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

Friday, December 31, 2010

The very last day ...

... of 2010.

It seems the thing to do - to reflect, to look back, to evaluate what went great and what didn't ... and then to plan for the next year. Some things went well and some things went poorly.

Enough said on that topic!

In years past I made lists of goals. Even then I avoided calling them "Resolutions". Resolutions seem so confining, so serious, so much like a vow or something. My goals were typically related to my current passions - knitting or walking. They were specific, detailed and numerous. I had lists of projects I planned to complete: names of patterns, specific yarn, specific colors. There were usually 12 to 15 goals. I'd start with 30 and then cut them down. I never completed all my goals.

This year I have "hopes". I see hopes as a step down from goals - and goals are a step down from Resolutions! Hmm ... a "stepping down" pattern here.
  • I hope to have good health for me and my family.
  • I hope to have more time with my husband - just him and me. I think we lost that this year.
  • I hope to spend more time on my hobbies and less time sitting in hospitals and rehab centers. I did that 3 times this year. I am pretty sure mom feels the same way too.
  • I hope to walk more.
  • I hope for world peace. Ok, that was a bit ambitious, but what the heck. While I am hoping, I may as well stick in something that would benefit others - you know, just in case there is a Genie reading this and granting wishes. I'd hate to miss a golden opportunity because I wasn't inclusive enough. :-)
  • And I hope that 2011 is kind to everyone.
I will work towards these "hopes" this year. And maybe if 2011 is kind to me, I will have more energy for stepping back up to "goals" in December 2011.

See ya' in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yea for being female

Birds of all descriptions are streaming to my feeders. We had a brush of snow, and although it wasn't the feet of snow that fell within 100 miles of us, it was enough snow to trigger the feeding frenzy at the feeders.

The large feeder usually has seed but frequently my smaller feeder is empty when I greet the morning. I see the birds sitting on the bare tree limbs just off my back deck ... waiting, facing towards my glass slider, waiting, watching, wondering ... when is the "free lunch" arriving.

I seem to have a large flock of Cardinals in my back yard. It is not uncommon to see 8 to 10 Cardinals.

Most people love the look of the male Cardinals. They are brilliant red, showy and a bit cocky if you ask me. The eye is naturally drawn to them. Their color makes them very obvious against the winter shrubbery.

I actually prefer to watch the female Cardinals. They are harder to spot because they are not so bright in their colors.

They seem more polite, waiting their turn to feed. Their feather colors are muted - bright red beaks and touches of red on their wings and heads, but their bodies tend to have shades of color. They are a very appealing bird if you really look at them. The males are all the same - just red, red, and more red. The eye is naturally drawn to such strong colors, but the females are more artistically interesting if you take the time to notice.

And a day or so ago I saw two Blue Jays. They are beautiful birds as well, large in size and brilliant blue. But they, too, all look the same to my eye. When you have seen one, you have seen them all.

Only the female Cardinals are distinctive.

Yea, for being female.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Day - I win the prize for "Different"

(Posted on December 29, 2010)

Christmas Day 2010

Our Christmas Day couldn't have been more different. Usually we pack up and travel to my sister's house in Northern Virginia for a magnificent meal, wonderful decorations, time by her beautiful fire place with family and all in the peaceful setting of rural Virginia.

Not this year! Mom and I weren't leaving our house. We were gone so long in December that our need to just stay put was overwhelming.

Our day began with a pancake and bacon breakfast. I made Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes from the book: The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond. Her story is a fascinating one: a city girl who marries a "cowboy", moves to the country and becomes, well, a Pioneer Woman. She has an award winning blog that can be found at: Her blog show cases the breathtaking photos of her life, her family, her land, the horses and pets, the ranch hands, just anything that catches her eye. Many of those photos are works of art. She documents her life on a ranch and has an extensive offering of tasty and stick-to-your-bones recipes complete with pictures and personal commentary. She cooks great! The recipe book is an outgrowth of her blog. Even if you don't like to cook (and I don't) you will enjoy her blog on many levels.

After breakfast we lounged around the house in our PJs digesting our hearty breakfast. Our pull out couch was filled with people and dogs all morning. We ate and drank whatever we wanted (although Cheez-Its were a favorite snack). At 11:00 am I decided to rest for a short time, with my pillow on the floor and a blanket, and at some point I woke up. One of those unpredictable naps again.

Around noon my daughter decided to put her new Dyson vacuum together and test it out on my floors. Now this is my idea of the perfect Christmas. Someone vacuuming my house voluntarily without payment. (Please don't pay attention to how full the Dyson vacuum canister is - there was no time for cleaning, so my house was dirty as well as unprepared.)

At 1:30 pm, we packed up and made ourselves presentable. The bed was folded up. At 2:30 pm my son and his girl friend headed for her parents house for Christmas dinner. Matt's dogs stayed with us.

We never had a Christmas morning like that. It was grand. I could get used to that.

Then it got a bit crazy.

Around 4: 30 pm my sister arrived and she was not by herself. She had her husband, her two daughters, their new lab puppy, Morgan and an Italian Greyhound called Fig - my niece was dog-sitting Fig for a friend for the holiday.

So, if anyone is keeping count, we had 5 dogs. Milo and Morgan were playing hard. Meathead and Grimace were trying to stay involved but really not able to keep up - they haven't been puppies for a long, long time!!

And Fig? Well Fig (as you can see from the picture) didn't really care to get involved. The 4 boys tried to involve her, but it usually resulted in barking and snarling from Fig. She was happy to sit with my niece in her holiday outfit.

And before you get too involved in what she is wearing, it is only a partial outfit. Under her Santa jacket she is wearing a pink undershirt. Fig had matching leg warmers and booties - not shown. Apparently she has many outfits and needs them because (if you didn't notice) she is extremely thin - normal for her breed I am sure, but no body fat and little hair, and as a result, gets cold really easy. She seemed like a pretty nice dog. I felt a bit sorry for her - strange people, strange dogs, strange houses. Whatever could she be thinking. But my niece took really good care of her and Fig stuck pretty close to my niece.

Needless to say, after about an hour of dog mayhem, we isolated a few in the kitchen with me. Once 2 were separated from the group, relative peace ensued. Finally people could visit and exchange presents. It was almost normal for about an hour. :-)

At 6:30 pm my sister and her entourage departed - onward to visit my brother-in-law's family. We had our meal from Harris Teeter - Prime Rib, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and cornbread stuffing. I added a tossed salad, some spinach and rolls. It was pretty good. We did find the Prime Rib fatty. We aren't used to high fat foods. But the big advantage was that I didn't cook - just reheated.

Christmas Day ended with me taking Meathead and Grimace home around 10:30 pm. And then when I got home into bed for me for another full night's sleep.

So that was my Christmas Day - 2010.

The whole month was an Out-of-Body experience - to be honest. I enjoyed the last few days, but the rest of the month - well, I am very glad to be past it.

Onward ... welcome 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Time stops for no one - December 24th

(Posted December 28, 2010)

If I could stop the clock just once in my life ... this Christmas Eve would have been the day.

When I awoke on Christmas Eve I felt refreshed and energized. I was sure that I could make up for the 24 days I missed. I was ready to make a massive Christmas Eve dinner, make my once-a-year Christmas Chocolate Chip cookies for my husband (I hate cooking so he gets them only once a year), unwrap the gifts I wrapped yesterday in ugly paper, and rewrap them in beautiful holiday paper, matching bows and artful name tags ... and then, like sand in an hour glass, all that energy slipped away. I found myself thinking about a nap.

My son arrived around noon. It was so wonderful to see him at home rather than at a medical facility. He brought my two grand dogs, Meathead and Grimace. I greatly missed all three of my grand dogs. I see those mutts normally several times a week - something I almost entirely missed in December. Once we had 3 dogs in the house, we had the normal confusion and craziness that these 3 dogs together bring.

Our plans for this Christmas Eve had included hosting a dinner for son's girlfriend and her family. While I was in rehab with mom, her family delivered a beautiful Christmas evergreen table piece and a tasty chicken dish. We were so touched by their generous gift. Unfortunately we were forced to postpone the Christmas Eve dinner when I realized that mom might not be home for Christmas. If she was home, our ability to put together a dinner for 12 people was probably over ambitious. We are looking forward to seeing them in January ... sort of a winter celebration rather than a Christmas one. As I was thinking about that nap on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I realized that postponing that dinner, while disappointing, was probably my only choice.

My daughter made the yearly Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were yummy. I made Shells and Meatballs with tomato sauce for our dinner. Simple and fast. It was good - not fancy but definitely better than 85% of what had sustained me in December.

We opened our presents after dinner. Since the kids hit their teens, we open our gifts on Christmas Eve. It is grand to have our "kids" with us on Christmas Eve. I know that in the future our holiday traditions will change as the demands on their time change, but for now, it was really good.

My son decided to spend the night and his girl friend came around 10:30 pm to spend the night with us as well. Our living room became a big sleep over with 3 people and 3 dogs. It was a happy and cozy way to close out our Christmas Eve.

As much as I want more time on Christmas Eve, the time we had was great.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The run up to Christmas ... December 23rd

(Posted on December 27, 2010)

Have you ever had dreams - nightmares really - about not being prepared for a big social event you are hosting, or did not study for a final exam you must pass, or how about ... opening night of a play your are in - and not knowing the lines of your character, or the best one of all ... it is Christmas Eve and you have done almost nothing?? Maybe I am sharing too much of my personal paranoia but I dreamed them all - one of them was a reality for me this month.

Mom was released from rehab on December 23 - when we walked in the house, it was like walking into a time capsule with the date December 1 and I have 24 glorious days to get ready. In reality, I had 24 hours to get ready.

But time to stop dilly-dallying and get cracking ...

Number 1 - Get mom into the house, settled and fed. Check! Some of you may know that we have 20 steps from the parking lot level to the first floor of our town house. Those steps were the focus of mom's rehab. Once in our house she has a chair lift to the bedroom level. Steps 16 through 20 were a bit of a struggle for her, but in true-grit fashion, she made it. Yea mom.

Number 2 - Wrap the presents I had managed to purchase previously. Check! Now the Christmas paper wasn't pretty, there were no matching bows (actually there was no ribbon at all) and I didn't have name tags so I took a big old fat magic marker and wrote the names right on the wrapping paper. Am I classy or what!!! :-)

Number 3 - Call two of mom's doctors because some of her medications had been dropped/switched at the hospital and in rehab, and I didn't know that until discharge from rehab. Important medicines - like ones to prevent a stroke, or to keep her blood pressure normal or to help with her short term memory loss. You can bet I wasn't feeling very Christmas-y at that point!

Number 4 - Run to the store and get more wrapping paper!! *sigh*

Number 5 - Write checks to cover the gifts not purchased - everyone says they love money - this year they got a chance to prove it. Check!

Number 6 - Make dinner. My daughter was coming home that evening and volunteered to buy a take-out dinner, but after eating out for several weeks (eating at the hospital cafeteria can put you off food for a long, long time), I was happy to have a home cooked meal - even if I had to make it myself. Check!

Number 7 - Get the Christmas Tree up. Our tree is usually filled to the brim with a life time of meaningful ornaments. This year? Get the tree up, lights on, enough ornaments to be legal and call it done. Check, Check and Check!!

Number 8 - Throw some holiday cheer on mom. She looks good in red don't you think. Check!

And if you are wondering why she is looking like an Eskimo in my house ... mom runs cold all the time. Even in rehab, where I considered stripping down to my underwear to keep from sweating, she was cold. Be assured, I didn't strip - these people were all pretty old and I had no intention of creating havoc - besides, it isn't a pretty sight anyway.

Number 9 - Take Milo's picture on his first Christmas. Check!

Now you need to know that this picture was taken just prior to a major melt down between my two cats who LOVE the Christmas tree. Milo considers everything on the first floor HIS and wasn't interested in sharing!! Christmas spirit was once again missing for a bit. Eventually things settled down - Milo got his way. But someday that dear dog will get a claw in his nose. Glad it wasn't on Christmas! A trip to the emergency vet, while totally in keeping with how my December had gone, would have made us pretty sad.

Number 10 - Go to bed. A bomb could have gone off and I would have missed it. Mom slept great too. Check and Check!

Once again my daughter was there to help keep things moving along.

When I got up the next morning, I had received my first present - a full night's sleep.

More tomorrow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - both filled with fun and unexpected mayhem and joys.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

After the "storm" and before the storm

Our Christmas turned out better than I anticipated. I'll post more about the unexpected nature of our holiday tomorrow. Needless to say, we have much to be thankful for this year.

Thankfully Mom and I survived the "storm" that was our December. Mom is doing well. She sleeps now until 9:00 am and is coming downstairs for all her meals. I think she is catching up on her rest. Tomorrow we start in earnest the regular exercises that she was given while in rehab. And sometime this week Physcial Therapy will start again at home.

I have slept exceedingly well for 3 nights in a row!!! (Three whole nights - that is huge!!! ) I haven't been able to do that since November. However, I begin my mornings with a feeling that my energy levels are normal - and then by noon or so, I am fatigued again. I am guessing that 3 nights of sleep doesn't make up for missing about 3 weeks of sleep. :-) Regardless, it is wonderful to feel rested at least part of the day. While I was with mom in the hospital and rehab, I never felt rested. It is a terrible feeling.

Today I decided to go for a walk. I knew it would be hard, but a snow storm was coming and I wanted to get out before it came. And it was hard! I was tired about 10 minutes into the walk. And the walk wasn't refreshing or invigorating like it was several weeks ago - when I got to walk exactly once. But I pushed myself to complete 30 minutes and according to my pedometer I walked about 1.5 miles. And then I came home and promptly laid on the couch. Pathetic. But it is a start. And here I am at 9:30 pm in the evening and I am still awake. Good sign!

Hope every one's holiday was joyful. I'll be sharing ours with pictures tomorrow. You can't even begin to know what a mayhem it was!! Check in tomorrow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflection - Losses and gains

Reflection on the last 4 weeks ...

Gained - a deeper understanding of aging.
I spent a week living with the oldest of the old. Most Brooke Grove residents in our wing were 80 to 100. They were friendly and those who could communicate were eager to talk with a new person. Not until you spend days with them, and share meals, or hear about their lives, can you really get a glimpse - just a glimpse - of what it must be like to become very old. One beautiful woman in her 90s summed it up eloquently. "Life just stops." I'll call her Glory. When Glory came to live in Brooke Grove she could walk with a walker, and when she fell she became wheel chair bound. Because of her limitations she misses all the family events she once attended. Yes, they visit, and Glory lives in a beautiful facility, and her room was filled with presents, but she can no longer be with her family on the actual holidays. She can only see those who choose to visit. Glory knows she cannot live independently and her family cannot manage her needs. She admitted it hurts and there are nights when she cries. Although life has stopped for her, she always had a smile on her face, she always greeted mom and I warmly, and she always treated her resident "friends" gently and with a shared understanding. And though there is continued hurt from the lost of her precious family holidays, there is no bitterness. Hers was one story. There were others. There can be great sadness in growing older - that I knew - and great loss as well. I hope I can continue to spare mom some of that as she continues to age. I take it a day at a time.

Lost (temporarily I hope) the ability to sleep through the night.
Since mom got sick on November 28, I have been unable to sleep well. I have had exactly one night's full sleep. I really hope that once she is home and things settle down - sleep returns.

Gained a new desire to live healthy.
This month I pretty much sat alot, worried excessively, ate terribly (when I could eat), slept little, and watched with sadness my mother deal with the consequences of not being more active in her senior years. As the daughter who received her mother's genetic "cookie cutter" imprint, I know I am staring at my future if I don't get serious about being more healthy.

Lost the need to participate in the "season"
I literally lost the month of December. Of all the months in the year, this one is the hardest to lose. The self-imposed demands of the holiday season - the tree, the greeting cards, the gift buying, the package wrapping, the entertaining - all with the deadline of Christmas Day ... all are eliminated when you are sitting on December 23 - and your focus is just somewhere else.
Mom comes home today. Hopefully I can get the tree up (with my daughter's help) for her this afternoon. If it wasn't for mom, I would just ignore the whole holiday event - hand out my gifts unwrapped and call it done! But she deserves a Christmas. So we will squeeze in whatever we can. I will be very happy to see January 2011.

Gained a better understanding mom's needs.
I have always struggled with mom's inabilities to hear, to remember, to stay active, to remain engaged in life. I wanted more for her. I looked at this aging process only through my eyes. This past week - I saw it through her eyes and the eyes of others living out their later years. The needs of older senior citizens are different. I gained awareness that what looks like idleness often isn't - thinking is slower, decisions take time, mental stimulation is good but not needed at the same level as when younger. And above all - patience is needed by those around them. Patience is hard when you live with an elderly person day to day, but I watched the "pros" do it for the Brooke Grove residents. I can do better - that much I know.

Gained a new appreciation for being home.
If I never see the inside of my local hospital again, I will be a happy person. So much time spent outside my home has made me very, very appreciative of being home. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

So on balance, I think I gained more than I lost.

It would be naive to assume that another health crisis, hospitalization, or rehab - is not in my future. For mom at 84 years old, I know that as each day passes, the odds go up that we will travel this path again. Meanwhile we will add healthier habits to both our lives and savor the fact we survived the storm this December.

Today is a day to celebrate. Mom comes home.

Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

At "home" in rehab

So here are some views of my "home" ... mine and mom's, for the last week. Brooke Grove Rehab and Skilled Nursing is located in Sandy Spring, Maryland. It really has been a wonderful place to have a loved one. Mom wasn't happy to be there, but I can tell you that she has nothing to compare it to - and I do. She got very lucky.

Here is a view of the lobby. You can't see it in this shot, but on one of the chairs facing the fire place a resident cat sleeps. Do cats know where to sit or what!!

This is the Nurses Station decorated for the holidays. As you can see, the staff doesn't really "hang out" there. They are spread out in one of three wings that span out from this station. Rarely did I see more than one or two people there. They are busy with the residents.

For the season, they are frequently decked out in red and green holiday stuff, pins, beads, Santa Hats, holiday scrubs, red antlers ... too funny really. The first time I visited all the staff had red antlers on their heads.

In addition, I never once heard a resident addressed in anger or frustration. They were always treated with respect, patience and love. I also never smelled anything - never! The residents are always clean and well cared for.

Here is mom checking the news paper while sitting in her wheel chair in the dining room. Out the window in front of her is a large beautiful gazebo.

This is a side view of the building and back yard. This building sits in the middle of about 250 acres. There is a long drive way (probably 3/4 of a mile or so) through a span of woods and the rehab complex is located deep within the community. There are areas that have independent living cottages, and I was told they have Assisted Living and an Alzheimer's Unit, but I never saw those buildings.

And finally a shot of the resident cat - heating herself by the fire. They had 2 resident dogs and a bunch of birds. I know that several of the residents have personal pets. Visitor dogs were also welcome, and Milo and Morgan were there one day together ... drawing the staff into mom's room ... many finding professional excuses to visit room 121, and some just coming in with no excuse to see the dogs.

A very relaxed facility, but well run.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grateful, grateful, grateful

I am so grateful for the following things this day.

1. Mom's improving.

1. My family: who propped me up when I was falling. (Yes, there are 2 number ones in this list.)

2. Brooke Grove Rehab: She is in an excellent rehab facility.

3. Food I don't have to cook: They cook good food here - we just had some tomato soup that was excellent.

4. Potato chips: Mom couldn't finish her potato chips with her lunch yesterday so I made the big sacrifice and finished them for her. :-)

5. My sister's Christmas cookies: The facility ran out of dessert when they served my lunch yesterday. I didn't care!! :-)

6. The Social Worker of this facility: She visited us yesterday. They are discharge planning for mom - with an expected discharge of Thursday, December 23rd. I am trying hard not to float off the face of the earth!!

7. Prayers that are answered.

8. The smile on my mother's face when she heard the news.

Monday, December 20, 2010

That which does not kill you ...

... Makes you stronger.

Truer words were never spoken.

I sit in mom's private room at Brooke Grove Rehab and Skilled Nursing in Sandy Spring, Maryland, pondering the course of events that brought mom and I to this place.

First let me say that Brooke Grove Rehab is a beautiful facility filled with competent and caring professionals. When I realized that mom couldn't come home from the hospital I was in a panic about where she could go to get her strength back. Nursing home and rehab facilities are not all equal. One that I saw was a nightmare. My daughter came to my rescue and suggested this lovely facility. Throughout this whole journey filled with hospitals, rehab, worry, and fatigue, I have had been most fortunate to have the right people helping me when I needed it most. My daughter's knowledge of assisted living and rehab, and this facility in particular, was an example of that. My son's frequent visits to see his grandmother, and his "first sleep over" with his grandmother when she went into rehab was another example. My children literately kept me from falling several times during the last month.

This posting is a long one. I have been gone awhile - much to share. So if you are unable to keep reading - I understand. Check in with me later when my life returns to some level of normalcy.

It all began with my illness after Thanksgiving told in my posting "Return from the Brink". Apparently we didn't actually return - I think we fell into the brink but I didn't know it at the time.

I was beginning to get well, when my mother got what I had - that terrible vomiting and diarrhea virus. She was hospitalized within 4 hours of getting sick. All that was covered in a previous post. When she was discharged, I thought she was on the mend, when she got sick again.

We returned to the hospital - thinking she had a bladder infection -something simple carried over from the first hospitalization. Turns out it was a bladder infection, but she was also septic - an infection in her blood stream. This condition was quite a bit more serious than just a stomach flu. She spent time in the ER, then transferred to a regular nursing area, then had problems breathing. Once that condition was controlled, she was transferred to ICU - Intensive Care Unit, where she spent a day and a half. While there she developed some abnormal heart rhythms which they got quickly under control. Finally all conditions were improving enough for her to be transferred to a Telemetry Unit - a nursing unit that could monitor her heart. All that happened in 4 days. Four different beds in 4 days. I have seen way too much of that hospital.

On December 15th, she was transferred to Brooke Grove Rehab. She is well now, but her strength was seriously sapped by 2 back to back hospitalizations. And that is where we are now.

Our most pressing problem now are her spirits. She gets down - wanting to go home. She fails to see how much progress she has made. She seems oblivious to the beautiful facility, the caring staff and how lucky she has been to have her family with her every step of the way. This morning I had a serious conversation with her. I pointed out all the good things she seems to overlook. I even pointed out that many of the people she shares her meals with ... call this place "home". She does not. She is going to her home ... home with me. She is the lucky one! She said she didn't feel lucky. And I got very serious with her. She needs to change her mind - and I went over it all again - just how lucky she is. I think the conversation did her good. Unfortunately she finds it easier to focus on the negatives, rather than the positives. Human nature, I guess. But I don't accept that line of thinking. She will change her mind ... if only to keep me from preaching at her :-).

It now time for the "tough love" part of her care giving. The time for self-pity is over. The time for hard work and taking care of yourself begins. (Good advice for me as well - in January I am going back to Curves! You heard it here first !!!)

I don't consider myself a religious person. But I do believe in God. And over the last few weeks I have found myself thanking God for giving me the strength to keep going, and for giving me the right help, at the right time, by the right people. I do feel that even when I felt my most alone and tired and scared ... I really I wasn't alone. I have to remember that even when things are going well - not just when they are going badly.

Last night I had my first full and uninterrupted night sleep since the end of November. I am along way from being totally back on my feet, but getting 8 hours of continuous sleep did help.

The focus now is getting mom stronger and maybe, just maybe, getting her home for Christmas. When she comes home there won't be even one holiday decoration up, no Christmas tree, the presents aren't wrapped, holiday greetings haven't been sent, there are no Christmas cookies baked, and our holiday dinner will be cooked by the local grocery store ... sounds dismal, but if mom gets home for Christmas, it will be the best Christmas ever for me.

If she doesn't get home, then we will have Christmas here at Brooke Grove - all the family as well as my son's 2 dogs (Meathead and Grimace), my daughter's dog (Milo), and my sister's new puppy (Morgan). Believe me when I say, Brooke Grove Rehab won't know what hit them!! LOL. And our Christmas dinner will be cooked by the wonderful cooks here at the center.

More later. I have my lap top with me now. And Brooke Grove has WiFi.

Note: I have pictures, and my camera, but left my camera cable at home. Pictures will follow!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brief update

Sorry to report mom was hospitalized again, this time with a more serious condition. But once again she is on the mend and slowly regaining her strength in rehab. We are hoping to be home by Christmas.

More later when I have a reliable computer to write a post.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


She came downstairs today. She walked and walked around my first floor. She rested briefly in the kitchen watching the birds out my back slider. She visited with Milo (well, mostly Milo wanted her crackers). And then she sat in her normal chair in the living room and fell asleep. She said she was so tired, but she was happy to be up and walking around.

I recognized that feeling. I expressed the same emotion yesterday when I got outside for a walk.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Break Out Winter Walk

Oh my goodness, I took a walk today and it was glorious!!

Cold, windy, sunny, and totally by myself for 25 glorious minutes - breathing in the cold, clean winter air. That walk was good for my soul!

I haven't worn my pedometer since I clocked a whole 181 steps on the day I was most ill. It was too depressing to see that total so I took my pedometer off. I think tomorrow I will put it back on.

I thought the picture above was very telling of the season. Although it is not technically winter - this picture says "Winter Shadows" to me - trees without any leaves, me bundled up in my long, puffy dog walking coat ... a coat that is so warm I don't need to wear layers underneath. My shadow makes me look about seven feet tall!

There was no specific walking route today. I walked where it suited my fancy. I wanted to stay close to home in case I petered out. I passed by an open ball field, and I noticed a man with his two big dogs. One was a full size white poodle and one was a lab mix. The man was surrounded by about 6 orange retriever dummies.

The white poodle was sunning himself by his owner. Didn't look to me like running was his thing. The lab was running back and forth joyfully retrieving the dummy every time it was thrown. He couldn't wait for it to be thrown again, couldn't get to it fast enough or return quick enough so it could be thrown again. I had to laugh. It appeared that these two dogs were doing what each does best.

I walked through that ball park, and as I got to the other end I turned to look at the dogs again. Apparently I made some false assumptions about these dogs. Now the lab as laying down enjoying the sun and the poodle was going through his paces. I stopped again to watch. I noticed that the poodle was inclined to do things in his own time. He was at the far end of the field looking around for the dummy (It was orange and clearly visible even from where I was), and then he stopped looking and took a pee (when Nature calls you have to respond), and then he found the dummy, and then started back, but half way to his owner dropped it - and took a dump (Nature again ?? ... or another delaying tactic ?? :-) ), and then, eventually, he picked up the dummy and returned to his owner who stood quietly. There was no calling, gesturing, or encouraging from the man - just stillness, waiting quietly for the poodle to finally return. And when the poodle did return, he came up to the left of his owner and sat. Both dogs did the same thing, but each had his own style. Too funny!

I felt like laughing out loud! Joy at finally getting out for a walk, breathing the cold winter air, enjoyment at watching two well trained dogs go through their paces and watching how each dog marched to his own drum.

And mega joy at being free to just enjoy this beautiful day by myself - even if only for 25 minutes. I went back to the house refreshed.

Yes, walking is good for the soul.

However, this evening I feel like I was it by a truck!! Boy I am tired. Getting my energy back is going to be a challenge. But it was worth it. Great walk!

A brief series of updates

Update family: All are well and normal again.

Update mom: She is well but still weak. PT started today. I posted her daily to-dos on her den door. She is reminded (and I am reminded) of what she has to do each day with regard to exercises and goals. (I guess being a former teacher never goes away.) Last night she was unable to sleep - I am guessing the anticipation of a nurse coming at 8:00 am this morning kept her up, and she had some diarrhea (due to the dinner I gave her - still too early for her to have breaded fish by Gordon's - my fault. Note to self: Don't make your mother sick twice in the same month!!) But regardless, she is making progress each day.

Update me: Well, although I can eat anything I want and do anything I want, I run out of energy pretty fast. I think that is because I wasn't recovered from my own illness when mom got sick. But I am a normally healthy person and that should improve as well with every day that passes. In fact, I plan to go out for a walk this afternoon. It will be a short walk, because I have been off exercise AGAIN - and I am still building up my endurance, but I will be walking today.

Thank you to those who have being sending email messages of inquiry and encouragement. Everyday I hear from someone else. Thank you to my son, his girl friend, Meathead and Grimace for sending the Get Well card to his Grandmother. That card made her day!! Thank you to my sister for bringing mom flowers. Those flowers made the cats day!! :-)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Return from the brink!

Well, I've been gone a bit - but not sitting idle. Not idle at all.

Just as I was beginning to feel like I might not die, and just after having the first full night sleep in 3 days, and just as I was taking off my lucky socks - so I could wash them ... my mom got the same stomach-flu-crud I had. At 84 years of age, this virus was especially cruel to her. Within 4 hours of becoming ill, I had her rushed to the ER by ambulance. She had fainted from the virulent nature of this virus.

She spent 4 days in the hospital and was discharge Friday night. Now - Sunday night - she is still very weak and has no appetite. But she is eating somewhat regularly and today we started getting her to walk around the top floor of our town home. Physical Therapy starts next week.

Mom and I were not the only causalities. My husband started getting sick while mom and I were on our way to the ER. That night I stopped by home to see how he was. He said that he had passed out as well, in the bathroom. He was very lucky to have not hit his head. No one else was here for him.

My dear daughter who stayed an extra day to help out while I was confined to bed, was "rewarded" by getting this virus as well. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece also got very sick.

Since coming home I have been cleaning and cloroxing everything. I know it doesn't really make that much difference, but it makes me feel better to know it is clean. Mom's rooms and bathroom looked like a war zone when we got home on Friday night - we had no time to clean up or pick up once the EMT's arrived on Tuesday morning so the space felt filled with sickness. I spent alot of time cleaning the house, but focused on her spaces - stripping the bedding, steam cleaning the carpet, wiping all the surfaces down, cloroxing her bathroom. I sincerely wish that I could just open my windows for about 2 hours to air the house out. Not happening at 32 degrees outside, but if I was the only person here - I would open the windows and just wear my coat for awhile.

So now it is a race toward Christmas. I have lost a week of preparation. Maybe this is just God's way of slowing me down, pointing out that I don't need to do all the little holiday details to have a happy holiday. I am not being critical, of course, but he could have taken a less dramatic way of getting the message to me. Being pretty hard-headed, maybe a message just short of killing me was required. I would have preferred, however, that he kept this between me and him - rather than dragging my mother into it. :-)

Lots of stuff have fallen off my to-do list this month. At the top of my list is getting mom back on her feet and strong again. That would make my holiday joyful.

PS - wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wonder Socks and a fabulous daughter

Yes, these are wonder socks! Although a picture can't do them credit, they gave me comfort over this difficult weekend.

You see, Friday night a 24-hour stomach virus hit me hard (this one should have been called a "48-hour and counting virus" 'cause the impacts are still being felt - that is why I am still wearing these socks.) You know the kind of virus I am talking about - you and your toilet bowl get to know each other real well, you promise the toilet bowl that you will keep it cleaner in the future, you keep your family up all night long with gagging and toilet flushing sounds, and days later the smell of food still turns your stomach a bit. That's the one!

Somewhere around 3:30 am on Saturday morning, on one of my many trips past my dresser after leaving the bathroom, I realized that my feet were cold (I hadn't been thinking much about my feet, you understand). Previously I got back into bed feeling sorry for myself and hoping desperately this trip to the bathroom was my last trip ... and then my feet would finally get warm in bed and ... zammo ... off to the bathroom again I went. On that trip at 3:30 am, I decided to put on a pair of my hand-made wool socks ... I just slipped my hand into the drawer and picked a pair in the dark (I wasn't much interested in being color coordinated at that point). There was an "ahhh" sensation as I slipped the socks onto my feet. Finally there was one part of my body that was being taken care of - my feet. They were comfortable and warm. The rest of me wanted to die, but my feet were "golden". And every trip after that (yes, it went on and on *sigh*), I would get back into bed and think, "oh my feet are so warm and comfortable" ... it was a small comfort in light of all the other busy things that were going on with the rest of my body - but you take what you can get when you are thinking of just dying!!

So here I am on Monday - still eating almost nothing, weak as a piece of limp asparagus, but feeling a bit better, and I am still wearing my same socks. Now before any of you can make any nasty comments about "dirty socks," let me tell you ... these little gems are broken in just right, my feet have never been cold since I put them on, they are my lucky charm for getting better and they still make me feel good.

They are staying!!

And, my daughter is even better than these socks. She stayed a day later than she intended in a germy house to take care of things. She ran to the store for me, got dinner on the table for my husband and mom when I could barely lift my head, she did my laundry (checked for spots, checked labels, checked pockets, folded clothes, didn't felt my other hand made socks waiting to be washed ... all done without me giving one instruction! Wow.) Thank you, baby!

Now, it would be all worthwhile, if tomorrow I got on the scale and found I had lost 40 lbs!! Ok, that might be a bit excessive.

I'll settle for 35!

Friday, November 26, 2010

And now the sweater pictures

I guess you could say these pictures are over kill. But we really wanted to have a group shot with our sweaters. And Meaty and Grimmy joined us - they don't need sweaters but they weren't going to be left out of a pee-poop opportunity! Enjoy!

Not sure what is happening here. Maybe the glass of wine that was drunk before the walk had some impact on behavior. Got to stop Milo from drinking wine! :-)
A pretty good fit - don't you think?

Great deer poop here!!!

Like I said - our pets are family!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: past and present

As much as I love Halloween ... if I could have only one holiday a year, it would be Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about family.

All my Thanksgivings of memory have two constants: my mom and my sister. There were Thanksgivings when I didn't have children or a husband. And it has been 40 years since I spent a Thanksgiving with my dad who died in 1970. But there have been no Thanksgivings in my memory without my mom and sister.

Growing up and as a young married woman I remember having Thanksgiving at my mom's house. Although we always left the table totally stuffed, looking back and compared to today, I think our Thanksgiving meals were modest. They included the typical turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, a vegetable, canned cranberry sauce, and mom's pumpkin pie. Once I had children I took over the dinner, and I learned to cook a turkey and many of mom's dishes. My sister and her boyfriend (now husband) would join our table. My mother-in-law was also with us, and with her came the a tradition of sour kraut and turkey (she said it was a German tradition). Once my sister married, she and her husband would have two dinners on Thanksgiving day: one with us and one with his family. They did that for years until they had children and decided to stay home for Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving dinner torch was passed to my sister when she had children. Since then, our dinners have become an adventure in eating. My sister loves to cook. No, let me say this differently. My sister LOVES to cook. Mom and I treated this meal as an opportunity to get family together and we fixed the same typical and traditional dishes. My sister treated this meal as a passion (and she still does). We have all benefited from that passion. Besides having the space to serve all the family, she has the pretty dishes, the beautiful pottery, and the adventuresome cooking spirit. She gets the fresh turkeys from local farmers, and once we even had two turkeys (we did a deep fried turkey one year - incredible), she makes her own rolls and pies, she makes her own cranberry sauce, she frequently makes two stuffings recipes, and always serves tasty and unusual appetizers ... I could go on, but you wouldn't believe me.

But the food is only part of the specialness that is Thanksgiving. My sister lives in a rural area of Virginia about 60 miles from me. The last 10 minutes of the trip are the best. We turn off the main highway onto a gravel road. This road goes for about 2 miles through a beautiful section of properties, some of which have been there for quite some time. You real feel like you are in the country. Beautiful land. You can't see it well in the top picture, but in the distance is Sugarloaf Mountain. These are two views from her porch.

But it would all just be a Martha Stewart moment if it wasn't for our family. It is one of the few times during the year when we get everyone together. Since our "children" are now grown and most are in their 30's, it is beyond incredible that we have maintained that family dinner tradition. In our culture, it is common for families to go their separate ways, to individually celebrate holidays far from each other, to grow away from the family holiday traditions and the specialness of their relationships. Thankfully, that has not been our experience.

This year Thanksgiving was special for so many reasons. To begin - my son and his girl friend have been together for years. This Thanksgiving was the first time they came together to share our meal. She is very much a part of our family - having her there felt right. I suspect we are seeing the beginning of holiday meal sharing between families. I doubt my son would eat two Thanksgiving dinners in one day. But sharing is the natural way of things. We were thrilled she was with us this day.

And then there was the grand announcement that my sister and her husband will soon be adopting a lab puppy! Actually, "announcement" isn't quite the right word. It was more like an unveiling - my brother-in-law turned his computer screen towards me without saying a word, and there was the perfect little face of a chocolate lab puppy. I was so excited and joyful for them. The last few years have been very hard - two elderly labs with health problems, many struggles to give them a good quality of life as they aged, and, of course, the final heart break when their lives were over. The void will now be partially filled with this beautiful new little guy. You can't ever replace a beloved pet, but you can open your heart to another. And he doesn't know it yet, but he has landed in a home where pets are family members. He is a lucky dog. I am eager to meet him in person.

And then the dinner! Yikes! My sister out did herself - if that is even possible. The turkey was 25 pounds - barely fit in her oven. There were two potato dishes, two stuffing dishes, four or five vegetable dishes, a tossed salad, homemade rolls, two kinds of cranberry sauce (one home made, of course), gravy and mom's pumpkin pie - not to mention the Bourbon soaked dates and Bourbon balls as well as several home made appetizers.

There were 10 of us. She had food for 20.

But if you set all that aside (and I mean allllll of it), the real jewel of the day was that I was able to spend yet another Thanksgiving holiday with my sister and my mom. How many more we have together only God knows. But we are truly fortunate to have had this wonderful day together.

Mom catching a cat nap!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Late fall walk and a handsome boy!

This morning I took a regular walk. The day was beautiful - cool and sunny. But about half way through the walk, I got to thinking that I had walked all the sidewalks and paths near my house. Without getting into my car and driving out of my neighborhood, there were no unexplored routes. hmm ...

And then I took a side step.

Here is my normal path (walked a gazillion times).

Here is the hill next to my normal path (walked on ... never).

Here is someone's back yard at the top of that hill (new glorious adventure).

Oh well, it was fun to branch out no matter how short the joy was. I need to find some new walking routes.

Glad to have my iPod to keep me company on my walks.

Last night I finished knitting Milo's sweater. This sweater was made from yarn that was left over from my daughter's sweater and my sweater. He is one handsome boy, don't you think?

I took careful measurements of Milo's body before and during working on this project, but I kept second guessing my sizing. I couldn't help thinking that the sweater looked too big. Yikes. I measured the sweater multiple times and it matched his measurements, but I did hold my breath a bit when he arrived today and I slipped the sweater on him. Perfect!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that I have another holiday with my family. I am thankful that I don't have to travel far to see my family. I am thankful that my sister loves to cook, that she is a good cook and that I don't have to cook. I am happy to bring a few dishes and some wine, but I am glad the turkey is at her house and not mine. Besides my oven is a fire hazard.

Yes, I have a self-cleaning oven, but if I turned on that feature now, I would need to open my windows to keep the smoke alarms from going off. One year I turned on the cleaning function of my oven - in January! Never clean your oven in January!! I had to turn off the heat, open the windows and sit with my coat on for about 3 hours. Maybe if I cleaned my oven more frequently than every other year ... I know, 2011 - one of my resolutions will be to clean my oven ... at some point.

No sense raising the bar too high. :-)

If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, hope your travels are safe. Happy Turkey Day to all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This and That

Hi again! I know ... it has been a week since I posted. But things have been happening. This week has been an improvement over previous weeks.

First and foremost, my grand dog babies .... Meathead, my English Bull Dog grandson, is doing much better. He finally adjusted to the Phenobarbital. This has been a great relief to me. I have been very concerned about how this drug had affected his coordination, balance, and, most importantly, his personality. All issues seem to have resolved over the course of this week. We have also reduced his extremely high level of Potassium Bromide. Now we wait to see how all this plays out with the frequency of his seizures. So far no seizures. Welcome back to the world, my dear Meaty.

Milo completed his second week of training. He is such a smart little dog, and he has picked up the initial commands quickly. The "leave it" command has worked pretty well to control his obsession of chewing sticks outside and his jealousy reaction with Meathead. It is early still, but Meaty's improved mental state and Milo's training seems to be making life a bit calmer here.

Milo will share more about his training experiences in the blog he shares with Meaty and Grimace. It can be found at

Secondly, I have managed some balance with other stuff important to me.

I seem to be getting back to my walking routine (again!). I missed many weeks, but this week I have been taking a 30 minute walk. Thirty minutes is quite a bit less than I was doing in September, but it is more than I was doing in November. Since I lost walking endurance, I need to build back up again. Thirty minutes is enough for now.

Although it is still Fall, this picture of trees near my house definitely says Winter.

Sadly, I am down to exactly one group Tai Chi session and one knitting group session a week. But as my energies get pulled into other areas, some things have to shrink so that there is room. Shrink, yes. Disappear, no.

I was able to get out for lunch with a friend this week (thank you Happy One, it was a great lunch - we need to do that again sometime.) Having lunch with a friend is good for the soul. Friendships need cultivating.

I did set some of my knitting and weaving projects aside this month so that I can complete Milo's sweater. That project is nearing completion.

I've been absent from blogging. Not a long absence, but not where I want to be. I really want to blog 3 or 4 times a week. Daily was fun when I first stated, but in my unpredictable life, 3 to 4 times a week is do-able. Of course, this week was once. Today.

I am still reading, but I am not reporting on every book I read - only the one I think are worth recommending.

I can't seem to keep up with the house work - but I am learning to live with that. (Ok, it still does bother me, but I am working on it.) I am, however, focusing on decluttering. Every time a charity calls looking for a donation of household items - I say "yes" even if I don't have anything to donate. It gives me the incentive to sort through stuff and give it away. Slowly, very slowly, spaces in the house should start to open up. Less really is more. A trite saying but no less true.

Finding balance is probably the biggest lesson I am learning this year. Balance ... a hard lesson for a Type A personality like me to learn. Lots of false starts in the last few months, and I am sure I will have more. And learning to say "no" to things that eat up time that I don't have is something I am practicing.

So although I am "blog quiet" at times, I am not off track - just sorting, sorting, sorting all the elements of my life .... and sorting some more.

I am very thankful that I am learning to put perspective on my life.