As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Monday, December 8, 2014

Walking In The Suburbs Is A Big Hoot

(transfer post)  Note:  Transferred from the "WordCrafter" blog, which has really been kind of a dumping ground while I transition a bunch of stuff from one site/blog to another.

The following post is a great, big, long, post about some of the challenges of walking in the suburbs, but mainly (in addition to the usual ones) doing so as I get back to "good-as-new" after a couple of "good sized" leg injuries (involving more than one ligament, among "whatever else").

For all its length, this post is incomplete; because there's a whole world of "issues" related to any number of things involved with walking in the kind of place I live, but then there are issues related to getting back successfully from the injuries, related to living with them, and issues related to finding ways to exercise when the weather (or some other factor) make walking outside impossible.

In any case, I'm posting what I spent some time writing the other day.  I'll figure out how to put all the "issues" together on some blog (or whatever).  I just have too many things I've written and then never posted anywhere.

So here it all is - in all its length and yet incomplete-ness::

For a person who has never walked with a cane I seem to have built up quite the collection of folding canes.  If you think my collection is made up of fine, artistic, antique, collector-item kind of canes it isn't.    It's made up of your basic, run-of-the-mill, affordably priced folding canes that can be found (as they say) wherever run-of-the-mill folding canes are sold.

Because none of these canes has been expensive (either because these things can run as low as ten or fifteen dollars anyway, or else because I wait until see particularly appealing ones at a particularly low price), it would not be, I suppose, the proverbial end of the world for anyone to buy one and later discover it had been something of a mistake in one way or another.

Still, as I've watched my own collection of folding canes grow, and as I've noticed that its rate of growth has increased as I've gotten closer and closer to not needing a cane at all (hopefully, ever - or at least not until I'm a hundred and five years old).  The short story of why my collection has only really grown as I've moved farther and farther past needing a cane at all is that when I had knee/ligament injuries that were serious enough to seriously limit the amount of time or distance I put on an injury, I either wasn't really able to use the leg for much walking at all, or else I'd reached a point where I needed more time/distance with walking in order to build up strength, but by that time I discovered a) that a cane didn't really take enough weight off the leg for my purpsoes or b) I'd progressed to the point where a cane only slowed me down (and with the injury still limiting the time it allowed me on it, I didn't need something that slowed me down and hindered the "actual moving forward" with exercising the muscles that needed to be stronger).

That was Lesson 2 for me when it came to cane use.  No, that "2" wasn't a typo.  Lesson 1 had been that my original choice of a hiking stick for when I walked a distance far enough to need to keep some of the weight off the injury, the walking stick that I'd planned to kind of "hang on" turned out to kind of/sort of be OK-ish but hurt my hand more than it helped with the leg's "issue".

Below is my not-very-fasincating (I'm the first to say) account of how my increasingly impressive collection of folding canes (and one hiking stick) came to be, along with some the things (all pretty minor) I've discovered or considered along the way.

The World Is Full Of All Kinds Of Canes/Walking Sticks For People With More Extreme/Limiting Needs (Permanent Or Temporary) Than I Had, But I Had My Own Complicating Factor - Suburban Streets With Either No Sidwalks, Occasional Sidwalks, And Even More "Occasional" Smooth Or Level Sidewalks

If you look online for canes you'll not only see every kind of cane in the book (more accurately, on the screen and maybe even in the world) there is, but all I wanted/needed was a simple cane (or so I thought) that might help me keep a little weight off the injury when I made (at first) the three-mile round-trip to the nearest convenience store; but ultimately, the six-mile round-trip the shopping center that has a regular grocery store.

The best way to describe where I live is that not all that long ago I'd call it a "semi-rural suburb", but these days it's far more developed town that has no "downtown" (where sidewalks are generally included).  Instead, it's got one main street that GPS devices call "a highway", and a few "back roads" (now busy steets with no businesses) where cars from one "genuine" highway or another, or from neighboring towns, drive (generally) above the 35 mph speed limit where there is one that low.  The rest of the town is, for the most part, a matter of housing developments built when woods were knocked down.  So, depending on the age of the street, some streets look more rural than others.  Some look more suburban than others.  Sidewalks are almost non-existent, although in more recent years builders have been putting sidewalks on one side of some streets (none of which do me any good).

What Hasn't Helped Me

What hasn't helped me is that twenty-two years ago when I was going through an extremely bizarrely handled (mishandled, as far as I'm concerned)) divorce, I was left to live in my car while also ordered by the court to pick up my children each afternoon and for all weekends (which meant that they were only without me after dinner on week-nights).  I was left without money to keep the car inspected, which eventually led to my not being able to renew my license (in Spring, 1993).  The original fees involved at the time, of course, added up; and later even when I had the "spare" several hundred
dollars needed to cover them I couldn't make myself hand over that much money to "The System", mainly because I'd been given so many run-arounds and strange or inconsistent (or non-existent) answers by "The System" that I was afraid if I handed over a good-sized chunk of money for the license yet some other other, bizarre, moving of some previously invisible goal-post would happen.  From time to time over the years I've tried to get some kind of answers or results about the license, but I don't have one.

Something else that hasn't helped me has been that there is only an extremely l limited bus service in the town, and the bus stops are farther than the nearest store anyway.  The town knows that, so there are (as I think of them) "weird little buses" that are available to, I guess, elderly people and/or disabled people.  I don't know how any of those work because when I first did the injury I wasn't.  While a few people mentioned buses available for some people who may qualify in one way or another, I didn't qualilfy (as far as I know).  Besides, people who had suggested I look into those "weird little buses" said "all you have to do is call them and tell them when you need a ride'.  My thing was that I was already trapped in the house except for those times when I either arranged a ride with a friend or was going out with a friend or family member; so I couldn't see being bothered even asking about those little buses.   Whenever someone has opened a taxi service in this "bedroom community" it has failed not long after.  While, I guess someone could call a taxi in from another town, but a trip out for, say, milk and bread is hardly worth whatever is involved with that "whole deal".

It's always just been easier for me to either walk to the convenience store or grocery store (for whatever I can either get at the convenience store or carry from the grocery store) and get "whatever else" when I'm with someone.  Why I'm mentioning all this is that less-than-smooth/effortless walking pretty much wasn't part of the picture even before I did the leg injury.  Also, since all but the feather-lightest of items in a grocery bag or handbag tend to add up; how much weight I'm lugging has always been a factor and a challenge.

Fortunately (but also unfortunately and in spite of the weather, terrain, and traffic-dependent walks involved) I've gotten to know every bad part of every stretch of walking area like the back of my hand. 

There was a time when the leg just let me know not to bother trying to leave the house if a car wasn't involved.    The street where I live (one of those quiet "housing development" I mentiond) I great for walking because cars only come by here or there.  At the time I'm referring to, however, I'd try to get some outside-the-house walking in and pretty much discover that I'd have to end the "walk"  only a house or two away from the end of my driveway.  Eventually, however, I could walk longer distances than that, but that's when I discovered that I didn't want to waste the limited time the leg gave me for being on it (even with only my own weight)  on walking on my own street and then still needing to walk to, say, the convenience store the next day.

Besides, at the time I had a kind of two-day cycle:  I'd walk outside one day, and do my laundry (which involves basement stairs) the next day - which meant that any outside walking efforts would be on the third day (time enough to get past any "new muscle issues" that had happened on the previous walking day).  As for laundry, by this time I'd developed a system that I won't go into; but somewhre along the way I progressed from only bringing downstairs super-light, small, loads to increasing the weight of the bag I had to bring downstairs.    All of this was when I started to think about the need for a cane ("or something"). 

Before this time I'd been relying on grocery store shopping carts to lighten the weight I was putting on the leg. In fact, inspired by the "wonderfulness" of shopping carts (which allowed me to walk fairly quickly and smoothly and pretty much feel like my normal self again), I decided to get one of those "old lady shopping carts" to use for both my shoulder bag and any other bags, and then to kind of lean on a little (not as much as the grocery store's big carriage, of course; but it did help just enough to get me from the house to the store).

By the second Fall (Autumn, not "fall as in oopsie!") following the injury I was finally, regularly, getting to at least the convenience store; which meant I could also get to the library, get out to take some foliage pictures (etc.), and find some place outside to do something (like get online or read) other than just concentrating on the next step the leg would have to make.

Winter 2010/2011) came.  Ice and snow got introduced into the mix (and even without any injury those streets can be one kind of nightmare or another once that happens).  My outdoor walking efforts pretty much ended (or close to it).  The matter of a cane wasn't a matter at all at that particular time.  In fact, it was the Fall of 2010 when, even though there was some recovering still to be done, I was happy to be able to wear dressy (and sparkly too!) high-heels to a special event.  All I needed to do was wait for good weather and think about when/whether I would be ready to attempt the walk to the shopping center and back, using that "old lady shopping cart" (either unfolded or folder) as support here or there.

The biggest challenge was really one spot on that "main drag" where there's a curve, two sets of guard-rails, sand underneath and in front of both of them, and some broken road and a storm drain underneath the other.  The road kind of slopes, and the drain-side guard-rail is the kind of thing that the person who slips or trips there could fall under it and end up "face down in a ditch" and on a whole lot of unpleasantness and maybe even some water - I don't know.  That's also a side of the road where the cars come around the curve fairly fast and close (some more than others) and aren't expecting to see a pedestrian.   It's all close and iffy enough without something like a shopping cart added to the mix. 

The other side of the road (and its guard-rail) present their own challenges.  Before the leg injury I used to decided if the traffic was slow enough for me to hurry past that stretch of guard-rail outside it.  Sometimes it was "nothing".  Sometimes, however, I didn't manage to correctgly estimate  how much time I had before, say, a truck came by closer to the guard-rail than I was comfortable with.  With the sand and occasional little rocks (or whatever) that are there, I didn't feel all that assured about combining hurrying AND sand; so unless the traffic was really, really, slow; I decided that I'd walk through a parking lot that's down "in a gully" and behind the guard-rail, and avoid that part of the curve altogether.  There was an incline involved with climbing up "from the gully" and getting back to street level, and I would often joke about how skilled I was at climbing "like Spiderman up a wall" (always watching out for rocks, sand, etc. and eventually getting to a narrow strip of "weed-stick growth" (sometimes cut, sometimes weedy and stringy, mixed withwhatever else has grown there) at the top of yet another incline.

Occasionally, someone cuts it down and reveals that incline isn't horribly steep, but it's there nonetheless.  So, between the "walking space" being on the narrow side anyway, and the fact that most people (but maybe especially I, with the "leg issue") would rather not find themselves rolling down even a modest hill (when all they really wanted was to get to the grocery store.

Most other terrain issues I could deal with, but this one was the one that meant I had to work my way up to being able not to just to walk that far, but to negotiate the shopping cart past that whole (as I've always thought of it) "muck of whatever".  Once the Winter passed I thought I'd try making the walk with the little cart and discovered that there was some new obstacle that meant I couldn't get past that part of the road without going on the side of it.  I just didn't feel stable on my feet enough to risk that other side of the road (particularly because one feels like one may be killed there under the best of circumstances and walking-est of legs.  That attempt resulted in going back and "doing the next thing" (which meant forgetting about even trying to get to the shopping center, in view of the new and apparently permanent obstacle).

The leg was obviously and consistently getting better, but there were still issues with strength and, to some degree, some types of stability.  Still, it was better enough that I thought getting rid of the little cart would let me figure a way to get to the shopping center.  At that point, I didn't need to lean on something in order to lighten the weight on the leg.  I pretty much just needed something that might help me deal with awkward climbing (and that included not just the tricky spots along the route, but things like particularly awkward or high curbs or stairs.  Any time I did ride with someone who drove something other than a sedan, I'd find getting into their vehicle challenging.

I've kind of lost track of exactly when it was I decided that a walking stick of some kind would probably be a good idea, and bcause I was kind of too close to an age that sounded a little too old for me not to have some vanity issues, I decided that a hiking stick would make me look and feel less like a permanent cane-user (which I knew by then that I just wasn't)  The thing was, however, that even though there's the sidewalk and general-terrain/traffic issue, I didn't want some big, thick, orange-handled, walking stick that looked like I'd just been dropped into the mountains (or something).  Pine trees and poor walking options aside, the fact is that where I live is about as suburban and residential as it gets.

So, I went to Amazon and found a nice, unobtrusive, black, folding, hiking stick (complete with "ice-pick tip" for ice, and some other tip for something else (I forget).  Since even unobtrusive hiking sticks aren't what one would generally see pedestrians with where I live, I did hope that anyone who noticed didn't think I'd brought it with me to fend off racoons (or even muggers); because a) I'm used to walking without fear of animals showing up, and b) it's not like I live in some high-mugging-rate section of a high-crime urban neighborhood.  I reminded myself that nobody would be paying attention to me walking down either of the two long streets involved.  Of course, that's only partially true because in a town like the one in which I live, while some people aren't going to be paying any attention, some - no doubt - do.  Let's not kid ourselves.

Yes, the hiking stick would be the answer to my problems (or so I thought), and for a few walks it actually did help some.  The trouble was that the way I was using it involved my essentially "hanging on it" .  That meant that after a few walks I discovered that I was putting too much weight on an old hand injury.  Since I'd come to rely so heavily on both my hands and arms for picking up the "liftiing-my-weight" slack, I knew I couldn't afford to risk injuring either.

At some point I just abandoned the hiking stick.  Actually, it had allowed me to do enough walking that I'd actually built up some more strength in the leg.  Somewhere around the time that I got the hiking stick I'd also bought a basic, black, folding cane (under ten dollars).  Also somewhere around that time was when I realized that the cane just slowed me down.  Apparently, the "cane ship" had sailed, I thought.  I ended up stashing the folded cane in my over-sized shoulder bag in case I ever needed it (or in case I moved the leg wrong and did something to cause it new or aggravated problems).  It turned out I never needed the "security cane".

Life went on, and I did make it to the shopping center at least once, maybe twice.  That "life-going-on" thing meant, of course, that another Fall and Winter came around (2011/2012).  I started to notice that the "good" leg was showing signs of getting sick of my relying so heavily on it.  That was because the "good" leg was a previously (years ago) twice-fractured one that had been spared arthritis only (I think) because I'd learned to favor it in a way that reduced wear and tear on the the kneecap.

It was the very end of November, 2012, when I made a sudden and awkward move that resulted in my injuring the "bad-leg-turned-good-leg".  That was when the "whopper-injury"/"old" leg had to start pulling a little more of its own weight - ready or not, and while it had certainly come a long, long, way; the fact was it wasn't entirely ready and did start letting me know it.

It all was, as they say, a fine how-do-you-do.

Fortunately, it was Winter (but then again, as far as I'm concerned, it's always kind of unfortunate that it's Winter).  By the time this "horror" went on I'd forgotten where I'd stored the black folding cane AND the hiking stick, so ordered myself a cane that I thought would go well with my Winter clothes - a bronze, folding, one with a "wood" Derby handle.

That's the one I actually did take with me (unfolded always) for use with getting up curbs I still didn't really need one to just support me under regular walking circumstances, because the "old" leg had become so much stronger by then, and the problem with the "new" one wasn't about supporting weight, really.  It was more about bending the knee and being careful not to put weight on it in "the wrong" way (which I knew how to do).

So, while never really using a cane for "just walking", I did, at that time, know that I'd have to keep one handy for quite some time to come.   That's when I decided I needed a "Spring" cane "in order not to look/feel downtrodden".  My plan was to still use the bronze one if that one went well enough with what I was wearing, but if I was wearing something more in keeping with Spring or Summer the "Spring" cane (white background/pale pink flowers, "wood" Derby handle) might just make me look, or at least feel, a little more uplifted.

Some time in the warmer months of 2013 I started making the walk to the convenience store again, and I did always bring a cane.  There are a few things with multi-ligament "issues", and one is that ever single little indent or sllightest un-level sidewalk (not to mention every acorn, handful of gravel, or whatever else) brings to mind a "Princess and Pea" kind of situation.  Even without ever trying to walk down the busier, main, street; pretty much every foot of the walk from the house to the store meant watching exactly where, and how, I was stepping.  The good thing about that was that by so carefully paying attention to how I stepped, and how I turned my feet, I was also essentially exercising muscles that would not have been exercised under normal walking conditions (namely, indoors or on a smooth and level sidewalk).  Over time, and always being careful, I began using the little "dents" in the sidewalk, areas where tree roots meant very awkward stepping, and anything else that made the walk imperfect, to practice negotiating the different ones, rather than just stepping around them.

Still not using the canes for walking, I always carried one with me not just for the rare, thick, curb or some of the tree-root areas; but because I kind of had a fear that I'd make some wrong move and find myself stranded a mile-and-a-half away from home with some new "horrible thing" that had happened as a result of a wrong move.

The thing with ligament injuries, too, is that adding a folded up aluminum cane to one's shoulder bag (which already has more weight than one or the other ligament would prefer) . This meant that what worked better for me was to keep the cane unfolded and handy, so I could carry it separate from the shoulder bag.  (Besides, having a folded cane seems like a good idea until after walking without it, one needs to suddenly unfold it in order to negotiate a curb and cross a main street.)  (Gee, if I'd known that I would have bought either the pale pink or pale lilac cane that didn't fold.  Live and learn.)

Over the months that I was pretty unstable on my feet, I did rely heavily on the bronze cane for getting myself into the basement with my laundry.  I also relied it (for a time) for getting in and out of the shower.

At this point in my story, here's some of the things I learned, as well as some concerns that arose:

Folding canes (as compared to some "telescoping" walking sticks) have "ligaments" of their own (elastics).  From what I noticed, both canes seemed to remain strong, but I wondered if (particularly with bringing one into the shower with me) either the elastic may eventually become compromised or just worn with time.  I also wondered about water bujild-up inside the cane (even though I tried to shake it out).

The other thing was, I wasn't using these canes "the standard way" (just for walking).  I was using them for some pretty extreme climbing situations sometimes, and kind of turning them into alternatives to handrails.  (For example, when climbing down from a high vehicle and using the inexpensive cane as the only "hand rail" I had.)

I kind of designated the bronze cane as the "indoor cane", which meant I mostly used it for the shower and as a "railing" when I brought laundry bags downstairs.  This meant that the bronze cane took quite a beating, not only with the water issue but with being dropped on th concrete basement floor.  (Again, live and learn when it comes to knowing where to lean your cane while you do your laundry.)

The "pretty" cane (the flower one) also took its own beating, because, for some reason, it seems even someone who isn't generally prone to dropping things can drop a lightweight cane surprisingly often (and outside, that means on concrete or blacktop, sometimes with rocks or gravel or whatever else thrown in).

Although both canes still seemed pretty strong, the bronze one was starting to seem slightly "loose-ish".  The "wood" handles on both canes had been scratched and nicked almost from the beginning.  It doesn't really take much for those "wood" handles (whether real wood or just "wood-ish coated") to be nicked.  Because of that, I was thinking it was time to get a nice, new, folding cane.  I did use the stuff that covers scratches on wood furniture, and it made the cane handles look better.  Still, they had been nicked enough that their obvious imperfection, even though "painted" brown, bugged me.  Besides, I imagined being out, getting caught in the rain, and discovering walnut-colored hands or even clothes.

At some point I decided to buy a new Summer cane (different colors, more Summer-y handle too).  Then I had a couple of weddings coming up, so I bought "an evening" cane to go with what I thought I'd be wearing.  It turned out I didn't wear what I'd planned, so I used the new floral cane for the wedding; and decided to put away the "evening" cane (a "brushed gold" looking kind of thing) for some other time (maybe Winter) because somehow the "gold" cane (lovely as it is) just doesn't seem right for streets that are more "hiking-stick material".  Then, too, I decided I'd rather not bring the really nice floral cane out when I walked, mainly because it's so pretty and even wedding-worthy, I didn't want the "pearl" hande ruined if it couldn't stand up to being dropped in the dirt or on concrete.

This was when I decided to look for an inexpensive but pretty cane.  So, at some point I found a pink metallic one (with a "wood" handle)  I could feel free to let it get beaten up and not feel too bad about it.   After enjoying the new (although less elegant) pink cane for awhile, it started to occur to me that maybe people would think it was a breast-cancer pink cane (even though the color was different).    Good cause as the whole breast-cancer thing is, I didn't want something I took out with me to seem like a reminder of that.  And, to be honest, walking in my particular suburb kind of makes a person look like "a sad case of one kind of another" (at least if one is walking for groceries, rather than walking in running or walking clothes).  Again, not that I thought anyone was really paying attention, but I just didn't want anyone thinking that in my whole mix of "whatever issues I probably had" (in their eyes), breast cancer was among them.

Then, too, by this time another Autumn was rolling around, and it was time to get rid of the pale mauve umbrella and replace it with a darker color.  It turns out when one carries an unfolded cane for almost no real reason, and yet needs it for the occasional "weird climbing" situation, or particularly high curb or stairs; it's only natural to notice that one's cane and one's umbrella should match, or at least complement each other (not to mention seem appropriate for the season).

At one point or another during all this time, there have been two "mistake canes", both of which were extremely reasonably priced, one of which I got my money back for because it was a horrible, horrible, piece of junk (with paint that came off in my hand, loose elastic, and sections that didn't even match).

The other one was intended to be the Winter replacement for the bronze cane.  The "wood-grain" cane does fold, but is somewhat different from the others.  Also, it's slightly thicker and heavier than the others.  It was advertised as "walnut", but it turned out to be "maple" (or the other way around.  Either way, it's heavier and generally less "light-and-airy" looking than many others.  I decided that one (with a wood color that kind of matches the woodwork in the bathroom) would be a good "bathroom cane", not that I need or use one at this point; but I've become so "you-never-know paranoid" about developing a surprise knee problem,  I figured it makes sense to leave the most sturdy but less appealing cane in the bathroom (at least until I either get past all the "you-never-know-ness" or else give the sturdy cane to someone else who needs one).

Besides, here's the thing (here's two things, actually):  It's not like I'm thirty years old.  There's a good chance I'll be revisiting "the cane thing" at some point in the next, say, forty years.  The second thing is that I write online. There's always a way to write about some things, in this case canes.

Then, too, there have been a couple of times when I've seen one or another generally impractical cane (at least in terms of its going with a lot of seasons or clothing) at a really low price; so here or there, and with the idea of, maybe, reviewing a number of canes from first-hand experience; I've acquired a whimsical, particularly pretty, or otherwise appropriately colored cane.

What has happened is that as both injuries have gotten closer and closer to "good as new" (and at this point the "old" one is extremely close to that, and the "new" one (now two years in) is, as well (although I can tell it is a little more "in the woods", as opposed to "out of the woods",  than the other one  Then again, with the "new" one being less complicated than the "old" one, I don't know when, if ever, I'll ever get back to just being kind of sure they can withstand the occasional "false move" without my being set back a couple of years (or worse).

I imagine I'll get back to being more sure about them, because I've seen how that happens; and I've seen how one can find it hard to imagine ever not worrying that some set-back might happen - only to eventually discover that feeling cautious or not-sure eventually does fade away.  I'm a heck of lot surer now than I was a couple of years ago, but I'm just not all the way back to "regular-sure" quite yet, particularly as long as I'm dealing with thinking about walking on streets that are a challenge for even the most able-bodied.

A couple of weeks ago I visited someone who lives in an older house that has a particularly high (and also awkward) "step situation".  It's a challenge for anyone who isn't tall enough to bypass the awkard part and/or for someone whose feet are, maybe, big enough that it wouldn't be an issue.  One of the situations for which I've always made sure I had a cane with me has been visiting this particular house.  At my last visit, I noticed that I really didn't need the cane that time.  Apparently, I've bujilt up at least that much strength.  I'm definitely seeing a time when I won't need a cane even for particularly challenging steps or inclines or vehicles.  Then, too, there are situations like my going to see a dance performance, running into super-steep, concrete steps with a railing.  Yes, the performance center had a ramp, but a) there was a crowd milling around and finding it would have taken longer than just getting up the two or three steep stairs, and b) I don't want to rely on a ramp when I have the opportunity to use stairs that may actually encourage building up strength more than, say, more shallow stairs or curbs do.

  Oddly, as I see even occasional need for a cane becoming less and less of an issue, I still find myself looking for special deals on folding canes that might be good for next Spring.  It seems the whole cane thing has become so much a part of my life that I haven't yet completely gotten out of it (or somethiing).

Besides, if I don't, I've got enough folding canes for every season, a few different moods, and the occasional special event (like the wedding at the rocky, ocean-front, venue) to know that I'm not only all set for the rest of time, but that I confidently review any number of canes in one online-writing situation or another.

Toward the end of the warm weather I finally got to that grocery store a few times, carrying one or another unfolded cane for what seemed like no good reason at all, with the exception of those few tricky places.  I thought I was all set until some kind of "construction stuff" showed up, which meant I wasn't sure of what I'd run into once I got to it.   Now, too, snow and ice are again factors (more not-knowing-what-I'll-run-into).

The blessing-in-disguise (with regard to the snow on the sidewalks on that one street to the convenience store) is that the other day it was really nice out, and I decided I was just so sick of bothering with trying to avoid puddles, snowbanks, ice, and whatever other obstacles there are on that sidewalk; I just decided to do what the high-school track kids do, which is use the non-sidewalk side of the street (not the safest thing because there's a couple of places where cars coming around a slight curve may not expect to be surprised by runners or walkers).  But, since I knew cold days were coming, I just decided to avoid the whole sidewalk problem and walk up the other side of that street.

I wasn't slowed down by watching out for all kinds of "crud" in my way, or by running into snowbanks or puddles that suddenly showed up in front of me.  I did the walk as fast as I'd always done it before any of this "injury stuff" happened.  Needless to say, that felt good - really good.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

 Since I just wrote a post about Bubblews I thought I'd post the link to my profile on there.    Depending on my mood, sometimes I use a flower image on the profile.  Other times I use one particularly smiley face that I created for that purpose.  At yet others times I may change the image for a season, for weather or for a holiday.  None of this is important, and none of matters.  In fact, it's actually contrary to what people are advised on that site or others, which is essentially not to change their profile image too often (if they change it at all).

I don't see, or treat Bubblews as "a writing site".  I see/treat it as a "social site" (but, of course, with a profile and a lot of space intended for writing and "storing" writing/posts on that profile.

By the way, the post to which I referred:

Just Some Comments On The Social Site, "Bubblews"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Attempt To Describe How At Least SOME Parents Think (At Least SOMETIMES)

This is a first-hand perspective on what I've realized about the difference between how I think now (now that I have grown kids) and how I thought both before I had children at all, but also how that thinking evolved as my children (but also I) grew.

Based on a lot of serious and in-depth conversations with other mothers over the years, I really think that most mothers have some similar changes/patterns in the way they think.  People are individuals, of course, but I mean "most normal mothers in general".

I don't actually know how effective I've been at actually portraying how mothers/parents think (and mothers sometimes think differently from fathers, no matter who the mother or father is).  That, however, is why I put the word, "attempt" in the title of this post.

In any case, that's what this post is - an attempt.    One day I may figure out a more skillful, efficient, or generally better way of portraying all that goes into the think of a person once there are grown children involved.  For now, I figured instead of leaving all this writing buried in my PC I may as well post it "as is".


a)  Since this is a piece I deleted from HubPages there are references to "Hubs".  I'm not going to go through it all and remove them.  They don't take anything away from any of the points made.

b)  Also since this is something I've removed from other places online the images are either not there, or small, or otherwise not presented the way they once were.  I'll do my best to include as many of them as close to how they were originally presented with the text as possible.

c)  By the way, if you're wondering who "Lisa H. Warren" is, that's the pen name I was using when I first wrote this.

Parents and The Way They Often Think

Author's Note

It should be noted that this discussion is based on the presumption that the people involved are individuals and families who, while inevitably imperfect as everyone and every family may be, would be said to be "perfectly normal" and without serious mental/emotional issues in degrees that would fall outside what would be considered "normal range" for generally healthy individuals and families. A question most of us have heard someone ask at one time or another is, "Is there even such a thing as a 'normal' person or family?" The answer to that is that there is, and the majority of individuals and families would, in fact, fall under the category of "perfectly normal". While I acknowledge that mental/emotional issues and/or degrees of family dysfunction, even if not occurring with the majority of individuals/families, exist in great numbers among the population; those issues are beyond the scope of this Hub.

It's also important to note that the Hub doesn't disregard, or fail to acknowledge that there are individual differences between people. Obviously, all grown children or all grown parents don't think "all the same things". Still, there are generally things people of both groups tend to have in common as a result of their stage in life. What's offered here is one perspective.


What Teens and Young Adults Need to Understand About How Parents Often Think - "The Basics"

Addressing Some Of The Misunderstanding That Can Exist Between Grown Kids and Parents

There are two main reasons children (even grown ones) can have trouble understanding their parents. One is simply that parents have lived longer and view life and the world through eyes that have seen more. The other (and perhaps the one with the most impact) is that parents' thinking comes not just from a mind that has grown from youth to maturity, but often from a heart that has felt more as a result of having become the heart of a parent.

Before we have any children, and particularly when we're young, we tend to spend our time thinking about ourselves, our own life, our own dreams and aspirations, etc. Although how much time anyone spends thinking about these things can vary from person to person; for the most part, we generally spend most of time figuring out who we are, who and what we want to be, and what want from life.

Again, acknowledging that there can be differences between individuals, it's probably safe to say that once people become parents they continue to think about those things they did before having a child. It's just that they also have other things factoring into the mix of what they think about and/or how they feel about some things in life. The focus of thinking shifts from "me" to "my child" but also "me as a parent". Also, the longer we're adults, the more some of those issues so intensely focused on ourselves drop off the list as some of the matters involving a once-blank future begin to fall into place.

Here's a list of the kinds of things we tend to think about when as individuals (as opposed to the kinds of things we think about once we've become parents).

Typical thoughts "as an individual" are often about:

The things I want in life

The things I want to do now

The things I want to do in the future

What kind of person I want to be.

We also often think a lot about:

My relationships with others

Relationships in general

My place in the world

The world in general

My own life and managing it well

My own life in general

"All of life" in general

A separate, underlying aspect of thinking would be in a category, "All the Things That Have Gone into The Things I Think"

This category would include things such as childhood, upbringing, degree of closeness in one's family, education, individual and shared experiences, etc.

Other thoughts to which energies are often devoted are:

About learning, and thinking, about all the things that help guide an individual toward being the kind of person he wants to be, and having the kind of life he hopes to have.

We try to figure out, learn, and remember what might be thought of as "The Rules of Life"

The are the rules and concepts about what make up a mentally/emotionally solid person, as well as those rules and guidelines that help us define what makes up a well managed life.

Some of those "rules of life" are common sense we've developed along the way; so rather than learn them or figure them out, sometimes we use them in thinking about other things that apply to us or our lives.

We also spend time thinking about forming our "personal policies".

Also, we spend time forming our philosophies for our own life, as well as philosophies about "all of life".

Something else we often think about, or ask ourselves, if whether we think we've learned the above sorts of things well enough. People who know they've done all this thinking about all these things usually feel reasonably confident that they've covered the bases necessary for being a grown-up person and managing a life well.

Note: For the purpose of making some points with the use of the illustrations below, this list appears in the first image, which is intended to show one simple, single-color, block on which not just points about subsequent images will be made; but also from which an individual's thinking becomes more complex after he becomes a parent.

Image 2 shows a nutshell version, or at least a different view, of the things we tend to think about before we've become parents.

Image 3 shows the dramatic change in the types and complexities of thoughts that arise once we become parents. From there, the words and images below should help present what it is grown people need to understand about parents.

It's worth noting here, too, that this discussion isn't limited to just teens and the youngest of adults. It's aimed at any grown person who finds himself asking how it is his parent could seem to think so differently from him.

Something that occurred in my life highlights how little we sometimes understand about our parents:

There was someone I knew who was dealing with a very troubled daughter in her late teens and then very early twenties. The young woman didn't make life pleasant or any easier for her mother, who had health issues. (The daughter had been a hard-to-place child who had been adopted as an older child, which contributed to some of the problems that developed as the girl got older.)

During that time frame I was in my late thirties and just around forty/forty one. My eldest child was in his mid- teens. My younger children were in middle school and primary school. Knowing I was "good and mature", I allowed myself my opinions about what this other woman should do about her problem daughter. I didn't always voice them, but I was sure I knew what I would do, should I find myself in a similar situation.

Although, fortunately, I never did find myself in that kind of situation, I did find myself with kids had gone from being as as mine had been to being the age of the troubled young woman in question. I discovered how mothers feel about even grown-up kids, as well as a lot of other things about kids who are almost grown or just about grown.

It wasn't as if I just woke up one day "smarter" than I'd been, but over time some of those opinions I'd had previously gradually changed. Things looked a lot different to me once I knew how a mother feels about kids who are grown. More importantly, I understood the issues that start to face parents of older sons or daughters; especially when they're colored by love for, a sense of responsibility for, and hope for the future of, even the most troubled of grown kids.

The point here is that, even when we have kids as old as fifteen, and we're in the area of forty years old, there can still be things we can't understand about a parent who is older than we are and/or has a child older than ours is/are.

My thinking is that, perhaps, the telling of that story will help illustrate the need for better understanding of the things that "make parents tick", and the reasons there can be (even when parents and their kids are close) an unseen gap in thinking between a grown child and a parent.

So, here in words and pictures are the ideas I hope to share here:

Source: Lisa H. Warren
(Image 2) Looking at What We Tend to Think Another Way

Source: Lisa H. Warren
(Image 3) Things We Think About Once We Become Parents

Source: Lisa H. Warren
Being of "Two Minds"

Once a person becomes a parent he usually become more than thoroughly familiar with the phrase, "being of two minds". At least when it comes to some of the simpler issues of life, the person who is a parent sees that sometimes he operates from the side of him that's "only him". Sometimes he must operate from the side of him that is a parent.

Examples of one of those simple issues might be when a parent is tired and really would love to sleep, but the child needs him for one reason or another. With this kind of issue, there's not usually a lot of complicated sorting out that a parent needs to do, because most parents know that the parent-side of themselves is the one that must "have the final say" in any number of relatively minor situations.

The side of the parent that is "just him" might be represented by something like this:
(Image 4) Thoughts Focused on the Individual Himself

The parent-side of the person may be represented by something like this:
(Image 5) Thoughts From the Parent Side of the Person

And, although the person who is also a parent may look very much the same as he's always looked on the outside, how his thinking is viewed by him (from within his own mind) might look something like this. (By the way, if the block belows appears larger than than the blocks above that's to show that once a person has become a parent he has grown.

(Image 6) Being "Of Two Minds" Once An Individual Becomes A Parent

(For what an image of two, colored, rectangles is worth: Image by Lisa H. Warren)

Because some matters are too complex to deal with by choosing between "the me side" and "the parent side", and because no individual is ever truly "of two minds", around the two distinctly differently colored sides of the person who is a parent the "whole person" he has become is wrapped. When it comes to the more complex issues (whether related to the individual, himself; to his role as a parent, or to specifically to his child), it is from the more complex coloring and depth of shades in that "whole person" that a parent operates. It might best be illustrated like this:
(Image 7) Unifying Those "Two Minds" Within One "Outer Wrapping"

Source: Lisa H Warren

It's still not this simple, however, because each and every human being (child or adult) grows (intellectually and emotionally) in "layers". Using the images above, and colors as a reference point, it could be said that each us starts out small and with only the palest of color, and it from that "core" that we grow by adding layers around the outside, one by one.

For an individual, the pattern of adding layers might look like this, with the darkest tan indicating the point at which the individual has reached adulthood:

(Image 8) One Way to View Individual Growth

Source: Lisa H Warren

Separate from growing as an individual, a parent can follow a similar pattern of growth in his growth as a parent:

(Image 9) One Way to View Growth As Parent

So, I you keep in mind the image above (Images 8 and 9), and if you visualize how each of the two separate blocks (that represent the two sides to a parent's thinking) becoming more and more complex as layers and increasingly deeper colors are added as time and growth go on; you have something of an idea of what each parent brings to his relationship with his child.

(Image 10) One Way to View Two Types of Inner Growth "Wrapped in One Person's 'Changed Inner Self'"

Source: Lisa H Warren

The above image (Image 10) still doesn't very well represent all the things that go a person's growth as a person and as a parent, however. It can help to think back to Image 3 and add those factors, concerns, and the growth that can come from them. The more complex Image 11 offers a slightly better idea of the kinds of things that can go into a parent's thinking at any given time, or with regard to any given issue.

(Image 11) A Simplified Representation of Things Factored into a Parent's Thinking

Source: Lisa H Warren

Image 12 represents the different "places people are coming from" as children or as parents, and it represents the factors that go into what a parent brings to the relationship with his child:

Image 12 - Parent and Child Come From Different Places

Source: Lisa H Warren

It's still not all that simple, however, if/when subsequent children are added to the picture, which might look something along the lines of Image 13:
(Image 13) Factors That Go Into A Parent's Thinking and Growth

Source: Lisa H Warren

The image below represents the difference in "complexity of issues" associated with what goes into how a parent thinks and how a grown child thinks. It's important to note that the illustration is not intended to imply anything about different levels of intelligence or abilities, different educational levels, or even "wisdom" acquired through aging, alone (as opposed to wisdom or emotional complexity acquired as a result of raising one or more children). Neither is it intended to imply that parents' emotions are always factored into their thinking. It is, in fact, the understanding of the need to so often separate emotions from thinking that contributes to some of the complexity of parents' thinking and challenges.

After all the illustrations above, the following one gets to the real heart of the matter (which is how easy it is to see why a grown child would have such difficulty understanding "where his parent is coming from".
(Image 14) The Difference Between What Goes Into A Parent's Thinking and A Grown Child's Thinking

 image by Lisa H. Warren

Is it difficult to imagine why a grown son or daughter would have trouble understanding "where a parent is coming from"?

The point that all these grossly over-simplified illustrations show is the once a person becomes a parent, not only does everything in his life and thinking become so much more complicated, but the degree of worry and thought required multiplies exponentially with each child and (in some situations) with the increasing age of the child.

As children grow up, parents gain maturity too. Maturation is a funny thing in that, at least until we've had a couple of decades' worth of it, we tend to think that we've reached it completely at whatever age we are in life. Maturation is so gradual, we don't see much difference between the year when we're 23 and the year when we're 26. Life and/or inner growth may shown us a little bit of maturation between those two years, but that's usually it.

When it comes to maturity, we tend to just think we've reached it, until we continue to live and gain maturity long enough that we can look back and see how far we've come along that road.

In the two decades of so it takes for a child to go from being a baby to being grown up, a parent has been doing a lot of living "in his own right", separate from any growth he's experienced as a parent.

In general, by the time a son or daughter has reached twenty or so, a parent is in the area of forty (give or take a few years). Life looks different from forty than it does from twenty, just as it looks different from fifty from the way it looked fifteen or twenty years before that.

Painful experiences parents may have had in those few decades after they, themselves, were twenty are things from which they've learned, things from which they've gained strength, and things they wish (if at all possible) they could spare their child(ren) from learning the hard way. Some of the more painful experiences in life are such that there can seem to be little learned from them, but even those are things from which parents often try to make something positive arise by trying to share with children whatever they may have learned.

Parents usually recall exactly how it feels to be just reaching adulthood and to have that youthful sense of invicincibility that makes someone young believes, "It can't happen to me." A parent may want to warn a child who is being a little too careless that "it can happen to you". At the same time, most parents wouldn't want to rob their son or daughter of one of the traits of youthful thinking that, in fact, contribute to what youth, itself, is and feels like.

It isn't just with issues associated with the example above that parents need to sort out how they'll present their own ideas and views to their child. It's with things like wanting to let a child know a parent believes in him, but not wanting to make him feel his parent is expecting more of him than he's capable of. Trying to raise a child to "have a mind of his own" is what most healthy parents do, but with "a mind of his own", of course, comes a child's reasonable and real need to question the things his parent believes or says. A parent can have that urge to say something like, "Would you just, for once in your life, believe what I'm saying without questioning me!" Usually, the cool-headed, level-headed, reasonable parent won't say something like that. The issues are so far beyond the scope of this particular discussion, it's not possible to raise more than a few examples of so many of the most common things that become challenges or concerns in parent's minds.

Most parents will tell anyone who isn't a parent how there is no possible way someone who isn't a parent could ever have any idea of the complexities and magnitude of the things parents must think about, worry about, process, sort out, and figure out just for themselves. That doesn't even include the things that involve figuring out how to help a child best process some experiences, whether the parent has experienced them in his own past, experienced the situation at the same time as his child, or has not personally experienced it at all.

Something else that doesn't help grown kids understand how parents think is that they cannot possibly know the complexity, degree, and expanse of the kind of love a parent has for his child. One might believe that once a grown child has a child of his own, he'll then know exactly how his parent feels.

In some ways, he will have a sampling of it. Until his own child has reached adulthood, however, that person still will have no idea of how the love (and worries) a parent has for his child mature along with both the child and the parent.

Although it can be as gradual a process as growing up and aging, itself, is there's also a gradual process to a parent's "letting go" once his child has reached a certain level of maturity. There's a point when a child is mature enough that the parent can free up his mind from some of the those concerns, thoughts, and worries that were associated with being responsible for a growing and maturing individual. Just as toothpaste can't be put back into a tube, and genies usually can't be put back into bottles, the growth and learning of the parent and of the love he has for his child don't just "all shrink back" once the parent no longer has to concern himself with some of those issues that are now the child's own responsibility and concern.

And so, there is a grown parent and a grown child. Assuming that both the parent and child are without any serious emotional difficulties, and assuming their relationship is a healthy one; one of the biggest problems in relationships between parents and their grown children may be the fact that there is such a gap in complexity between being a young person without children (or even with one baby or toddler) and being a person whose life includes the array of issues, as well as the depth of those issues, as part of simply growing as a person, a parent, and part of the family one has built.

It's no secret (and I don't dispute this) that parents often don't understand their grown children. It's often a complaint adult of all ages have about a parent at one time or another. There's that other side to the parent/child equation, however; and there is at least the possibility that an even bigger problem in relationships may be that grown children cannot understand their parents.