Saturday, December 31, 2011

“One Resolution”

         Years ago, every time I started a new volume for my journal, I’d construct a list of goals or plans to guide me though the next couple of months. Sometimes these items would carry specific instructions like to clear one of the credit cards or plant a new garden. Often times, the message became a subtle reminder on how to live my life. Eventually, I stopped making the list and began living it instead.
         With the New Year beginning tomorrow, I have no grand resolutions. Living too much in the future caused me problems in the past, so for this year I pledge to stay rooted in now. Many people live each day without worrying about their five year plan. They embrace and enjoy today. I want that pleasure. I long to watch the sunrise each morning with no expectation beyond appreciating its glory. I desire nothing more than taking each moment and discovering the pleasure within it.
         My mother’s illness has taught me many things about how to live life without projecting too far into the future. The minutiae of our daily routine highlight the wonders of life beyond our four walls. I don’t want to waste a moment of this next year on anything less than loving more and loving better.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, December 30, 2011

“A Little Peach Pill”

         I hold bragging rights on having the highest cholesterol levels known to mankind! Without medication, my lab results shoot over 300 within weeks. Consequently, I started taking medication about eight years ago—at the same time I started teaching middle school again and by coincidence changed my entire wardrobe to smart suits and cute high heeled shoes. Middle school teachers never sit down. For that age group, control in the classroom comes from a mixture of personality and physicality. Sitting behind a desk dooms the middle school teacher to a classroom dissolving into a lunatic asylum.
         For the first few weeks of my new teaching assignment, my feet screamed by the end of each day. I reasoned all the news shoes needed breaking in and soaked in hot water each night. Slowly, the pain crawled up my legs so I reverted to lower heeled shoes or even flats. My feet and legs continued to ache, mainly each morning when I limped out of bed. I attributed the pain to the six hours I spent walking and standing, chalked it up as a hazard for my new teaching slot, and ignored it all as much as possible.
         After a few years, the pain upon waking each morning spread from my feet and lower legs to every muscle in my body. I felt like I’d rolled off a platform and splatted upon the floor. Even my hands and fingers hurt. One weekend, my sister critically observed my hobbled gait as I crawled out of bed.
         “How long have you been like this in the mornings?” she asked.
         “I don’t know,” I shot her a wary look. “Why?”
         “That’s your cholesterol medication. You need to call your doctor right away. Stop taking it. I did the same thing.”
         And so my leg pain and muscle aches vanished as soon as I stopped my medication. It wasn’t, after all, the endless hours spent on my feet, or my “just getting old” that I’d rationalized to myself. Then began the quest for a medication that I could tolerate. All statins had the same results—immediately dropping my cholesterol levels and a reemergence of pain, sometimes within a couple of doses. Using a non-statin drug lowered my results, but not enough.
         During my physical this year, my doctor’s PA asked me if I had fatigue. Once I stopped laughing, I told her I’d been exhausted for years! She decided to run a thyroid test along with the usual junk. Again, I scored high! Another new statin cholesterol medication was prescribed, with more blood work after six weeks. And she ordered another thyroid test. A morning spent on the Internet proved enlightening. Several vague but persistent symptoms suddenly made sense.
         So last week, I started taking a little peach pill, and the quality of my life changed immediately. The pain in my hands and arms upon awakening has subsided, and I no longer feel like mush in the mornings. I’m back to bouncing out of bed with eager vigor. I suspect my fatigue levels will continue to drop—and all due to a little pill. I never realized the quality of my life would change from taking one medication.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

“Zuma’s Revenge!”

         The little frog appeals to my whimsy. I love how he spits at colored balls that ramble through a maze, blowing them up with a conqueror’s fanaticism. With my dexterity, I hop him from side to side to make better shots. Sometimes, I zap a special sphere that empowers my frog with wonderful bombs and blasts.

         My adventures with this little amphibian began Christmas morning once I loaded the game into my laptop. Now I find myself slipping back into my room, once Mom’s settled down to watch one of her shows, for a quick leveling up in my challenges. Normally, I use the time when Mom’s watching a rerun to fold laundry or do other housework, but this week I’m drawn to the little frog and the next obstacle he faces.

         My habit from the past, reading a book to take a break, has shifted this year to playing computer games. I realized that I don’t have the time to peruse bookstores or libraries anymore to discover a new author, or to reacquaint myself with an old favorite. I don’t own a Kindle, or an equivalent. Friends tell me I need to get one so I can download all the books I want. Of course, I’d blow my budget for the month if I had such easy access to novels! So for now I’ll stick to my little frog that lets me hop into escapism with one single purchase.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Parental Love"

Guided through life   
by a silver thread   
that winds through the   
mazes our minds create    

Fine and delicate   
it’s a spider’s soft silk   
that gathers the morning dew   
and catches the sun’s warmth    

A gossamer of spun fairy’s hair   
touched with magic and dreams   
as fragile as a hummingbird’s egg   
yet strong with love and faith   

Copyright 1989 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

“Running on Empty”

         My son voices his worry that David and I will sap our energy too much in caring for my mother. He knows about the middle of the night aid to take Mom to and from the bathroom, realizes she wakes up at the crack of dawn; he understands her need of someone being constantly within calling distance. When he expresses his concern, I remind him we spend a huge portion of each evening enjoying our own interests. We spend time together watching something mindless on television while munching popcorn.
         But I do worry about those days when I’m snapping at everyone and everything because that’s an indication that I’m feeling neglected or overwhelmed. When my siblings come to give us a break, we try to sleep late and head out of the house to our favorite places like browsing through the shops in Gruene, Texas. If my brother or sister arrives early on a Friday, we sometimes escape to the cabin in the hill country. That perfect retreat always offers the respite we need. If we don’t get a long break, we find ourselves overtired.
         I love the advice everyone gives about David and I needing to take care of ourselves and get adequate breaks. What people don’t realize is that unless someone volunteers to come over to sit for an evening, we can’t take off for a stroll through a mall or an evening movie. We count ourselves fortunate that our son lives in the neighborhood. He spends an incredible amount of time “hanging” with Grammy. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I know he’ll come over. I don’t like to overuse my son, though. Is this a normal response? I don’t know. I fear the months in the future when Mom’s needs will increase, when my need for breaks won’t fall into the “occasional” category. I think on some level, I don’t want to misuse my son’s offers for help now because I may need him more in the future.
         As we enter the second year of caregiving, we’ve reached our stride. This morning, I ran Mom’s bath while David started his pre-work routine. He stepped in to help Mom into the tub. While I stayed with her as she soaked in her bubbles and listened to her new Susan Doyle cd, David packed his lunch. Then he returned to help lever Mom out of the tub, dashing from the room to get dressed while I toweled Mom dry, applied lotion to her skin, and dressed her. Entering the family room, we found David already munching on his morning cereal.
         Our lives have a steady routine that flows most days in surprising harmony. Those days where I can’t do anything right for Mom sprinkle throughout the month. Those moments when she drives me crazy because she doesn’t want anything I’ve cooked happen infrequently. Those nights where we get up two or three times with her occur no more than once or twice a week. So, for now we’re holding our own.
         And when I find that we’re “running on empty” I think we’ll fall into music, or books, or hobbies to recharge ourselves.     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman          

Monday, December 26, 2011

"I Want to Give You the World"

I want to give you the world   
with its promise     
with its pleasure   
with its plenitude   
I want to give you the world   
without the doubts   
without the debt   
without the desperation   
I want to give you the world   
with its splendor   
with its sunrises   
with its surprises   
I want to give you the world   
without the worry   
without the weaknesses   
without the wantonness   
I want to give you the world   
with its hope   
with its humor     
with its happiness   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, December 25, 2011

“The Crack of Dawn”

         “Santa came!” rang throughout the house.
         Sometimes, these words resounded as early as two or three in the morning. I know now that often my parents stayed up late into the night assembling the pink cardboard sink and refrigerator set (with burners that glowed when you turned them on) or the various bicycles we received throughout the years. Never once did they complain. Never once did they tell us it was too early to get up or send us back to our rooms. Christmas day began the moment one of us bounced out of bed.
         I carried on the same tradition with my son, Paul. His excitement fueled our energy as we’d open all of our gifts in the dark of the predawn, warmed by the tree lights and the pleasure of surprises. Everyone oohed over various presents. Someone clicked on the television to Christmas movies, and our day piddled along with food and family, and a long and lazy afternoon nap for everyone.
         I have friends who have rules for Christmas. I cannot imagine why a day of indulgence should have rules. One friend insisted her kids let her sleep late as part of their gift to her! Another friend has the entire family sit down to a scrumptious breakfast before a single gift can be opened. Then every dish has to be washed and put away before her family opens their presents from family members. Santa gifts sit untouched under the tree until after their dinner later in the day.
         I believe teaching delayed gratification is an important lesson, but not on Christmas day! I love our mad dash to the tree, the ecstatic squeals of delight as we rip through the wrapping paper. I love the sea of paper, tissue, and boxes that lap knee high around us in the living room. I love our lazy afternoons of catnaps and idle chats.
Socks! Christmas 2011

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman