Category Archives: Personal Essays

Feels Good to Be Back!

One of my favorite trees where I can sit and just be in the moment.

A favorite spot to sit and be in the moment.

I’m back!  I know…it’s been a long time since my last post.  Here’s what’s been happening.

First off, the question you are probably wondering about most…how’s my dad?  Well, I’m happy to report that he’s doing just fine.  Let me restate that.  In my opinion, he’s doing amazingly well!  He has aches and pains of old age, but he doesn’t let them slow him down or get him down.  Friends, staff members and fellow residents from his assisted living community have come and gone for various reasons over the past few months.  Instead of lamenting over what was, he seems thankful for what is.

For me, the past several months have been a whirlwind of job interviews, which all seemed to occur at once, and the reality that my time off was coming to a sudden end.  I am officially back at work and thankful to be so.  And, I am thankful for having had a mid-career break.

Are there things I wish I had done while I was off work?  Absolutely, I have a list a mile long which includes everything from visiting Yosemite, baking my way through Dominique Ansel’s “The Secret Recipes” cookbook and finding an exercise program that I enjoy.  Strike the “I enjoy” part and just say find an exercise program.  But, instead of feeling sorry for what I didn’t get done while I was off work, I am going to take a cue from my dad and be thankful for what is.

Glad to be back.

Holiday Memories of The Red Kettle

The Red Kettle

My mother never spoke of her life during WWII, which included being sent to an internment camp as a teenager along with her family, except during the holidays.  Each time we passed a red kettle from The Salvation Army my mother would deposit whatever extra money she had in her purse and tell me, “They helped my family get settled after the war.”  That was the extent of the conversation and I honestly didn’t need to hear anymore.  I could tell how grateful she was decades later.

Now that the holidays are here, and she is gone, I travel toward the sound of The Salvation Army bell-ringer in search of a red kettle to help others and carry on her tradition.

PS: Today is Giving Tuesday which encourages people to give back during the holidays.  To whatever charity you like, in whatever way you can, give back to others.


Photo Credit: The Salvation Army website

Dad’s 93rd Birthday

Dad Reading the Paper

I love this photo of my dad reading the newspaper after his afternoon walk.


My dad turned 93 a few weeks ago.  He doesn’t think of himself as old and neither do I.  His health is stable.  His mind is sharp.  His disposition remains optimistic.  He is very lucky and so am I.  But with the passage of another year, I notice the small changes.

  • His back is a bit more curved due to the effects of osteoporosis and years of using a walker.
  • He seems to like the fact that we walk arm in arm when outside, where the fear of falling looms with each step.
  • His handwriting is shaky, jagged and uneasy, as if someone asked him to write in a moving car.
  • He automatically hands me bottles of water to open.  I automatically open them and hand them back, knowing this task is too difficult for his arthritic hands.
  • Small items dropped on the floor remain there until my next visit.
  • On the last day of each month, he reminds me to turn the page of his 49er’s football calendar, which hangs on a bulletin board slightly out of his reach.

My dad never complains about these little maladies.  I’m not sure he even notices them, which is just fine with me.  I look forward to turning many more pages on the calendar together.

Can A Caregiver Be A Germaphobe?

I will do, and pretty much have done, everything possible to keep my 93-year-old dad happy and healthy.  Those of you who are the family caregiver can probably rattle off a list of things you never thought you would do; but when the time comes you step up, shut up and get it done.  This should be the caregivers’ creed: step up, shut up, get it done.

Well the flu is traveling the halls of my dad’s assisted living community and sure enough he caught it.  For my dad a cold is synonymous with pneumonia.  The germs bypass sore throat, sniffles and runny nose.  They go right to gunkie (I don’t think this is a medical term.  It may not even be a word.  But, you get the point.) cough, projectile sneezing, shortness of breadth, ashen coloration and poor sleep, which immediately diminish his cognitive abilities causing a dazed look to take over his once alert face.

Don’t get worried.  With care from an amazing medical team, a round of strong antibiotics, cough syrup, and the use of the miracle nebulizer 3x’s a day to help him breath, he’s back to his old self.

I am thrilled he’s healthy again!  For his sake and mine.  You see…I’m a bit of a germaphobe.  Since becoming responsible for my dad, I’ve turned into a Purell carrying, hand washing, disinfecting wipe, antibacterial loving type of gal.  I think being a germaphobe comes with being a caregiver, since caring means doing whatever possible to keep germs away.

During the month it took him to recuperate, I had to check my germaphobic tendencies at the door and walk into his room knowing a million tiny germs were flying around just waiting to take me down.  I tried to get him to sneeze into his elbow, sleeve or a tissue, but each sneeze seemed to come faster than he could react.  I washed and sanitized the mouthpiece to his nebulizer three times a day.  I picked up tissues.  I gave up, stepped up, shut up and got the job done.  Goodbye and good riddance pneumonia of 2014.


Photo Credit: iStock

Why I Returned To Blogging

When I wrote my last blog post on July 4th, I honestly wasn’t sure if I would return.  I was disillusioned and wondered if my words, ideas and tips were really helping anyone.  Or, was I championing a cause whose time had not yet arrived?  Or, worse yet, was I passionate about a subject whose time may never arrive.

And, to share my very private feelings, I was also growing weary of seeing story, after story, of young bloggers — one as young as eleven and another as old as eighteen (heaven forbid) — who reached the highest peak of blogger fame with hundreds of thousands of followers, book deals, and brand partnerships.  I know writing about fashion, food or anything considered fun, will attract a wider audience than writing about a topic most people prefer not to think about or face with trepidation at best.

Then I saw the above quote from Cyril Connolly on Susan Cain’s Twitter feed: “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than write for the public and have no self.”  I care about what I care about.  It hasn’t changed since I started this blog.  It’s so simple; I want to make life better for older adults.  I can’t cure the ills that afflict us age we age or bring back memories that have faded.  But, I can highlight what’s good about growing old today: from technological innovations, to research, emotional connections and amazing role models.  There are a lot of great reasons why now is the best time to be an older adult.

So I’m making a commitment to myself and those who follow my blog.  I’m going to post the “100 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Grow Old!”  I believe there are at least 100 reasons.  Hope you follow along and feel free to share your ideas with me.

I’m so excited to be back!

The Art Of The Apology

Letter and Treats


Last week my dad decided to have lunch in his room, instead of eating in the dining room, since the Giants were playing an afternoon game.  No big deal.  All he does is ask the concierge at his assisted living community to have his lunch delivered to his room.  And, for the record, the Giants are #1 in the MLB standings with 37 wins after two months of play.  You’ve got to boast while you can.

But, I digress.  Back to the reason for the post.  His lunch didn’t get delivered to his room.  But, I happened to stop by at 12:45 so I went to the dining room and picked up his meal.  I didn’t think twice about this.  Nor did I mention it to the concierge to reverse the small in room dining fee.  I learned to pick my battles early on when my dad moved to assisted living.  And, this was a nonissue.

Unbeknownst to me, my dad mentioned the little oversight to the concierge.  And, what resulted was the most heartfelt apology, which read:

“Dr. Mr. Yano

I hope you enjoy some of these treats when you watch the Giants play.  They are doing amazing this year :-).  I truly am sorry that I forgot your lunch order last week.  You don’t ask for much so it bothered me even more that I let you down.  Please know that I am here to help in any way I can and I find pleasure in doing so.

Blessings, Melanie”

Note to my nephews who say, “my bad” as a form of an apology; this is how it’s done.

My Folks, The Accidental Environmentalist


Dad (in yellow) fishing under the Golden Gate Bridge

My parents were at the forefront of green living in the 70s: decades before Whole Foods existed, people drove electric cars, or divided their weekly garbage into three neatly color-coded bins for trash, compost and recycling.  They never uttered the words: sustainable, organic, green, eco-friendly, compostable, or recyclable.  It’s just how they — and by default we — lived.

For my parents — who lived through the Great Depression and parted with their belongings en route to the internment camps during World War II — living an environmentally friendly life was a commonsense way to live on a tight budget.  It is probably something my parents learned from their parents, and their parents learned from all the generations, which preceded them.

Dad’s catch on the front lawn

My dad fished as a hobby and a means of sustenance.  He and my mother planted fruit trees, which supplied us with apples, plums and persimmons.  They were also skilled at growing tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and strawberries.  I remember my mother standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding an overflowing colander of yellow and green zucchini, proudly announcing, “We have a bumper crop this year.”  I knew this meant zucchini: sautéed with onions, stuffed and baked with ground beef and tomato sauce, breaded and fried, and grated to make bread.

In addition to eating organically and sustainably (as we now call it), my parents were easy on Mother Earth’s resources.  We had one car for most of my childhood, which my dad drove to work.  My mother, with three kids in tow, would walk or take the bus.  My mother had the luxury of a dryer, but hung the laundry on a line in the backyard to “air dry” during the summer.  The laundry didn’t really “air dry” like dryer sheet commercials would lead you to believe.  Instead the freshly washed clothes would bake under the scorching sun and become brittle, scratchy, and smell like powdered Tide.

I know my parents didn’t think about the environment, as we do today.  And, they would laugh at the thought of being labeled environmentally friendly.  They did what they could; with the limited resources they had, which I guess is the essence of environmentalism.



Updated: 4.27.14 at 6:06pm