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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Alzheimer's Patients Still Have Feelings and Still Love

Retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband has had Alzheimer’s for more than 17 years. Recently she moved him into an assisted living facility where he’s met and fallen in love with another Alzheimer’s patient.

In this article, “Forgetting long-time bonds, Alzheimer's patients fall in love” Rubin Dessel, head of memory care services at the Hebrew Home care facility in New York, said he “can't quantify how often this type of situation occurs, but it will continue to occur in greater number as the years go by.”

People with Alzheimer’s lose their memory day by day; they live moment-to-moment forgetting their past, their children, even their spouses.

Though Dessel can’t put a percentage on the incidence of Alzheimer’s patients forgetting their loved ones and moving on to another relationship, he is correct in stating that it does occur and will continue to occur.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking in itself, and I applaud O’Connor’s love for her husband, which allows her to feel somewhat relieved seeing him happy and enjoying life with another woman. It takes selfless people to care more about someone else’s feelings than their own.

My mom is a widow of nearly 10 years. I feel that if I hadn’t stayed close by her after my dad died, she probably wouldn’t be around today. I kept her active. We went everywhere and did everything together. We went to homemakers together; seven to ten women my mother’s age, and me, thirty years younger, sat around tables in the community room above the police station for three to four hours once a month making crafts, eating lunch, and sharing conversation and memories. Why did I attend a monthly meeting with women so much older than me? Because my mom wanted me to be there; she enjoyed my company and wanted to share as much time with me as possible.

Then, together, Mom and I shopped for groceries, Christmas presents, went to lunch, the hairdresser, took bus tours, spent days cooking meals and cookies, and spent hours at each other’s homes just talking. She came to my house for dinner at least twice a week and we even took our dogs to the vet and to be groomed at the same time and scheduled our dentist appointments back to back.

She once told me that my brother told her she “needed to get out more and do things with friends” and my mom responded that she “did get out and do things and was happy spending time with me.” In return, she was told, “But she’s your daughter, not your friend.” Mom told me she was angry and hurt by his response and said, “Joanne may be my daughter, but she’s also my best friend.”

Now, Mom with Alzheimer’s spends the day at a day care facility where she gets her hair done once a month, has lunch and goes on outings with other clients, and I shop for groceries and presents and take the dogs for appointments without her.

What does all this have to do with Sandra Day O’Connor? Mom has an admirer at the day care; a bus brings Mr. N. to the facility while his wife goes off to work. Mom’s talked about him daily for the past year and giggles like a school girl when she talks about how they dance together every week when the ‘music man’ comes to play oldies from their era. When the caregivers at the facility first told me about the little romance, my heart broke because she had forgotten my dad, but I soon got over that when I saw how full of life and happy she seemed to be. When I saw them dance together at this summer’s family picnic, I cried, not because she forgot my dad, but because she was enjoying herself—life had meaning to her once again.

Mom and Mr. N. sat together occasionally and chatted since the first day I took her to day care. Those little chats have transformed into handholding and kisses on the cheek. He pulls her chair out for her and asks her constantly if she’s okay.

This past Thanksgiving weekend Mom woke up several times during the night and thought Mr. N. was in her house. She sat on the edge of the bed talking toward the doorway of her bedroom. When I heard her through the monitor I went downstairs to find out what she was talking about. She swore up and down that Mr. N. was there and she wouldn’t have invited him over if she thought he would have come so late. Five times she awoke each night saying the same thing. For three nights I told her she was dreaming and tucked her back into bed.

It was on Tuesday, my mom and dad’s anniversary, that the caregivers told me that my mom and Mr. N. talked about ‘going out’ to lunch or a movie and since neither of them can drive any longer, maybe ‘Mrs. N.’ could take them where they want to go. It all sounds so strange, and of course the date will never happen, but for the moment they are talking about it, they are happy.

I told the caregivers at the day care about my weekend with Mom and I joked, “If I had known this before Thanksgiving, I would have sent Mom home on the bus with Mr. N. over Thanksgiving weekend and let ‘Mrs. N.’ deal with Mom’s three-night long conversation with her husband.”

It wasn’t so cute at 4:00 AM when I was dealing with it, but now that I’ve had a chance to catch up on some sleep, I smile at the thought that my mom is acting like a school girl and is smitten by someone, who when I look at him closely, has many of my dad’s features. I’m not sure if ‘Mrs. N.’ feels as O’Connor does, but I’m happy for them. I’ll always be Mom’s daughter, but it looks like Mom has a new best friend—someone she enjoys being with, talking to, and spending her time with. My smile deepens, I’ll admit, when I think of my bother’s hurtful words to my mom years ago. I don’t think he could be so selfless to accept that Mom’s new best friend is a married man.

If we learn one thing as caregivers, we learn that our loved ones still have feelings and they still remember how to love. That may be the only good thing about this disease, as well.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today would have been my mom and dad’s 66th wedding anniversary. Two years ago, when I mentioned the date, Mom was surprised when I said they would have been married 64 years. Last year and this year the date went by without me mentioning it, and without her realizing it. Dates and phone numbers seem to stick in my head. We always celebrated their anniversary at Thanksgiving every year. There won’t be any celebration this year, but I can at least remember for her.

This picture is a wood burning of my mom and dad’s wedding picture. When my daughter, Stacey, was in the Army stationed in Korea, she had it made for Mom and sent it to her for Christmas. Ever since, it's hung over the mantle of the fireplace my dad built in Mom's living room.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Since Thanksgiving I’m finding myself reminiscing more than I’d like to. I treasured the holidays when family used to gather together and I miss those times terribly. It seems since Dad died this family fell apart. Without Dad around, this family hasn’t been any fun and since Mom has had Alzheimer’s there’s no ‘family’ at all. Not in the real sense of the word anyway.

Family used to talk to each other and invite each other to their homes. That hasn’t happened, at least for me, since my dad died. I guess when Dad died, in the eyes of my brothers and nieces and nephew, I died too. No one had to bother with me, unless my mom pitched a fit because I was left out. It got to the point that I told her not to bother because I felt if they 'had to be told' to invite me, they didn't want me around. They made that perfectly clear over the years. The only person who seemed to care what was going on in my life was my mother (other than my daughters, Angel and Stacey, and my Uncle Joe). That used to bother me, a lot. But things have changed. Now...I couldn't care less.

Two years ago, I tried to plan a special Christmas for Mom. I invited both my brothers and told them to pass the invitation to all their family members to come home for Christmas. No one came except my daughters, their families, and Two Feather. Not even a call to say they weren't coming. All I got from the rest of the ‘so-called family’ was excuses, a hard time, and ridicule. For all intents and purposes, that is the last Christmas Mom remembers. That is, if you want to call a lot of prodding and picture showing to bring that memory back, remembering.

Normally, I put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. It’s still neatly tucked away in the box in which it was packed in 2005 and is sitting in my mom’s basement. I’ll probably have Two Feather take my tree back to my house in the next week or so and have him toss it in the basement to be stored with all the other decorations I doubt I’ll bother with this year. I still haven’t pulled out Mom’s little tree that we used last year. Why bother. I used to love this time of year; now it’s just another day that will go by without Mom ‘really’ knowing what day it is.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It is taking Mom piece by piece and it is ripping me apart.

As much as I said I had so much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving, I’d just as soon pass on holidays from now on. I hate Alzheimer’s! I hate what it’s doing to my mom. And I hate what it’s doing to me.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Give Thanks

The turkey was in the oven and roasting as Mom slept. Two Feather came down and we sat upstairs sipping our morning coffee and talking about the two Thanksgiving dinners I’d prepared at our house. We’d only been together two years when I moved in with Mom to take care of her. Since then, we’ve had all our holiday meals here at her house. We talked about how we were just getting to know each other and learning how to live with each other when I had to move here; and we talked about how we’ll need to learn that all over again when the time comes for me to move back.

I have so much to be thankful for. Not just today, but every day. Every day is difficult for Two Feather and I being apart, but holidays are an especially difficult time. He’s been so very patient with me in my care giving for Mom and I know he’s terribly lonely each evening as he sits in our house alone while I’m down here at Mom’s. I’m so thankful that he’s as understanding and caring as he is. For him, I give thanks; for without him, his support, and his shoulder to cry on, my care giving would be so much more difficult.

I had a very loving and caring father who made so many wonderful memories for me. Everything I know about carpentry, roofing, electrical work, plumbing, butchering, farming, gardening—well everything I know about almost everything, I learned from him. Mom taught me all the ladylike things, like cooking, cleaning, ironing, baking, and canning. They both taught me to be respectful, honest, and true to myself. For my parents, I give thanks. I couldn’t have asked for better parents if I were to pick them out myself.

I miss my dad terribly during the holidays, and in the ten years that he’s been gone; my mom has taken his chair at the head of the table, whether dinner was at my house or hers. Today, as everyone filled their plates with the holiday dinner, I thought how lucky I am to be here—to still be alive to enjoy each and every day with my family, whether it is at a dinner table or a conversation on the phone. Stacey called this morning and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. Trinity and Quenton got on the phone and I talked to them, too. I give thanks that the Creator allowed me to live to have two wonderful daughters of my own, who in turn gave me grandchildren. For my life, my children, and my grandchildren, I give thanks.

I thought of all my caregiver friends and said a silent prayer for those who would be spending their first Thanksgiving without their loved ones. I wished for them to have a happy holiday knowing that their loved ones are at peace, and hoped they would be surrounded with love. And I wished a “good day” for those who are still caring for their loved ones. For my caregiver friends and all their support, I give thanks. I hope your day was as wonderful as mine was.

Quietly I watched everyone eat dinner; Katie sitting at the table eating with grown up silverware, and everyone adding to their plates. I paid particular attention to Mom. I’d filled Mom’s plate with a little of everything from each bowl, and with each spoonful said a silent prayer of thanks for another day with Mom, my family, and for the food. The most anyone said while eating was how good everything tasted. We were too busy eating to say much else.

Each time Mom took a bite of food she told me everything was delicious and thanked me for making the meal. After each bite she would look up at everyone around the table, look down at her plate, fill her fork, and tell me it was delicious. I watched and listened each time she filled her fork. By the time everyone was finished eating, Mom had finished her whole plate of food, too! She said, “That was delicious, honey. I’m full.” I said, “I’m so proud of you, Mom. That’s the most you’ve eaten in a long time.” She said, “Really?” I said, “Really! And I’m so happy you ate so well.”

I turned my head to hide my tears. Two Feather saw them. I know he knew what the tears were for. Angel and Tim saw them, too. I’m pretty sure they knew why I had tears in my eyes, too.

For Mom eating, I give thanks.

Love you, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

Just wanted to come in here and wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. This is a picture of a Tom turkey that was in our yard. Isn't he beautiful!!!

Have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Busy Four Days

I haven’t posted since Saturday, so I figured I’d better catch everyone up to speed. Sunday Angel, Tim, and Katie moved their belongings into their new house just eight miles from me. I took Mom and Two Feather over about 11:00 AM so Two could help them carry things in. Mom sat on their couch and colored while everyone was walking by carrying furniture and boxes.

Angel asked me to bring my Pack N Play with us so Katie could lie down for her nap because they wouldn’t have time to put the crib together. Tim’s mom fed her lunch and I put her down for her nap. Within minutes of me singing to her, she was sleeping.

Shortly after that about 1:10 we had to leave because Mom was tired. Most everything was moved into the house by then anyway. They were going to get something to eat and go back over to Tim's Mom's house to watch the football game. Angel said they weren’t going to worry about putting things away yet because she was leaving to go back to Mechanicsburg to finish out her job and they weren't staying at the house until tonight. Probably just as well Mom got tired since I wasn’t feeling well.

Monday I had to run over to Angel’s house to let the water meter reader in, then I went back to my house and curled up on the couch still not feeling well. Two Feather moved more wood all day.

I picked Mom up from day care early to take her to her regular doctor’s appointment. It was scheduled for 3:45 but we didn’t get in to see her doctor until 4:00. She was tired and getting impatient waiting. He told me everything seemed to be going as well as could be expected and he wasn’t going to change or add any medications. He did say that if she was having a hard time swallowing that I could crush the pills and open the capsules and put them in her food. I told him I have been doing that for about a month already. He commended me for keeping her in her own home and keeping her active with the day care. “You’re doing a fine job with your mom,” he said. It felt good to hear that from her doctor. He told me I looked tired, asked how I was holding up, and asked if I had gone to any caregiver support group meetings yet. I told him I was doing okay, I hadn’t been to any meetings because they are all in the evening and I have no one to sit with Mom. I told him that I am involved with a group of caregivers online and we do quite well at helping support each other. He was pleased to hear that and told me if I decided to go to meetings personally to let him know and he would get a list out to me. “Without family help, Joanne, you need some type of support,” he added. He said when Mom starts to get weaker and I felt she wasn’t able to go to day care anymore that I was to call him. He reminded me that due to her weight loss hospice would do a re-evaluation and whenever I wanted to have hospice come in to let him know and he would write the prescription for it. I said thank you and would let him know when we get to that point. He wrote up a prescription for blood tests and asked me to have them done before we left, so we went down to the lab and waited an hour and twenty minutes before they finally took the blood needed for her tests. It’s a good thing I thought in advance and had a sandwich and snacks with me so Mom could eat while we waited. She was exhausted and fell asleep in the car. We got home at 7:00 and she couldn’t wait to get in bed. She went to sleep within seconds of her head hitting that pillow.

She must have been really exhausted because she never got up once during the night. I took her to day care on Tuesday and went home and curled up on the couch again because I still wasn’t feeling well. I have this horrible back pain, an aching pain between my shoulder blades that just won’t go away. Last night after Mom was in bed I planned to do some writing but I just didn’t feel up to it. I stretched out on the bed with a heating pad on my back and went to sleep. I have a chiropractor appointment on Tuesday and my PCP appointment right after, so I guess I’ll find out what the root of the problem is then.

Today the pain isn’t any better. The pain was so bad today I nearly passed out, I would have gone to the ER but I have no one to take care of Mom if they decided to admit me. Instead of worrying about it, I do what I always do--made myself busy to keep my mind off of things. I started getting things prepared for tomorrow’s dinner. I made two pumpkin pies and a cherry pie and I baked the green been casserole and candied yams.

Two Feather moved more wood while I was cooking at Mom’s house. He stopped in now and then to make sure I was okay. The house smelled so good with the pies baking we both said we couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving dinner because the aroma was making us hungry. He sat at the table and talked with me for a while and when he felt I didn’t look as pale as I had earlier, he went out to move more wood.

I also peeled potatoes, tore apart three loaves of bread, chopped up celery and onion and mixed the stuffing so it’s ready to stuff the turkey in the morning. All I’ll have to do is get up in the morning, clean, stuff, and cook the bird, put the potatoes on the stove to cook, and brown the dinner rolls. Everything else is done and will just need to be heated.

Today when I picked up Mom at day care I was called aside by the nurse. She said the clients were talking about Thanksgiving and their families and she wanted to let me know what Mom had said. Evidently, Mom told everyone that besides her daughter (me), who takes care of her, she has two sons, but they live out of the country and that’s why she never sees or hears from them. Funny how Alzheimer’s can cause them to make up something in their own minds that’s easier to believe or accept. Truth is her oldest son in North Carolina just called Sunday. It had been three weeks since he called, and her other son, who only lives a spit through the woods hasn’t been to see her since August 25th and hasn’t called since September 21. I guess for her it’s easier to say they live out of the country than to make excuses for them.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner. It will be nice to have someone in the house at the dinner table besides just Mom and me for a change. Two Feather, Angel, Tim, and Katie will be there. I’m anxious to see how much Mom will eat. I guess I’m hoping Thanksgiving dinner and all the wonderful aromas will make a difference in her appetite. We’ll see.

The only thing that we’ll be missing at our dinner table is Stacey, Dennis, Deandre, Trinity, and Quenton. We’ll miss you!!! Love you all.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Trinity!

I can’t let the day go by without wishing my oldest granddaughter a very Happy Birthday. I called and talked to her today and she told me she had a fun birthday. She had cake and ice cream and opened a lot of gifts.

She's grown up so much since she stayed with me while Stacey was in Korea. She gets more beautiful every year.

Happy Birthday, Trinity. I love you!

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No-bake Oatmeal Cookies

In an effort to keep Mom busy today we made no-bake cookies. Along with having Alzheimer's, Mom's a diabetic, too, so I substitute diabetic sweetener for the sugar. Of course since Mom can’t use the stove, I melted the butter and mixed all the ingredients that needed to be brought to a boil. When it came time to add the peanut butter and oatmeal I let Mom mix that all together.

Her coordination isn’t what it used to be so it took her a little longer to mix than it normally would have. She had a hard time scooping the cookie mix from the pot and getting it to the waxed paper before it dripped off the spoon. Watching her made me realize how much Mom is progressing with this awful disease. She ended up using her fingers more than the spoon, but all turned out pretty good.

She was so excited when she put the last of the mix on the waxed paper. She said, “I guess I did okay.”

“You did more than okay, Mom,” I said. “These cookies look great.”

She enjoyed making the cookies and was so proud that she was able to do something she hadn't done in many years.

“So when can we eat them?” she asked. I couldn’t help but laugh and when I did, she started laughing too. “We can eat them, can’t we?” she asked, giggling.

I assured her that as soon as they set for a while we could have a few cookies. She was so cute sitting there waiting for them to ‘set’. She kept poking one with a spoon to see if they had hardened enough to pick up to eat.

We waited about 15 minutes and she picked one up and ate it. “They’re good. I’m full,” she said. Mom’s appetite is getting less and less. Her being full after just one small cookie is evidence of that. The sweet tooth she used to have isn’t even working anymore.

I baked a steak in country gravy in the oven along with an acorn squash for dinner. She said it was good, but she ate very little of that too. Twice Blessed wrote in her blog about how people with Alzheimer’s lose weight no matter how well you try to provide them nourishment. That is so true. I guess it's just another part of the brain being impaired that causes the appetite loss. This disease whittles away at the mind and body. Mom weighed 168 pounds in August when she was in the hospital; now she weighs 150. It's heartbreaking to watch our loved ones waste away each day.

I thought I’d share the recipe for those who don’t have it, and for those who may need another idea to add to the list of activities for their loved ones. So here it is.

No-bake Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick of butter
½ cup of milk
2 cups of sugar (can be substituted with diabetic sweetener for diabetics)
5 Tablespoons of cocoa

Cook until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add and mix:
½ cup of peanut butter
3 cups of oatmeal

Mix together until smooth and creamy. With a teaspoon, spoon onto wax paper.
Wait 15 minutes and they’re ready to eat.

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First Light of Day

"Restless Dawn" Short Fiction Contest

Jason had this great short fiction contest going on but I missed the deadline. Lately, more of my writing has been nonfiction and this picture was so inspiring, I thought I’d post what I’d written in the few minutes I had last night after Mom went to bed and before I fell asleep. It's not fiction, but at least I wrote something for a change.

P.S. I might add that I've never claimed to be much of a poet. :D

First Light of Day
by Joanne D. Kiggins

Each evening as the sun goes down and I tuck you into bed.
I wonder how your day has been and what goes through your head.
Each day keeps getting harder to keep you occupied.
Yet you find so much comfort with me by your side.

Your memory continues to fade with each passing day.
Still, the words “I love you” we always manage to say.
If I had one wish for you as Alzheimer’s takes your life.
It would be that you’re truly not aware of your daily strife.

I do not want to think of the day you won’t be around.
When the monitor’s turned off, replaced with silent sound.
Each night I say “I’ll see you in the morning” and then I go to pray.
Hoping that when I wake, you too will see the first light of day.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

To Stef

I was sad to read that Stef, at the young age of 20, lost her Nonna yesterday to Alzheimer's. Stef always spoke of her grandmother with such love and devotion. It was heartwarming to read Stef's posts about how close she and her grandmother were.

Know that your Nonna knew you loved her and she's proud of the close relationship you two had. My thoughts and prayers are with you through this difficult time, Stef.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

REVIEW: Becoming (Poems 2002-2005) by Christopher Porpora

Becoming (Poems 2002-2005)
By Christopher Porpora
Anne’s House Press (2005)
76 pp Paperback
Amazon Price: $9.95

Becoming is the second collection of poetry written by Christopher Porpora.

The stylish cover, a black ink drawing sketched by the author, depicts and old-time bathroom scene with a personal touch. Porpora’s voice reminds me of past poets who found beauty by using words of simplicity and depth of feeling.

From the front cover to the back, the 76 poems include bits and pieces of the author’s personal style and distinctive voice. In some poems he found his voice and in others the reader needed to search for it.

Short or long, each poem speaks from Porpora’s heart and shows a balance and mixture of honesty, dread, tenderness, love, loss, joy, and humor. Some poems, so short, as the two-line poem on page 2, were difficult to determine what point the author was trying to make. They were elusive and without rhyme or reason.

Yet in the longer prose, the imagery, simile, and emotion were quite good.

Tender fathers
Watching this tender father
carry his sandaled, sleeping boy
through the archway
up the tiled steps,
stepping so, his arms
stretched, as if cradling
his own sleeping heart. (3)

Each poem was seemingly a taste of his life written in segments, tiny fables, and with a romantic appeal in most.

As with any type of writing, the author has only a short time to catch a reader’s attention. With poetry, the portal of opportunity is smaller; the reader must be drawn in quickly in very few words. How a reader perceives, analyzes, and interprets the words in front of him can be as different as black and white.

Porpora’s imagery in many of his poems was spot on and he controlled what feeling he wanted his reader to perceive.

To her I confessed
I long for a world
a world without wrong,
without temptation
But what would become
then, of us said she
Perharps redemption,
perhaps misery. (18)

His mixture of rhyme and free verse throughout his poetry shows that Porpora is familiar with the many strategies of prose. The shorter pieces could have left an impression had he expanded the verse, yet at the same time, the longer rhyming verse flowed right off the page into the next forcing this reader to read to the end of the book to find the prose he’d mastered.

Porpora may be a younger and newer poet on the scene, but he is one who poetry lovers should give notice. I look for the next book of poetry by Porpora to show his skills even more.

Click HERE to purchase Becoming.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Today Was Different

Well, today was different for a few reasons. Mom woke up asking me who was the bitch in the house last night. Whoever it was she thought was there, she didn’t like this old woman and she thought she was a thief. She’d grabbed her walker and moved it from the bottom of the bed to beside her bed so this person couldn’t steal it. I told Mom there wasn’t anyone in the house but her and I and she must have been dreaming. She was convinced that someone was in her room during the night. That was quite strange because Mom didn’t get out of bed even once last night. Then, while we were combing her hair, she stared at something on her dresser. I asked what she was looking at and she said she was looking at the picture of ‘us’ and pointed at a picture of her and my dad. Okay. Was the ‘us’ her thinking her and Dad, or was she thinking her and I. I didn’t ask. I’m not sure I wanted to know. I just said, oh, okay, that’s a nice picture, and I prodded her toward the kitchen to give her breakfast and pills before we left. On the way to day care all she said was how pretty the leaves were.

There was another reason today was different. It was the first time since my granddaughter Katie was born that I had the opportunity to spend time with her without Angel and Tim around. I took Mom to day care and Angel brought Katie over about 10:30. Angel’s interview wasn’t until 1:00 but she wanted to make Katie lunch and get her down for a nap before she left at noon. I think Angel was a bit nervous leaving Katie because it was the first time Katie had been alone with me without Angel around.

Katie seemed quite comfortable at my house actually. She ate and fell asleep before Angel left, which gave Angel time to change clothes and get ready for her appointment, and give me the motherly directions of what to do when Katie woke up; change her diaper, give her the canned peaches, and little fruit snack chewy things. Yep, I think I can handle that; I had two little girls way back when. LOL

It felt really strange having a baby in the house again. It reminded me of when I took care of my granddaughter Trinity for nearly two years while Stacey was in Korea. I sat on the couch and watched Katie sleep. Her little dimpled fingers opened and closed into a fist and her foot would lift and kick the blanket. She rolled from her back to her side and onto her tummy, then onto her side again. It felt good feeling like a grandma again.

Katie woke up about 1:30. I handled the diaper change and snack time like an old pro and we were off to better things. Katie and I sat on the couch and played with a little musical snowman for a while. Two Feather pushed a small couch pillow over and it tipped onto Katie’s elbow. She giggled and pushed it back. The two of them pushed that pillow back and forth for about ten minutes, giggling each time it flipped. Then, Katie did the cutest thing, Two Feather started to push the pillow again, and I guess Katie decided that was enough pushing and giggling and she put her forefinger up, waved it back and forth, and said, “no, no, no.”

Angel called about 2:20 and said she was waiting for another person to interview her and she’d be a little longer. She asked how Katie was doing. I don’t know if she could hear Katie giggling in the background, but I told her she had her snack, she was fine, and to be careful on the way home. We were doing fine.

After I got off the phone with Angel, Katie decided she liked my dog and crawled up on the couch by her to stroke her fur. Then we moved over to another chair and Katie played with the little talking piano toy Angel brought with her. The piano keys were labeled A, B, C, D, and E. A was for apple and had a biting crunch sound, B never got pushed, so I’m not sure what it was for, C was for car with a horn beep (I always thought C was for cat), D was for dog with a barking sound, and E was for elephant with an elephant sound. Wow, toys have changed so much since my kids were little. Angel and Stacey used to have the big round Fisher Price toy with the letters and pictures of animals. They had to turn the big red arrow to point to the animal and pull the cord to hear the name and sound of the animal.

Anyway, Katie either got tired of pushing the buttons on the piano toy, or she got tired of me taking pictures of her; whichever it was, she put her hands to her side and gave me this look that seemed to say, “Are we done yet?”

Katie and I moved back over to the couch, I changed her again, and by that time Angel was walking in the door at 3:30. She put everything in the car and left for home.

Katie was only awake for two hours while she was there but we managed to fill those two hours with a lot of playtime. After she left I sat on the couch and talked with Two Feather for a half hour before I had to leave to pick up Mom. On the way out to the car, I realized this old ladies’ body isn’t what it used to be. My knees felt rug burned, and my back was killing me. Crawling around on the floor didn’t bother me five years ago, but a lot has changed in five years.

I picked Mom up at day care and the first thing she asked me was whether she woke me up last night during the night. When I said no, she said, that’s odd; I thought I woke you to throw that old woman out of the house. Nope, Mom, you didn’t wake me. That’s good she said. *shrug* She didn't mention it again.

Mom ate very little dinner and went to bed as soon as she was finished. She said she was exhausted and felt cold. I tucked her in, said I love you and came up to my room. Within minutes I could hear the soft steady breathing of her sleep. I’m tired too; think I’ll hit the sack early tonight. All this mothering and grand mothering is tiring. LOL

Before closing though, I'd like to say thank you to all soldiers serving in every part of the world and all our veterans who served in the past. Thank you for what you've done for our country. Yesterday was the official Veteran's Day, but since it's being observed today, I felt it only right to let you all know you're in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks Dad, Uncle Joe, Stacey, Angel, and all of you wonderful military personnel.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beauty of the Day

I mentioned before that we have several deer on the property. There are at least six bucks chasing the doe around the yard. There’s a 10 or 12-point, 8-point, 6-point, 4-point, and a buck with only one 3-point antler. Here’s a picture of the 8-point that stood grazing by the barn today. You can see his rack, but unfortunately you’ll have to take my word on the number of points. Best I can do with the digital. Maybe the 35mm shots will be more clear. I'll let you know. Enjoy the beauty of the day.

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Alzheimer's Plateaus and Declines

Alzheimer’s is the most puzzling disease I’ve ever seen. As loved ones progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease, they become more and more dependent on the caregiver to take care of their needs.

There’s a well known phrase with Alzheimer’s caregivers that reminds us that we can share our experiences, but each person with Alzheimer’s is affected differently than the next: “When you’ve seen one person with AD, you’ve seen one person with AD.” Every person with AD progresses differently and at his or her own rate.

There is no standard situation for each stage of the disease. One loved one may continue in one stage, plateau in that stage for years, and decline swiftly to the end stage within months. Other loved ones may never reach the end stage and are saved the progressive decline to the end.

I’ve learned to deal with any situation that arises in Mom’s journey with Alzheimer’s, however; the fluctuation of abilities (the back and forth) from one week to the next is always puzzling. For months Mom has been on a plateau where she’s been unable to dress or bath herself. She was unable to recognize what each piece of clothing was for, let alone figure out how to button buttons. She needs step-by-step instructions on how to wash, and even then she’s unable to muster the coordination to accomplish the task. Her long-term memory is gone and her short-term memory went along with it.

Yesterday, she actually remembered I had a headache over the past few days and asked if it was gone. She also buttoned her shirt for the first time in three months. If someone had come to visit her yesterday, she would have appeared ‘fine’ in the respect that she was able to hold a conversation as well. Her seemingly enhanced cognitive state continued throughout the day. She helped set the table for dinner, helped dish out her meal, and she even washed the dishes when dinner was over.

I sat in amazement as I watched her, knowing she was having a ‘good day’, and wondering how long it would last. When it was time to get ready for bed, she buttoned her own pajama top and said the words she used to say to me every night: “Thank you for taking care of me, honey. I love you and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

As I sat in my room after she was asleep, I felt as if I’d been thrown backwards into this awful disease. I was thankful for the abilities she mustered for the day, but these back and forth cognitive scenarios can really screw up the ‘prepared’ mindset we caregivers try to maintain. We need to keep reminding ourselves to be prepared for the next decline, even though we cherish the good days our loved ones have.

This morning we were right back to where we were Friday; Mom didn’t recognize her clothes, her room, her house, and she was having a difficult time maneuvering from a sitting to standing position. Once she got moving, it was slow and shaky, even with the walker.

I truly hate Alzheimer’s and what it does to our loved ones. The only thing this disease has reinforced in my mind is the one thing I’ve tried to live by my entire life: Live one day at a time and live each day as if it is the last—because we just never know what the next day will bring, or if it will come.

On a different note: It’s Steelers Sunday. I think I’ll turn on the game and see how well they beat the Browns. :) Maybe I can even convince Mom to watch the game.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Short Fiction Contest

I’m a little behind at catching up with my writer friend’s blogs and I’m glad I did some reading today. Seems fellow Pennsylvanian and friend, Jason is holding another short fiction writing contest at his blog, Clarity of Night.

Jason does a wonderful job keeping writers inspired and this contest is no exception. He’s using a beautiful picture for your writing inspiration. Go check out his contest.

I’m inspired and I found it just in time; there is still a week left before the deadline. Now we’ll see if I’m as good at whipping out the words under deadline as I am at weilding the whip at the freelance contest participants. Good luck everyone!

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Writing Strengths Meme

While catching up on my reading today, I ran across this exercise for writers at Sury’s At Home, Writing blog. I’ve written a number of memes where I was to list books or movies I enjoyed or list 10 things about myself that no one knows. They were fun, but when I saw this ‘Writing Strengths’ meme it caught my eye. Lately, I haven’t been writing much (at least not the type writing I want to write) so this may take me a while to come up with five strengths.

The guideline for the meme is as follows: Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It’s not really bragging, it’s an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you’d like to see share their strengths.
After much thought, this is what I came up with.

1) Truth: No matter what I write (essays, articles, short stories, or novels) my writing is filled with truth in one aspect or another. Essays of course are a brief expression of one’s past: an experience, or a thought of how that experience felt. Each and every essay I’ve ever written reflects a different part of my life, or someone else’s life. I suppose the expression; “the truth will set you free” might be how I look at my writing. Truth in words is important to me. When writing, I am free to voice whatever comes to mind and allow all my feelings to come out. That brings me to my next strength.

2) Feeling: Finding the proper words to express an emotion, scene, or thought is rewarding. Capturing a reader within your words in order to stimulate him or her to perceive those feelings is an honor. Nothing pleases me more than when I receive notes, e-mails, and personal messages from people who read my work. The number one feedback I hear is: “your writing placed me right there beside you.” There’s no better compliment than that!

3) Affect: In the terms of my writing having an effect upon someone. When my words induce an emotional or cognitive impact upon a person, then I’ve done my job well. That is what writing is all about; to leave an impact in some way, even if just for the moment. Thank you to all who have told me my writing affected you in some way.

4) Courage/Voice: I’d like to think that through writing I’ve shown the courage I’ve gained from this profession. I’m speaking not only of the courage in the sense of having the ability to write the truth, show my feelings, and affect those who read my work. But I’m also speaking of the courage in the sense that I may have voiced what so many others wished they could, but were afraid. Writing has given me the courage and the voice to express those things that often get swept under the rug and hidden.

5) Perseverance: No matter what life brings, or what joys, trials, or tribulations come my way, I have always persevered through my writing. Each of those joys and tribulations became a porthole of opportunity. It is because of all those experiences my writing has progressed through the years. Rejections come from all corners of life. Taking those rejections and turning them into joy takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. In a writer’s life, rejection is nothing new. If we learn from those rejections and push forward to make our writing speak out to the next editor or publisher, we have persevered.

May you all find truth, feeling, courage and voice as you write, and affect all your readers as you persevere in this wonderful world of words.

Oh yes, I tag: Ray, Nita, Unique, and Anne.

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Furnace Fixed, Packing & Moving

Thursday went quickly. I called Tom to ask if the furnace part came in yet. He said it didn’t, but his supplier was taking the part off a new furnace so he could bring it out and install it later in the day. He called about fifteen minutes before I was ready to leave to pick up Mom. I told Mom on the way home that Tom would be at the house fixing the furnace when we got home. Two Feather came down and talked with Tom while he worked and until I got back home with Mom. When Tom came upstairs to go outside to get a tool Mom wasn’t sure who he was. He said hello and went back downstairs to work. When he came back upstairs into the dining room to set the thermostat a few minutes later, Mom said I haven’t seen you in a long time, how are you and when did you grow that thing on your lip. He chuckled and said, I’ve had this mustache since I was in the military.

Two Feather left and went back home. While Tom worked on the furnace, I made Mom’s dinner and got her ready for bed. Tom left about 6:00 and the furnace was running. He said, I think it’s finally fixed. Nothing personal, but I hope I don’t hear from you until next year. We both laughed and I said, no offense taken, I hope not too.

The furnace ran its cycle, shut off after he left, and didn’t come back on. I felt bad that I had to call him again. He was in the middle of eating dinner when I called and said he’d come right over. When he came, he was prepared to tear the entire furnace apart all the way down to the fuel line. He knew the module he’d replaced was working so it had to be something else. He installed a new thermostat, took apart the fuel pump and cleaned the small fuel filter inside and put everything back together. The furnace ran a 40-minute cycle this time and the thermostat moved up to 70 degrees. He waited for the house to cool some and see if the furnace kicked back on by itself. Fifteen minutes later, it did. He was a bit paranoid because of all the problems, so he waited for it to run another cycle before he left. Once again the furnace came on by itself. Tom left about 8:00 satisfied that the problem was fixed. The furnace has been working ever since. YAY!!!

Angel came in and stayed with me for the night again because she had another appointment on Friday morning. She got in around 9:30 PM. She brought a birthday bag with presents in it. She drove in last Monday for another interview, and had the bag with her then thinking we might get together for lunch and give me my present early, but we weren’t able to get together because Two Feather and I had a business appointment. Anyway, she gave me a beautiful blue velour jogging suit and the newest Stephen King book. Of course, I loved both gifts. We sat upstairs and talked until 11:00.

Friday morning I woke up Mom and got her ready for the day and woke Angel up so she could get ready for her trip downtown. She was going to drive back to her house after her appointment and said she’d call when she got home.

Two Feather rode me down to Mom’s on the Mule and I packed up a lot of my books, writing files, and my summer clothes to take back to my house. I just don’t have enough room upstairs and I’m not making use of my writing files right now anyway. I figured I might as well start moving things back to my house.

I also packed up all his Indian art that I had in my room upstairs. We had been selling it online, but so much has changed with Mom, that I don’t have the time to devote to taking the pictures, writing the descriptions, packing everything, or running the items to the post office when they've sold. I feel bad about this, because Two Feather has given up everything to help me take care of Mom. He’s given up his way of life: going to powwows; setting up and selling his Indian art at powwows, craft shows, and flea markets; selling firewood. He’s given up absolutely everything to show respect to a woman whom he has no actual ties to. Why? Because he loves me and he loves my mom. And because he’s a respectful human being who lives by his Cherokee heritage. He’s a traditionalist and taking care of the elderly is part of their tradition.

He doesn’t whine or complain that our life has changed so much; he accepts it as part of the path we’re suppose to be on right now, and so do I. We’ll have no regrets about these years spent with Mom and we take pride in the fact that we’re here for her through every step of her journey with Alzheimer’s.

There was no doubt in my mind that I would take care of Mom if and when the time was needed. I’m proud to say I have a man who stands beside me and believes, as I do, in the same family values, honor, and respect due our elders. I think I’ll take my Mom’s advice from when she met him six years ago before Alzheimer’s, “Hang onto him. He’s a keeper. He’s a wonderful man.”

Yes he is, Mom, and he shows it every day!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

The Day Wasn't All Bad--Getting Good At Saying Oh Well

Inquiring minds asked how my birthday went. :) Well, I’d like to say I had a wonderful birthday, but I’m not a liar. Had it not been for the migraine I woke up with, it probably would have gone a lot better. I’m not a happy camper when I have a migraine. When my head hurts, I do not function well at all, in any aspect. I had an auto accident four years ago, which required cervical spine surgery on my neck. I’ve had neck pain ever since. Once the neck pain begins, it radiates and becomes a full-blown migraine. The vice-like grip on my temples was unrelenting all day. But the day wasn’t all bad.

I called Two Feather when I got up as I do every morning. That’s my way of letting him know I’m still among the living and the day has begun. He told me to be careful taking Mom to day care and getting home, and we hung up. No mention of my birthday. I thought that was odd, but I figured he was waiting until I got home.

He had a fire going in the fireplace when I got home and he made me breakfast. I knew this was just a small part of his grand scheme for the day. No ‘Happy Birthday’ from him yet. No big deal. It didn’t really bother me; I knew he knew it was my birthday; he always teases me and says your birthday is the 11th right? Yeah, right, I say. He’s been wishing me happy birthday since his birthday passed in September. Oh well, he’s already wished me happy birthday probably 38 times anyway.

I went into the kitchen and thought about making a cake. Eh, instead I figured I’d make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and use the two new cookie sheets I bought last week. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees and we’d have some really great tasting cookies as soon as they cooled. Wrong! Within five minutes of baking, I could smell the burnt bottoms. I won’t say what new name I gave those cookie sheets, but it wasn’t Echoware and it certainly wasn’t ‘no stick’.

By this time, the vice-like grip on my temples had encompassed my entire head. I was in no mood for cookies, especially burnt ones.

Two Feather heard me in the kitchen, came in, and asked what was wrong. Oh nothing, I said. I made cookies and their bottoms are burnt, and they’re not even finished baking. Guess I should have made a cake, maybe I could have burned that too, but of course I should wait to make that on the 11th, when you tell me happy birthday, right?

He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me so tight. I didn’t tell you happy birthday yet did I? No, I said. We’ve had a lot on our minds lately. I know the breakfast and fire was all part of it, but…

But I didn’t tell you happy birthday. I’m sorry I didn’t say it when you called this morning. I know it’s your birthday. I don’t know why I didn’t say it.

It doesn’t matter, I said. Somehow I knew this birthday should go by unnoticed. I even wrote that in my blog yesterday. It’s just another day and there’s too many other things to worry about.

He grabbed a cookie off the cookie sheet and said these aren’t that bad, have one. Happy birthday, honey.

He grabbed a few more cookies and asked me to go in the living room and lie down to try to get rid of the migraine.

The phone rang. He knew it would be one of my daughters and before I answered he smiled and said, happy birthday. I knew it wouldn’t be Stacey because she told me last week that she didn’t have cell phone power where she works. I didn’t think she’d be calling until evening. Besides, I got a card in the mail from her the day before my birthday along with a half dozen cards from some of my friends. I called her on the 6th and thanked her for the card and wished her stepson, my grandson Deandre happy birthday at the same time. Oh good, you got it already; that saves me from having to call tomorrow, she said joking.

It was Angel who called when the phone rang and she asked what I was doing. I said I was lying on the couch watching the news trying to get rid of a headache. She asked if I could baby-sit Katie for a few hours next Monday when she comes in for another appointment. Sure, I said, and she said, okay I’ll talk to you later and we hung up. I knew she had it in mind to wish me happy birthday, but with her traveling four hours for interviews, trying to sell her house, packing, and trying to make arrangements for everything long distance, it slipped her mind. Oh well, she’ll call back when she has time.

I curled back up on the couch, pulled a blanket over my head, and tried to go to sleep mumbling, “Oh well, I did say I wanted my birthday to go by unnoticed.” Then I cried.

I couldn’t go to sleep so I picked one of our movies to watch. Two Feather slipped the VHS into the player and hit play. The movie had black streaks all through the middle of it. We tried another movie; the black streaks were still there. I ran the head cleaner in the VCR and tried the movie again. Still black streaks. Oh well, guess the VCR needs to be replaced.

We watched TV for the remaining time I had at home. I picked up Mom and the nurse at the day care told me I looked tired. I told her I had a migraine and was going to spend the rest of my birthday in bed. She wished me happy birthday. Mom asked whose birthday it was and I said mine. She said, happy birthday, honey, I didn’t know today was your birthday. I said, I know Mom, oh well, it’s just another day. Her knowing was there and gone within seconds. Oh well, I knew she didn’t know the date or that it was my birthday; I didn’t expect her to.

I made her dinner and washed her and dressed her for bed making sure I let the heater run in her bedroom for a while so she would be warm.

The part for the furnace was supposed to come in on my birthday too. I knew Tom had a furnace installation so didn’t think he’d be coming to fix our furnace Wednesday. The part probably didn’t come in until late afternoon anyway. Oh well, we have heaters.

Angel called about 6 PM singing happy birthday. She said she meant to tell me earlier, but she’d had so much on her mind trying to get things arranged, it slipped her mind. Do I know my daughters well, or what? ;) Love you, honey. Thanks for calling back.

Stacey called and wished me happy birthday right after I hung up from talking to Angel. Love you too, Stacey. She said I sounded tired. I laughed and told her what the day had been like, that I was still fighting this migraine, and I was going to bed. And I did!

So there you have it. That was my birthday in a nutshell. The breakfast was great, the fire was soothing, the cookies weren’t that bad, Mom’s house was warm from the heaters, and everyone who matters in my life did end up wishing me happy birthday. And that includes all you wonderful caregiver friends, the AW group, and all who sent me cards. Hugs to you all, you know who you are.

If you noticed, on the 4th I mentioned I’d tucked Mom safely and ‘warmly’ in bed, and during the night the furnace stopped working. On the 6th I wrote that I’d just as soon my birthday go by without notice and, well…you read the story. LOL

One thing I do know for sure, I’ll be very careful what I write in my blog from now on. You never know when the Creator is going to take you serious.

By the way, I still have my migraine. And oh yes, while I’m in the mood, She…i…la, I hope you’re enjoying ‘watching me’ from work and home, though I can’t imagine, since your rude October 1 comment, why you’ve logged in and read my blog 57 times since I make you SO sick. (Yes, I have all the dates and times logged from each computer) Did you bother to tell your husband that his mother’s furnace quit working? Did either of you bother to call to make sure she was okay? Of course not. Nice of you both to show so much concern for my mother! Talk about sick! Oh well!

Sorry I didn’t post this earlier, you would have been able to read it at 8:01PM when you logged in from home. Guess you’ll see this when you log in.

Have a wonderful day.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dinner Cooked, Wood Cut & Split & I'm Getting Older

Today I used a suggestion from Nancy and used the oven to help heat the house. No, not an empty oven with the door open, that’s dangerous, a closed oven with a stuffed roasting chicken inside. Great idea, Nancy!

Mom’s oven is really neat. It has two timers on it: the regular timer for baking cookies and such, and this awesome ‘start’ and ‘stop’ timer for cooking. I stuffed the chicken last night after she was in bed and put it in the refrigerator. This morning before we left, I set the start timer for 2 PM, the stop timer for 4 PM, shoved the roasting pan in, and closed the door. It was wonderful. When we walked in at 4:30, the kitchen was nice and warm and the smell of chicken was in the air. Dinner was cooked, and all I had to do was dish out our meal and add a veggie.

I wish Mom could have smelled the chicken when we came in, but she lost her sense of smell years and years ago when I was still in high school. I’m glad she can still taste food, though. She loved the meal and ate a decent amount tonight.

Two Feather worked in the woods again today. Fallen trees blocked another path he’d made several years ago.

It didn’t take him long to cut up these trees once he put a new chain on his chainsaw. He pulled the trees out onto the path after branching them. We sat on this tree for a few minutes taking in the beauty of the woods. We watched a few deer walk by as a light sprinkle of rain turned to the first snowflakes for the year.

I helped load some of the smaller pieces of wood onto the Mule, but I’m not much help when it comes to the big ones. I mostly watched and enjoyed the atmosphere today. The Mule was full by the time he cut up both trees and split all the wood.

I think tomorrow we’ll take the day off…maybe. Two Feather said he has something in mind to do instead of work. Tomorrow is my birthday, but I’d just as soon let it go by without notice. Mom doesn’t even know what month or year it is, let alone that it’s my birthday. For years I would take Mom out to lunch on her birthday and she would take me out on mine and we’d spend those days shopping together. We still celebrate Mom’s birthday, as you saw in an earlier post, but the last few years my birthday has come and gone without her knowing, so there’s no sense in mentioning it this year either.

For those wondering, I’m past the big 50. In a few short hours, I’ll be 55. :D
See you all tomorrow my friends!

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Furnace is on the Fritz

Mom's furnace is on the fritz. Sometime during the night it quit working. About 3:00 AM I woke up chilled to the bone. I went down in the basement and checked the circuit breakers. They were fine, so I pulled the cover from the furnace and pushed the reset button. The furnace kicked on but it only ran for about 10 minutes and shut off. When I pushed the reset button again, it did nothing.

I peeked into Mom’s room and noticed she had the covers pulled up over her head. That told me she was cold, so I pulled another blanket from the closet and put it over her. She continued to sleep peacefully until I woke her to get her ready for the day care.

Upon arriving home, I called the gentleman who maintains her furnace every year. He said he wouldn’t be able to come out until this evening because he had several ‘no heat’ calls before us, and a furnace installation to do. Tom’s been my mom and dad’s furnace maintenance man for more than 20 years, and since Dad died he always makes sure he takes care of Mom’s furnace at the beginning of his busy season. Last year, we had him put a new furnace in because the old one was on its last leg. Within a few minutes of my call, Tom called back and said he was on his way. He said he has a soft spot for widows and especially Mom because he liked my dad so much.

He arrived at 8:30 and performed the usual maintenance of changing the nozzle, the fuel oil filter, and the furnace filter. The furnace fired up, ran for about six minutes, and quit. He bled the line to get the air out and still the same thing. After a few more adjustments, the furnace fired up and ran even after he left at 11:00. I went to my house, Two Feather and I ran a few errands, and went to Mom’s around 2:00 to make sure the furnace was still working. When we walked in the house, we knew it had shut off after he left and not come back on. The thermostat was still at 62 degrees.

I called Tom again. He had just finished with a call and said he’d come right over. He was here within 20 minutes, pushed the reset button, and left again to go to his parts supplier to pick up a new module for the furnace. He was back again by 3:10, installed the new part, and wouldn’t you know it, that part was defective, so he left again to get another one.

In the meantime, I left to pick up Mom at day care and Two Feather sat outside on my mom’s porch waiting for Tom in case I wasn’t back in time. I told Mom that Tom had worked on the furnace most of the day and he would be back to fix the furnace by the time we returned home.

Turned out Tom called me on my cell phone just before I pulled up to the house. He said they didn’t have another module in stock and it would take two days to get it in. He was on his way over to drop off heaters to keep the house warm for Mom until the part comes in. For him to make my mom’s house his first priority was kind. To come back within hours pushing all his other calls later when I called again was kind. To bring heaters to make sure Mom was warm…that goes above and beyond in my book.

Tom knows Mom has Alzheimer’s and when he walked in with the heaters, he said, “Hi Mrs. Kiggins, how are you?” “I’m fine. I don’t think I know you,” she said. Tom was so sweet. He took his hat off and said, “Maybe with my hat off you’ll know me.” I could tell Mom still didn’t know who he was and so did he, but she said, “Yeah, I think I remember you.”

Tom set up the heaters around the house and left. The house was still chilly because the heaters hadn’t been on very long and Mom said, “It’s cold in here. You’d better call the furnace guy and have him fix that thing. I don’t think it’s working.” So much for Tom taking off his hat for her to recognize him, she didn’t even remember him being there two minutes after he left. LOL I told her the house would warm up as soon as the heaters ran a little longer.

I put an extra blanket on her bed just in case. By the time we ate dinner and she dressed for bed her room was very warm. It didn’t take her but a few minutes to fall asleep.

Tonight is Monday night Steelers football, and since Mom is in bed sleeping I’ll actually get to watch a game for a change. Haven’t watched one since I moved in with Mom because she’s not a real fan of football. She used to sit and read or crochet when Dad watched the Steelers. Everything time he’d yell and cheer when they got a touchdown, she’d jump in her chair and say he ‘scared the living daylights out of her’. I root and cheer just like Dad used to, so I figured it’s best if I don’t turn the games on when she’s in the room. We need all the living daylights we can get. ROFL

Don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep for the next couple nights. I’m not a fan of electric and oil heaters running, so I’ll be up and down all night checking them to make sure they’re not heating anything except the rooms. Never can be too careful.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

To Betsy

This morning I was happy that I was able to visit my Uncle Joe yesterday, Mom enjoyed the visit, and I actually found some time to finish writing a book review that’s been long overdue.

I’ve been busy with Mom all day; dressing her for the day, helping her with her bathroom needs, making meals, and keeping her busy. Weekends she tends to get anxious if I’m not sitting and talking with her or doing something with her. I managed to get the laundry finished and she helped me fold clothes, put them on hangers, and fold towels. She said she felt good helping with things because she doesn’t want me to have to do everything. I told her how much I appreciated her help and we sat for the rest of the afternoon working on word search puzzles and coloring.

Dinner is finished and Mom is tucked safely and warmly in bed and I thought it was time for me to catch up on my blog reading.

I went to Betsy’s blog first and found myself in tears when I read that her mother passed away over the weekend. I haven’t met Betsy personally, nor have I met Lori, Nancy, Terry, or Shirl, and many of the other caregivers I link to on my blog, but the relationships we’ve made through our writing about our journey with Alzheimer’s has been a rewarding one. We’ve become family to each other.

We’ve experienced similar drawbacks in our care giving, shared our concerns, even passed our phone numbers on to each other, yet we hesitate to make that call because we know how busy everyone’s day can be.

Each of these wonderful people have shared their journey right through to the end and it’s the end that saddens me so much. Shirl’s Bob died on April 27, 2007. Lori’s Helen died on Monday, September 17, 2007. Nancy’s Russ died on Thursday, September 20, 2007. Terry’s dad died on Friday, September 21, 2007. And now Betsy’s mom died on Friday, November 2, 2007.

Each have become very important to me and hold a very special place in my heart. Each giving of themselves in a way no other could. Some of us have common interests, some have common lifestyles, and some even have common superstitions. Thank you all for being the special people you are.

Betsy ran across my blog on August 20, 2007 and commented, “It seems we share many common traits: full time caregiver for an AD mom, freelance writer and Pittsburgher. I'm delighted to "meet" you!”

Besides being caregivers for a loved one with Alzheimer's, Betsy and I do share common traits, even past those things she mentioned. I was delighted to meet her as well and she’s held a very special place in my heart since. We’ve kept in touch through our blogs, and she was so kind to take time out of her busy day to send copies of the Reminisce Magazine. I thought it was very sweet and thoughtful for Betsy to share with my Mom something that her mom enjoyed for so long.

Today when I read Betsy’s words, “Those were our last words to each other,” I knew without reading any further her mom had passed and my heart broke for her. Through tears I continued to read her post about how she listened for her mom’s sleeping sounds through the baby monitor and my heart ached even more. So many of us caregivers can relate to the feeling of not getting comfortable until we hear our loved one’s soft steady breathing. We know the sounds of the bed, the different types of breathing, and when our loved one’s are sound asleep. Then we know we can relax for a short time, and maybe catch a bit of sleep until they call out to us during the night.

Silence through that monitor is something none of us want to hear. I could feel the numbness Betsy felt as she stood outside on the porch trying to gain the strength to check on her mom in the morning when she heard that silence. I can only imagine how difficult those moments were and how long they must have felt to her.

Crying, I reached for the phone and called Two Feather. He knew immediately that another of my friend’s loved ones had passed. He’s received several of these calls in the past six months. Two Feather understands the heartbreak we go through each day; he watches me hold back tears as I watch a part of my mom disappear as the days, months, and years go by. He hesitated for a second and asked, “Who?” “Betsy’s mom,” I said choking back the tears. He said, “She lives near here, doesn’t she? Tell her I said I’m sorry.” Then he hugged me and said, “I’m sorry. I know you’ve become friends.”

I must have had a distraught look on my face because he asked me what was wrong. Betsy’s post mentioned that the viewing was today and the funeral would be tomorrow morning. She’s so close, yet I realized I wouldn’t be able to be there for her during her time of need.

Betsy, please know that I’m thinking of you and your wonderful family and I am keeping you in my prayers. I may not be able to stand beside you, hold your hand, and give you that comforting hug you deserve, but I am there for you, my friend.

You were the template your mom used when she made those craft angels. ((Soft hugs)) I love you!

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BOOK REVIEW: Autumn Shadows in August by Robert W. Norris

Autumn Shadows in August
By Robert W. Norris
Lulu Press
January 2006
201 pp.Paperback
ISBN: 1411672976
Amazon Price: $13.92

Review by Joanne D. Kiggins

Robert W. Norris takes readers on an hallucinogenic trip with his novel Autumn Shadows in August. Norris claims his novel is part homage to authors’ Malcolm Lowry and Hermann Hesse, who he says influenced his writing, and part mid-life crisis/adventure.

We meet main character David Thompson and his wife Kaori in an astounding and griping prologue that forces the reader to turn the page to see what happens to the couple.

Throughout the novel, Norris kept the same quick pace and gripping scenes, which plunged into an adventure of telling Thompson’s hopes of rediscovering himself by use of hallucinogens.

Thompson is a conscientious objector and an expatriate American teaching English at a Japanese university. He’s suffering from hepatitis C and Kaori is recovering from cancer surgery.

Both feeling the need to be revitalized, they decide to leave Japan and journey to Europe. In an attempt to find themselves, Thompson retraces his youth and a journey he took 26 years ago to share his past with his wife while both search for the significance of what they’ve done with their lives.

In their travels, Thompson tries to find his German friend Thomas Knorr while Kaori enriches her knowledge and love of the arts. At the beginning of their journey in Amsterdam, Thompson meet Pablo, the mysterious head shop owner, who gives him a small box containing a small chessboard, figurines, and four mushrooms. He recalls Pablo’s advice on life.

Chess is like the game of life. And the pieces of each person’s game are made up of many broken parts, the many selves, of his or her personality. (Pg.13)

Thompson’s psychedelic journey began before receiving the box, but after consuming the first mushroom, his trip turns into a full blow adventure of the mind. The “mushroom examination of everything” sends Thompson on mind boggling trips through his past where he defines the stages of his life.

Each mushroom catapults him into a segment of his life and each trip to another region of the world where he examines his surroundings, realizes his innermost purpose, and questions reality. And it’s no wonder. Thompson’s reality was the use of drugs, alcohol, and mushrooms, which made him think he could better focus on his life. Where, in fact, they played tricks with his mind and led him to his next destination.

Pablo’s trick?
My focus fixed on the Picasso clown and his checkered outfit, which I now realized was a chessboard on which several pieces were moving about. (pg. 46)

Norris relied on flashbacks and imagery to tell his story.
Throughout their journey, Thompson meets all the demons of his past and defines and describes his mushroom episodes in great detail in some of the longest run-on-sentences this reader has ever read.

A hundred more vignettes marched across the stage of my mushroom mind, a phantasmagoria of my entire life from Little League baseball and high school basketball glory and family relationships in the early days, on to prison dramas, the journeys far and wide, all the characters of those multiple episodes, and all the intellectual explorations of why, why, why, what is the meaning of all this, the mind twisting left and right down philosophical and religious avenues, and then finally reaching the stage where I wasn’t questioning anymore….(pg.77)

Thompson realizes, with or without drugs, the path he and his wife followed during their years together was the purpose of their lives. All they had been through shouldn’t be questioned and all the soul-searching they’d done brought them right back to where they were supposed to be in life.

Norris’ writing flows from one long episode to the next and one page to the next. Reading the explicit descriptions of his trip is mind-boggling and an eye-opener; it is like watching him during an episode and knowing he was lost in his own mind only to come out and find he wasn’t lost at all.

The love between Thompson and his wife was evident throughout the journey and their sense of self worth intensified as the trip continued.

Though Norris’ writing is descriptive and fluid, this is not a book I would recommend to a casual reader. However, those who have a taste for books with deep, intense, emotional, and soul-searching plots will find Autumn Shadows in August a great read and may find their own realizations without the use of hallucinogens.

CLICK HERE to purchase Autumn Shadows in August.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Visit With Uncle Joe & Take Out Dinner

Turn Your Clocks Back

This morning when I got up, I decided it was a good day to visit my Uncle Joe at the nursing home. I don’t get up to see him as often as I used to since Mom finds it more and more difficult to walk distances any longer than 20 feet without tiring out. The walk from the car to the front entrance is three times that long, and the walk from the front entrance to the elevator that takes us to the fourth floor is again twice that long. By the time we reach the sunroom where Uncle Joe sits and reads the daily newspaper, Mom is exhausted.

Uncle Joe wasn’t in the sunroom when we arrived; he was in his room. Nurses were taking care of a patient in his room, so we couldn’t go in and the nurse told Joe we were waiting outside the door.

I had gone to the nursing home to visit twice to see Joe without Mom along, while Mom was at day care, because she was just learning to use her walker. It had been two months since I took Mom with me. He was happy to see us when he came out of his room.

He wheeled himself down the hall to the sunroom and Mom walked with her walker to the seat I’d placed at his table. We sat and talked for nearly two hours before Mom said she was tired and wanted to go home. During the visit, Mom kept saying, “I hate this place.” She gets upset listening to some of the patients loudly repeating sentences over and over again.

I always get a bit depressed after visiting with Uncle Joe because he used to be so independent and was able to come and go as he pleased when he lived in his own apartment. Had I not been taking care of Mom at the time he became ill, I would have moved him into my house and took care of him. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t take care of two elderly loved ones and he knew that. He even told me he was better off in the nursing home because I have my hands full with taking care of Mom and he knew he could no longer live alone.

He’s adjusted very well in the year and a half he’s been there. Because he is given his medications at proper times and he eats three well-balanced meals a day, he is doing quite well. Still, I hate the thought of him being there.

Our visit ended about 3:30 and I hadn’t taken anything out for dinner so I stopped at the Kentucky Fried Chicken to bring home dinner. Mom said, “Make sure you get something for Two Feather. He has to eat, too.”

I said, “Okay, I’m sure he’ll like that.”

“Maybe he’ll come down and eat with us,” she said smiling.

When we got home, I called Two Feather and told him we stopped, brought dinner home, and Mom wanted him to come down and eat with us. As I mentioned before, he seldom eats dinner at Mom’s house, but when she invites him, he never disappoints her. We ate dinner and Two Feather left to go home since he knew I’d be getting Mom showered and dressed for bed.

All in all, it was a nice day, a nice dinner, (especially since I didn’t have to cook it) and Mom was happy to crawl into bed by the time the day was over.

After Mom was in bed, I ran around the house and turned the clocks back an hour. I always do this before I go to bed so the correct time is on all the clocks when we wake up. So for those of you who use Daylight Saving Time, don’t forget to turn your clocks back tonight…or in the morning if you’re a procrastinator. :)

Tomorrow I plan to finish writing the book reviews for the books I've read. You'll see them as soon as I complete them.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Now You See It—Now You Don’t

Two Feather’s first project today was to cut up the dead tree that fell in the garden area at Mom’s house. I believe I showed the picture of it before and said that would be one of his next jobs. Well today was the day.

It didn’t take him long once he started. While he cut, I picked up the pieces and loaded the back of the mule with the wood. It wasn’t a very big tree but it did fill up the back of the mule by the time he was finished.

We took that load up to our house, I made us something to eat, and we went back down Mom’s to get a few more pieces of the oak tree.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the pieces of wood from the oak tree were nearly three foot in diameter. Here are just a few of the cuts from the center of the tree.

Here’s a shot of him splitting one of the larger pieces above with the maul and wedge. He might be tall and skinny, but he's strong. Two Feather split both of these pieces today. They filled the mule bed, and between the oak and the other tree he cut up, they filled his splitting area at our house.

After all the splitting and hauling, we walked through the woods looking for more downed trees on the property. We counted at least six more that we hadn't seen before. This one will probably wait until spring. He has at least a dozen trees to cut, split, and move out of his way before he can get to this one.

This big tree fell during that last storm we had and it covered both his paths through our large garden area at the lower end of our property.

We’re always watching for feathers as we walk. Found a few today. This was interesting to see on the path as we walked home.

It’s a deer print…It measures 4 ½” long. This buck is huge! We know it’s a buck because we’ve seen him around here for a few years, but I’ve never been able to get a picture of him before he runs off. His rack is huge, too! Last year we counted at least 10 points. He was in the yard just before dark tonight, but he was chasing two doe and I couldn’t get a shot of his rack. Last year, Mom saw him standing in front of the barn and thought he was a horse. He is enormous. I’ll get a picture of him yet!

Mom was exhausted as she always is when she got home from day care. She ate a little more for dinner than she did last night and stayed awake until after she finished. I found a few really cute craft projects at the store the other day. This weekend we’ll probably work on them. She loves doing craft projects, so that should help keep her busy for the weekend. She gets bored if I don’t keep her occupied the entire time she’s awake.

Maybe while Mom's working on those crafts I'll find some time to finish writing the book reveiws for the books I've finally finished reading. I've managed to read four books in the last two weeks. My "to read" stack is getting smaller. Only five more to go!

See you all soon. Happy November!

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