The Wedding of 10/10/2020, post 2

The “process”, as one reader said it, of putting on a wedding concludes in this post. The post is long, but ends well, and we all need happy endings in this pandemic year. You will see the beginning of a love story in the video that closes out the post. Don’t miss it!

It’s not everyday you get to wear a “bride-to-be” banner!

Next up was the bridal shower. There’s just something so celebratory about a bridal shower that there has to be one. The groom’s family not only has an expert event host mom, but also three sisters-in-law so you know they have experience in bridal showers. Decorations, fancy (delicious) food, friends from different walks of life, and semi-embarrassing shower games to make the bride-to-be blush a bit. Perfect. I was glad to be on the scene for this.

The next week was busy for me. It was the week that I finished the alterations on the wedding gown and broke my wrist, thankfully in that order. It was also the week we started watching Hurricane Delta head toward Louisiana. The beautiful fall weather we had been having was predicted to turn into a tropical depression and pass over the wedding venue on the day of the wedding. I got a little nervous since we had no plan for an indoor ceremony. I added another small tent (the only one available) to our order and the rental company brought them both out a day early. They didn’t want to risk putting them up in the rain.

It might have made a good photo prop, but we were thankful for the friends who got it started and out of there.

Thursday and Friday were bordering on hectic. Pop up tents had been borrowed and the decision was made to keep all the smaller shelters bordering the main tent where the reception would be held. The ceremony was still going to be planned for the open field. I didn’t count, but all the tents got moved at least twice as the configuration changed from one moment to the next. People were arriving to help trim trees, hang lights, and set up tables. The large diesel tractor, doing some landscaping work, stalled and quit right next to the proposed buffet serving area. So in the midst of this, the bride and several of her girlfriends who had arrived early for the rehearsal that night, did what girls in bridal parties do – they escaped to high tea at the O’Henry Hotel in Greensboro. What a nice relief!

The rehearsal in the late afternoon and the dinner following got a couple more rituals checked off our list. We all met the minister with the Scottish brogue, and got put in our places, including the baby donkey chosen as the ring bearer. As he was pulled down the aisle, resisting all the way, another layer of risk seemed obvious. The weather might not be the only wild card.

So cute, but he had no idea what was expected of him. He behaved fairly well during the ceremony though.

Saturday dawned, the day of the wedding. At this point, there were so many details yet to be decided and attended to that it could have been frightening. It was raining lightly. I can only tell you that I had an unreasonable peace and trust that it would all come together, because the concerns had been given to God and I knew he meant to give Julia a good wedding. I left to get myself and the father of the bride dressed.

I couldn’t have imagined the changes that took place – all the beautiful flowers that arrived, and the astounding transformation in the reception tent and the field where the ceremony was to be. Family and friends had pitched in to create a miracle. And the rain had let up, giving us a brief window of dryness.

As we watched the weather radar, the ceremony started. At one point, a song was omitted from the program to speed things along. During the last five minutes we began to feel an occasional raindrop. But it wasn’t until we were dismissed and headed to the safety of the reception tent that the rain really began in earnest. By that time we were so in awe of the beauty of the ceremony and the happiness of the bride and groom, and the timing of it all, that no one cared. Let it rain.

Again, an amazing video captured most of the best moments for us and I share it with you here. You will see us dancing, which was one of the bride’s “must have” features of this celebration. We feasted and danced as the North Carolina rain ran under the edges of the big white tent and met the red clay soil of River Bend Farm. It was wonderful.

Click this link. Video is 3:35 minutes. The Wedding of Julia Dietz and Kevin Shanahan

And the next day, I relived it as I spent a lot of time washing red mud out of the hem of a beautiful white dress. Just sayin’…

A Wedding 10/10/2020

It’s been fifteen days since the wedding and I haven’t written a single word about it. I’ve been waiting for the pictures from the photographer because, for once, I didn’t take any of my own. Well, maybe one or two…

I’m not kidding. Weddings have become such productions these days, and the expectations… no wonder people take six months or more to plan (and save) for them. The six weeks or so that we had to prepare were short and sweet. And this is how it was done.

First, teamwork! What came to be called the Wedding Swat Team, met every Sunday for the first few weeks to brainstorm ideas and keep the bride on track. It was kind of like having seven wedding planners – not always the easiest way to proceed but we had a lot to get done. Lists, assignments, research, debate… It was interesting to me as I listened to my daughter reveal her dreams of how things would unfold. Some of those dreams were specific and she attended to making them happen. Some of them were less specific but she was gracious and flexible in letting others help her. I came to see how wedding details can be important to someone who has waited patiently, for a long time.

One of the main goals of all the planning was to make the bride (yeah, the groom too) feel really special. After all, the hope is that the memories will be unforgettable, in a good way, and last a lifetime. Let the rituals begin!

See all those white dresses? She tried them all on. (Kidding) Seriously, these girls were so patient, and so masked…

The first was the visits to the bridal shops. I didn’t get in on this but the soon to be “new family” took over and proved to be a great audience. It was so much fun, and Julia liked so many of the dresses that absolutely nothing was decided. Except that perhaps she should have been a wedding dress model instead of a horse vet. Girls like to try on dresses that cost a fortune and make them look like Disney princesses.

It was time to make the wedding website (who knew?) and get the invitations out! These days it can be done with email invites, which was all we had time for anyway. Of course, an invitation kind of has to tell guests where the wedding will be. Although the date 10/10/2020 sounds really cool, pandemic restrictions ruled out a lot of the venues. Being out of their minds by this time anyway, the couple decided to have the whole celebration outside, at the “farm”, recently purchased, where the groom was living. It would take more time on their part to prepare it, but they had more time than money. No, wait, maybe there wasn’t a lot of either time or money, but whatever… I ordered a tent. It was my first job

Tent is going somewhere in here. You just wait…

Before the invitations went out there was a fun photo shoot. One of the groom’s friends did this for them. It pays to have good friends who are willing to make things happen. I loved it and hope you’ll give him some good comments on his website. It’s how I’m finishing this post. There’s so much more to tell though, and I’m finally able to type without too much pain (see previous post “I Blame the Washing Machine”). Post 2 coming up soon… Click the link below for a happy video!

Kevin and Julia’s Engagement Photo Shoot

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Four Women, One Dress

Tonight I am at the sewing machine. I’m remodeling a dress for North Carolina daughter. I can’t be sure it will fit her but I have a fair idea of what is needed. I’m praying with every seam that it will turn out well. I think the prayer will be answered and I’m sewing with confidence.

The material is satin. It’s creamy white and soft and surprisingly different from today’s satin, because it is 70 years old. Seventy years ago, my grandmother sat sewing with this same fabric. She was a skilled seamstress, making a wedding dress for her daughter. Her daughter was a different size than my daughter so I have taken the dress apart to resize and change the design a bit. I have to admire her work. She was careful, and gave attention to details. It was a beautiful dress. I have seen it in the pictures of my mother’s wedding.

Grandmother Clementine Warner Boone

Expectations of what wedding dresses should look like have changed so much from 1950. I don’t know what they are making them out of these days that they should cost thousands of dollars, but I know the one my grandmother worked on was made out of love (and satin, and lace).

The work on this project has been an emotional experience for me. I take apart a seam and realize that was thread put there by her machine. Her hands touched the fabric in this very place as she guided it under the needle. She probably peered closely at that button as she sewed it on, just as I am as I remove it. We are linked, she and I, by many things that aren’t tangible, but this dress can be touched and felt. The whole idea is kind of eerie, almost sacred, to me.

And our daughters, the one who wore it so long ago and the one who will wear it next month, they are also linked by the same dress. Mothers and daughters, four women, seventy years, one dress. I love it. It has specialness that can’t be bought.

But as I said, we will see if it fits and seems appropriate for the ceremony. At the least, it will be in a picture. And to some of us, it will look beautiful. Just sayin’…

The Risk in Being Neighborly

I was late going out for a walk yesterday and was nervously watching a drift of storms on the weather radar. Sure enough, as soon as I got to the trail head a light rain started.

I thought it might quit so I stayed in the truck and made a phone call to the North Carolina daughter. We were ten minutes into our chat when a man came out of the warming cabin and approached the truck. He could see I was on the phone so he kind of stood there looking nervous and waiting. When I could see that he wasn’t going away I told Julie I had to hang up and why. She said to call her back in five minutes or she was going to send people to rescue me.

I totally get that, and would have said the same to her. But isn’t it a sad thing that we all have heard of so many disappearances, abductions and murders? Isn’t it sad that we have to think about that and make provision for the possibility? Yes, it’s very sad. And that’s why I ask for God’s protection over my day and everything that comes with it. And then I trust him to give me something – instinct, intuition, a gut feeling, an angel. I don’t care, I just trust.

I might have had a few red flags initially, mostly because I had no idea where the man had come from. I had been there for quite a while and all the cars that had been there when I came had left when the rain started. Had he been in the cabin all along? Doing what?

When I considered rolling down the window so he could speak to me I looked at him closer. I began to dismiss any wild ideas when I saw he was fully decked out in his mountain bike gear, and had obviously been riding hard enough to break a sweat. He looked like he had a request. I couldn’t get the window down without starting the truck, which I didn’t want to do. I opened the door instead and stepped out.

He explained that he had been riding on the single track trail and a branch had gotten caught in the derailleur of the bike and it was broken, beyond his ability to repair it. He had walked a mile with the bike hoping to find someone at the trailhead and had entered the cabin on the opposite side from where I was parked. He had gone riding without his cell phone and was asking if I would call his wife to come get him.

We stepped into the pavilion to get out of the rain and I made the call, holding the phone so he could speak to her. But she didn’t pick up – the unfamiliar number that is usually a robo call must have thrown her off. He left a message. He was clearly in a bind so after hanging up, I asked him where he lived. It was only a few miles away and here I was with a truck – I had to offer him a ride home. I wasn’t going to walk in the rain anyway, so why not?

He was polite and genuinely grateful. He asked if I was concerned about taking him with the COVID 19 precautions. He offered to ride in the back seat. I was feeling more and more sure he was a nice guy and in no way a threat. We loaded up his broken bike and got on our way. We talked all the way to his house. He knows that I hike and volunteer for the Birkie ski race. I know that he has skied the Birkie 24 times and has retired in Hayward from Minneapolis. I dropped him off at his log cabin home in the woods, completely forgetting that I was supposed to call my daughter in five minutes, or else…

She promised she would call for help if I hadn’t returned her call in five minutes. I hadn’t. She did.

When I checked my phone on the way home it was full of calls from the daughter. I had scared her and she had been busy alerting my brother. The sherif was next on her list. I had gotten back to her just in time.

Talking about this experience later with Mom, I had to admit that all the reasons I had decided to trust this guy could have been fabricated. It’s true that people bent on evil go to great lengths to appear trustworthy. It’s true that this small town, where it’s hard to find a stranger, is much like other places where unexpected crimes are committed. It’s true that it’s somewhat my nature to take risks.

But it’s also true that the art of being neighborly is an endangered item and needs to be preserved. Mom has a well worn sign on the freezer in her garage “Let all beings be filled with kindness and compassion for one another.” All beings. Filled. I think we’ve got a way to go.

What is one thing I could do, right away, to be a kinder, more compassionate person to a neighbor?

Face Yoga?

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed I came upon an ad for face yoga and a small survey. One of the questions was something like “what is the first impression people get of you based on your facial expression?” I rejected happy, depressed and several others and finally settled on serious. But when I asked Mom what word she would use to describe me, she said “tired”. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

In spite of the fact that if left sitting and unoccupied for more than three minutes I will fall asleep, I have not often thought of myself as being tired. In my mind, I am always up for whatever is suggested, ambitious, energetic and ready to go. It’s actually alarming to me that people see me otherwise. What if after I’m gone, when they’re wondering what epitaph to put on my stone, they just settle on “She was tired.” What a legacy.

The result of this scare is that now I’m often aware of my facial expression. I’m telling myself to raise my eyebrows and open up my eyes. I’m thinking happy thoughts and hoping they make the corners of my mouth turn up instead of down (their natural direction). I stop short of doing “fish lips” because that is the one thing that looks so unnatural to me that I can’t abide it. As the face yoga lady says, “there are lots of muscles in your face. Why would you not exercise them?”

You can see why face yoga would be interesting to me. I want my face to stay functional, to show a variety of emotions easily. I want people around me to be able to know that I’m thinking kindly of them and find them interesting. I want to look peaceful and non-threatening. I think of how important that is in this day and age when we hear of people being arrested/assaulted just because of a perceived attitude – the expression on their face. I want it to be clear that I’m not up to anything nefarious.

My first impression of tiredness probably started years ago. I’m putting my hand written journals into digital form (what a project!) and a repeated theme over the years seems to be pain and fatigue. There’s this entry from 2007 that sums it up pretty well.

“I would say I’m about as miserable as a person can be who has nothing seriously wrong with them.”

Is it possible that years of muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, and crazy physical work and activity have gotten together and come up with a mutually satisfying expression – tired?

The face yoga lady gives me hope that I can take years off my tired face by giving those muscles some exercise. I can will to avoid the “nursing home look” of having given up. So, if you see me with my arm stretched over my head, pulling on the corner of my eyelid, while letting my tongue hang out, please don’t Baker Act me. I’m exercising. Just sayin’…

Spring Is Real

Here in Wisconsin, spring isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s much more real than that. After being in various degrees of frozen for nearly six months, big changes have to happen and they have to happen fast because winter’s a comin’. I think spring happened today.

Mom and I were sitting on her patio this afternoon when my brother called her.

“What’s the weather like there today?“

“It’s been pretty stable, in the 40’s and 50’s, ever since it stopped being in the 20’s and 30’s .” (Last week)

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to happen? It’s spring, right?”

“I guess it is. Shirley is sitting here with a T-shirt and no coat.”

That’s right. It was so warm today that I didn’t see anyone wearing a coat. Yesterday was a different story. I was out in the soon-to-be garden in my heaviest hoodie and a scarf when neighbors Bob and LuRae, also coated and capped, came up to gift me. He had bought too many lily bulbs and just didn’t have room to plant them anywhere. He wanted to give them to me. Last year he did the same thing with daffodil bulbs.

I said yes. I had a pot with nothing in it but dirt and lilies would be nice. He came over with a rather large box. When I inventoried what he had given me I found eight bags of 10, with large sprouted bulbs begging to be planted. I spent a couple hours putting them around the lampposts of the twelve condos in our development. That’s a lot of digging.

As much as I shovel snow in the winter, I dig at least as much dirt in the other months. The major project is the garden. It has to go in pretty quick or not everything will get ripe before summer is over. But not too quick because it might still freeze at night. I absolutely know that I could walk over to Walmart and spend far less for the same amount of food, but I tell myself that the food is better and I need the sunburn and sore back exercise. I mostly try not to think about the logic in gardening.

I’ve only been “up north” for one “garden year” so far and didn’t have time to start perennials, so last month I ordered asparagus plants from Gurney’s. I was about to order the world’s most expensive raspberry plants from them too, when a friend let me thin her patch for free! I probably won’t get any asparagus or raspberries to eat this year but it will be good for me to exercise patience. It’s all about the future…

This morning Mom and I did the most definitive spring thing. We went shopping for flowers. We actually traveled 39 miles to a fabulous greenhouse where we bought almost nothing because the prices were… pricey. We stopped at two other establishments on the way home just because flowers are SO BEAUTIFUL! I bought, and got them all planted this afternoon. I have big pots of petunias, coleus and herbs on the patio. I am stiff, sore and a bit dehydrated.

It’s spring and spring is real. Putting my feet up now, just sayin’…

Reflections on A to Z 2020

I’ve done the A to Z Blogging Challenge for six years now, and enjoyed it every time. I’m proud that I’ve finished them all, because learning to finish a writing project was my main goal. I was especially grateful this year to learn that I could take a theme, caregiving, and make a cohesive body of information, based on my own experiences. That’s almost like writing a book, and I did it! (A very short book however…)

I truly felt “cheered on” by a group of readers who read most all of my posts. This was valuable since it showed me that my topic did have an audience, and was possibly serving a need. All the comments were kind and helpful, and they weren’t even all from my family and relatives! So good. (That is not to say I don’t appreciate comments from family too – that didn’t come out quite right.)

I think the challenge was well managed and designed this year. The sign-up, master list, badges were all easy to access. Perhaps the smaller number of blogs participating made it seem more streamlined – it was easy to go down the list to find topics I was interested in. I was surprised by the number of blogs I went to read and found they weren’t taking part.

Thank you so much, organizing team and readers. Appreciate you all and hope to read more of you on the Road Trip.

A to Z Challenge: Z for Zeitgeber

The last letter of the alphabet! This was an interesting and challenging experience, as always, and I am so grateful for all the connections and comments. Thank you all for reading and encouraging me, and other caregivers.

Zeitgeber

I ran across this interesting word as I was studying a book called “The Paleo Approach” by Dr. Suzanne Ballantyne. Zeit means “time” in German and geber means “giver”. A “time giver” is “anything that influences your circadian clock”. Your circadian clock is all about your body’s routine. And routine is one of the most important tools of caregiving.

Examples of zeitgebers are the light and dark cycle, food intake and activity. Regular times for meals, for exercise and for sleep are beneficial to all of us, but especially for the very young, the elderly and for those with dementia. Being able to depend on a routine gives the impression that things are under control, and having any sense of control is comforting.

Routines

Routine is not the easiest thing for me as a caregiver. I am the queen of spontaneity, and will usually go out of my way to break up a routine. But now, I have things I do pretty regularly. One of the most important reasons I’ve developed routines is because they help me not to forget stuff I would otherwise probably forget. Routines also cut down on decision making because we have already decided what and when. And of importance, the routines help my husband know what to expect at various times of the day.

Circadian Rhythms and Sleep

The light/dark cycle is probably the most important zeitgeber, and the one I have the most trouble with. Being outdoors in sunlight during the day, and in the dark at night greatly affects circadian rhythm, which in turn affects the immune system, mental ability, mood, alertness and energy level. Ideally, the husband and I should get as much light exposure as possible during the day. We both should cut down on our screen time at night as well. Blue light from our computers, phones, TVs, and LED fixtures signals our bodies much like daylight does. It suppresses melatonin production. Blue light not only signals through the retina of our eyes, but even our skin has sensitivity to it. In contrast, low light and darkness signal the production of melatonin and bring on relaxation and sleep.

It is dark outside. Due to my circadian rhythms, I am getting sleepy. Take care of yourselves as we go through these strange times. Good night to all.

_____________________________________________________________

This evening Dennis, my husband, came out where I was sitting and apologized. Not knowing what he was apologizing for, we talked and I discovered he had read the X post. He was saying that he was sorry for making things hard for me. I was surprised that he had not read other posts this month, even though he was aware that I was writing on the subject of caregiving. He was sweet, and humbly aware of the impact that his illness has had on me and on our relationship. It’s moments like this that make me know that he is more than just my patient. He is still very much my husband.

Forty-seven years and counting…

A to Z Challenge: Letter Y for Yelling

Well, it’s not just about yelling. It’s about communicating. When communication is not easy, and is possibly frustrating, yelling can be involved and it begins with Y. I am an opportunist when I have to be. Most of these problems have to do with diminished hearing, poor eyesight, and diminished attention.

Yelling makes people look mean.

Is there a lot of missed communication going on at my house? Sometimes it feels that way. Here are some common scenarios…

The husband thinks I’m listening to him (he may have seen me close by) and starts talking to me while looking elsewhere. He doesn’t know I’ve left and am two rooms away. When I realize he’s talking away to an empty room, I come back, frustrated and have to ask him to repeat.

In the morning when he comes out for his cup of cocoa and sits in the corner recliner. He doesn’t usually have his hearing aids in yet. I ask him what he wants for breakfast but he doesn’t hear. I raise my voice until he tells me I don’t have to yell. We both feel embarrassed.

In the morning he comes out for his cup of cocoa and he DOES have his hearing aids in. I ask him loudly what he wants for breakfast and he jumps and puts his hands over his ears.

“What?! You didn’t tell me that!” This is often said about something that was being discussed in conversation with a group of family or friends. I can understand that it’s hard to admit (or even know) that you’re not hearing what you can’t hear. It’s easier to fake it and assume that someone will get your attention if it’s important. But, dear hard of hearing person, no one knows you haven’t heard…

If you’re caring for an elder, it’s safe to assume that most everyone who is up there in age has some degree of hearing loss. Okay, I don’t have young ears either.

Hearing in noisy environments or over a phone are other risks to good communication. My uncle, who hears fairly well in face to face conversation, gets a little nervous with phone conversations. He sometimes asks me to join him on calls with his financial advisor, not because I’m a financial genius either. He wants to make sure he is hearing things correctly. And who hasn’t faked it in a noisy restaurant? Nod and smile, that would be me.

To make matters more complicated, people who are hard of hearing often hear their own voice through bone conduction. It sounds very loud, so they talk softly and can barely be heard. The husband does this with the result that he can’t hear me and I can’t hear him either. Somehow, even when I’m not angry, having to yell makes me feel like I’m being mean. I don’t like yelling.

We are getting better at communicating. Here are some things we’ve done to lessen the volume and make sure important things are heard.

1. I try to get the TV volume or other noise, turned down before I speak.

2. I look at the person I’m talking to so I know if they are listening, and if they know I’m talking to them. I try to get my husband to do this as well.

3. I communicate plans for the day, important news, etc… directly when there are no competing voices. I try not to assume something has been picked up from conversations with others.

4. Whenever I see confusion, I ask questions to see if there is a misunderstanding.

5. I often leave a written note.

So, back to yelling. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make for good communication and most of the time, even if I’m not mad or frustrated, it makes me feel like I’m being mean and ineffective as a caregiver. When I’m well rested, in my right mind and remembering my above mentioned tips, the communication is much improved. Just sayin’…

A to Z Challenge: X for Exasperated

(Ex is how you spell X, so this counts.)

Today I am exasperated. It’s a degree of frustration right before one’s head explodes. It happens fairly often in my caregiving world, particularly with my husband.

It’s not that this never happened before, when he was well. We were a fairly normal couple and we had our ways of getting past the rough times and keeping peace. We were both responsible and expected to act like mentally competent adults. Now, as with any situation where a spouse has a mental deficiency of any kind, doubt enters the picture and roles may change.

Many days I am so conscious of having to watch over our world, unaided, while my husband (my patient, is what it feels like) does what he can do, sits and watches TV or looks at his phone. When he wants to talk to me about his angst over politics or his ideas of how to conquer coronavirus, I want no part of it. I want him to do some meaningful task that would help get chores done. I want him to show concern about finances or make a “to do” list like I have to do most days. It exasperates me to have a live-in patient instead of a husband.

And at the same time I begin to feel very guilty for being angry. I am not the only one missing out on our retirement plans. He is sick and I am well, at least for the moment.

For these reasons, caregiving for a spouse, or a live-in family member is not easy emotionally. It usually starts out being a 24/7, 365 days a week job, until burn out sets in, so it’s not easy physically either. I need support and this is how I get it.

1. I have identified people that I can talk to safely, even when frustrated – ones that are regularly available to me and don’t mind if I vent.

My physically present support group that I could not do without.

2. I have joined a couple online support groups. They understand what it’s like and have encouragement/advice for all situations. They always show me I’m not alone in the way I feel.

  • Facebook group: Lewy Body Dementia Carter’s
  • Facebook group: LBDA Care Partner Support Group

3. I have a place I can go, in the house, to get away to watch a movie or read a book while the husband is occupied or napping. It’s a true multi-function “she room”.

4. I haven’t had to do this, but if needed I would hire help to cook or clean, or just be in the house for a few hours while I escape.

5. I try to spend time with my husband doing something we both can enjoy (like reading a good book) to give attention and alleviate guilt (mine).

6. I give myself grace to not be perfect, but to try again to do a good job and to love well.