Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Little green leaves on researched lines

Ancestry.com has little “shaky green leaves” that pop up on our trees when the system finds what it thinks are possible matches. Many of them are wrong but for my direct lines, I’ve checked them all. But when a new green leaf shows up on a well-researched line, it usually means either a new family tree or a new database has been added.

shakyleavesSunday I found a new leaf for my maternal great-grandmother, Charlotte Ann McCormick. She was born in New York City in 1879 to Irish-immigrant parents. Her mother, Alice Heginbotham, was born in Dublin in 1842, the oldest of 13 children to an Irish mother and English father. They came to New York in 1853 on board the Freia. Alice’s father made hats and all of the family ended up in the hat business at some point.

Alice’s family were staunch Protestants but she married Irish Catholic immigrant Peter McCormick, who was a stone mason and builder, between 1870-1879 (still working on finding that record).  The family story is that it was more important to marry Irish than to marry within the church, and that Alice and Peter made an agreement that any girls would be raised Protestant in her faith while any boys would be Catholic in their father’s faith. While that was never documented, they had one of each. My great-grandmother was the Protestant daughter and her brother Charles, the Catholic son.

In 1890 the McCormicks lived on 128th Street in Harlem. In April 1892, when Charlotte was 12 years old, a Charlotte McCormick was confirmed at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located at 127th Street and Fifth Avenue, just 2 blocks from where my McCormicks lived. The right age, the right location – unfortunately for me, the record doesn’t show names of the parents for the confirmands, but still. This was the only Charlotte McCormick in that database (New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, 1767 – 1970) and I’m confident that she’s mine.

charlotte_confirmation


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Making changes slowly but surely

So it’s been a week since going to the gym for the fitness assessment. And I’ve gone three times already with another visit planned for this afternoon, making 4 trips in 7 days. Yayyy me!  The fitness “workout” is really just a plan, not a lot of work, though walking around the track is very difficult for me – not because of the knees, a little because of lower back pain, but mostly because of difficulty catching my breath. This is actually very worrying so I’m trying not to think about it because I’m already doing what I should be doing to improve things.

I’m to walk for 10 minutes. It takes 16 laps to equal a mile, and the track goes in a big circle on the upstairs part of the building, looking down at the fitness area or looking out big windows to the outside. I just can’t walk very fast without getting badly out of breath so am concentrating on moving more slowly but at a pace I can sustain. Last time I was able to make 2 laps without stopping to catch my breath, then another two laps. My goal by September is to be easily doing 8 laps, which is 1/2 mile. More would be better. But I’m starting from zero.

My other two machines work specific body areas. The “coffee grinder” or arm bike is boring but I can feel the arm muscles working. I do three minutes forwards, then three minutes backwards. Not sure if I’m to build up more time or to increase levels next but will ask someone when this feels like not enough.  The other one is the NuStep recumbment cross-trainer, and I feel pretty snazzy that I’m using such an animal. You push down with your feet on big pedals and pull poles with your arms so it’s a complete workout. I can really feel a stretch across my super-tight lower back area, a problem since my fall last September, and my back and legs are pleasantly happy. I did 15 minutes on that one on Wednesday, more than I’m supposed to but already what I’m supposed to do doesn’t feel like much. On the other hand, I’m doing it.

I’m also working on developing another website (yeah, like I need another thing to keep up), this one for genealogy. Actually, I suppose I could include genealogy stuff on this blog along with other things. Hmmm. Maybe I should consider that. The idea of something specific for that is appealing but I know how hard it can be to keep up with one blog, much less two sites. What do you think?


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Fitness Assessment: Pitiful

Chubby LadiesI followed through on my promise to go to the fitness assessment. In a word (my word, not theirs), it’s pitiful. But it was objective and they were kind. I already know I’m fat and completely out of shape. My balance is off and my strength is minimal. Before I moved, I walked a lot to/from parking lots, out to lunch, off to meetings, up and down stairs. But now … well, now, that doesn’t happen. And my assessment showed it. I had to stop to sit and catch my breath and couldn’t even go 6 minutes walking without it. Granted, I started out going at a faster pace than I could maintain, but it was pitiful.

The good news is that there is PLENTY of room for improvement. The program they laid out for me seems minimal – but then, so did walking down a hall for 6 minutes. I’m to go 1-3 days/week and do 10 minutes on the walking track upstairs (where I can look out the window), 12 minutes on the NuStep recumbent cross trainer (working arms and legs but not weight-bearing), and 12 minutes on the arm bike, which Mom used to call the “coffee grinder” because it’s upper back and pectoral. They use it for pulmonary therapy so that should help me with my breathing.

Then in 6 weeks I check in with the fitness specialist who did my assessment. We’ll make adjustments to what I’m doing and add in weights (I hope – I like weights). This is doable. And it will get me out of the house to do something specific and focused, that I can control and that will make me feel better.

Yesterday I followed through on another commitment to myself and registered for a one-day conference in New Orleans in September for lovers of a series of books that I adore. Plus, New Orleans. This will not only be fun but also gives me an incentive for building up my stamina because there’s so much to do and see in NOLA.


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Coming Back to Writing

TessieI haven’t written here in a full year. I’ve missed it and at the same time, I’ve been busy. But things are going on in my heart and head and it helps to articulate, even to myself.

My beloved cat Tessie crossed the Rainbow Bridge three weeks ago. She hadn’t been really herself for six months and was having increasing problems until the end, when I held her in my arms as she passed. She was my constant loving companion for 10 years, and it was just the two of us for most of them. I have a hole in my heart – and at the same time, I’m relieved not to have to worry about whether she’s eating or pooping or why she’s crying. Then I feel guilty to be relieved, because I miss her so.

She is my only experience of being a caregiver, and let’s face it, a cat is not a person. I have no practice taking care of a person, young or old, so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve to take care of my dad. At age 89, his general health is good but his memory is getting spotty. He loops and retells stories that I’ve heard a million times, and every day we talk about what heaven is like and how wonderful Mom was and whether she will be there waiting for him.

I’ve not found a good balance to living with him. I care too much and do too much, and have lost myself in the process. I work part-time as a church secretary in the mornings and in the afternoons and evenings, mostly do nothing or do things with Dad. I know lots of people but haven’t taken advantage of things like line dancing classes or Pokeno nights because I don’t know how to do them and feel stupid, and because I felt like I needed to be there for Dad.

But really, the best way to take care of him is to take care of myself first. So after a brief meltdown the other night and the time that followed for thinking and prayer, I’ve decided a bunch of things:

  • Manage my food in healthy ways
  • Go to the gym for a fitness assessment and start going 2-3 times/week (I’ve been a member for 18 months but haven’t entered since I signed up)
  • Go out at least one day a week for a meal or activity with friends
  • Start planning a vacation and at least one monthly outing
  • Start working with a spiritual director

Things slow down here in the summer; with the high heat and humidity, lots of people go away for long stretches. So most of the social things will go by the wayside until fall. But that will give me time to feel better physically and get into a better more balanced routine. I do play Mah Jongg once a week and love the interaction with my friends there, even if I’m not winning much these days.

But it’s time for an attitude adjustment. No one can do it for me, I have to just do it for myself. I’m making decisions to be healthier physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I start today.


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Not my circus, not my monkeys

circusmonkeyLast year at this time I was up to my eyeballs working on closing out a fiscal year, balancing the budget, sending endowment reports to the development office, and groaning that somehow the library also wanted performance appraisals done at the same time. This year that’s not my circus, not my monkeys. It feels good.

I was good at it. That budget was spent down to .01% of the total. But I don’t miss doing it. I do, however, miss some of my colleagues. I don’t know how or if things would be different had I retired and stayed put, but certainly moving 1600 miles away made it impossible to get together for lunch. I hadn’t really thought that I’d be dropped like a hot potato, though. That’s what it feels like.


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Taking a Break from Caregiving

13256291_10209796703980001_3438453961952806348_nFortunately for me, I now live only 2 hours from my brother, rather than half way across the country. Visits no longer require advance planning, plane tickets, and scheduled vacation time away from the office. Instead, it’s just a short hop on a lot of 2-lane roads.

After 7 months of living with my dad, I was ready for a break. I lived alone for my entire professional life and it’s not always easy to have someone around all the time. I prepared food, wrote out menus, did laundry and took care of house things. Then I made our family coffee cake traditionally made for gatherings, loaded up Tessie (who was none too happy about it), and headed out for two days off.

My niece and her two small children were visiting from Colorado and won’t be back until Christmas, so this was a chance to see them. Children change so quickly and the little guy is already starting to pull himself up. His big sister is smart as a whip and I so enjoyed making cookies and playing with her.

But I also really needed the time alone out on the front porch in the quiet of a rainy day, watching deer out in the pasture and grateful for the solitude. It can be lonely, being on your own, but for me, it’s restorative. My brother and I had some good conversations about Dad’s health and future planning. He’s in good shape now but at 88, anything could happen at any time. I’m glad that my brother and I see eye to eye on next steps.

Coming home was difficult. Tessie meowed almost the whole way, which is seriously annoying. Dad’s first comment was, “How many phones do we have? I can only find 3.” Gee, nice to see you, too. I’ve been impatient and stressed, and yesterday ended up with a wicked full-blown cold/sinus problem and feel as though an elephant is sitting on my chest. Okay, maybe just a cat. But still.

I want more space than I can have here, emotional space. It’s clear to me that taking time off for myself, including having Dad spend time away so I can be alone, is imperative to my long-term health and sanity. I don’t regret my decision to move here but sometimes I’m just losing who I am.


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Sudden loss

One of my friends died suddenly yesterday, on the golf course in New Mexico while traveling with a group from our community. Although death is always a reality when you live in a place that has mostly 55+ residents, this one hit extra hard because it was so unexpected, because of where he was at the time, but mostly because he was so beloved by all. He had been a leader in the community and the church, but was also just a fun person who brought a smile to our faces.

We have a lot of memorial services here over the course of a year but most come after a lingering illness or simply from complications of age. This death was different and has made us stop in our tracks. Bob was a member of the choir and last night, instead of rehearsal, we spent time talking out the facts and reactions, and praying together.

It’s too soon to know anything else now. Logistics get complicated when a body needs to be moved across state lines and there are too many unknowns. What we do know is that we lost someone who mattered.