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 30, 2011

"Resorting" to launch 2012

Resorting ...
that is what my life seems to be about now.

A lot of time has been spent resorting
... like space ...
our upstairs den is a good example. It used to be mom's sitting room, but now it is my craft room.

The desk in this picture is mom's desk. We tried to get it into her assisted living room, but it wouldn't fit. So it now resides in my craft room. I use it to file mom's important papers and to do her minimal bill paying and bookkeeping.

There are no before pictures, but here are some after pictures.

This closet shows only half of the space my yarn stash occupies. Slide the door to the left and the other half is just as full - floor to ceiling. I was feeling pretty good about squeezing all the yarn into this closet ... very good, until I found another pocket of sock yarn stash that isn't in this closet. It looks like this ...

Yes, that is all sock yarn! Enough yarn to make 80+ pairs of socks!!
Where that bunch of yarn is going, I haven't figured out yet, but the closet is full up!!
Right now it is sitting on the floor of the craft room
making me feel guilty for having so much stash.

All my knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving books are gathered together in this new craft space. That feels pretty good. Easy to see and use.

On top of that book case is my weaving loom all folded up. Once the dust settles on all this stuff shifting, I want to set up the loom again. Beside the loom is a stack of magazines and patterns that need to be sorted and filed.

My filing system is loose leaf binders sorted by project type.
There is probably a bunch of stuff in there I could get rid of
given the time to sort through it all.

And my spinning wheel is now housed safely on a round table near the yarn and the fiber.
It is dusty and I need to give it a little loving attention. But it is nice to see it out where I could easily use it without interference from the various pets.
This picture also shows the other side of the overly full yarn closet.

And I still maintain mom's bedroom - the room that now houses most of her earthly belongings. It is ready for guests - since mom probably can never sleep there again. It still makes me a little sad when I walk in knowing that she doesn't reside there anymore. But she has adapted fairly well to her new room and home, so the "problem" of occupancy appears to be mine alone. It will fade with time I know.
But I fear the hole left in my life and heart, while smaller, will always be there.

I am spending a lot of time moving other stuff around as well.
Although I am not a hobby cook, I do cook every day.
My cookbooks have never had an adequate home.

Initially they were in a book case in the living room, then in a book case in the basement (a worse location), and then stacked in a kitchen cabinet ... closer to the action, but hard to see and harder to use. Our eat in kitchen no longer needs space for a walker,
so I brought up an old book case from the basement.
And for someone who doesn't care much about cooking, I have a lot of cookbooks.

I am "resorting" my alone time. I have really missed my walks. It is alone time and thinking time. So for the umpteenth time, I am heading back to walking. My little walking icon at the top of my blog doesn't show the 1.4 miles I walked today! I guess I am not working the app right. Or maybe the little person on the graph is bent over in laughter at the 1.4 miles I logged and can't catch her breath to show the total ... after all the goal is 1,000 miles by December 31, 2012. I only need to do 998.6 more miles! Only!! :-)

Other alone time is also changing. I used to value the hours between 8:00 pm and midnight. My mother and husband would have gone to their rooms for the night and I would putter around doing this and that. Now I find my body slowing down and settling into the quiet before sleep - around 10:00 pm. That evening time doesn't seem as precious as it once did.

Maybe I am focused on "just keeping busy" so my mind doesn't settle on stuff I can't control. Maybe I am finally free enough to do some long over due stuff.
Maybe I am resorting my empty nest to change the look and feel and push away emotions.

All I know is that at the end of the day I am very tired from all the "resorting."

Welcome to the new year everyone.

Welcome 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 In Sight

Every year I say: I am not going to make resolutions or goals. And I do it anyway!

I have come to accept that goal making, having to-do lists (which in reality is what a yearly list of goals), is part of who I am. No list, no goals ... no forward progress.

So a short look backward seems appropriate now.

In 2011 I had these simple ideas:
  • Get focused - Who the heck knows if I achieved that!
  • Use 5,000 yards of yarn - I had an embarrassing amount of yarn in January 2011. It is more embarrassing now. (Retail therapy is a terrible thing.) I used about 4,000 yards of yarn this year but since I obtained about 22,000 yards of new stuff, I lost ground. I enjoyed every minute of getting it, however. Yarn collector! That is what I am.
  • Get Spinning - *sigh* - I suspect this was not a good year to establish new hobby habits.
  • Get Weaving - better success there. I finished a hand loom weaving project for my mom, a scarf for me, and I have a Weave-It blanket about 1/3 complete. But I didn't make much progress on my new rigid hettle loom.
  • Complete Yarn Projects - here I accomplished more than I thought. I finished 1 pair of socks, but I ripped out the partially made sweater. I made Milo his dog sweater and completed both a shawl for mom and a sweater for me. I also finished some wash clothes and two brain slugs.
So as far as planned achievements go, I did ok. What is not showing on this list is all the stuff I plowed through with mom. Thank God I couldn't see into the future to add all that stuff to my yearly to-do list. I would have just closed up shop and left the country.

This year I am keeping it simple again - 3 goals.
  • Get Walking - I want to walk 1000 miles in 2012. While that number seems like a very big number, it isn't. Based on 3 miles a day, I could 1100 miles. I know initially I will miss some days and probably not even do 3 miles, but as the weeks pass I should be able to do more and reach that goal. And to that end, I have placed a little walking person at the top of my blog. It will help me stay focused on moving forward.
  • Keep knitting, weaving, spinning - stay connected to crafting so my emotional life doesn't stagnate like it did this past year. Five completed projects of something would be nice. Oh, and use 5,000 yards of yarn.
  • Empty Nesters - with mom's move to a new residence, our lives are changing. Some space within our home and our life has opened up. Hard to know what to-dos will evolve from this massive change, but it is a goal I recognize as important this year. Initially I have gained back a little living space. Mom's bedroom in my home is still hers. Even though she cannot physically reach that space, it contains the important things of her life that she chose not to take with her to assisted living. But her den has now become my new craft space. Too soon to report on that effort, but I hope to sometime in January. We are still sorting through the clutter (yes, I still have tons of it - even after the massive clean outs of 2011). New motto: Less is More (except for yarn, of course.)
So the "to-do girl" with the lists and goals still lives on. I am glad to see she still can look forward.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eve of Memories

A Christmas Eve like no other for me.

I can't help be disappointment that mom is not home for Christmas. Her inability to climb steps has changed so much for both of us. Although I am ready to shed the old habits and traditions, but I can't help but desire her presence in my home during this season.

When I look at my Christmas tree, I see reflected many past Christmases when my heart was heavy because of other missing family. But I see other happy reflections as well.

Meathead's picture on a ceramic ornament.

Our tree has symbols of all the things that are important to us.
Most are cat and dog ornaments collected over the years.

It may not be obvious, but that is a pug dressed as Santa Claus.
Pugs love to wear clothes!
Grimace would happily wear an outfit like this.

Several ornaments represent the years my son served in the military
and couldn't be with us. Those were very hard years for me.
My heart goes out to those family this night.

And cat ornaments have graced our tree for all the 42 years of our marriage.
In fact, for most years, cat ornaments were the entire theme.

We have the hand made ornaments as well.
Here is one made by mom many years ago.

We have the traditional Santas.

And the not so traditional Santas (a cat, of course)

The other not-so-seasonal beings that grace my holiday this year are my grand-dogs.
They care not one twit if things are decorated or what gifts are wrapped.
They are happy to be with their "peoples." The rest is unimportant.

And that is how I feel this season.

Thank you for visiting my blog this year during so much of my upheaval and turmoil.
I may not be able to gather all my "peoples" around me this holiday,
but I have got most them.

I am blessed!

Mom, you are missed.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cookies and Sun Set

Today I did the only baking I planned to do for the holiday season - chocolate chip cookies for my husband. And while the cookies were cooling, he wandered through the kitchen and commented, "Ahh, chocolate chip cookies. A sign of the season!"

The kitchen is not my favorite room nor do my favorite activities occur there. But when I am working in there I usually get a small "gift" from nature out of my window. Usually the birds entertain me.

Not this time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter is my season

Christmas Newsletters have been sent, gifts are purchased and wrapped (finally), tree is decorated. Food shopping is done, a visit to the liquor store also completed (got wine and some Bailey's - a special treat for Christmas Eve).

We have barely 2 days left. Left on my Christmas To-Do list? Put away the groceries I bought (*sigh*), bake chocolate cookies, take mom for a Christmas Eve lunch at a restaurant, Christmas Eve dinner to make and Christmas Day morning Mass with mom. Then I am done!

Well, ... at least for the weekend.

We have a Christmas party in early January with friends and family at my house which is part of our holiday celebration.

After that party, the Christmas tree and holiday decorations get packed away and we settle into "Glorious January." Have I mentioned recently that I am a winter lover? Well, I am.

I love everything about winter.
  • I love the cold weather when you can snuggle down in your home or head outside bundled up in your long winter coat (mine is from L.L. Bean - I will feature my wonderful new winter coat in a future post) that covers you from the top of your head down to your ankles.
  • I love the threat and the reality of snow storms - everything looks so clean and simple covered in snow. I don't even mind shoveling snow. All the neighbors are out - it is a great community building opportunity.
  • I love being home bound when the roads aren't passable. Yes, I have a wonderful new Subaru that can easily handle the snow and I am a great snow driver ... but I choose to be snow bound!!! Don't challenge the logic of this thinking! :-)
  • I love wearing my hand knit wool items to keep warm. I especially love knitting them in my home while the winds are blowing strongly outside.
  • I love feeding the birds who have chosen to stay close to my home because I feed them in the cold weather. I feel a responsibility to those little lives.
  • I love the long shadows of bare trees caused by the lower level sun in the sky and the long cold winter nights sleeping under thick quilt. The darkness reminds me that I am on a massive planet with ebbs and flows of light and dark.
  • I love the comfort foods of winter: chili, stew, mac and cheese. I know, where are the fresh veggies of summer? Ok, you can't have everything.
Yes, I am eager to get past the pressures of the holiday season with its unending to-do lists and settle into the predictable, quiet, and cosy winter months.

I am a child of winter.

Winter is my season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lights, camera ... knit ... behind bars

Yes, I said behind bars -
not drinking bars -
jail-like bars!

I belong to a large local knitting group called Columbia Sip and Knit. Members number over 400. I know you must be wondering - how does jail and knitting link together!!

Be patient.

Our founder, Lynn, started with no members on that very first day several years ago and built Columbia Sip and Knit into the massive following she now coordinates. But no sooner did that endeavor take off, than she was looking towards another goal. She knew the value of knitting as a personal stress reliever. She saw the community feeling that this craft encouraged. And she was a dynamic personality with a big (and unusual) idea. To her mind, a "simple" challenge ... teaching male prisoners to knit and discover how calming and meditative the craft can be.

I can hear your thoughts now.

Guys on the wrong side of the law, guys who have tattooed messages on their bodies, guys who live in the challenging and sometimes ugly environment of prison - those guys - they would never pick up needles to knit. A girly hobby? Never. And initially she heard that from the wardens. Fortunately she marches to her own drum. She persisted. And she finally succeeded with one warden (a woman warden in a man's prison - let's hear it for women) and Knitting Behind Bars was born.

Her program is going strong after several years. She visits weekly for two hours with prisoners in a pre-release program. She quickly reminds new-bees that knitting began as a male activity - invented by males - and that male knitters are gaining in numbers once again. They knit comfort dolls for rescue workers to give to traumatized children and they have expanded their projects to knitted hats for kids in lower income city schools. These men are learning to give back to their community in a positive way. It is also hoped that this positive skill may help them cope when they step outside prison life and back into society.

And here is the real kicker of this story ... there is a waiting list of men who want to be a part of this group! It doesn't get any better than that.

Lynn, joined by her knitting buddy, Sheila are really making a difference.

At our Tuesday meeting this week, Lynn and Sheila were interviewed by a web based news group called Bus52. Bus52 is a year long project (52 weeks) for 5 individuals traveling around the US in a bus highlighting stories of people who have are making a difference. Knitting Behind Bars will be one of their stories.

Check out their web site starting in January 2012.

And so ... there were big lights.

There was a serious looking camera.

Sheila on the left, Lynn on the right.

There were mikes with wires attached to your body - just like a TV anchor!!

And there was Lynn sharing her story. This wasn't her first interview either. Here is one other link - there are others, but these two give you the flavor of the program.

I will highlight this wonderful story again - with the video, pictures and the interview when it launches in January 2012.
Child's hat made by a prisoner in the Knitting Behind Bars program.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Catching Up, "dumbing down!"

Life is starting to settle into a routine once again. (You know, I really envy folks whose lives fall into a routine - and stay there! Maybe that will be me someday!)

But mostly I feel like I am catching up and dumbing down!
  • My house is mostly clean. I would say that if the cats stopped shedding hair and we didn't use the toilets, it would stay that way. Some spaces are not up to snuff - but that is what doors are for - right?
  • My Christmas newsletters are done, stuffed in envelopes, addressed, stamped and in the mail box. WooHoo!! What is amazing is that I reached this stage before Christmas.
  • My Christmas shopping is complete. Yeah! And Double Yeah for the Internet. Man, I so hate shopping malls this time of year. Still need to wrap stuff, but I am not struggling to buy "just one more thing." No stockings this year either.
  • The Christmas tree is decorated. And mom's assisted living room is decorated too. And after Christmas, I am seriously going to discard any decorations that haven't been out of their boxes for years. Why am I keeping all that stuff? And I am seriously thinking of a smaller tree for next year.
  • Christmas cookies? I used to make several types, but it has come down to just chocolate chip cookies now - my husband's favorite. Last year I made liver cookies for my grand-dogs. I had them sitting out on the counter to cool down and I moved on to other things. My husband drifted through the kitchen and then found me in the living room. His comment? "Those aren't chocolate chips cookies are they," he asked while still chewing. :-) Liver cookies are pretty unremarkable cookies ... unless you are a dog! So chocolate chips will be made before Christmas eve. I'll skip the rest. Don't need the calories and can't resist eating them if they are made. I'll struggle enough with the chocolate chips in the house. And the grand-dogs? They aren't all that particular. They eat tomatoes for treats and are happy!

Really ... there is nothing wrong with dumbing down or simplifying!
Life is complex enough without adding additional layers to it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Empty Nester Fills Her Day

So it occurred to me a few days ago that I finally reached the status of an "empty nester."

Although my "children" left home many years ago, I always seemed to have others residing with me ... either returning children for short periods or another relative. And I have always welcomed those new residents. But now my kids are independent and other possible residents have thinned out. It is just my husband and I.

I guess my husband and I will get a chance to see if we can still make it together! :-) Actually the stresses of the last year have tested this 42 year old marriage in ways I never imagined ... and we are still together. I doubt our lives now will result in anything different. A comfort!

Of course, mom is still very much a part of my day. I see her almost daily for about 2 hours. Some visits are difficult with moodiness and anger - emotions unusual for her. Some visits, like today, are pretty good. She seemed happy to see me, we had a chance to visit privately, and we joined other residents for a game later in the morning. She will be riding out to see Christmas Lights with others from Brooke Grove this evening. She probably is looking forward to that.

I am busy sorting through the "caves of possessions" in my home for both mom and myself in an effort to clean out and thin out "stuff". Mom has boxes in her closets that she never unpacked 5 years ago. The time is right to go through the boxes - get rid of stuff she can't use and probably doesn't remember - and bring items to her that she might enjoy. My own possessions continue to "reproduce" at an alarming rate. Sorting through our stuff has been an ongoing activity this year (especially when I was upset - which was often), and shedding stuff will continue. The Den in my basement is so full, it should be considered unsafe. Now mostly what is down there is yarn and fiber - so a falling injury is unlikely, but a smothering event is possible. :-)

And yesterday I got a piece of mail I have been expecting. My Medicare Card from the Department of Health and Human Services. Isn't it wonderful that the Federal Government thought to remind me of my advancing age!!! Oh well, 2012 is the year when I turn 65. I guess it is time.

I am behind on Christmas stuff, but in my new mode of simplifying and stepping out from under the weight of traditions, I am not stressed by the impending holiday. For Christmas this year, we will take mom out for lunch on Christmas Eve. Our "big", but small dinner on Christmas Eve will be our family celebration with gift giving after dinner. Maybe my kids will plan to spend the night like last year. That was great fun. Of course, my son and his fiancee must balance the needs of 2 families now. Christmas morning I will return to take mom to mass. Christmas Day dinner will be left overs. I think this Christmas will work out just fine.

And for a change, I am looking at things that I can add back into my life instead of what I did this year - dropping things. Knitting and blogging have returned. I think about my loom with a newly started project on it from last May. Weaving has passed my mind frequently. I am thinking about walking again and maybe returning to Tai Chi in the spring. And when I get up in the morning I am so very stiff. It reminds me that Yoga was a part of my life at one time and it made a huge difference in how I felt. Yes, I can see a number of things in my future. In fact, it amazes me how many things I stopped in 2011.

My personal sadness is lifting a bit as I see mom beginning to adjust to her new home. Today the nursing assistant said that mom is a very pleasant and a happy person. So despite the occasional sad face she shows me, I know she is putting down roots.

My empty nest is fairly quiet now, but my brain is buzzing with possibilities.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coping ... and keeping busy.

I feel like my life now is all about coping!

I am coping with the loss of mom in my home. Nothing more can be said about that. It is a terrible place to be.

I am coping with my return to blogging. I took a peak at the blog posts I have missed - 668!!! Breath-taking. But I am committed to my blog and my blogging community. I will work through this - it will be a good distraction for me. I am down around 500 back log postings so I am making a dent.

I am coping with the upcoming holiday. At least this year we are more prepared than last year. Our holiday will be much quieter than in the past and very different. But curiously I am grateful for the quiet! The last few years have felt almost like a "habit" - everything was the same. And the traditional habits didn't provide the traditional comforts any more. It seemed more like obligations. Last year was a dreadful holiday because I felt the pressure of trying to maintain some sort of tradition while in the midst of dealing with mom's month long health issues. This year I feel a bit more freedom - no need to conform.

I am coping with my need to keep busy. Busy helps fill the vacant spots I now seem to have. I am cleaning my house (a sure sign I am upset), I am listening to my books on tape (having a constant voice to distract me keeps other thoughts at a distance), and I am thinking about all the personal physical activities I have abandon this year and want to take back so that I can deal with my emotions again (walking, Tai Chi, Yoga).

And I am coping better because I am still knitting. When things heated up again this fall, I resolutely continued to knit. I picked up those needles even if all I wanted to do was stab them into my couch. I didn't :-) ... I used them to create, to keep my hands busy, to force peace into my brain. Knitting, my dear friend. I really need to take some pictures of what I am working on and post them. I have one sweater almost done - that I started in October.

I am coping.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Through My Caregiver's Eyes - Christmas At Brooke Grove

Today was Christmas Family Day at Brooke Grove - Sandy Spring Assisted Living.

It is a good time to introduce you to this wonderful community.

Sandy Spring Assisted Living is part of the Brooke Grove Retirement Community. Set on 220 wooded acers, this lovely place includes Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Rehab. It is a continuing care retirement community. This means that as mother's level of care changes, she will remain "under their umbrella." Since I have seen the excellent care the nursing home residents receive, it is a comfort to know she is in a good place for the rest of her years.

The staff at both rehab and assisted living are excellent. In the short week she has been there, I have seen some of the sensitivity shown to her. Mom resisted some personal hygiene assistance and the assistant honored her wishes and backed off. But they continue to strive to gain her trust. Of course, they are strangers to mom. It will take time for her to feel comfortable with these new faces. But I know she will eventually. She had bonded with the rehab staff. On our last day there were genuine hugs all around. They were sorry to see her go ... and mom felt the same emotion.

One large improvement is the social opportunities available to her. On her second day she had a hand massage - something her old arthritic fingers really enjoyed. She attended a music and hot chocolate social, and met with a small group of residents and the chaplain for a talk. There is always something to do if you want to participate.

Today the holiday festivities at Brooke Grove are in full swing. Families are invited to attend a celebration with their loved one. There was live music and food. Mom made her way to the dessert table for her "second dessert." I think she really enjoyed it.

It was nice to meet some of the family members of other residents. It is not like home but today it felt just as festive.
Of course, tonight I am thinking again about her, wondering what she is doing. By 9:00 pm, she is probably in bed and maybe asleep. I can't help but wish she was asleep upstairs in her bedroom in my home. I know I shouldn't torture my self with these thoughts, but the nights are the hardest time for me. I know time is the only really healer.

Thank you all for you wonderful comments to my post yesterday. Each one made me tear up a bit. I am really trying very hard to look forward and see all the positives. And there are tons of positives. But there is also 5 years of care giving history I carry with me. It is going to take me a bit of time to adjust to my new role. I'll get there. I am a survivor.

But I am wearing a few "band aids" now on my heart.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hello? Is anyone out there still?

I sure hope so.

I have missed my blog home and my blog friends. I have missed writing. I feel like I have been un-anchored and set adrift. I feel like my previous life - my life before mom - is back and I don't feel comfortable with that new reality.

Mom went into Assisted Living 5 days ago. After 4+ weeks of sub acute rehab, it was determined that she could not safely return home. She could not get up the 20 steps she needed to climb to get into my house and she could not be left alone ever again. Although hearing that determination was hard, it was not surprising. I could see that she was not progressing as quickly as before. Her strength was still serious limited. Physical Therapy said that she had "plateaued" in her progress, and as a result must be released from therapy.

And so we worked to find a good place for her to live, one where I could rest easy that she was being taken well care of, and that she would have a social network to keep her occupied. Brooke Grove was the final choice ... the same community that provided her rehab. The setting, the staffing and the quality of attention to detail are outstanding in this organization. We were very lucky that she was accepted into this Assisted Living setting. Pictures and stories will still filter through my blog because I am still her regular daily companion, if not her primary caregiver.

But ...

I miss her more than you can ever know. The nights are the worst for me. I shed tears every night for what we have lost. I know she is sitting in her recliner watching TV in her new room ... just as we did together almost every night in my living room. But we are apart now and it weighs very heavy on my heart. I visit almost every day. She is angry at times, and she has a right to be angry. Her life has changed so much. And I am sad beyond understanding, and I have a right to be sad because this was not what I wanted. But our lives are changing and we both must adjust.

Tomorrow is the Holiday Family Party at her Assisted Living and I will have my camera handy. I will share our new lives with you. But please know that despite the smiling faces in the pictures, there is an internal struggle for us all.

Gosh ... I sure do hope someone is still out there!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for a difficult year

Traditionally people reflect on all to good things in their lives this time of year. As I reflect on this year all I can see are the struggles, disappointments and losses.

And still I am thankful. I have learned a lot about who I am. And I have learned to change my view of life.
  • I managed to keep mom in my home for the most difficult year of both our lives.
  • I lost a very close family relationship ... one that I thought would be with me until the day I died ... and discovered I could manage without her.
  • I grew to realize I could not be "all" for my mom, that I had to let go, and give up her care to others more able to manage the challenge of her declining abilities.
  • I said a quiet goodbye to a dear uncle and celebrated the wonderful life he lead and the family he left behind.
  • I found unanticipated support and strength in friends who walked this path before me.
  • I rediscovered the fact that I have the best kids in the entire world. I know this for a fact. Don't bother to argue with me.
It hasn't been the best year of my life and it may not be the worst - but it will probably count in the top 3 of worst years for sure.

You never really know how strong you are until you are tested. This year was nothing but a litany of tests. I passed a few, I bent under a few, and I probably failed a few. But I am glad to discover that I am still the same person, maybe stronger than I thought - someone who is surrounded by a loving family, who is living by her own judgements, and who despite the worst this life has dealt out to me thus far ... is still standing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A hard post to write

What to say ...

Today is 3 weeks since her admission into rehab. In many ways she is less than she was, and yet she continues to improve in small ways. Maybe I see the improvements because I look for each little step forward. Maybe I want her to improve more than she wants to improve.

Physical therapy says that they will be discharging her by the end of November. But the discharge will include the recommendation that she has 24 hour assistance/monitoring. This translates to admission into Assisted Living or to an aide in our home for a minimum of 12 hours each day.

An aide in the home is not an option for us. Our townhouse is small. My husband is uncomfortable with the idea and I am not wild about it either. But my main concern is for my husband. After 5 years of living with his mother-in-law in sometimes difficult circumstances, I cannot ignore the line in the line in the sand that he has indicated. He also has expressed concern for the physical and emotional toll all this has taken on me to this point.

But what about mom ... After 3 weeks in rehab I can see that she is ceasing to try, to achieve, to remain connected to her surrounds. She sleeps a lot. She appears angry at times.

But most importantly she doesn't understand that she can no longer do for herself. She can no longer make the smallest common sense decisions for herself.

When she is awake she appears unhappy and no longer takes joy in the presence of family. Some of this is fatigue. Some of this is discouragement that she is not home. Maybe we are dealing with some depression as well. But without her corporation and desire to do the work to get stronger, there is no way to physically bring her back home.

I greatly fear that she can no longer live at home safely.

How will I ever be able to give her that news!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sadness, Joy and Struggle

My, how quickly the time passes.

I returned from a quick trip to Florida to attend a viewing of my uncle who died this month.

The trip was filled with sadness and joy.

The loss of this favorite uncle was hard to accept. Yes, he lived a long and wonderful life. But letting go of loved relationship that helped make you the person you are is very difficult and filled with sadness. There was joy in putting my arms around my dear aunt, giving her a hug from my mom and one from me. Her last care giving years for my uncle took a large toll on her. Her work was done. Now she needs to build a life of her own. I would imagine that task looks like an insurmountable mountain after 57 years of marriage. There was also joy in catching up with my cousins on this side of the family. They also filled many of the memories of my early growing years. Visiting with them and their families was wonderful.

I called mom everyday I was gone. I tried to keep connected during the days when she would have no visitors.

But when I saw her on Sunday she appeared somewhat down and a bit restless. Maybe the understanding of her brother-in-laws death had finally been absorbed. Maybe she is struggling with the facts of her limitations. But her desire to just "go home" seems to be growing. It is hard to make her understand that she can't just be released ... that she has to be able to do some simple things - like getting out of chair unassisted and walking with a walker unassisted.

It is like saying I want to be able to run 5 miles this afternoon ... without doing the necessary months of work necessary to achieve that goal. I wonder if she would understand that analogy.
She completed 2 weeks of rehab and her doctor said probably 4 to 6 weeks were necessary. It is going to be a very long 4 to 6 weeks, I fear.

So I am back home and back to daily visits with mom. Blogging time continues to be hard to snatch.

I'll be back but it is hard to know when.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Briefly ...

Rehab for mom is going as well as can be expected. I am happy with the place and mom is happy with the place but she would be happier home. She is still in a wheel chair, but I can tell she is getting stronger.

My days this week seem to be mostly on the road. Now in addition to my other normal trips, I include a 2-3 hour visit with mom. The trip out to her rehab is lovely, but it take 20-25 minutes each way. Last week I visited mom every day, making sure her adjustment was going smoothly. This week I planned to visit it most days - but skip one or two.

That was what I planned. But come the end of the week I will miss seeing her for 3 days in a row.

I got a call this morning that my Uncle (my most favorite Uncle) had died in Florida. Today has been very hard. I couldn't seem to restrain my tears. So many fond memories from my youth of visits to my Aunt and Uncle's house flooded my brain today. And with each memory, tears of sorrow at his passing.

This Uncle was married to my mom's sister. They would have celebrated 57 years of marriage tomorrow! So much sadness.

The viewing is in Florida at the end of the week. Since mom is safely housed in rehab, my sister and I will travel to Florida for the viewing.

So the week has been hard on a few levels. I am bone tired and emotionally drained.

I hope this thunder cloud that persists in following me this year passes on soon.

I just need a break.


Blogging will be sparse for awhile. Time has suddenly become pretty tight this week.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bracing Myself

Mom is already (after only 2 days in rehab)
trying to predict when she can come home.

She has determined that next weekend should be good.

Still wheel chair bound, she seems totally blind to her physical limitations
and the challenge this home presents to someone in a wheel chair.
Suggestions and reminders that her stay will be longer
seem to fall in deaf ears.

I am bracing myself for the depression, the anger, the disappointment.

Even though she is not in my home now,
she fills my brain with worry.

This will be a very difficult period.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Through My Care Giver Eyes - Resilience

Yesterday mom was admitted to Sub Acute Rehab to recover from the fall she took last week.

Once again we crossed the threshold of that wonderful nursing facility that we visited about 10 months ago.

I couldn't help but compare the two visits.

In December 2010 mom and I were both new-bees to the rehab experience. We didn't know what to expect and what would be required. We were both tired and anxious that month. Mom had been pretty sick and was very weak. Neither of us was standing tall on that first visit. Thankfully we landed in a wonderful community that propped us up and got us back on track - health wise! And I learned a lot about what high quality rehab care was all about.

Now, 10 months later, as we returned, we were different people. Yes, we were both bone weary from the last week at home. Mom is not sick but she is injured ... and desperately weak again. But this time we were greeted by many familiar faces who welcomed us back. It felt comfortable. The first day procedures were the same. We were walking a familiar path. There was also a sense that we will once again climb ourselves out of the current hole we fell into and come out the other side at a "new normal."

Always a "new normal."

Always less than before.

It gave me comfort to see mom adjust so fast to this new but not new environment. She had been anxious the days leading up to this admission. No amount of talk could settled her mind. She didn't remember her last experiences. This was "new" to her brain and she was scared. But as the day rolled on she remembered. The staff was open and welcoming. She had exactly the same room as before. She ate her meals with gusto (I think she has gotten tired of my cooking. Me, too!). And when the time came for me to leave, she appeared at peace with it. She said her normal goodbyes and I almost felt dismissed.

The elderly can be surprisingly resilient.

And I am different too. I know her rehabilitation is required. I can't do this at home. She must stay as long as it takes to get her moving again. There will be no early discharge like the last time. Elderly issues can't be rushed. Health and strength are not regained over night. And my presence at rehab, while great as a visiting daughter, doesn't have to be 24/7. She is in good hands.

Returning home, the house seemed empty. Too quiet. I already missed her and it had only been 8 hours since she left. But I have a long list of things I need to do while she is gone. I'll keep busy. I will visit her often.

And I need to recover a bit myself.

Thankfully, I am resilient as well.

Retired Knitter
Care Giver and Daughter

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Through My Care Giver Eyes - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Just a short update
Forward and Back

Backward - she fell

Forward - she appeared OK initially

Backward - she wasn't OK - and getting worse steadily

Forward - x-ray was negative - no breaks or fractures

Forward - no emergency room or hospital stay

Backward - unable to rise from chair or walk without pain - needs constant monitoring

Backward - almost fell in the middle of the night from her bed

Backward - hurt my back - not badly but makes it hard to assist her with the lifting stuff

Forward - decision made - she must go back into sub acute rehab

Backward - I am now sleeping on the floor outside her room at night

Forward - busy weekend with company - she was happy

Backward - she never leaves her chair except to go to the bathroom or to go to bed

Backward - getting weaker by the moment - you can see it happening each day

Forward - got her into my first choice rehab facility into a private room- a Cadillac of an institution

Backward - must wait 4 days before she can be admitted - room available then

Backward - must limp along as we are doing now for 4 days

Backward - she is sad because she has to leave the house

Backward - her pain continues, her weakness grows visibly every day

Backward - my back continues to stiffen

Backward - must miss my knitting group today - small backward step really compared to all we are dealing with ... but they keep me from total isolation ... they are my sanity group ... they are meeting right this minute and I am now sad because I am not there.

Backward - two more nights of sleeping on the floor - hope my back holds out

Backward - it is now 9:40 am and she is still in bed - will she be bed ridden by Thursday? is she depressed?

The trends are definitely downward.
But the die is cast.
She must go into rehab so we can all take back our lives.

Forward - I am resolute! This is the right step to take. What will be, will be. I will change this downward trend even if it is by force of my will alone!

I will.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Through My Care Giver Eyes - Roller Coasters

I don't really like roller coasters. They make me vomit, and I hate to vomit.

But elder care giving is a roller coaster ride - the only difference there is no vomiting, only sleep deprivation.

If you read Thursday's post you would know that on that day I was choking and mom was falling. I recovered quickly. Mom did not.

Friday we took an ambulance ride to radiology to confirm that she did not have any breaks or fractures. Great news. Based on a stat read of the films she was able to go home instead of the hospital. Woo Hoo!!! Happy me!

Of course I should have been a little more observant of the situation on the way to radiology. It took the medical transport men (2 big guys) 40 minutes to get mom from her den to my first floor (maybe 30 feet). That should have been the first clue that she was not too good. As the guys were passing by me in my front yard with mom strapped on the gurney (finally) and heading to the the ambulance, mom says to me with a poisonous look, "I wish they were putting me in a wooden box." Nice. :-(

I reminded her in front of total strangers that only God could put her in a wooden box and that she needed to adjust her attitude a bit to make it easier on the people who were taking care of her while she was on this earth. And I had to say it loudly because her hearing aids weren't working too well. As they all passed by, one of the transport guys gave me a thumbs up and said "good one" under his breath! I think God made him say that just to give me a little boost! :-)

That was Friday.

Since she fell I have been sleeping nearby. Thursday night I slept in her den adjacent to her bedroom. I told her I would be there and she should call if she wanted to get out of bed. She never called me when she got up to urinate. In the morning I was upset and reminded her she needed to call me so I could help her. The Thursday night passed without problems. I assumed the same for Friday night.

Friday night she called out at 2:00 am (good). I leaped off the air mattress and turned the corner to find her hanging from the bed rails by her hands, legs bent, feet inches from the floor - unwilling to put weight on her legs because of the pain. I ran over to her, put my arms under her 155 pound body and lifted her dead weight onto the bed. I have a slight frame and weigh 140 pounds. We both were panting with the fear and effort. I am still not sure how I did that. My back hasn't been the same since then.

And then, standing by the side of the bed, the anger set in. I was TOTALLY and BLINDING angry at her for not calling me to help her get out of bed, and I was even more angry at myself for letting things get to this level. Since mom's fall she has been unable to raise herself from a chair and unable to walk - all due to muscle and or ligament injury. There were no broken bones, but tissue injury can be just as hard to deal with.

Once she was safely back in bed, I sat in her den - wide awake and filled with adrenalin. I came to the conclusion that she was officially beyond my ability to cope, and I was angry that I hadn't seen it before. I was up until 4:30 am that night sorting out my feelings.

I sent an email to the doctor asking her to return and assess her mobility (or lack of mobility). And after talking things over with my family, we decided that she needed to be placed in rehab again.

The doctor suggest 4 to 6 weeks in rehab. So that is where we are heading this week.

Until she is admitted into sub acute rehab, I am now sleeping on the floor in the hall outside her bedroom where I can see her. Attached to her bed rail is a coke can with coins. She can shake that can if she needs help, but if that fails (and it will) I will also know if she is trying to get out of bed on her own by the noise.

And what do you think she asked me this evening while sitting placidly in her chair?

"Do you think we can go to Mass tomorrow morning?"


This care giver life is a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters.

I think I am going to go vomit now!!


Retired Knitter
Care Giver and Daughter

PS - postings will be episodic this week. A lot needs to be done to get mom settled where she can get well. I'll be back!

PPS - you may also remember that my dear Maxima, Maxine, was failing. We needed to get another car pronto if we wanted to be mobile ourselves. We did, thanks to my dearest daughter who took care of her Grandmother for 6 hours on Saturday. But that is another post!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can you top this?

It was one of those days.

Bright, sunny, crisp, cool and fall-ish. Perfect really.

I knew it couldn't last.

I had 4 things to do today. Piece of cake.
  1. Food shop
  2. Get mom out for her flu shot.
  3. Get the title of the Maxima from the bank - we are car shopping.
  4. Go pick up Milo in Bethesda.
Grocery shopping went well enough. My husband and I have always food shopped together all 42 years. Mom was eating breakfast when we left. She was feeling pretty good today. She planned to clean up the dishes and get dressed while we were gone.

Arriving home the first problem was discovered. As I walked in the door, I saw mom's feet on the floor - not in a standing position either. She had fallen and had sat on the floor for 40 minutes in our absence. We got her upright. She seemed fine. She walked very slowly to the bathroom and then went upstairs to get dressed. But I decided we didn't need to go for the flu shot today. I called her doctor, cancelled the appointment and the doctor promised to visit the house by tomorrow just to check her out and give her the flu shot.

When will I ever learn. Appearances are deceiving in elder care ... but I am skipping forward too fast.

So the next thing on the agenda for today was the title of the car. I headed for the bank. As I walked into the bank lobby a very nice attendant asked if they could help me. I opened my mouth to speak and the partially chewed nut in my mouth slipped into my wind pipe. I began to violently cough, to gag ... my breathing was difficult. People raced to my side, offered me tissues, water, lead me to a chair, I kept coughing. I tried to take a breath and it sounded thin and ragged. I couldn't fill my lungs with air.

It was kind of an out of body experience.

I remember thinking, "maybe I should be panicky, boy that inhalation sounds bad, gosh I can't seem to to fill my lungs". They asked if I wanted them to call 911 Emergency. I shook my head no, but couldn't say anything. Seconds later a bank manager said in my ear (while I am coughing, tears running down my face, gagging), "Emergency is coming. I just wanted you to know." They pulled up, brought the gurney into the lobby. Other thoughts popped in my head, "Damn, if they take me to the hospital and my car is in this parking lot, how will I get to Milo," ... don't forget my agenda!! :-)

By the time Emergency came I could tell that I had managed to cough up the offending nut. Fluid was still streaming from every orifice of my head, coughing/gagging was still going on, but my breath was returning. I still couldn't speak, but I could fill my lungs (and then try to cough one of them out onto the rug), but still!!

Once I began to improve, I improved quickly. I signed a release saying I refused to go to the hospital. I was fine.

And I was.

So I got the car title and tried to slink out of the lobby after thanking the bank manager. And I drove out to Bethesda to get Milo.

Upon returning home, I discovered mom couldn't walk. She said on a scale of 1 to 10 - with 10 being the worst pain ever - her pain when putting weight on her right leg was a 10. Damn!!!

I called the doctor again. This day was defiantly not one of my better ones!

Now it is 10:45 pm. I sit in my mom's den waiting to hear if she needs help getting out of bed to urinate. I am dead tired. She is struggling with pain, but she has a pain patch on to help. It probably will be a difficult night, but ...

We are home ... for now. Tomorrow will start with a 6:45 am visit from the doctor, maybe a trip by ambulance to radiology, maybe a trip to the ER ... but, for now, we are home.

I am glad!

I am breathing pretty good, too! :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A to Z Challenge 2012

April 2012 will be here before you know it.

Last year I participated in a Blog Fest - my first - called A to Z Challenge. And it was a BLAST!!

Really, I wouldn't lie to you. And they are in the planning stages now for the April 2012 Challenge. In fact, they have set up a special blog just for planning and ongoing announcements. You will find it here if you are curious, and you are curious ... you know you are, so hit this blog link now to check it out.

Last year over 1000 bloggers participated and it was just an incredible fun event. We expect way more participants in 2012! So take a peak now, like I mean right now .... press this button.

In a nutshell, during the month of April you blog using the prompt of a letter of the alphabet. April 1 is the letter A, April 2 is the letter B ... and so on. You get the idea. The are "rest" days built in - so you blog only 24 days - one for each letter of the alphabet. That it! Here is the link.

Well, no, not really "it!"

You see, you add your blog link to a very, very long list of participating blogs. And you get the most fun of all ... visiting tons of blogs you never even knew about ... and you get lots of visitors yourself. One really cool feature is a blog hopping button that you can add to your blog. You just hit that button and it blog hops you around some really fantastic blogs. Man, don't you just want to hit this blog link now????

The anticipation is starting to build, the bloggers are beginning to line up (find out here), (some are even beginning to think of cool ideas for blog posts now ... like me!! :-) ), and there is tons of fun to be had! So don't miss out. Hit this dang-gon button!!!

Check out this link. I mean ... really, press this link and take a look. Do it! I'll wait!

waiting .... waiting .... waiting ... waiting

Oh, Hi, back again? Did you sign up? Didn't I tell you this was the coolest!!

See you there!!!
oh ... and here is the link!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Stupid, Silly, Sad Sentimentality

My time with Maxine is growing shorter.

My 2003 Maxima, Maxine, has been with me since late 2002. I have been her driver all that time, and we have had some wonderful experiences together. I know it is silly, stupid and sad to apply sentimentality to an intimate object. But I seem to do it with cars.

She is an old girl now, her paint job is marked with dings and scratches, her headlights look yellowish rather than clear (do cars get cataracts?), and her interior speaks volumes of the multiple trips where she carried my most precious cargo ... my grand-dogs.

But she still can move like a youngster when I need her to.

My favorite memory with Maxine occurred early on in our relationship. On the way home from work one evening traffic was horrendous. Coming around the merge ramp to the high speed highway I was appalled by the volume of traffic and the speed it was moving ... fast! And then I saw it, a small break in the line of cars. I assessed the possibilities and applied the gas ... and the young Maxine took off like a shot!! We were at speed in no time and we slipped easily into the space. I remember the glow I felt at that moment. I remember patting the steering wheel and saying "fabulous, great job, Maxine you are the best." So thrilled with her performance, I shared the story with my husband when I got home. His response: "Do you know how much gas you use when you do that?" Guess you can figure out which one of us is the adult in this relationship.

There are many more experiences that bonded me to this car. And the love affair continued over all these years. I overlooked a lot in the last 12 months: the fact she took only premium gas, that she needed high performance tires because she was considered a high performance car, that she didn't handle all that well in snow, that her miles per gallon has slipped considerably, that the driver's side window sometimes wouldn't stay up, that her CD player was starting to skip, that her repairs were starting to get expensive (we just replaced her front tires and she had a $1500 struts replacement just recently.) Yes, I have overlooked a lot. Love is like that. But now she is burning oil - about a quart per 1000 miles. My husband has reached the tipping point on this car and I guess I have too.
Today we took her in to our mechanic of over 25 years - just to re-check the oil - just to be sure the fact she was 2 quarts down a month ago wasn't an anomaly. She was down another quart. They had looked for a leak and couldn't find one. As my husband and I walked out I could feel the tears streaming down my face.

I wasn't ready to give this car up.

Stupid, silly and sad sentimentality!

Another car is in our near future. I won't be giving it a name. I won't be getting attached to it, either. I won't, I won't, I won't.

I already have enough legitimate sadness in my life without finding ways to be sad about inanimate objects. But I am going to miss this car big time.

AND I hate car show rooms and car sales people. I am sure they are nice people with families and all, but I hate the bargaining game and the "let's make a deal" attitude. (Especially when I don't really want this new car.)

OK, I am done moaning out loud now.

Still sad.

Through My Care Giver Eyes - Isolation

There are a few emotions related to care giving that I never anticipated. And some of these emotions have changed who I am as a person.

One is social isolation.

The short version is this: as the elderly person's scope narrows, the care giver's scope can also narrow.

As I mentioned previously, it is not uncommon to find the social connections, hobbies, physical abilities and health of the elderly narrow resulting in a very home bound life. Sometimes keeping up socially is "just too much trouble" for the elderly. And if this happens it can impact the care giver as well.

I have been a social person most of my life. Projecting my life into my retirement ... I anticipated many things that would keep me outside the home. I was never one to gain energy from being at home or time alone.

For example, here are activities I could joyfully predict would fill my life with if there were no constraints.

Tai Chi
Knitting Groups (I attend only one - there are three.)
Book Discussion Groups
Exercise - walking, Curves, Yoga
Visiting friends
Art classes at the local community college
Day trips
Vacations and Travel
Cat and Dog Shows
Crafts and Craft Shows
Volunteer activities at local animal shelters or wild life center
Light hiking
Dog park visits with my grand babies
Beach trips with friends
Exhibits - live in the Washington Baltimore corridor - there is a lot to do

If you examine this partial list carefully, most take place outside the home.

My reality now is that being "around the house" is necessary if you want to know what is going on and to assist with certain tasks. Being "around" is what Mom seems to need as well. When I am gone, she "forgets" where I am, she frets, she waits, she worries ...

So I have tried to find ways to develop pastimes and hobbies that keep me at home, but keep me isolated. They all tended to be the kinds of activities that would appeal to a hermit, not a social butterfly.

My activities look alot like this ...
Knitting, weaving, spinning
Ipad games
Pod Casts
Reading - Audio books
Dog sitting
House keeping - Decluttering
Inviting friends to our house

I enjoy these all activities, but the list is much shorter, and it is more solitary. I have managed to hold onto my Tuesday morning knitting group time away from the house. But knitting group is a single social event in a great waste land of solitary activities.

Despite everything I have said to this point, I am NEVER really alone. Mom, my husband, my kids, my granddogs ... they pretty much fill my life. I am grateful for them. But I have grown to greatly value my alone time. For example, driving to pick up my grand dogs is one such alone activity I truly enjoy. Just me with my thoughts (and thousands of Washington Baltimore drivers - but they don't count.) When Mom asks if she can go with me, I usually tell her no. I feel bad because she could use some time out of the house as well, but I need that time for me. My walks (infrequent as of late) are another alone time that I cherish. I used to enjoy walking with my husband. Now walking alone is more satisfying. Crazy as it sounds, if I could take a week's vacation by my self - I would be in heaven.

Some solitary activities are desired, others are not.

The person writing this blog post today is very different the person who started on the care giving journey 5 years ago. I am a person with limited ability and energy to give. I used to think there was no bottom to my giving nature. There is. I value my alone time more now than I ever did before. I find my alone time to be a precious commodity. I am a person who experienced great disappointment and loss in this journey and it has changed me. Solitary time is sometimes more rewarding than all the social and familial activities that I once enjoyed.

Contractions? Maybe.

It all comes down to an isolation that I didn't seek out but accept as part of my role - my care giver role. Someday that role will disappear. It will be interesting to see if the current changes to my nature, my personality, remain.

I believe that some life experiences mark you, change you, permanently.

I feel changed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You know it is Halloween because ...

... weird stuff shows up.

The Brain Slugs I made and showed in a previous posting
were part of a Halloween Costume for my son and his fiancee.
Yesterday they went to the Halloween Party.
And of course, they had to pose for a picture.

Here is the final product.

Cute - now that I know a little more about what I was making.

If you want to know a little more follow this link.

I sure I am the only one who was clueless about Futurama and Brain Slugs.