Letting It Go

So my little cousin tells me I have RBF. I had to have that explained to me, but now that I know what it is she may be right.  I get it from my father. I always looked at him and thought “stoic”. He was a rock. He was my rock. However, it’s not always good to be the rock.

There’s a Frozen song that my daughters love, “don’t let them in don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” The key to this song is in the title, “Let It Go”. It’s not bury it. It’s not ignore it. When she did those things it just made it worse for her. It’s when she accepted how she was feeling (good or bad) that she was able to have some real control over it.

Let. It. Go.

More so than any other time in my life I’ve been focusing on a better me.  I want to be the best version for my daughters and my grandfather, because that is what they deserve.  The last two years have just REALLY made me confront the fact that life can be just a flicker and the real impact we can have on not just our lives, but others.  Worrying, overthinking, trying to rationalize actions of other people…that is just stealing my time to be the best version of me and live my best life for those I love. Worrying won’t help anyone or anything.  Planning for A, B, and C is helpful…but I have to remember to stop at a certain point and not plan for D-Z.  That’s overkill (and a waste of energy at a time when I need all my energy).  And the one that has really helped me this year? Try not to rationalize the actions of other people.

My grandfather used to tell me there are three sides to every story: our story, their story, and the truth.  I didn’t really get that when I was younger, but I remember the first time it clicked. I was arguing with someone over something mundane like the color of a shirt. I was 110% sure it was red, they were 110% sure it was orange, and then it ended up being pink or something. I just remember being dumbfounded. I mean I was SURE it was red. I guess the point of the story is, to err is human. So I do find myself trying to rationalize why people do things that just seem so ridiculous/mean/detrimental (you get the picture). The fact is…you just can’t.  There are so many possible variables at work that make people who they are and what they think – genetics, experiences, beliefs, goals, fears, dreams, education, love, hate, anger (emotions in general), etc. You can’t rationalize someone else’s reactions/motivations based on your baseline. If you don’t know the information, it’s a waste of time trying to “solve for x”. You’re just not going to get an accurate answer, even if you’re just “sure” you know.

In the last four weeks I’ve been in the hospital, my grandfather was in the hospital, my daughter was in the hospital, and I’m currently sitting in a hospital room for stay #2 with my grandfather. Life is so precious and fragile that this month has helped me be a better me. It’s helped me prioritize and make some “limbo decisions” I was just (for lack of a better word) scared to make. Reminded me to be cognizant of when I have RBF and someone else is in the room, so I can crack a smile or say a nice word because life is wondrously full of butterfly effects. Finally weeding out “toxic” people from my life that, although I would love to help, they don’t know even know they have a problem. Plus, I’ve cut my planning down to “Best case and worst case” instead of 1,000 what-if scenarios.

Life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. I’m fully aware of what a Work-In-Progress I am. However, your life is what you make it and how you react to it. I’m letting the past go and moving forward on making our lives better – for all of us. Baby steps get you to the finish line; never starting does not.

 

 

Comfort Bubble?

It’s New Year’s Eve and I haven’t really slept in a couple of days. My head is whirling like a tornado trapped inside a box. My life is comfortable, but it doesn’t make me happy anymore.

I used to love my job, but after four years of being passed over for promotions I find it hard to do the work to the level I know I can anymore. I used to jump out of bed and now it’s a chore just to get going and get there.

I used to be thankful, grateful even, that I had my exes family in my daughters life even if I didn’t have the “father figure”. However, I’m tired of the littles being muted, uninvited, or left out because no one wants to upset him, his new wife, or new life.

I used to love my house, but now it’s just unpractical. Half the house  is on the second story that my grandfather can’t reach and the walk-in shower downstairs is so small he can’t really use it.

I was so excited to pay off my car this year, but it’s not very practical now either. With my grandfather and I in the front, three kids in back, and wheel chair in the hatch we have zero room for anything else.

First world problems, right?  Part of me is so grateful for all the good things: my little family, health, home, food, a car, a job. I should feel blessed and content. I know this. Deep down I know this.

So why does all the above weigh on me so heavily I can’t sleep?

I know I need to make changes; I can feel that nagging sensation deep down in my stomach. I think things could be better than they are now for my family. It’s just…what if they’re not? What if I disrupt this world I created and things are “less than now”? Or am I just stuck in the dreaded comfort bubble that keeps so many of us from true happiness?  The hard part about now is every decision I make changes not just my life, but the four lives that I care most about. Four. The ripple effects I can cause with uprooting and changing five lives. Unfathomable.

So here’s to a new year with 365 days of opportunities and choices. Here’s to hoping the ripple effects we cause are the right ones and to growing stronger from the injustices done to us so we can become the light for those that need us.

“You can take the sourest lemon life has to offer and still make something resembling lemonade.”

Happy 2019 — may it be a worthy year.

“Caregiver” Redefined

I’ve thought of myself as a caregiver for years now.  I give lots of care to three beautiful, smart little girls. However, I realize now that parenting and caregiving are separate realms.  All the love and devotion I invest in my children I get back threefold. That’s just standard for a normal parent.  Your kids will always (at least at their young ages) run to see you with open arms yelling “mommy” with big, wide smiles and eyes glimmering like they’re lit from the inside…and all feels right with the world.

Caregiving for a loved one (especially one whom has dementia/regressing mental function) isn’t like that.

My grandfather has always been my patriarch and idol.  I don’t know how many evenings I sat listening and soaking up his advice and wisdom in my youth.  His words hovering in the back of my mind over so many decisions in my life. He was always there during difficult times assuredly telling me to “suck it up”, make a plan, and move forward. He’s always been a rock I could lean on reminding me that “life is good” (a normal end to most conversations) and to focus on the blessings.

On bad days now he doesn’t recognize me, but knows he should know me. On the worst days he doesn’t remember my father, hence my existence is wiped away as well.  On bad days he wakes up throughout the night confused, on the worst days he “wakes up” but is still in his dream-state and is riddled with anxiety/fear with no knowledge of reality.  His bathing and toiletry are no picnic for me, but I know that I must go into it laughing and smiling or my alpha male’s morose and apologetic attitude due to his need for assistance can quickly turn to a depressed state. His frailty may worry me, but it makes him disconsolate.  He feels as if is body is his foe not allowing him to do even the little daily tasks so many of us take for granted.

My two year old believes they are best friends, as if they share some unseen connection, and is always at his side. At a doctors office recently my grandfather says “J, be quiet already”, she just looks at him and says “No Papa” and starts laughing uncontrollably and she crawls up on his lap. Then he starts laughing uncontrollably, then I am, and the nurse joins in too. These good moments are unforgettable.

On his best days he’s still giving orders, asking questions, and making demands like the Plant Manager he was most of his life. We have coffee every morning and dinner together every night and chat about family, news, weather, finances, and everything in between.  Our conversations aren’t as deep or as filled with wisdom like those we had when we were both younger, but his good days still outnumber his bad days and I relish the time we have together after so many years living hours apart.

Starting this journey I didn’t know the heartache I’d experience when someone you love doesn’t recognize you, the pain it would cause me to feel his self-consciousness at needing help, or the frustration and many obstacles of dementia.  I didn’t realize the full-context of a caregiver nor the simple lessons I’d learn.

I’m happier (although more exhausted) than I have ever been.

My grandfather is teaching my little family to take things in stride, how to more fully appreciate simple things, and how to just live in the present. My life had been so much about the plan, the budget, things to get done, my career, etc. (all still important), but it’s just as paramount to focus on the day and not lose the moment.  Balance.

Thank you Grandpa. Life is good.

gpa and j

 

 

Update – Added to Our Household

Becoming a caregiver.

I’ve been out of touch for a while. My apologies. I’ve added a chapter to my story and I believe it’s an important one to share more frequently so you’ll be hearing more from our tribe.

My father was the full-time caregiver for my grandfather (his father).  After he passed and much deliberation, my grandfather decided he wanted me to take care of his affairs.  This was a huge task because my hands are quite full with my own nuclear family.  However, in the end it was what he was most comfortable with and made the most sense because his affairs were so closely entwined with my fathers and I was trying to close out his estate/businesses (still haven’t completed this almost two years later).  It’s amazing the work left behind from death.

Fast forward a year (and hopefully that explains my absence as well) and my grandfather was showing severe signs of dementia.  This summer, after many family and close family friends had multiple discussions, it was decided my grandfather would move to Texas and reside with me. My once 6’2″ alpha male grandfather was a mere 150 lbs and completely fragile when he arrived.

The last four months my three girls and I have been adjusting to life as caregivers.  When I initially made up my mind to do this I thought it would be like adding a child to the household. We’ve done that before…nothing out of the ordinary for us. Oh, how wrong I was!  However, it reminded me of something I say to expectant mothers, “you’ll never have a job so hard, but so rewarding”.  Becoming a Caregiver for a loved one is the same.

grandpa

The ONE thing I’m sure of in this adventure is that it was the right decision (despite the multitude of days I’ve collapsed with exhaustion on the bed thinking this is impossible).

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May you focus on all the ways you’re blessed and forget all the reasons you should be stressed.

Emergency Fund as a Roth?

I’ve read so much literature on why you shouldn’t use your Roth as an emergency fund account.  However, I want to delve into why I do.  First of all, I do have anywhere from $250-500 in my regular savings account that easily transfers to my checking for any day-to-day “emergencies” (e.g. new brakes, plumber, etc).  I have an automatic contribution of $50 from my paycheck biweekly that goes to this savings account so I don’t have to even think about it. Generally about the time my savings is above $700 I deposit $500+ into my Roth accounts.

Let me tell you why I do it this way.  I do understand that I can only deposit $5,500/ year and once I take out my contributions to this account I cannot “catch up” so to speak. However, for me as a single mom just having a Roth is a luxury.  Plus, my savings account gets basically no interest (0.03%), but if I put it in my Roth I am generally making about an average 7-9% return.

So my money is doing double duty by saving for retirement and providing major emergency relief, if needed. Once you put money inside of a Roth IRA, it can be invested in a wide range of options such as stocks, bonds, bond funds, money markets, or mutual funds. Depending on your risk tolerance and desired returns, investments ranges can be selected from varying degrees of mixed portfolio. While the Roth IRA might not provide the instant liquidity of a savings or checking account, it can still provide access to funds within a few days.

This summer I did have to withdraw from my Roth when my A/C went out and needed replaced.  Tax rules allow us to withdraw contributions tax-free at any time (just don’t touch investment gains until retirement or you’ll be hit with taxes and penalties).  So by the time the A/C man was available to install the money was already transferred into my checking account and I didn’t need to put anything onto my credit cards.  I look at this differently than some people because I’m not using my Roth as an Emergency Fund, I’m making my Emergency Fund a Roth.  If no major repairs come up then that money is staying put for retirement and I’ll be able to pull out the earnings tax free when I’m over 59 ½.  However, in the event something drastic happens I do have it there and it helps me sleep better at night knowing that it’s there.

Let me be clear that I will NEVER touch the earnings on the Roth either.  I only have withdrawn the contributions and only as-needed.  I don’t dip into Roth for vacations or other nonessentials because I can’t simply “return” the money later. Any money put back into a Roth is considered part of the allowed contribution for that particular year.  For example, if you’re allowed to contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth and you withdrew $1,000 for plane tickets in January, you can’t put in $6,500 ($5,500 + the $1,000) when you get your December work bonus. You can only contribute $5,500 total/year regardless of how much you took out and that’s it.

I personally use both Betterment and WealthSimple for Roth accounts (I like to diversify).  If you’d like to test them out here’s a link to get 90 days free through Betterment  and this link for WealthSimple gets you $15,000 managed free for one year. Currently, my Annualized Earnings for my Betterment account are 9.8% (I’ve had it for two years now) and for WealthSimple are at 3.8% (I just opened it in April). I have really liked Betterment, but I’ll write more on WealthSimple after I’ve had the account at least a year.

Do you have a Roth account?  If so, who do you use and why do you like them?

Easter Weekend

We spent Easter weekend visiting my grandfather’s ranch.  Honestly, it wasn’t in my budget.  However, I can’t imagine how he feels losing his youngest child and I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I can (even though we are several states apart).  It’s good for him, it’s good for me, and it has helped my daughters with their loss as well.  Sometimes….you just have to forget the budget and do what’s right in your heart.

KamillaGrandpa
Milla and her Papa D

We all know I’m a DIYer. It’s just how I am and what I do.  So I did some DIYing for my sweet grandfather.  It’s amazing what a little paint can do.

granddad porch before
The beginning of painting the deck on my “vacation”.

The deck was worn down by weather and three different colors of paint.  Plus, random natural boards that had been replaced….something had to be done. lol

granddad porch after
Ta Da — I love after pics

It’s not a lot, but I figure if I can fix one thing up every time I’m visiting it will make a difference.  I’ll never replace my father, however, the least I can do to honor him is make his father as comfortable as possible.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter holiday and were able to spend the time with family! Remember, family is not an important thing…it’s everything! Enjoy every moment.

Death in the Family

My apologies for taking a break from the blog.  Losing a loved one is still one of the hardest things to survive.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more than my fair share.  The passing of my father has hit me very hard.  It’s also made me go into overdrive on organizing my death as well.  It has also made me want to make people aware of some things that I honestly never knew much about until this.

  1. Power of Attorney (POA) expires upon death.  You cannot get into accounts, safe deposit boxes, etc unless your loved one has you as a joint owner or TOD (Transfer on Death) for these types of items.
  2. Have beneficiary’s listed for retirement accounts.  If you do not, it can go to the estate/probate to pay medical bills, etc.
  3. Put your property as a beneficiary deed or TOD. Do not just leave property via your Last Will and Testament only.  Many states do beneficiary deeds for property and TOD for vehicles, etc.  Check to see what states rules apply to you.
  4. Have a list of ALL of your accounts. All of them. From banking, electric, cable, life insurance, etc. If they have verbal or electronic user IDs and passwords have them as well.  Even if you just have this in your safe deposit box, it can save your family a lot of time and costs from certified copies of death certificates and jumping through hoops.  And if they can’t get it canceled or get it canceled quickly, it’s just added fees/costs taken from the estate.
  5. Mark things as sold/expired.  If you switched life insurance companies, keep the old document and mark “cancelled on…” and where you transferred to or if you didn’t transfer anywhere and were just cutting costs.  Trust me when your family is going through files and they find payments to Company A, then they go through a lot of time just to find out it was cancelled six months ago. Not fun. Very stressful.
  6. Be sure people know your plan. Not just end of life wishes, but post end of life wishes.  I have two people who have copies of my Will, my properties, and my preferences now.
  7. When you make a Healthcare POA please put a main person and a backup person.  If your main person is unable or has passed away you still have someone that can speak on your behalf and you don’t have to go through the expense nor hassle of drawing up new paperwork
  8. Be over prepared. Don’t assume anyone knows anything. I recently bought the Five Wishes book for $5.  Here’s a link to a sample. If you don’t know where to start it will help you.

I hope this helps at least one person out there.  I was unprepared for my fathers death in so many ways.  He just decided to retire and buy a home close to me so he could spend more time with his grandchildren.  Two weeks after we had a definitive plan he went into the hospital and 30 days later I was planning a funeral.  Life is short in more ways than we realize.  Take advantage of the time you have.  –SS