the years, and I didn’t even notice. That now it was a little too late to introduce our little girl to trail riding; the little girl is all grown up. I realized it was time for a Boomer rediscovery: I got those bikes down, claimed mine from the others, pumped up the tires, and off I went! It felt a little different, wobbly, it took me a few minutes to get my balance, but only a few. My knees don’t work quite as easily as they used to, no surprise there, so I avoided routes with major inclines. I take the bike out almost every evening now, and each time it gets a little easier. I get less winded and can go a little further.
Guess what, it feels just like it used to. The same sense of freedom, of flying, the same big smile on my face, the same pure joy. Why did I let that bike languish? I don’t know, why do we let so many things fall by the wayside as we go through life? Boomers, it’s time for rediscoveries. Think about what yours will be.
Twinkly lights are a small pursuit of happiness that brighten my world every day. So pretty, so fanciful. They can transform a cold, empty or soulless space in an instant. The investment is indeed small, but the payback great. If you don’t already have them, you need some of these mini stars in your world as well.
String lights have come such a long way. For so many years my twinkly lights came in the form of the cumbersome Christmas tree type, strung on a heavy green cord. But now the choices are SO much better! Now the lights come on a tiny copper wire that can be twisted and strung round anything you can think of. You even have the option of battery operated, so you are spared the hassle of plugging them in. Many come with remote control, in the event that the lights are placed in a hard-to-reach location.
Light Up Your World
You can wrap lights around and illuminate almost anything, even yourself! Even the dog! I cannot express how beautiful twinkly lights are around the deck on a summer night as friends gather for a drink and the only other light is from the moon. I wrapped these lights around the banister to our upstairs and I leave them on 24/7, creating a pretty ambiance in the day and a totally different one at night. The same type of strand is strung on our fireplace mantle and provides and warm, non-intrusive glow as we watch TV. I embedded battery-operated twinklies in a metal hurricane candle lantern filled with shiny Christmas balls…and others in a pretty wine bottle with the control switch in the cork.
These whimsical lights, often referred to as “fairy lights,” are an easy way to make your world just a little bit brighter, just a little bit happier. I got mine on Amazon.
Several years ago my brother and I found ourselves in a serious pickle; taking care of our mother who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. She was 62 years old at the time it happened. She had a long term care policy in effect, a living will, and a Will and Testament. She thought she had her bases covered should something devastating happen to her, yet it proved to be not nearly enough to help us navigate through a non-existent senior care system.
The important documents my mother lacked were a General Durable Power of Attorney and an Advanced Medical Directive. Without those documents, we found our hands tied many times when we needed to help her.
Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer for the first time when she 47 years old. Otherwise, she had been in good health. We were teenagers at the time, so treatments went on without too much involvement from us. She had a hysterectomy and chemotherapy, and was found cancer-free afterward. Fifteen years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, she was involved in her own treatment kept us all informed about what the doctors recommended to fight her cancer. She had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy as a follow-up. She responded well. Again, she was cancer free after the treatment protocol.
The following summer, when Mom was still dealing with the effects of the breast cancer, she decided to attend her high school reunion in the Central Valley of California. This area of California is where a large amount of produce is grown and farm animals are raised for slaughter. When she returned from her trip, she was experiencing flu systems; fever, nausea, headaches, and she felt generally achy all over. I talked to her the day after she arrived home and I sensed that she wasn’t herself. She seemed confused and acted like she didn’t know who I was. I called my brother, who lived with her, and I mentioned it to him. He had also seen some behavior that morning that indicated to him that she was “a little out of it.”
The next morning, with a temperature of 103°, she wanted to take her car and go to the grocery store. She couldn’t find her keys. My brother called me and told me how strange she was acting, so I immediately went over to her house. By the time I arrived, she was gone, she had found her car keys and left. We were frantic. We went searching for her knowing she had a couple of favorite places to go. We found her, driving down a six-lane divided highway at about 20 miles per hour and other vehicles were obviously dodging her. Somehow, we were able to get her attention and get her to pull into a nearby shopping center. When I approached her sitting in the driver’s seat, she didn’t know who I was. We talked for a moment and she seemed to come around, and she allowed me to move her to the passenger seat of her car. I then drove her to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her. She still had a whopping headache and a high fever. Then she lapsed into a coma. After conducting various tests, she was finally diagnosed with herpes encephalitis, a very rare disease. Apparently, when she went out to California, her immune system was still compromised from chemotherapy. People with healthy immune systems can fight off viruses floating around in the air, but Mom could not. The herpes virus attacked her body, causing an infection in her brain.
There was nothing her doctors could do for her. We were told that she might never wake up and that we would need to move her to a skilled nursing facility. How do we pay for that, we wondered? We knew she had a long term care policy, and she had health insurance. For the time being that was enough.
Then we found out that because she could not make decisions for herself, at least one of us needed to have our mother’s Power of Attorney (POA). We did not have it. Without this important document, the local courts usually get involved and take over conservatorship of the individual. Families have to petition the courts to create a very costly, very time-consuming guardianship for their loved one. And even this does not solve everything. A Guardian Ad Litem is assigned by the court, who acts on behalf of the impaired person to protect their interests and make sure no one takes advantage of them.
The good news was that Mom woke up. She started improving. She started getting all the various rehabilitation that the medical community offered. We were getting her back, but it was a very long road to recovery. The doctors told us that she needed to be moved to another facility where she could have more cognitive stimulation, which meant that we needed to sell her house. However, without a POA we couldn’t just put the house on the market and sell it; we would have to actually have a cash sale. That’s impossible! When I told her Neurologist about the situation, he informed me that competency is not a legal question, but a medical one, and he was more than happy to write a letter to the court stating that she was now competent to make her own decisions. Once the court dissolved her conservatorship and guardianship, both of us were able to get a POA for her.
We worked with a very good local attorney who handled creating the POAs for us. He also recommended that we get an Advanced Medical Directive, and if she should become afflicted in the future with another devastating illness, she might also need to create a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate.
We lost our mom a few years later. But having all of the legal documents in place at the time of her death sure did make helping her so much easier. We ended up needing that DNR order along with the POA, and also the Advanced Medical Directive which allowed us to make medical decisions for her. She was allowed to die on her own terms, not someone else’s.
My message is simple, yet I can’t stress enough: Do not wait to discuss creating these important documents with your loved ones. You don’t know when they might get sick with a completely unexpected illness. Once it happens it’s too late to get the documents you need. We even had our children give us (their parents) their POAs in the off chance that something happened while they were away at school and unable to make a trip home. It’s never too early to get the important documents you need. You may never need to use them, but you’ll have them if you do.
Rita McCulloch (right) with Jennifer Pool
Commentary by Rita McCulloch, Boomer Connections partner:
In the article above, Jennifer describes a crisis that my company, Boomer3 Solutions, addresses and strives to prevent. We educate individuals and family members and advise them to start the conversation with loved ones about what to do if anything happens to you. Good planning helps to prevent chaos, confusion, and heartbreak. Yes, very difficult situations happen as we age, but there are ways to lower the stress and keep peace within the family unit. How do you do it? By putting your priorities in order before the stress begins.
I’m grateful for many things in life. But one of the things I’m most grateful for was the opportunity I had to have known a great lady by the name of Pearl Thacker. I met her for the first time at the Dill Avenue Church of Christ about 40 years ago. She was married to Preston Thacker, Sr. and they had four children. One older than me (Vi), two around my age (Cindy and Preston, Jr.) and one younger (Regina). She was known around the church as “Ma Thacker” and her husband was “Pop Thacker.” They could easily have been my parents. Ma always looked after us younger women in the church.
Pop passed a few years ago and Ma was left with three of their children (the oldest child died before Pop). Ma was a woman who had been living in pain most of her life with many health issues. I really admired how she would keep on going knowing the pain she was in. She was a great role model for me and many others, in that you don’t allow pain to keep you from doing your passion, the Lord’s work.
Even recently, she had been to the emergency room, but she would not let that get in her way of making it out to the church building as soon as she possibly could. Ma was a little bit stubborn sometimes in wanting to be independent but seeing her at the greeter’s table, one Sunday morning after being in the hospital, welcoming each one to the worship services, really made my day. What a great example she was. She could not do a lot, but she did what she could for as long as she could.
Ma passed away on April 1st. Her funeral was on April 5th. There was a video that was played of Ma’s life and that was one of the things that was mentioned in the video, that she kept going despite her pain. Goodbye, Ma. I love you and she would say, “I love you more.”
One day I found a pillow that stated, “Love you more” and I bought it just for Ma. Her daughter said she kept that pillow on her bed. In Ma’s last hours, the family had her hand propped up on that pillow. The last time I saw Ma, I rubbed her hand lying atop the pillow.
After I wrote this article, I sent it to Cindy Ma’s daughter and caregiver. This is what she had to say:
“I appreciate you loving my mom all these years. It is challenging to go on without her after taking care of her for so long. But she would want us to. Even though there were some frustrating moments in our walk together, l would not have changed a thing. As she became more and more “my baby” l would tell myself that l needed to be patient as l don’t know who may have to care for me one day! I would want to be treated with love and respect. “