Emerald Green Leaves

Friday, August 10th 8:36 AM

The fabric of summer has changed for me. It used to mean flowers and birds singing,  days that lasted well into nights, and nights that still wore the glow of the sun long past the moment it dipped beneath the horizon.

It was a time for watching fireflies and enjoying the hum of cicada’s in the hot, sticky afternoons while the sun still hung high in the sky. Enjoying the late summer wildflowers blooming in a cacophony of colors. Colors that serve as a gentle reminder that summer is fleeting and fall is close at hand; golden yellow, dusky purple, deep chocolate brown, and antique white all set against a back drop of green. Rich, bold, luscious colors of green;  forest green, sage green and emerald green.  Deep, mature colors, coaxed out of the chartreuse and lime greens of spring, brought forth by living through the days of summer.

Those things are all still true, of course. Summer is still warm and sunny for the most part. Cicadas still sing and so do the birds.  Wildflowers bloom, and sun still hangs on to the last few precious weeks of soaring high this time of year.

None of the hallmarks of summer have changed. Instead, it’s me who’s changed. For most of my life, I’ve been the young chartreuse lime green leaf, enjoying all the bounties summer has to offer with very little consideration of fall. But now, I’m the forest green emerald leaf. My color has deepened, my leaves are more substantial. I’m aware of what went into the evolution of that leaf from a tender, spring shoot to a substantial leaf, capable of offering shelter from the sun and the rain. Now, fall doesn’t seem as far off as it used to.

Life colors the fabric we’re made of, whether it’s a leaf or a person. We absorb the climate we live in, and the experiences we’re given. We grow and we change and evolve. It’s not a bad thing, I don’t think. Nor is it a good thing. It simply is life; as the lime green shoots of spring evolve into the ripe emerald green of late summer, and, eventually, the vibrant reds and yellow of fall, so we grow and mature through stages in our lives.

This forest green stage of life isn’t bad. It’s a more reflective, more thoughtful stage where intentional deliberation rules the day. The careless choices of yesterday seem frivolous and immature; remnants of another time where summer seemed to last forever and fall was a time of enjoying the pretty leaves with no consideration of the decay inside that caused the vibrant display of color.

One upshot of this stage, for me, is a renewed focus on what I want to accomplish with my life. Perhaps I should say the rest of my life, because I certainly have goals that I accomplished up to this point. The focus of this summer, for me, has been to answer the question, “What comes next?”

Dennis has a job that he really enjoys and it’s given me the itch to return to work. I remember jobs I truly enjoyed and it’s a rewarding event when that happens.  I wouldn’t mind having that again, if I could find that kind of a situation. They’re not easy to come by. And, for me, I know that a job will take the majority of my energy which will leave little left for creating, which is my favorite thing in the world to do, whether it be writing, quilting or cooking. And therein, I found my answer.

The resounding truth, and the only goal I’m sure I want to accomplish, is to finish writing the book that I started back in 2001. I wasn’t quite a lime green shoot of spring when I started it, but I wasn’t the full-blown emerald green leaf I am today, either. I’ve started and stopped writing the book a dozen times, but this time is different. Even though I don’t know if it will ever be published, or read by anyone other than Dennis, I know it needs to be done.

That is what I’ve dedicated this summer to accomplishing. I packed away my quilting, which I do miss. I’m way behind on my tv shows and I haven’t played video games in two months. I hired a writing coach and I joined a critique group.  And I am creating. My goal is to be finished with the first draft by my birthday at the end of August. As of this week, I crossed the two hundred page mark, and I think I am on track to complete the first draft this month. My goal is to complete my first revision with my writing coach by the end of the year.

What happens after that? I don’t know and that’s okay. Maybe it will get published. Maybe not. But it will be done, finally, and I will once again consider, what’s next?

9:34 AM

 

Saying Goodbye

Published October 13th, 2017

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Published October 13th, 2017

October 10, 2017  10:44 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. This is not due to procrastination, lack of ideas or general laziness. It was an intentional choice. Let me explain.

When I write these random musings, it feels more like writing in a diary or a personal journal than it does writing for an audience. There is no filter. It’s easy to forget that other people will read these words once they get released into Internet-land. I think that’s the case with many bloggers, especially those of us that are attempting to capture the day-to-day events in our lives. Especially when those day-to-day events turn out to be life-altering experiences that will forever change the semblance of what defines normal in our lives.

It’s not that I feel that I have over-shared in these blog posts about what I experienced this summer with my mom passing away. I don’t think I have. But I recognize the danger. The temptation even. There’s a freedom in purging one’s self of all the thoughts and feelings that don’t come easily when words are spoken instead of written. So I put myself on a self-imposed moratorium on blog posts this fall.

The reason for my going silent is simple. I did not and do not want to write about selling my mom and dad’s house until the deal is done. And although there are plenty of other things I could have written about, things I’ve done in the past five weeks, tending to and selling that house has always remained foremost in my mind and it felt weird not to write about it in some manner. Call it an abundance of caution or paranoia or maybe even superstition, but I do not want to put anything out there in Internet-land that could jinx the deal. I’m not even sure what I could write that would do that, but the fear is there all the same.

So even though I am writing this Tuesday night, I will most likely not push the “publish” button until Friday afternoon, when the deal is done.

As you may remember, the disposing of my mom’s household items and the sale of her and my dad’s house has been a priority — actually, more of driving need than just a priority, since the end of July. Part of this is because there is a reverse mortgage on the house, and the bank wants their money. I knew if I took several months to list the house, I’d be listing it in October or November and would likely be taking care of it through the winter until it sold come springtime. But more importantly, selling the house is my symbol of moving on past this difficult, shitty summer, past the grief and the shitty memories I’m still trying to stamp out, past this chapter in life that I’ve always dreaded. None of it can be over until the house is gone.

Well, the house will be gone come Friday afternoon. Tomorrow morning (Wednesday morning) I will go to the title company and sign my half of the paperwork as my mother’s official Personal Representative. Friday afternoon the buyers will sign their half of the paperwork and the house will be theirs.

The selling of this house has been extremely stressful for me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. Obviously, there’s the whole trauma of having my mom die and going through all the household items but it was more than that. I was extremely worried that I would do it wrong. I’d make wrong choices. Which is pretty silly considering I’ve bought and sold four houses and the majority of the times I needed to sell one house in order to close on another. That’s a way more stressful scenario than selling my parents house, which has no financial hold over me at all. The bank would like their money sooner rather than later, but if they don’t get it, they don’t. I’m still not financially responsible for the debt.

So why be so stressed about selling the house? I think I finally figured it out. It’s the last thing I will do for my parents to make them proud. I felt the need to get it right. I admit that this is not a rational thought because I don’t honestly believe that they are looking down from the afterlife judging how I’m handling the sale of their house. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned this summer it’s that emotions are not rational or logical beings. They are there and they must run their course. Whether or not they make sense is immaterial. I’ve found it’s easier to go with whatever I’m feeling at the moment than it is to resist. And I needed, really needed, to make the right choices that would make my parents proud of me when selling their house.

I fully recognize that it’s just a house, a thing, and I don’t put much stock in things. It’s just stuff and I’ve never lost sleep over stuff before. Even when I’ve made bad decisions that cost me money — and I’ve made a few of those along the way, that’s for sure. But in this case, it’s my parents stuff, not mine. It’s the place they built, cared for and lived in for thirty-three years. When we moved in my mom said she was never moving again in her life. They were going to have to carry her out of the house feet first. She got her wish.

The sale of this house has been incredibly, mercifully easy. The buyers saw the pictures of the house on MLS and asked to write an offer before it was even listed. My realtor declined, saying they had to at least walk through it.

The buyers walked through the house at 7:30 am on the first day it was listed. It was earlier than my realtor thought they’d be there, and we didn’t even get a chance to turn on all the lights before they saw it. They wrote an offer that day. Through out the process the buyers have been steadfast that this is the house for them. They could have nit-picked problems found during the home inspection (the house is in very good condition but it is 33 years old) but they did not. They have been the dream buyers and I am so very grateful for them. My gratitude for them goes beyond just getting the house sold. I feel like I’m turning the house over to people who truly want it and will love it, unconditionally, as much as my parents did.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the house, especially at first. I should clarify that statement. I liked the layout of the new house just fine, and I loved my new bedroom, but I wasn’t an enthusiastic proponent of leaving my old neighborhood. Like most kids, I didn’t want to move.

I graduated high school and we moved into the house a week or two later. And even though it’s only about 25 minutes from where I spent my teenage years, it seemed like a long way away. I was worried I’d lose touch with friends, worried that my new boyfriend of a few weeks wouldn’t want to drive that far to see me. There were new roads to learn, new routes to take me to familiar places I’d never had to navigate to before. And this was well before Google maps or even GPS systems. This was hand-drawn maps by my dad territory.

My parents said that since I was graduating high school that everyone would be going their own way anyway and it wouldn’t matter if I moved or not. For the most part they were right. I made new friends at college and I kept in touch with the old friends, too. My new boyfriend drove to see me for the next 3 1/2 years (until he dumped me one rainy Friday night in November). I was back in the old neighborhood every weekend for several years. But, yet, I wasn’t a part of it anymore either. I was visiting but I didn’t live there like everyone else. I lived in the new house twenty five minutes away.

I only lived in that house for five years. I spent most of my college years in that house when I commuted to UW-Whitewater, with the exception of one semester that I lived in a dorm.  I spent many a night creeping into that house well past bar time after hanging out at Denny’s with girlfriends, only to have the crap scared out of me by my mother snapping on the light in the family room where she was still up, sitting in her chair, waiting for me to get home. To say she was livid about the hours I was keeping is an understatement.

There were plenty of fights in that house between my mother and myself. I lived there as a young adult who had all the answers. At least in my opinion I did. Of course, I did not. But I had some of them, or at least the start of them. I lived there during the years that I struggled to carve out my independence from my mom while my mother struggled just as fiercely to hang on to me and try to mold me into who she wanted me to become. A no-win situation for both of us.

I lived in that house until I left home and got married at age 23. But I didn’t move far. My new husband and I bought a house a few miles away and I visited my parents and the house often. Four houses and a different husband later, I still live just a few miles from the house. However, I’ve never spent another night under that roof after I left.

There were happy times in that house. My son spent a lot of time there with my parents. And when I was overwhelmed with how to take care of a baby, that house and my mother, were my haven and my security. She’d help me. She’d know what to do. She take care of him so my husband and I could go out to dinner by ourselves once a week.

Later, when I started working full-time again when my son was almost 2, that house became his second home. My parents took care of him during the days while I worked. As he grew up he had is own room there. With his own stuff. When his dad and I were divorcing, that house, along with my parents, were an important thing that didn’t change in his life. A safe haven in a world upended. A security.

The past six years since my dad died, and my mom lived there alone with Charlie, that house has held so much sadness. Despondency oozes from the walls, and it’s oppressive. It still feels to me as if the grief seeps from the very pores of the wood beams in the ceiling, settling down like a heavy gray fog over the spot where my mom always sat in her chair. The same chair where she used to wait up for me thirty years earlier.

It’s hard for me to be inside the house now with it empty of all my parents belongings. It’s strange, but I still get the clenched feeling deep in my stomach when I pull into the driveway and for a brief millisecond I forget Mom’s gone. I wonder how she’ll be today. Will today be the day that I have to call an ambulance? Or worse?

We’ve been through quite a journey together, that house and I. It was an important part of my and my son’s security at different points in our lives.  It was my duty to take care of it these past few months and find it new owners to take over its care from my parents.

And now it’s someone else’s house and in my world it will be relegated to someplace my parents owned where I used to live for a few years. I’m okay with that.

I went into the house today for the last time. I picked up the last of the cleaning supplies so the new owners could do their final walk-thru before closing on Friday. I looked at the wall where my parents charted my son’s height one last time. I visited my old bedroom one last time and looked at the walk-in closet which has the last remaining remnant of the nauseating purplish-pink color that 17-year-old me thought would be a fantastic color to paint a bedroom. It wasn’t.

closet

I looked at the stenciled borders on the walls that my mom did when my son wasn’t even one year old yet, and I looked at the small twig of a tree that my dad planted by the patio where my mom and my son would enjoy its shade when he played in his kiddie pool. It’s well over 30 feet tall now and it’s a living monument to the passage of time. So. Much. Time.

The tree inside the fence is the twig my father planted 25 years ago.

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I thought about taking Charlie with me today, for that last visit. I decided against it. I thought he might be confused or sad to see the house empty with no furniture. He might run to where my mom’s chair used to be and look for her. I don’t think I could have handled that, so he stayed home while I went and said goodbye to the house on my own.

Goodbye’s are hard, but necessary stepping stones to get to what’s next. And heaven knows, I’m ready for what’s next, that next chapter in life, whatever it may be. I think the house is ready for it’s next chapter, too.

October 10, 2017  11:58 pm  (I left myself run a bit long since I was catching up on five week’s worth of thoughts.)

 

 

Land of the Free

10:44 am 7/4/17

I’m less than two weeks into my summer solstice resolution to post everyday for six months, I’ve already missed two days. My bad.

I’d intended this blog to be light, with daily goings-on in our little personal zoo of dogs and cats. Maybe post a few pictures of my latest quilt project or a good recipe or two.

Then my mom got sick, and declined rapidly. And although I’ve tried, I just don’t seem to be inclined to write about those things anymore. At least not right now. And I don’t want to constantly post about the long, drawn-out, painful (both emotionally and physically, at least for my mom) process of dying. Or about my views about a country that is supposed to allow it’s citizens the opportunity to live free, but restricts their ability to have an easy,  painless death on their own terms.

See? Not at all the light topics I’d intended.

Not topics suited for a 4th of July holiday with perfect weather such as this one.

So I will keep this one short, although not sweet, I’m afraid.

I hope everyone enjoys the day off, whatever you choose to do with it. I think I’ll take the dogs and hang outside for awhile while Dennis finishes planting the flowers. I think that’s the best we’re going to do this year.

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11:01 am 7/4/17

 

 

Monopoly, Match Game & the Royal Wedding

5:49 pm 7/1/17

It’s hard to believe it’s July 1st already. I feel like I’ve lost this last week in a black hole of chaos and we’re finally coming out on the other end. At least for now.

July always reminds me of the quintessential childhood summer. Riding bikes in the subdivision and staying outside with friends until my parents turned on the porch light. I’m sure it rained and was cool sometimes, after all, it is Wisconsin, but in my memory it’s always hot and it feels like it’s sunny almost 24 hours a day. Which, when you go to bed at 9:30 or 10, isn’t too far from the truth.

By the time July rolled around, it felt like I’d been out of school forever, even though in reality, it was just a few weeks. The start of school was so far off that it wasn’t even on the horizon. It was some far-off distant milestone, like wearing make-up or learning to drive. I knew they would happen at some point, but it was so far off, it wasn’t worth much thought at all.

Childhood summer’s meant summer TV on the three stations we got with our antenna. ABC, CBS, and NBC. Also PBS, but we never watched that once I was done with Sesame Street. On a rare occasion we could pull channel 18, which always ran reruns of old shows. It was always snowy and hard to see, but it was treat when it we got it nonetheless.

In the mornings I watched Fury, the black and white show about a boy and his horse. Then Price is Right with Bob Barker, way before he was the kindly white-hair gent we all remember. I always said that if I got to the showcase showdown I’d bid on the showcase with the trips. Cars, furniture and appliances were boring. I might actually still do that today, come to think of it.

Afternoons were often spent playing Barbies or Monopoly (I was an absolute Monopoly-fiend for several years. I played for blood, took no prisoners and had no remorse about annihilating friends).

Sometimes we watched Match Game with Gene Rayburn and all the drunk celebrities. I was really ticked about the Watergate hearings because they pre-empted Match Game for what seemed like weeks. I understood very little of the sexual innuendos that were a regular staple of the game. I’ve watched a few of those shows on rerun on GSN and I’m surprised with how much they got away with airing. The new Match Game with Alex Baldwin doesn’t compare. You can’t hand a guy a long-necked microphone and expect him to capture the magic that was Match Game circa 1974.

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I always like Brett and Fannie the best.

 

As I got a few years older, July meant drinking lemonade and playing Hearts with girlfriends and swimming. We’d play records (Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album is still one of my all time favorites), go shopping at the mall and have sleep overs. When I wasn’t with friends, I preferred to stay up really late, reading and listening to the radio and sleeping in past 10:00. My grandma lived with us at that point, and it drove her nuts when I slept that late. My grandpa died in late July, 1979.

Later on, when I was old enough to date, July became all about the nights and dates with boys. There were drive-ins, renting VHS movies and playing games. I still played Monopoly sometimes, but not quite with killer instinct I did as a kid. The Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana was in July, and I kept a scrapbook for several years of clippings about their growing family. I still have it, although I don’t know why. It seems wrong to just chuck it.

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This was one of my favorite pictures from the Royal Wedding.

Once I started college, July blended with the rest of the summer and became a chance to make money by working full-time while I was off from school. It wasn’t special anymore. There was still fun, nights out at night clubs with girlfriends or a boyfriend if I was seeing anyone, but it didn’t have the magic that July held during those early years. I was well on my way toward adulthood, and July was one of the first casualties of my youth.

There’d be plenty more.

On this July 1st, I wonder what this month will hold for me. There are many changes afoot as I’m getting ready to enter another new phase of life where I will soon be the elder of the family. It still amazes me that this can be true when I remember the Julys’ of my youth so vividly. Was it really that  long ago?

I think maybe I’ll see if I can talk Dennis into a good, spirited game of Monopoly tonight. For the old days.

6:24 pm 7/1/17

 

…And Here’s the Twist

3:07 am 7/1/17 (blogged for 6/30/17)

On Wednesday I posted an entry called Is there a twist? In it I said that the writer in me was wondering when the twist would come when we received the news that my mother would recover from her illness after we were told on Sunday that she would not.

The twist made itself known the very next day on Thursday. While my mother’s lab numbers were indeed getting better, she, however, was not. In fact, she was more weak than she was when we brought her to the hospital on Sunday.

Upon hearing the good news on Wednesday, I had scheduled a meeting for Thursday with the social worker at the hospital to discuss assisted living options. However, when we met with her on Thursday, I hijacked the meeting from our original topic and we instead discussed Mom’s option to decline further medical treatment.

Mom’s been telling me often, for well over a year, that she’s ready to die. She’s even said she wished she would just not wake up some morning. It just took me this long to finally listen to her and for this, I’m ashamed of myself. In a moment of clarity Thursday morning, as I put on my make-up, I understood what I needed to do. What she needed me to do.

After a very frank discussion with the social worker, we understood Mom’s choices.

The social worker talked to several of Mom’s doctors and all were in agreement with the prognosis. They came in to tell Mom the news.

Even though the problems she came in for were getting better, her heart condition was worse and it is the cause of her to not gaining strength. She would not get better without open heart surgery.

When Mom heard this she was adamant that she wasn’t going to have surgery. Which I knew. She said that back in October when she was diagnosed. This time, though, the doctors actually agreed that at her age that was probably the right decision.

We talked about her options. How she could reject all medicine and attempts to extend her life and just accept treatment that would ease her pain. How the medical community would neither help to sustain life but nor would it hasten death. Nature would take it course in the most painless manner possible.

Palliative Care. Hospice.

For the first time in a long, long time, my mom looked relieved. She could finally be done.

One doctor, the one who told her she would survive “the event” we brought her to the hospital for, didn’t seem quite as on board with the decision to stop all treatments as the other doctors. He told her that he understood her viewpoint, but she should know that she wasn’t “actively dying” and no one knew how long she could live in her current state.

Actively Dying. Those words have stuck with me since he said them. They make perfect sense. I think it’s the inference that if there’s an “actively dying” there must be a “passively dying”,  and everyone who isn’t actively dying is passively dying. Which I knew, of course. I just never thought of it quite that way.

Friday morning we met with the Palliative Care team and devised a care plan. Last week at this time, I didn’t even know what a care plan was.

We worked with the social worker to get mom placed in a hospice near our house. They transferred her there Friday afternoon by ambulance and Dennis and met her there to do the paperwork to get her admitted. This is the same place I checked my dad into 6 years ago when he had a stroke, although, that was a much different experience. Same vivid memories, though, when I walked into the building.

When I walked into Mom’s room, I was stunned. It’s gorgeous. She has a patio door and a big bay window that looks out on to a terrace where there are trees, flowers and small river. They have wildlife everywhere, and she was sitting up in bed watching the birds in the bird feeder.

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For the first time in well over a year, if not longer, Mom actually looked happy.

4:02 am 7/1/17 – (blogged for 6/30/17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a twist?

9:42 am 6/28/17

This morning, I did something for the first time in the past four days. I took my mother’s living will with her DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) out of my purse where I’ve been carrying it, and filed it away in the file cabinet.

Whew.

We had an early morning meeting with the doctor today. Mom’s numbers improved significantly over night. They improved enough that he said, unequivocally, that she would recover from this event.

The writer in me is expecting the twist.

It’s amazing to me that only four days have passed since Mom was admitted into the hospital. As writers, we learn to slow down time during critical moments in the plot to bring the reader deeper into the action or suspense. We focus on minute details that are somehow significant to bring the scene to life.

Details like how my mother has never once taken off her wig throughout this entire ordeal. (She’d be mad I wrote this — so no one tell her, please!)

Details like the smell of the room, a cross between Purell hand sanitizer and generic institution-smell, like the smell of my grade school. Emotionally, I feel like I’m grade school age every time I walk into her room, too. It’s an unsettling feeling all around.

Details like seeing my mom slumped in that hospital bed, feeling awful. I always try to take the chair next to her bed, instead of across from her because it’s too difficult to see her like that. I can still see her from the side chair, but not the full-on view, and somehow it’s easier. Cowardly, I know, but there you have it.

Us writers must have learned that slowing down technique from life itself, because I swear it seems like at least two weeks have passed since Sunday. I keep forgetting what day it is and time is measured by making sure the animals are fed on time and what time we’ll see the doctor next.

I am amazed at the nurses. They way they juggle life and death responsibilities with an upbeat attitude. Even when their patients are cranky and sharp-tongued. Even when family members grill them for details. Even when as they care for one patient, they’re answering a call for another. It makes my paltry multi-tasking skills of answering an email while on a conference call look pathetic by comparison.

I never once saw anything but cool, calm, kindness and professionalism from the nurses, both male and female. I would never in a million years be able to do that job, which makes me kind of ashamed of myself. Their work truly matters. Mine, not so much.

This has been quite an experience, and it’s not over yet. We have rehab in a few days, which will last several weeks. During that time we’ll be looking at assisted living centers for Mom. She’s agreed she should no longer live alone, and since she’s determined that I keep Charlie, she doesn’t really need a whole house with a yard anyway.

I hope she keeps to that decision as she recovers. Knowing the full scope of my lack of nursing skills, I’ll sleep so much better at night knowing she has skilled professionals to watch over her should she need them.

Tonight we’ll stop back at the hospital for a bit, and then Dennis and I will be shopping for a new bed. The one we have now is too high for our newest member of the family to jump on an off of at night.

Here’s Charlie, our new addition, sleeping in his bed. This is his daytime bed. His nighttime bed is whichever one we’re in.

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That’s a good problem to have.

10:37 am 6/28/17

WWMTD? – What Would Mother Teresa Do?

11:03 pm 6/27/17

At least I’m not posting this at 2am. That’s a win for the day in and of itself.

Did you ever notice that there seems to “dark” periods in life where shit seems to be happening to many of the people you know? I’ve heard the theory about bad things happening in three’s, but that’s not what I mean.

In my 5-ish decades of living, I’ve definitely noticed periods where bad stuff happens to many people around me. There have also been “golden”periods — months or years of a Camelot sort of existence where everything is good for friends, family and acquaintances. The mid to late 90’s was that Camelot time for me, and I even got divorced during that period.

It’s almost as if the universe syncs itself to whichever energy is being given the most focus by the world. I know this sounds hokey, and New Age-ish, and maybe it is. I still wonder if there isn’t something to it.

I read somewhere that Mother Teresa was asked to participate in anti-war demonstrations against the Vietnam war, and she declined, saying (I’m paraphrasing the idea of her words here) that she was not going to make the war more powerful by focusing her energy on it. Instead, she suggested they hold a celebration of peace and that she would attend to allow her energy to strengthen that ideal.

It’s kinda like that. The world on a whole is in so much chaos and it has been for a long, long time, even before our latest Presidential election. There’s rampant misogyny throughout the world, so many innocents are killed in war zones, both foreign and domestic; living in certain parts of Milwaukee is basically like living in a war zone. We see all of this and more on the news and hear about it on the radio. We read about it on the internet, and in newspapers, if you happen to be a dinosaur like myself and still enjoy a crisp, unread front page in your hand. There’s no getting away from it. It’s terrible and we hate it and all our energy is focused on bad. On tragedy. On evil.

Maybe all the negative energy spills over in our every days lives, too. We have anxiety attacks. We can’t sleep. We can’t relax. We get sick.

In my own personal world, both my mother and my husband’s father are having health problems. Both are quite elderly, so neither is a surprise. That doesn’t mean it’s not sad. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. In addition to that, my husband is still struggling with the knee injury he got a couple of weeks ago. I also know of a fellow blogger, a writing teacher I had over 15 years ago who really inspired me, that just got a cancer diagnosis today. My heart aches for her. My girlfriend just lost a close family member last week. Even my pet sitter’s father is ill. I’m sure there are many more heartaches, I’m leaving out. It just feels like, collectively, we’re all in a rough patch right now.

At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I’d like to challenge everyone to find positive  events throughout the day to focus on. It can be hard. It is hard. But I’d like to see the collective energy that we’re all connected through focus on good for a change. Even if it’s just for a moment or two. Let’s see if we can swing the tide of the Universe the other way.

Today, after being at the hospital all day, my husband and I had dinner and stopped at a carpet store. Since my mom’s house is vacant for now, we thought it would be a good time to move ourselves and the menagerie into it for a few days and replace our badly scarred kitchen vinyl.

When I say badly scarred, I’m talking Ammityville Horror level scarred. In addition to multiple cracks, gouges and seams lifting, there’s a two foot spot in front of the patio door that turns shades of red for no reason I’ve ever figured out. It can go from a lighter red speckle to deep, blood red that covers the entire pattern of the floor in that 2 foot area. I’m not going to lie, it creeps me out a bit. Especially since it’s moves into different spots within the affected area. It’s like it’s alive. It’s gotta go.

So tonight I’m in the flooring store browsing at kitchen vinyl and carpet, because we might as well do that, too, since we’re moving out for a few days. Suddenly, I got dizzy, super warm, and I started to feel nauseous. The tall stacks of carpet samples, most of which came up to my shoulders, felt like they were closing in. Kind of like being in a funhouse where the walls move in around you. I was afraid I was going to pass out, so I tossed the carpet sample to Dennis and high-tailed it out of the store. I got the A/C running in the car and took great gulps of it into my lungs.

I’m pretty sure I had my first panic attack today. I would like it to be my last, so I’m committed to focusing on good things, too. I can’t completely control not giving energy to bad things, especially with Mom in the hospital, but I will make it a point to focus on good, too.

When I got home tonight after the panic attack, I went outside with the dogs and sat on my swing in the front yard. Sammy jumped on my lap and licked my face, wiggling the whole time because he hadn’t seen me all day. Charlie laid his head on my leg and leg me pet him. It was exactly what I needed.

These past few days, I’ve been going out there after returning from the hospital to sit, and take stock. Imagine various flavors of my future and my mother’s future, or whether or not she even has much of a future.

Today I didn’t. Sure, decisions will have to be made and discussed at some point. But tonight I took a half hour to remember to live in moment. Enjoy the dogs I love. Laugh at the three cat heads peering out the screen door longing to come outside with us. Enjoying the coolness of the onset of evening, while still feeling the warming of the setting sun on my face. It was lovely and serene and my anxiety and panic slipped away. I didn’t even have a fuzzy navel wine cooler tonight.

Please, let’s all focus at least a small part of our days to good, put that good energy out in the Universe, too, so we all have a fighting chance.

11:44 pm 6/27/17

7:09 am 6/28/17 — I realized this morning that I fell asleep before I added a title.

Fuzzy Navels and Hope

1:28 am 6/27/17 (this is my post for 6/26/17.) Later, I’ll do a second one for today.

Boy, I totally blew my deadline tonight, didn’t I? That’s what happens when you spend the day running back and forth to the hospital, then come home and consume 2 wine coolers (fuzzy peach, of course) and half a Totinos pizza.

I believe exhaustion set in. I remember my husband saying he was turning in around 11 as I was snoozing on the recliner. I also remember something about an animal chewing on my hand. I’m pretty sure the husband part was real. Considering we now have 5 animals, the chewing on my hand part could be real, too, but I don’t see any marks. I know at one point there was a dog on my lap, and then a cat, so who knows?

This is just how we roll in the Mellem house these days.

The thing of it is, we actually had a bit of hope today. Yesterday (Sunday’s) the news was all dire, and I expected to be signing papers today to put my mom in a hospice, the same way as I did for my dad eight years ago. Today (Monday), the kidney specialist said there was a bit of improvement in her numbers and he believes that if he continues the treatment, Mom will regain much of her strength without needing dialysis and her symptoms can be managed going forward by meds.

This is pretty much the opposite of what we were told on Monday. I guess that’s why you should always ask for a second opinion.

However, this new path leaves the future less clear than the prior diagnosis. How much of her strength will Mom regain? Not sure. Will she return to the level she was at three weeks ago, before this happened? Not sure. Will her quality of life be good enough, whatever “good enough” means? Not sure.

So while we received good news, we also received uncertainty in some major areas. Mom isn’t suicidal, but she is ready to die, especially if her quality of life is compromised. And I think in her mind, her quality of life was already getting precariously close to that point before this happened.

If there will be a quality of life after this, changes will need to be made, which Mom is on board with, at least for now. Most likely there will be a rehab stay. Most likely she will move into an assisted living center where she can have her own apartment, but also have trained medical professionals to care for her.  Most likely, Charlie will be a permanent member of our family.

The last one surprised me the most. I never dreamed my mom would choose to give up her dog. I assured her there are assisted living facilities that take small dogs, but she said he’d be happier with us.

It’s the most sobering sign I’ve seen from her yet, that she has declined that far. If she can’t or doesn’t want to take care of her dog, I’m not sure how much more her quality of living can decline and still be considered any type of quality at all.

So, perhaps today’s news was good. But, perhaps it wasn’t. Only time will tell. We’ll meet with the doctor tomorrow to see if the healing trend continues. And I’ll be stopping at the store to stock up on fuzzy navel wine coolers. This ride isn’t over yet.

On a happier note, Charlie is fitting in wonderfully with our family and we’re thrilled to have him. Sammy loves having another dog to hang with. Charlie is 12, so he’s well beyond the puppy craziness we have daily with Sammy. He’s young enough where he likes to play with Sammy a bit, but old enough to prefer sitting on the swing with me to chasing the neighbor’s car.

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Here’s the Charlie greeting me this morning. He’s a morning person. Me, not so much.

 

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Sammy and Charlie hanging out together this morning. My two furry canine babies. The three furry feline babies are behind me, claws in the screen door, waiting for one of them to figure out a way to get free.

So how does one get back to sleep after sleeping in the recliner for four hours?

2:23 am 6/27/17 (for the 6/26/17 post)

Silhouettes

12:57 pm. 6/24/17

It was the perfect night last night. The sky was clear and temperature was cool enough where sitting on the deck, snuggling under a quilt (homemade, of course) was perfect.

After a long day of doctor’s calls and caregiving visits, a night out on the deck was the perfect salve for a sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes painful day.

I tried to take a picture of the night sky from my deck. Unfortunately, the old ipad can only do so much, and capturing a night shot with any kind of clarity just isn’t in it’s wheelhouse.

I did find a picture on pixels.com that is pretty close to what we saw.

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The moon wasn’t full last night, so there were many stars out. And there were fireflies. Tons and tons of fireflies. Some had flashes of light that lasted so long they left spots in front of my eyes as if I had my picture taken. Others were fleeting and swift, skipping through the darkness like stones over a calm lake. There were so many, it was hard to distinguish the flash of a firefly from the flash of a plane’s lights.

Most of all, it was calm and peaceful and serene. It was my version of going to church. Usually, I feel the deep sense of peace while at the ocean or in the mountains. Last night I felt it in my backyard. What an awesome blessing to receive during a time when I needed it most.

Did I find answers? No. Did I find acceptance? Maybe.  What I mostly came away with was the idea of how truly beautiful the silhouettes of the trees were against the deep midnight blue sky. I’ve seen that image at least a thousand times in a thousand different scenes. But for some reason, those silhouettes of the trees really resonated with me last night.

I reveled in their lack of detail; of the simplicity of the shapes void of all color and texture and form. The individual leaves married into one tree shape form, no one leaf standing out more than the other. The night was drawn in broad brush strokes that wouldn’t be possible during the light of day.

As a writer, we’re taught that details are our friends. More than friends. They’re the life-blood of a story. They build the world and the make the characters real enough that the reader considers them friends, not just made-up characters on a page. A story cannot exist without details.

It’s the same in real life. We start out with an idea. A silhouette of a concept. I want to be a writer. Then we fill in the details. What do I want to write? Fiction or news reporting? Will I go to school or wing it on my own? Will I be able to make a living and if not, what else will I do to survive? Details.

Some concepts we don’t get to choose. They choose us. Being born into a family. What it means to be a daughter. What it means to be an only child. We don’t get to choose the details that we are immersed in from, quite literally, our first breath. The family dynamics. The manner in which we were raised. The road we’ll walk with our parents.

It’s the natural order of life that children outlive their parents. Therefore, children will watch their parents die. A silhouette of any family tree will show you that. The names of grandparents, parents and children organized in such a a way where one sees the natural order of life at a glance. It’s not so scary in that watered-down, silhouette form. We accept it as the way life is and move on with our day to day lives. However, when it actually happens, the light-of-day details to that particular tree are a much harder to watch and even harder to accept.

This past week, I’ve had a lot of light-of-day details thrust upon me.  As an only child, I knew I’d be responsible for caring for my parents one day. My mother told me this from the time I was about five years old on. I’ve made choices in my life based around this fact, not because she expected me to do it, but because I’ve always felt it was the right thing to do.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Holy cow, is it NOT easy! The details of this particular journey are excruciating for me and my mom. My dad died very quickly. There were no decisions to be made. No multiple doctors to consult with. This time is different. There’s so much unknown, and answers are coming at a snail’s pace. Or at least it feels that way. With all that being said, I know there are many who have it much worse.

I am handling it, day by day, hour by hour. But these details are ones I hoped never to see, naive as that idea may have been. I think there will be hard choices coming in the next week. But they should resolve things somewhat, one way or the other, which will be a relief to both my mom and I.

Last night, watching the silhouettes of the trees against the backdrop of the starry sky, I longed to see my own world as a silhouette. A shadow box picture of a mother and child, void of any conflict or pain. Beautiful in it’s simplicity and in it’s absence of detail.

2:07 pm 6/24/17   I blew my time by 10 minutes today!

 

 

 

Yin Yang Kind of Day

9:31 pm 6/22/17

Today was one of those days that didn’t go as I planned. At all. It was pretty crappy for the first part. It ended up to be very sweet, literally and metaphorically. (I do have to confess that there was a bottle of wine and a significant amount of chocolate involved in the last part).

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This is the Yin and Yang chocolate fondue dessert from Melting Pot. It is my most favorite dessert on the menu. I’m not a huge sweets or chocolate fan, but there’s something about the combination of the white and dark chocolate in this one that just works for me.

This Yin and Yang dessert is the symbol of my day. It’s good and bad all swirled together in one big, gooey mess.

My morning began with my usual call to my 88 year-old mother who still lives alone. Not sure she should, but that’s a post for another day.

Mom has congestive heart failure and takes meds to control the swelling in her legs and her energy levels. I’ve noticed during my visits the past few weeks that she seems to be winded quicker and her legs looked more swollen.

I suggested we weigh her, something the doctor wants her to do daily to monitor fluid retention. She wouldn’t do it.

I suggested during several different visits last week that she go to the doctor to get her meds regulated since her legs looked more swollen.

She declined and said she was fine.

Until this morning when she informed on the phone that she was so weak she could barely get to the bathroom from her recliner where she’s been sleeping for the past few nights because she hurt her back.

I told her I would call her doctor to make an appointment and she told me she wouldn’t be able to get out of the house because she was so weak.

Oh boy, I thought. This is going to be a rough day.

I put in a call in for the doctor to call me back and Dennis and I tried to figure out how to get her out of the house. Did she need to go the ER? Should I call 911? My gut feeling was she didn’t need the ER since she wasn’t having problems breathing. She was weak which happens when she retains too much fluid. I didn’t want to go the ER route unless the doctor thought she should go. And heaven knows Mom didn’t want to go the ER.

Dennis spent the better part of an hour calling medical transport places to see if they could get her out of the house. We have a wheelchair at her house, but there’s no ramp for her to get out of the house. No one would do it. They’d pick her up, but we needed to get her out of the house first.

Meanwhile, I talked to the doctor’s office who said we could come in and they’d assess whether she needed to go to the hospital.

Since no one would help us get her out of the house, we finally decided the best option was to build a ramp ourselves. In forty-five minutes so she could make her doctor appointment.  My wonderful, helpful husband ran around at Menards with his bad knee, bought the supplies and got the ramp built in time.

When I got to Mom’s she had a bit more mobility than she led me to believe on the phone so we had no real problems getting her in the wheel chair and having her get in the car.

At this point, I’m about three hours into my day. Yep, so not how I expected to spend those three hours.

After another hour and a half at the doctor we left with a medication adjustment and a script for some additional meds. We’ll see what happens in a couple of days. If things don’t improve, we need to do further testing. Fingers crossed they will improve, though. They did last time.

After we were done, and mom was settled back home, it was about 2:30. I hung outside with the dog for awhile and then I took a long nap from the crash of the adrenaline rush. So not how I thought I’d spend the day.

Taking care of my aging mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, hands down. At least when I took care of my kid, my word was the final decision. Not so in the situation I’m in now with my mom. She’s very coherent, and she’s determined to make her own decisions. Problem is if it’s a bad decision, Dennis and I are scrambling to make things right again. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. It probably won’t be the last.

I’d like to say I’m the doting daughter that is grateful for every minute I get to spend with Mom. I try to be that person. But the truth is this is a difficult phase in my life. I respect her right to make choices on how to live her life, but it really sucks when we end up having to pay for her bad choices. I believe that if she had gone to the doctor last week, when she was still mobile, today wouldn’t have happened.  (I know that sounds really harsh, but I did promise to alway be real on here).

All that being said, I know this is more difficult for Mom than it is for me. The truth is she’s been done with living for a few years now, and she’s just waiting for her body to give out. I think she’s actually hoping for it at this point.  I feel guilty as if there’s something I should do to make her want to live. If there’s a way to do that, I haven’t found it. I don’t think there’s a way to give someone the will to live. I suppose we all face our mortality in our own way, eventually. I don’t know what it will feel like to be 88, so I can’t judge her for being done with living. Maybe I will be, too, if I’m lucky enough to make it to her age.

There really ought to be way to choose to die with dignity and without pain in our society.  Soylent Green-style without turning people into food, of course. (Sorry about the spoiler for those who may not have seen the movie). Something along the idea of going to a peaceful room with beautiful pictures and soft music where a painless injection is administered.

Anyway, on to the Yin of my day…or is it the Yang? I can never remember which is the good one and which is the bad one. Dennis and I made dinner reservations last weekend for tonight at Melting Pot as a late celebration of Father’s Day.  They were running an all you can eat special there, which always draws me in. I’m not a huge fan of the meat, or the chocolate, but ohmygod the cheese! I love that cheese.

So, in spite of our sucky day, we were able to make our reservation.  We ordered a bottle of wine because I knew it wasn’t going to be a one glass kind of night. We had cheese. Many portions of cheese. And it was goooood. Dennis had many portions of steak.  I had some but I was pretty full from all that cheese. We brought back a bit of steak for Sammy, and he loved it, too.

And now were back where I started this post. I love the zen-ness of the beginning and end melting together. We ordered the Yin and Yang chocolate for dessert. It was sweet. And the time spent unwinding with Dennis over a leisurely dinner with a bottle of wine was sweet, too. We didn’t talk about the events of the day. We made it through the day and that’s enough. That’s what matters. For those couple of hours tonight we were just Dennis and Jackie with no responsibilities other than the four furry buddies waiting for us at home.

All’s well that ends well. At least for today. We’ll see what kind of surprises tomorrow brings.

10:46 pm 6/22/17  — I blew my time by 15 minutes but that’s WordPress’ fault. I made my edits but they didn’t save and I had to do them again.  Excuse? Maybe. But it works for me!