Sunday, June 4, 2017

Beach Therapy Please

Tomorrow my best friend will face the hardest day of her life. She's scheduled for an appointment at the cancer center to find out what options she has.

Our days go way back in time, way back to working in a hair salon, sitting for our real estate exams, climbing the corporate ladder, each trying to be a good step-mother to our ex's only child. We've faced hardship and joy together over the decades and now, she faces the hardest times ahead.

I think of her comforting me during my darkest days and realize there's no comparison to what she must be going through. Even now, in these days of bad news, P.E.T. scans, emergency room visits, missed diagnoses and pain, she keeps reminding me that God is in control. She is assured that He will do what's best for her and help her get through whatever lies ahead.

The last time I saw her, I couldn't believe my eyes. She was thinner than I had ever seen her. She has always battled extra weight, up thirty pounds, down ten, up twenty, down five. Now, she tells me she weighs only a few pounds more than I do. Down a hundred.That's not necessarily a good thing.

We've shared a week together on the beach at her timeshare right on the Gulf nearly every September since 1988. The memories we made won't fit into any photo album. There are thousands of scenes in my mind, captured along the way. Seagulls soaring, dolphins swimming, surf roiling, Hurricane Gilbert, poolside chats, beach strolls, sangria toasts, apple strudel, Beach Boy Video and precious time together with no cell phone anywhere near.

We've spent thousands of hours sharing personal issues, dilemmas, new jobs, joy, unemployment, stories of our past lives and loves. She has truly been a sister to me and a genuine friend in thick and thin. Time for some beach therapy.

I'm thinking of her today and praying.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Corporate Obscurity

It was toward the end of a dozen years with a multi-billion dollar corporation that I found myself on a list of employees whose value to the company had come into question. The unfortunate group was assigned to a "special project," which may sound like something desirable that would distinguish or redeem us. Not so for the corporate professional whose contributing days had run their course.

Each of us knew this was a make or break situation. We were in the pool given a monumental task that we knew was destined for failure. There was minimal chance that when the task was completed that success would lead us to a new position within the company. We were living in limbo land.

There were participants from many departments of various levels, grades, and specialties, yet, despite our wins in the past, we now faced that dreaded outcome: "separation from the company" which would end our careers.
Still, most of us took on the responsibilities with chins held high, our stiff upper lips pursed into dogged expressions, and our noses planted firmly on the grindstone.

Our job was to inventory company assets scattered through the facilities of its outsourced transportation company and find discrepancies in the millions of dollars of equipment that had gone missing from the books. For the best part of five weeks, we traveled from city to city across the United States serving in the heat of blistering warehouses in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Florida and other, more obscure towns.

The members of our team, for the most part, grew closer through our mutually shared yet unspoken knowledge of upcoming doom. Each of us hoped somehow to distinguish ourselves in some creative way and regain our misplaced importance to the corporate entity. Our futures depended on making the right impressions with those token "safe" employees who joined us from time to time to interject a sense of validity to our efforts. If only we could make the right connection, impress the holder of an open personnel requisition, perhaps befriend someone who could keep us afloat in a top-heavy, overburdened ship with excess cargo.

The rumors of upcoming layoffs floated among us in the evenings when we gathered for the dinner meal. Those were times when the most desperate tried their hardest to find a listening ear, to work out some deal to keep themselves on the payroll. Doomed alliances were pushed to the limit by intense competition for any safe place left within the organization.

As we toiled in our unaccustomed manual labor roles of the temporary assignment, we brushed elbows with Vice Presidents and departmental leaders whose objective during their brief tenure among us was assessment of team members.

As the hours, days and weeks passed, the stays at adequate but less than luxurious hotels continued. We sweated, washed our clothes in motel laundromats, ate take-out food, sang songs and whistled while we worked, and grew as close as our tenuous situation would allow. When we concluded our round-about inventory tour, our diverse team members returned to their respective home bases and awaited our fates.

To our immense surprise, the project was deemed an unqualified success. We located and documented millions of dollars of elusive inventory and turned our ill-fated mission around. Many were able to secure jobs in new areas within the company. Our assignment became a test of our adaptability to change. Those who were able to embrace the uncertainty and plow through were awarded a cash bonus and handed an engraved plaque of recognition by the Senior Vice President.

It was a memorable moment in the trial by fire of the corporate worker.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Salad - 50 Ways to Lose Your Blubber

Trying to lose a few pounds at my age has become a real challenge. Two years ago I decided to lose ten pounds. I'm not discouraged. I've only got twenty more pounds to go. "All I had was a salad." Go figure.

This is a favorite with Iceberg lettuce, chopped Roma tomatoes, drained black beans and sliced fresh strawberries. Where I've been going wrong is with the dressing. If you read the label, two tablespoons is an average serving with 140 calories. I usually quadruple that amount. (I may be underestimating a bit.) This week I decided to try something different. I've been using Balsamic Vinaigrette mixed with Zesty Italian Lite dressing and I've lost two pounds.
This was lunch on Monday: Iceberg lettuce, chopped celery, sliced baby carrots, chopped beefsteak tomatoes and dressing. What's missing is the mountain of cheese that I usually shred over the top of this "low-fat" meal. Of course, I've skipped the Simply Dipped Nutty Buddy ice cream cone afterward, too. How droll.
For variety, there's rolled up deli turkey, 15 calories per slice, and rather than the entire tomato, I used only half. What a sacrifice!
This one's also a favorite with baby spinach leaves, deli turkey and half of an avocado. I like to sprinkle a little lemon juice over the top to keep it from browning too quickly. Usually, there's no danger of that since it's gone in 60 seconds. Just kidding. It usually lasts three minutes while I watch an episode of Snapped: Killer Couples or Lt. Joe Kenda on TV.
Here's another way to use up that Costco-size Hillshire's Farm Deli Turkey in the economical five-gallon tub. I back-slid on this one and added shredded cheddar cheese, but to make up for it, there's fresh grapes. So I'm good, right?
Okay, here I'm really falling off the wagon with this tuna salad and its high calorie mayonnaise. Please help me, I'm falling. Down one pound and back up two. Aaaccck!
Getting better all the time with these added black olives, half a boiled egg, Garbanzo beans (for protein) and two rolled up slices of deli ham at 25 calories each. Oh, don't forget the Roma tomatoes and the half cup of Ranch Dressing.
Now, you're cooking. Avocado, black beans, grilled chicken breast, Roma tomatoes over Iceberg lettuce. Yes, now, that's a meal in itself. But wait, what about the dressing?
Venturing way out on a limb with Artisan type lettuce, otherwise, same stuff, different day. Black beans, Roma tomatoes, boiled egg, hold the salt - I'm on a diet. Ah, never mind. What good is an egg without salt?
Better. Tuna with no mayonnaise, sliced baby carrots, baby spinach, Iceberg lettuce, paprika. Uh oh. Giant bowl.
Really branching out now. Adding diced Bell pepper, rolled ham with Swiss cheese, boiled egg, Spinach and Iceberg lettuce. Feeling happy. Have a nice day. Ok. Google won't let me add more images so that's it for now. Eat healthy. Drum roll. Here's Paul Simon, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 Things to Make a Trip to the Emergency Room Easier


When the phone rang at ten pm on a Sunday night, a quavery voice said, "We've had a little accident over here." These few words can send the adrenaline pumping. The first time we got that call, we rushed over to check on Mom who said she'd fallen. She'd crawled from her living room to the bedroom to use the only working phone. The other one broke with her fall. We wondered if we should call an ambulance or just drive her to the hospital to get checked out. We made the wrong decision.

We learned the hard way that it's dangerous to move or transport an injured person. Worse, when we arrived at the emergency room there was a long wait behind others who either looked worse or had arrived by medical transport. She spent a couple of uncomfortable hours on a hard xray table before the doctor arrived at the small town hospital. Mom was admitted with a broken hip.
Another call came on the morning of New Year's Eve before seven am. Mom asked for help getting a shower explaining that she had fallen during the night. She lay on the bathroom floor until morning. The tone of her voice indicated something was very wrong. I should have called an ambulance immediately. Instead, we bundled her up against the January cold and drove her to the emergency room. Again, bad move. The hospital was operating with a skeleton crew due to the holiday. We waited in the ER eight long hours surrounded by patients who were coughing, sneezing or vomiting.
During that time, the staff would not allow Mom to have even an ice chip until the doctor examined her. When her name was finally called, the doctor launched into a lecture about the patient being seriously dehydrated and running a fever. Imagine our response.
When the time comes to go to the hospital, the arriving paramedics will ask about the patient's  medications, their allergies, and medical history before the current emergency. 
Emergency Go Bag
Ambulance drivers want to take the patient's insurance and identification cards with them on the way to the hospital. Giving them a photocopy can avoid the loss of the patient's original cards. Gathering copies of all this info in one place ahead of time can help reduce some of the stress. 
  1. Make a copy of the patient's Medical Insurance Card, front and back. It has the phone number, policy and member's identification number. Put the copy into a Go Bag dedicated for emergencies.
  2. While at the doctor before an emergency grab two of their business cards; one for your wallet and one for the Go Bag.
  3. Create a list of other important phone numbers in case your cell phone battery dies during the wait. You'll want the numbers for their doctors, their minister, out-of-town relatives, friends and neighbors who might be concerned.
  4. Make a list of prescription medications showing the exact dosages and the frequency taken. 
  5. Add a list of known allergies or reactions to medication taken in the past and a list of over-the-counter medicines taken routinely.
When my husband went to the hospital for surgery, he was taking a lot of prescription medications. Rather than try to remember them, we made a list of each medication, its exact strength and dosage frequency. Several printed copies of this list went into the Go Bag. The admissions staff, nurses and doctors were grateful not to have to write it all down by hand. For example:

It's often necessary to provide info about previous hospital stays and the outcome, and whether the patient was admitted, along with a list of all surgeries the patient has undergone.
  • Prepare a List of previous surgeries, the types and the dates, such as,  Appendectomy - 1975; Left Hip, Replacement Surgery - 1991
It's a good idea to ask the patient for this information ahead of time. If they're confused or possibly unconscious you'll have the list available.


Most of the following items are optional for the Go Bag, but they're handy and easy to pick up at the dollar store.
  1. A small tablet for notes and instructions once the doctor arrives.
  2. A good book for long waits at the hospital and to avoid the germ laden, out-of-date magazines in the waiting room.
  3. Bottled water and packaged crackers or cookies. When your wait is long you'll be glad you have this. It never fails, if you leave the room for a minute to go to the cafeteria, that's when a medical person comes in with an update.
  4. Cup of instant soup or protein bars.
  5. Wet wipes and travel size hand sanitizer.
  6. Tissues for tears or runny noses.
  7. A new toothbrush and travel size toothpaste. This is for you.
  8. Packets of sugar or artificial sweetener, salt, pepper, and plastic spoons. Sometimes a vending machine has food but there are no utensils or condiments available.
  9. A clean pair of cotton socks to wear in those cold waiting rooms at the hospital.
If you drive your friend to the hospital, bring along any medical equipment they use. When Dad became critically ill after chemo, he refused to go in the ambulance. We drove him to the emergency room and in our haste, left his portable oxygen at home. The ER was overflowing and he had a dreadfully long wait before they finally admitted him to intensive care. Every gasping breath without his oxygen was a nightmare.

If your friend is admitted and you want to talk with the attending doctor,  sometimes they make their rounds near midnight so you could be waiting a while. Once you've invested hours waiting for X-rays, blood work and other stuff, you'll want to know what's going on.

In the hopeful possibility that your senior is not admitted, you'll want to bring their walker or wheelchair when you follow the ambulance to the hospital. They'll need these when they're released. One final tip just in case you lose the ambulance you're following. Ask the paramedics where they're taking the patient so you'll arrive at the right hospital.
Taking a few moments to assemble a few items into a Go Bag can reduce some of the anxiety that goes with any trip to the hospital. The best hope is that you won't ever need to use it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

On Becoming Your Parent's Guardian - Role Reversal

It creeps in slowly on little cat's feet and begins with hesitation over minor decisions.
When my mother started asking me about everyday things like how much rice to make and how long should it cook, I gently reminded her that she'd cooked rice longer than I had. Soon, the uncertainties evolved into indecision about everyday activities. Small tasks became more difficult as time passed. In one way, being asked for advice from a parent was flattering like my voice mattered. My input was finally valued. What I didn't know was that the tide had begun to turn and the child was becoming the parent one small step at a time. When our parents seek help on small tasks they've easily handled in the past, it's can come as a surprise. 
Mom at her 87th birthday with her sister.
Things went along smoothly as our new relationship emerged. I became more of an equal to someone who had always shown authority and control. My responsibility was awakening.
This awesome responsibility is not to be taken lightly. It arrives with its own baggage, setbacks and joy. Friends my age also found themselves called upon to provide direction and advice.
My best friend shared the frustration of trying to persuade her mother to use her supplemental oxygen like she is supposed to. Another friend shared the challenge of convincing her mother to  use the hearing aide she clearly needed and the frustration of having to repeat ourselves. How familiar it seems to be interrupted mid-sentence by someone who in the past would have said, "Not now, Mother is speaking." But the shoe is on the other foot for each of us.
Aunt Lou at 94
A stay-at-home mom of the fifties, my mother began her mid-life career with practically non-existent employment experience. She left nurse's training to get married in 1945. After her thirty year marriage ended, she took vocational training and embarked on a career as a Certified Nurse Assistant at the age of fifty.
I was suddenly asked for advice on dating, grocery shopping and apartment hunting, advice she had given in the past. Mom's new life as a single sole-provider continued over the next thirty years. On her eightieth birthday, she officially retired from a second career as a Teacher's aide. Her experience of taking a job outside the home added skills, confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Reality struck after Mom went into the hospital for an extended stay. Although I'd been a co-signer on her checking account, I'd never managed her bank account. Writing out her bills opened my eyes. Her bills reflected a level of forgetfulness with misplaced invoices, lapsed auto insurance policies and past due notices tucked away in drawers. It became my job to manage her bill paying. There was no complaint from Mom who was glad to be rid of the tedious responsibilities.
Driving became another challenge and I worried about when she continued driving in her eighties. With diminished reflexes and increased fragility, it really wasn't safe anymore. She turned over her car keys to me voluntarily, stating she didn't feel confident on the road anymore. I was truly relieved. Not everyone acts logically when that time comes. It's often a source of friction. It's a reverse milestone of the day when we get behind the wheel of a car in our teens, a life-altering decision and makes one truly dependent like a small child again.

The two sisters still function independently in so many important ways, although nursing home bound by health, vision, hearing and memory impairments. They make me proud. One thing remains certain in our relationship. It is the unshakable friendship of my Mom, my true friend. She is a blessing and reminds me in so many ways that I'm the lucky one.

This story was originally published on HubPages in 2010 by PegCole17.