Multigenerational living pioneer

My family and I have decided that we are going to purchase my parents’ home and build them an addition to live in, while we will take over the main house. So far, the only difficulties we have encountered are things we just did not expect.

Hurdle #1: getting a mortgage for construction. Our circumstances are a bit unusual, in that I am the breadwinner in the family and my husband is the stay-at-home parent. Nevertheless, our finances and credit history are rock-solid. So, I never would have guessed that our biggest hurdle to getting a mortgage would be revealed when a banker asked me pointedly, “Where is the husband in all of this?” Meaning, of course, that he could not figure out why I was the one co-signing a mortgage application with my parents, why my husband has no income to report, and how it is possible that I could be the parent to move to a new city in advance of my family. Maybe this banker stayed up too late watching a marathon of Mad Men and forgot what year this is.

Hurdle #2: everyone thinks that the only reason we could possibly have for making this choice would be a crisis of some sort, whether health- or job-related. This is just not so, at least not for us. Aren’t there any other families out there who have made this choice because it was just the best choice for the family, for long-term finances, and to make a plan for how to care for aging parents in years to come? Aren’t there any sources of advice on, say, how to share a kitchen with your parents? In all fairness, I have found a small handful of references to this kind of information, but to say they are limited in number would be an understatement.

I’m extremely glad we’ve made this choice, but I just did not realize that we would be considered “pioneers.” I don’t really have any desire to be a pioneer in this area! Nonetheless, we will tread on without fear, with love in our hearts, and hoping that we make good decisions on our family pioneer trek.


How to be friends with a cancer patient, part 1

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s safe to say that this cancer is not in its early stages, resulting in a treatment plan that is going to be particularly aggressive.

So, here’s what I have learned in these first few weeks. Some of these lessons I have learned on my own, and some, she has come right out and said:

  1. Listen. Keep your mouth shut. Repeat.
  2. Check her wig for placement, and her teeth for spinach.
  3. Treat her like a normal person, and apologize when you can’t.
  4. Ask about her husband, and respond with appropriate awe when she gushes about how wonderful he is. She’s right, after all, because he is pretty terrific.
  5. Read her body language for signs of anxiety, and read her eyes for signs of fear.
  6. Be there.
  7. Be prepared to have deep discussions at a moment’s notice.
  8. Appreciate her strength and courage in spite of her vulnerability.
  9. Recognize that she wants to hear about your life, too, because it is awfully boring to have to worry so much about herself all the time.
  10. Acknowledge that she can experience dramatic changes in behavior from moment to moment, and pretend like it’s no big deal. Then train yourself to believe it’s no big deal, because it really isn’t.

I don’t really know what comes next for my friend or how I can help her. I’m pretty sure that’s just another part of this journey we are on together.

Food check-in

Guideline #2 in my core behaviors is: “only eat food for which I know and understand the ingredients.” Originally, this was intended to remind me to avoid artificial preservatives, food coloring and other random additives, at least whenever possible. I am really pleased to say that after 5 months into this experiment, I have dramatically minimized the amount of additives I ingest. I do feel good, but it’s hard to tell how much of that can be attributed to this particular eating habit. I will confess that I do feel smugly virtuous each time I make a food choice now, since I really believe I’m doing something great for my health. A discussion of my ego, however, is probably best saved for another forum…

Here’s the really interesting part of living out this guideline. Somehow, it has morphed in my head to include 2 additional habits: I’m now avoiding processed white sugar (and all of its derivatives) most of the time, and I’m choosing foods that are minimally processed in general. I can say without doubt that avoiding sugar has had a beneficial effect, as I have discovered that eating sugar gives me a hangover! I have not written off sugar completely, and I will still indulge occasionally in a piece of pie or a great scoop of ice cream. But, I have realized that eating sugar, especially at night, makes me feel much worse in the morning than having an extra glass of wine before bed. This discovery has completely floored me, even though I know nutritionists will not be surprised to hear it.

I’m so glad that I can continue to surprise myself, and that I’m capable of making such dramatic changes. It gives me hope that I can be flexible enough with my life choices to live to be 100!

Clutter weighs me down

My living situation lately has included lots and lots of clutter, most of which is not mine. We are slowly – very slowly – weeding it out, preparing for a move into a space with about a third of the square footage of the current house.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jamie Enslinger, the one who was actually the inspiration behind creating my guidelines to “Live to be 100,” just wrote an excellent post about getting rid of clutter: Day 136: being fearless :: take the easiest and best step forward.

I have to agree with Jamie, in that every time I pitch or donate or recycle (even sell!) an item, I am reminded of how GOOD it feels to get rid of “stuff.” It is so freeing! And, I want to go forward in life with as little stuff as possible.I like to keep things tidy, so I’d much rather spend my time reading or gazing out the window or snuggling with my family or enjoying a glass of wine than cleaning!

Thanks, Jamie, for inspiring me today!

Perfection is a scam artist

Perfect. The word has a seductive ring to it. Its very nature implies oh-so-smoothly that you can be so much better, so much more, than you are right now. To me, that sounds oddly like that old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Scam artists profit by preying on our needs (“turn $100 into $100,000 – it’s easy!”) and innermost hopes and dreams (“look like a supermodel – fast – if you just take this pill!“). Perfection is just a concept, but it works in the same insidious and harmful manner.

Even worse, perfection demands that you must be something else entirely different from who you are right now, a new and improved version of yourself. And in doing so, it robs us of enjoying our experience of being human. In our quests to throw the perfect birthday party, create the perfect wedding proposal experience, write a perfect paper, or manage a perfect project, we lose sight of the beauty of our shared humanity. Humans, by definition, cannot be perfect. Perfection is reserved solely for the Divine, however you chose to define it.

Humans learn and grow by making mistakes. We grow when we make poor choices, apologize, learn to make better judgment calls, and make a better choice next time. My father is fond of repeating another old saying, “The person who never made a mistake never learned anything.” I want to spend my time with people who make mistakes! People who forgive me when I make mistakes. People who can assess a situation and know when good enough is simply enough, when done enough is really enough. People who spend their time caring about me and my family and their communities, instead of who spend their time fussing and fretting and trying to achieve the impossible perfection.

I promised myself a long time ago that I would dump the idea of perfection. I want to enjoy my journey to live to be 100 years old, and I fully intend to make mistakes along the way. Hopefully I will learn from my mistakes, but mainly I just want to enjoy every minute on this earth as a human being, and to love the people around me so much that they aren’t afraid of making mistakes, either.