Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Welcome to the Mirror Lake Highway

Our campgrounds – Shady Dell and Cobblerest – are two of the sixteen improved campgrounds on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (SR 150).  The Mirror Lake Highway runs from Kamas, Utah, to Evanston, Wyoming, up and over the Uinta Mountains.

One of the most beautiful highways in Utah, it boasts scenic viewpoints and picnic areas, access to over 400 lakes, many hiking, biking and ATV trails, and opportunities for improved camping as well as dispersed camping. Much of the highway parallels the Provo River.  The road is the highest paved road in Utah when it crosses Bald Mountain Pass at an altitude of 10,715 feet before descending past its namesake, Mirror Lake. 
Visitors are required to purchase a recreation pass to use facilities in this area.  A $6 pass is available and good for 3 days; a $12 pass is good for 7 days; there is also a $45 annual pass available.  The pass allows access to the picnic areas, fishing areas, and trailheads.  The pass is also required for camping outside of the improved campgrounds, which have their own fees.
So how do these fees work together?  The short answer is they don’t.  If you want to camp in an improved campground and don’t plan to use any of the other Mirror Lake Highway facilities, all you need to pay is the campground fee.  If you want to camp in an improved campground and then drive to a trailhead or a lake, you’ll also need to purchase the Mirror Lake Highway recreation pass.
For our fellow retirees – your Senior Pass allows you full access to the Mirror Lake Highway AND gives you half off your camping fees.  The Senior Pass is available to anyone 62 or older; the fee is $10 for a lifetime pass.  Find out more about obtaining a senior pass at
See you in the mountains!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Heading up the Mountain

My kitchen table is loaded down with dishes, pots and pans, canned and boxed goods, recipe files, and the occasional note pad and bag of rubber bands.  This can mean only one thing – we’re getting ready to head up the mountain to our summer of 2014 camp hosting assignment:  Shady Dell Campground on the Mirror Lake Highway.  Next step, load it all into totes and boxes and stack it in the back of the truck.

The trailer is already in camp, courtesy of my husband and my son.  They needed a guy’s camping weekend, and since it’s still winter in the Uinta Mountains, it made sense to take the trailer.  I am exceedingly grateful.  Parking the trailer is my least favorite part of the camping experience.  I either need a lot more spatial aptitude or a lot more emotional intelligence to be truly helpful in parking this or any trailer.
The good news is we’re a lot closer to home this year than we were last year.  So we’ll be able to come down the mountain every week on our days off – instead of every other week.  More time to keep the house in good shape and to keep the rentals running.   And we’re looking forward to being able to take advantage of some of the good stuff that we’ve had to miss while we’re in camp because we’re too far away. 
So…Murphy is alive and well and living in the Salt Lake Valley.  In addition to getting the house and yard ready (where did all these weeds come from, anyway?), and packing for camp, we also have an empty apartment that we need to get ready to rent.  This particular tenant had lived in the apartment for 12 years when we bought it.  That was 12 years ago.  Why did she have to pick May 16 to move?  Arghhhh! 
But we were on it – or so we thought.  While the boys were setting up the trailer in camp, I was in the apartment washing walls.  We had a painter hired by Sunday.  He told us he’d be done by Tuesday.  Silly us – we thought he meant Tuesday morning.  Turns out he planned to finish the job on Tuesday night.  But wait – at 9:00 PM we got a call – he’s run out of paint.  Add a trip to Home Depot to the list of things we need to do before we leave today.  And this means the apartment ready to rent until next Tuesday.  Oh, well. 
Meanwhile, the stuff on the table still needs to be boxed; a cooler still needs to be packed, and the last minute personal items still need to be stuffed in duffel bags.  Whew!  Looking forward to going up the mountain so I can rest!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Emotional Intelligence in Caregiving – It’s All About the Loved One

Emotional intelligence is critical in family caregiving.  When caring for someone with whom you’ve had a long relationship, the very act of caregiving can trigger both new emotions and long-buried emotions.  Some examples, which I have felt and those with whom I share caregiving duties have felt:
             Sadness at seeing someone who was once so vital and strong turn, before our eyes, into someone so needy.
             Anger at the amount of time and effort caregiving is taking – and is taking away from our own families. 
             Guilt for having the audacity to feel anger.
             Fear of the unknown, of the looming losses, and of not doing the right thing by the loved one.
If the relationship with the loved one has been rocky, for example, if you were neglected or belittled as a child, seeing the loved one in the role of the child may trigger the strong negative feelings you felt way back then. 
So we toss about in this maelstrom of our own emotions while the person we are caring for – sometimes the very person we’ve always expected to help us deal with our emotions – is tossing about in her own emotions.  Each of us is expecting the other to throw the lifeline. 
This is where emotional intelligence skills come in.  As caregivers, it’s up to us to help our loved ones deal with their emotions.  Of course, we must acknowledge our own emotions, but we must deal with them outside of the caregiving arena.  When we cross the threshold into caregiving, we must literally check our emotions at the door.  We need to stand ready to throw the lifeline.
This doesn’t mean ignoring all emotion.  It would actually be a lot more efficient to just focus on what needs to be done and disregard the angst of the situation.  But the angst of the situation is there – and must be acknowledged at a minimum, and in the best case, dealt with.  Use the emotional intelligence skills.
Self-awareness:  acknowledge your own emotions and how they may be either helping or hindering you in your caregiving responsibilities.
Self-management:  check your emotions at the door.
Social awareness:  help the loved one and other family members talk about their emotions and listen to one another.
Relationship management:  use the caregiving experience to help you forge deeper, stronger relationships with your loved one and your fellow caregivers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chapter 3: Assisted Living

The room is small.  Much smaller than we had anticipated when we loaded up the bed, the sofa, the dresser, the bookshelf, the TV, and several paintings taken down from various walls in various rooms.  How difficult it must have been for her to choose such a small part of her life in her home.  A 2200 square foot house – reduced to a bed, a sofa, a dresser, a bookshelf, and a TV.

It wasn’t what I expected.  Both of the assisted living centers I had visited previously – visiting parents of friends that had already made this heart-wrenching decision – were much larger.  In these centers, each resident had an apartment – not merely a bedroom.   One even had a full kitchen and a washer and dryer.  Not that the residents would ever need to use them, but just in case they wanted to.   Hmmm, perhaps this is why the assisted living center the family chose was less expensive than in-home care. 
Turns out I was correct.  Most assisted living centers start with a base price which includes living space and meals (the larger the space, the higher the base rate) and then add charges for specific care needed.  Help with administering medicine?  There’s a charge for that.  Help with bathing and dressing?  There’s a charge for that.  As the loved one becomes less independent, the living center staff is there to provide the additional care – at an additional charge. 

We arrived early with her furniture, with the intent that we would have the room all set up and ready for her when she arrived.  We arranged the furniture twice and resigned ourselves to the fact that the bookshelf just didn’t fit.  We had hoped to use it for her to display family photographs.  When we left, the photos were still in the box.  We’ll find a place to display them later.
The owners of the facility stressed to us how important it was that the residents had their own belonging in their room.  The bare walls were full of nail holes, evidence that they truly practiced this philosophy.  Her walls now look like an art gallery.  We brought only original art – paintings that her father, her sister, and her daughter had given her over the years.  They are beautiful.  

As planned, she arrived to find her room completely furnished and mostly decorated.  She sat on her sofa and looked around.  “This is a nice room,” she said.
That was five weeks ago.  We knew she was getting better when, about a week into the transition, she started to complain about the food.  “Nobody here knows how to poach an egg,” she grumbled when we visited the second week.

                “Why don’t you teach them?”
A week later, nearly every member of the small staff had tried poaching an egg. 

About three weeks into her stay there, she was front and center helping a new resident feel at home.  Last week, when we brought her to a family gathering, she gave us permission to list the house.  “I’m sad to lose my house, but I like having people around me so much better.”
We made the right decision.