What’s Your Morbid Hobby?

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time. I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get this subheading!

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

What you didn’t know about grandma!

Opioids and addiction are a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.

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Smorgasbord Health – The Dynamics of Change – Our Mental Being

For all readers! (You’re not too young for this!) From our blogger of bloggers, Sally Cronin.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

dsc_1737In the previous post I looked at the voluntary and involuntary changes to our body during our lifetime and where we can influence those changes for better health and longevity. This time it is our mental being that is the focus.

In this post I am taking a look at the enforced hardware changes in the brain that affect us all. Also the voluntary choices we make during that process that also impact software function, particularly when we do not upgrade certain programmes.

All of us as we get into our 60s notice physical changes that are obvious when we look in the mirror and also when we exert ourselves physically. We are also aware of changes to the facility with which our major organs deal with their own aging process and the effects of a lifetime of dietary and lifestyle choices, imposed or voluntarily applied.

In all my discussions…

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Bye Bye Business!

balloons
It’s been a great run, really.

But two weeks ago I realized it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to my business that I’d been running since 1995.

I’ve passed by many storefronts that have closed up, only to be opened again occupied by a different business. Then that one closes. I’ve read in the paper about businesses with hundreds, even thousands, of employees being laid off, let go. What becomes of these people? My favorite jewelry store where I always had my necklaces and earrings repaired is going out of business; tomorrow is their very last day.

This time it was mine and I was the one on the inside, calling the shots. I’d been watching my orders steadily decline for a while, while still feeling responsible to be accountable and available if any new orders came in, no matter where I was physically. Now clearly the business, and my life, went past the balance point. There was nobody to send out pink slips to because I didn’t have any employees. So that pain I didn’t have to endure or inflict. But it was painful for me none the less.

When business dries up, if we have a home-based business we can hang on a little longer when business slows down because we are not paying rent to a landlord or wages, salaries, health insurance to employees, and so on. But still there may be one day when you realize that carrying an infrastructure – telephone, fax line, internet, websites, amount of time cleaning out spam from my email, URLs, having to change my phone message every time I’m away for a day or two – all adds up. It adds up in terms of money, time and the amount of thought that occupies your brain.

In my case, my brain’s space is becoming more and more valuable real estate as I age (and as I deal with my aging-even-more mother).

The computer software business has changed, as the method of delivery changes. School software budgets have mirrored city and state budgets, and with each dot.com bust or Wall Street financial crisis, schools have been less and less willing to purchase software vying, instead, to find online learning materials. We cannot go backward. We cannot go back.

So one day about a month ago I decided to take those first steps. I prepared an email announcement for each customer who had ordered multiple times, saving them all in my “Draft” folder and then when I’d written every email, sent them out, one night, one by one. Within a half an hour, the deed was done.

That evening I gave myself some downtime and watched football.

A few days later I began taking down all my files of customers, scores of binders with scores of customers’ records. One by one I went through and discarded shipping air-bills and other information, putting credit card info in a separate pile to shred, leaving only the names of customers and what they had licensed. This took days. The 3-ring binders went into a bag for recycling. There were hundreds and hundreds of these individual records and each one was like saying goodbye to a baby that I had nurtured. Each one evoked a memory, and represented hundreds of students who had learned English and improved their writing through my software application.

It was so bizarre. I never realized how far and wide my software had an influence. Canada, New Zealand, UK, Singapore, Chile, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan, Taiwan, Qatar, the UAE, even Malaysia. I wanted to REACH OUT! and say hello, thank you, and goodbye just one more time. No. That would be a bad idea.

Soon the papers alone were tucked into expandable manila folders, just in case I ever need to look at them, and a shelf in my closet was cleared out where I placed these folders, out of sight. No, I didn’t trash them. I’m hanging on just a little longer, I realize. I have a fantasy that these schools are going to call and ask for one last upgrade, one last license. I’m kidding myself.

It’s starting to hurt, but it’s also starting to feel better.

Along with clearing out these files, and others, I’m making room for something else.

But what?

Some writing, perhaps? Another book? More film reviews? Building up my blog?

Next comes the telephone number. I was resisting this one for a while. It would be the final blow. I removed the phone number from my website. I have had such a great little number for my business. Then my husband and I get a great idea. Our home telephone number really sucks. It’s impossible to remember and there’s no really clear pattern. My husband loves the idea of switching the business number to our home landline. Verizon says it’s possible! Thank you Verizon for allowing me to hold on just a little longer.

Still I dawdle.

Yesterday morning I sat at my desk and waited, and waited, for a message.

The message arrived. It was: “You’re hanging on! You’re not letting go! This software business of yours is the past, not the present or the future.”

Quickly I phoned Verizon – bushwacking through their horrendous menu – and made the switch. It occurred so quickly that I was still on the phone with the technician when the business phone switched off; within another 10 minutes the home landline number went dead. I phoned my old business number and our landline rang. Prominently displayed on the caller ID was already, the cute easy-to-remember and easy-to-say new/old number. Glad it happened so quickly or I would have had time to think twice about what I was doing!

I’m in awe of the process of endings and new beginnings. I’m in awe of what it takes to say goodbye to the old and to say hello to something new. I know how many people – hoarders, people in dysfunctional relationships – struggle with this. Or succumb to the fear of the unknown and the new.

Today lots of books about editing and writing (and a few other subject matters) sit on my shelves, where my CD disks, mailers and info about suppliers used to be. The shelf is nice and neat.

And I love our new telephone number.

*****

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Weight Loss for Seniors (and Others) – It Starts with the Haircut

Most of us at my age are pondering whether or not to begin to take social security payments, or when it’s time to retire. Both of these questions pale in comparison to the big one:

After having snacked and overindulged my way through the 15 years, is this the body weight I want to have for the rest of my life? Do I want to have this blob in my midsection for the next 30 years?

I used to tuck my stretch skirts under the blob that my tummy consisted of, and float my shirt over them. (Know what I’m referring to?) My husband would reach over and pull the skirt up over the blob.  I could grab the blob in one hand. Maybe two. One summer day I tried on a favorite dress, and struggled to zipper it or looked at my profile in the mirror and had to whisper “NO” and start all over. That was one too many times.

You should recognize by now that you don’t have to be over 60 to know what I’m talking about. After years of a little late night snacking here, a second helping of desert there, I borrowed from the Rabbi and sage Hillel the Elder: “If not now, when?”

Now two months into this commitment, I’m offering up my advice – nowhere near as sage as Hillel the Elder’s, but at least worth a few bytes of space on some server – for a successful weight loss journey:

    • Couple your weight loss with something else drastic that you’ve been wanting to do for a while. I had also been wanting to cut my hair short, to how I’d worn it as a child. So one day I went into the salon and said to my stylist, “I’ve been talking about this for years. Let’s do it.”                                                                                                                                                 short-cutsShe lopped it off, and the compliments haven’t stopped.  And I’ve already accomplished step 1 of my look better feel better plan. That has given me confidence to go on with this endeavor.
    • Be prepared for the long haul. The hardest may be the beginning, but this is not going to be short and easy. Say goodbye to the quick and easy weight loss of our 20s or 30s or even 40s. Week 1 will become Week 2, which will become Week 3, soon Month 1, Month 2 and so on. Our metabolism has changed, our muscle mass has diminished. You don’t need a new scale! To encourage you, try looking at how your clothing feels, if it’s looser and better fitting. But be encouraged that while you’re changing your eating habits for now, you’re also creating new eating habits for the long run.
    • Do you have any medical conditions that a change in diet could help with? Consider that and incorporate this into your new eating habits. Are you also pre-diabetic? Or have high blood pressure, that a change in what you eat could also mediate? My breakfast is now two hard-boiled eggs and because I have high cholesterol, I remove 1-1/2 of the yolks (leaving me only 1/2 yolk, to add a little flavor and color). I’m also pre-diabetic, so I have eliminated ice-cream and cake. An orange might be my fruit serving;  juice is also eliminated for the same reason, as one glass of juice is equivalent to 4 or more oranges and is too high in fructose sugars. I’m having some almonds each day for snacking, as recommended by the dietician. We eat more Omega3-rich and other foods, suggested to avoid Alzheimer’s., a fatal disease that currently has no cure and which is the cause of death for 1 out of 3 seniors. I have two small Stella D’Oro Swiss Fudge cookies after dinner as my daily indulgence.
    • Do not accept quitting. You’re a train on a track, and you cannot get off. Stay the journey. You cannot get off the diet tonight, and say “The diet begins tomorrow.” Some diets, such as the 5-2 diet, allow you to be “off” the diet for 2 out of every 7 days. After several months, I do occasionally have some ice-cream. But don’t then get angry at yourself for doing this. Justlove yourself, reaffirm your goal, and jump back into your seat on the train.

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    • Have a mantra. Mine is “Now or never.” (“I really don’t need this cookie” does not work with me at all!) The only other way for me to lose weight is to become very very ill. That is not an option here. This is about improving your quality of life and living well, not shortening it.
    •  Your diet should not be a foreign language. When you see diets others have eaten and the food looks strange, even the names of food are unrecognizable, that is not for you. Quinoa does not work for me. Work with what you eat and love.

For example, see this breakfast online.

If I scrambled 1/2 c. egg whites  with 1 t. olive oil, 1 t. chopped basil, 1 t. grated Parmesan, and 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes in the morning, I’d be stimulating the culinary sensory part of my brain way too much and getting off to a very bad start. My hard-boiled eggs are pre-cooked and shelled; I do six at a time, enough for 3 days. All I have to do in the morning is add the spoon of mayo, some salt and pepper, make a egg salad, and eat. My milk is the half and half in my coffee. As in “Would you like some coffee with your half and half?” My blueberries I save for later in the day, when I need a little snacking. etc. And no toast.

That same website has this dinner one evening:

Dinner
4 ounces grilled salmon
1 cup wild rice with 1 tablespoon slivered toasted almonds
1 cup wilted baby spinach with 1 teaspoon each olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grated Parmesan
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe topped with
1/2 cup all-fruit raspberry sorbet and 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts

That’s cool with me; we have salmon, or tilapia or maybe chicken, sometimes canned tuna. I dispense with the starches (although serve rice to my husband), except for Friday night and Saturday lunch, when I’ll have some bread. The almonds are my snacking food, for after meals. The spinach is great, and we might have broccoli or mixed veggies, sometimes plucked right from my garden. No sorbet for me. It’s the sugars. For Labor Day, my husband fired up the grill and cooked the chicken outside. Same food but a treat, with the new and exciting flavors.

My snacks may be almonds, a probiotic yogurt for lunch, a glass of milk after dinner.

      •  Exercise, and exercise more.  A friend recently complained because she runs 1/2 hour on the treadmill at the gym each day and she’s not losing weight. Defining your goal as weight loss may be the problem. You want to lose weight, but you also want to slim down. These are two different goals. That 1/2 hour on the treadmill is nice but it’s probably just compensating for all the sitting and driving and sitting and driving that we in this day and age are doing. To LOSE weight, and even importantly to BUILD MUSCLE, you’re going to have to jog on a a track, and go beyond that 1/2 hour on the treadmill. What do you love doing? I love to but only on an outdoor track. I love to play tennis, bike, and swim (mostly outdoors). Whatever you can love doing, do it. Ping pong? Do it, religiously.Why is it important to differentiate between losing weight and slimming down? Five pounds of FAT has much more mass (that is, it’s larger) than five pounds of MUSCLE. If you want to also be slimmer, eat fewer calories but build muscle. (See the photos in this hyperlink.) Don’t have a good way to build muscle? Ask a fitness person at the gym to set you up a program. Walk to the store. Bike, if you dare, and if you can. Don’t just walk your dog; jog with him. Your dog might shed a few needed pounds, and build up some muscle, too.                                                                                                                          9_11_035
      •  Learn from, but don’t be or feel bound by, the popular diets of the day, their pros and cons. Use what works for you, but remember, these diets are contrived, made up. Take the principles of healthy eating, know what is good for you and not good for you, and take it from there. Vegetarians and vegans must also make sure they are not getting malnourished as the days of the diet wear on, into weeks and months. Most of these diets have a reduction in starchy carbohydrates and in fructose and glucose sugars. Most include almonds and some nuts (but not too many). And everybody is agreeing: LOW CARBS!! Take a supplement if necessary, to ensure a well-balanced diet.
      • If you go out to eat, be prepared to leave food, and maybe lots of it, on your plate. Contrary to what you learned as a kid, you do not have to eat everything on your plate. Concerned about food waste? I was at an out-of-town wedding last week, and there was way more food than was healthy even for a male adult who was a foot taller than me. I asked the server to place certain items in a bag for me to carry out and I kept everything cool in the hotel mini-fridge. (I also have traveled using our camping cooler.) This worked out well since I was out of town and needed to eat the next day.
      • The reward for exercising is NOT eating. The reward for exercising is a healthier you, and progress in your goal of weight loss and slimming down (building muscle).
      • Get ready to be admired for your resolve. Secretly all around you are people who wish they could lose weight successfully.  They’ll ask, “How did you do it?” They’ll certainly validate you when you’ve lost the weight and tell you how great you look.

You’ll know this diet is working when you have more energy in the morning, more energy through out the day, that’s great. Protein for breakfast, rather than carbos, has worked really well for me. You may also be surprised that after a few months you’ve lost your urges to snack on carbs during the day and in the evening.

Enjoy on that ride!

And to think this all started out with a cute bob haircut!

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TJ’s Weekly Household Haiku Challenge: “Vibrant”

Once again I’m inspired by TJ Paris and his weekly household item haiku challenge. This week’s challenge is the adjective, “vibrant.” TJ also has a new format for his haiku challenge. Check it out!

 

Again, her eyes gleam!

Either the chemo’s working

Or all our prayers are.

 

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What’s A Little Pound Here and There?

270px-SpaghettataMy pots and pans were pretty scrappy, picked up in a supermarket or hardware store here and there over the years. But the name Calphalon had a nice ring about it. This Calphalon pot, however, significantly shinier than anything I’d had, was three times larger than any pot I had ever cooked in, or lifted, or washed. A box of spaghetti would last me weeks. But suddenly I was cooking up the entire box in one night in the shiny Calphalon pot, every week. There was also now three times as much water to drain! Another mess, too, and a steamy one at that.  Then there was the job of transferring the pasta to the large celadon ceramic pasta dish also three times larger than I had ever known.

Dinner had to be served not whenever I was hungry but carefully calibrated to be too early and not too late. It had to be sandwiched nicely in between my new step-daughter getting home from her after-school activities, and before she went upstairs to practice her flute and do her hours and hours of homework and before the dog got his evening walk. After homework and before bedtime was evening snack time. Ice cream! Ice cream all around, in our bedroom, on the bed, in front of the TV! Everybody loved dinner, everybody loved the spaghetti, and everybody loved the ice cream.

And I felt sick!

The calculation was simple: From a single person cooking or one, I was now cooking for three – myself, a husband (who ran 50 miles each week) and a teenage step-daughter.

Considering as a single, I didn’t even purchase ice cream, my new refrigerator, double the size of the one I had in my Brooklyn apartment, with an entire side being the freezer, held temptation in all forms, shapes, flavors, food groups, and temperatures. It was a very bad day when my step-daughter innocently enough, said to me one day, “There’s nothing in the fridge!” Apparently Dad did a much better job of keeping the refrigerator stocked than I did.

There were a lot of firsts those years. It was the first time somebody had gotten down on one knee and asked me, “Will you marry me?” It was also the first time my physician said, “You have to lose weight.”

Of course eventually my step-daughter went off to college and I was only shopping and cooking for two. I was sure that my waistline would be saved. But no! I was shopping and cooking for two – but the scale, digital and accurate, and I were at a standoff.

Gone was the spaghetti from my shopping cart. Gone the different meal each evening. Gone is the ice cream. But in its place is my husband’s new love and evening snack: frozen yogurt. Coffee frozen yogurt. Quarts of it. And only him and me around to eat it.

Then came another first, as my doctor said, “You’re pre-diabetic. You have to meet with the nurse and go over your diet.”  Loyally, I created a little chart for my weight and checked off food types as I ate them: Dairy, protein, fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, nuts and oils… I was always the athlete: Bicycling to work, swimming, tennis, but then another first from the doctor: “What are you doing for exercise?”

Gone is the orange juice and Mango Tango. Replaced with countable oranges. Gone the cashews. Replaced with a serving of 8 almonds. Gone the white basmati rice, replaced with brown basmati rice. Gone half an avocado for guacamole; now 1/4 the avocado for guacamole. Two years later, my blood sugar level is acceptable. My weight is still not.

Last month hubby and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Sixteen years of love, giving, sharing, supporting each others, sixteen years of happiness. And sixteen years of frozen yogurt in the freezer and cake in the bread box for my long-distance runner husband.

That’s also .63 pounds for every year of marriage. This statistic probably wouldn’t bother anybody but me.

“What’s a little pound here and there?”

“You still look good!”

“But you’re so active!”

I swear I can hear my bones saying to me, “Ouch. You’re putting too much weight on me. Lighten up!” I’m sure my digestive system is saying, “Why you making me work overtime? Easy. Easy. Easy!”

Last night I went into my third cooking mode: Cooking one meal for my husband and one entirely separate meal for me. I’m going to try eating high protein: Sliced turkey, egg salad, boiled chicken, tuna and salmon for snacks and for dinner. The husband is getting various Indian food dinners with rice cooked in tumeric, a little wine on the side. Or maybe a mini-pizza. He’d better hope I lose significant weight soon.

For the record, I’m not saying that I won’t try a few of his leftovers as I walk the dishes from the table back to the sink… I am saying that it’s sure a lot harder to take it off than to put it on in the first place.

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Haiku Challenge: The Calendar

Reblogged and modified from my blog, “Mom, Me, and Elderly.”

TJ’s household weekly haiku website challenges us this week with the household item, a calendar. The calendar has a unique significance to me. To elderly moms, to elderly dads, to adults who are their parents’ caretakers, I dedicate this haiku:

I summon Mother

to mark this day from others.

Behold! We’re still here!

 

I try to “do the calendar” with my elderly Mom each Sunday. It’s the lightest day of the week, and prepares her for the coming week. She finds her pen and marks a big X on the day that just passed. 

It’s always interesting to see what she’s willing to do if we do the calendar at, say, 9pm and there are only three hours left to that day. She is not willing to X out that day.“I’ll just leave it.” 

I see that as a good sign. There is still time in that day, time to be lived. “Okay, Mom. That’s fine.”  In fact, that’s great.

The ritual usually begins with “What day is today?” and I’m not willing to tell her. I want her to figure it out. 

“Well, Mom, yesterday was your doctor appointment. What day of the week is your doctor’s appointment?” I want her to think this through. want her little nerve endings to fire away and connect. I’ll supply the safety net when the memory fails, which it is inclined to do.

“What day is today?” It could be overwhelming. More than 1, less than 30. Last night when we did the calendar, I suggested she try to find my birthday. She found it, and was surprised when I told her that my birthday was two weeks ago. She X‘ed the days and there were a good number of X‘es but she ripped right through them and landed properly on Sunday the 25th. Last night she also wrote down her 2:45 hair salon appointment for today. While I doubted she’d remember the appointment, or even consult the calendar, when “tomorrow” came, it was important for her to do, for many more important reasons.

Some “advice” blogs tell seniors to mark an X on each day at the end of the day. That makes no sense for somebody with dementia: They can’t remember they need to do this in the first place.

It was exceptional when Mom and I did “the calendar” on the first day of January of this new year. Off the wall came the one calendar, and up onto the wall went another. Something we all do, but for an elderly parent who has dementia and isn’t sure what day of the week it is, marking a new year carries heft.

All the more interesting is this process, because we do it by telephone: I’m 300 miles away.

This is the blessing!