Caring for a parent, family caregiver, Self-care

Sittin’ By the Dock of the Bay

Today is the last day of my vacation (if I don’t count the next two days with Elliot, which I do!). I have walked (with Gracie the Dog), read, written, knit, watched the new episodes of my favorite TV shows, done yoga, played many games of indoor “soccer” (with the Amazing Gracie), and Slime Ball (you don’t want to know), chopped wood, slept, not cooked, done a New Year tarot spread, watched the sun set over the Olympics and the cargo ships float by on Puget Sound, sat by the fire, soaked in the hot tub under the stars, and slept.


On the home front, while I’ve been away: downtown flooded; Mama ramped up her talk of looking for a new paid caregiver; a squirrel got in a transformer box, or something, at the house and knocked out the power and the phone; and the freezer door was left unlatched for an undetermined number of hours, which is tantamount to Fort Knox being plundered with the potential loss of Mama’s soup supply and my precious leftover refried beans, homemade risotto, and chicken pie filling. Rebecca has been the Calvary this week. She’s leaving for the East coast the day after I return. She has earned it. But, the pièce de résistance: Dan the Handyman returned from his winter in California! He was homesick. Happy days are here again.


I have also been thinking about my word for 2015. As I have said, I wondered if I needed to repeat last year’s word (kindness) because I came nowhere close to embodying it. Then I was trying to do tree pose in yoga one Wednesday, and my balance was dreadfully off. I started thinking about balance as my word. I tried it on for several days, and confess, I wasn’t really into it. I was trying too hard to make it work. (I have, however, been standing in tree pose every morning while my tea water heats, and it’s a good way to start the day.) Then the friend that introduced me to “One Little Word” three years ago, posted her word for the year. She spent weeks searching for a word, and thinking about this one, and I’m going to swoop right in and reap the benefit of her work.


Not, she says, “mindfulness.” She’s not sure yet why it feels different, it just does. I agree.

Mindful that the words coming out of my mouth are kind.

Mindful of what I put into my mouth (and therefore my body).

Mindful that I’m making sure there is emotional balance in my life.

Mindful that I am practicing physical balance. (Did you know that being out of balance is an indicator of dementia? I wonder if practicing balance will prevent it. Probably not, but it can’t hurt.)

And then there are the ways to practice being mindful Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen Buddhist priest, puts forth in her blog, Cheerio Road:

6 steps to a mindful argument (I can sure use this in conversations with the cognitively diminished, and it will lead to kindness):
1. Stop talking
. 2. Inhale
. 3. Exhale. 
4. Listen. 
5. Smile
. 6. Repeat as needed.

10 tips for mindful writing:
1. Read more 2. Think less. 3. Practice. 4. Have no goal. 5. Use a net. (A butterfly net. Words and phrases will alight in their own time and place, and not always on a keyboard. Keep a pen handy.) 6. Write for yourself. 7. Know the reader (I am my reader). 8. Don’t know the reader. 9. Do not confuse talking for writing. 10. Go back to it (stop writing writing tips and write).

And my favorite. Rules for a mindful garden, because life is a garden and we are the gardeners:
Be kind. Don’t throw rocks. No running. Pay attention.

It’s a big word. I think it about covers everything I want to be.

I have a few more hours with Gracie, sittin’ by the dock of the bay.


I think I will not be seeing the mountains again, and perhaps not the water either—maybe not even when I’m on it in the ferry before dawn tomorrow—it seems sure to be foggy. Then two days with the world’s greatest almost-one-year-old grandson, and back home. There I will put my mindfulness to work and try again to figure out how to improve the joy factor in my mother’s living. And forgive myself when I fall short.

Patti Digh says: “there are two kinds of problems: Figure-out-able and Not-figure-out-able. Let go of the latter, since you can’t figure them out anyway. That will free up some time in this coming year.” I’m going to be mindful of that, too.


8 thoughts on “Sittin’ By the Dock of the Bay”

  1. I am taking it on…thank you enormously for the personal, straight-from-the-mountains encouragement! For me, it’s moving from reaction to action, mindful action!


  2. Hi Gretchen and thanks so much for sharing your journey with such tenderness. I greatly admire your willingness to live with your mother and try to find ways to fill the end of her life with joy. Please be gentle with yourself – at some level her soul knows of your intentions, even if her mind and heart do not. And thanks for taking such great care of my friend Gracie – I know she appreciates all of those indoor soccer games and slime ball (I know it well). Safe travels back home. Jude


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