Dog Flopped on Stairs

Pet comfort and companionship for Seniors

Tracey Ask Tracey

I frequently receive inquiries about the pros and cons of Seniors having pets. Ten years ago, my mother and I discussed this topic at length, which I wrote about in a 2010 column. Sadly, both she and our faithful dog, Bella, have passed on, but I thought this column might still benefit others grappling with this decision.

***

My mother has been widowed now for nearly a year and a half. Fortunately, she’s acquiring essential members of what we laughingly call her “support team.”  She is comfortable with the caregiver we found for her last year. She has a good plumber now, and her furnace man seems to have taken a real shine to her.

She ventures out with her 92 year old friend and had taken to joining a neighbor for a walk around the neighborhood. Her life is moving forward, in spite of a cruel blow.

But there is a loneliness to her life that is very real. She has yet to try a senior center or class, both of which might expand her circle of friends. I’m not quite sure I fully understand her resistance to these activities but hey, it’s her life and it’s not for me to judge.

However, given her interest in our dog, I sometimes wish it were feasible for her to add a canine companion to her life. The woman loves our dog, often asking about “Bella’s” most recent antics right on the heels of finishing the grandchildren report! And when my mother visits, she is quite content when Bella puts her head in my Mom’s lap and soaks up the nonstop head scratching my mother will happily provide.

Pet companions for the elderly have both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, pets keep a senior engaged in life. Caring for an animal requires responsibility and gives the  owner a sense of purpose. While walking a dog is necessary for the animal’s health, the activity also gets the owner out into the fresh air, perhaps interacting with neighbors. Pets also accept their owners unconditionally — there’s no criticism or pouting from our animal friends. (Hmmm … are cats the exception to that statement?) Simply petting an animal can lower blood pressure and lift a mood, while offering the owner a sense of security and reassurance.

Sadly, but quite realistically, pets are not the best idea for all seniors. For starters, there are the costs associated with responsible pet ownership. It just may be that a senior’s fix income can’t cover the expense of the animal. Given the senior’s physical capabilities, is he/she up to the demands of caring for a pet? Will walking a dog be possible? Will a quick, essentially silent cat, scurrying around the house create any dangers for an elderly owner? Is it possible for the owner to get the pet to and from the vet for necessary appointments? And who will take care of the pet should the senior become ill or disabled?

My mother and I have had the pet discussion. She is quite realistic when it comes to owning a dog, recognizing that she isn’t up to caring for one, in spite of how much a dear little mutt would bring to her life. However, I think we may have actually discovered a solution to this problem. She has been to the local Humane Society animal shelter and inquired about “visiting” some of the animals. She explained that there would be some limitations to what she could comfortably handle, noting that a 100 pound Rottweiler wouldn’t be a good fit! It sounds like they would be very happy for her to sit in a room and interact with different cats and kittens, dogs and puppies. They recognize that caged animals benefit from socialization and here’s someone willing and interested in providing it. Seems like a good solution for everyone involved! 

Fortunately, this may work out just fine for my mother but do consider both pet and senior before bringing them together for a full time relationship. 

***

It’s worth noting that my mother did not get a dog. She did however, become a regular visitor to the Humane Society. I think it was a nice solution for her — she got her “dog fix,” as she called it but she didn’t have the 24/7 responsibility of pet ownership.

Being positive

Tracey Uncategorized

I recently received an email from a man who focused on a rather unique aspect of both my philosophy about life in general and the way I often respond to people in my column. He wrote:

“Dear Tracey: I don’t read your column. Never had. Before, when you had that one about families, my wife always left it on the table for me to read. Wouldn’t do it. Now all you ever talk about is life after fifty. Well, I’m 71 and who wants to think about getting old every week? What a waste of time.

But the reason I’m writing is because I don’t think anyone can be as positive all the time like you want us all to believe you are. I think you’re a phony. My wife says that you “always find the silver lining.” Well, I’m not buying it. There must be things that bug you, just like the rest of us. How come you never talk about them? It would make you more believable. It makes me think this is all an act. No matter because I’m not gonna (sic) read your stuff anyhow. I just wanted you to know that not everybody buys into you.”

Signed,

Anonymous

Not much reason to respond to this email, right? Really now, in my annoyingly positive kind of way, my response would probably only further offend this man. But then I realized that since he didn’t read my column and he’s already offended, I did have something to say. Here goes.

Dear Anonymous,

When I first read your email, I burst out laughing. Sorry but I thought maybe a friend was playing a joke on me. It was so odd to think someone would bother to take the time to compose, and then send, something like this to me, a complete stranger.

Sadly, however, I knew the email had to be legit. The reality is that throughout the years, plenty of people have told me how wrong my answer to a problem was. My credentials have been challenged, my experience negated. Nope, this wasn’t the first time I’d received criticism. It comes with the territory.

But as I read your email again, I found myself feeling downright sorry for you, not to mention your poor wife. (I can’t begin to imagine being married to someone who has your outlook on life.)  It must be difficult to go through the days as you do. The reality is that I’m grateful I see the world as a glass half full and not half empty. I believe that this approach, as challenging as it is at times, makes me healthier and happier all the way around.

Sure, there are plenty of things that bug me. I’m human!  But what value is it to you if I rant about how topsy turvy our culture is that we place so little value on tending and educating our children? (They’re our future, folks!) Or if I rail against people who speed through a safety corridor or fail to use their blinkers? (It’s all about consideration and safety!) And don’t even get me started on people who chew with their mouths open (Yuk!) I could go on but why? A weekly column peppered with these kinds of irritants strikes me as being utterly useless.

I show up here, week after week, to try and offer solutions to problems or to support people and causes doing good in the world. (Someone who knows how much I earn from writing this column told me that it was my “community service.” She may be right.) By my way of thinking, if each of us looked for that silver lining more often and did simple, little positive things throughout our days, the world would be a better place and, by golly, we’d all be in better moods.

Have a good day!

Respectfully yours,

Pollyanna

Butterfly

Change … a predictable part of life

Tracey Featured

Change is a predictable part of life so why does it become more challenging with age?

I’m contemplating this very thing because … I’ve written my last weekly column for a good old fashioned newspaper, the Times Standard in Eureka, California.

Between my two print columns, Juggling Jobs and Kids and The Second Half, I’ve been showing up in this publication for about 25 years. For fourteen years, in the pre-electronic, (or some might say prehistoric age,) JJ&K was syndicated to 164 newspapers nationwide. It was a satisfying gig to hear from people throughout the nation. Lessoned learned? In spite of our differences, humans are remarkable similar. After my nest emptied, once again I turned to writing what I was experiencing, aging, pure and simple and The Second Half was born.  Throughout all of these years it’s been my pleasure to answer your questions, respond to your concerns, and steer people to resources when it seemed appropriate.

I always considered writing these weekly columns an extension of my professional belief system; share information, educate people, and offer support. And whether I was writing about raising our three kids in my first column or, decades later, coming to terms with the death of my parents, it seemed like sharing what I knew to be common experience to most of us, had a place in public discourse. 

But let’s get back to the possible difficulties of making changes in our later years. To begin with, keep in mind that if you initiate change, it may be accompanied by positive momentum but if change is foisted upon you? That can be a very different situation.

It’s also good to remember that change can be difficult for people of all ages. New circumstances can mean varying degrees of risk taking or perhaps it means experiencing loss. Maybe it triggers the fear of the unknown? Will financial or social instability have to be navigated? What will other people think? Am I able to actually adjust to this? Yes, change can be challenging.

When you consider all of these possible challenges that may result from making changes, it’s little wonder older people can stall. If one has failing health or cognitive function, adaptation to new a new situation can be especially daunting. Perhaps the person’s support system has diminished, leaving them without good friends to cheer them on? Or, as abilities begin to wane, some older people might suffer from a sort of learned dependence. In other words, the less one does for oneself, the less capable and confident, they feel about trying new, different things.

Change can also mean loss and, unlike our younger counterparts, age usually means losing people and places we love more frequently. Consequently, older people may dig in their heels rather than risk anything that taps into this deep reservoir of sad feelings.

So where do I fit into this maze of considerations? Well, for starters, I did have the choice of continuing my column. Have you heard of the new California law regarding independent contractors? This led the newspaper to make changes in my current contract, changes that just didn’t work for me. It was time to pull my column. (Sigh.) However,Marc Valles, Managing Editor of the Times-Standard, has asked me to stay on to periodically cover special stories and events and I am happy to do so.

That said, I don’t have to give up my weekly connection to all of you because I will now be publishing my weekly columns on my blog, <www.thesecondhalfonline.com> That’s right, I can continue to do what I love, it will just be in a different place and format. There are so many computer savvy Boomers and Seniors. I hope you will follow me there! Stop by and be ready to leave your comments. (Please note — in anticipation of this move, my blog may be revamped a bit and therefore spotty for a couple of weeks. Please check back.)

Once I realized I still had options, things felt better. While I will always have great sentiment for, and loyalty to, good old newspapers, I will still be able to do what I enjoy most, connect with all of you!  Now the fun will include growing my national audience so please feel free to share my blog posts. Keep your comments, questions, and concerns coming! Send your emails to: tracey@thesecondhalfonline.com. You may also join me on Facebook. (Simply search Tracey Barnes Priestley and we’ll be ‘friends’!)

The very thing I did not want to let go of was my readers and fortunately, I don’t have to. You are a dear and loyal group. Thank you for your support all of these years, as well as your kind words when we might meet on the street or in the frozen food section of the local grocery. It has been a pleasure to be connected to so many of you.

Fortunately, I can end this without having to say goodbye. Nope, hopefully we’ll connect on my blog and Facebook. As for the newspaper? I shall return … I’ll just be wearing a different hat!

Creamer Swirling in Coffee

Stepping outside of your “Bubble”

Tracey Ask Tracey, Columns

In the eight grade, my mother allowed me to read Travels With Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck. She had some reservations about it, so she read it first. Ultimately, she felt it was a book all Americans should read, including me, her then 13 year old daughter.

Always a voracious reader, Travels with Charley had been on the top of my reading list for a while. And why not? I loved the great outdoors and my best friend had four legs and a constantly wagging tail. I just knew this book would hold my attention during that long hot summer. What I didn’t know was that it would give me life lessons that I value to this day.

I  particularly loved the conversations Steinbeck had with Charley as they toured the country. No matter that I couldn’t drive nor that my dog was 14 years old, I still imagined my trusty old dog and I one day heading off into similar adventures. 

But there was so much more to Travels with Charley that I didn’t begin to understand and that’s why, to this day, it remains one of my most treasured reads.

For one reason, I was old enough to know what I didn’t know. It was clear to me as I read the book that much of what I was reading was surprising, even shocking. My mother had warned me … and then welcomed me to share productive conversations as I tried to make sense of a world so much more vast and complex than my little neighborhood.

The racism Steinbeck recounted shocked this little white girl in suburban San Diego. In my experience, my Mexican friends were the target of snide remarks and mean spirited  pranks.  More than once my friend Cece was saddened or angry because of  something someone had said. In my loyalty to her and her family, I didn’t begin to understand why being from Mexico was such a terrible thing.

But reading this book exposed me to the racism that existed all across our country. I remember being dumbfounded. It was bad enough my Mexican friends suffered but black people as well? I couldn’t begin to process it. For the first time in my young life, racism took on a broader, more menacing and distressing meaning to me.

I was also fascinated by Steinbeck’s description of the many differences between people all across the country. It had also never occurred to my young self that Americans were all that different from one another. His take on the impact technology might have on the future, my future, had my mind spinning. And why did Steinbeck seem to portray our government, the one I pledged my allegiance to every morning in school, as oppressive? What exactly was social reform? And really, did everyone drink as much as he did?

My mother and I had lot’s of conversations that summer.

In the end, that book was my first step out of my little bubble. It opened my eyes to so much in the country. It filled me with questions and laid the foundation for a lifetime of human discovery.

I’ve never lost my love of reading, nor my need to understand people who differ from myself and my experience. I think this is especially important as we age. Life can feel harder with each passing year. We gravitate towards wanting our lives to be more simple, less demanding. We have a tendency to seek all things familiar.  Sadly, as a consequence of this, some people get especially rigid with age, more convinced than ever before that their way is the only way.

I know it’s easy to get locked into our “bubbles”. Why not?  We know the parameters quite well, our belief systems are finely honed. It simply feels more comfortable, more secure inside of our little bubbles.

But sadly, as we see more and more frequently these days, hiding out in our own little worlds creates problems … within families, neighborhoods, and all across the country.

Perhaps you might consider reading a good book with a different perspective than one you hold. Consider tuning into a different news source for a fresh perspective. How about connecting with people who are different from yourself and engaging them in conversation? 

We’re never too old to learn something and learning something outside of our bubbles may be just the thing our country needs right now.

Books to Read

The joy of reading

Tracey Columns

I’ve always been a reader. It’s just what we did in my house. A love of books was instilled in us at a very young age.

One of my single working mother’s biggest parenting successes was our weekly trips to the library. For as long as I can remember, during the glory days of our childhood, she would take  us to the local library to stock up on books.

Part of the thrill of our regular library visits was the search. I’d often ask my teacher for book recommendations that I could then track down at the library over the weekend. For whatever reason, the Dewey Decimal System fascinated me — it was the secret code to everything the library had to offer! I loved looking up the titles in the musty card catalog, slowly leafing through each tattered card until I found what I was looking for. Then, it was off to the shelves, hoping against all hope that I would find the book there. This simple process always made me feel so self-sufficient.

During the miserably hot summers of southern California, I’d lay out under the maple tree in the cool grass and read all afternoon. In the winter, I’d curl up on the couch with my cat Jinx, happy to escape into whatever book I had selected for the week.

One library incident has always stood out in my memory. In the eight grade I heard about John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley: In Search of America.  All I knew about the book was that the writer toured the entire country in his camper with his adored dog, a standard poodle named Charley. Passionate about camping and dogs, it’s little wonder the book appealed to me. I put it to the top of my list for our Sunday trip to the library.

I was thrilled to find it on the shelf and quickly met my mother at the check-out desk. When it was our turn, I placed the book in front of the librarian so she could work her magic with her faithful rubber stamp. She pulled the book towards her. Seeing the title, she looked at me, then my mother, then back to me.

“Are you checking this out?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I answered, a bit surprised by her question and the especially harsh tone of her delivery. Something was amok but I didn’t have a clue.

Turning to my mother, the librarian huffed “She is far too young for this book. I can’t allow her to check it out.”

Who knew an already quiet library could go absolutely silent but in that frozen moment, it did. But what happened next completely floored me. My exhausted mother, who was anything but confrontational practically every waking minute of her life, did the most extraordinary thing. She shot back at this judgmental woman, “I’ll decide what my daughter can and cannot read. If you are more comfortable, I’ll check out the book in my name.”

A moment later, securely tucked under my mother’s arm, Steinbeck and his faithful dog left the library with us. I couldn’t wait to open the cover of this forbidden book.

My mother must have read my mind as she was the first to break the silence in the car. “I’ll read it first and then I’ll know if you’re too young to read it.”

In the end, I did read Travels with Charley that summer but my mother offered it to me with some defined guidelines. She said she felt I was old enough for the material but that there was going to be plenty I didn’t understand. She made me promise I’d come to her with my questions and said she expected us to have plenty of conversations about what we’d both read.

I know now, after raising my own children, what a wonderful bit of mothering she was offering me, all because of a powerful book. As our children — and grandchildren —grow, we need to support them, be available for their questions and concerns, and these days more than ever, explain the complicated world to them as best as we can.

To be continued …

Quinoa

Grandma feels disrespected

Tracey Columns, Tracey's Blog

Dear Tracey,

My granddaughter moved here five years ago to go to college. She graduated and got herself a job. I don’t think it pays all that much but she is supporting herself and paying off her student loans. I know that says something about her character.

She was happy to finally move into her own apartment a month ago. Last weekend, she invited me and her Grandpa over for dinner. She said she wanted to cook us a “special” dinner because of everything we’ve done for her these last few years. She said I wasn’t to bring anything. I didn’t like showing up empty handed but I did.

It was a fun evening until we sat down to the table. It wasn’t much of a special dinner at all. You see, she’s a vegetarian, says it’s for health reasons. We’re pretty much meat and potato people. She proudly described all of the dishes she had made. Tofu this and bean sprout that — my poor husband poked around his plate. Neither one of us was all that interested in what she had made, except for the delicious rhubarb/strawberry pie she made for or dessert.

This girl’s known our eating habits for as long as she can remember. She never left my table hungry. Don’t you think she should have had a little meat somewhere on the table for us? Wouldn’t that have been more respectful?

Signed,

Hungry Grandma

Dear Reader,

Let me get this straight. Your granddaughter is a self-sufficient college graduate, has her own place, and is also paying off her student loans. Best of all, she loves her grandparents so much she cooks them a “special” dinner to show her gratitude and tells them not to bring anything.

Your granddaughter  sounds like a real success, one that would make most grandparents very proud. Instead you’re having trouble with her food choices, suggesting this hard working young woman is disrespectful because she didn’t serve what you always want. Sorry, but I just don’t follow.

Granted, I think when hosting a dinner, it is helpful to ask guests ahead of time if they have any food allergies or preferences. But to expect her to completely disregard her own beliefs in healthy eating simply because her grandparents don’t have much experience with vegetarianism seems a bit unreasonable. (It doesn’t sound like you accommodated her food preferences for all of the years she ate at your house.)

As for having “a little meat” on the table, perhaps you don’t realize that many vegetarians can’t tolerate the odors meat produce when they are cooked. Providing meat for you two may have left a lingering smell in her apartment.

I am more inclined to think your granddaughter wanted you to truly experience who she is. It sounds like she went to great lengths to serve you healthy food.

Disrespectful? No, I actually think this dinner may represent just the opposite. Your granddaughter’s menu may be the ultimate compliment. It seems to reflect a belief that her grandparents are open and flexible enough to try a vastly different foods from those they regularly eat.

I certainly hope she invites you back sometime for another “fun” evening, even if it means you have to try foods that you aren’t familiar with.

***

To B.P. who scolded me in a lengthly letter after reading my column, “We’re off to see the Wizard” posted here on August 1, 2018. Unlike your younger sister, I do not believe “having fun” is the only way to cope with grief. Please read my column “Grappling with Loss”  — published 7/9/18, in the Times Standard newspaper. (Eureka, CA.) It addresses much of what you felt I had missed in that subsequent column. It sounds like you have had your own share of pain. I’m very sorry for that.

***

Smart phone

Smartphone not a smart birthday gift for ten year old

Tracey Ask Tracey, Columns, Tracey's Blog

Dear Tracey,

I know it’s usually my younger generation that gets accused of being addicted to our electronic devices but in my family it’s my dad who has the biggest problem with them.

That’s okay, I don’t have to live with him, except now he wants to give our son a smart-phone for his tenth birthday. My husband and I are strongly against it but my dad just doesn’t relate to our concerns. (We love our son but the kid can’t remember to feed his fish or put his bike in the garage at night. Besides, we’re not ready to have him exposed to social media.)

But no matter what we say, I have the feeling that when my son is opening his presents, that phone will be there. How do I get Grandpa to see that a ten year old isn’t ready for a smartphone? And what do we do if he goes against our wishes and gives one to our son anyhow?

Signed,

Frustrated Daughter

Dear Reader,

It’s tough whenever a grandparent refuses to respect what parents want for their children, especially when it comes to critical issues regarding healthy development and maturity.

I think your dad is really overstepping the bounds on this. It’s up to you and your husband to determine how you will raise your children, not him.

That said, before you tackle this topic again with your father, make sure you two have clear reasons about why you don’t think your son is ready for this gift.

NPR published some guidelines on this topic that may be helpful: 

“Many agree that there’s no magic age to give a kid a smartphone. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused kids and technology, says that rather than considering the age of a child, focus on maturity. Some questions to consider are:

  1. Are they responsible for their belongings?
  2. Will they follow the rules around phone use?
  3. Would having easy access to friends benefit the for social reasons?
  4. Do kids need to be in touch for safety reasons? If so, will an old fashioned flip phone …do the trick”

From the little you have said, your son doesn’t sound mature enough to handle a smartphone. If you agree, try explaining your logic, along with concrete examples of this, to your dad one last time.

If he still refuses to honor your wishes, take deep breath and tell him that if a smartphone arrives on your son’s birthday, it will go on the shelf until you and your husband feel your boy is mature enough for it. Make sure your dad knows that you will also be telling your son the same thing.

Make sure your son knows what may happen and be prepared for a less-than-enthusiastic reaction. This may be a tough life lesson for him. (What kid doesn’t want fancy, high tech devices these days?) I would be surprised if you end up temporarily feeling like the bad guys. But your son will survive and be better because of your parenting.

Stand firm with your dad. Remember, it doesn’t matter what he wants. The only issue here is your task of raising a responsible, well-rounded child.

***

Local folks – a reminder! Applications for my new PBS North Coast show What’s on Your Bucket List? are now being accepted. For information and to apply, email <pbsncbucketlist@gmail.com>  write to: PBS North Coast, PO Box 13, Eureka, CA 95502 or leave a message on my work phone, (707) 845-8348. (Please state your name and mailing address clearly and slowly. Thanks.) Hope you’ll join me for a fun adventure right here in Humboldt County!

We’re off to see the Wizard!

Tracey Tracey's Blog

Like many of you, I watched the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz” when I was a little girl. I have vivid memories of this colorful, captivating story. I wanted to be friends with the sweet and bewildered young Dorothy. Her endearing Yellow Brick Road travel companions, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion were enchanting. Granted, the flying monkeys made me bury my head under my arm, but the kind and caring Glinda, the good witch, made everything all right again.

Because of these rich memories, I auditioned for Humboldt Light Opera Company’s summer production of “The Wizard of Oz.” It may be a bit of typecasting, but this six-foot-tall woman is happily playing a tree in this lively, charming production. Among other things, I get to sing back-up for the Tin Man. What a hoot! (More typecasting? My sweet husband plays Dorothy’s Uncle Henry.)

However, given our recent past, neither one of us could imagine meeting the demands of a show like this. We were (and still are) slogging through grief from the loss of beloved family members.

 From personal experience, we knew that a show of this magnitude takes energy, concentration and a real commitment. The success of HLOC, which celebrates its 45th anniversary with this production, is the result of the hard work of many volunteers. Cast, crew and orchestra members put in incredibly long hours to take a show from thought to opening night and Oz is no different.

After considering our many positive experiences with HLOC, while acutely aware that our hearts were functioning at half speed, we decided to go ahead with the production. We trusted Oz would end up being something that made us feel better. And it is.

Last night’s rehearsal was a perfect example. I’d been in funk for most of the day, but I dragged myself to rehearsal. Once I stepped inside, I could hear our Munchkins singing their hearts out. I peeked in the window and saw these delightful little pips dancing away. I immediately felt lighter.

I was then pulled into a different room to try on the beautiful concoction I’ll be wearing in the Emerald City scene. Sneaking a peak in the mirror, I chuckled over my luscious, flamboyant ensemble and my mood took another step in the right direction.

While my sleeves were pinned, I enjoyed our amazing teenage girls as they slipped into their equally dazzling costumes. (Trust me, the visual extravaganza of Emerald City will be a feast for your eyes!) We have such a talented bunch of kids in this production. From the cutest little Munchkin to two of our remarkable leads, Hannah Davis (Dorothy) and Ty Vizener (Scarecrow), I appreciate these very likable young people. Alongside their boomer and senior cast members, we are all working hard to fulfill our performance and production responsibilities.

Next was our musical rehearsal, which ended up delivering the final piece of my good mood. Singing just does that for me, especially when I’m surrounded by friendly, collaborative people who have one goal in mind, to bring the very best possible Wizard of Oz to Humboldt County audiences.

And that’s where you come in. Won’t you join us for this lively, iconic show? You’ll be swept away by the pure magic and visual splendor of this production. And if my experience is worth anything, I’m willing to bet your mood will be pretty bright by the final curtain!

A special note for grandparents — this is an especially grandchild-friendly production. “The Wizard of Oz” offers a cast of delightful characters, memorable music, endless action, all brought alive through colorful sets and costumes. Why not make it a family affair? There will be three matinees at 2 p.m. on Sundays, Aug. 5, 12 and 19. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. (Oz runs at the HSU Van Duzer Theater.)

Tickets range from $13 to $19 with a $1 discount for children and seniors. To purchase tickets, go to www.hloc.org, call 707-630-5013 or drop by HLOC’s ticket office at 92 Sunny Brae Center, Arcata. (Open Monday through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

OLLI Madaket tour group

My new PBS show is in production: What’s on Your Bucket List?

Tracey Columns, Featured

I’ve always been a believer in the value of doing things that were interesting, maybe even amazing, and usually quite fun. Even if the particular activity made my palms sweat and my knees knock, the end result typically included great feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Sure, I’ve had to adapt this approach with my advancing years but so far, age hasn’t prevented me from trying new things. Which is why I’m happy to invite you to join me on my latest “new thing” — PBS/North Coast’s program, What’s on Your Bucket List?

That’s right, those wonderful folks at KEET (Eureka, CA) have given my idea for this new show the green light! Production on What’s on Your Bucket List? has officially begun. (The program will air in 2019.)

Now, here’s where you come in. We are currently looking for twelve lucky people to join me. Together we will check off something of your Bucket List right here in Humboldt County.

Each episode of ‘What’s on Your Bucket List?’ will highlight the experiences of two local residents as we explore some thing or some place in Humboldt County that has always intrigued you. Whether it’s trying a unique activity, learning a new skill, or interacting with a particular group of people you’ve never met before, you’ll give something new a shot, feel a sense of accomplishment, and best of all, have fun.

Now, if your reaction is a huge “no way” I ask you to consider a few things because life is for living, right? 

Regretfully, I’ve noticed people may respond to the aging process by narrowing their vision, questioning their abilities, and ultimately withdrawing further into themselves. They begin to believe the many negative stereotypes of older people, often buying into the myth that opportunities to explore and experience new activities are limited or even impossible.

Realistically, age can also hamper our activities because of  financial and/or physical limitations. These situations only compound an individual’s belief that he/sh cannot explore the world around them.

It’s time to toss those thoughts out of the window! What’s on Your Bucket List? will give you the opportunity to be fully supported  — remember, I’m tagging along on each activity —  as you finally experience something you’ve always wanted to try!

The possibilities are endless. Maybe it’s finally time to cruise Humboldt Bay on the Madaket or perhaps instead, you’ve wondered what it would be like to get a little closer to this body of water by trying out a kayak?

Have you ever wanted to tour the redwoods on horseback? Or is your secret dream simply being pampered at a spa? Any interest in trying your hand at black smithing? How about tap dancing? Maybe you’d love a backstage tour of a television station or theatrical production? How about a cooking lesson from a local chef or baker? Does it sound like fun to throw out the first pitch at a Crabs game?

In other words, you name it and we’ll try to make it happen! There are so many amazing activities available to us here on the north coast. Why not join me for this unique experience?

Requirements? You have to be at least sixty and willing to have some fun!  We also encourage you to have one of your children and/or grandkids join us. Finally, please note that we will work hard to accommodate any physical conditions you have that may limit your options.

If interested, and I hope you are, request an application by emailing <pbsncbucketlist@gmail.com>, writing to: PBS North Coast, PO Box 13, Eureka, CA 95502 or by leaving a message on my work phone, (707) 845-8348. (Please state your name and mailing address clearly and slowly. Thanks.)

I believe this will be a fun project for all of us. Let’s explore our own backyard together. Come on … what’s on your bucket list?

Heart

Mom must move … but where to?

Tracey Ask Tracey, Columns

Dear Tracey,

 I have a terrible situation. My mother is 84 and housebound. A woman comes in three times a week for basic care. I do everything else. (I’m divorced and retired, living on a fixed income.) She gets Social Security and a small pension. We’ve been living like this for the last ten years. The problem? My mother has run through all of her savings. She’s been doing her own money forever and led me to believe she had enough to get by. I feel so stupid that I didn’t check into her finances years ago.

She’ll sell her house. It’s all paid for, so that’s good. But she says the only solution is to move in with me and that’s a big problem for me. We’ve never gotten along very well. She’s controlling, demanding, hard to please and critical. I already feel the strain of taking care of her. We can’t possibly live together. Bless my younger sister.

She knows how things are and wants Mom move in with her. Mom absolutely refused. She said she won’t leave her hometown and then laid on the guilt, asking me how could I make her move far away and leave behind everything she knows?

How do I get her to accept that she has to move in with my sister? I know my mother, she’ll never go for it. Or maybe you think I should be a good daughter and have her move in with me?

— Signed, Desperate Daughter.

Dear Reader,

In spite of how dire all of this may feel to you, let’s begin with the positives. Two things in this situation are hopeful: 1) Your mother has a significant asset she can sell and, 2) she has a place to live. 

Now, for the regrettable negatives, starting with the difficult relationship you two have. I’m sorry about this. Sadly, from your description of your mother, would it be safe for me to assume she’s also a bit stubborn? All of these are difficult to interact with, especially under these circumstances. Yet, you’ve managed to care for her for the last ten years.

Don’t worry about being a good daughter, you already are. I think it’s time you consider what is best for yourself. Clearly, that means having your mother move in with your sister. This is an appropriate goal.

With this perspective in mind, please drop any expectations that your mother will accept this move. Quite honestly, given her personality, she probably can’t. This decision flies in the face of everything that defines her. Accepting it would violate her basic belief system and trust me, most people will do anything in their power to hang onto their beliefs!

Your sister has made a wonderful, and quite practical, offer. It makes the most sense for two out of the three people in question. I recognize why your mother wants to stay put. This move will be difficult for her, especially at 84. I am sorry for this. Perhaps if you two had been able to work out a healthier relationship years ago, it wouldn’t have to be this way.

It’s going to take a few months to complete this move, so fortify yourself for the long haul. Begin with a conversation with your mother about why this move makes the best sense for all of you. Acknowledge the differences between the two of you and explain why living together would be difficult for both of you. Stress that her other daughter has made a wonderful offer. Let your mother know that this decision is non-negotiable.

Respectfully listen to her responses and reactions but don’t argue. She may try all kinds of tactics to get you to change your mind. Stay calm, loving and firm. When your mother brings this up, listen, acknowledge her feelings and move on to something else. Be consistent and hopefully, over time she will gradually accept what has to happen here.

And if she doesn’t? Remind yourself that you are not a bad daughter any more that she is a bad mother. Sometimes parents and children simply do not get along with one another.

Best of luck and let me know how it goes for you.