Back several weeks ago, in July, we were getting ready for our family reunion, enjoying walks like the one in my last post, and having a great summer. And then the husband had a stroke, a cerebral vascular hemorrhage (CVA). He has survived but our lives have changed, a lot.
Since then, most of what I’ve written has gone in a separate blog, one that tells the story of our experience since his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. I won’t tell it again here, but in summary, we now have first hand knowledge of ICU’s, ventilators, tracheostomies, feeding tubes, and several other things that the husband never wanted to know about.
This is the first day in five weeks that I’ve been home all day. Dennis is in a rehab hospital now, a really good place, and making progress slowly. I felt he would be okay if I didn’t see him every day. The hospital is in Duluth, 90 miles away, and I’ve grown a little weary of the drive. I’m often in the car eating things I shouldn’t eat, just to stay awake – a bag of popcorn can last nearly 70 miles if I don’t spill too much of it.
Although I have wonderful support from friends and family, these changes leave me feeling physically alone quite often. Fortunately, I am spiritually befriended. God is such a friend. Jesus is such a friend. I took a walk this evening, kind of like the one in my last post, on the wetlands trail and saw evidence of my friends. It was almost like things were being pointed out, to look at, to talk about and enjoy. And I took pictures, of course.
It’s September now. August was surreal, hard, and so different from anything we have known. We have yet to find out what our new normal will be. But it’s coming, and it will be okay.
It is sinking in that summer is really, finally here. This usually happens about four weeks before it gets cold again, so I am being very much in the present, eyes wide open, walking without a jacket, swatting at deer flies and even getting a bit warm at times.
It is getting late, almost 8:30 but I have sunlight still and it’s been a few days since I walked the wetland trail. We’ve had regular rain so the meadow is green. There are a few clouds but no wind. The sunset is getting better by the minute.
Even with the rain, the creeks and ponds are low but I love the way this one looks like a ribbon of reflected light.
The first sections of my path go past fields where milkweed plants abound. They are in full flower now which makes for a rather stunning plant. I often see deer in the fields in the evening and tonight I got to lock eyes with this young fellow. I thought he was stunning too.
Farther out in the marsh, I’m seeing “my geese”. I’m getting a sense of ownership – after all I’ve watched them grow up. Most of them look like adults now. Tonight they have the company of a pair of sand hill cranes. None of them seem to mind that I am taking pictures of them so I spend quite a bit of time watching.
Passing the wildflower field makes me happy because the black eyed susans are the color of happy. Passing the wildflower field also makes me sad because black eyed susans are a mid to late summer flower and I don’t want summer to be over anytime soon.
I am reminded that this beautiful greenspace used to be a small golf course every time I see this sign, which now makes me laugh. It’s all green so I guess we can exit anywhere we want to.
The sun is nearly down and I am feeling like I’ve just had a shower of peace and blessing. Even the deer flies have gone to bed and are no longer following me. Time to be thanking God for helping me to be here in this place, at this time. Time to rest. Thanks for coming along.
Up north where summer is cool (except when it’s 100 degrees F.).
We are having a family reunion in, roughly, two weeks. This time we number around 45 individuals from the east coast, the west coast and in between. They are coming from Alaska, and Florida, from Washington, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. By plane and by car. The meeting place is Hayward, WI and thankfully that is close to the middle, however it is also over two hours from the nearest airport. Everyone flying in has to shuttle, rent a car, or find someone to give a ride. Travel arrangements are getting wildly complex.
Family reunions are somewhat about food, since we all need to eat. But it’s not that simple. Everyone has favorite meals and food traditions that we like to recreate. Like most families, we love grilling outdoors, pizza, good coffee for breakfast and cinnamon rolls. We love popcorn and ice cream. We love a meal out at an interesting restaurant. We have kids who only eat one food. We have adults on special diets. Food arrangements are getting complex.
We love to sit around and talk, and for some of us that is the most physically active we can be. We have others who would add a silly game, a movie night, or a campfire to their talk environment. There are some of us who have to float the river for four hours or it’s not a real reunion. There are some who have to be on wheels, or boats doing something potentially dangerous. And all of us care about sharing worthwhile, memorable experiences with each other. And although I have never felt that boredom is a fatal condition, I would prefer that no one remember our time together as BORING. It’s getting complex.
The next couple of weeks this reunion is going to be on my mind pretty regularly. My four brothers and I, along with Mom, are the linch pins of the event and are talking, calling each other, and figuring out all these complexities. I appreciate how it draws us together, joining our particular skills, taxing our creativity. It’s work, but good work. It’s going to make some interesting journal entries and I hope I have time to write them.
I love that our complex family cares enough about these periodic reunions to consider planning, spending for them and coming to them. I know it probably will not always be possible. Our families are getting larger and developing groups within groups and that will change the when, the who and the where for our future get-togethers. That is okay, because no matter the size of the gathering, we are teaching the tradition to the next generation. We teach cooperation. We teach sacrifice. We teach commitment. We teach fun. We teach family.
Do you have family reunions? If so, do you look forward to them? Are there special traditions or ways of handling complex arrangements that you can share?
My senior assisted living community has gone down by two – a whole 50%. I still have the husband and Mom to help but my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s, have gone south to live near my uncle’s children.
They lived near a town, about 25 minutes away, out in the country where we had trouble getting cell service. They had neighbors, but I was always worried about them being able to contact someone if they needed help. My aunt was disabled with Parkinson’s, and nearly blind. My uncle was the main caregiver for her and he was getting tired. On top of that there was the difficulty of keeping warm and plowed out during our severe winters. Something had to change, and it did.
My aunt had a crisis on Friday, July 1st, and after a week in the hospital recovering it was obvious that she needed nursing home placement. I was surprised to find out that there were no available beds for her level of care anywhere in our small community. None. But there was a place for her in a care center in the town where my uncle’s daughter lived, and they were willing to accept her. I am in awe of the social workers who helped get this done so quickly that it about took my breath away. I also think it was God’s plan to give my uncle some good time with his daughters after many years of just seeing them for occasional visits.
Caregiving… my aunt and uncle didn’t require my time on any regular basis, but more as a problem solver and go between with their doctors. I helped a little with their legal and financial affairs and often with their tech problems. Cell phones and computers drove my uncle to frustration. So, you would think I would feel free and have lots of extra time now that I don’t have those responsibilities. I guess that’s partly true – but I’m mostly aware of how quickly it all happened and how I miss them. Strange.
And that is one of the strange things about caregiving. It’s often hard, restricting, physically tiring, stressful, and has distasteful elements but it is also rewarding and more meaningful than a lot of other things I might be doing. Although I’ve been a paid caregiver and felt the weight of responsibility for my clients and the importance of being faithful and dependable, being a family caregiver is that and so much more. There are no 8 or 12 hour shifts, seldom a vacation, no weekends off, no differential for nights and no overtime. There are times when it feels like I’m handing over my life to someone else.
But, it is my life, and I know I made intentional choices that determined my present circumstances. Like many other aspects of life, the challenge is in taking what comes to me and making something of it. I must make plans but I must also expect the unexpected and figure out how to respond. I want to respond to situations in ways that won’t make me disappointed in myself at some later date.
In case you haven’t noticed, preaching to myself is one of the ways I’m meeting those challenges. It helps me to remember that God has given me specific skills to use for the good of others, and that he will strengthen me and keep me in the game until I’m no longer needed. Knowing that I am in the right place, at the right time, for a good purpose makes me satisfied and gives joy. What more could I ask?
Riding around Hayward, not in a car, but on a bike – that was my joyride yesterday. It was a relatively slow ride, not a race of any kind, and I took care to be noticing everything. It was a great way to tour a small town. I’ve always loved Hayward, but I kind of “fell in love” over again. I’m pretty sure you would like Hayward too.
Many changes have taken place in our town since I was a child. Of course, one of them was the paved bike path I started on. It follows the perimeter of the business and residential districts, starting very close to my condo, and circles around to end up at the starting point again 12.5 miles later. I probably put in a few extra miles going through quiet streets, just looking at houses and yards because that’s what I like to do.
On my ride I started at what used to be my Grandfather Smith’s property, and the house where he raised his family.
Not too much later I rode past the house where my Grandfather Boone used to live, and the field where my mother and her brothers used to play.
I rode past three water towers. Except for the giant fish, I think maybe it’s our town’s mark of distinction to have three of them, although none of them are very attractive – a little rust, a little graffiti, lots of sirens and satellite dishes hanging on them.
I crossed the same river twice, and rode along it for long stretches. The Namekagon River valley is where Hayward is situated and I saw several smaller streams on their way to join the main river. Lake Hayward is the result of a dam on the Namekagon. The area grew as a logging town and for a while the lake was a collection point for logs. I rode past the water arena where lumberjacks still show their skills to the public, log rolling, climbing, chopping and sawing.
I don’t know if this entrepreneur was ever a lumberjack but I am pretty much in awe of his skill with a chainsaw. I rode past his outdoor lot where he sells some amazing log art.
Near the end of my ride I went past Hayward’s airport. You could probably charter a plane to bring you to Hayward but there are no major airlines serving this town. Many of the planes, jets and helicopters belong to people wealthy enough to fly in and out, rather than drive the nearly three hours to Minneapolis or six hours to southern Wisconsin cities.
Riding a bike is a friendly way of getting around, similar to horse and buggy days when stopping to talk with someone you knew was common. I rode past the house of some friends and saw one of their kids outside fixing his car. I thought a minute, and then turned around and went up the drive to say hi. Why not?
I have decided to ride bike more often this summer. It really is a pretty good way to get around for moderate distances. I thought that it might be my next challenge (gotta have a challenge…) to ride 100 miles a month, for the next four months, until it snows again. But today it is raining and I’m already losing my enthusiasm. Haven’t learned to love riding in the rain, yet.
The weekend did not bring answers to the electrical problem in the garage. I unplugged the garage door opener one night and the fault still occurred. The only conclusion I can make is that none of my appliances are causing the problem. It’s going to be up to an electrician I’m afraid.
I went back to church on Sunday and it was good to be involved in the music. I am the oldest on the worship team – never thought that would be my badge, but I’ll take it. We have an eclectic pool of people to man the different instruments and lead. Teenagers, married middle-agers, seniors, even some middle school volunteers (because they are so good running slides on the computer). It feels like a privilege to worship with them.
The husband wanted to eat out again! We had lunch at Perkins and then went next door to get a DQ hamburger for Mom. The line for ordering was 10 cars long. That place is crazy ever since Covid started.
Major accomplishment today was getting my aunt (96 years old) and uncle (91 years old) to the doctor for wellness checks. I drove the 18 miles to their house, helped them get in their car, drove back 18 miles to the clinic with them. Their appointments were easy enough, but then we also had to stop at the pharmacy and get their Covid boosters. The return trip, another half hour there and half hour back home. I have to laugh at their car. I used to be worried about all the warnings of tire pressure being low, the loud clacking of the fan, the smell of decaying mouse, and the unpredictable door locks. Not any more. We just go.
More doctor appointments but this time it is for me and the husband. We lived in Florida for 30 years and need to get our skin checked for cancers. It turned out to be a little unnerving for me since she found six suspicious places on my face and used her “freeze” gun on them. It hurt but I can’t see that it did much to them. In addition she looked at my hands and decided to do x-rays and blood work to see if I had rheumatoid arthritis. I wasn’t expecting that.
I went home and spent the evening pulling weeds in Mom’s borders around her condo. There’s nothing like doing a job that really needs doing to calm me down. The border improved, one small weed at a time – and me, marveling that there were no mosquitoes, amused by the bullfrog sounding from the retention pond out back. So ended the day.
Fighting a headache all day. I read to the husband in the morning and we finished a book. Reading is not the best for headaches though.
We have an historic silo foundation behind the barn. It has had various plantings in it and is also a graveyard for Scruffy, my brother’s dog who left us a couple years back. At times it’s been featured in family photos, and since we have a reunion coming up, I wanted to get it weeded and respectable looking. Once again, pulling weeds is therapy, this time for my headache. I feel such power, deciding which things stay and which things go. I might have made a good dictator.
I took the husband out for a wheelchair ride on our street after dinner. I’m glad that he is able to get outside, if only for a few minutes, but there is something about doing this that saddens me. It makes such a statement.
The last day of June, sob! A third of our summer is over.
The headache is still hanging around, so much so that I wondered if I was getting second Covid, long Covid, or whatever it is called when it comes back. But I had no fever and felt better after medication.
Spent some time with my client at New Life. She is a delightful young mom who likes to sit and talk, which I find very refreshing.
The only other redeeming thing I did today was clean up my closet a bit. Decided it might be safe to box up my winter socks – a fitting way to say goodbye to June.
The flowers change with the months. Daisies are still in style but the late summer blooms are starting already.
Today was Pentecost Sunday where, in the Bible book of Acts, the promised Holy Spirit was sent to empower all Jesus’s followers. It was a pretty wild day, and a very important occurrence – like the birthday of the first church. The husband was quite disappointed not to hear anything about it in church, and it seemed a little strange to me too. Especially since it is the only biblical holy day that churches remember anything about now. Hmm… Fortunately we heard a message about being merciful in our judgments which seemed to be something we could apply to the situation.
Six of us had family dinner tonight (or supper if you’re from the farm). We don’t do this every week, but often enough that we are starting to think of ourselves as the BlueBloods of Hayward. Our table isn’t as big and we have nothing to do with law enforcement or running our town, but we do eat and sit around talking after. We have our own brand of less dramatic drama and it suits us fine. The critical conversation was about making gravy, which as everyone knows, is not the easiest thing to do.
June 6, 2022
I panic now that it is getting to the end of dandelion season. Lilacs are also turning brown on the edges. Next thing will be daisies, then black eyed Susan, then goldenrod and no more summer. But I need to not give precious time to dreading winter, when it’s June!
All that to say it was great weather today. Things are up in the garden, even though some of it is barely visible. We were out to the “meadow” and got a trailer load of wood chip mulch which I started spreading to keep weeds down. One of the boondockers staying at Denny’s watched me in the garden for a while and came over to say how sorry he was to see me working so hard. I felt sorry for him having nothing fun to do except watching me. The garden is my fun spot, and when it stops being that I will stop doing it.
I took the husband for a wheelchair ride on the paved driveway. He needs to get outside and he doesn’t think of doing it himself. He doesn’t try to walk far anymore.
I really wanted to get out in the garden again and finish unloading the mulch. Instead I went to town with a list of things to buy. Filled the car with gas and although it took my breath away, I will probably soon be remembering when a full tank only cost $76.
I bought some stepping stones and intend to make a platform for my SoloStove fire pit. It’s a project – more on that when I get it finished, if I do.
I was at Walmart and only beginning the list when I got a call from the husband. He needed some help in a delicate matter. Left with the decision of whether to finish the list or come back later, I went through the checkout and rushed home, although the speed of doing things at Walmart is hardly ever described with the word “rush”. The place is nearly always a zoo during the summer. I went back later.
Before I could get out to the garden, I got a call that my clients at the Resource Center were waiting for me. I thought their appointment was on Wednesday. Rushed over there.
I did finally get to the garden and stayed so late that the only thing I could think to make for supper was a Super Shake. Banana, avocado, yogurt, milk, peanut butter and dark chocolate syrup got stuck in my bullet blender. I could not get the container free from the machine and had to put it all in the refrigerator to wait until more muscle was available.
Early morning excitement. Denny was able to get my shake out of the blender. I had it for breakfast.
Today there were a few things I felt I should do for Lois and Wendell in Stone Lake. They are 90+ and I know I don’t pay enough attention to them. I am the only one brave enough to cut Lois’s hair and she basically can’t be seen through her bangs at this point. The other thing needing attention was their. landline phone. It was already nonfunctional for a couple weeks and there was a work order out to the company to check it but Wendell had forgotten to tell them that their emergency alert system was connected to that line. It was going to take another ten days until the scheduled repair. Several of us were uneasy with that.
My phone calls to the company got me thoroughly acquainted with their robotic algorithms, punching every option there was hoping to get a real person who could listen to my explanation. I did finally get in line to speak with a rep, with an estimated wait time of 170 minutes. (Thinking to myself, “isn’t that about 3 hours?! Can they do that?”). Don’t ever sign up for service with Century. Link. Just don’t. You’re better off with no phone and no frustration.
I finished a good book last night, after some obsessive reading. I woke up feeling the house was cooler than usual and suddenly remembered some windows I had left open. Actually, I had forgotten to go out to check doors and windows and had left the patio open too. And a few minutes later, Mom came in. She saw our lights on way early, and the garage door open, and had tried to call me twice with no answer. She was relieved to find no carnage of any sort (axe murderers abound…). I noted how reading late into the night can disrupt routines. Embarrassment, yeah.
It occurred to me that the problem with Wendell’s phone service might be his equipment, so I went to Walmart and got him a new landline phone. Mom and I went back to Stone Lake to see if that solved the problem. It didn’t.
Stopped to see Mary and Jerry to see their house one more time before they leave it forever. So many parties, so many memories… Ended up buying some of their left over garage sale items. I took a bunch of her fabric which I will now have to figure out where to store. I couldn’t help myself. My mind thinks I still sew, Out of touch with reality I guess.
I went to return the good book to Delores and found out she had tested positive for the virus, not a good thing. I am also starting to feel a little garden sore.
Found out yesterday that my son-in-law, Ryan, got accepted to the cutting edge trial for treating lymphoma! Such excitement! My phone keeps blowing up with notifications. We are happy to see treatment beginning today, and relieved, and thankful
Today was shower day for the husband. We were both exhausted when it was over. He was cleaned up. I was sweaty. But it has to be done, doesn’t it? Actually, I’m examining that question carefully.
I felt pressure to be in the kitchen in the afternoon, having invited two lady friends for supper and promising Delores some chicken soup cure. But the whole time I was hoping there would be time to finish up the project off the patio with the paving stones.
Last year I spent a lot of money on a retractable awning over the patio. I decided that I didn’t ever want to see that awning go up in flames or melt from the heat of my occasional outdoor fires in the SoloStove. So the platform of pavers sticks out a few feet into the lawn, out from under the awning. I had an hour to work before supper, and had already dug out the sod. I lined the hole with sand and set the pavers. It looks like it’s been there forever. I can’t wait to have a fire now.
My simple soup supper was good. Bread and soup and watermelon, but it does sound a little strange now that I see it in print. It was the conversation with Mom, Misty, and Barb that proved most interesting. I have found two more individuals that someone could write a good book about, if they could just spend enough time with them.
It’s 6 pm. The sun has finally come out after a normal Wisconsin day of clouds, coolness, and unpredictable sprinkles. I went back and forth between the husband and Mom, reading aloud, listening to a good message about humility and un-called for judgment, and eating. Mom had donuts from the bakery. Dennis wanted vegetables and cheese, and we are going to finish with soup left from last night.
“Garden sore” has turned into “heating pad sore”. I fell asleep in the recliner instead of biking with Gwen. I need a rest.
The evening is more than lovely and I have ended the day with a fire in the SoloStove, on the new pavers. No one else, just me and the cat, Shadow.
I am reading another book and will probably stay up too late. God knows my obsessiveness. He loves me anyway.
April is not only the month for the A to Z Challenge. In my world, it is also birthday month for me and one of my daughters. Other years we have celebrated by getting together the week of our special dates, but this year it is not working out for us. Instead I am going to be writing about all the ways we have spent quality time together celebrating anything and everything. I am also adding my other daughter and experiences I’ve had with her to my list of stories.
This year it will be challenging, as the title suggests, not just because it requires almost daily posting, but also because I have to search for photos on multiple thumb drives, computers and places in the cloud. And I have not done posts ahead as in other years. And I will be traveling away from home much of the time. And doesn’t it seem that thing in general are a little more challenging these days? (“Stop listening to the news and looking at your phone!” I tell myself frequently.)
My hope is that these stories will nudge people to find ways to enjoy their valued relationships with their adult children, their life partners, and their friends. The pandemic has us starving for time with each other and now is the time to be creative in growing relationships in any way we can.
Here’s hoping you will join me for a month of looking back on fun, and getting ideas to chase fun into the future. Thanks readers!
Winter is struggling. It knows its days are numbered, but it doesn’t want to give up without a fuss. I know it likely has another storm or two to annoy us, but the longer days (yay! thank God!) and the higher trajectory of the sun are doing their job. We still have two or three feet of snow on the yards but there is melt taking place every day.
I’ve enjoyed many things about winter, and am ignoring those other things, whatever they are.
I skied 24 times, and have only to go out once more to meet my goal of 25. Some of those times could be titled “Freezing with Friends” but many have been perfect winter days and not at all uncomfortable. Skiing – we all know what it looks like and don’t give it a second thought when watching it. There’s a difference when you call it “walking on slippery surfaces with shoes over five feet long”. Suddenly it becomes ridiculous and dangerous. But, I’ve only fallen a couple of times and I have not broken any of my bones!
Our February ended with the American Birkebeiner, the biggest cross country ski event in the U.S. I’m in a much safer role for this activity. I help serve hot soup to people who’ve just done 55k on skis and lived to tell about it. Ten thousand bowls over two days – we volunteers have seen enough chicken noodle soup to last for a while.
Reading to my husband, watching Dr. Phil with Mom, early morning briefings over coffee with the family, errands, grocery shopping, a little housework now and then, trips to the clinic for doctor’s appointments, fixing meals, changing light bulbs, paying bills, playing with the cat… welcome to my world.
Which is so tame and safe compared to what is happening over in Ukraine. The people there are more like me than unlike me, with their parkas and winter hats. I think about them most of the day, pulling their suitcases across the border to safety, hiding in the subways with their children, taking up weapons and going out to actually shoot, and many of them dying. They are dealing bravely with their circumstances and I admire them, pray for them.
It doesn’t feel right to watch war on the news, to be a bystander. It feels a lot like being in the Roman coliseum watching the lions being unleashed on the undeserving and helpless. It’s not acting. It’s not a game show or a mini-series. I feel very affected and yet I have to go on working out my less important, more mundane circumstances, watching as one more winter comes to a close. I have to say, it is very strange and disturbing.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t run across some statistic, some number that is supposed to change my behavior, my attitude, and my life. The question in my mind is often “how on earth do they know that?’
The weather today consists of snowflakes of medium size, millions of them falling from the sky. How many times have I heard that no two snowflakes are alike? How can that be possible and who has checked it out?
You can tell me that there is science behind it but lately science has sounded like a living, changing thing much more than hard, unchanging facts. I have a hunch that there are real people behind “science”. Real people have opinions, objectives, biases, blind spots and well, they’re just fallible sometimes. When it comes to truth, I often hear “whose truth?” When it comes to science, I would like to hear more of “whose science?”
Did you know that 34% of adults still sleep with a stuffed animal or a blankie? Yeah, but I’ll bet there are lots of details about that statistic that we’d find more interesting than the statistic itself? The research was done on 2,000 people. Did they offer this information or did someone check? Were they in New York City (understandable) or in Wyoming? I have so many questions.
The average American generates 4.5 pounds of trash every day. Really? How do you average in the demolition of someone’s condemned home with the person who lives somewhere where no one even collects the trash?
The global (GLOBAL) rate for washing hands after using the toilet is under 20%. Now there’s something to think about. The CDC is involved with that one. Think of all the places they had to go, all the people they had to ask, and all the people they never bothered to ask.
Each American drinks an average of 26.5 gallons of beer and cider per year. I have a lot to catch up on if I’m to reach average status. Did the people behind this statistic want us to drink more, or less? (National Beer Wholesalers Association – go figure).
Admittedly, I am a skeptic of a lot of statistics. They can be so useful, but that’s exactly what I like to know. Useful for what, and for whom? Let’s get behind the scenes. And for so many statistics, who even cares? Quit the surveys and do something meaningful with all that research money.
What is meaningful, possibly life changing? Well, I think that if I found a person who desperately needed to know that they were unique and valued in this world, I might go ahead and tell them that no two snowflakes are alike, and they are all beautiful. However, I would not tell them that they all eventually melt, and that no one actually checks. Just sayin’…