Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Prep work begins - the kitchen.

I have to get better at doing before and after pictures.  There are no before pictures in this posting.  Sorry.

In preparation for new floors and painting this month, I began a thorough clean out of all areas.  Decluttering of stuff has been a happy, positive activity for me.  I always feel lighter and more content when I am reducing the "stuff-layer" of my life.  Clear open spaces are less stressful. A related goal is to free up floor space by moving a few pieces of furniture out.  We have too many road blocks for a person with visual limitations.

With home improvement contractors arriving in 2 weeks,  the time is right to declutter.

I started with a small problem area of my kitchen.

Imagine a 3 foot high by 5 foot long shallow 3 shelf book case along this wall.  It was filled with cookbooks and animal foods.  The top held baskets of clutter-catchers.  Try to imagine why someone who does not enjoy cooking would have 5 1/2 feet of cookbooks.

So I emptied the shelves of everything putting it on the table and dragged the bookcase to the basement.  It will go to a new home or the dump - which ever comes first.  Now I have this lovely clear floor space.  And when the walls are painted, who knows what will hang on the walls.  Maybe nothing.

Of course, now I had a table full of stuff.  Hmm.... I gave half of the cookbooks to Good Will.

I then turned to the pantry.  A "pantry purge" was in order.  It is a small space, but once I cleared out the expired items, the duplicates and the stuff that I never use, 2 spaces were clear:  the top shelf and the floor.

The top shelf now holds my essential cookbooks. (Still considering if they are all really "essential."  I think not!)  I hate the stacking of books on top of books.  But the remaining books will need a more careful review before I get rid of any of them. The floor holds the animal foods (dog food and bird seed.)

Some canned and boxed foods are housed in our basement.  I don't understand why 2 retired people like us need that many food items.  But that is another problem for another time - food hoarding!  I am sure that "hoarding" is not quite the right term, but my habit of buying extra of things that I find on sale is counter productive if the items expire and I throw them away.

In theory, I love the idea of a nice large pantry close to the cooking area, but the reality is that I don't preserve home grown foods and I have easy access to a grocery store.  So the fact I even have a pantry is a luxury.  When I was growing up, we didn't have a pantry - just found space in the limited cabinets to hold canned and packaged foods.  I guess the expansion of large pantries and multiple kitchen cabinets is an extension of the growing sizes of houses in the 20th Century - and our habit of acquiring lots and lots of stuff.

I am very pleased with this one kitchen solution right now.  My eat-in kitchen is fairly small and adding a bookcase years ago was a bad idea.  It just ate up floor space and encouraged stuff gathering.

Of course the next step is to box all this up and move it to the basement - because the whole area will be painted - but that is 3 weeks off so I have time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

So it begins ... the carpet requiem

After almost 30 years we are finally replacing the carpeting in the main part of our townhouse.  The contract is signed and within the month, we will see this carpet ripped out and carried out the door.

Yes, this carpeting is 29 years old in July of this year.  It is the original carpeting that the builder put in and it was the best thing we chose when we selected options for our new town home those many years ago.

Many vendors who have passed down this hallway (carpet installers and professional carpet steam cleaners) have told us this is excellent carpeting ...  that you can't buy this quality carpet today no matter how expensive you go because carpet manufacturers don't want you to have carpet that lasts 30+ years!!  Planned obsolesces, they call it.

It is silly, but I get attached to "things" - things that have served me well and that I have owned and used for a long time.  And this stupid carpet is one of those "things."  I didn't shed any tears when we replaced the xyz things (refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, front door, glass door sliders, storm door, washer/dryer, water heater, roofing, deck, bathroom flooring, toilets, bathroom sinks, furniture ... it is an extensive list ), but for some crazy reason, pulling the carpet out makes me a little sad.

But everything wears out and this carpet is ready to go to "carpet heaven."  After all, it has been walked on, run on, spilled on, peed on, vomited on - you name it ... it has happened.  Even red wine.  It all came out - there is not one visable stain or wear path, but I can't get it really clean any more ... down below the rug surface into the pad where it really counts, and on humid days ... well, you get the idea.

The replacement?? ... No more rug for us.  Hard wood floors!  And it will be a dirty, noisy, intrusive  job for about 2 days.  Upstairs hall way, two and half flights of stairs and the first floor area - all hard wood.  No more hidden areas I can't clean.

And when they complete the flooring job, we are contracting to paint about 60% of the interior of the townhouse.  So the *#@%$ "fun" will just continue.  But it has been almost 20 years since we painted and that is also long over due too.  May as well get all the pain out of the way at one time!

I feel pressured to move forward with these jobs ... they are well passed due by many years and I now have this window of time without a mom-related emergency.  Really, for the last 7 or 8 years I stalled at doing anything ... couldn't handle "just one more thing, don't want to disturb mom, too tied up with her assisted living care, need to focus on nursing home transition, etc. etc. etc."

But now the environment of my house is causing me stress and it is a problem I can do something about.

All I need to do is write the check!

Oh, yes, the check!  There is another stressor!  These folks don't work for free.  But no matter.  It has to be done.

We are doing it this summer!

And I will be joyful at the end!  :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


So here I am again, almost one month later.

Breaking a blog-silence.

After the recent "mom-illness-hospitalization-rehab-nursing home" episode, I have come to realize a few things about myself.

#1 - I don't know myself as well as I think I do. 

The rest of my story just falls like an avalanche out of #1!

I am not as resilient as I think I am or as I used to be.  Each set back in mom's situation is a set back for me personally and each of my set backs take longer to dig out of.  Sounds like a mom-related behavior!  Seniors taking care of seniors. Exhausting.

I still can "dive into" a mom-related crisis with the energy and the focus of someone half my age, but the personal price that is paid after the crisis gets longer and longer to recover from.  I can't seem to "dive out" with the same energy and focus and take back my own priorities without a long hard fight with myself.

Here I am 3 months later finally getting re-connected with my own needs ... but it seems like such an effort!

But I am trying ... really, really trying!  

Two weeks ago I prepared a blog post and pictures, but never posted it!  Does that still count?

I gained an all-time-high of body mass ... yes, too much weight!  I am back to watching my food intake and have thankfully settled back to my previous "all time high of body mass."  *sigh* Does that count?

I started walking and exercising but have missed the last week and a half.  Does the start of walking count?

I have started calling home improvement vendors to replace carpeting and flooring (long, long, dreadfully long overdue.)  But I dread the total upheaval that this kind of improvement will cause in my personal space.  No contracts signed yet, but will the effort of talking to someone about making improvements actually count?

I am knitting on a shawl for myself that I really don't care for - I bought the kits over 10 years ago.  Too bad I didn't make the shawl then when I loved the colors. No matter.  It came from deep stash and I thought I would come around when I got into it.  I didn't! I am almost finished so I can use it this fall in the house.  Certainly that finish object should count?

My other crafting lives are in another temporary limbo - that always seems to happen when I am in recovery.  Nothing there will count. (But ... I love walking into my yarn room and admiring my newly  assembled loom and stand with the newly started weaving project on it.  That counts for something.)

I returned to knitting group three weeks ago and enjoyed every moment, but felt like I was stealing time from other more worthy endeavors - like sitting on the couch and doing nothing!  Ok, now we all can agree that knitting group does count!!!

On the surface of my life everything looks under control.  But under the surface ... I am still struggling.  And I dread the thought that any gains I make will go up in smoke when mom takes her next downward step in living.

This "Recovery" stuff is hard hard work!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Light

So yesterday my post seemed only to see the shadows of mom's mind.  Today I witnessed some of the light.  I thought I would share.

It was a beautiful morning when I arrived at the Nursing Home, and she was happy to see me.  She seemed more alert than yesterday.

She asked for ice cream, but what she really wanted was a glass of water with ice.  Swallowing fluids is generally difficult now and all liquid are thickened for her.  Icy cold water was what she wanted without the thickening so I got her exactly that.  She enjoys the simple things in life now ... and a large glass of water with ice sipped slowly through a straw was do-able for her today.

But I did notice that picking words and completing sentences was hard today (ice cream for ice water is a prime example.)

We had a perfect day so we went out the front of the community and sat in the sun.   She remained alert enjoying the warmth of the sun.  So different from yesterday.  Yet not so different as communication was a struggle.

Soon a priest emerged from the entrance.  He recognized us and stopped to talk with mom.  It was a bit hard for mom, but this priest is a regular visitor and very skilled at interacting with all ranges of cognitive ability.

He was from New York and so was mom, so we chatted about that for a few minutes.

At one point, he directed a question to mom.  "So, Mrs. Mesavage, how old are you?"  Mom continued to smile at him but did not respond.  I thought maybe she didn't hear the question.  I regularly repeat questions aimed at mom with a slightly raised voice - making sure she can see my mouth.  I began to repeat the priest's question.

Before I could get passed the second word, mom turned to the priest and said,

"Can I lie?"

What a hoot!!

Not only was she following the conversation, not only did she have an answer ... a spark of her personality and humor emerged in a blinding flash of light for me.  I felt totally washed in it.  She was connected for that small period of time.  She continued to give the priest a dazzling smile waiting for his answer.  He laughed right out loud.  "Sure, why not!" he said.

She responded, "I am 81."


She is actually 88 - and maybe she couldn't remember her actual age, but my guess is that she did know for those few moments!  Of course, she probably didn't want too big a lie to answer for in the next life so she just shaved her age a bit.  :-)  And seriously, if the priest said she could lie, should she need to answer for anything at all???

Too funny!

Now if it was me, and I was going to lie to a priest, I would have made it a whopper!

"I am 29!!!"

Thank God for the spots of light.  It makes her not seem so far away!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Shadows

Today is Mother's Day and I would be remiss if I didn't recognize my mother on this day.  Her story has been so much a part of my blog and my life for years.

Mom struggling with her card.
I needed to open the envelope for her.
Today was a day for sun shine and flowers and cookies and a card!  Today was a day I had hoped the  shadows of her brain might clear a bit so she could enjoy this day.  But it was not to be.  She was happy to see me as I got a small smile on my arrival.  She briefly enjoyed the flowers I brought and she munched on a red sprinkled sugar cookie cut in the shape of a heart. But recognition of the holiday seemed lost on her.

We went outside to enjoy the sun shine - spending time in the center's gazebo is one of the things she likes to do.  But she promptly fell asleep.  Sleep seems to be her constant companion.  I have come to accept this.  It is enough that we spend time together.

Time to sit and think fills my visits.  My thoughts were interrupted by another family nearby.  They were sitting together with a grandmother in a wheel chair, and I could overhear them encouraging her.  She needed to work hard in PT and to eat all her meals and to not spend all her time in bed.  If she wanted to go home she needed to do these things ... otherwise she could not go home.

Such sadness I felt.  How many countless times I had that very same conversation with mom over our years together.  I tried to block out their voices.  Better to stay focused on the knitting I brought ... no sense in borrowing sadness when I had plenty of my own.

Shadows of the gazebo.
I looked up and saw the shadows of the gazebo about our heads.  How very much like the shadows of mom's brain that gazebo is - small spots of light and darkness.  When mom was admitted to the nursing home 6 weeks ago there were far more bright spots in her brain.  Lately the darkness seems to be gaining ground.

So on this Mother's Day I honor the woman my mother is!  She didn't have the easiest life but she raised her two daughters to be productive and caring members of society.  She held together her small  dysfunctional family when others might have given up.  She lived a long life with many satisfying and loved filled moments.  She might not remember any of this, but I do.

She does not suffer now.  She lives a calm life not disturbed by the loss of possessions and experiences.  For her Mother's Day is just like any other day.  It is as if her losses have been exhausted now - there is nothing more left for her to lose.

The Mother's Day card sat unopened on her lap.  She fell asleep while looking at the cover of the card.  I guess the warmth of the sun put her to sleep ... or maybe another bright spot is shrinking into shadow.

You are loved on this Mother's Day, mom.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Comments Moderation

Just stopping in to let you know I have enabled "Comments Moderation" on this blog.  Unfortunately I have starting getting spam in the last month.  So I have decided to place a filter on comments - shouldn't be a hinderance to you - but it is an easier way for me to delete these unwanted visitors.

If the people who like to cause this mischief focused their energies into something positive, maybe the world would be a better place!

And a short note to regular readers:  mom is doing better.  It is unknown if she will "graduate" from the nursing home, but for now she has recovered much of her own personality.

A better update will follow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coping Strategies

Personal goals go out the window at a moment's notice when you are a care giver.

But I haven't lost sight of them and now they are no longer optional goals ... some of them are coping strategies. 

The most important goal of all - walking.  My simple goal is to increase my daily step average each month.  
7112 average daily steps

7094  average daily steps

8502 average daily steps

April - first 8 days
9293 average daily steps

It is remarkable that March showed improvement.  I guess I was putting in a lot of miles the early part of March because once mom was hospitalized, I was only walking from my car to the hospital and back.  Oh, and let's not forget the steps I took from her bed side to the bathroom or the cafeteria and back.  But the real goal is the daily average - not individual day totals.

Now I am walking - sometimes twice a day - because I can't sleep.  And I am just so darn tired all the time.  Walking during the day is the only thing that helps me get through the night.  So this is Coping Strategy #1.  Walk, walk, and walk some more.  It does help, truly.

A special thanks to my Fitbit pedometer and its ability to track my steps when I really could care less, and automatically sync with the website capturing my stats until I am ready to look at them.  The only thing I need to do is keep the battery charged.

I had one knitting goal - to finish my daughter's shawl.  Thankfully I did that before mom's hospitalization.  Ironically my crafting life stalls when I am upset or worried.  I know that is the exact opposite of many folks who find escape in the act of knitting during tough times.  Not me. But I am knitting a little each day.  And when I do force myself to knit those few rows each day - I do feel better afterwards.  

This was a pretty simple goal - clean two closets.  It did not happen, and now the rest of the house is in a desperate state of dirty!  Usually when I am upset I become a cleaning machine!  Not this time.  My energy levels are very very low, so I am not going to fret about a dirty house.  

Blog more ... was my goal.  Blogging has always helped me - especially when things have been difficult with mom.  The story of my mom and care giving continues.  I did blog a bit more.  But I don't want this blog to become only my care giving journey - so I will try to broaden my focus going forward.  

Do more strength and stretching exercises.  This was the goal.  While totally worthwhile, it has been really hard right now.  No time, no energy, no immediate feedback - like walking gives - to make the effort right now possible.  I haven't lost my desire.  I'll be back. 

My April Goals!
Walk more!
Sleep better!
Settle mom in her new environment!