Thursday, December 31, 2015

Operation ILYMT

Yesterday I had the house to myself for a couple of hours. My kind of "pause!" I spent the time reading the daily love notes my daughter and I had exchanged in 2015. Yup, we committed to writing everyday and with the minor exception of a few days here or there, we accomplished our goal. It took me almost an hour to read them all. It was the perfect way to end the year.

After reading, I decided to write about the project, which I named Operation I Love You More Than ... (ILYMT). For the next hour, I wrote. Sometimes writing is a chore. Sometimes when the words flow almost without thinking, writing is easy peesy. That's how it was for me yesterday. I was very pleased with the way the whole post read and looked, so I pushed the publish button.

Let me re-phrase that. I pushed what I thought was the publish button. Then I went about closing out a bunch of windows that I no longer needed. This included a partial post of said article. Click went the delete button. I didn't need that version, right? I had just published a completed version.

Wrong. When I went to view the page, it was blank. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. I furiously checked everywhere I thought it could be. I didn't dare conceive that I had deleted an almost perfect post. Alas, it's true. It's gone. Perhaps one of those forensic computer analysts that you see on crime shows could look through my hard drive (and don't think that I didn't try to figure out how to call one) and dig it out of whatever binary box it is hiding in. We all know that's not going to happen.

So it is with a heavy heart that I admit that post no longer exists. I have fumed, cried, stomped my feet, and yelled at the post office lady for something really stupid that was out of her control which had nothing to do with my blog but irked an already irked ME. Sweetie did his best to comfort inconsolable ME. Buddy instinctively knew to stay out of my way.

I can't say for sure if I'll ever re-write that particular post. Maybe I'll figure out a way to capture the essence of it some other time.  I just wanted to explain why this blank post was up for 24 hours. Now you know. I guess if I'm going to screw up, it's good to do it on the last day of the year and keep the slate clean for the new year.

Frustratingly yours,
Merry ME

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Waiting

"When you wash your hands
when you make a cup of coffee,
when you're waiting for the elevator -
instead of indulging in thinking,
these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence."
Eckhart Tolle


I thought I'd put my word into practice today.
Actually, I was waiting in a small room for my doctor to give me the results of a recent MRI and getting pissed off that the wait was so long.
About 20 minutes into the wait, I closed my phone and told myself this was the perfect time to sit with the stillness and see what comes of it.
I lasted about 5 minutes. There's only so much going on in an orthopedic office to take note of - really old magazines, diagrams of vertebrae and labeled pictures of all the bones in the human body, a computer, two pens on the desk, and nurses laughing outside the door. I checked my phone a couple more times before opening up the door and letting the laughers no I was getting antsy.

"I've got your chart in my hand," said the PA. In her hand did not necessarily mean she was going over it. When she walked in the room, she said (and I quote), "now why are you here?" The next thing I heard was the tiniest bit of steam coming out of my ears. I guess I'm going to have to ease myself gently into the pause thing.

As for the MRI, it didn't show much different than it did last year. I do have some compression/nerve damage of my L4L5 vertebrae. Probably arthritis. I'm pretty much convinced the nerves in my foot were damaged in the fall and/or surgery. They will either come back, or they won't. I'll try an injection in the L4 area but don't look for a miracle cure.

I think it's going to take some practice to get good at this "being an alert presence" thing,
Merry ME


Monday, December 28, 2015

My Word for 2016

Before deciding on my word for 2016 I spent some time with my 2015 word - threshold. For the first few months of the year, it was everything one would want a defining word to be. It motivated me to paint my front door and sweep away the cobwebs. I contemplated the threshold between earthly things and spiritual places. I looked for thin places. Like opening a brand new book, with the pages crisp and clean, I eagerly anticipated that first step you take when crossing into a new place, endeavor, adventure.

Then, as it has a way of doing, life intervened and thresholds became less fascinating. One step was pretty much like every other step.  Halfway through the year, I stepped down on un-solid ground and broke my ankle in three places. Talk about new thresholds - a ride in an ambulance, pain like I've never known before, surgery, letting go of control, becoming a care receiver instead of a caregiver, learning to walk again. Needless to say, I pretty much had to hit the pause button on my life. My intentions for using the extra time I had been given to write fell short. So did training and taking walks with the new puppy. Moving to a smaller place was out of the question. Hell, I could barely move from room to room.

A month or so before the holiday stress started piling up, or maybe because it started piling up,  was drawn to the word sanctuary. Or it was drawn to me. Seems like everything I read had some mention of sanctuary, or spending time in a quiet meditative place. I also noticed a particular and unexpected calm come over me on the days Sweetie went shopping, Johnson was busy outside and the dogs slept.  I enjoyed the time alone. The hum of the air conditioner was the only sound. Some days it was warm enough to have the windows open and I could hear a few birds singing. The quiet felt good.

I began leaning towards "sanctuary" as my word. Although quiet can lead to a spiritual experience, I didn't really feel like I was looking for a religious kind of sanctuary. The thesaurus pointed out synonyms like refuge, harbor, hideaway, avoidance, burrow, retreat, shelter. All close, but not quite what I was looking for.

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness, 
and just be happy." 
Guillaume Apollinaire

When I read this quote on Terry Hershey's Sabbath Moment, this morning, I knew I'd found my word - pause. It's the pause I'm looking for. Sanctuary, yes. Retreat, yes. Hideaway and even avoidance, yes. But more than any of those, I think I'm craving a brief amount of time in my life to be still. Usually when I'm in a quiet state, I tend to sleep. I want to be awake during my pause. I don't want to turn it into a "have to" or "should." I don't want the time to have an agenda.  I just want to pause for a moment or two every day and notice. Perhaps it's a different way of practicing mindfulness. Maybe just a way to stop running all the time. A way to stop and smell the roses. A short time for reflection. I'm not a photographer, but what if I took a photo of the things I noticed? Or here's a novel idea, write about them!

As a reminder, I ordered myself a pocket talisman from Liz Lamoreux www.soulmantras.com.

What is your New Year's tradition? Stay up late? Do you make resolutions? Choose a word?
Whatever it is, I pray you will be happy and healthy and find a little time every day for quiet reflection,
Merry ME

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Groundhog Day

I read along as I listened to the author read this article on OnBeing this morning.
First of all let me say, I love the OnBeing newsletter. I also love word pictures that paint a picture that you can see as well read. This article is one of those.  It's not that long, please go check it out. I'll wait.

The article called up a fear I didn't realize I even had. A little niggling something in the back of my brain that peeks out now and then, but never becomes full-blown "Yikes!" kind of fear.*
"I stop and sit each time, pulled to the window. I pause to listen and imagine the scene as the music sweeps into each corner of their home — over the graying couch in the sitting room, over the mounted family photos, over the beautiful open Bible on a wooden stand. Our elderly neighbor plays faithfully, the notes an affirmation of presence, a victory of joy, a connection maintained."
It was difficult when the doctor first diagnosed Sweetie with ALZ to wrap our minds around it. The early stages of grief - anger and denial - danced a two-step with the early stages of ALZ. Gradually the music wound down, real life - the one we have to live day by day - and my broken ankle brought us back to the present. Neither of us is very good at practicing mindfulness. Having a puppy helps. 

Then something comes up and we, individually and jointly, drift off into the scary ALZ place. The Glen Campbell movie, a video Sweetie watched on FB about a father and son, a disagreement over who starred in an old British mystery series (Maybe that one isn't ALZ induced, maybe just a case of wanting to be right. Just saying - I owe someone a dollar), driving places and forgetting the way, minor errors in the checkbook. Not in your face dementia. Just small reminders that he is slipping. At our age(s) who isn't?

As I wrote a few posts back, it was amazing how music bridged the gap between Glen Campbell's past and present. And I talked of my neighbor who could play old favorites on his trombone even when he couldn't remember his way home. So when I read that the gentleman in the OnBeing article also used music to connect with his wife, I can't help but worry wonder what will Sweetie's connection be? Of course I'd like to think it will be me, and who knows maybe it will be. We haven't been married for 50 years. We don't have the history. Sweetie doesn't have music to fall back on What does he have? The things he's always loved to do - reading, writing,  singing (Oh God, please spare me days upon days of Kenny Rogers tunes) don't seem to be the kind of things that will push through the fog of ALZ. Without a motor home in the driveway will he remember the time he spent work camping?

Every day is an opportunity to make memories. I'm just not sure they will be the deep seated memories that Sweetie will be able to call on. The truth of the matter is it's probably too late for that. All we can do is live each day. I've heard having ALZ is like the movie Groundhog day. The silver lining to that is you get chance after chance to make it better.
"I see the sparkle in his eye when he looks at her still, and it is both heartbreaking and inspiring. There is no measuring, no holding back, no keeping score or negotiating there. There is no use for pretense at this place in the journey, and he is all here, all in, with her."

May it be so,
Merry ME

*Note: I just reread the previous post I wrote about Glen Campbell. I realize I pretty much said here what I said there. See what I mean about how the worry kind of hangs on even when I'm not thinking about it. 



Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Two Cents

Silence; though not absolute, surrounds me. As Buddy moves I hear his tags rattle on his collar. The fan makes a slight wind rushing noise as it cools my office. The sound of the keys as I strike them on the computer. The computer itself adds a slight hum sound as it works. I could/should mention the whirring, clacking pop and whistle of my brain as I work at this blog post. Oh those wonderful noises in my head.
Buddy has grown from a 5 pound puppy to just at 50 lbs. No longer a lap dog but he does still try. He is in training now for basic skills; sit stay, lay down. pay attention and so on. We are at week 4 of 8 and Buddy seems to like being in class. Of course he is the teachers pet/star of the class. We're working on leash training and his potty alerts. He is pretty good with that and hopefully it will be sooner than later that we con count on him 100% of the time to let us know he needs to go out.
Mary has recovered from her broken ankle enough to walk without the aid of a cane. She was so proud last night that she had walked around the block, then came back and walked buddy up to our local cemetery and back.
There are moments/days where I feel over whelmed by negative thoughts around living with Alzheimer's. For the most part I don't think about it and go about my day's worry free. Mary and I watched the Glen Campbell movie about his descent into forgetfulness, paranoia and restlessness. A very emotional experience for me. When I traveled a lot Glen Campbell was an artist who I sang with in the car. Lord-lord how we rocked out with each other. Now either I can't remember the words or hit the notes but I still love the songs.
There are a number of ways to stimulate the brain to retain function. Lumosity is one, a series of puzzles to wade through. And that's just what it feels like to me, wading through syrup. I don't enjoy them so I don't participate. Crosswords are a staple around here. A small table with a thick crossword book in the bathroom, is a joint project. Another book on the kitchen table that really is Mary's domain. She does picture puzzles on line. That gives me a headache. I've learned to love my e-reader and I read until 2:am every night. Thrillers and murder mysteries. Oh boy!
The birds chorus is laud and lively this morning. They are calling me to get outside, sit in my chair and just listen. My coffee has gone cold and I'm stretching to add more to this epistle. So, it's time to stop and go make more coffee.
Time wasted is time lost. Take/make the time to show a loved one just how much they mean to you. Write a note, give a call, share a hug, kiss or pat on the back. A kind word expressed to another works wonders for esteem, your and theirs. What we give comes back to us a thousand fold. jack.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Epiphany

( I listened to a webinar last night about how to write a best selling book. The commentater, Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behing series, warned against start with the back story. That's when I realized I always start with the back story. There you have it, why I'll probably never write a best seller.)

A woman I was good friends with back in the the 80's passed away on Monday. I'd only recently re-connected with her. For twenty years we lived in the same city but never crossed paths. I saw something about her on FB and sent her a message.  In "before I broke my ankle days" we met for lunch and to get reacquainted. We spent close to three hours talking about our lives, our kids, our grandkids, our illnesses. There were so many blanks to fill in.

We also retraced our steps to those days when we were Navy wives whose husbands were deployed for months at a time. That was before the Internet, email, cell phones, and social media.  The only contact we had with our seafaring husbands was snail mail, Red Cross Emergency telegrams, and the infrequent, usually drunken, calls from an exotic port. I don't know what it's like now for Navy wives. Back then we became sisters. Not too many wives worked. We were stay at home moms. We shopped at the Navy Exchange and Commissary. We had long phone conversations. We hung out together on Friday nights playing bridge, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine. We laughed. We cried. We held each other up when our kids were sick, the toilet backed up or the ice maker broke. If, God forbid, there was an emergency the circle grew even tighter.

Donna and I shared cloudy memories of which time had erased the fine details. Like the time Donna got stuck in the doggy door. She had locked herself out of the house. At the time crawling through the opening meant for her Schnawzers, must have seemed like a good idea. For the life of me, I have no idea how she got unstuck.

We also shared more honest versions of those times. Close as we were, we didn't always let others into our private worlds. That was one of my darkest times. My then husband and I had been married for 12 years. He was on his way up. I was on my way down. I'd suffered from depression for years. I'd been in therapy to many times to count. This time when the darkness descended I had trouble believing there was a light, let alone catch a glimpse of it.

When I think on those years when my world fell to pieces I wonder how I made it through. As Sue Bender said, "Miracles happen after a lot of hard work." I did work hard. I also made some big mistakes, said things I regret, lost the respect of my husband, along with my marriage. But here's the thing, not many people knew I was so depressed. How was it that I was able to keep my pain hidden?
There were times I wished for a multiple  personality diagnosis so I had someone else to blame - the Mary people saw and the "Real" Mary.

On the outside I functioned. I drove car pool, had parties, socialized, made love, cooked meals, took my kids to the dentist, sewed quilts, decorated for Christmas, baked pies from scratch, and joined a bowling league. It's when I was alone that I didn't function so well. I cried all the time. I slept too much. I drank too much.(Jose Cuervo you are a friend of mine). I smoked too much. I exercised and ate so little I dropped to 115 pounds. I lied to the world and I lied to myself. I rebelled against the "establishment" like a teenager. I said the "F" word a lot. I cheated my family out of the wife and mother I had promised to be. I thought I wanted to die.

Mostly I wanted to end the pain. The pain of self-loathing. The pain of not being smart, pretty, or good enough. The pain of being so needy.  When I looked in the mirror I could see the outside Mary put her make up on, dress in fancy clothes and high heels. But I knew what others didn't know. That person was a fake.

Fast forward a bunch of years. I'm still inclined to be a bit of a depressive. Sadness can creep up on me, but I no longer try to hide it. I cry easily but no longer apologize for the tears. I also laugh. I believe in the me who cared for her parents and held their hands when they passed over. I'm proud of the writer and bear maker and Grammy and friend I've become. Am I still my biggest critic? Sure. Am I still scared to try new things or go new places? Sure. Am I okay?  You betcha.

As I have spent time remembering old times with Donna, I discovered that those times were NOT all black. I can see now that there was light all the time. The light was there in friendships that lasted over the years; in the happy dance Wendy did when she scored the winning field hockey goal;  at Sunnyland Farms when John rode Nutmeg around in circles;  at my sister's house for holidays surrounded by family; in the John Denver songs I played over and over again; in the relationship with my then husband that may not have survived marriage but continues to this day; in the big white cat and stinky black dog; in the things I learned about myself and the people who helped me grow.

Today I am filled with gratitude for the life and friendship of Donna Stoddard. May she rest in peace. I'm grateful for hindsight that lets me see now what I couldn't see then.

I promise even if you can't see it, there is always light,
Merry ME

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gentle On My Mind

Sweetie was in his office the other night so I had complete control over the remote. I spend more time scrolling through Netflix than I do watching a movie. I decided to watch the documentary about Glen Campbell and his life with Alzheimer's Disease. I'm still trying to figure out if it was informative or more like watching a traffic accident. You don't want to see what happens, but you can't keep your eyes away from the horror.

Maybe horror is too strong a word. In many ways the movies was beautiful, touching and funny. But there's no getting around the fact that Glen Campbell is forgetting more than he's remembering (last year, I believe he was admitted to a memory care facility in Nashville).

At the beginning of the movie, Glen and his wife, Kim, were sitting on a couch looking at family pictures."Who's that?" he'd ask. Then she'd tell him it was one of his children or another family member. I cried. I honestly cannot imagine doing the same with Sweetie.

There were a few surprising things in the movie. For instance he looked old. And tired.  I think during the filming he was 76. That's only 6 years older than Sweetie. Of course, Campbell lived a much more, shall we say "exciting" life than my hubby. Maybe that accounted for some of the aging. Sweetie ended  his love affair with Scotch and cigars many years ago. He's no spring chicken, but he doesn't look old to me.

The other surprising thing to me was Campbell's amazing musical abilities. He had some trouble with some of the song lyrics. He used teleprompters. He kind of wondered off during some of the performances. Nothing, however, got in the way of his fingers when he played his guitar. I knew a man who had played the trombone in a band for years. Even when he couldn't remember where he lived, he remembered how to play. It's a mystery to me that a person's brain can be so full of plaques and tangles that memories can't be retrieved yet other parts still as act if they were brand new.  Sweetie doesn't have music to fall back on, or art. I wonder how we'll fill his days in the future.

Midway into the movie, Sweetie came in to watch. The room stayed pretty quiet as we each processed our own feelings about what we were seeing. Sweetie obviously looked at things from a different perspective than I did. I watched on two levels. I paid attention to the affects of the illness on Campbell, and studied how his wife/caregiver/children interacted with him. The movie showed that Campbell could be belligerent at times, wondered hotel corridors, was somewhat paranoid, fitful. All symptoms I've read about. I think probably there was a lot of editing of the family's reaction to these behaviors.  I didn't see the degree of exhaustion and sadness on their faces that I expected. Perhaps that would come as the disease continued to progress.

Both Sweetie and I felt sad when it was all over. And big time scared. While there are reasons for it - denial, forgetfulness and my ankle, to name a few - neither of us have succumbed to the fear that we felt a few months ago. It crosses my mind every day. But I'm not holding on to the what ifs like I did. The more information, the better. Zeroing in on the things  he does remember (like how to talk "mortgage") works a lot better than worrying about what he doesn't.  I think having Buddy around has helped both of us think about something other than ALZ. The upside of housebreaking a puppy!

If you ever had a thing for Glen Campbell and/or his music, or if you just like documentaries, I think this is a good movie. The numbers of people who are expected to be diagnosed with ALZ, the cost of treatments and effects of the disease on caregivers are staggering. Chances are pretty good you're going to know someone who is affected. This show might help give you an idea of what it's like.



And it's knowin' I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind
Merry ME


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Update

With the numbers of people expected to get ALZ or other forms of dementia rising rapidly, there's a lot of research going on to find newer, better medications. Today Sweetie and I went to the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research to register for a drug trial. 8 pages of medical information and half an hour of questioning later, he was turned down. One of the criteria that is hard/impossible to get around, is cancer. The patient needs to be 5 years cancer-free. Unfortunately, Sweetie has had two spots of melanoma. The latest just 2 years ago, so his participation was declined. With lots of trials coming down the pike, it could be that he'll be considered at another time. Before we left we talked to a friend from church who works there. With a strong faith, Amy talked about God's perfect timing that guides her life. Interesting how that works.

Not much has changed since Sweetie's diagnosis in May.  His memory has not diminished to any noticeable degree. His mood is pretty stable. I say this even though he's been the "primary caregiver" of late, and we all know how stressful that can be. His crabbiness is in direct proportion to the crabbiness of the person he's caring for.  As my ankle continues to heal, and I begin to get around easier, I think my crabbiness is waning. Is crabbiness in the eye of the beholder?

There have been a few times we've asked ourselves what we were thinking when we said okay to a puppy. It's hard, though, not to be in the presence of Buddy and not smile. He's all puppy - running at top speed, terrorizing the cats, jumping on his sister's head, chasing balls and chewing on anything that is left in his line of vision. He's getting better about doing his "business" outside. As of yesterday he's moved into an "XL" crate. It's a pretty good bet he'll weigh in at 80-90 lbs when full grown. He starts school next Saturday.

Some of my favorite Buddy moments are in the early hours of the morning. Not my best time. I wake up just enough to hear Sweetie talking to Buddy. Between 5:30 and10 is boy time. They go outside together, eat breakfast, take naps, play and take more naps. I've noticed when Buddy is bored and wants to play he'll sit next to Sweetie's recliner and whine. "Play with me!" I can see that the bond is going to be comforting and reassuring in the years to come.


Monkey see. Monkey do.



Merry ME

Monday, September 21, 2015

Free At Last ... Well Sort of

It was just about this time 8 weeks ago, I fell and broke my ankle.
That was 8 very long weeks of trying to maneuver around the house in a wheelchair that made it through doorways with no room to spare. Like an Indian's trail markers in a tree bound forest, my path(s) are noticeable by the ruts in the carpet, scratched wooden doors and chipped paint. The paint that we used to cover up the marks my father made with his electric wheelchair.

On Saturday I felt like a sore was forming under the bandages so Dr. Sweetie unwrapped me. While it felt marvelous, let me tell you it wasn't pretty. From the knee down, my leg looked like what I imagine a mummy would look like if it's wrappings were removed. My first order of business was a long hot shower. I let the water run over me to loosen some of the dried, scaly skin. Then got a scrubber and carefully worked off all that I could. Once out of the shower I slathered my leg and foot with lotion, hoping that would help a little. Sweetie wrapped me back up as if he knew what he was doing. The good news is there were no sores forming. What I was feeling had the steri strips that covered my incision were coming loose and irritating it.

So today was the day I went back to the doctor to have the wrap removed for good. I thought I was going to get an "air" boot but I got the okay to go straight to a brace and walker. I asked the doc about wearing high heels. For a tenth of a second, I think he believed me. On the way home we stopped at the medical supply store for a brace. I'm ready to get this walking show on the road.

When we got home, I held onto the walker and put my foot down to take a step. Then picked it right back up. It felt as if an electric shock ran from the bottom of my foot through to the top. Whoa, Nellie. This is not going to be easy.  Not only is my ankle still swollen, my foot and leg are pretty weak from lack of use, and most of my foot is still numb. Numb as if in a deep sleep. Can your foot be in a coma? I can feel that it is without feeling. Does that make sense? My toes have awakened some, I can tell by the burning when I touch them. The rest of my foot is still snoring away.  The doc thinks it could be related to my back problems. The back doctor isn't so sure. The foot doctor's assessment is this: It has nothing to do with the broken ankle. If the numbness is from the nerve block that I had as part of anesthesia before surgery, the feeling should come back. If it's from the spine, I could possible need another surgery on my back. To top that off there's not a great chance that the feeling will come back 100%. More like 50%. Not wanting to spoil my good mood,  I stopped listening early on in the conversation, The next step is to have a nerve conduction test. I'm thinking electric cattle prods. I really hope I'm wrong about that.

Once I finally walked myself into the house, I tried on the brace. The 70 dollar brace that looks like it's made out of the same stuff used to make cheap, inflatable swim toys. There are two sides and a place for my heel to rest. Velcro straps hold it all together.  It appears to stabilize my ankle all right. However I look like Cinderella's step-sister trying to fit her size 9 foot into Cindy's size 5 shoe. Add some swelling and you'll have an idea of what it looks like.

Now let's talk about the walker. I think thing may be the fly in the proverbial ointment. I traded my non-wheeled walker for one with wheels - just a basic walker. No snazzy paint job, no seat, no basket, no brakes. Rolling is much easier than picking up the thing with every step. My wrists and arms didn't get as much of a workout which is a really good thing cause I really don't want to add arthritic wrists into the mix. My one good leg doesn't care much for doing all the work. My sleeping foot prefers I don't use it. It sends shocking reminders with every step.

Guess I won't be dancing any time soon. Funny how you don't miss something until you can't have it.
I remind myself this is only the first day. Things will get better. If I can just keep my balance so I don't fall and have the walker come crashing down on top of me, I'll be doing ok. I thought I'd take Buddy for a short walk tonight. Looks like that's going to have to wait awhile, also.

Can't walk, can't dance, but I can shave my legs which I'm going to do as soon as Sweetie comes home to stand by. Woohoo!
Merry ME

Monday, August 24, 2015

Good News

Today marks the 4 week mark since my fall.
4 down. 4 more to go before my toes get to touch Mother Earth again.
I can't exactly explain what the difference is, but I think my toes feel different. Maybe not so swollen. So numb.
I take this as a sign of good things to come.
My knee is still "asleep".

On the ALZ front, we got some interesting information. Sweetie saw a new doctor (old doctor left). After the routine round of questions and memory tests, Dr. Huang said, in a way not quite as condescending as it sounds way, "you know, there's no definitive way to tell if a person has ALZ. No scans or tests tell the full story. If you want you can say you have dementia, not ALZ."

Neither Sweetie nor I knew whether to feel comforted or bamboozled. You mean maybe Sweetie doesn't have ALZ and we've been depressed and angry for no reason? The thing is everything we've been told from day one is true.

Sweetie has several conditions (diabetes, sleep apnea, age) that could impair his cognitive functioning. He also has diminished volume in his brain that goes along with ALZ.  ALZ is not like cancer. There is no test you can take, or biopsy made, that can tell for certain a person has ALZ. Only an autopsy can do that. The diagnosis is a clinical one, meaning your doctor(s) gives you his/her best guess with the information at hand at the moment - especially in the mild  (beginning) stage. All signs point to Sweetie's diagnosis being accurate.

The good news is he's had no changes or advanced memory loss since he started seeing the neurologist. Everything we've read says that on average people live 8 or more years after being diagnosed. I'll be honest it's hard to hear that the person you love has a disease that will take him away from you in a slow and steady progression. The other side of that is none of us know how much time we have to live. So, the thing to do is not focus on the dying side of ALZ, but the living.

Believe me, if the last 3 months are any indication, that is easier said than done. We've both been angry and depressed. Our communication skills suck. We've turned inward rather than towards each other. We've forgotten how to laugh. Our good night kiss is perfunctory at best. Because of my accident, our roles have changed. Neither of us likes that very much. We are quick to point that out in words and by silence. The heated, deep sigh, kind of silence that screams listen to me dammit. Only we have to guess what the words are.

I felt life flow back into my toes today.
I think that's a good sign.
Perhaps life is going to flow back into our relationship too.

Opting for an attitude change,
Merry ME


Saturday, August 15, 2015

6:30 AM

Clang goes the cat dish. Mary throws off covers and fills the dish. She is just back in bed and a cat starts to vomit a sound we are familiar with, great. Now we are both up in bed looking for the cat. No Cat. "Is it Buddy" Mary asks? I'm out of bed and the end cover is lifted off the crate and sure enough, vomit on the pillow and cage end. I open the door and urge Buddy to come out. He sits there and yawns big at me. "Come out of there," I said in what I am sure was a very pleasant voice at 6:30 AM. Another yawn. Jack in door way, dog in crate. A stand off. Not really, Buddy has now reclined.

Mary exits bed, in the wheel chair comes around to Buddy's crate. All sweetness and light she says "Buddy, kiss kiss kiss."  Buddy rolls his eyes and looks at both of us as if we are crazy. At 6:50 AM
Mary and I look at each other, helpless in this stand off. OK, I reach in and tug on Buddy's collar. He does not resist and we are not headed down the hall to go outside. No hesitation on his part. Buddy is
very cooperative, he poop's and pees and we are back in the kitchen in short order.

At 7:05 AM  We are back in the kitchen, all three of us. Buddy is teased with fresh water and kibble, we sit and watch him - sit there. I put 3 or 4 kibble's on the floor. Buddy eats them and sits there. Mary looks at me, shrugs, turns her chair and heads out the door. Going back to bed. Buddy is in the same spot. Then he is up drinking a little, On to his bowl and soon the kibble is gone. At 7:20 AM we are in the office. Buddy plays with plastic water bottle, Jack drinks coffee.

We are out again, we are in again, Buddy plays some more, then stops. He snuggles up under the computer stand and is now fast asleep; it's 7:55 AM. Good Day! The rest of the story later.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quiet

I'm sitting in my recliner. Sweetie within arms reach sits in his.
Buddy sleeps on my lap.
The ceiling fan hums, stirring up stale air.
I'm struck by the quiet,

Tears fill my eyes.
I relax into the stillness while it lasts.

Shhh,
Merry ME

Monday, August 10, 2015

Almost a month has passed.....

since last I sat down to blog, So let's see; Buddy has grown a lot, had some more shots and in general is getting better with toilet training. Mary has fallen, broke her ankle, is in a cast, and gets around the house with the aid of either a wheeled chair or walker contraption. The chair is the easier of the two. Healing seems to be a minor role to attitude. Not a surprise to know how much she dislikes being
incapacitated. Can't keep her out of the kitchen or from doing things around the house which I can easily handle.

The kindness of friends and neighbors is amazing. Food deliveries, visiting, get well cards, flowers, packages of goodies and books, Mary is well Loved. Looking into the refrigerator is heartening. I've never seen it so full. Nor have I ever had so many choices, friends and neighbors are great cook's. With everything available to us, we both have been eating less. Mary dining in her recliner, me at the kitchen table.

Rationally I knew Mary was in no danger of demise with her accident. Emotionally is another story. Sitting, waiting to learn something, anything from the Dr's is nerve wracking. The ER Doc was really good and informative. He showed John and I the x-rays of Mary's ankle and it was not good at all.  Multiple breaks in bone and the separation of two major bones just at the top of the ankle joint. The good news is that with rest, not allowing any weight on her ankle for 8 weeks followed by several weeks of therapy to learn to walk steady again, regaining her former footing should take care of the situation.

We saw the surgeon in his office last week. The complete bandage and support cast was removed. Staples in a long line up her ankle were ugly and could not be taken out yet due to swelling. so, back we go in ten days to get them removed. Mary experienced feeling sick and light headed just getting an x-ray. Good news; the fractured bones are in perfect alignment. If the plate and screws don't bother her there will be no need to remove them. Most people leave them in place.

Personal news: After peeing, pooping and checking out the yard Buddy is ready for breakfast. He eats like I do - in a hurry. In a blink of an eye he is done eating and drinking and ready to play. Puppy Mom is still asleep so Buddy and me hang out in the office together. He plays while I check e-mails and such on the internet. Next thing I know he is curled up at my feet, asleep himself. This guy has big feet. Indicator he will be a big dog.

Using a 0 to 100% scale I am depleted emotionally by 40%. I am frustrated and hurt that I cannot do anything to ease Mary's physical or emotional pain. I feel the strain of keeping a positive attitude to support both of us. We are withdrawn from each other, short tempered and communication seems to be gone. We both know all this but don't seem able to get over it. Maybe it's too soon in this mending process and we need to be patient. Patience is not a virtue Mary and I are familiar with.

I am staying in the moment when I am physically active - doing something to help Mary. But when I am sitting my thoughts are fear filled and get me down. I know the hour, day, or week will come when I suddenly realize these negative patterns have left me and  my normal is normal for me. 

Enough! Live in light and love. Be filled with loving kindness for yourself and others. jdc

Monday, August 3, 2015

Learning to Slow Down

“Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others 
and to surprise and delight ourselves instead.”
Katrina Kennison





When I was a kid playgrounds had merry-go-rounds where you held onto a bar, ran around in a circle to get up speed, then jumped up on the spinner where you sat in a dizzying state as the wheel slowed down. You couldn't do much more than hold on. The point of the ride, was to do it over and over again, letting each spin fill you with a weird sense of freedom. Especially if an adult or big kid was doing the spinning.
There were also times, as in life, you'd fall, legs splayed out behind you caught in the rut beneath the wheel, unless or until you let go of the bar. Then you limped home for a combo treatment of stinging, red mecuricome and a chocolate chip cookie.

All of us have spent time on that metaphorical merry go round. Either by our own choosing or at the hands of a mad twirler with no sense that things were beginning to fly out of control. On occasion we remember to slow the pace down, and relax into the ride, while the sounds and sights of the world remind us that slow and steady will get us where we want to go. 

And, yes, there are those times we are not prepared for when we fall - literally, figuratively, or spiritually - into an unexpected hole that stops us cold. We need help to stand up. We need a quiet, restful place to heal. We need chocolate chip cookies.

If you've been following my blog, you know that the merry-go-round in my brain has been going way too fast. Work? ALZ? Caregiving? Garage Sale? Move? I've been worried, anxious, angry, and tired most of the time. Weary even of things I love. I've been lost in a world of my own creating where too much noise buried the cries of my soul. I yearned for rest. Some ME time. A quiet, restful sanctuary where the only person I needed to think about was me.

In her recent blog post Katrina Kennison wrote what I longed for:

"… what a relief it would be to spend a whole day without talking. Without cleaning or washing or weeding or folding anything. Without make-up, without good cheer, without a to-do list, without getting in the car, without reaching for your wallet or your phone or the dog leash or the sponge."

I'm not alone with these kinds of thoughts. Ask anyone who juggles the myriad of balls it takes to get through a single day. Ask any of the millions of caregivers who use most of their energy caring for others but neglect to do the same for themselves.

While Terry Hershey's weekly Sabbath Moment newsletter encourages my fantasies to "Do Less. Live More" where/how does one find the time and space for such a holiday?

Obviously I don't know the answer to that question. I can tell you, however, fracturing your ankle is the not the way to do it. Sure, I now have many long hours to fill doing nothing. I've got someone who jumps to attention when I call his name. Friends have brought in delicious food I can eat without worrying about doing the dishes. Purple carnations, yellow-studded daisies and sweet-smelling roses brighten my little corner of the room. I'm connected via computer and cell phone to the outside world if I want to be. What, in other circumstances would be a sanctuary where I could relax into the rhythms of my soul, now feels more like toddler's "time out" - a punishment. I want to rest when I want to rest, not because the doctor told me I couldn't put my foot on the ground for 8 weeks.

My merry go round stopped too abruptly. I had no slow down time to adjust. There I was spinning in circles one minute, my butt growing roots to this chair the next.

Some might say "be careful what you ask for." Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the R and R. I just wish it didn't come with an 8 pound cast on my leg. At the end of this forced sabbatical, I hope to be restored to health and sanity. Right now I'm doing little more than holding on, or as Kennison writes:
"... resting, listening, waiting in the silence of your heart to feel the next step."

I'm hopeful that as the days progress, I will "dive down, naked, into the sacred quiet." Echoing the same sentiment Christine Valters Paintner writes, "This is my time to sink into myself and be present to the spirit moving through stillness.

This quiet time may not look the way I pictured it - room by the ocean, sound of waves tip toeing onto the shore - no clocks, no routine - but can be sacred nonetheless. For it to be so,  I must release my need to be in charge. I must give others the opportunity to care for me. I must learn the fine art of patience. I must look for God's divine presence in the most ordinary places. I'll be honest, it's going to take some work on my part.

"Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. 
It’s the way it is. 
The way you deal with it is what makes the difference."
Virginia Satir

Merry ME

Thursday, July 30, 2015

George Couch, Hurt Ankles and ME

How old is one in the 2nd grade? 7? 8?
My second grade teacher was Mrs. Burducks (I have no idea if that's how you spell it).
At the end of the year we were all promoted, even Mrs. Burducks.
My father was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, outside of Chicago, IL.
The elementary school was in Waukegan, IL.

I fell in love for the first time in my life while in the 2nd grade.
George Couch.
Granted, it's been many years and many loves since, but George stands out for a few reasons.
He was lanky like me with blonde hair.
He was funny.
His goal for the school year was to buy me rings for every finger and toe.
Bubble gum rings.
I still swoon at the idea.

When you live on a Navy base, your life is pretty regulated. You play with Navy friends. You don't venture too far from home. If you were of dating age, you usually picked the son of a Navy family on the base. An officer's child. Enlisted men were not to considered.

George Couch was from Waukegan. Though I didn't know what it meant back then, I think he was from the "other" side of the tracks.

For reasons that have been as lost to me as the the yellow haired romeo my girlfriend and I decided to sneak George on the base. Granted it was long before homeland security but bases were still guarded by uniformed sailors who checked I.D. cards coming and going. Only 8 year olds would attempt sneak an un-ID'd civilian child on base and seriously think they'd pull it off. The details are sketchy. I don't have a clue how we did it. But for one Sat. afternoon George Couch, Lisa Schofield and I explored places on the base I'd never dared to go before. Towards the end of the day, at the top of what I remember to be a rather large grassy hill, George and Lisa decided to ditch me by running down the hill. I did what any girl would do when it looked like her best girlfriend was running off with her boyfriend. I took off after them. Halfway down the hill, I took a rather ungraceful tumble. I landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Beneath me my ankle began to swell at the same rate of speed I began to concoct believable stories. I limped off behind my friends to whatever adventures awaited us. I don't recall how the afternoon ended. I suppose George Couch walked through the gate with no more questions asked. I have no other memories of him, though I've often wondered what became of him. Did he go to Vietnam the way so many boys of my generation did? Did he do well in business and become a CEO? Did he fall in love for real and buy that person rings for every finger? 

Getting back to the real point of that story - my ankle. By the time I got home for dinner, it had swelled to grapefruit size proportions. It was not to be ignored. Off to the medical dispensary we went. It was an odd time in our family life. Mom didn't drive. Thus she didn't shop or take kids for dental checkups or emergency room visits. Dad did it. It's strange to me even now. Perhaps Captain stripes got head of the line privileges. 

In order for my ankle to be x-rayed and set I was instructed to take off my pants.  I don't remember all the details of this day, but I recall vividly how embarrassed I felt at the very idea of stripping down to my white cotton underpants. Not just in front of not just my father, but a hospital corpsmen as well.   No one in the room took note of my mortification.  No towel to cover my modesty offered. No mother's soothing, it's-gonna-be-okay reassuring words. Fixing the sprained ankle was the order of business. The corpsman wrapped it in plaster. When it dried, I'm sure it weighed more than I did. 

That should have been the end of the story. Girl sneaks boy onto Naval Base. Girl chases boy down a hill and sprains her ankle. Girl sits on a plastic covered table in her underpants. Corpsmen sets ankle. Girl goes home sticking to her story that never once mentioned the boy. Girl contracts the measles. 

Yup. Measles. I lay on the bottom bunk in a dark room in what can only be called agony. After awhile the skin under a cast begins to itch. It begins to smell. There is little to do to ease the discomfort. I did the only thing I could think off. I began banging my foot on the floor which just happened to be the ceiling for the living room below. Like the constant beating of Poe's Tell Tale Heart, my banging came close to driving the rest of my family crazy. Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

Thunk! No I could not stick a hangar down inside the cast to scratch. 
Thunk! No the doctor would not remove the cast.
Thunk! I swear I'll never break a rule or tell a lie again.

____

Fast Forward 57 years.
I'm sitting in my den surrounded by old people paraphernalia - walker, bedside commode, medicine bottles. My leg is propped up on the end of my father's recliner. My purple polished nails poke out from the tip of a soft cast holding broken bones, titanium plates and screws in place. My heart beats in time with the thrumming of torn and jangled nerves. Tears trickle down my face.

I'm grateful for the good care I have received. Sweetie is at my beck and call. Johnson keeps a close eye on the puppy. Maizey returns frequently to check on me. Boy Cat takes full advantage of the fully available spot on my lap where he likes to doze. I'm in good hands. I have no reason to ask for more.

Yet, I can't help but return time and again to that cold, sterile Navy hospital room. A small, skinny girl, stripped to her Spanky pants. "I want my mommy," she cries.

Author's Note:
This post was written under the influence of narcotics.
Merry ME

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mr. Holmes

Sweetie and I went to the movie today.
Mr. Holmes starring Ian McKellen.
It didn't take very long to figure out that the aging Sherlock had some severe cognitive deficiencies.
In fact most of the movie was about him trying to remember a case he'd worked on.

I leaned over to Sweetie and whispered, "I didn't know this movie was about memory loss."

His response. "Who better to learn from than Ian McKellen."

Good move. Good time.
Too much popcorn.

I give it two thumbs up,
Merry ME

Friday, July 24, 2015

Crazy Days

Buddy at the vet for the 2nd time in a week
It's been kind of crazy around here lately. I guess I should have realized it would get that way before getting the puppy. How can one little pooch be as rambunctious as 101 Dalmatians? I think I've set a world record with the number of times I've said "potty, pee and poo" in one day. To make matters worse, we found out yesterday Buddy's got an intestinal thing going on.  Once we get that cleared up maybe the number of trips outside will be less frequent.

I thought he was catching on. Running to me like the Purina Puppy Chow puppy, when he heard my kissing sounds. Loving the treats he gets for responding. Alas, now he's decided to do things in his own time and own way. This morning he actually turned his back on me to chew on bark as if to say, "yeah, yeah, I know it's potty time. I heard you the first time. I'll get to it when I'm ready." Perhaps we've bitten off more than we can chew. How long does it take to turn a puppy into a couch potato?

Sweetie has also had a rough few days.  We went out to lunch and a book signing with my sister and husband. Sweetie got a little mixed up while trying to recount a recipe he'd read on FB. I could tell he was searching for the right word(s) and getting frustrated. What I couldn't tell, and probably should have, was that he was also feeling embarrassed. He clammed up, chugged his coffee and made it know he was ready to leave. I missed the signs. Although I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do when/if I see a sign.

Later he got angry about something. Completely out of character he got in my face and demanded I do what he wanted me to do. I am not sure what possessed me to stand my ground and not go slinking into a corner like the puppy after Maizey growls at him. Sweetie shouted at me. I shouted back. The stalemate was broken when he picked up Buddy and huffed out of the room. All this happened during our Sunday night PBS shows. I stayed in the den. Sweetie watched in the bedroom.

It took us both about 24 hours to realize the anger was more from that "out of control" feeling than the actual situation. That realization doesn't make the shouting okay. It just makes it easier not to take it so personally.

Then he tried to fix something on the car. I won't say it was an easy fix, but one that he's done before. After messing with it and getting nowhere, he said "uncle" and headed for Pep Boys where the price went from changing a light bulb, to needing tires and a bunch of things in between. So he went to Maaco where he once worked.  They couldn't fit him in, but had time to reminisce about "the good old days." Nothing like remembering the past to remind you you're having trouble remembering the present.  He made a couple more stops before finding someone who could replace the broken part and light bulb. He came home dripping in sweat, feeling frustrated and waving the bill like a white flag of surrender.

"I'm scared," he told me later, with tears silently dripping onto his cheeks. "I think I may be crossing over into the next stage."

While all this was happening to Sweetie, I noticed I've how jittery I've been feeling. Loud noises set me on edge. I'm having trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time. Instead of making me grateful for the water, the heat index of 100+ degrees, afternoon storms, and lack of daily walk make me crabby. Under the circumstances, all these feelings for both of us are undoubtedly to be expected.

  • More than 40% of family caregivers report that the emotional stress of their role is high or very high. (Alzheimer’s Disease International)
  • In 2014, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own. (Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Seventy-four percent of caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias reported that they were “somewhat concerned” to “very concerned” about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver. (Alzheimer’s Association)
Since I've spent the last 20 years as a caregiver at both ends of the age spectrum, I know there's one sure way of not going crazy. Give up trying to be in control. Let things unfold as they will. Go with the flow.  I'm trying, like anything else, it takes practice. As Martha Beck suggests, "Practice staying calm all the time, beginning with situations that aren't tense."

Looking forward to some less tense times,
Merry ME

Monday, July 20, 2015

Be Your Best Self

Yesterday I joined my sister, her husband, Sweetie, a passel of aspiring ballerinas and their mothers at a book signing by Misty Copeland. Copeland is the first African-American to be chosen as the principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater's 75 year history.  Let me just say she is as poised and beautiful in person as you would imagine.

Photo by Michael Bondanza
www. iamjaxphoto.com
Most of the questions were from the students of a ballet academy started by a young woman who Copeland mentored for several years. Sadly, this woman suffered a career ending injury. All her energy these days is focused on encouraging young girls of color to dream the dreams Copeland must have had once.

What should I do to be like you? asked one girl clothed in a black leotard and pink tights.
"First of all, don't try to be like me," advised Copeland. "Be your best self. Find a path that works for you." I love that advice. What a perfect thing to say to a girl, a teenager, a young woman, an old woman.

Serendipity that I was just talking to Sweetie about growing and becoming more of me?

"Ballet. something pure in this crazy world"
Misty Copeland




Coincidence that I was just relating to Bella's mom a story I read about how to talk to young girls without making it all about their looks?  I admit every time I see that cutie patootie I want to tell her how beautiful she is and seeing her in a tutu makes me melt. While I'm not sure I'll be able to stop doing that, I will remind her to always be her best self - smart, brave and in her own words, silly. Even though her parents will most likely point her towards an academic, not artistic,future, there's always the possibility that one day, because Misty Copeland opened a door, Bella could be the first Indian principle dancer at the ABT.

When else fails, remember to be your best self,
Merry ME





Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Never Say Never


"Happiness is a warm puppy."

Charles Shultz


My father had several credos he lived by:
Be prepared.
You can never have to many flashlights.
The best way to get over losing a dog is to get a new one as soon as possible.

The month before he passed away his beloved Black Beauty's hind legs gave out. She was in so much pain, I did made the decision to euthanize her. The next day my father started talking up the pros of a new dog. He failed to see how much more work that would be for me. I didn't know Dad was so close to death, but I did know he was getting harder and harder to take care of. There was just no way I could handle the responsibility of a new dog so I put my foot down. Not something I did very often with my father. It was the right thing to do. But I still regret it. Especially so because he would have loved Suzi Q. 

About 6 months after Dad passed away Sweetie and I went to the Humane Society to look at a dog that had been advertised as a German Shepherd. It was more horse than dog. On our way through the maze of kennels and cacophony of barking/crying dogs, I noticed a beauty with the biggest, brownest eyes. I've always been a sucker for brown eyes. It wasn't the dog I had come for, so I kept walking. However, after deciding against the shepherd, I took a second look on the way out. Big mistake. Once our eyes met, I knew this dog would be going home with us. 

We were told Suzi was a Beagle/Shepherd mix. There is doubt that she carried a variety of canine DNA in her veins but she was more American Fox Hound than anything. Of course we didn't know that until we crossed paths with a fox one night on our walk and she let out a sound that I've only heard in British movies when a fox hunt was in full swing. Although Suzi may have known exactly where the neighborhood fox hung out, she wasn't what one might call the smartest dog in the litter. Despite the money we spent on training, she never learned to do much more than appear in the kitchen at dinner time. But oh, how she loved. I fussed at her a lot because she was always asking for one more head rub. 

And then, in an eerie similarity, her back legs gave out. She was in excruciating pain. As Sweetie, Johnson and I sat nearby sobbing, the vet gently put an end to the pain. I took the exact opposite approach from my father. I swore I'd never have another dog again. Saying goodbye is just too damn hard. Besides we still shared the house with 2 cats and a 4 year old, 70 lb. American Bulldog with the heart of a puppy.  There really wasn't any to get another dog. 

Except. We missed Suzi. And the more we missed her, the more we considered getting another dog to fill the hole she left behind.  We decided to "just look" at rescue sites, the City Animal Control, the Humane Society, Craig's List.  I was pretty sure when the right dog came along, we'd know it.   We brought a couple home. One didn't like Maizey. One didn't like the mailman.

Then Sweetie began to wonder if there is such a thing as a service dog for ALZ patients.  Could a dog be trained to remember where he left his keys? If he stood in the kitchen wondering why he was there, could a dog give him some kind of clue? If he began to wander like some ALZ patients do, could a dog bring him home - a la Lassie? All good questions deserving lots of research. Not to mention dollars and time.

There are a lot of things that can be said about my son, at the top of the list is his affinity for all creatures large and small. It's a gift. To see him with Maizey is to see love in action. Johnson knew we wanted a dog. Knew all the pros. Knew all the cons. Knew better than us that a Lab puppy was what we were looking for.  Knew that once we saw it we'd melt and not think twice about the work involved in taking care of a puppy. He was right. And something tells me, even the spirit of Dad that hangs around the house is a little bit happier.


He-e-e-r-r-e's Buddy.
7 week old Yellow Lab from Hoboken, GA

Love at first sight
Spoiled?
Grumpy Grandma watching the young whippersnapper play with a ball that looks suspiciously like hers.
I'll just jump down to the bench, then I'll be that much closer to the floor when I fall.

A rawhide. I knew I'd find something good in here!
Big dog. Little pillow.
Little dog. Big Pillow.


One of these things is not like the others. Can you spot it?

The great explorer
You said fetch. You didn't say anything about bringing the ball back to you.

 I've noticed we've done a lot more laughing lately,
Merry ME

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What, me worry.....

truth be told I do worry but not excessively. See post below.

Any way. Here's a salute, hat's off and a hearty Thank You To John Ellington.

John is Mary's son who has lived with us for some time. Recently I realized she and John were discussing dogs while both were looking on line at various offerings and pet rescue places. Then I heard a discussion with a breeder in Georgia over some puppies. Next thing I know John is in his truck going to Georgia to see this puppy. The next thing I know is Mary showing me a picture of a puppy in the front seat of John's truck which is returning home. There's a message "jack will melt when he sees this pup." Mary say's "he's a gift from John and will be your service dog."

I was stunned. For about three seconds. WOW Holy S___T is this for real? And My Buddy Boy has been with us for just more than a week. He is ever so much smarter than John said he would be. He sits when told to to get a treat. Other than that though he is a puppy who needs some training.

Mary and I spoke to the trainer at Pet Smart who told us she can give Buddy his basic training up through advanced training and was able to teach him how to pick things up and a few other basic service dogs things. Buddy won't ever get complete service dog training so I will just refer to him as my Semi-Service dog.

If you know John, send him a tweet, or message or e-mail to applaud his generosity. I'm still in awe of what he has done. THANKS AGAIN JOHN.






Monday, July 13, 2015

Brain Pharts, memory lapses, stumblebum


Words - bless 'em, damn 'em. I know I keep forgetting words when speaking, then closing my eyes I go searching for them in the recesses of memory. what's new is getting my words tangled. tonight I told Mary I was going to go and shower. what came out was intelligible I repeated it, which came out right, but it was too late she asked what did you say before that? I repeated I am going to take a shower and left the kitchen. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Memories - I've got plenty, but where exactly are the new ones going. There must be an Abyss hidden in the center of my brain where new thought becoming memories are meeting a cruel, untimely death.
Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Stumbling - My sure foot-ed-ness has abandoned me. A few weeks ago I was stepping out of the shower (wait is there a connection rearing it's ugly head here) and scrapping my foot across the sill landed face down in the bath room. No harm done, but shades of Luther. Did that rascal push me? I'm convinced this house is haunted, One ghost upstairs and two down. Today, while taking Buddy to the yard to pee, crossing the threshold I was suddenly falling. Buddy was in my right hand, draped around my fore arm. My left hand and arm were free to stop the fall. My  hand hit concrete, so did my knee and I saw Buddy, out of the corner of my eye, do a perfect 4 point landing in the grass. He looked a little bewildered but was not hurt. I scraped my knee, was embarrassed even though Buddy was my only witness, and I didn't feel bad until after Mary called to check on me and I didn't tell her what happened. I waited until she got home.

To the hospital she said. To which I replied, "no way." She got a I'll fix you look on her face declaring "I'll call Aaron (my son) and see what he wants you to do." Oh boy, Mr Big Gun. She left the room. I could hear her on the phone (speaker phone that is) as she came down the hall. "Here, you talk to him" as she exited the room. Then Dr. Aaron gave me the third degree about blacking out, feeling odd before it happened and about 30 other questions he learned to ask listening to his mother interrogate patients. I must have passed because when I abruptly changed the subject he didn't object. Then verdict was in. "It's up to you, whatever you want to do."

We've had dinner, set up the crate for Buddy and I said I'm sorry I didn't tell you on the phone, please don't be mad at me. Tersely she said "I'm not angry because you didn't tell me, I'm upset because you fell in the first place."

Knowing she will read this, I better quit while I'm ahead. jdc

_____

I worry.
Merry ME


Friday, July 3, 2015

In a Fog

I woke up this morning well before Mary. As usual, my first stop was bathroom then on to kitchen for coffee. That made I was on the computer following my routine through the various e-mails that come in over night. Realizing it was 9:45 I went to wake up Mary and we both prepared to leave for the hospital. I went to the garage, opened the garage door and as I was walking around to open the door I realized I felt small. Shorter. As if I were in a fog.

At the hospital, we went up to the women's center on the second floor and signed in. A nurse came to take us back so Mary could do the pre-op prep. Suddenly the nurse stopped and said I would have to stay in the waiting room, she would get me when it was OK to join Mary. I panicked, I felt smaller still but I did what I was told.

Finally we were in the pre-op room together. Mary  handed me her rings (I shrank some more.) The Dr. came in, he answered questions, explained about the procedure and going to sleep. Then the surgeon lady came in and went through it all again. She left. A nurse came in asking Mary a series of questions. Once done I looked at her and said I guessed she was there to take Mary away. She was.
Mary and I kissed, I shrank some more. Mary had told me that if something went wrong I was to let them do a hysterectomy. WRONG? WTF WRONG. Let's just go home I thought to myself but said nothing as I walked away.

As directed I went to the cafeteria. I'm in a fog again. Everything is pushed back and away from me. I walked around the food court looking at all the different stations and got back to where I started. A fish sandwich with fries. A diet coke and I'm at a table eating a tasteless sandwich on a big bun, no condiments. The fries are cold, the drink is warm. It should be, I didn't get ice.

I'm back in the waiting room, book open, reading, studying. I'm taking notes, high lighting passages and it all seems like a dream. Time is wrapped in molasses but my heart is racing. Finally the doctor is there telling me Mary is OK, how the operation went and about sending a specimen to the lab. She left. I packed up and waited to be told to go get the car. A nurse came in asking me questions.         explains about taking care of Mary tonight, has me signing stuff. All of this filtered through the fog, at a distance from me.

At last I'm out front. The valet has brought the car. Standing there waiting I feel faint. I sit in the car in the open door. Waiting, where is she, what's wrong? Then she is there and we are in the car headed home. She wants to stop for a coke. The fog starts to lift, I know she must be OK if she wants a coke. Another stop at the pharmacy where the girl we know offers her a chocolate cookie. Mary says great, I say no. not until you have lunch. Mary backs away, I relent and take the cookie for her and the fog lifts some more as we banter back and to about the cookie.

We're home. Mary is in bed resting. Then she's up. We're talking and I feel like I'm landing on planet earth after a scary trip. Eventually we talk about my experience. She says you have to blog this so we can look at it and remember later. Really? Remember what, I wonder. LOL

Hours later, messages are out and in. Mary is eating soup and crackers in bed. Crunchy crackers and slurppy soup. Hey, I'm blogging here. jdc YADA YADA YADA and life goes on.

The Caregiver's Perspective
(A card from Johnson and Maizey greeted me when I came home from the hospital. Two dinosaurs sitting on a rock watch Noah's ark filled with animals float away. "Oh crap!" says one to the other, "was that TODAY?! The message on the inside of the card "a bad day is all about perspective."

A few weeks ago I was quite concerned about this upcoming surgery. I'll be honest, I was pretty sure I had cancer. (see http://mellington.blogspot.com/2015/06/awareness-can-come-at-any-time.html) The facts that I had no symptoms, there is no herstory of cancer in my family, and the doc only requested an ultrasound because I wanted a re-check didn't make any difference. Even though DR. J. is a psychiatrist when told me I didn't have cancer, I believed him. All my concerns floated away.

I have felt no anxiety at all leading up to this procedure. None. That said, this morning I could tell something was not quite right with Sweetie. We had the following conversation about every 15 minutes.
M: How are you?
S: I'm ok.
M: How ok?
S: Ok. Ok.
He was getting tired of me asking so I just held his hand instead.
He looked tired.
A little shaky like maybe his blood sugar was low even though he told me he'd eaten.
He was holding it together for me.
But I knew.

When he finally fessed up, I had three aha moments.
1. We know each other pretty well. When one or the other says we're "ok" sometimes that means ok, and sometimes it means no so good. We have to get better about telling the truth. Not responding how we think the other one wants us to answer, or "lying" so the other person doesn't worry. We have to get to a place in this process where we trust the other person to handle the truth. If something needs to be talked about, then we need to stop whatever is going on and talk.  I would have done that before being wheeled away. I would have addressed Sweetie's fears (it makes sense now that I know because of all the times Little Jack watched his mom being wheeled away in a truck driven by men in white coats. No wonder he felt small.)

2. Yesterday we watched a video about the 7 stages of ALZ made by a woman who described each stage and how it affected her mom.  The woman was very up front about saying, a lot of the information was from hindsight. As in, she might not have recognized a different stage until her mother was well into it.

By knowing that Sweetie is having these feelings, it helps me keep tabs on things. Helps my perspective. Maybe it won't have anything to do with ALZ. Maybe it's a sign that the disease is progressing to another stage. That's why I asked him to blog about it. So we'll have it documented. We can come back if we need to and say, "oh, now I get it."

3. The way Sweetie kissed me before I left for the OR was not only sweet and tender. It was long - not so much passionate as "I don't want to let go." Like that final hug a kid give his mom before she waves goodbye on the first day of kindergarten.  I felt the sweet and tender. Not so much the I don't want to go. I need to be more in tune. Live and learn.

Glad the fog has lifted,
Merry ME


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Sweet Life

I had lunch today with my writing buds.
Buds is really not the right word.
I think "lady" friends would be more appropriate.
The first thing I noticed was how bright everyone looked. Summery. Like fresh fruit from the garden. Like a glass of raspberry lemonade. Like a Mason Jar filled with a bouquet of wildflowers. Like an azure blue lake in the late afternoon sun. Like a ladybug on a blade of green grass and strawberries on shortcake.

Turquoise.
White.
Pink.
Salmon.
Green.
Sparkly silver jewelry.
Smiles.
Hugs.
Laughter.
Ah, yes, sweet peals of laughter like fairy dust sprinkled amid friendly chatter.
Fruit filled wine.
Lemonade and tea.
Salads galore - all the dressing on the side.
Chilled glasses of water, dripping with condensation.
Muffins to go.

Concerned questions.
New ideas.
Plans for the future.
Possible moves.
Casa Katy.
Grandchildren.
Squirrels dining on juicy GA. peaches.
Magic Mike 2.
Vacations.
Claire the Clairvoyant.
Camp Broadway.


"Embrace whatever it is that will make the time you have together sweet."
Pretty good advice for everyone, not just Sweetie and me.

I don't think today could have been any sweeter.
What makes your life sweet?
Merry ME

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

At times.......

.....I felt like a little lost child. Mom in hospital again, me sent to a relative somewhere. I got angry and left that all behind me at 17, knowing I would not have to deal with it ever again. (foolish me.) Pretty much, I looked out for me over the years just as I did when still a child.

.....Mary felt like a little lost child too. Cowering in a corner, put down by her father, left un-protected by her mother. She grew up, left, raised a family, stood up for herself, reinvented herself and then came home to this house and spent 20+ years caring for mom, then dad. Tough duty. And now me.

For over six years we lived here with dad and I felt it necessary to stand up for Mary in answer to her fathers constant badgering, and demands. He didn't like me taking his Mary away from him and only tolerated me here because without me Mary would not have returned. We left once and I engineered a return when I witnessed the pain Mary was in as well as her father. They both suffered greatly.

Life was OK for a while, then returned to the same old BS from her dad. Luther could be kind on occasion, but he was always only one breath away from denigrating his daughter .Mostly when I was out of the house or they had gone off somewhere together. Hearing later from Mary the latest jab to her or put down about us, he and I engaged in several verbal battles, much to Mary's sorrow. Why put this out into the open now? This is no secret to family members, especially those who came along and listened to his vitriol. It is however a way to express how protective I have been toward Mary, and she toward me.

We found each other later in life. I am so pleased and grateful that we have. I really believed our battles were behind us. But here we are again, side by side sharing a love neither of us has known before. Laughing in the face of sorrow even while we feel deeply the sorrow dealt to us. We have weathered stormy relationships with family members, dealt with our own demons, been rich and been poor.

We have cried on each others shoulder, felt anger at the injustice of it all, felt relief and joy at the out pouring of love from friends and family, and still say our "I love you's at bed time."

The spoken word cannot do justice to the beauty and love that is Mary. To be spoken of in the same  caring breath as Bella is an honor. See Mary's post below. But then, Mary has honored each of us with her loving kindness.

To the Moon and back a thousand times over. All my love to you my LOVE.