30 April 2010

Life is just a chair of bowlies

I'm a big Mary Engelbreit fan. The title comes from her.

My life has been a whirlwind lately with both parents having medical crisis's. That's why I haven't been around. My dad is still in rehab. Today was the big staff meeting to discuss and evaluate his progress. We don't know the outcome. He wants out. I think another week would do it, but I definitely wouldn't want to be there. Not even for one day. My dad's sedentary at home, and they have help, so I think he'll be able to manage. I hope so. He's walking with a walker, but for short distances. He could do more, but they don't have the staff or the time and for safety reasons, they won't let him walk alone. I'm hoping they can start him on a cane. This is deja vous all over again for us. He fell 5 years ago and suffered a subdural hematoma. He had brain surgery for that, and spent many, many weeks in rehab. A real rehab hospital with hours of therapy a day. He progressed from not walking, to walking with a walker, to a cane, then on his own. So, I'm hopeful he can walk and be at home, with help. He wants out of that place bad. My mom started feeling sick on Monday. Nauseous, weak, lack of appetite and tired. It wasn't the first time she's had those symptoms. She's always gone to the doctor's and they've never found the cause. This time it was bad because she was alone. I made an appointment for her to see her doctor at Kaiser Permanente on Wednesday. Their determination? She probably ate something bad on Sunday. Yesterday, she fell. I rushed to her house and after talking to Kaiser, called 911. It was fortuitous. I like that word. If she hadn't gone to the hospital we wouldn't have found out that she had a gallstone lodged in the common bile duct. The GI doctor pressed on her tummy and guessed right away that it was her gallbladder. I'm not so happy with Kaiser. She had a procedure today that successfully removed it. The surgeon told us after the procedure that he was expecting to see a tumor because of the size of it. That was his read on the CAT scan. I'm so glad he didn't tell us that yesterday. So, she's in a very good hospital and should be there at least for another day. She still has a big stone in her gallbladder, but that's to be dealt with another time. Wah. Anyway, it's hard to juggle which parent to visit. I was at the hospital twice yesterday. I was at the rehab and then the hospital today. Tomorrow I'll go to the hospital after Borders, and my sister will go to rehab. My brother is making the rounds too. Rob has been with me to both places. He's so good with my parents and so kind and so nice to me. He's been a trooper. I'm lucky to have him. Come Monday, I'll start calling assisted living places. It's only a matter of time.

I called work after the surgery to see about coming in and having some of my canceled clients put back on my book. My boss wouldn't hear of it. Thanks Pam! She told me to go home and work in my garden. It's been a picture-perfect day. I mowed the lawn. I planted many annuals. I talked to a neighbor. I refilled my hummingbird feeders and was pleased to see a new Robin's nest in my pear tree. I ate dinner on the deck. I played games on my iPhone on the hammock. Now I'm sitting on my porch. The weather is delightful, as my mother would say. The only thing that could make this moment any more perfect would be to see a hummingbird at my feeder. The simple pleasures in life are the best ones.

25 April 2010

Can't/Can have that DQ Blizzard

I'm sitting on the couch after a long day. It's my only plan for the rest of the night. Really.

Rob was playing with a band at church this morning and I went to the 9:00 service. I like the church. The minister is charismatic and handsome and British. The music was great. This is the second church band that Rob's played with there. Not having much experience with churches, I think this one is pretty unconventional. They serve bagels and donuts and coffee in the lobby and people bring it in and eat during the service. There's always live music. It's casual, with a real sense of community.

I went to the rehab center afterward and was surprised to see my sister Lisa and brother Steve in the dining room with my father. We talked and read the Sunday paper. I was the last one in and the first to leave. I did some major food shopping afterward, something I rarely do. I'd picked out a recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook and only needed a few ingredients. You know how that goes...you go in for a few things and find lots of things that you need. I came home and made lasagna, and put it in my neighbor's big freezer, uncooked. Then I made PW's Comfort Meatballs. As I was browning them, I remembered why I said, a long time ago, that I'd never make home-made meatballs again. You burn your fingers turning them, and grease spatters everywhere. I don't know how many times I said, as I cooked, I hope these are good because I'll never make them again. There were 4 of us for dinner and we all liked the meatballs, but I'll really never make them again. I'd make the sauce for frozen pre-made meatballs. I'd make the sauce to put on a meatloaf (something I never make). I'll never make meatballs from scratch again. I got the cookbook from Bonnie for Christmas, so I was glad to finally use it.

My friend and co-worker Joyce came with me last night to a fund-raising dinner to benefit a woman's half-way house. I was going because Rob was playing with the band. Joyce and I had a great time together! I had planned to go by myself; not knowing anyone. I'm SO glad I invited Joyce.

Those meatballs really were greasy. I'm sitting here, wishing I'd had chicken instead. If I'd had something light for dinner, I'd go to Dairy Queen for dessert.

The end.

Not the end. Emily and her boyfriend just came in from outside and asked if we could go to Dairy Queen. I pointed out the title of this post. Then I decided I could handle a Blizzard after all. Especially since it's the last day of buy one, get the second one for 25 cents.

22 April 2010

Yin and Yang

I just had the thought...I can't wait till I'm out on the porch and sweating. Sure I'll complain when that happens, but I'll still be happy. I've been here for hours, moving my chair to stay in the sun. I just put on my slippers and a jacket. I'm not ready to go in, though the laundry is piled up and I'm hungry. Soon, I say.

I got an early start this morning for the rehab center. My plan was to see my father getting PT and OT. I spilled my Starbucks latte on the floor of his room almost as soon as I got there. (At least it was better than the time I spilled one in my car.) I planned on a short visit. It was very long. I was there on the right day at the right time, even though where I wanted to be was home. I was where I was supposed to be. I managed to see the doctor, the case worker, the nurse supervisor, and the physical and occupational therapists. They were all very nice. I voiced all the various concerns that my family and I felt weren't being addressed. I was heard. I was an advocate. I was well-received. I was courteous. I was thankful. Did I ever mention that I know I'm called The General by some family members? Someone has to have the job! I'm sure I was talked about by the staff after I left, but only because I made their job harder by calling them out on things that weren't being done right. An example? My father is diabetic, yet he's on a 'regular diet'--very high in carbs. Last night I went to the nurse's station twice to talk about the food. His nurse told me they don't have a diabetic diet, but that all the food is low sugar, low something-or-other. I told him that my father always gets oatmeal and runny eggs for breakfast and that he won't eat either. He told me that my father can ask for something else when they serve him and the kitchen will send it down. What a waste! I couldn't get him to change the menu. I went back to my dad's room for a while, but I wasn't OK with what happened. I went back again, to the same nurse. Finally someone else said, I'll write it down for the kitchen. I said my dad would like cold cereal and milk and two fruits and coffee. I saw a chart with foods that are available every day, and said my father would like any of the choices. Someone from the kitchen staff was nearby and she volunteered to take the form to the kitchen. This morning I found cold oatmeal and runny eggs on his plate. When I relayed the story to the case worker, she said, of course we have diabetic meals! I'm sure Charles, the nurse, was called out on this. At least I hope so. It's really hard seeing my dad in this place. Seeing him having his choices taken away, because he can't 'do for himself'. Seeing that he's not doing as well as optimistic ME wants him to. Still, I think he'll be able to go home. I saw him get up and walk. He'll have issues he didn't have before, when he gets home, but I think he'll be OK, even if it means help. My sister has an aide lined up to come 4 days a week, and that's for my mom and dad. If they need more, they'll get more.

I stopped at Home Depot to get the last of my mulch on the way home. The last three Lowe's I've been to have been out of stock. I picked up a hummingbird feeder...that makes 4. I was so happy to get home. I put on shorts and mowed the lawn. Then I planted some annuals. Then I sat outside. Read the newspaper. Talked to the neighbors. Talked on the phone. Hung out with my laptop. I just came inside. I'm so glad this day had two halves.

19 April 2010


So glad it's a sunshiny day that's headed into the 60's. We got spoiled by last week's heatwave. At least, I did. Most people around here complain that we went right from winter to summer. It's pretty common for people to say that. Every year. I don't think you'll ever hear me complain about the heat. We'll see. I'm loving every moment of seeing all the green and colors of spring! I'm off to run errands. Happy Monday!

An artsy garden view through the screen window.

15 April 2010

A day with enough hours

I can't wait till this emotional roller-coaster is over...till my dad comes home. It seems like the days go from dire news or thoughts about my dad, to good news and thoughts. So, worry and relief and worry and relief. My dad was moved to a nursing home/rehab center last night. The doctor at the hospital stressed to my dad that he was there for rehab only...that if he thought he was there as a nursing home patient that he'd become depressed and not do well. He's at Magnolia Center. It's OK. Not as nice as I'd thought it would be. I had to search online for a facility. This one got an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars and I can tell you that you don't get a lot for 4 stars. Still, it's OK. I was with him for a few hours last night as he was checked in and settled in and I left feeling good. My SIL visited early today, and after talking with her, I was filled with an angst that I couldn't shake. She made it sound like he'd never get out. My sister went there later in the afternoon after work, and she felt very, very good about the place and my father's prospects for getting good care and getting out of there. So...roller-coaster. I'll be visiting him in the morning before work. My mom, btw, is doing great. She's reading, spending time outside on her glider, watching tv, napping, etc... Her companion/aide has been by. She's made food. My sibs have visited. I haven't...I've been concentrating on my dad.

I was out of the house early today working on the lawn. I put down fertilizer/weed killer. Not sure if that was a good idea since my lawn is mostly weeds. I might wind up with nothing green! Fortunately, most all of my lawn was made into a garden. I could use some topsoil and grass seed, but every year goes by and I don't do it. Maybe in the fall? It's never happened before but anything's possible.

I finally started working on my stall shower. The caulk was gross. I removed it (not easy) and used Softscrub and a toothbrush to clean the surface. Yuck. Sometime this weekend I'll recaulk it. I need to work on the grout between the tiles, but that's not as bad as the caulk was.

I divided a bunch of perennials and put down mulch on the other side of my garden. It's looking so good! I love Scotts Nature Scapes black mulch. It stays nice and dark all season long. No, I wasn't paid to endorse it. I wish! So far I've put down 20 bags. I probably need 5 more. I also put down Preen. It really prevents weeds. My perennials are popping up everywhere, and soon I'll be buying annuals to fill in. I get so much pleasure out of my garden.

Soon after getting the positive news about my father I sat on the deck and read. I had started The Help a while ago, but stopped reading it, for no good reason. I started over, and I'm really liking it. After a while I moved to the hammock. So nice. Near the hammock is an area about a foot in diameter where the sump pump empties. It stays filled with water, and at least every 15 minutes, it comes gurgling up like a fountain. The birds love to bathe in it and I love to watch them. It makes me happy.

Time to shower and get in bed with my book. All in all, it was a good day, despite the worry. The good outweighed the bad. I'm fortunate that for me, the bad is easy to forget when replaced by good. I guess it's a handy coping skill to have.

12 April 2010

A good day

I spent a long day with my dad. It was a good day. He was awake, aware, and in many ways seemed like his old self. They're not sure what his breathing problem is...it seems like a combination of things. His kidney function is down, but it's getting better. They're still doing lots of tests. Breathing tests, lung tests, abdomen scans, heart scans, CAT scans. He was sitting in a chair for most of the day. So much better than being in the bed. His doctor said she hopes to get him out soon if he continues to improve. I had my laptop with me today and found a great nursing home/rehab center for him to go to when he leaves the hospital. One that's only 4 miles from home! The goal is to get him home again. I've seen him up and walking, and it's not good. It's hard to imagine him getting around, but that's what physical therapy's for. So, today was a good day and I hope it means that he'll get better. Last night it looked so much different. What a difference a day makes. Thanks to all of you for your good thoughts and prayers.

I picked up another 10 bags of mulch on my way home today. It took everything in me not to start putting it down. I'm still SO sore, and it's still early in the season. I have plenty of time to work in the garden. I did mow the lawn.

Today was a memorable day for Emily. She got her driver's license! I'm so excited for her. She's proven herself to be a great driver right from the start and she has 9 months of driving with a learner's permit under her belt. I was nervous when she took my car out today, but not a wreck. One more milestone to check off the list.

It was nice to spend a few hours outside this afternoon. So nice to see my hummingbird feeders and my spring flag flying. So glad to be back on the porch.

11 April 2010

Life is so....dynamic

Yes, it's been a while. If you're my Facebook friend you've read that I've been busy with my father. The good thing about Facebook is the ability to post quick status updates. That's what I use it for. A snippet of a slice of life. I'm not a big user otherwise.

I'm not prepared for dealing with my parents getting older and their decline. My siblings aren't either. I'd like someone to step in and tell me what to do, but that's not likely to happen. The time comes when we all have to figure it out because there aren't any instruction books.

There's an interesting dynamic in our family. My mother was always in charge. She had boundless energy and did it all...worked, mowed the lawn, shoveled the snow, did the bills, kept a spotless home, did all the cooking, gardened, took care of the family, etc. I'm a whole lot like my mother except for the spotless home part. My father worked, then laid on the couch when he got home. My parents didn't really speak. My father didn't interact with us. I don't think he knew how. I have two sisters, and I'm the middle daughter. The typical middle daughter. My brother is, as he calls it, the whoops child. He is six years younger than my younger sister Lisa, who is 2 1/2 years younger than me. My sister Ilene is 17 months older than me. Growing up, I was the easy one. Happy. Lots of friends. I liked hanging out with my mother. Lisa was rebellious and more of a typical teenager. She and my mom didn't really get along. My sister Ilene was more of a loner and quiet. Her life changed when she was in high school and became a Christian. Her whole world opened up and she had lots of friends. My brother was a hellion but the beloved son and very close to my mom. Where is this going? I think I've strayed but I'll get back on course. My parents retired, and my mother planned to work at Kohl's. She retired as a cashier at Safeway, and loved that kind of job. Plus she didn't want to be home with my father. She had a massive stroke at 68 and that changed everything. That family dynamic. She went from being a happy, full-of-energy person who did everything, to a very handicapped person who wants and needs help. Enter my father. Who never did anything. It's been a rough 9 years. My father's been a resentful caretaker. My mother's life was forever changed. The family dynamic, you know? Everything became my dad's way, only. It's been really hard for my mother. Fortunately, she can do a lot herself. She can shower and dress herself. She can get around the house by holding on to furniture. She can do the laundry. She can microwave food. Everything she does, she does one-handed, cause that's all that works. She has to lay down after showering because she's exhausted by it. Same with getting dressed. She depends on us kids to take her out and visit. She reads a lot. Watches a lot of TV. She hangs out on her glider in good weather. Goes to the pool in the summer. Loves to eat. She has a companion/aide that comes over a few days a week (and who is soon to marry my nephew). My father took over everything when my mother had her stroke. Controls everything. He does all the grocery shopping. Pays all the bills. My parents fight a lot. My mother can be annoying, and my father has no patience. He's often mean to my mother. Sometimes he's very nice. He's nice to us kids, but I know we all resent the kind of father he was and especially the way he's treated my mother since her stroke. Whew. Am I writing a novel? My father is a totally different man to anyone else that knows him. He's sweet and friendly and talkative to every cashier, bank teller, librarian, doctor, store clerk, etc. Very generous. He's very nice to me. He always has been.

He was admitted to the hospital on Thursday. I've been there every day. Things don't look good. He can't stay awake. He's confused. The doctor said he probably won't come home. Maybe he'll go to a nursing home or rehab center. He might be in renal failure. He's not getting enough oxygen and he might have a lung clot. They said he's in the early stages of dementia. This is all new. Sudden. They're doing every kind of test.

I'm not ready for this. No one ever is. Right?

And then there's my mother....

I spent hours working in my garden today. It looks so good! I accomplished so much. It was a much needed break, mentally. I listened to music on my iPhone the whole while. I'm sore all over and you know what? It feels good. Tomorrow it's back to the hospital. I'm nervous. It will be okay. My dad needs me. That's where I'll be.

05 April 2010

Fun, frustration and family

I had an adventure planned today for my visiting sister from GA and my mom. I wanted us to take the Metro downtown to see the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin. What could be better than the trees at their peak bloom on a fabulous spring day? My mother wanted to go to Macy's to buy lotion. NO way, says The General (me). Ilene is visiting and we have this gorgeous day and you want to go to Macy's? We need an adventure. My mom was nervous about driving her scooter on Metro and being amongst the hoardes of tourists. I said we'd take care of everything. We had no problem getting on the train. We had a problem getting off. Too many people and the doors close too fast and we couldn't get off. We went to the next stop and my mom walked off with my sister and I pushed the scooter out the door. The next train was packed but my mom and sister got on through one door as I yelled, I'll meet you at the next stop. I pushed my way on that one, saying, sorry, sorry. I got to the Smithsonian exit and they were waiting for me. We found our way to the elevator and exited to the bright day. Almost right away I noticed the first cherry tree. So, so far from peak. So almost done. I should have known. I didn't even check. Our heat spell made all the leaves bloom and the remaining blossoms fade to a pale pink. Wah. It was still very pretty out, and the crowds weren't too bad. I've been there at peak bloom time, and it looks like a billion pink or white butterflies perched on branches. That's what I wanted. We did get to experience something really exciting. Traffic totally stopped. Motorists were standing outside their cars in exasperation. We saw a lot of helicopters. I was a little afraid of terrorists. Then I heard someone say, "Obama's about to pass by on his way to pitch the first ball of the National's game". What followed was a motorcade of many police motorcycles, black SUV's, black paneled trucks, an ambulance, and then DC police. Everyone was waving. Of course you couldn't tell which car Obama was in, but it was exciting just the same.

The real fun began when the scooter wouldn't GO. No power. We'd turn it on and off by the handles. Turn the battery on and off in the back. Put the brake on and off. Repeat, repeat. Each time I said, I'm not nervous. This is going to work. Each time, somehow, I was the one to get it going. Once it started malfunctioning, it happened every time we stopped it. Like when we sat on a bench to eat our lunch. Or waited for an elevator. It wouldn't go when it was time to get on the Metro to go home. Once again, I had to push an empty scooter onto the train. And off the train. It took a long time to get it going the last time. Again I said, I'm not nervous. This is going to work. And it did. I think it's time for a new scooter. Our little adventure had us wiped out, and we really didn't do much. It was the Metro that did it and the broken down scooter.

I hung out at my parent's house for a long time after we got back. My dad and sister and I sat in the shade on the patio talking. It was the first time that my dad asked for help with his bills. He said he wasn't as sharp as he used to be. I asked if this was a recent development and he said it's been happening over the past few months. I really see a noticeable difference in him, and it's frightening. The good thing was to be able to talk candidly about it. My local sister Lisa came over. We sisters went to the garage and started a throwing away frenzy. There's so much stuff in the house. We talked about managing their bills and getting help in. It was good. We ordered Chinese carry-out and everyone sat on the patio and ate. It was really a nice time. All that was missing was my brother. We should have called to see if he could come over. It's rare for all the sibling to be together. We were together last night. We forgot to take pictures.

I'm home now...doing laundry before going to bed. I'm ready. Time to put this 'weekend' to rest.

03 April 2010

Popsicle Toes, again

Happy Feet

I like having purple toes. Unusual color, but I like it. And I did it myself. 'Popsicle Toes' is a Michael Franks song from his album The Art of Tea. Very worth listening to if you get the chance.

Work today was a killer. I ran behind due to a scheduling glitch. I didn't stress because I knew that in the end, I'd be done and I'd have my latte and my weekend. My clients were great, even the one who had to wait for an hour. I drove to Borders and got my latte to go. I brought it home, slipped it between the weave of my hammock, and drank it while reading my book. Sounds good, huh? It was. The only stress I have left is the remembrance of my daughter's behavior towards me last night. That should be gone by tomorrow, I hope.

I'm sitting on my porch. Those of you who've known me for a while know it's my favorite place to be in nice weather. I'm looking out onto my garden now. The 75 tulip bulbs I planted in the fall are up. The few that have started to open are all a pale yellow. I'm sure I bought a multi-color package. I sure hope so. The phlox are beginning to bloom. Some daffodils are open. I'll take a picture when I have more color. My pear tree is in full bloom. It really puts out a stinky smell, but I love it anyway because it's smell means spring is here.

Time to run. Happy Saturday!

02 April 2010

Popsicle toes

Spring has sprung. I'm happy. I've spent every available minute outside. My toenails are purple. Let the season begin.