Currently living/working: I took a leave of absence from my job … Wait, who am I kidding? I’m a freelancer who makes her own schedule. For the foreseeable future, I’m an unpaid—but much appreciated—caregiver to my mom in NJ. It’s what I dubbed as my limbo life. Meanwhile, Justin is battling the dregs of winter in AK, writing about gear and keeping himself healthy while his primary caregiver is tending to a different patient.
Current mood: I have a long blog post brewing to dive into my incredibly complex feelings about being suspended in uncertainty as a caregiver to my mom, although it remains to be seen if I want to get that vulnerable … In a nutshell, my sister and I are clumsily fumbling through my mom’s end of life care and it is HARD. I probably should be seeing a therapist through this challenging period, but the idea of that feels exhausting.
Current confession: My sister & I were convinced my mom was dying in mid December because of an exacerbation in her emphysema. Sometimes I fixate on things too much, and those thoughts spin uncontrollably in my head and drag me down like an anchor. Even though my mom is on hospice, she still has many days of spring awakening where she seems anything but dying. This has been a lesson in taking it one day at a time because the things you worry about beforehand are usually the things that end up not being a problem.
Current guilty pleasure: Days with no built-in routine require some structure, and the weather wasn’t cooperating too well for my daily walks among the trees, so I joined a gym.
Currently thankful for: I have found a few healthy outlets for my delicate mental health. I take various fitness classes to release endorphins, I get together with friends so I can laugh, and I write to process my emotions.
Currently amazed by: From what I’ve heard, Denali’s winter has been low-key dysfunctional—on the warm side with little snow. This month, Alaska reminded everyone that it’s still Alaska. My fancy weather station doesn’t go lower than -40, but Justin said it did get as low as -44 at the cabin. I have to say, I’m not mad for missing out, especially since I now feel 20 degrees is cold …
Currently worried about: Will I return to latitude 63 anytime soon? Doubtful.
Currently excited for: Justin is coming to NJ for a visit in February!!!
Currently proud of: We (mostly Justin) worked very hard over the years to properly insulate our well house. We went through several heaters, sensors, fan positions, updated electrical load and insulating experiments (like when Justin crawled under the shed to add insulation). The goal was to make sure our well wouldn’t freeze up and our pantry full of food and paint wouldn’t explode since we had the shed built in 2020. After many days of outside temps dropping into the -40 range, I’m happy to report the inside temp of the well house has not dropped below freezing.
Currently not excited for: Anyone want to buy this dream piece of property for us in Healy? If not, a corporation will likely buy it and add to development on Otto Lake.
Currently reading: Well, if there is any silver lining to being housebound as a caretaker … room for expanded time. All that reading I wanted to do? CHECK.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande was the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in awhile, & I recommend that everyone read it. And yes, it’s about dying, but better yet, dying with dignity. My first accolade is that it’s refreshing to read a doctor’s admittance to not serving the aging well. Death has become a feared, uncomfortable & unwelcome infringement on life. Since we live in a medicalized society, most doctors’ goals are to fix an aging body that is not meant to be fixed. Maybe it was more relevant for me since my mom is in failing health and at the end of her life, but basically, if you plan to get old, you should read this.
I was looking for clues in Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying, but didn’t find any. Proves the point that everyone is unique in their dying, and no one really knows but the big guy upstairs. Still a worthwhile read of short anecdotes from hospice nurses if you are in the unfortunate position of being with someone at the end of their life.
I loved Heather’s writing in Of Bears and Ballots, but If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name just didn’t strike the same cord. It certainly was interesting to get more background about how Heather landed in Haines AK with her husband and about the people of Haines in a voyeuristic manner, but it just read in a jumbled manner that didn’t piece together into a full puzzle for me. I’m already reading her 3rd book, so TBD on my conclusions.
A Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou is my 4th book I’ve ready by Seth Kantner, and he is probably my favorite Alaskan author. He never writes sequentially, which sometimes is hard for my brain to follow. But his individual plot pieces are so captivating, it doesn’t really matter. He often writes about Inupiat, Alaska’s indigenous people of the northern region, where he grew up. This book was focused on the seasons of the caribou life, and their importance to Alaska Natives for subsistence living. To most people on this Earth, caribou don’t matter, but they have become a political animal with the ongoing threats to open Alaska public lands to more oil drilling, as well as the climate and cultural change. Through the pages of Seth’s book, messaging was insightful and important.
Currently watching on Netflix/Peacock/HBO Max/Starz/AMC: With all the TV my mom watches, I feel like I have bricks for brains.