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WritingAfterDark

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Long Time Coming—August, September, October Update

I’ve had these writings in draft for quite some time, so they are a long time coming. Sorry I didn’t post them sooner.

I’m having a really difficult time finding the words to catch up and I’ve been in sort of a funk lately. So, I’m going to jam the last few months in as quickly and shortly as possible. Yeah right! When were any of my posts quick and short? LOL I’ve at least kept in touch and let you all know I’m still around by commenting on your blogs. I really do keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers each day even though I may not be around much to mention it.

AUGUST
Here it goes. Stacey and her family left on August 1st to go back home to Alabama. Her birthday was the 3rd and I’m glad I called to wish her a Happy Birthday. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The first week of August, we struck a deal with a different logging company to use our log landing, as long as they cut in a driveway for our soon-to-be new neighbors who bought the property that connects to Mom’s.

That first week was also the week we decided to let Ricky’s cage door open and let him roam in and out. If he were to go back to the woods, then that’s what is supposed to be. We nursed him to health and he was strong enough to be on his own.

Each evening we’d sit by the fire pit outside and call for him. Within a few minutes he crawled out from the bushes and crawled up Two’s leg. He’d play with our dog and run back and forth on the swing between us, jump down and scurry off.

These were the last pictures of Ricky taken on August 7th.

He climbed up Two’s leg, hugged his little white friend, climbed on my shoulder and gave me a kiss, then climbed on top of the swing.

The next night he didn’t come when we called. Looking at the pictures now, I think he was saying goodbye to us.

At the end of that week, Stacey called and said she’d been to the hospital. She had a lump on her throat. It seemed to appear over night and was the size of a plum. They immediately suspected thyroid cancer and told her to see her regular doctor and have tests scheduled. It was another week before any tests were done. The next week was hell on everyone waiting for the results. They were inconclusive and the doctor recommended she see a specialist and have more thyroid tests done. Three weeks later and still no answer and the specialist couldn’t see her until January 09. Stacey said she would call the specialist every day until she got an appointment sooner. Finally they set an appointment for the first week of October.

It’s probably a good thing I gave in and took Mom to the ALF the last few days of July. I had to call them and ask if she could stay the whole month of August. I’d gone back to my doctor the last day of July because I felt much worse. He prescribed a stronger antibiotic, inhalers to puff on six times a day, and I was ordered to bed rest.

I spent most of the month of August in bed sick, in and out of sleep, or on the couch doing the same. Finally by the 25th, I was able to breath, without my chest feeling like a Mac truck was sitting on it, my doctor cleared me from bed rest and said I was lucky. When I asked if I could take a short two-hour trip on Labor Day weekend, he said I could as long as I didn’t overexert myself.

Thank you to all who called to check on me. That was so very thoughtful of you.

I had four more days before the weekend and I planned to stay rested so Two and I could go to the last Powwow we planned to attend this year. It was in Columbus, Ohio. We left Friday the 29th. He danced his heart out. I watched mostly; dancing only a few dances. We’d planned to come home Tuesday, September 2nd but I started feeling lousy and we came home on Sunday the 31st instead.

SEPTEMBER
Monday, September 1st I took my time cleaning up a bit around Mom’s and my house so everything was fresh and clean when I picked her up from the ALF on the 2nd. Monday when I swept the leaves off the porch, Mom’s cat was sick. He was coughing and lying in the sun on the gravel along the side of the driveway. I made an appointment with the vet. They weren’t able to see him until Friday.

I picked up Mom from the ALF on the 2nd. She was so very pleased to see me and happy that she was coming home. I took her dog to the groomer before I picked her up and we picked him up before I took her home. She was excited to see him, too.

Mom went back to day care on the 3rd and I picked her up early to take her for her doctor’s appointment. Her doctor told me I’m doing a wonderful job with Mom and was glad to see I’d taken a month off from care giving. I told him I didn’t have a choice—I had pneumonia. He suggested I take a week each month from now on and then asked if I was considering placing her. “You’ve done wonderful, Joanne, but it sounds like it’s time you take care of yourself.” I told him I’d let him know if I get to that point. He nodded and said, “Please take care of yourself as well as you do your Mom.” I said I would try.

On the 4th, we found Mom’s cat, Tig, dead alongside the driveway; his favorite spot for sunning himself. Two buried Tig before Mom came home from day care and she never noticed he wasn’t around.

September 7th Two’s Kawasaki Mule broke down. The front dry shaft broke. On the 10th, the Kawasaki shop picked it up for repair.

Finally, September 11th the doctor took a biopsy of Stacey’s lump. He said the results would take 7-14 days. Good grief! It took five weeks just to get a biopsy! Now waiting another two weeks before any results. So much for catching things and getting something done QUICK!

September 12th I took my dog to the vet. She started limping a few days before and her limp was worse. An x-ray showed a small fracture in her shoulder. While I was waiting for the vet to put a full leg splint on her, Tim, Angel’s husband called me. I knew immediately something was wrong. Angel was at the emergency room with chest pain. The next words I heard were “possible heart attack.” The vet came in and saw me crying. My sweet little dog was all wrapped up and ready to go and he handed her to me.

So, after writing a check for $200+, I took her home and dropped her off with Two and headed to the ER to see Angel. On the way to the hospital, nothing I’d been through the last few months mattered; my daughters were having health problems now. I pulled off the road, cried, and prayed, “I don’t know what you have in store for me, and I don’t care, please just let Angel and Stacey be okay.”

I sat with Angel at the ER for a little over an hour. The cardiologist came in and explained that her heart was fine. I don’t recall what the name of the problem was, but it had something to do with her chest wall muscles. I’m so happy her heart is okay. It was a real scare for us since her paternal grandfather died from a heart attack and her father has had several heart attacks and by-pass surgeries. Angel was released that afternoon.

On the way home I thanked the Creator for a good prognosis for Angel and prayed Stacey would hear good news as well...SOON. With all that had happened from July until now, I couldn’t help but allow the question to run through my mind, “What next?”

I got that answer on the 14th. Just seconds before the Steelers kick off at 8:00 PM, the power went out from the high winds we were having. Thank goodness Mom had already been sleeping for a few hours. She had no idea the power went out. For fear that I wouldn’t hear her, since the monitor wasn’t working, I went downstairs and tried to sleep on the couch. If you saw my Mom’s couch, you’d know why I didn’t sleep a wink that night. It’s a 70’s (maybe even a 60’s) couch. It’s hard and itchy, with a rough rug-looking print, and uncomfortable as sitting on a wood step with gravel on it. But it’s in perfect condition. LOL

On the 15th, I took Mom to day care. They did have power; one of the few scattered places in the area that did. I called the ALF and asked if they had a bed for Mom. They did and I told them I would bring her in after day care the next day if the power didn’t come back on. Mom faired fine Monday evening at home. I was on the couch again. Tuesday I took her to the ALF after day care and promised I would bring her home as soon as the power was on. I didn’t feel comfortable keeping her home since there was no water, light, and no way to cook. It’s one thing for me to walk around in the dark, snack on whatever might be available, and rough it for a few days, but Mom needed to be where she would be safe—physically and medically. The power came on at my house late Wednesday afternoon. When I went to Mom’s to check it, the power was still off. That didn’t make sense to me since my power lines came from the pole by her house. I called the power company, but with all the outages in the area, I received only a recording. Thursday, I finally got through and they said they’d have someone out by Saturday. I went to see Mom and told her she would most likely be there until Saturday. She was fine with that and went back to playing cards with the ladies.

On Saturday the power company came and said there was electric to the pole but there was still no power to the house. After they checked further, they found the line had been loose on the side of the house. Once they shored the line, we had power. I picked Mom up and brought her home. Good thing was that Mom was safe and our power was back on. Bad thing was we lost everything in all our freezers.

September 27th, Mom and I went to visit my Uncle Joe at the nursing home. It was his 83rd birthday. He loved his new shirts and pants we bought him. I served everyone on his floor a piece of the sheet cake I took in for his birthday.

The 28th was Two’s birthday. I baked him a cake. Trish, Gabe, Evan, Bob, Cecilia, and Landon came to visit him. Trish and Bob are two of Two’s six kids and Evan and Landon are two of his eleven grandchildren. It was good seeing all of them again.

OCTOBER
October started with about the same trend of the last few months. On the 1st, the riding mower broke down just as Two made the first pass of Mom’s yard. I called the mower service and they picked it up that afternoon. After they left, I sat and had a very long, hard cry, again. It seemed everything was falling apart; me, my daughters, the mule, the mower, the power—one thing after another. I wouldn’t let my mind entertain the question, “what’s next?” Instead, I said, “That’s enough. I give up. I’m tired and I just don’t care what’s next.”

I think the “I don’t care” attitude must have changed things a bit. On October 2nd, Stacey called and said the biopsy was negative and she would have to have it checked periodically to make sure it stays that way. I was so happy that she finally received results and it was good news. Both my daughters are going to be okay. On the 3rd, both the mule and the mower were fixed and delivered back home.

Angel, Tim, Katie, Two and I took Mom out to lunch on the 5th to celebrate her 85th birthday, which would be on the 6th.

The rest of October was pretty quiet. We went to see Uncle Joe a few more times and Mom dressed up as a cook for the Halloween party at day care.

All in all, October wasn’t too bad.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Some Fun, Some Not So Fun, Some Sad--July Update

July began with me not feeling well. I was aching from head to toe. There was no cold or sneezing, just a deep congested cough coming straight from my chest. I knew immediately the weather in June made a home in my lungs with bronchitis. An appointment with my doctor and a chest x-ray on the 15th confirmed it. I was put on antibiotics for two weeks.

My daughter, Stacey, and her family came up from Alabama for a visit on the 24th. They visited with us all day on the 25th while Mom was at club. Two Feather was cleaning up the branches from the big oak that was left lay by the loggers in the lower yard.



Stacey’s husband, Dennis, was throwing the small branches onto the wagon and Stacey drove the Mule behind the house where we threw the branches and brush over the hill in a large gully.



Trinity and Quenton helped throw branches, too. Tux, Stacey's dog, had to get in the action, too. They were having fun helping Pap Pap and Bammaw clean up GG’s (great grandma’s) yard.

On the 26th, Stacey, Dennis, Trinity, and Quenton came over and spent the entire day visiting with Mom and on the 27th they came back again with Angel, Tim and Katie and visited most of the day.



I managed to get everyone in the picture. Of course, there are two people missing in the picture; I was taking the picture and Two Feather ran up to our house to bring Ricky the raccoon down to meet the family.

Angel and Katie met Ricky in June. This is a picture of them.


The kids loved petting him.



Mom thought he was adorable and held him on her lap for a while. Her eyes lit up when he crawled onto her shoulder and squeaked.



She thought it was great that we nursed him back to health and that he was so small, cute, and cuddly. She just loved him.



I snapped of shot of Angel and Stacey playing ring-around-the-rosy with Katie, Trinity, and Quenton. Shortly after, the girls announced they were leaving because they knew Mom was getting tired. They planned to go out for dinner and left so I could get Mom something to eat and keep her on her schedule. It’s times like this that I miss being able to get up and go and spend more time with my kids and grandkids, but I’m very thankful that they recognize the signs of Mom growing tired and understand the need to keep her on her schedule. Mom is only able to take so much out-of-routine and more-than-normal crowd around her for so long. You caregivers know what I mean; anything and anyone out of the ordinary seems to mentally fatigue our loved ones that much more.

Monday the 28th I took Mom to day care and I went to my doctor because my bronchitis wasn’t much better. He gave me another seven-day prescription and insisted that I take care of myself for a change. I wasn’t getting the rest I needed for the antibiotics to work properly. It was either place Mom in the ALF or I would end up in the hospital and have to place her anyway. I called the ALF to take her in the next morning. After I dropped her off, I went to my house and slept and rested the rest of that day and all of the next.

Angel and Stacey wanted to go to the local amusement park, Kennywood, on the 30th. Angel, Tim, and Katie were meeting us there after work. I told them Two Feather and I would go along and watch the grandkids while my daughters and their husbands rode rides that the munchkins were too small for. After all, I’d only be walking around and the temperature was in the high 80’s so what harm could it do?

Two and I took the kids to Kiddieland to ride the kid’s rides. Trinity, Quenton, and Katie had so much fun riding the rides. I rode a few of the rides with them.

While Angel, Tim, Stacey, and Dennis rode the roller coasters, Two and I bought the kids drinks and a funnel cake with powdered sugar on it. Between sharing the funnel cake and talking with our grandchildren, we kept them occupied until my daughters were off the rides.



I thought it was cute that Angel kept calling me from the cell phone asking if we and the kids were okay and letting me know where they were in line and how long it would be before they came back.

The day was beautiful. I even road a few of the rides, too. I rode on the King Kahuna, which swings up in the air and upside down. There was a harness that came down over the shoulders and locked in position and it had handgrips to hold onto. It wasn’t too bad.

I love amusement parks! I love roller coasters and thrilling rides, but I can’t go on those type rides anymore since I have a plate in my neck. I’ve never been afraid to go on any ride…ever.

The last ride of the day, before we left, was the Phantom’s Revenge. I’m thankful Angel had gone on it prior to her convincing me to go on one last ride. She said I’d love it and she went on it with me. She hadn’t bothered to tell me there was no harness or handgrips. It was a long panel of seats in a row—something like movie theater seats. The only difference was it had a skimpy seatbelt and it swung high up in the air. Not too bad, I thought as it started swinging. Then, Angel said, “It’s not over yet!” When I asked, “What do you mean?” She giggled and said, “You’ll see.”

The ride swung higher and higher, and my heart felt like it was in my throat when the next swoop took us so high that we were facing the cement beneath us. I couldn’t wait for the ride to be over! Never in all my years of riding amusement park rides has there ever been a ride I wouldn’t go on again. There is now! I won’t even repeat what came out of my mouth as my heart jumped in my throat with each swing. When I walked up to Two after I got off the ride, I said, “That was terrifying! There was nothing to hold on to. Never again!”

Angel asked someone take a picture of all of us before we left the park. I'll have to get that picture from her.

It felt good to get home, take a hot shower, and cuddle up on the couch. I was tired from walking all day, but we had a wonderful time.

On the 31st I asked everyone to meet us at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I wanted to take them all out to dinner to celebrate Angel and Tim’s wedding anniversary (which was on the 29th)
and Stacey’s birthday (which would be on August 3rd). Stacey was leaving on Friday morning and I wanted to be able to spend time with everyone before she left.

All in all, July wasn’t too, too bad. My bleeding ulcer is being treated with two medications. The abnormality in my blood was diagnosed and I had another small surgery at the beginning of the month. There are a few other things I need to take care of that I wouldn’t mind telling my friends about, but I really don’t feel comfortable putting it out here for nosey eyes to read. Let’s just say, things are going as well as can be expected and I will persevere!

On another note, a dear friend of ours passed away, another friend’s daughter had a gorgeous baby girl, our loving cat, Coffee, died this month, and the logging was completed on July 7th.

Be back as soon as possible with the next update. I’ll try to cram August and September into one post so I can get back to regular posting. Keeping all of you in my prayers.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

When It Rains, It Pours--June

The month of June did exactly that – poured.

June was a busy month all the way around. Two and I talked about going to a few Powwows this summer and worked toward spending a few weekends together. Sort of like getting some of our life back—but not. All of you who had been and still are care giving know what I mean.

The first Powwow was at the beginning of June. It was a powwow we hadn’t attended in four years. We planned to take Mom with us, but when we called about facilities and conveniences for her, we were told there were no bathrooms close to the Powwow circle and the camping was a half-mile from the circle. While on the phone, the Powwow director asked if Two Feather could set up his Indian art since we were planning to go. After thrashing around the idea for a few days, I decided that the best place for Mom would be at the ALF for that weekend. There would be no way I could keep and eye on her, help Two with his booth, dance, and get her to the bathrooms and camper a half-mile away when she needed to go.

We enjoyed the Powwow immensely. Two was gifted highly and honored by the lead lady dancer, a Cherokee woman from Oklahoma. She gifted me as well. It was a very spiritual and relaxing weekend.

Here is a picture of Two Feather’s set up at the Powwow.


Mom did fine in the ALF and enjoyed seeing her friends there again.

The rest of June was filled with the sound of chain saws and trees falling. I decided to have a selective cut logging (14" or more in diameter) done on the property in order to put some use to the larger and older trees rather than have them die or blown down in storms. The logging started June 11. All I’ll say about the logging is to make sure “everything you expect” is in the contract.

They knew the terrain would require a bulldozer to cut in trails, but they wanted to cut corners and not bring one in. That resulted in them ripping up the yard and damaging the block foundation of the barn before they finally decided to bring in a dozer. Also in the process, one of the logging trucks ripped the cable line off the house and we had no cable or TV for nearly two weeks. (One of the reasons I hadn’t posted anything in June). Comcast cable finally got the cable repaired and didn’t charge us, but the barn damage became a two-month-long issue with the logging company owner, who would not take responsibility. One of the Amish workers who ran the bulldozer ended up paying for the damage since his boss wouldn't.

Here is a picture of just one pile of logs brought in before it was loaded on the logging trucks.

I wouldn’t recommend the logging company I hired. In fact, I won’t even mention the name, but I would recommend Detweiler’s Wood Products of Kennerdell, PA. Mervin Detweiler IS a man of his word.

During the time of the logging, Two and I were traveling back and forth from our house to Mom’s on his Kawasaki Mule while she was at day care. One early morning on the way to Mom’s we saw a small animal move its way slowly across our path. I got off the Mule and walked to the edge of the path and found a fairly young, weak baby raccoon. He couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old, if that. He was very skinny and clumsy. Either he had fallen or had been pushed out of the nest by the mother. We picked him up and took him up to our house to see what we could do for him.

This is what he looked like when we took him home before he was cleaned up.


After a quick exam of the scrawny little masked creature, we found he had ticks in his ears and between his toes. We put Bag Balm on all the ticks and within a few hours they had backed out and died. I gave him a warm bath and wrapped him in an old towel to keep him warm and Two Feather named him Ricky. We figured we’d try to nurse him back to health and give him a fighting chance.

This is Ricky after he was all cleaned up. He's cleaning himself and our dog is curious about this new little furry creature in our kitchen.


We had an old wire dog-training cage in our garage and put an old blanket in it for him to sleep on. He had to be to force fed with a dropper because he was so weak. Two Feather and I were planning for our second Powwow the following weekend, so we had to somehow get Ricky on solid food before we left. We had six days to accomplish that.

The morning after we found him we thought we might lose him. He was lethargic and barely breathing. We took him out of the cage, wrapped him in a warm towel and continued to dribble milk in his mouth every 20 minutes. By afternoon he was much better. He was up stumbling around the house and curious about our little white Maltese. By the end of the second day we had him drinking milk from a baby bottle, he was more stable and running around the house playing with our dog.

Nose to nose.


Every time we called his name, he’d make the cutest squeaking or chirping sound. By the fourth day he was gaining some weight, getting frisky with our dog, giving me kisses on the cheek when I asked for a kiss, squeaking when he wanted fed, and came running when he heard his name. Ricky would crawl up Two Feather’s pant leg and sit on his lap, or crawl up to his shoulder and sit on his shoulder. He would make the cutest chatter or chirping sound.

Two days were left before it was time for us to go to our second Powwow. Ricky was still drinking out of the bottle but wouldn’t drink out of a bowl. We couldn’t leave milk in a bowl to spoil over the weekend anyway, so we had to get him on solid food.

The day before we left he finally drank out of a bowl. I decided to get some soft canned cat food to put in the bowl for the weekend and hope he ate. If he didn’t eat, he wouldn’t have been any worse off than when we found him. He turned his nose up at the cat food and squealed for his bottle. We fed him one last bottle before we left for the weekend.

The second Powwow we attended was in Farmington, Pennsylvania. The Powwow this year was in honor of the celebration of the birthday of the two-year-old white buffalo born at the Woodland Zoo. We camped at the edge of the Powwow grounds in direct view of the white buffalo. The zoo named the buffalo Miracle and its color has not changed to brown; by Indian belief, if a buffalo is born white and stays white, it is the sacred buffalo that will bring all races of man together.

At both Powwows the Longest Walk II participants were there. It was good to support them in their efforts of keeping Native American traditions alive and raise the awareness of Indian culture.

It was a very special weekend. Two Feather and I enjoyed the Powwow, dancing, watching the buffalo, and we met some very special people that weekend.

When we returned home, we were greeted with little squeals from Ricky when he heard his name. Nearly all the cat food was gone. He had done just fine! He climbed up the side of the cage by the door and squealed until we let him out. Once he was out the door, he climbed up Two Feather’s pant leg and chest and sat on his shoulder chattering.

During the logging and the Powwows, June was full of rain. It seemed the puddles didn’t get a chance to dry before more rain came to make more puddles and mud. The dampness and chill played havoc with my body. That brings us to July.

I’ll be back very soon with another update.

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