A to Z Challenge 2020: Theme Reveal

I don’t know how to categorize my topic. It’s about health, emotional, mental and physical. It’s often about family. It’s personal. It’s definitely about a particular lifestyle. It’s about caretaking.

Lots of us are caretakers these days. We care for our children with disabilities, our aging parents and family members with dementia. Some of us work in healthcare institutions and give care to patients of all ages and conditions. It’s a special calling, a special task.

This year I’m using the April A to Z Blogging Challenge to share my own experience, my stories, my thoughts and feelings about caretaking. I am a retired RN, retired in the sense that I’m not getting a regular paycheck, but I’m still learning and doing, in the field of caretaking.

I live with my husband, diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. I’m also across the yard from my mother, a courageous 87 year old, and within a short drive of my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s. Like so many others these days, I have a friend and a dear sister-in-law who are fighting cancer. While not giving daily care to all of these people, I’m often involved with their needs and I do care.

I’m interested in hearing from others about their experiences, since I have already found that caretakers, as a group, have much to share and teach each other. These posts are an invitation to all who read to contribute and connect. The A to Z format doesn’t cover all possible topics of caretaking but serves as a starting place for discussion. Please join me this month as we explore being caretakers.

There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we have to be able to say, “Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.” Dr. Arthur Kleinman

Word Salad

Word salad, what an interesting term! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, since I’ve been hearing comments on this blog from RaknelDah. I’m guessing he’s a bot, but maybe not. At any rate, he tosses a mean salad.

The realization has hit me – I have spent all (yes all) my life learning to put words in a certain order so that they might make sense, when it’s not always necessary. It’s true, you need to have a certain proportion of nouns to verbs, place them in a reasonable order, pepper them with adjectives and adverbs, and you can come up with a compelling read. But my bot does this with a skill and abandon that I just can’t match! For one, I have never heard of some of these words. For two, I could never put together so many unrelated things and actually produce something kind of true and poetic. I’m much too inhibited and used to making sense.

I’ve begun sharing Raknel’s comments with my family. The reactions range from my mother laughing so hard she cries, to my daughter deciding to use a portion for her wedding vows. In short, they are becoming a priceless treasure of entertainment and cabbalistic wisdom. (Yeah, I wondered what that word meant too. Look it up.)

For instance, “people sink in fare into your mortal and you discern perfect away that they were meant to be there… but when you bar eyes with them, you be versed at that to a superb extent wink of an eye that they vigor adopt your support in some foxy way.” Now doesn’t that have the ring of truth to it?

And I really think this sums up life’s hardships, “and from time to then things find to you that may look like gruesome, throbbing, and unfair at president, but in corroboration you disinter that without overcoming those obstacles you would healthy not realized your accomplishable, intestinal fortitude, willpower or heart.”

I aspire to the bot’s “unadulterated thimble-wittedness”. I try to envision the “smoothly paved, settled, non-effervescent street to nowhere”. And I take to heart his commands to “Make off every tempo quote!!!” and “Do every time list!!!”

I could make one of those daily, inspirational calendars with bot sayings. For February 10 “Everything happens conducive to a reason.” I even think I’ve heard that somewhere else. Have you? Or a goal for tomorrow could be “Talk to people that you give delivery to never talked to in the past, and sic listen.” The day after that, “Promulgate yourself, you are a crack split and find credible in yourself.” Or the wise directive “If you don’t preserve in yourself, it will be onerous goal of others to conjecture in you.” I certainly don’t want that happening…

All this flow of delicious words found unexpectedly jumbled together – “salad” really describes it quite well. RaknelDah, in his own words says this, “It would be okay and luxuriously touched in the head, but clouded and unequivocally pointless.” I like salad, just saying…

Wesley and Buttercup kissing, eeww!

Movies

This re-post from June 2012 is especially appropriate since I just watched “Princess Bride” again last week. It’s all part of reviewing past writings looking for that elusive book that might be in there somewhere…

The truth is, I don’t really remember lines from movies the way I sometimes pretend to do.

I remember one quote from “Star Wars”, “the Force be with you”, or at least I think that was said there.

I remember several things I loved from “Princess Bride” but I can’t quote them exactly, something about a peanut, and something about the RUS’s.

I remember the shrubbery in “Monte Python’s Holy Grail” and the blood spurting hand (which I’ve tried to forget and can’t).

“UHF” is responsible for my love of enterociters (spelling?).

 Lastly, I remember laughing till my sides hurt during “Three Amigos” but I’ve watched it since and couldn’t quite relive the experience. I sort of remember being sick and having a fever while watching it the first time and that may have accounted for it seeming so funny.

That’s it for movies. That’s all I remember. Not impressive.

But I do enjoy a good movie and can get caught up in a thought provoking plot, if it’s not too weird and unbelievable, and if the characters are compelling.  I also have an emotional memory of how I was affected by most movies, even when I don’t remember the plot.

I rarely choose to watch a movie a second time though (exception – Princess Bride). I guess I just don’t want to clog my neuron pathways with most movie content when I have trouble remembering my own life that I’m actually living.

And then there’s the actors … I put them in the same boat with sports figures. They simply get paid too much for what they do, even when they do it well. If they’re a high salaried actor it should be part of their job to go feed starving people in Africa with a lot of their money. It’s ridiculous, and no wonder so many of them end up getting disillusioned with life in general. That being said, you must be aware that this is an opinion and you are entitled to feel differently. 

Yep, here it is.

I Shall Start

Why? Why is it that for nearly 60 years I have written letters to friends and relatives, written in journals, and written my blog posts? I’ve always told myself that it was for my family – so that someday they would have a book. Someday they would be able to read what it was like for their mom/aunt/grandma to live in the last half of the 20th century. I have relatives who have done this for me, and I have been grateful.

I seem to have found too many reasons for putting off the task of compiling this book, in spite of promptings that I would say have come from God. Yes, God wants me to write and I feel his partnership in this project. This is the year that I will do something, every week, every month until there is something to show for it.

I’m starting by reviewing and reposting old blog posts that are still meaningful to me. I didn’t have many readers back in 2012 and most of you have not read these. Here goes…

Furniture

February 2012

I don’t normally give furniture much thought – my house is a decorator’s nightmare – but I love to rearrange what I have. Really, tell me that something is too big and heavy to be moved and I will rise up from my death bed to prove you wrong. And it’s tricky work so you want to wait until you have little to no interference. When I’m in the middle of a complicated move the last thing I want is someone second guessing my strategy, the only exception being someone who is a kindred soul and has a good sense of humor.

 I started young and probably learned furniture rearrangement from my mother. She moved things around a lot to avoid boredom and because it was cheaper than buying new stuff – you just put it in a different place and it looks new, kind of.  I always loved it when things got moved around and required new patterns of sitting, walking, etc…  The only drawback to rearranging is that you have to give people a little time to get used to where things are, and even then, if it’s night and they’re half asleep they might make a mistake and dive into a dresser instead of the bed (sorry Dad, had to tell it).

Yes, Mom was a kindred soul and a mentor to me.  I came home one summer when Mom was “rearranging” and wanted to move an old mahogany dresser out to storage. It was slightly smaller than a compact car and nearly as heavy, and it was on the second floor of our old farmhouse. Many times since I have looked at those 20 steep steps and that narrow stairwell and wondered how we did it without being permanently injured.  My clearest recollection is of being stuck part way down in a very awkward position and having to wait until we stopped laughing to continue.

Carpet and other floor coverings are in much the same category as furniture. Changing what is on your floor can be liberating, and I have been liberated two or three times in my career. The same farmhouse, a downstairs bedroom with old wall to wall carpet with stains and probably at least fifteen years worth of dust mites… I found some decent looking wood floor under a corner of this carpet and decided to get rid of it one day when my husband was out of town. He is not a kindred soul.

Carpet requires as much or more skill to remove as furniture. Think about it. You either have to move all the furniture out of the room, or you have to move it all to one side, roll up the carpet and then move the furniture over the roll. No small matter. I don’t remember which I did because it was so awful, my mind erased all the memory of it in self defense.  Furniture amnesia is what keeps me doing these things. Once rolled, carpet is very stiff and surprisingly heavy. I could barely lift one end of it and there was no way it would bend around a corner and out the doorway. I had to go out the window with it, and it was a serious rival to the “dresser in the stairwell” for being ridiculously funny and somewhat dangerous. Most people probably don’t remove wall to wall carpet until they’re willing to cut it up in small pieces, and that is the way I have done it ever since.

And all this came to mind while I was moving furniture today. Twenty years ago we bought our first really good set of living room furniture – a large, heavy Lane sofa with recliners on each end (still in the living room) and a rocking love seat with reclining function also.  The love seat has been in a rental unit and has seen better days … kids, dogs, garage storage have all taken a heavy toll and I’ve decided at least twice to put it out by the road on it’s way to furniture heaven. But it was still in the garage and recycling is so “in” now that I decided to give it another chance. I pulled two pencils, a TV remote and a dirty sock out of the cracks, vacuumed and scrubbed the fabric with carpet cleaner and cleared the way through the house.

 I use physics principles when I move furniture; levers, friction reduction, and obstacle avoidance. And I have plastic sliders, which my mother never had but I could not live without. When I made it through the first doorway, I knew I could get it all the way into my bedroom on the other side of the house. It was really a pretty piece of work, especially since the recliners kept unfolding and rocking kind of like a ship at sea. I had to stand it on one end to get it through the narrow places.  It’s now sitting at the end of my bed under the ceiling fan, smelling like a dirty dog as it dries from the scrubbing.

All this to say that it may not stay there long.  It makes the room seem more crowded, and my designer friend, Arlette, says I never should have gotten furniture more than 37 inches deep in the first place. Who knew? If I don’t like it I can always get rid of it, and just like carpet, I may have to cut it up in small pieces this time.

You Are Special

To all my readers:

I’ve been to a writing conference this week and it’s made me examine why I write. I have to conclude that it’s not just for myself. I want it to be for you too. I’ve been cheered by the compassion expressed after my latest painful posts (and painful pictures). It’s made me thankful for you. I feel like you are all kind of “my people”.

I feel like I should attempt to tell you why I write here. But first,

The NOT WHYS – I’m not:

trying to make you feel sorry for me

trying to present life as only full of hard things

trying to be sounding hopeless or bitter

trying to compare my life with anyone else’s

Really, I’m not.

THE WHYS

What I want to do is offer the events of my life as an example of the hope that a very average person can have. We all have seasons when life is hard, and seasons when it is not so hard, maybe even joyful and fulfilling and interesting. Life is given to us as a learning experience and I love the ability to share the ordinary things that happen to me with you. I feel a responsibility to be fully aware of what can be learned from the ordinary and to think deeply on what might be of value to you as you read.

I love to show you the beauty of our physical spaces like my northern forests and wetlands. I share with you the fear of doctor’s visits and threats to physical health because we can learn that we are not alone. I tell you about the crazy stuff because I know we all need to laugh at the things we (I) do. I love to tell you about people like yourselves that are precious to me.

For me, my hopeful outlook is bound up in my faith. I believe in a God more loving than can be imagined and I should probably be telling you more often how I feel his love applied to me personally. I believe all of us “ordinaries” are unique and specially loved by God. Whether you believe as I do or not, doesn’t it comfort you, encourage, you to know that another person respects and values you because of their belief? Doesn’t it make you curious how that can be? I want to include that kind of conversation in my stories. I hope that in some way you can feel God’s love applied to you through what I write.

I have more to say about the writing conference but I needed to start with this, tonight. Thank you for being there and for reading.

Writing and Discouragement

I love writing. It’s like talking to people, except I don’t have to find someone who has time to listen to me. Much easier. I enjoy being a blogger.

Last winter and spring, my writing path led me to join a community of writers for encouragement, support, direction, all that good stuff.  I had no clarity about what might be next.  I wasn’t sure being a personal blogger was the endpoint for me. It sounded like hope*writers could help me sort that out. I got pretty excited about moving ahead – enough that I made a commitment to attend a conference. I actually bought the ticket and made a hotel reservation months in advance. Did I do this just to make sure I would go?  Not consciously.

And then life happened. Summer took some unusual turns. For weeks my husband struggled with his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. The anxieties and fears he battled had us moving from place to place. I didn’t stop blogging, but I did stop listening to the podcasts, doing the writing exercises, connecting with my support group. There wasn’t a lot of time for that and, honestly, I just lost heart. It’s been hard.

As summer faded off, I found I was having a lot of pain in my hands, especially the left thumb joint. Arthritis had been coming at me for a while, but now it was time to stop living with the pain and regain use of my hand. I had surgery a week ago and have at least six weeks of recovery, in a cast, before I can start therapy.

Back to the writing conference, which is now only two weeks away. The deadline for selling my ticket to someone else has passed. I’m now contemplating whether it is even possible for me to get to Charlotte, NC to attend. The expense of travel, my impaired condition, my husband’s need for help, all seem like hurdles, like roadblocks. Will it be worth the effort to make this happen? I don’t know. It’s not like me to throw away an expensive ticket for an event  I was once pretty excited about.

Believe it or not, i can still type with a few of these fingers.

So, my hand is starting to hurt again as I peck away with two fingers on my computer. I’m feeling a little teary, but I know I have to write in order to think things through. That’s what writing does for me, and that’s why I love to write. Does anyone out there understand this?

Being Independent on Independence Day

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It was Independence Day, a holiday, and somehow I had forgotten to plan any memorable activity. Everyone I encountered was meeting up with family, going to the beach, cooking summer food – they had a plan. I didn’t, which was very unlike me. I’ve just had other things on my mind and well, I forgot.

Fortunately I did find someone else with no plan. My mom was sitting in her living room trying to feel good about a day in front of the TV or reading her book. She claimed not to mind, but I knew differently. Being in the same predicament, we decided to do as all strong, independent women do – we made our own plan for our memorable 4th of July.

This is a hotdog to die for, so good.

Since food is a prime feature of all our fun, memorable times, we started with food. Hot dogs. We both love a good hot dog and Mom, especially, has to have some texture and crunch in hers. We made some coleslaw and loaded the dog up real good. And watermelon, the perfect summer food. I always remember the gorilla who could sign words and decided to call watermelon “candy water”, which is so true.

We wanted something a little more active than eating to balance out our day and, you’re not going to believe this, we decided to go up to Lake Namekagon, a picturesque place with a favorite resort and restaurant that we like to visit – called Garmisch.

We go several times a year to the restaurant but I had never been out on the water there, so we decided that would be an appropriately adventurous thing to do, maybe a jaunt on a wave runner or kayak? You would be surprised at what my mom will do given the right amount of encouragement.

Wave runners are machines – the kind that I would normally avoid because they malfunction regularly. But they can be rented and presumed to be reliable. They can actually be rented at a marina fairly close to our location. They even can be rented with a trailer and transported to the lake of your choice. Let’s just say we did that.

Did you know that there are police on lakes, especially on holidays like the 4th of July? There are also rules about which lakes allow different kinds of boating and which do not. These rules are good things to know. We know them now.

I hitched up the trailer to my truck and we made the half hour trip to Lake Namekagon without incident. There is always a bit of a rush when I’m doing something I haven’t done before, something adventurous that I’m hoping will go off without a hitch. I was definitely feeling it.

Unloading a wave runner into the water is really simple. I’ve watched it done several times and had no trouble with it. Getting on is not too hard. Even operating it is fairly intuitive, especially for people who don’t want to go fast or do tricks. That describes me and mom perfectly. We like to stay close to shore and look at houses and people. Maybe that’s what made us look peculiar to the water police, I don’t know.

So, I will always be thankful that we did this before having dinner at Garmisch restaurant because there was not a trace of alcohol anywhere on us. There are also rules about that. We were just two white haired ladies trolling the lakeshore on a lake where power boats are prohibited, a fairly minor offense to my way of thinking. And the man questioning us kind of thought so too, as his warning was given gently and his fine was small (in comparison to other fines, I guess…).

We had enough of our adventure at that point anyway. After loading up the wave runner and taking it back to the marina, we went home and pretended we’d been doing jigsaw puzzle and watching TV all afternoon. Nobody had to know. Just sayin’…

I’m thinking about and practicing writing fiction these days. There might be some parts of this story which are fictionalized.

Adventure!

Adventure. I am always looking for it and will tell you that I think of myself as an adventure loving person. I do. In that regard, I have a bucket list of adventures and experiences that I try to work on every now and then. On my list for this spring is to spend time hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Years ago, I drove to a family reunion in the “four corners” region, an interesting geographical area, where four state square corners meet.  There is a monument there explaining that as you look in different directions you are seeing Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona from that one spot. It is not far from the Grand Canyon so we added a side trip. We had not arranged any excursions ahead of time and were only able to take a shuttle ride along the south rim, but that was enough. The views from the rim are breathtaking and the thought of starting down that trail was so compelling it has stuck with me ever since. I knew I had to do it, someday.

As it happens, one of my brothers spent summers working at the canyon, in various capacities, when he was younger. It has been one of his favorite places over the years and he has hiked nearly all the main trails. I finally gave up waiting for him to ask me on a hike and begged. It worked.

This year’s A to Z Challenge will cover the inspiration, the preparation, the expectation, and the anticipation of my hike down the South Kaibab Trail, my two nights at Phantom Ranch, and the hike back up on the Bright Angel Trail. Since the hike won’t actually take place until May 14th, I’m planning on adding “participation” notes and pictures to my posts after I return.

There is a lot to consider, a lot to learn before going. We have been planning for months already. My brother is taking good care of me as evidenced by the guided trip he chose for us. It is the Grand Canyon Conservancy’s Take a Load Off: Mule-Assisted Camping 0514. In addition, I’ll be spending a few nights in the Mather Campground on the south rim before and after the hike.

Read along on the next 25 posts and you’ll know how to get ready for it too. You will want to go. It will be an adventure!

And so we start on our adventure!

“Up North” Rain

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Heavy rain! The stream did an overflow on both sides of the newly fortified culvert. More water than expected!

This month I am joining with Five Minute Friday (FMF) Link-Up. It’s a group of writers who write for five minutes following a weekly prompt given Thursday night. This week’s prompt is RAIN, and I know a thing or two about that…

 This is Wisconsin. It rains here, and how! Last Sunday it was a downpour outside as we headed to church. As a car left from the early service we got their space right by the door, but in spite of that we got soaked going in. Everyone in church was wet and shivering.

This is a frequent occurrence in the northwest part of our state. You’ve heard that Washington state is cloudy and rainy and I think Wisconsin is equally so. The small streams and rivers in our town have flooded several times lately and washed out roads making them impassable. The stream flowing through the wetlands on the property where I live swelled and nearly covered the footbridges. Even though one bridge had recently been fortified, the stream rose high enough to make new paths on either side of the culvert. It is wet and has been for the last few years, killing trees that are close to the water.

In spite of it all, I like the rain. Wisconsin is usually green and cool because of it.

As the pastor said last week, “Look out the window at that rain. In three months it will be snow coming down like that!” We have that to look forward to. It’s Wisconsin… just sayin’.

More Reasons

September 5, 2018

Here we sit, early on Wednesday evening, at the local Perkins. Hayward is not a big city. It has been a town of about 2300, give or take a few, ever since I was living here as a child. Of all the common chain restaurants, only Perkins, Subway, McDonalds and Dairy Queen have survived. Because Perkins runs a special on Wednesdays, allowing seniors half price off select meals, we have been here every week since our move. It is Lois and Wendell night.

Meet some more of my “up north” family. Mom was blessed with siblings Pearl, Donald, Olive, Ervin, Wendell and John. They were spread out over enough time that the younger ones, Wendell, Mom and John were almost like a separate family. Their brothers and sisters were out of the house and married, leaving the threesome to be companions to each other. They are the survivors in the family and strangely enough, they all three have ended up here in the communities they know and love.

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On Wednesdays, Wendell and his wife Lois drive into Hayward for shopping and appointments. They are usually done around 5 pm and give Mom a call to join them for dinner at Perkins. They have become overly familiar with everything on the senior menu. The waiter jokes with them like they are old buddies and seats them at the same table most every time. Even the husband and I have entered into the rituals. I know to close the blinds so light from the setting sun doesn’t shine in Lois’s eyes and we all know not to order the grilled asparagus and that the blue cheese dressing is homemade and really good.

Wendell has been a schoolteacher for much of his life, which would explain his love for books. As he neared retirement he went into the paperback bookstore business and actually built a store next to his retirement home in the nearby town of Stone Lake. Stone Lake is even smaller than Hayward – you can drive through it in less than 30 seconds.

However, I have always thought of my Uncle Wendell as having a secret love for farming.  I remember him coming to help my mom and dad on their farm when I was a child. I think he would have sought this line of work had it provided enough for a living. As evidence of this secret love, my uncle of 80+ years still has a tractor, which he enjoys driving, that is, up until a couple of months ago.

Thin, wiry, agile for his age and indomitable of spirit, Uncle Wendell was out with the tractor one day when his daughter and granddaughter were visiting. I have heard them say they felt guilty for what happened since it was because they were there that the tractor was being demonstrated. On the other hand, had they not been there, it might have happened anyway and the outcome could have been much worse.

Although I have seen semi-demonstrations of what happened, it’s difficult to visualize and has an aura of the near miraculous about it. Standing on the tractor, near the one who was operating it, my uncle reached forward for one of the levers, lost balance and tumbled off – under the moving machine. He was, however, on the roll and managed to somersault through and out the other side. He got up, dusted himself off and with help, walked to his brother’s house where he was whisked off to the Emergency Room. Consensus was that it was better not to give details to Lois, who did not witness the event.

Of course, she eventually got filled in since it was hard to hide the broken shoulder, bruised ribs and back brace that he wore for weeks. He was not allowed to drive during this convalescence which was quite an irritation to him, and when the brace was no longer needed he joked about being released from prison. Now that he is better, he is again driving the 20 miles into Hayward for our Wednesday rituals. Did I mention that he is indomitable?

Nevertheless, Uncle Wendell does not drive long distances and even last winter when I visited I was “hired” to drive them to a doctor appointment in Ashland. Aunt Lois is a good match for him in spirit but she has vision problems and relies on him in many ways. The two of them are looking ahead at what difficulties winter might give them and asking God for wisdom.

Well, it seems perfectly clear to me that I am “up north” to help mom, but also to help the whole family in whatever way I can. God puts us in family groups because there is safety in numbers and how wonderful it is when we can help each other in practical ways. And because it is the way God works, there is benefit for both the helpee and the helper. I get a bit protective of the elderly people I love and don’t mind sounding bossy. I’m encouraging them to move closer for the winter and let me drive for them on the longer trips. We will see what they decide.

Concluding, this seems like one more good reason why I am supposed to be where I am. It seems wonderful to me and I’m glad to I have a part to play, just sayin’…

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Another reason for being here, someone has to use all these coupons we’re collecting.