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Roots

Roots

When I bought this cedar sage, the cashier at the nursery said to me, “Once you plant these you will always have them.” I thought she meant it would grow as an evergreen shrub like my other sages, but cedar sage is different. I’ve had it five years now, and it disappears with the hard freeze and comes back bigger every year. I’m not sure whether it is coming back from seed or roots, but it comes back in the same spot, so maybe roots. Now it pokes through the fence by the front gate, the first flowers to greet visitors.

Cedar sage feeds the hummingbirds during their annual migrations through Texas. Pollinators love it too, the moths and butterflies more than the bees. The flowers bounce on delicate stems, so my myriad attempts at a clear photo have failed, and I am putting up this blurry photo so you get the idea. Think of this as an Impressionist rendering. Monet does fuzzy pastels flowers; here we have fuzzy brightly colored flowers. All art!

Love works like cedar sage. Once someone plants love in you, you will always have it. It may get buried under layers of leaves. It may deteriorate and look like it is completely gone, but it is under there somewhere, even on the coldest, hardest day.

Someone must have planted love in you, because here you are, tending someone who needs you now and really can’t do anything to thank or repay you. In fact your person may do the opposite and complain about how impossible you are.

From his perspective you are impossible. So picky! Everything has to be your way, so you took down the awesome solution he worked out for finding his favorite CD, duct taping it to the mirror. Now how will he ever find his CD? It’s ok if you heave a great big sigh now.

A caregiver has many winter days, when it seems like nothing will ever grow or bloom again. I promise you, the roots of love are just under ground. They will push up stalks and green leaves again. They will produce beautiful blooms in your life again.

Sending armloads of virtual hugs today. They multiply when shared.

Grumpy

Grumpy

My English lavender has never bloomed. I know it’s happy because I planted a tiny sprig that I got at the grocery store, and it spread to a large clump.¬†I have no idea why it does not bloom, and several internet searches have failed to shed light on the situation. I had hoped it would flower to provide nectar and pollen for my bees, but I am content to grow the plant for its beautiful frosty color and spikey texture.

When I stooped to take this picture of my lavender for you, surprise! I almost missed the grasshopper resting in the leaves. He patiently posed, no doubt assuming it was his handsome physique that inspired me to take the shot and catapult him to internet fame.

Encountering a grasshopper when I had originally hoped for flowers is an experience my favorite caregivers, and yes you are one, can relate to. Sometimes when you wish for one thing, you get something else. If you are a caregiver this has certainly happened to you because we both know that you did not wish for the life that you have right now. And here it is.

Some parts of your life are not too bad, and you may feel like you should focus on the good parts, but caregiving is too insistent to permit this. So let’s work together on this and divide the roles. I will be grateful for my grasshopper, who is rather charming, although not the flower I had wished for. You can go ahead and be grumpy if there are things in your life to be grumpy about.

Write them down, these grump-inspiring things. Share them in the comments. When you let out the grumps, and number them, and put them into words, you’ll find that some of them lessen in intensity. You may even find one or two disappear. Grumps that originate within you are within your power to set down and simply not pick up again. Grumps that life hands you are stickier. Go ahead, share what makes you grumpy.

Sumac

Sumac

It is starting to look like Christmas around here, and it is still November. No, I am not at the mall. I’m at the Bossy Spa, where the flame leaf sumacs have bright red leaves, and their green-leafed counterparts are sporting fantastic festive berries. When these trees bloom in the summertime, they are covered with bees. Now they are hanging with clusters of berries that serve as self-filling bird feeders.

I love to have birds, but am not too diligent about putting seeds in the feeders, so when nature makes me a feeder like this, I am appreciative. So are the birds. They eat the seeds and spread them, so we have a growing clump of these lovely trees.

Seeing their volunteer holiday display, I figured something out. It is kind of obvious when you think about it, but I had never thought about it. Our holiday decorations are a result of people bringing the outside in during whatever season they are celebrating. People who lived in places with evergreens used their boughs to make garland and wreaths. Native Hawaiian people make beautiful floral leis with the flowers available to them.

Holiday seasons can be stressful for caregivers. You have enough to do already. Now you are supposed to figure out what your patient is going to get everyone for a holiday gift, including yourself. Plus you are supposed to decorate, aren’t you? There are extra meals to prepare. You know you are fortunate in some ways. If you were an awesome person, wouldn’t you find a way to sponsor a needy family or look after someone less fortunate?

There is a simple answer, and that answer is NO. Now is not the time for risking your neck to hang lights along the second story roof line. Now is not the time to donate your barely existent free time to charity. She Who Is Not To Be Ignored at the Bossy Spa says no. This holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Ramadan or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice, you are to treat yourself as your own charitable project for the season.

Whatever time you would spend thinking about the family you were going to sponsor, this year your time is for you. Send a check if you have extra, but conserve your time. There were other times when you could care for others, and you will have those times again, but not this year.

This year, decorate simply. Bring in whatever is beautiful in the outdoors near you. Put it in a vase or on the railing, and call it done. Focus this holiday season on peace on earth. Start with yourself.

Blow

Blow

Make a wish! We have a dandelion all puffy with seeds. You know how this works. You pick the dandelion and close your eyes and make a wish. Then you blow and all the seeds go aloft, and your wishes find their way to wherever they need to go to come true.

I have made a wish for you this morning. I don’t remember if you have to keep the wish a secret in order for it to come true, and Wikipedia does not have a good article clarifying the particulars of dandelion wishes. Since our dandelion is digitized, we can use it as many times as we want to, so we will do an experiment.

I will tell you what I have wished for you, and you will tell me if it came true. If is doesn’t work, we will experiment with keeping our wishes secret, ok? We cannot believe in hokey, untested ideas anyway, as we are sensible people.

So here is what I wished for you. I closed my eyes and wished as hard as I can that you would feel warmly surrounded by love all day today. Then I took a deep breath and blew out, visualizing all the seeds flying from me to you carrying all that love.

Maybe it will take a little time, since you are far away and the wind can only carry the seeds so fast. Maybe the love will hover near you, and you will not feel it until that moment right when you need it, and it will be there.

We don’t know how our experiment will turn out, but know that I am sending¬† you love today, and love is something real that makes a difference.

You can make your own wish on the dandelion too. If you want to tell what you wished, you can write a comment, but you may want to keep it a secret. Let me know if my wish came true.

Buttercup

Buttercup

I’m not sure what this little yellow flower is to a botanist, but when we were little we used to call them buttercups. They grew in the side yard between our house and Mr. Sattler’s. I never had the concept of a weed back then. Buttercups were just charming additions to the yard.

You can probably tell that I am still rather missing the concept of a weed. A weed is a plant whose name you have not yet learned. Once you learn the name it is not a stranger, but a friend.

This buttercup calls to mind the simplicity of childhood, before we knew how complicated life could be. We knew so little that we didn’t worry much, except about how to get out of the refrigerator box that our sisters put us in. When the immediate problem was solved, we were back to our unworried life.

Now that we are all grown up, we know a lot more. Knowing can help us solve problems, like I know my expired yeast may need a lot more time to get the dough to rise. Knowing how yeast works helps me anticipate a problem and work out a solution so my bread comes out as tasty as I hope. Knowing also creates problems. Once we know enough to anticipate a problem, we can anticipate endless problems. Knowing creates dread.

When a loved one gets a terrible, terminal, incurable diagnosis, dread comes roaring in. You can ask anxiety provoking questions about what will happen, but no one can answer with certainty the questions about what will happen to your patient and to you.

Dread is a bottomless pit. What is behind the door? A monster? Two monsters? Twelve smelly, fire-breathing, carnivorous monsters, who will shrink themselves to the size of a pin head and burrow into your skin and eat your spleen out while you die slowly of agonizing spleenal atrophy? You can see how there is no end to this.

Learning to curb your dread is a skill that you can learn. When you feel dread rising, narrow your focus to the present moment. Yes, there are a lot of scary things looming out there, but you cannot deal effectively with them if you are paralyzed by dread. Pause and breathe. The current moment is never as terrible as what you can dread. This moment is survivable.

Heart

Heart

Walking down the driveway yesterday I saw an unmistakeable sign, hanging like an ornament on the fence by the hayfield. Glenda, the goddess in charge of minor miracles for caregivers, has placed a heart here to say, “You are loved.”

When you are loved, as you are, it is important to realize that you are worthy of love. This is not the love of an infatuated adolescent, who does not see the dirt under his beloved’s fingernails. You are known and loved. I know there is dirt under your fingernails. I know how you bit back the urge to clobber your patient when he unloaded seventeen boxes of crap from the garage and placed the items in a row on all the windowsills. The rage and annoyance and despair that welled up in you made you later wish you could have been more understanding and kind, but you were not. You were exasperated, which does not in any way diminish how lovable you are.

Sometimes you talk to yourself inside your head using harsh words. You tell yourself you should be more patient, more supportive, more understanding, more forgiving, better groomed, and good lord, when was the last time you vacuumed?

At the Bossy Spa this morning the sun was shining through the windows highlighting the dog hair on the hardwood floors. If I were to vacuum, I could gather enough fur to make a whole new dog, roughly the color of 1/3 Annie and 2/3 Ginger, who has a thicker coat. Did I vacuum? Not so far. I am having a cup of English breakfast tea in the sunshine on the porch.

Forgiveness is first for yourself. Your primary job, before your job as a caregiver, is to forgive yourself for all the things you think you should do, for all the ways you think you should be. This is a hard job, but you can do it.

A green and yellow leafy heart follows you throughout the day to remind you that you are loved and lovable.

Sky

Sky

There is nothing more lovely than the Texas sky. You would think it would be the same as the sky everywhere else, but we seem to have our own celestial artist who twirls the clouds with a paintbrush when we are not looking. This spectacular sky presented itself through the truck window on an otherwise ordinary stretch of road.

The clouds and sky are a kind of Rorschach test, the ink blot test used to reveal the viewer’s perceptions of the world. What this sky says to me is that it is late in the day. There is a bright sun behind the clouds. Even though you can’t see it, it spreads a warm light though the sky, reflecting blue, gray, cream, and faint touches of pink. What lets the light in is a break in the clouds.

In the caregiver’s life there are many cloudy days, ones where you just want to pull the covers over your head and never get up, and you might stay there, except that at 3 am your patient comes in and hands you a plate of scrambled eggs, saying, “I made you breakfast!” There is, by the way, no correct response to this situation. However you handled it was just fine.

Later that morning, when normal people are also awake, she storms upstairs to let you know how angry she is that you threw away the stack of cardboard cereal boxes she had stowed under the couch. She was saving those to read the comics on the back of them, and now you have sent them all off to the recycling, which was totally disrespectful of her. And even later she forgets why she is so mad, but she doesn’t forget that she is mad. She just knows you did something terrible. She is mad and you are to blame.

Your life serves up so many cloudy moments like these. You can begin to despair that the sun will ever shine again. Today may be a cloudy day. Look for a break in the clouds, a moment when the light comes through and reflects lovely colors across your sky.

Tell how your sky looks today.

Aloe

Aloe

Aloe is a healing succulent. You may have seen its deep green, spiny leaves, thick with a clear gel that soothes cuts, sunburn, and other wounds to the skin. I planted aloe when I had small children, who needed it on a regular basis. During summer I kept a leaf in the refrigerator, so I would have some cool gel on hand. Now that the plant has grown large and is in a good spot, I found out that it blooms.

This burst of red is the bloom from just one stalk, and another stalk is already budding up. I think of these lovely flowers as advertisements, billboards that declare: Use aloe to soothe wounds and promote healing. Recommended by others whose wounds have been mended.

Virtual hugs from the Bossy Spa are my way of putting some aloe in your refrigerator. It is a way to be sure you have something on hand for times when something hurts you. Aloe can’t help much if you have been run over by an eighteen wheeler, but it can make a big difference for small hurts.

Small hurts are the ones that are fixable. There are tiny, practical adjustments you can make to improve your life, to fix the hangnail on your thumb, and pull that splinter in your knee. It’s worth making those practical changes, but the caregiver life has more trouble than just the observable stresses. It has deep wells of grief and small puddles of sorrow.

Sending you a hug today, like a handkerchief to mop up the small puddles. Not much to do about the big stuff, but if your deep sorrows leak out a little every day, we can mop them up one puddle at a time.